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2018 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Draft Recap (Rounds 1-5)

A recap of the first 5 rounds of a salary cap league for 2018

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I’m in the process of wrapping up the Major League portion of a new salary cap league draft, and I wanted to share the results with our readers to help get a barometer of where players are going in keeper/dynasty/salary cap style formats. We’ll review the specific rules of this league and what makes it unique, my strategy for the drafts and how the rules might impact values of certain players, the results of the first five rounds, and my thoughts on the picks I found most revealing.

Rules

  • 18-team, Roto, 6x6 (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS & QS, K, SV, ERA, WHIP, HLD)
  • Fantrax site and position eligibility requirements
  • 28-man MLB Rosters and 20-man Minor League Rosters (150 AB & 50 IP rookie threshold)
  • $163 salary cap - starting salaries are fixed based on the round drafted (e.g. $13 for players in Round 1, $12 in Round 2, etc.)
  • Contracts assigned for 1-4 years with salaries escalating 10% per year. Expiring contracts can be re-signed at 1.5 times the expiring dollar amount.

Strategy

For those unfamiliar with this format, these leagues are categorized somewhere in between re-draft leagues and dynasty formats. On one hand, starting salaries are too prohibitive to allow you to draft an uber-young team and keep them together for multiple years, but the ability to re-sign players allows you the opportunity to own young players for the majority of their careers. This is easily my favorite format to play in (outside of three-sport leagues which are an awesome experience) and if you are interested in starting your own league, please reach out via email (bcreagh119@gmail.com) and I can send a template League Constitutions to get you started.

Having seen leagues like this play out 3-4 years in the future, there are a few observations that drove my draft strategy:

Rarely is it worthwhile to re-sign a Round 1-3 pick after their first contract

Most first round picks are in their prime and automatically signed to 4 year contracts. By the time those contracts expire, the player is 31-33 years old and the cost to re-sign is a considerable slice of your salary cap. A Round 1 pick is $13 in 2018 and $17.3 in 2022 after 10% year-over-year inflation. To re-sign this player after 2022 would cost $26 or 16% of the overall salary cap. Committing that much of my cap to an aging slugger, means I’m likely going to let the player walk or at most re-sign to a one year deal.

The obvious exceptions to this rule are Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Kris Bryant, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to be picking in the Top 10 to secure their services. My strategy was going to be to reach in the first three rounds, for younger talents who could conceivably progress to be reaching their prime after their first contract and may be worth extending a second 4-year contract. If 4 years pass by and they are not worth re-signing, I still have the additional out of being able to trade their re-signing rights to someone who may find the price appealing.

They will seam like reaches now, but if I draft with a championship window opening in 2020 and not 2018, I should have a leg-up on the league and have a shot at building a sustainable winner. This is why I went with Corey Seager (Round 1), Miguel Sano (R2), and Rafael Devers (R3). I believe they have a safe enough floor to guarantee I will get something in return for each of the next four years, but the ceiling is high enough to where I might get 8+ years of production despite the expensive initial price tag.

Having salary cap available in Year One and Year Two is pointless

Everyone is so enthralled with their initial picks, that all players get signed to 3 and 4 year contracts. This means the free agent signing period of the off-season after Year One and Year Two are fairly uneventful. If a player worth signing does come available, the bidding gets so out of hand with so much money available, that I don’t want to be the one winning the auction.

This means that I will be investing every spare dollar on acquiring minor league, because...

Minor League Players are Lottery Tickets

Prospects are promoted and assigned $1 salaries on a 1-year contract. When that contract expires, they can be re-signed at the standard 1.5 rate and progress as all other MLB players. This means these players are very cheap for a very long time. I want as many lotto tickets as I can get my hands on. In fact, restocking the farm system ASAP is one of the best tips I can give in all salary cap/dynasty leagues. Prospects can be league-changing and if you can get three or four to develop into stars at the same time, the league is yours for a 4-5 year period.

Results

*My picks bolded, if you’re interested

Round 1

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Carlos Correa
  4. Jose Altuve
  5. Nolan Arenado
  6. Mookie Betts
  7. Kris Bryant
  8. Paul Goldschmidt
  9. J.D. Martinez
  10. Giancarlo Stanton
  11. Corey Seager
  12. Clayton Kershaw
  13. Trea Turner
  14. Manny Machado
  15. Gary Sanchez
  16. Corey Kluber
  17. Charlie Blackmon
  18. Chris Sale

Round 2

  1. Cody Bellinger
  2. Freddie Freeman
  3. Max Scherzer
  4. Francisco Lindor
  5. Aaron Judge
  6. Andrew Benintendi
  7. Anthony Rizzo
  8. Miguel Sano
  9. Dee Gordon
  10. Jose Ramirez
  11. Stephen Strasburg
  12. George Springer
  13. Rhys Hoskins
  14. Marcell Ozuna
  15. Alex Bregman
  16. Byron Buxton
  17. Noah Syndergaard
  18. Madison Bumgarner

Round 3

  1. Yoan Moncada
  2. Anthony Rendon
  3. Luis Severino
  4. Jacob deGrom
  5. Joey Votto
  6. Michael Conforto
  7. Carlos Martinez
  8. Carlos Carrasco
  9. Chris Archer
  10. Robbie Ray
  11. Rafael Devers
  12. Didi Gregorius
  13. Jose Quintana
  14. Josh Donaldson
  15. Marcus Stroman
  16. Christian Yelich
  17. Ozzie Albies
  18. Zack Greinke

Round 4

  1. Wil Myers
  2. Xander Bogaerts
  3. Daniel Murphy
  4. Jose Abreu
  5. Starling Marte
  6. Gerrit Cole
  7. Tommy Pham
  8. Jonathan Schoop
  9. James Paxton
  10. Jean Segura
  11. Travis Shaw
  12. Willson Contreras
  13. Rougned Odor
  14. Brian Dozier
  15. Jake Lamb
  16. Domingo Santana
  17. Lance McCullers Jr.
  18. Joey Gallo

Round 5

  1. Aaron Nola
  2. Kenley Jansen
  3. Nelson Cruz
  4. Nomar Mazara
  5. Alex Wood
  6. Yu Darvish
  7. Jose Berrios
  8. Gio Gonzalez
  9. Ender Inciarte
  10. Craig Kimbrel
  11. Justin Upton
  12. Drew Pomeranz
  13. Ian Happ
  14. Justin Verlander
  15. Jake Faria
  16. Andrew McCutchen
  17. Javier Baez
  18. Eric Hosmer

Comments

The biggest surprise was seeing 9 pitchers taken in the first 40 picks. Pitchers are a risky long-term investment and can only impact 4 categories in this format. I would much rather play catch-up in Ks and QS, solidify my 6 offensive categories and know that I will need to find pitching throughout the year. I believe this is an over-reaction to the dominant pitching performances we saw in 2017. Sale, Kluber, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Kershaw when healthy all had crazy good seasons with FIPs under 3.00. Their 2017 results will put an emphasis on starting pitching next year, and rarely does that end up being the case. Look no further than fantasy football - when there are 2-3 elite RBs the strategy is to draft RBs early, when the top tier includes 8-10 backs strategies like the Zero RB Theory surface. My preferred approach is to zig when others zag, so all my fantasy baseball leagues will see me sit back on starting pitching and secure a solid offense with my first few picks.

Another observation that you might find interesting is the amount of trading in the first few rounds. I don’t believe that heavy trading is required for a great league, I’ve been in competitive leagues that fall on both ends of the spectrum, but this league has seen a ton of trading of draft picks. Some trades with the intent of moving up in the major, others loading up on top minor league picks but if a manager is looking to make a move, there seems to be a market for everything. I mention this because leagues with a lot of trading activity demands you to stick to your strategy. Temptations will be all over the place to pivot off your strategy or make a move that is not in alignment with what you’re trying to do. Players I have a crush on or opportunities to make a great move that does not align with my strategy will be available for the taking. It’s imperative to stay away from these and only make moves to improve your roster for the years you plan to be competitive. I already said in my opening that I don’t plan to compete in 2018 but I know I will be tempted by expiring veteran contracts that can be had for pennies on the dollar this July. I will have to stick to my guns, unless I can make a reasonable case for why acquiring that player will improve my odds of winning in 2020 and beyond.

Be sure to follow on Twitter (@BrianCreagh) for any questions or reach out via email (bcreagh119@gmail.com).