Staff Keeper League 2.0 has become my favorite fantasy baseball league.
Now in its third year, SKL2 features 17 of RotoWire's best baseball minds, as well a fun mix of personalities. The owners are generally very active – there were 21 trades (!) in the month leading up to last week's keeper deadline – and smart when it comes to keeper strategy. It's highly competitive, with several teams usually jockeying for the top spots at the end of the season, and a fun topic of discussion around the office. Plus, each roster has 10 minor league spots. It makes me feel like I'm back running a franchise on MVP '05, only with actual human competition and a fair amount of money at stake.
The 2015 SKL2 auction and reserve draft went down Wednesday night. Since the league is only in its third year, the overall inflation hasn't gotten too crazy yet, but there was definitely a lot of inflation at some key positions, namely starting pitcher and catcher. I entered the auction with $123 to spend on eight players, with the other $137 of my auction budget ($260 total) committed to my 15 major league keepers. If you want to see which major leaguers were kept and by whom, check out my last blog post. Again, this is a 17-team league using the 5x5 rotisserie scoring system, with the auction serving to fill just the 23 active roster spots (14 hitters, nine pitchers) on each team.
As was the case last year, I ended up purchasing the first player put up for nomination; this time it was Alex Rios. Fortunately, there's no way a $13 Rios can be as much of a disaster as $34 Justin Verlander was in 2014. I was very happy with the price on Rios, seeing as I had made it a priority to go after steady batting average contributors in the auction after keeping the likes of Chris Davis and Chris Carter.
Adrian Beltre fit perfectly into my strategy and was my top target in the auction. I was thrilled to get him at $31. Sure, he turns 36 in early April, but Beltre returned $28 in value in this format last season (according to the RotoWire Inseason Values tool), a year in which his HR/FB rate was 2.5% below his career mark and the team around him was decimated by injuries. Given inflation and my need for batting average, his purchase was a no-brainer for me.
Both Rios and Beltre were bought early, putting me $44 down with a long way to go, but that didn't deter me from spending more. I brought in Dustin Pedroia at $24 not long after adding Beltre. I've liked what I've seen from Pedroia this spring for the most part, and think with improved health he should hit at least .285 and approach 100 runs. While I was happy with the price upon purchase, I grew more fond of it as hitters like Desmond Jennings, Austin Jackson, Brett Lawrie and Ben Zobrist came off the board later at $24, $21, $22 and $18, respectively. It reinforced the clear difference in my mind as far as keeper auction strategy vs. single-season auction strategy. While it's great to sit back and wait in single-season leagues and then clean house with bargains, I don't think that's really wise in keeper auctions. If you're afraid to spend early, you will likely miss out on a lot of the actual good deals, and then be forced to overpay for lesser talent as the player pool thins out.
After a bit of a lull after buying Pedroia, I got back in the mix with a purchase of R.A. Dickey at $9. As I mentioned before, the inflation for starting pitching was great, with David Price going for $47 and Stephen Strasburg for $50, and while I don't love Dickey by any means, I figure he will at least be a decent source of wins on that team. Plus, as I said to James Anderson and Jake Letarski during the auction, there is one comforting (relative) certainty with Dickey; his arm isn't likely to fall off all of a sudden.
I later bought Kyle Hendricks at $11 and T.J. House at $8 to fill out my pitching staff, leaving me with $27 to fill my 1B and SS spots. The resident draft heel, Andrew Fiorentino, was giving me some grief for the Hendricks buy, and looking back, I would have rather had Francisco Liriano at $10, but I will stand behind the Hendricks purchase. Hendricks' xFIP was nearly 150 points higher than his ERA last season at 3.92, sure, as his HR/FB was down at 4.9% and his BABIP was at .271. However, his outstanding control makes him a big WHIP asset, and his rotation spot seems secure at this point. House, too, seems like a very strong bet to break camp with a rotation spot in light of Gavin Floyd's elbow setback.
With $27 to spend for a first baseman and a shortstop, I decided it was time to go all in on Country Breakfast and then settle for a Jose Iglesias or even a Andrelton Simmons for a couple bucks at the end. I had decided I would probably go as high as $25 for Billy Butler given the circumstances, but to my surprise, was only pushed to $11. No, he's not the sexiest option, but he returned $10 in value in this format last season and think there's definitely room to profit at that price this year. Getting him at that price was great, but it made me change my strategy. Having $16 left to spend on a position at which there were few good options remaining put me in danger of leaving a lot of money on the table. I decided I would go hard after J.J. Hardy, seeing as there was a steep dropoff at the position behind him. As it turned out, I spent exactly $16 on Hardy, leaving no money on the table. Was it a big overpay? Yes, but I want to compete this year, and again, there was no point in having money left over, since it doesn't go to your FAAB budget or anything like that.
In the end, I was very happy with how it went, as I stuck to my plan pretty closely and emerged with many of my top targets. I believe I was the second team to completely fill my active roster. That meant that, yes, I did have to sit and watch some of my colleagues steal a few players at great prices, but I was glad I was able to get the caliber of players I did.
Let's look at some of the best prices from the auction as well as some questionable prices, at least in my opinion.
Jose Peraza, 2B, ATL ($5 to Derek VanRiper)
Francisco Liriano, P, PIT ($10 to John Toperzer)
Joe Nathan, P, DET ($1 to George Kurtz)
Joe Kelly, P, BOS ($1 to James Anderson)
Carlos Beltran, OF, NYY ($8 to Bernie Pleskoff)
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, TEX ($17 to Brad Johnson)
Matt Cain, P, SF ($7 to Nathan Lutterman)
Sean Doolittle, P, OAK ($4 to Dan Pennucci)
Jenrry Mejia, P, NYM ($3 to Andrew Martinez)
Josmil Pinto, C, MIN ($1 to Ryan Eisner)
Joe Mauer, 1B, MIN ($25 to John Toperzer)
Wilin Rosario, C, COL ($20 to Ryan McGlone and Tim Shuler)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL ($38 to Ryan McGlone and Tim Shuler)
Jung Ho Kang, SS, PIT ($16 to Adam Wolf)
Wil Myers, OF, SD ($28 to Dan Pennucci)
Dalton Pompey, OF, TOR ($17 to Wolf)
Bryce Harper, OF, WAS ($52 to Shlain)
Yasmany Tomas, OF, AZ ($30 to Chris Smith)
Trevor Bauer, P, CLE ($10 to Fiorentino)
The reserve draft followed, and for those interested, here were my selections:
Round 1, Pick 3: Aaron Judge, OF, NYY
Round 2, Pick 11: Braxton Davidson, OF, ATL
Round 3, Pick 1: Mike Lorenzen, P, CIN
Round 4, Pick 4: Franklin Barreto, SS, OAK
Round 4, Pick 11: Chad Qualls, P, HOU
Round 5, Pick 11: Mike Foltynewicz, P, ATL
Round 6, Pick 11: Tsuyoshi Wada, P, CHC
Round 7, Pick 7: Cameron Maybin, OF, SD
Round 7, Pick 11: Jake Lamb, 3B, AZ
Round 8, Pick 11: A.J. Pierzynski, C, ATL
Round 9, Pick 11: Patrick Corbin, P, AZ
If there is a player whose price you'd like to know as you gear up for your keeper auction, or if you want any more of my thoughts as to keeper strategy, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @claywlink.