My $75K Winning RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Online Championship Draft

Last Thursday (Mar. 13) I had the privilege of drafting with 11 other owners in a RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Online Championship League that we're running in conjunction with our friends at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. You can win a $75,000 overall prize along with winning a $1,400 league prize. For this league it's also a “beat the RotoWire expert” league and the winners get a three-month rotowire subscription if they place higher than me in the standings. Last year that was easy pickings as I finished last in my league. I did win my football league in the same contest (NFFC), so I'm batting .500.

It's a 12-team, 5x5 mixed league that's pretty standard. The one exception is that in this contest there's no trading. That makes loading up on one category very risky. Last year my downfall was too many light hitters who could steal and not enough balance. I also didn't draft enough starting pitching and struggled to find starters on the waiver wire. So those were two areas I wanted to improve. I had the seventh draft slot. Let's see if I did it:

1.7 – Carlos Gonzalez (COL) OF – I had hoped for Clayton Kershaw and then Bryrce Harper with this pick. I went with Cargo over Jacoby Ellsbury (who is higher on the RotoWire draft software rankings) because I think I can find speed in this format in later rounds and because I thought there was a greater (if very small) chance Ellsbury could come around to me in the second round. Kershaw went 1.4, Ryan Braun went 1.8 and Prince Fielder went 1.10. The first round otherwise had no real surprises.

2.6 – Yu Darvish (TEX) P – This was probably an aggressive pick but I wanted to attack starting pitching and strikeouts in particular in this format. Darvish may have the most upside for strikeouts. I'm usually a wait-on-pitching kind of guy, so this pick will have consequences later. At this point in the draft I considered Edwin Encarcion, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Longoria, Stephen Strasburg and concluded any of them could be around to me in the next round so I may as well take Darvish, who I was pretty sure wouldn't be around.

3.7 – Cliff Lee (PHI) P – I was likely going to take Stanton with this pick and was right he would likely be there in the third round, but he was taken one pick before mine. I decided to double up on top-line starters with Lee as a result. I could maybe have waited until the fourth round on Chris Sale or Felix Hernandez, but decide to take the NL pitcher in Lee.

4.6 – Joe Mauer (MIN) C – Another aggressive move and/or over-reach. His ADP in the NFBC leagues is 61.88, so I'm about 5-10 picks higher. I'm high on Mauer this year because he's going to post a career high in at-bats since he's playing first base. Mauer always hits for average when healthy, but health has been the issue. If he's not behind the plate, my guess is he'll stay injury free. And having a .325+ BAVG from your catcher gives you a solid foundation to take batting average risks later.

5.7– David Ortiz (BOS) DH – His ADP in the NFBC is 78, so I'm about two rounds early. But I needed the power after my first four picks. I also tied up my utility spot early in the draft.

6.6 – Billy Hamilton (CIN) OF – Here's the riskiest pick in the draft. He has an ADP of about 70, so this is a slight value. But this pick will dictate the rest of my draft. Some of my thinking is this: if Hamilton does stick in the majors and has 75-100 steals, the overall winner of this contest is likely to have him on his (or her) roster. I want a piece of that chance. Even a 40-75 SB season would make my team set for stolen bases. But now I'm handcuffed into avoiding steals guys the rest of the way.

7.7 – Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) OF – An upside play, especially for power. Hopefully my pick of Mauer can help offset some of these batting average risks.

8.6 – Alex Gordon (KC) OF – I've never been a Gordon fan, but I need players productive in the non-SB categories and he was the best on the board. I also needed a 3B at this point and both Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Zimmerman were on the board, so I figured one might slip to the next round.

9.7 – Kyle Seager (SEA) 3B – Both third baseman I was eyeing went before this pick, so I took Seager. His numbers have improved each year in the majors and he could take a leap in his third full season at age 26.

10.6 – Aaron Hill (AZ) 2B – My middle infield is severely lacking at this point, so I took a rebound candidate in Hill who can also provide me some needed power. Since I took Hamilton, the speedy, light-hitting middle infield types don't fit. I really wanted Jedd Gyorko, but he went the pick before as I think he has more upside despite his park.

11.7 – Andrelton Simmons (ATL) SS – Simmons hit 17 home runs last year and is just 24. I need power not speed from my middle infielders, so this fits.

12.6 – Jonathan Papelbon (PHI) P – I hate the closer pool this year. There's going to be tons of turnover. The question is in a leauge like this with deep benches and active owners, can you really wait on saves? I skipped all the big names. I'm not high on Papelbon, but I figure his contract and track record gives him job security.

13.7 – Brandon Moss (OAK) 1B – Another low-BAVG power hitter I took a risk on. RotoWire's projection for him is much higher than most. He did hit 30 home runs last year and .291 the year before.

14.6 – Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) P – I'm gambling that he comes back from injury sooner than expected. If so, this is a great value. He has a hand injury and isn't trying to pitch through it (which could cause injuries where he's compensating elsewhere), so I think the chances are good he's back to full speed when the hand is ready.

15.7 – Brian Dozier (MIN) 2B – This is the pick I liked the least. I wanted power from my middle infield and Dozier can provide it. But I really wanted to take either Nolan Arenado or Aramis Ramirez with this pick for my second corner spot and figured I could wait. Both went in the next round. Looking back I'd rather have Arenando's upside.

16.6 – Jeff Samardzija (CHC) P – He's a good bounceback candidate and could still produce 200+ strikeouts even if he produces another 4.00+ ERA. He didn't lose any velocity last year and all his other peripherals were similar to 2012.

17.7 – Justin Morneau (COL) 1B – I don't think Morneau is coming back to the MVP player he was, more so due to the wrist injuries that sapped his power than his concussion issues, but I need a first baseman and his home park can cover many flaws.

18.6 – Neftali Feliz (TEX) P – I'm searching for saves on the cheap now and hope to land Joakim Soria later in the draft to secure the Texas closer role.

19.7 – Yovani Gallardo (MIL) P – I think he's a great bounceback candidate. Pitching in the World Baseball Classic may have got him off track and he was hurt in August. His strikeout rate and other numbers are just such an outlier with the rest of his body of work. He's just 28, so it's not like he's getting old.

20.6 - Joakim Soria (TEX) P – I took him about 60 spots higher than his ADP, but I wanted to lock up the Texas closer situation. Of course they'll do closer-by-committee now.

21.7 – Dan Straily (OAK) P – Good home ballpark. Had a 11.2 K/9 at Triple-A. That didn't show up in the majors (7.3 K/9), so this is a gamble he'll develop into more of a strikeout pitcher.

22.6 – Corey Hart (SEA) OF – I'm fishing for power at this point. Can his knee stay healthy? Will the new home ballpark hurt him? Who knows, but not many players left who've hit 30 home runs in recent memory at this point.

23.7 – Adam LaRoche (WAS) 1B – Another shot at power. He hit 33 home runs in 2012, so there's some upside. One of Hart or LaRoche hopefully fills my 1B slot.

24.6 – Marcell Ozuna (MIA) OF – He's just 23 and hit for power in the minors, so hopefully he can win a starting job and improve upon his rookie season.

24.7 – Yasmani Grandal (SD) C – This was probably my weakest pick in the draft. I waited on my second catcher forever. I had hoped to land Welington Castillo late, but I waited too long. Grandal can hit, if he wins the starting job. And his home park hurts him. I could be fishing for catchers on the waiver wire all season.

25.6 – Brandon Beachy (ATL) P – At the time I was high on his second full season back from Tommy John surgery. Oops. He was out for the year the next day. At least I can cut him early.

26.7 – Alex Guerrero (LAD) 2B – Who knows what to make of a Cuban defector. But I have visions of drafting and later dropping Yasiel Puig in multiple leagues last year. This is the kind of league where you want to roll the dice on a total wild card. I didn't take another backup infielder, so I may have to get lucky in free agency.

27.6 – Erasmo Ramirez (SEA) P – He throws fairly hard (avg. 92.2 mph fastball) and could win a spot in a rotation with a good home park. I'm gambling for strikeouts.

28.7 – Chad Qualls (HOU) P – Who knows if he can win the closer role or even last more than a week if he wins the job.

29.6 – Josh Willingham (MIN) OF – He's a bounceback candidate after last year's injury-plagued season. This is another gamble for power. He's an easy drop if he starts slow.

After all that here's my final roster:

C Yasmani Grandal

C Joe Mauer

1B Justin Morneau

2B Brian Dozier

SS Andrelton Simmons

3B Kyle Seager

OF YoenisCespedes

OF Carlos Gonzalez

OF Alex Gordon

OF Billy Hamilton

OF Brandon Moss

CR Adam LaRoche 

UT David Ortiz

P Yu Darvish

P Cliff Lee

P Yovani Gollardo

P Hisashi Iwakuma

P Jonathan Papelbon

P Jeff Samardzija

P Joakim Soria

P Dan Straily

R Alex Guerrero

R Corey Hart

R Marcel Ozuna

R Josh Willingham

R Chad Qualls

R Erasmo Ramirez

R Brandon Beachy

So is this a $75,000 roster?


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