How would you like to be invited to participate in the most unique Fantasy Baseball league in the industry? Looking back to 2002, the Old Duck was thrilled to be part of the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), the vision of Ron Shandler and the first industry keeper league. Some of the most respected pundits and players of the game were kind enough to invite three “challengers” to be included as part of the 12-team group. As one of these home-league players, I was nervous and excited to sit down at the draft table that November and test my skills against the best.
As we enter our 17th season, it has been a great ride for this lifetime baseball fan. We’ve expanded to 15 teams and the camaraderie established over the years has led to genuine friendships with a great group of guys. And, to my surprise, the Quacker has turned out to be a decent player with championships in 2005, 2009, 2011 & 2012 and the best overall record.
The XFL is a 5×5 keeper league (with OBP instead of BA) that has an auction budget of $260 for 23 players. We conduct the draft only a month after the baseball season ends and no research (or computers) are allowed at the table. Utilizing just MLB depth charts handed out prior to the first player being nominated, it is a test of your player-pool knowledge and prognostication. There is a significantly high inflation factor because many of the players on the keeper lists have salaries much lower than their projected values. Here’s the roster of Donald’s Dux (“K” for keepers, “D” for drafted) following the November draft…
C – Willson Contreras $10 (K)
C – Wellington Castillo $9 (D)
1B – Jose Abreu $16 (K)
3B – Wil Myers $20 (D)
1/3 – Eduardo Escobar $10 (D)
2B – Yoan Moncada $7 (K)
SS – Willy Adames $4 (K)
2/S – Gleyber Torres $4 (K)
OF – Yasiel Puig $19 (K)
OF – Steven Duggar $1 (D)
OF – Kole Calhoun $1 (D)
OF – J.D. Martinez $56 (D)
OF – Steven Souza $9 (D)
U – Jeimer Candelario $3 (D)
P – Brandon Woodruff $6 (D)
P – Patrick Corbin $8 (K)
P – Brad Hand $11 (K)
P – Stephen Strasburg $30 (D)
P – Arodys Vizcaino $10 (D)
P – Vince Velasquez $6 (K)
P – Sean Doolittle $15 (D)
P – Sandy Alcantara $4 (D)
P – Steven Matz $8 (D)
FARM – Royce Lewis (K)
FARM – Michael Baez (K)
To lend some insight into the keeper salaries, players drafted in the auction have their salary increase $5 each season. So, for example, Corbin was drafted for $3 the previous year. Any player who qualifies as a rookie has his salary increase only $3 each season. So, because the Dux drafted Puig in 2013 before he appeared in an actual major league game, he is entering his 7th year on the roster. The league plays the season with 40-man rosters (23 active each week), so at the end of March there is a supplemental, on-line, snake draft to fill the remaining slots. These legal supplements can have a huge influence on the success of your team because so much can happen between November & March. For the teams who drafted (or kept) Carlos Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Salvador Perez, Dallas Keuchel, Brandon Morrow, Kolby Allard & others, the first few rounds of this supplemental phase are critical to their team’s ability to contend.
As the result of a disappointing 11th place finish in 2018, the Dux had the 10th pick in this supplemental phase as the first of 15 players to be added to the roster. As always, it becomes a lesson in strategy as to the utilization of scarce resources from a pool where over 350 players were already rostered. The current projections for the 23-man rosters have the Dux in the middle of the pack, but the weakness is in starting pitching and the question marks surrounding Woodruff, Alcantara and Matz just exacerbates that problem. The first question regarding strategy was whether or not an available SP was worth the 10th pick, as compared to the best player (or prospect). Research indicated that the SP pool only had names like Collin McHugh, Chase Anderson, Zach Eflin, Matt Harvey, & Mike Leake. That made it clear that the value of the 10th choice needed to yield a prospect who might be a long-term keeper.
Now, a word about prospects. Due to deep rosters, teams are not shy when it comes to drafting young players low in the minors and holding them until they’re ready. This is one of the key elements to a “dynasty” format and the owners in this league know everything about projectable minor leaguers, international players, college players and even an occasional high-school star. In any given year, you could take a top-20 prospect list from your favorite publication or website and about 18 of them are already on one of the XFL teams. The real gems in the 1st round of the supplemental draft are players who have rookie status and a major league job like Jose Abreu, who the Dux selected with the first pick in 2014. No player in that category emerged for 2019, so minor-league prospects were the priority.
To me, the best five available youngsters were Alex Kirilloff, Wander Franco, Joey Bart, Carter Kieboom & Peter Alonso. The question was, will any of them be left on the board when my pick came around? If you might wonder why a young pitching prospect wouldn’t be a priority, it is because the fragility of those players isn’t worth rolling the dice in the first round…Brett Honeywell & Michael Kopech were taken in the 1st round two years ago. A major-league starting pitcher would be targeted in Round 2, then major league back-ups for 1B & C with an eye for players who might be able to be kept for two seasons ($1 this year and $6 next year).
Teams have very difficult choices in the initial rounds, as they need to balance filling holes on their roster with also acquiring some long-term talent. This year, as we gathered at our computers on March 11th, the wheels were turning for 15 separate owners and here are the 1st Round results…
> 1.01 Alex Kirilloff – Arguably the best prospect on the board.
> 1.02 Wander Franco – Certainly the next best hitting prospect available.
> 1.03 Jesus Luzardo – The highest rated prospect SP.
> 1.04 Joey Bart – Young, good-hitting Catchers are like gold in this league.
> 1.05 Chris Paddack – Could be in the Padres rotation this season.
> 1.06 Jazz Chisholm – Not as high in the rankings as some others, but good upside at the scarce SS position.
> 1.07 Collin McHugh – The defending champ had a hole on his staff and took the best MLB SP in the pool.
> 1.08 Domingo Santana – A sneaky pick as he’s only 26 and with a new start in Seattle, could be a keeper for years.
> 1.09 Cal Quantrill – Another impressive arm from the Padres organization.
> 1.10 Peter Alonso – Very happy to have him fall to me at this spot…will be the Mets 1B sometime this season.
> 1.11 Luis Garcia – Nationals Infielder who is their #3 prospect at age 18.
> 1.12 Casey Mize – Top 20 pitching prospect from the Tigers.
> 1.13 Nick Madrigal – A top-tier 2B prospect who produced a .300 BA at three levels in his first season.
> 1.14- Carter Kieboom – If Alonso was gone at #10, this would have been my choice…he’ll be the Nats 2B in 2020.
> 1.15 Asdrubal Cabrera – A valuable asset in this format with dual position eligibility and playing in Texas won’t hurt.
Additional picks for the Dux roster…
> 2.06, Jonathan India – Was targeting a SP in this spot but only McHugh had been taken and I couldn’t pass up another nice prospect for the future.
> 3.10, Jeff Samardija – Sonny Gray, Brad Peacock, Marcus Stromen, Zack Eflin, Matt Strahm & Jakob Junis were all off the board before it got back to me, so rolled the dice on the Shark being healthy.
> 4.06, Nico Goodrum – Looking for a back-up corner, he fills the need.
> 5.10, Christian Pache – A long-term prospect, but will be the Braves CF someday.
> 6.06, Tom Murphy – Every team needs a back-up Catcher, so why not one who plays in Denver?
> 7.10, Adam Wainwright – Another veteran SP who looks healthy this Spring.
> 7.15 (from a trade), Adam Jones – A back-up OF with a little pop.
> 8.06, Starlin Castro – Everyday players are hard to find at this point in the Draft.
> 9.10, Tanner Roark – Only need one of these guys to pitch well.
> 11.10, Aramis Garcia – This is a hedge in case Murphy doesn’t make the Rockies opening day roster…he should back-up Posey in SF.
> 12.06, Adrian Morejon – Yes, the Padres have a plethora of pitching prospects.
> 13.10, Colin Moran – Seems to have lost the job to Kang since this pick was made…an extra body at this point.
> 14.06, Dexter Fowler – Organizational depth.
> 15.10, Joe Jimenez – Do you think Shane Greene will be closing in Detroit all season?
All in all, a fairly productive draft. The three extra SP’s give some flexibility for match-ups and streaming if any of the youngsters falter.. Goodrum could be a sleeper, while the other back-ups seem solid. Six minor-leaguers also give hope for the future.
If you consider yourself a baseball expert, consider that the following players were taken in this draft…Oneil Cruz, CJ Abrams, Adley Rutschman, George Valera, Chuck Taylor (that’s a sneaker), Corbin Martin, Malcolm Nunez and Miguel Vargas.
More information and the league history can be found at fantasyxperts.com