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The Jr Circuit: Welcome

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An introduction to The Jr Circuit, a new series from Fake Teams Fantasy Baseball.

General View

This feels good. For years I’ve written somewhat generic fantasy baseball content. Plenty of “top-this”, “rank-that”, type of articles. That content is needed without a doubt, but after doing it for a handful of years, I realized it wasn’t going to continue scratching my need to grow and explore in this particular medium.

Heading into this fantasy baseball offseason I wasn’t sure what my plans were for fantasy writing. We then found out that Ray was leaving the site and even more uncertainty crept in. Ray had given me a chance to write on the site years ago based on some in depth comments and fan posts. It was great and that was when I got my first chance to contribute the types of articles mentioned above.

Without a clear direction or path during the offseason, content was produced, but I was always wondering what the new managing editor would do with the site, once one was found. Finally, we learned that Pete Rogers would be our new leader. Without knowing a ton about Pete, I was impressed with the message and excitement in which Pete reached out to all of the writers. The plan was clear and the direction set.

The reason I share all of this back story is to help explain what the new series - The Jr Circuit - will be about. As we set out to assign columns and coverage for the 2017 fantasy baseball season, one idea included more free form posts/topics. I’ve always kicked around the idea in my head for some sort of weekly newsletter or post with the same name (a play on not only the American League’s nickname, but also because I’m a Jr).

I’m excited that Pete felt Fake Teams would be a great place to host such a series. I’m looking forward to providing content that is ever evolving and changing as the season carries on. What is important in April may not matter as much at the end of July. The content will range from playing time changes, thoughts on recent callups, skill change analysis, as well as looks at expert leagues such as LABR & Tout Wars and my own personal decisions in key, longstanding keeper/dynasty formats.

Over my nearly 20 years of fantasy baseball playing experience, I’ve played in just about every format. The last 7 or 8 years however, my game has been strictly rotisserie (roto). I prefer a mixture of slow drafts (such as NFBC 50 round draft and hold leagues) and keeper/dynasty auction leagues.

The slow drafts typically occur in December thru February for me. These leagues are great as there are no free agent adds or trades in season. Simply set a lineup each week. It also allows you to go 750 players deep into the player pool early in the offseason. If you prepare 365 days a year for fantasy baseball, your hard work can be paid off quite nicely in this format.

The keeper/dynasty leagues have to be auctions for me. So much of what makes the trading and long-term management of a keeper/dynasty league amazing is the balancing act between future projected production and current versus future cost to acquire/protect. I can’t get enough of it. The fact that one of these leagues is a home league where we all get together each spring to auction, places me in an ever dwindling population of the luckiest fantasy baseball players around (in my opinion).

2017 Portfolio of Teams:

  • 10-Team AL Only Keeper - Auction League (keep 8)
  • 14-Team Mixed Dynasty - Auction League (no limit on keepers)
  • 14-Team Mixed Keeper - Draft League (keep 7) - Last season in this league for me.
  • 12-Team Redraft Mixed - Auction League
  • (x2) 15-Team Mixed League - Draft and Hold - 50 Round

The Home League:

As I mentioned above, I’m lucky enough to have an in-person auction each season. The league began in the mid-90’s (I’ve been a member for 6 seasons) and continues to play with many of the original rules (with slight tweaking). For example, we have no bench players. We draft our 23-man starting rosters and that’s-that. If a player is injured or demoted to the minors we are allowed to reserve that player and have first crack (ahead of the FAAB transactions) at the free agent pool. Once that injured or demoted player is recalled however, we have two weeks to either activate or cut the player, or the player signed to replace the previously reserved player.

The lack of a bench option, except for in the case of injury or demotion, makes putting together a pitching rotation a tough task. Say there’s a young AL East pitcher you like (Blake Snell), but you’re concerned with his potential future starts in Yankees Stadium and Camden Yard during the summer. Without a bench, he’s going to be one of nine pitchers on a team all season, unless cut. Being a keeper league, cutting someone like Snell wouldn’t be ideal. You can begin to see just some of the potential roadblocks and need for a sound strategy in such a league.

If you’ve ever played a home game of poker with friends, you can start to understand the excitement around getting together for a fantasy baseball auction. The financial component is there as-is with poker, but you’re also trying to read the other people in the room. Not only can you see on your sheet how much money they have left, their max bid and positions needed, but you can watch their face and hear their voice as they nominate or bid on a player.

Do they really want this player? It’s much easier to know when to hit or drop out of the bidding when you’re brain is taking in more data than just a simple bid number on a computer screen.

So what was the plan for my seven keepers this year?

Try to have as much money as possible for the auction and have a strong base in stolen bases.

The American League stolen base pool is going to be a problem for many owners this season. Because of this, I decided to freeze mostly hitters who could provide across the board production.

These freezes are:

  • Yoan Moncada $14
  • Byron Buxton $15
  • Max Kepler $5
  • Kevin Kiermaier $11
  • Tyler Naquin $3
  • Mike Moustakas $4
  • Eduardo Rodriguez $2
  • Jharel Cotton $6

This combination of players will cost me $60.00 going into the auction (2nd lowest in the league). With players such as Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Cabrera, George Springer, Edwin Encarnacion & Nelson Cruz, all back in the player pool after contracts expiring, having $200.00 for 15 spots will come in handy.

Meanwhile my freeze list has a projected: 395 runs, 94 HR, 359 RBI, 75 SB’s & a .319 OBP. As shown above, power and OBP is available to purchase and that’s exactly what I intend to do. My 75 stolen bases kept puts me at about 65% of the number I’d like to reach (115). A Mike Trout or Mookie Betts purchase would close that SB gap, while also improving my OBP and of course helping considerably in the other counting statistics as well. By the way, with inflation I have Trout valued at $55.00 entering auction & wouldn’t be shocked to see him go for more.

I’m going to let the pitching come to me at the auction and could either end up with a few mid-range SP’s with upside (McCullers, Richards, etc), or I could spend the least amount of money on arms in the league, opting to go with the unproven, LIMA type arms and use more FAAB resources in season to manage the staff. I suppose the third option is somewhere in-between, but more dramatic effect, it sounds better to be choosing between these two extremes, don’t you agree?

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I wanted to give a look between the curtain at my process and personal league to hopefully better help you understand the way I appreciate the game and analyze fantasy baseball decisions. I’ve learned a lot in all the seasons I’ve won or lost particular leagues.

The fantasy baseball world is much more a market than a science and I look forward to exploring the ever-changing dynamics of this particular market from every angle needed. Hopefully we can all bring home at least one fantasy baseball championship this year.

Good luck in any upcoming drafts or auctions you might have this week or weekend. If you have any fantasy baseball related questions, draft preparation ideas or need someone to bounce a strategy off of, please leave a comment below. Unlike the popular, but over used saying, I like to hear about other people’s fantasy baseball team or experiences. It’s how we learn and grow.

Jr