After spending four days in Florida to compete in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality for the tenth straight season, it’s time to reflect over the American League roster and give some insight on my decisions within the auction and the pre-game prep work.
The American League lacks strength in the hitting pool, with the first base position being a glaring weakness. Both shortstop and third base ran eight players deep, while second base had a sharp decline depth behind Whit Merrifield ($28), Gleyber Torres ($30), and Jose Altuve ($31).
Other than Mike Trout ($43), J.D. Martinez ($35), and Austin Meadows ($31), no one fought too hard for the remaining depth in the outfield.
During the auction, it was evident early that the secondary catching pool and the drop-off in talent at second base weren’t going to cost a fantasy owner a lot of bidding dollars.
When setting my initial auction values, I could see there was barely enough offense to spend $172 per team. In the past, I’ve used a 190/70 split in buying power for hitters and pitchers. This year I set my auction prices with a 180/80 budget.
I didn’t like the structure of the top 15 starting pitchers in the AL, which suggested that I invest in Gerrit Cole or two mid-tier aces. Most of the mid-tier closers went from $13 to $15 as expected.
In both single auction leagues in 2019, I struggled to buy the right structure in steals. With this in mind, I wanted to build the team around three players with speed: SS Bo Bichette, OF Luis Robert, and OF Kyle Tucker.
The foundation power bat that was a target was UT Yordan Alvarez. His lack of position eligibility was a problem for sure, especially when adding in the upside of Nick Solak and Miguel Andujar, who had the same issues.
When I left the hotel room, I suggested to Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC (my partner in crime) that SP Gerrit Cole was in play.
Over the final ten minutes of prep at the auction table, I reviewed the top choices of starting pitchers. It confirmed my earlier thoughts on Cole. If I bought one or two second-tier aces, I would have gravitated toward SP Jose Berrios ($24) and SP Zack Greinke ($24).
Most likely, fading saves were in the plan early while keeping an open mind over the second half of the auction if a closer happened to slip through the cracks.
Also, I had an open mind about buying Carlos Correa if there wasn’t a fight for him.
The first player called up was Mike Trout, who went for $43 to Ian Kahn.
It didn’t take long for Gerrit Cole to get thrown on the mat. Clay Link pushed early for starting pitching, and he had his hands on Cole for $40 before I came over the top after the “going twice” call in the auction. Link pushed up to $42, but he failed to secure him after my bid of $43.
By the end of the first round of auction, I landed DH Yordan Alvarez for $29 (four dollars under my projected value). There was no fight for Carlos Correa ($23), and Luis Robert ($24) came in a dollar over expected value.
As the auction approached the end of the third round, SS Bo Bichette still wasn’t called out. Sensing I needed him, or I had to break off my game plan, I called him out for $15 as the 33rd player. He quickly moved to $25 before I jumped in with a $26 bid. Dave Alder pressed for him at $27, $29, and $31, but I wouldn’t back off. Bichette landed on my roster for $32 or $4 over my budget for him.
At this point in the auction, I sat back and waited to see who was called out. There wasn’t a need to push for OF Kyle Tucker, and we decided to make a run at OF Andrew Benintendi for a couple of more dollars.
After the fourth round of the auction, no player of interest until Benintendi came out at 7.8. He looked to be dying at $19 when I bid $20 and then secured him at $22. Tucker ended up going for $14 or $3 lower than my target number.
We didn’t buy another player until the 118th call (40 players later). Before SP James Paxton was called out, the targeted number two starter was Sean Manaea for about $13 while still having the dream of landing Jesus Luzardo for about $16.
With Paxton losing bidding interest at $9, I bid $10 to roster him. Manaea ended up going for $15, which was about our range. Here’s a look at the full roster:
After buying the top five batters, I knew where I was going at catcher (Chance Sisco and Garrett Stubbs), first base (Miguel Cabrera), second base (Rougned Odor), and third base (Maikel Franco).
Sisco is a young player with upside while Stubbs offers steaky speed for the C2 position in an AL-only format. I added Zack Collins in the reserve round with the hopes that he qualifies at catcher (five-game minimum in season). Collins has plenty of power, and he’ll take some walks.
Odor remained an outcast in the fantasy world despite producing 77 runs, 30 home runs, 93 RBI, and 11 steals in a season that he only hit .205. If he gets his strikeouts under control, Odor has the look of a beast for short dollars.
Cabrera was the last cheap first base option with starting at-bats. His salary ($11) matched the number on my cheat sheet. Franco has 20 home run power while not having a high strikeout rate. He should prove to be a great buy if he gets over 500 at-bats.
Both Ryan Mountcastle ($1) and Jake Fraley ($3) are back-end fliers with starting at-bat upside. Mountcastle has a full season under his belt at AAA, which puts him in the majors in 2020.
Puig was added to both the AL and NL leagues for a combined $13, which should prove to be a good buy. Santana played great over the first half of last year, and he was well worth the gamble at $6.
This team should hit over 250 home runs with a shot at 110 steals. I expect the batting average to push toward the upper third of the league.
With Gerrit Cole at the front of the rotation, the goal is not to screw up ERA and WHIP. Behind him, I rostered nine more starters with most options pitching for winning teams. On the bench, I took a pair of fliers on developing arms (Clarke Schmidt and Triston McKenzie).
From a distance, a fantasy owner can see all kind of inning issues out of the gate with Paxton out for about five weeks, Pineda out for a month, and German not expected back until June. When piling on Pearson should start the year in the minors, and Gonzalez looks to be an IL candidate to start the year, there may be too many holes to plug.
On the positive side, this league uses injury spots on the roster. In essence, I will be able to pick up four, possibly five, pitchers before the start of the year. I’ll need to find a balance of starts and good bullpen innings out of the gate. Once the calendar hits May, my starting rotation should become an asset.
Eventually, I’ll be able to trade off some starting pitching to help the saves category and any possible weakness on offense.
For more game-breaking advice from Shawn Childs, a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ, subscribe to FullTime Fantasy. Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription & gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.