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Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Bolts from the Blue

For some years, I've been posting the roster of my entry in the Hardy House fantasy baseball league. On Saturday, April 2, in Oak Park, IL, I attended my 23rd consecutive auction draft. Three owners had to participate by phone, but the rest of us enjoyed the draft, the food of Greektown, some college hoops, and camaraderie.

As previously discussed here, my 2010 squad won the league championship -- the team's first such success since 1998. I was not especially hopeful going into this season's auction because I traded away a number of discount-priced players in order to win last year. Other owners retained many of those guys. Unfortunately, I had few good alternative choices, so I kept a couple of overpriced star-level players who promise to produce a lot of value.

As a reminder: the league has 12 teams and uses American League players exclusively to accumulate statistics in various hitting and pitching categories. For 22 years, we tabulated results in the traditional 8 categories (HR, RBI, SBs, BA, Wins, Saves, ERA and WHIP), but this off-season we voted to dump BA in favor of OBA. Also, we added runs scored (R) for hitters and strikeouts (K) for pitchers.

Note also one roster quirk now in its fourth year: we added a 10th pitcher and subtracted an outfielder. We continue to believe that this better reflects roster management decisions that real baseball teams have made over the past 20 years. This year, we also reduced the maximum size of our reserve roster from 8 to 5 players, ended the 3-player reserve draft, and allowed the purchase of any player on the 40 man roster. After the auction, only players on 25 man active rosters or the major league DL could be obtained.

The 2011 Bolts from the Blue (7 retained players in blue)

C Mike Napoli (TEX) $16
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (BOS) $6
1B Derrek Lee (BAL) $19
2B Robinson Cano (NYY) $33
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (OAK) $13
SS Orlando Cabrera (CLE) $3
MI Gordon Beckham (CHX) $19
CR Brent Morel (CHX) $10
OF Vernon Wells (Tor) $19
OF J.D. Drew (BOS) $13
OF Torii Hunter (LAA) $18
OF Ben Revere (MIN) $1 (AAA)
DH Travis Hafner (CLE) $5
Hitting $175 (up $1 from last season)

P Felix Hernandez (SEA) $33
P Jered Weaver (LAA) $20
P Jeff Niemann (TB) $5 (acquired in pre-draft trade for P Jon Lester BOS)
P Jeff Francis (KC) $3
P Chris Tillman (BAL) $1
P Rafael Soriano (NYY) $9
P Brian Fuentes (OAK) $7
P Joaquin Benoit (DET) $3
P Juan Cruz (TB) $1
P J.P. Howell (TB) $1 (DL)
Pitching $83 ($2 less than last year)

I left $2 on the table, but I had reserved some extra cash to find steals or saves. That largely failed and I'm going to need them, eventually, if this team is to compete. I tried to buy steals, but they were very costly and one team ended up buying surplus.

Since losing expensive Toronto closer B.J. Ryan to injury hours after the auction ended in 2007, I have avoided paying for saves on draft day. So, where may I find saves? Oakland's bullpen has been hit with injuries and Fuentes has nearly 200 career saves. Tampa does not have a healthy "proven" closer, but Howell had 17 saves in 2009 and is supposedly on the road to recovery. NYY's Mariano Rivera is 41 years old and will suffer injuries and/or face retirement eventually. Soriano was one of the top closers in the league last year and should get some random saves when Rivera has already pitched in multiple games in a row. Thus, I targeted those bullpens and players. Notably, closers were a little cheaper this year as we moved from 4x4 to 5x5.

Saltalamacchia was on my 2010 team and I bought him again for a lower salary.

To replace Revere and Howell on my active roster, I bought OF Mike Cameron (BOS) for $2 and P Adam Russell (TB) for $1. I also nabbed P Jake Arrieta (BAL) for $3 so that I can juggle my rotation regularly -- we moved to daily transactions this year too.

Clearly, I believe in drafting some players John Hunt used to call "post-hype." Those are guys who are still young, but their disappointing performance to-date has caused their value to decline a little.  Beckham, Tillman, and Saltalamacchia are my main post-hype picks, though Beckham was not especially cheap in this league that originated in Chicago.

Too many of my guys are deep into their 30s and I worry about OBA. I should be OK in R/RBI and HR, plus ERA/WHIP and K, and perhaps wins if that works out. If I can put myself into a position to compete later in the year, I can trade for steals and saves.

You can find posts about the 2005, 2007 , 2008, 2009 and 2010 drafts elsewhere on this blog.

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