Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera hits a solo home run in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
I was invited to join in a little friendly competition in an 18-team roto league, drafted via auction. I've never played in a league with this many teams before, making it kind of a new venture, and requiring a new approach. Needing two catchers, five outfielders, and the extra three hitters a CI, MI, Utility league forces on you makes offense start to become scarce.
With that in mind, the focus for me was on hitting. Lots and lots of hitting. This meant I didn't draft a single closer, because the price structure was even more out of whack thanks to there being 18 teams, but that money was used on hitters. My pitching staff might look a bit underwhelming because of this strategy -- I waited and waited on pitching, avoiding all five- and four-star types (and their price tags), and focused on three-star pitchers and potential bounceback candidates and deals to get by.
As usual, I'd be interested in your feedback. But I have a lot of faith in my offense -- which has zero holes -- to help carry a lot of the weight of the season. (One last note: standard roto stats, except with OBP in place of AVG, are in use.)
Catchers - Russell Martin ($15), Jonathan Lucroy ($8): I'm not in love with either of these catchers, but 36 of them needed to be drafted. With just 30 starting catchers in the majors, and not all of those fantasy-worthy, it was important to get two guys who would put me on the positive side of the production ledger, even if they weren't stars.
1B - Miguel Cabrera ($45): I wasn't sure if I wanted to use Cabrera at first initially, but the way the draft went, he ended up sticking there. He's Miguel Cabrera -- a slugger like this, in a league where so many hitters that 12-team leagues would consider below-average are in, is a major separator.
2B - Mark Ellis ($0): I picked Ellis up in the reserve draft -- I had nominated Orlando Hudson during the auction, and won him for $1 unexpectedly. Now I have a Hudson on the bench -- maybe he rebounds or picks up some steals for me -- and Ellis, who is decent enough in a deep format.
3B - David Wright ($25): Wright comes with risk, as he's dealt with back problems, but third base is top heavy and shallow in standard leagues. With the walls moved in at Citi Field, and Wright capable of giving me some steals in addition to power, $25 might not end up being very much at all.
SS - Asdrubal Cabrera ($17): I'm not 100 percent sold on Cabrera being as good as he was in 2011, but $17 for a shortstop with his potential isn't very much. The price was right, and even with a little regression, he helps keep my offense strong from top to bottom.
MI - Jed Lowrie ($5): Lowrie is a risk due to health, but in the easier league, with a guaranteed job, he'll get the opportunities to shine like his healthy track record has shown he can. It's no guarantee he'll do it, especially since he's better against lefties than righties, but there's a good chance I have a better MI than some teams in the league have starting shortstops.
CI - Emilio Bonifacio ($11): Also, my corner infielder is probably better than other team's shortstops, too. I've got lots of power potential on the roster, but there are also plenty of steals to go around.
OF - Carlos Beltran ($11), Jayson Werth ($15), Cameron Maybin ($15), Peter Bourjos ($10), Jacoby Ellsbury ($40): Werth won't even need to rebound for this outfield to be great, but if he does, then it's probably my best chance at distinguishing my offense from everyone else's. The balance of power and speed here in the outfield accentuates an already strong infield.
Utility/Bench - Bryce Harper ($1), Orlando Hudson ($1): Harper won't be up for a few months, but for $1, I'll take it. If he hits once he comes to the bigs, that'll be more than worth it. Hudson is someone I need to improve on at the utility slot. Even with his struggles last year, he stole 19 bases, so there's something to be had in the interim.
P - Colby Lewis ($5), Wandy Rodriguez ($8), Jason Vargas ($1), Clay Buchholz ($7), James McDonald ($1), Brian Matusz ($2), Alfredo Aceves ($3), Cory Luebke ($12), Aroldis Chapman ($1): Luebke and Chapman are my best bets at strikeouts, but if Matusz is over whatever was ailing him last year (his spring has been strong, albeit just spring), I've got another quality starter there. Buchholz, Wandy, and McDonald are all useful for varying reasons, though none of the three are fantasy aces by any means. Colby Lewis, closer to 2010, would mean a lot more for this squad than the 2011 version. Aceves is a bit of a cheap wild card for me; if he starts, I get the innings and hopefully the production he's capable of. If he relieves, here's hoping he throws another 100 inning season.
Bench - A.J. Burnett ($0), J.A. Happ ($0), Travis Wood ($0), Hector Noesi ($0), Josh Tomlin ($0): Just in case Matusz doesn't return, or Lewis gets hammered, or Vargas doesn't get the help from Safeco he needs, I stocked up on starting pitchers with my reserve picks. Happ had a terrible 2010, but he's been productive in the past, and is left-handed. Weirder things have happened than strong seasons after awful ones for lefties. Travis Wood is out of Great American Ballpark, and isn't fighting every other Reds prospect for a job, so he might end up useful. Josh Tomlin doesn't miss bats, but could help in WHIP thanks to his absurdly low walk rates. Hector Noesi isn't Michael Pineda, but he was dealt for him, and gets to pitch in that lovely pitcher's park Pineda got a boost from in 2011. Burnett has been a mess as of late, but getting out of New York and the AL East, and into a pitcher-oriented park in the weak NL Central, is a best-case scenario for him. Especially at no cost to me besides the roster spot.
Will the depth be enough? Will my hitting carry my pitching, which won't win any categories, but could very well be mediocre enough to get by? Let me know what you think.