Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Benchwarmer Baseball Top 16 Draft Targets

Despite not having participated in a Benchwarmer Baseball league from the start-up draft stage since the Beatleball League was added as the 2nd BWB league in 2004, I have been giving a lot of thought to who I would select in the first round of a new league in 2009 if I were drafting. Here a my thoughts on the Top 16 players given the assumptions that:
1) the primary goal is to win the championship this year; and
2) the secondary goal is to lay the groundwork for a dynasty that can win each and every year.

To reach goal #1, one needs to maximize roster productivity by acquiring the players with the most expected BWB utility. Many of these players will be "established" players (ie. not prospects). Established players' salaries should be reasonably expected to already fully reflect such utility (or even be at a premium due to the fact that MLB awards earned by players further increase BWB salaries), so few discounts will generally found here.

To reach goal #2, one needs to acquire longer-term productivity at a discount. This is achieved by drafting prospects and younger stars and sign them to multi-year contracts before their salaries as established players trade at par or a premium to their productivity.

An optimal mix of "premium established", "par established", and "discounted" players is the key to winning now (maximizing productivity), and later (paying the least amount for that productivity).

With that framework established, these would be my Top 16 targets in a new league:

1. Evan Longoria 1437 -- could be your #3-hitter for a long time
2. Ian Kinsler 2276 -- only behind Utley at 2nd but at a fraction of the cost
3. Carlos Quentin 2325 -- see Evan Longoria
4. Carlos Lee 3220 -- star player, but at deeply discounted price
5. Joey Votto 1569 -- rising star; salary low enough to extend several years
6. Chris Davis 698 -- not sure if he's a star yet, but salary is sooo low
7. B.J. Upton 2485 -- if the playoff power is here to stay, major bargain
8. Chase Utley 5738 -- par established player in scarce position
9. Mark Teixeira 5104 -- star player at small discount
10. Ryan Braun 4612 -- could be going for 1500 more after this season
11. Matt Kemp 2727 -- see Joey Votto
12. Jay Bruce 918 -- see Chris Davis
13. Jonathan Broxton 1794 -- blown saves in 08, but could dominate
14. Francisco Liriano 751 -- if he regains old form, CY Young for pennies
15. Ryan Ludwick 2733 -- can he repeat? salary worth finding out
16. David Price 100 -- hasn't proven himself yet, but can't get any cheaper

The more of these 16 players you can get into your roster, the better chance you have of achieving both objectives:
1) winning this year by adding discounted utility which further results in having more funds to spend on the better established players in later rounds; and
2) building a dynasty by securing controllable assets.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reviewed: Commissioner's League Draft Rounds 4-6

I previously reviewed rounds 1 and 2 of the Commissioner's League live draft here. Round 3 was explained by the Commish himself in the Comments section of that post. I felt it did not bear reviewing due to its idiosyncrasies.

On to the next rounds:

Round 4
Overall Pick Round Pick Team Player ML Team Salary Position
49 1 Turley Scott Kazmir TB 4052 SP
50 2 South Park Kevin Youkilis Bos 3855 1B, 3B
51 3 Budapest Brad Lidge Phi 5730 RP
52 4 Rusty Danny Haren Ari 5793 SP
53 5 Humpback Chien-Ming Wang NYY 1784 SP
54 6 Elbow Deep Joakim Soria KC 5424 RP
55 7 St. Nido Jose Valverde Hou 3556 RP
56 8 Sara's Brian Fuentes LAA 2845 RP
57 9 Benchwarmer Joe Mauer Min 4001 C
58 10 California Alfonso Soriano ChC 3038 OF
59 11 Shadow Ridge Jimmy Rollins Phi 4870 SS
60 12 Airborne Cliff Lee Cle 5670 SP
61 13 Andy Dan Uggla Fla 3853 2B
62 14 Greenville Carlos Marmol ChC 3138 RP
63 15 Alfalfa Francisco Cordero Cin 3113 RP
64 16 Bellerose Troy Tulowitzki Col 1748 SS

This was an interesting round in that 6 closers were taken to make 10 taken in total for the draft so far. A minimum of two closers is ideal in BWB due to the scoring methodology, so a run this early could make sense. Saves should not be punted in BWB like they can in other fantasy formats.

Best Pick: Even though it was an auto-pick, Jimmy Rollins is nice addition to a roster as he can provides lots of runs at the top of the order at a position that is not overly deep. Shadow Ridge is paying full price for Rollins' expected production, but it should be money well spent.

Honorable Mention: C-M Wang for 1784 looks like a good value pick. Wang should approach 200 IP with a competent ERA.

Round 5
Overall Pick Round Pick Team Player ML Team Salary Position
65 1 Bellerose Bobby Jenks CWS 2195 RP
66 2 Alfalfa Carlos Beltran NYM 5785 OF
67 3 Greenville Cole Hamels Phi 5662 SP
68 4 Andy Matt Garza TB 2674 SP
69 5 Airborne Roy Oswalt Hou 5165 SP
70 6 Shadow Ridge Vladimir Guerrero LAA 4250 OF
71 7 California Victor Martinez Cle 1809 C, 1B
72 8 Benchwarmer Jered Weaver LAA 2976 SP
73 9 Sara's Carlos Lee Hou 3220 OF
74 10 St. Nido Magglio Ordonez Det 5025 OF
75 11 Elbow Deep Derek Lowe Atl 4713 SP
76 12 Humpback Jonathan Broxton LAD 1794 RP
77 13 Rusty Prince Fielder Mil 4674 1B
78 14 Budapest Nate McLouth Pit 3540 OF
79 15 South Park Alexei Ramirez CWS 1289 2B, SS, OF
80 16 Turley Aramis Ramirez ChC 4624 3B

Best Pick: Carlos Lee. After spending considerable time out of the lineup in 2008 due to injury, El Caballo can provide 3-slot power production at a discount.

Round 6
Overall Pick Round Pick Team Player ML Team Salary Position
81 1 Turley Shaun Marcum Tor 2989 SP
82 2 South Park Jacoby Ellsbury Bos 1404 OF
83 3 Budapest Matt Kemp LAD 2727 OF
84 4 Rusty Scott Olsen Was 2981 SP
85 5 Humpback Josh Johnson Fla 818 SP
86 6 Elbow Deep Wandy Rodriguez Hou 2930 SP
87 7 St. Nido Takashi Saito Bos 2948 RP
88 8 Sara's Brian McCann Atl 2176 C
89 9 Benchwarmer Derrek Lee ChC 4034 1B
90 10 California Adam Wainwright StL 2145 SP
91 11 Shadow Ridge Jon Garland Ari 2926 SP
92 12 Airborne Brian Giles SD 2911 OF
93 13 Andy B.J. Upton TB 2485 OF
94 14 Greenville Barry Zito SF 2898 SP
95 15 Alfalfa Doug Davis Ari 2888 SP
96 16 Bellerose Kerry Wood Cle 1997 RP

Wow! Lots of great value taken in this round. If BJ Upton can continue to show power, that's going to be a great pick, but certainly there's no guarantee of that happening. Kerry Wood is also a nice deal for a closer at 1997 when other closers went off the board for 5000.

Best Pick: However, the best pick in my mind is Brian McCann. McCann is one of the top catchers in the league and costs half of Joe Mauer. Victor Martinez is similarly priced with comparable upside, but was taken in an earlier round.

Building a Benchwarmer Baseball Champion

There are lots of new leagues forming this time of the year and I look forward to seeing what the results of the EXPERTS League are over the coming weeks.

For established teams, such as the 3 teams I manage, there are a few different stages of development. I have 2 teams that are positioned to make a run for their respective league divisions and hopefully championships, and 1 team that is in rebuilding mode. Determining which mode your team is in is a critical component of building a winning organization.

The elucidative Baseball Prospectus article written by Jonah Keri entitled "The Success Cycle" uses the 2002 Pittsburgh Pirates as a case study in team development. It is a very constructive read when thinking about where your BWB teams stand.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Benchwarmer Baseball Players with "At Bat" Upsides

Here is a list of players that had limited At Bats in the 2008 season (and therefore should be priced at a discount in Benchwarmer Baseball), but could be looking at considerably more playing time in 2009:

100-199 At Bats

Russell Branyan (previously featured here)
Chris Dickerson
Miguel Montero
J.R. Towles

200-299 At Bats

Hank Blalock
Jeff Clement
Elijah Dukes (previously featured here)
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Brandon Moss
Juan Rivera
Ryan Spilborghs
Eugenio Velez

300-399 At Bats

Ryan Church
Coco Crisp (previously featured here)
Blake DeWitt
J.D. Drew
Franklin Gutierrez
Dernard Span
Howie Kendrick
Justin Upton

I've probably missed a bunch, but these stood out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reviewed: Commissioner's League Draft -- Rounds 1-2

Here is my review of the Commissioner's League Draft, which I understand to be a live, fully-transparent, snake-style draft for the initial rounds (someone please correct me if I am wrong):

Round 1
Overall Pick Round Pick Team Player ML Team Salary Position
1 1 Bellerose Alex Rodriguez NYY 6500 3B
2 2 Alfalfa C.C. Sabathia NYY 9596 SP
3 3 Greenville Johan Santana NYM 9252 SP
4 4 Andy Hanley Ramirez Fla 5502 SS
5 5 Airborne Albert Pujols StL 8190 1B
6 6 Shadow Ridge Ryan Howard Phi 7363 1B
7 7 California Jose Reyes NYM 5036 SS
8 8 Benchwarmer David Wright NYM 8142 3B
9 9 Sara's Evan Longoria TB 1437 3B
10 10 St. Nido Roy Halladay Tor 7595 SP
11 11 Elbow Deep Mariano Rivera NYY 7508 RP
12 12 Humpback Franco Liriano Min 751 SP
13 13 Rusty Joe Nathan Min 7221 RP
14 14 Budapest Brandon Webb Ari 7205 SP
15 15 South Park Jacob Peavy SD 6528 SP
16 16 Turley Derek Jeter NYY 4330 SS

Best Pick: No contest: Evan Longoria -- With a salary of 1437, Longoria is controllable and extremely productive. Longoria should be one of the top 3B in the game and can also be put under 2-yr contract for 1911 (2010) + 2500 (2011) = 4411, for a 3-yr total payout of 5848. Compare that to only 1 year of A-Rod (6500) or David Wright (8142!). Great Pick.

Honorable mention: Francisco Liriano may prove to be a steal at only 751. He has ace stuff, so if he can remain healthy (he was babied last year recovering from his elbow injury) and can find his 2006 form, he will be in the running for the AL Cy Young Award.

Round 2
Overall Pick Round Pick Team Player ML Team Salary Position
17 1 Turley Johnny Damon NYY 3294 OF
18 2 South Park Chad Billingsly LAD 3968 SP
19 3 Budapest Chase Utley Phi 5738 2B
20 4 Rusty F Rodriguez NYM 6684 RP
21 5 Humpback Mark Teixeira NYY 5104 1B
22 6 Elbow Deep Tim Lincecum SF 6491 SP
23 7 St. Nido Justin Morneau Min 6479 1B
24 8 Sara's Ian Kinsler Tex 2276 2B
25 9 Benchwarmer Matt Holliday Oak 6234 OF
26 10 California Dustin Pedroia Bos 5130 2B
27 11 Shadow Ridge Manny Ramirez FA 5789 OF
28 12 Airborne Lance Berkman Hou 6198 1B
29 13 Andy Jo Papelbon Bos 4538 RP
30 14 Greenville Miguel Cabrera Det 5980 1B, 3B
31 15 Alfalfa Grady Sizemore Cle 5920 OF
32 16 Bellerose Josh Hamilton Tex 4696 OF

Best Pick: Ian Kinsler -- a top 2B, 2276 -- what's not to like? Phil Dang strikes again!

Honorable mention: Mark Teixeira may very well be worth considerably more than 5104 playing in NY's lineup. He'll definately outperform Dustin Pedroia (5130) next year. Bank on it.

I took a look at Round 3, but it looks odd: Dayan Viciedo, Junichi Tazawa, Greg Halman, Jose Tabata, and Carlos Santana were all drafted. Was there a rule about having to select at least one mid-tier prospect?

Benchwarmer Baseball Bargain Bin: Elijah Dukes

Elijah Dukes has some issues, but who doesn't? I like Benchwarmer Baseball way too much; it's my cross to bear. According to Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus, Dukes attended the same high school as Dwight Gooden (drugs), Carl Everett (dinosaurs) and Gary Sheffield (twitchy bat), so that school must offer a Crazy 101 class in the curriculum.

So, in an injury-plagued 2008, Dukes posted: 276 AB, 48 R, 13 HR, 44 RBI, .264. Forget the projections for 2009 and let's assume Dukes can stay healthy this year and manages 500 AB, sharing time with Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns, and Wily Mo Pena. Dukes is the best of that bunch, so 500 AB is highly possible, especially considering he can play CF. Roughly doubling 2008 stats give about 85 R, 22 HR, 85 RBI. Not bad.

Weren't able to get Corey Hart's projected: 77 R, 20 HR, 83 RBI for 3003 BWB bucks? No problem, Elijah Dukes only goes for 629.

Now that's a bargain!

Benchwarmer Baseball Bargain Bin: Russell Branyan

Russell Branyan?!? Pshaw! No, really, Russell Branyan. In BWB, Branyan is eligible at 1B and 3B, and is currently slated to see most of the At Bats at first in Seattle. What can Branyan do in a full season?

Bill James projects: 122 AB, 17 R, 8 HR, 20 RBI, .238

But given the playing time offered in 2009, Branyan could post 400 AB and these prorated stats:

400 AB, 56 R, 26 HR, 66 RBI, .238

Compare against these James projections:
Aubrey Huff 533 AB, 72 R, 23 HR, 83 RBI, .283, BWB salary 4371
Jorge Cantu 585 AB, 76 R, 24 HR, 92 RBI, .268, BWB salary 3045
Casey Blake 336 AB, 45 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, .259, BWB salary 2371

Oh yeah, Branyan's salary? 267

Now that's a bargain!

Benchwarmer Baseball Bargain Bin: Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp is once again being given the opportunity to play full time with his departure from Boston. Crisp has shown the ability to stay healthy and rack up At Bats: 491 in 2004, 594 in 2005, and 526 in 2007. There is a fairly high probability that Coco posts 550+ ABs as the Royal's everyday leadoff hitter and center fielder.

Bill James' projects Coco at 494 AB, 74 R, 9 HR, 53 RBI, .279 AVE

Compare this to Carl Crawford:
2008: 443 AB, 69 R, 8 HR, 57 RBI, .269 AVE

Bill James 2009 projection: 485 AB, 74 R, 10 HR, 59 RBI, .295 AVE

Carl Crawford's 2009 BWB salary is 2353. Since Coco was only given 361 ABs in part time play last year, you can pick up Crawford-like stats for Coco's salary of only 1297.

Now that's a bargain!