On March 1st, Grey and I took part in the Yahoo Friends & Family Draft – a now 15-team snake draft that is unique amongst expert leagues in that it is a daily transaction league instead of weekly transactions. While it is not quite as wild west as RCLs (125 player add limit + today’s pickups go on your roster starting tomorrow), it requires a different draft mentality.

Rather than belabor my picks, I’m going to just display my roster and just riff on a couple of draft strategies/philosophies and how they applied to this draft. (I only have one of these behemoth draft reviews in me this year – see 15-team LABR Mixed draft).

Here are links to Grey’s review and the Yahoo! review where all the participants chime in for a verse like some 25 minute version of ‘The Weight’.

Last Year Recap (here are the draft results and the final standings)
Soooo close. I finished in 2nd place sandwiched between Yahooligans Dalton Del Don (1st) and Scott Pianowski (3rd). This was my best finish in 4 years of having my own team and co-managing a team with Grey for a couple years before that.

This team was buried in the standings through the first half of the season and then just caught fire for the second half thanks to Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Justin Verlander, Robbie Ray, some key pickups (Eddie Rosario comes to mind) and a constant stream of starting pitchers (thanks Streamonator).

My team’s ascension from near last to first would have been perfect if the season ended a week early. That gave just enough time for Dalton to pull some pitching magic out of his ass pocket as he streamed both Matt Cain and Bartolo Colon’s final starts + streamed a ton of mediocre pitchers on the last day of the season to go over the IP max cliff Thelma & Louise-style. Hats off to Dalton as he is a great player and, most impressively, succeeds in this league despite being one of the less active rosterbaters.

My only regret is I left Wins and K standings point on the table by falling 86 IP short of the 1400 IP max. That SEEMS like an easy target unless your SP3/SP4/SP5 are Jameson Taillon, Steven Matz, and Drew Smyly and you are trying not to burn through all your transactions. Honestly, this team looked like a goner through May (take a look at Verlander’s 1st half) and by the time I kicked streaming into high gear, there just was not enough time to hit the max. Lesson learned.

2018 Draft

Here are the full results of the 2018 Yahoo! Friends & Family Draft. Note it is 1 catcher, 4 OF, 2 UTIL, 4 bench, 2 DL, and 1 NA slot. Standard 5×5, 1400 IP max, limit of 125 adds. Below are my picks:

POS PICK # PICK PLAYER TEAM
C 365 25.5 Tyler Flowers ATL
1B 215 15.5 Logan Morrison MIN
2B 26 2.11 Jose Ramirez (3B) CLE
SS 176 12.11 Paul DeJong (2B) STL
3B 35 3.5 Alex Bregman (SS) HOU
OF 5 1.5 Giancarlo Stanton NYY
OF 56 4.11 Marcell Ozuna MIA
OF 116 8.11 Ronald Acuna ATL
OF 206 14.11 Willie Calhoun TEX
CI 296 20.11 Lucas Duda KC
MI 95 7.5 Ozzie Albies ATL
UTIL 236 16.11 Marcus Semien (SS) OAK
UTIL 266 18.11 Josh Harrison (2B,3B,OF) PIT
SP 65 5.5 Shohei Ohtani LAA
SP 125 9.5 Jon Lester CHC
SP 155 11.5 Jon Gray COL
SP 185 13.5 Charlie Morton HOU
SP 305 21.5 Tanner Roark WAS
RP 86 6.11 Felipe Rivero PIT
RP 146 10.11 Alex Colome TB
RP 245 17.5 Cam Bedrosian LAA
RP 275 19.5 Brad Boxberger ARI
BENCH
OF 326 22.11 Nick Delmonico CHI
SP 335 23.5 Chris Stratton SF
OF 356 24.11 Leonys Martin DET
RP 386 26.11 Sam Dyson SF

Biggest Differences In Draft Strategy For A Daily vs Weekly Roster Change League

  • About 1/3 of your hitters are fungible. Be prepared to churn them as soon as things look unpromising. This varies based on your team but it is usually the following spots: OF4/5, CI, MI, UTIL. While this is a good way to think about a roster in weekly leagues, the time and money (FAAB) constraints require more patience. So my end game focuses more on hitters who could provide value starting week 1 and I can cut with a clear conscience by April 15th (i.e., Leonys Martin and Nick Delmonico over a Nick Senzel)
  • Acknowledging your in-season strengths/weaknesses is vital. For instance, if you are one of the quickest in the league to act on breaking news, you can fade relief pitching more. Vice versa. I am in the latter camp on relievers. I feel confident on hitter and starting pitcher pickups (as well as middle relievers) as they are less news dependent.
  • Multi-Position Eligibility is slightly more valuable since you have more options to arrange players when a player has an off day.
  • Players with good RHP splits but are benched/subpar vs LHP have more value in daily because you can platoon them out. LH power bats are the most common on the waiver wire but this also qualifies for speed guys (harder to run vs LHP)
  • Middle Relievers are slightly more valuable since you can swap them in and out of the lineup (plus this doubles as save prospecting – worked like a charm last year in this league with Felipe Rivero). But I don’t believe in drafting them if they have no shot at being the Closer on Opening Day unless it is AL/NL-only (so I am not touching: Chris Devenski, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, etc.)

Draft Date Matters

  • The earlier the draft, the more you should use late round picks on speculative closers and avoid investing mid-draft picks in marginal closing talents. I ended up with three lottery tickets in Bedrosian, Boxberger, and Dyson. The only reason I got an RP2 (Colome) is because he came at a discount.
  • If you know your stuff, you should push to draft earlier in the spring. While it is frustrating to lose a player to a Spring Training injury or demotion, the uncertainty on players’ draft value leads to small buying opportunities (e.g., I do not think Albies/Acuna make it to me at 7/8 if were were to draft today). I feel the historically later draft date in this league hurt me on a few players I was ahead of the curve on but the market caught up to (Kris Bryant rookie year and Matt Harvey’s post-TJS year come to mind).

Thoughts On Handling A Room That “Overpays” Versus Your Values

We all have comfort zones when it comes to drafting. We expect the ‘market’ to behave a certain way and, when they do not, it can get uncomfortable (unless, of course, you have some idiots in your draft and their suboptimal picks net you more value than you expected).

In this league, we have several players (Rotowire’s Erickson & Liss, Yahoo’s Dalton Del Don) who go heavy on starting pitching in the first 3 rounds. They combined for 6 SPs in those 3 rounds. In addition, top relievers also go a little sooner. It leads to an early wave of panic as the rest of us have to determine whether we use higher picks than ideal for SP1 / RP1 or we load up on bats and do our best to cobble together a credible pitching staff.

This is close to a worst case scenario for me because I like to pay market rate for pitching. I have colleagues (Scott Pianowski and Mike Podhorzer come to mind) who are very good at building staffs on the cheap. I have not had success doing it. As noted in the recap, I win this league with slightly better SP2-SP5 picks last year.

There is no one answer to this but here is a rule of thumb. One method is to adjust your rankings – in my case, I could move from 67/33 hit/pitch to something like 64/36. Since this inflation is more present in the beginning of drafts vs throughout, I find it easier to nudge up an available SP on my player list during the ‘run’. But there is a second thing in play – if there is a run on a position (say SPs), it means other positions have good values (say bats). This is what happened in this draft at 3.5 and 4.11 where I liked Alex Bregman and Marcell Ozuna in those slots more than the SP options and ended up with Ohtani at 5.5 and Rivero at 6.11. In retrospect, I probably should have just taken Severino at 3.5 (I took him 3.3 in LABR and have been hesitant to pay that price again for him).

In summary, don’t panic. Create some rule of thumb (like 1 round up) to give yourself some flexibility. Sometimes it is better to overpay a little for one player to avoid more uncomfortable decisions later in the draft (oh my god, i have no SPs in first 7 rounds!).

If You Are Not Comfortable Punting Any Hitter Position, You May Be Costing Yourself Value

Certain positions are more fun than others to punt. But there are decent values for every position later in the draft. You are probably never going to read any post or tweet from me stating something like the below (note: Vlad is one of the best 15-team mixed experts)

Look at my Yahoo draft. You think I wanted to punt 1B? It just worked out that way. So Morrison in the 15th and Duda in the 20th is a pretty uninspiring 1B/CI duo. That is fine – they are part of my ‘fungible’ group and I built up other spots like MI (DeJong).

Get familiar with the player pool, consider the major flaws of the bargain bin players, and factor that into your early round drafting. I have found power/bad AVG bats are a plenty later in drafts so I prefer to get strong AVG players early in the draft (arguable that I managed that in this draft).

One positive to punting where others do not like to punt is you are in better position to pounce on waiver wire upgrades. That is the worst thing IMO about punting SP or RP as EVERYONE is looking for arms. In ToutWars on March 6th, I ended up having to punt 2B/SS/MI. It is an uninspiring trio (Harrison/Polanco/Crawford) but it let me stock up everywhere else and their names are on my roster in metaphorical pencil not pen.

I have found the most common punt (2nd catcher in 2 catcher leagues) is a little too universal and being a little aggressive at C2 could net a couple dollars of draft value at a time in the draft where pick value nears zero. But I will take the Catcher selection in 1 catcher leagues often down to the last pick.

After 3 completed drafts and 2 in-progress slow drafts, I have punted C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and OF at least once. But I haven’t punted SP yet as, noted earlier, I have little confidence right now in my ability to build a pitching staff on the cheap.

Quick Draft Thoughts

  • While my hit/pitch split was almost identical to my LABR draft (Y! F&F was 66/34 vs LABR 67/33), my SP/RP split was quite different as LABR was 27/6 while Yahoo F&F was 20/14. This was driven by 1) Only 2 SPs in my 1st top 10 picks (5th/9th) and 2) Using a 10th round pick on Colome as an RP2. I will learn from last year and churn more in the first 2 months to make sure I do not fall too far behind on innings.
  • I really like the offense. My estimates have it above average in all stats except SBs where it is about league average.
  • I will need my offense to be very good given my lackluster starting pitching.
  • I really like my bullpen. Hopeful at least one of Bedrosian, Boxberger, or Dyson win the gig and I can use 3+ closers and build up a Save surplus earlier in the season.
  • I am excited to see if I could build off last year’s success. It feels like I lifted a curse in this league as it felt like I was a minesweeper uncovering early-round bombs.
  1. Snarky Anklebiter says:
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    Rudy, when you draft for daily interaction leagues and leagues with innings caps like Yahoo, do you tend to base your draft board on season dollar values, or dollars/game?

    • @Snarky Anklebiter: mostly season dollar values. I check $/G for end game values but they are often unclear PT guys or prospects and I want all my bench spots to be useful by end of April

      • Snarky Anklebiter says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: I agree with that thought for hitters farther down the rankings. I was thinking primarily about starting pitching though. I tend to more heavily weigh your $/g values in my 1250 inning cap league. I would rather role with Rich Hill and streamers during his DL time over a middle of the road workhorse like Samardjza. Thanks for the effort of providing all the sortable data.

        Also, you are currently the only baseball writer that I follow on twitter, and I enjoy your posts (across all topics). Is there anyone else you recommend who is witty and won’t overwhelm my feed? I tried following Pianowski for a while, but it was just too much filler.

        • @Snarky Anklebiter: makes sense the $/G focus based on 1250 IP. Innings eaters are useless. I follow a lot of my peers on twitter – maybe try out Fred Zinkie or rob silver?

  2. Nitro says:
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    Great information as usual Rudy. Thanks so much.
    I have a draft strategy question. I am in a 10 team HTH points keeper league. This is the first season of the league. I have the first pick in a snake draft.
    My question is about my 2 and 3rd picks. If one of the top pitchers is still available do I take one at 2 or 3? If not, when would you suggest taking my first pitcher in this scenario?

    Thanks so much.

    • Rudy Gamble

      Rudy Gamble says:
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      @Nitro: depends on how quickly ur league grabs starters but typically I would grab an SP in the 2/3 spot.

  3. AcunaMatata says:
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    O.k. Rudy- read through your draft strategy..quick Q. 12-team keeper league with 2 keepers valued from previous years’ draft rounds. I have the opportunity to keep Manny Machado (5th round) along with no-brainer Trea Turner (22nd round) but I really want to pull the trigger on Acuna who would only cost my last round pick. Is that crazy to part with a free agency-bound Manny? I pick 4th so I can get a top pick to compensate. TIA…

    • @AcunaMatata: that is a little crazy to let Machado go but I love Acuna so can support it.

  4. FantraxBlows says:
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    Fantrax website experiencing an infrastructure issue 15 minutes before draft time… League #40

  5. Marti says:
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    Still 8 spots-in rcl league 67. Drafting the 13th. $20 buy in. Where are all these razzball experts.

  6. The Great Knoche says:
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    You got a lot of love for Ohtani this year it seems?

    • @The Great Knoche: moderate love. I do think people are underrating the chance at greatness and dwelling on chance he provides a few less starts than other pitchers.

      • Pouss-Pouss says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: @Rudy Gamble: One could say that you’re sho’ high on Ohtani?

  7. ACC says:
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    I know you said you love Acuna … what is your opinion on ceiling for his stats this year ??

    • @ACC: 25 HRs / 40 SBs for a ceiling with solid avg and r/rbi. I am hoping for 20/30

  8. ThePrince says:
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    Your projections show Kendrys Morales being a much better bet than LoMo, yet you seemingly reached for Morrison with Kendrys still on the board. Thoughts?

    • @ThePrince: I suppose morales has 1B eligibility in yahoo so doesn’t appear like any great rationale. Maybe a little optimism that Morrison’s numbers are regressed a little too much? I will feel a lot better about LoMo when it is confirmed Sano can play 3B.

  9. larry womack says:
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    What’s your philosophy when another manager or two start stock piling closers. Do you reach for a solid closer or two or just let it ride and build the best bullpen you can.

    I see in Yahoo a lot of managers go with power hitters and all closers. What do you think of this strategy?

    Thanks

    • @larry womack: before 3/15, I want one very good closer and, after that, will only get a second “closer” if the price is right. I would just make sure you get one guy even if u go up a round and then bargain bin it from there. Do not like that strategy of power/closers.

  10. Squat Cobblers says:
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    Great stuff Rudy! Love your team. I definitely think you’ll be in the hunt again this year.

    It’s a different league, but I moved the overall league budget in my 2nd NFBC draft to 64/26/10 from 66/23/9 after my first draft this season went 61/28/11.

    It’s absolutely insane but this 2nd one might be even more extreme 59/29/12?! cause RPs, even shitty ones, went even earlier. I tried not to panic as you suggest. I feel like I need to take the best ‘value’ on my board and fill needs later. Unfortch, my 2nd/3rd RPs are Claudio/Minaya without locks for Saves and my 6th/7th SPs are Ed Rod & Musgrove…not exactly the pictures of health at the moment. I do think my offense is solid however.

    Which of these have a chance for Saves this season in your opinion: Lyons/Leone/Diekman/Minter/Dyson/Hudson/Hirano/Givens/ODay/T Hunter??? Maybe your top 3. Thanks!!

    • @Squat Cobblers: NFBC loves its pitching. Makes a little more sense in leagues with no pickups. Hirano/Leone/Dyson

      • Squat Cobblers says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Thanks so much Rudy! Really appreciate it.

        Here is the corrected breakdown for my 2 NFBC slow drafts, each thru 22 Rounds:

        61.3/27.7/11.0 (88 SP/41RP)
        61.1/27.3/11.6 (87 SP/42RP)

        NFBC participants definitely love their Pitching. I mean, i get it. No waivers. But still, there are always saves on bench. And with 16-17 SPs, I am able to use SON to find favorable matchups!

        Thanks again Rudy for all of your tools!

  11. KrugerSmoothing says:
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    Curious . . .

    In an expert league like this, are most of the owners active throughout the whole year? Do some just pack in late summer when football gets going?

    Also, are most of the expert leagues involve $$$? Small amounts and/or side bets?

    • @KrugerSmoothing: most of the owners in this league are active but there is some activity fade as teams fall out of contention. The transaction cap makes it tough to gain a big advantage from any late season inaction

  12. mike says:
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    Are you worried about ERA?

    • @mike: not feeling great about anything but Saves right now. If I could survive last year’s injuries + hamels, feel okay about the rest.

  13. Ice Cold Pitchers says:
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    Great analysis, Rudy. I always use your ideas to construct my draft plans. Thank you for your work.

  14. Woodrow the Impaler says:
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    great stuff as usual, Rudy. Whatever they’re paying you at Razzball- make em double it!

    I was wondering what yr approach would be in an auction for a 10 team, 2 Catcher, NL only league with no trades? I’ve done the single league auctions before but never without in-season trading.

    Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

    Best.

    • @Woodrow the Impaler: ha. w/ NL-only auctions, i find it hard to go in w/ a set strategy. grey won the 12-team Tout NL last year using our auction values. He was able to get Goldy, Stanton, and Trea Turner at or below the $ estimates and it made for an amazing foundation. I’d say my one piece of advice is try to get decent ABs for all your offense lineup spots (2nd catcher being the least) and avoid spending $5-$10 on mediocre starters. Get an ace, get a solid reliever, and then try to get super cheap ($3 max) starters and relievers.

  15. dubjay says:
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    Hey Rudy, always love your insight. Ive been taking a look at that LABR mixed league draft quite a bit when trying to decide between 2 players. Im up next to pick in a 12 team H2H keeper league(keep 10). My weakest postion is 1B by far. Have I.Desmond. Was thinking of grabbing a backup in case Desmond doesnt rebound. Best options are C.Davis, E.Thames, K.Morales, or waiting til a couple of rounds later to grab McMahon. But a little worried about his playing time(along with Desmond)after the Gonzalez signing. Actually just noticed that Lomo is still available as well.
    The other option is grabbing another SP. Lynn and Manaea are the best options.
    What do you think?

    • @dubjay: Thx. I guess Morales out of that group. I like Lomo as well – feel a little better about him now that Sano is playing 3B in spring training. I assume Morrison will just be RHP (w/ maybe Sano at DH and Escobar at 3B) so if your H2H allows for daily moves, his value a little higher (like in this draft where i have Lomo and Duda)

  16. AlbiesTheRacistDragon says:
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    Hey Rudy – I sent this into the main post today, but I’m curious about your take if you’re still checking this board…

    NL Only 10 team keeper deadline today. We’re normal 5×5 categories and $260, but the twist is that everyone has to roster 2 2B and 2 SS (but only 3 total corner infielders). Top players usually go in the mid to low 30s.

    With that in mind, I need to pick 5 of these 6 to keep (1 to cut). What do you all think?

    $26 Freeman
    $17 Ozuna
    $16 Story
    $13 Ray
    $4 Wood
    $4 Margot

    Thanks!!

    • @AlbiesTheRacistDragon: Hmm, that’s tough. no immediate reaction to it so i’d go based on the NL-only player rater $ values.

      • AlbiesTheRacistDragon says:
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        @Rudy Gamble:
        Cool, good to know there isn’t an obvious answer I’m missing I suppose!!

        Do you think you’d inflate the 2B/SS values any in a league that required you to play one more than a typical league? Or should i ignore scarcity and go based on those values giving me their auction value amount for their expected performance this year?

  17. Pitchfork2k1 says:
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    Hi Rudy, thank you for your analysis. Little off-topic, but didn’t see a tout-wars write-up so thought I’d ask here: what’s your top 10 look like for 5×5 OBP leagues? I’m drafting 9th in a 10 teamer, planning to go hitter-hitter at 9th and 12th unless Kershaw is available at 12 (limited streaming pushes down pitcher values a little). I have Trout, Altuve, Harper as the clear 1-3, and then a group of (Arenado, Stanton, Turner, Betts, Bryant, Correa, Goldy, Votto,Kershaw) in that order but with little separation. Not sure where to put Turner in this format, seems like he should be worth a little less, but with other SB threats taking a larger hit in moving from avg to obp, I have him about the same.

    • @Pitchfork2k1: haven’t written tout up yet. later this week i think. my top 10 looks like the 5×5 OBP player rater for the most part. Trout then Stanton/Harper are my definite top 3. Altuve’s not as valuable. Turner gets bumped a bunch of spots as well.

  18. Hegotsgame says:
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    Rudy, thank you. I see your projections have Donaldson above Bellinger. Would you keep Donaldson over Bellinger for better production this year?

  19. Jake says:
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    Hi Rudy,

    2 questions:

    1. Why didn’t you take Stanton 4th in LABR when he’s pretty much at the top of all your auction values?

    2. I’m in a 6×6 league with IP and K/9 instead of just Ks. How would you model that simply into your existing rankings.

    Thanks dude

    • @Jake: 1) I ran mock drafts in my tool starting with Turner and Stanton and found I liked the Turner drafts more. Especially as a first draft of the year where I didn’t have a good feel for where I could find SBs at good value. Since then, I’ve taken Stanton at 5th and 6th in two different drafts. 2) I’ve never built $ for IP b/c I didn’t have stats on how those leagues play. My guess is that I don’t think the $ value are much different than 5×5 except you probably want to make sure you draft a little heavier on SP vs RP.

  20. Mike says:
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    Any worries about a Bregman regression? I noticed you took him over some more proven commodities like Dee Gordon and Abreu.

    • @Mike: I liked Bregman’s ‘median’ value best. I don’t worry that much about players having higher levels of variance or safer/riskier. Feel most of that is perception and that higher variance also means more upside. I have Gordon valued much lower than Bregman so he wasn’t a consideration. I had Abreu higher on my rankings than Bregman but was leaning towards HR/SB/AVG guys in early rounds knowing there would be cheap power later in the draft. I did not want to be in a position where I HAD to take a Mallex Smith for SBs which would then put a big dent in HR/RBI.

      • Mike says:
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        @Rudy Gamble:
        Gotcha. I actually just went with the same strategy in my offline 13 team league. After much deliberation I took Bregman over the likes of Gordon, Abreu and Seager. I’m definitely worried about regression but I don’t want to be left holding the bag when it comes to speed. Thanks for the input.

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