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 19th 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 four championships 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 or two 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. This year’s auction draft was done on-line but the parameters were the same. 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 December 2020 draft…
C – Willson Contreras $16 (K)
C – Sean Murphy $19 (D)
1B – Jose Abreu $22 (K)
3B – Yoan Moncada $13 (K)
1/3 – Pete Alonso $7 (K)
2B – Cesar Hernandez $1 (D)
SS – Gleyber Torres $10 (K)
2/S – Marcus Semien $24 (D)
OF – Ian Happ $6 (K)
OF – Dylan Carlson $4 (K)
OF – Teoscar Hernandez $6 (K)
OF – Randy Arozarena $8 (K)
OF – Brandon Nimmo $18 (D)
U – Wilmer Flores $6 (K)
P – Brandon Woodruff $16 (K)
P – Tyler Mahle $3 (D)
P – Kevin Gausman $6 (K)
P – Drew Pomeranz $1 (D)
P – Rasiel Iglesias $16 (D)
P –Cristian Javier $15 (D)
P – Joe Musgrove $12 (D)
P – James Karinchak $4 (K)
P – Zach Wheeler $25 (D)
FARM – Royce Lewis (K)
FARM – Christian Pache (K)
FARM – Triston Casas (K)
To lend some insight into the keeper salaries, players drafted in the auction have their salary increase $5 each season. So, for example, Woodruff was drafted for $6 two seasons ago. Any player who qualifies as a rookie has his salary increase only $3 each season. So, because the Dux drafted Moncada in 2017 before he appeared in an actual major league game, he is entering his 5th year on the roster. The league plays the season with 40-man rosters (23 active each week) and prior to opening day 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 December & March. For the teams that drafted (or kept) Mike Clevinger, Nick Anderson, Carlos Carrasco, Eloy Jimenez & others, the first few rounds of this supplemental phase are critical to their team’s ability to contend.
The Dux had a strong 4th place finish in 2020 and didn’t have to give up too many assets to get their 101 points. The keeper list was strong, so we were able to be aggressive in the auction. As of the moment (3/30), there are no obvious holes on the roster. The current projections from a two well-respected sites have the squad finishing in 2nd place with the major weakness seeming to be in SB’s. What strategy would you employ? We have the 3rd pick and while 345 players are already gone, there is still some talent available. Get the best speed guy with the Round 1 pick or try to bolster the rotation? How about a prospect for the future?
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. This year, for example, I looked at a top 100 prospect list from a Fantasy site and found that the first 44 players were already gone! Would you spend a 1st Round pick on #45?
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 30th, the wheels were turning for 15 separate owners and here are the Round 1 results…
> 1.01 Josh Jung – A former member of my team but didn’t have enough room on the roster to keep him in December. Will miss time due to injury but should be the Rangers 3B in 2022.
> 1.02 Garrett Hampson – One of the four speed guys on the Dux list, it comes down to playing time in Colorado.
> 1.03 (Dux Pick) Ramiel Tapia – Not a very glamorous addition, but he’s penciled in to play everyday and bat lead-off. 15-20 SB’s and a .350 OBP would be just fine.
> 1.04 Elijah Green – Still in High School, he’ll be eligible for the MLB Draft in 2022…has committed to the University of Miami.
> 1.05 Robbie Ray – A logical choice for a team with Lamet, E. Rodriguez & Carrasco in their rotation.
> 1.06 Freddy Peralta – Just added to the Brewers rotation.
> 1.07 Garrett Mitchell – This 20 year-old is the Brewers # 1 prospect.
> 1.08 Jonathan India – The Reds starting 2B.
> 1.09 Brailyn Marquez – A 22 year-old Pitcher, he’s the Cubs #2 prospect.
> 1.10 Robbie Grossman – The Tigers signed him to play everyday…should provide double-digit HR’s & SB’s.
> 1.11 Josh Rojas – Very impressive this Spring, he’ll play all over the diamond for the D’Backs..
> 1.12 Willi Castro – The Tigers everyday SS.
> 1.13 Luis Matos – A 19 year-old OF in the Giants organization…this is what a “dynasty” league is all about.
> 1.14- Josh Lindblom – 40-man rosters are all about pitching depth.
> 1.15 Alex Manoah – Could be pitching for the Blue Jays sometime this season.
Last year, 13 of the 15 choices in Round 1 were prospects…this time around, it was only six.
Additional picks for the Dux roster…
> 2.13, Logan Webb – There were 7-8 SP’s in the same tier…maybe at age 24, he’s found the right formula.
> 3.03, Gregory Soto – Possibly the Tigers Closer?
> 3.07 (acquired thru a trade), Yandy Diaz – Needed a back-up 3B and he was the best available.
> 4.13, Nico Hoerner – Cubs sent him down, but it could be a service-time move.
At this point, the Dux were satisfied with acquiring some SB’s, adding a rotation SP, a potential Closer and an extra body at the hot corner. Now it was time for depth and a few rolls of the dice.
> 5.03, Carlos Martinez – Can he succeed with diminished velocity?
> 6.13, Emmanuel Clase – Strictly an insurance policy for Karinchak.
> 7.03 , Jose Garcia – A Reds SS prospect….is Suarez the long-term answer?
> 8.13, Victor Caratini – In this format, you need a 3rd Catcher.
> 9.03, Michael Wacha – Healthy at the moment…this is organizational depth.
> 10.13, David Bednar – Richard Rodriguez is the new Pirates Closer…if that doesn’t work?
> 11.03, Ivan Herrera – In a league that rosters 30 Catchers, finding young possibilities is worth the flyer. He won’t be 21 until June and someone needs to replace Yady…someday.
> 13.03 Nico Goodrum – Multi-positional depth.
> 14.13, Miguel Amaya – Reference the comment about young Catchers.
All in all, a fairly productive draft. The Dux have 9 SP’s to choose from each week, an extra Closer and back-ups for each position to cover injuries and/or poor performance. Hopefully, the GM won’t be sitting in the back of a cab saying “we coulda’ been a contendah”.
More information and the league history can be found at fantasyxperts.com