We had our 2nd annual Razzball Expert League (aka RCL Expert League) on Tuesday night with Grey and I facing off against a field so formidable that I’ll use the term ‘experts’ in single quotes instead of double quotes.

Here are the participants (in draft order) and a link to last year’s standings:

  1. Scott Pianowski – Yahoo! – Back for his 2nd year after finishing 5th last year.  While most ‘experts’ are more comfortable in weekly leagues, this feels right at home for Pianowski who is infamous for his quick trigger finger.  I think he’s competing again because he’s embarrassed Grey actually out-transactioned him last year (254-158).
  2. Bret Sayre – Baseball Prospectus – Bret’s a rookie in the league whom we met via e-mail introduction by Jason Collette.  I enjoy the first two paragraphs of his posts – up to the point Baseball Prospectus asks for subscription money.  On the plus side, their online subscription has free shipping.
  3. Rudy Gamble – Razzball – I finished 2nd last year, a couple points behind Trout and Grey-gifted Peavy/Latos-owning Ryan Carey at Mastersball.  Yeah, I’m not bitter about putting together an amazing pitching season (57 points) only to be foiled when my top 2 picks (Votto, Longoria) miss 140 games due to injury.  Gah!  I’m out for revenge.
  4. Paul Singman – Baseball Prospectus – Paul’s a rookie in the league who has been writing about fantasy baseball for a while (he’s written at Hardball Times as well).  We’ve competed against him in Yahoo! Friends & Family League and maybe other leagues (tough to keep track).  He’s also evidently a deadbeat – thanks Google!
  5. Grey Albright – Razzball – Grey finished 6th last year despite matching me with 57 pitching points when poor offensive starts by key players led to hasty dismissals of Ryan Zimmerman and Alex Rios.  Eric Hosmer didn’t help either.
  6. Clay Davenport – ClayDavenport.com – While Clay is a rookie in our league, he is a wily baseball veteran.   He co-founded Baseball Prospectus in 1996 and made several key contributions in the world of baseball projections.  His ‘Davenport Translations’ equivalized statistics across MLB eras, playing environments, minor/international leagues, etc.  He’s also really good at fantasy baseball, rainfall estimation, and has his own Wikipedia page.
  7. Ray Guilfoyle – Fake Teams – Ray is an RCL Expert League rookie who was able to step in when Yahoo’s Dalton Del Don bailed at the last minute because some miniature human came out of his wife’s hoo-hah (sp?).  We’re also competing against Ray in the Tout Mixed Wars league and like that he cranks out post-draft reviews seemingly right after drafts (here’s his review of his RCL draft).
  8. Mike Podhorzer – RotoGraphs – This is Pod’s first year in our Expert League but he goes way back with us.  He was in the first Fantasy Razzball (where you aim for the worst team) league back in 2008.  He’s an entrepreneurial sort who is touting an e-book on DIY Baseball Projections and has a site where you can rent ‘friends’ by the hour (wink wink).
  9. Nick Minnix – KFFL – Nick is a rookie in our league who both team Razzball and myself have competed against in a number of expert leagues.  He’s bested me a few too many times over the years – usually in AL/NL-only leagues where he has a penchant for finishing 1st and I have a penchant for finishing 2nd through 4th.  Hopefully, I get some revenge in this format – even though Nick has already got the old “I didn’t know the rules” excuse all lined up.  He’s good, I tell ya…
  10. Derek Carty – DerekCarty.com – Yet another rookie that we have competed against in umpteen expert leagues.  Derek has written for BaseballProspectus and Hardball Times – according to his site, you may also have seen his work on “ESPN Insider, NBC’s Rotoworld, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, USA Today or many other places”.  I’m not sure what our overall record is against each other – I think we finished ahead of him in a couple leagues last year but he bested us in the DraftDay AL-only big money league (he finished 1st, we finished 2nd) so a tip-o-the cap to him.  He also seems to value players similar to myself – he always has a pick or two each draft that feels like he is spying off my queue.
  11. Dr. Roto – RotoExperts + SiriusXM – Dr. Roto is the injury guru on RotoExperts.com and one of the best hosts on Sirius XM’s Fantasy Baseball station.  He is part of RotoExperts weekday 6-11AM block and he has the pleasure of having me as a guest Wednesdays at 10:30AM EST.  I have a feeling that whomever of us is doing well in this league will be gloating on air.
  12. Ryan Carey – Mastersball – The reigning champ is back and eager to prove his win wasn’t all due to having Mike Trout.  Ryan is one of the many fine writers at Mastersball where I go to read advice/strategy on deep league formats (NFBC, AL/NL only) and to watch nude scenes of Halle Berry (make me feel good!).  Here is his post-draft review.

With introductions out of the way, here are the final draft results and below is my team.  (Note:  There was an autopick glitch that had Pianowski drafting Braun instead of Trout with the 1st pick.  I drafted him Trout #3 and traded him straight-up for Braun since that is how it would have played out.  Given Pianowski likes playing under the moniker ‘Karma Police’, I figured it was in my better interest)

Rudy’s Team – Razzball Expert League
Pos Player Team
3.27 C Buster Posey SF
6.70 1B Ike Davis NYM
25.291 2B Marco Scutaro* SF
9.99 SS Josh Rutledge COL
2.22 3B Evan Longoria TB
18.214 CI Chris Carter HOU
10.118 MI Alcides Escobar KC
1.3 OF Ryan Braun MIL
8.94 OF Nelson Cruz TEX
11.123 OF Hunter Pence SF
17.195 OF Alexandro de Aza CHW
21.243 OF Denard Span WAS
22.262 UTIL Emilio Bonifacio TOR
16.190 DL Corey Hart MIL
4.46 SP Cliff Lee PHI
5.51 SP Felix Hernandez SEA
7.75 SP/RP? Aroldis Chapman CIN
14.166 SP Lance Lynn STL
18.214 SP Derek Holland TEX
12.142 RP Addison Reed CHW
13.147 RP Huston Street SD
15.171 RP Kenley Jansen LAD
20.238 RP Carlos Marmol CHC
23.267 RP David Robertson NYY
24.286 RP Al Albuquerque DET

I try to go into every draft with an open mind.  I do not think there is one way to build a winning team and I am confident enough in my player values to (re-)build a draft strategy on the fly.  This draft was a great example of this because I didn’t see the 1B/OF values in early rounds like in other leagues and had to adjust accordingly.

No complaints on having the 3rd pick in the draft after a RIDICULOUS run of back-end snake picks (2013 LABR 12th out of 15, 2013 Tout Wars 15th out of 15, 2013 Yahoo! F&F 13th out of 14, 2013 NFBC 10th out of 15, 2012 RCL Expert League 10th of 12, 2012 LABR 11th out of 15, 2012 Yahoo! F&F 7th out of 14).  Braun was an easy pick here but there is a slight pit in my stomach about the Biogenesis investigation.

I was hoping Verlander would fall to me for pick #2 (went 3 picks before) and my decision was Longoria or Strasburg.  For the 2nd time this year (NFBC), I chose Longoria over Strasburg.  With two premium 3Bs having injury issues (Headley, Wright), I figured 3Bs might go at a premium and was happy to get Longoria at this spot.

My typical strategy went awry starting with my 3rd round pick.  My top two choices (Strasburg, Heyward) went right before my pick and I just didn’t love the OF values (Adam Jones, Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday) given their SB contributions are average at best.  I felt this was a little early to pick an SP – having faith that there would be value with my 4th/5th picks.  With those positions ruled out, I looked at my draft board and Buster Posey stared up at me.  I planned on punting Catcher and you can make a solid argument that drafting Longoria and Posey as two of my top 3 bats takes on greater-than-average injury risk.  But I trust my values and saw this pick as an opportunity to take more liberties on low AVG guys later in the draft (Posey is 6th in my AVG Point Shares with Braun being #2).

The OFs I passed on got snapped up quickly (A-Jones to Grey at #29, Bruce at #30) while, as expected, only two SPs (Price, Hamels) were snapped up in the 18 picks between my 3rd/4th rounds).  I grabbed Cliff Lee with my 4th pick and, after Sayre surprisingly chose Wainwright and Darvish with his SP picks on the turn, nabbed Felix Hernandez with my 5th pick based purely on value.  I feel great about this pick given that 7 of the next 18 picks were SPs.  The downside was that I gambled that Anthony Rizzo or Freddie Freeman would still be on the board for my 6th round (#70) pick and both got poached – Rizzo by Carty (dah, I should’ve known) and Freeman by Davenport.  Taking F-Her also led me to pass up on Desmond Jennings who Grey grabbed two picks later.  Ike Davis was #78 on my board so I grabbed him before 1B got watered down any further.

With only one OF in the first 6 rounds (I’ve had 2-3 in every previous draft) and Braun as my only speed, I had to change my strategy a bit.  For OF, I wanted to find two guys with 25/90 potential at solid values and 1-2 leadoff types with 90+ run potential, solid AVG, 20+ SB potential, and, ideally, 10+ HR potential.  I really like the value I got in the Hunter Pence, Alexandro De Aza, and Denard Span picks and I am okay with the Nelson Cruz pick in the 8th round (unintentionally doubling down on Biogenesis guys).

For MI, I drafted Josh Rutledge for the umpteenth time with pick #99 (9th round).  He seems to be one of the most polarizing picks in expertdom as many are down on him because of his lack of plate discipline (3.1% BB rate in 2012).  This is one where I have faith in the Steamer projections that he boosts up his BB rate to tolerable levels (~5%) and can deliver above average 5×5 value with 2B/SS eligibility.  I drafted Alcides Escobar for the first time this year at pick #118 to further bolster my Runs/SB.  With Rutledge only at SS for now, I then just sat on 2B until the reserve rounds where I drafted Bonifacio (OF-only now) and Marco Scutaro (placeholder).  I don’t love Bonifacio’s SAGNOFiness (he’ll be useless for Runs/HR/RBI) but as an MI + bench hitter with 2B/OF, there might be some value.

It seemed like everyone in the draft room was on the same page when it came to picking a corner man.  From the end of the 16th round through the 18th round, 8 guys with 1B eligibility were taken.  I helped start the run by grabbing a DL-value play with Corey Hart at #190 and, then, missing out on my vet-crush Berkman (#208).  I recovered to take Chris Carter at #214 who, like Hart, will have 1B/OF eligibility giving me a lot of flexibility with future roster moves.  I think he’ll be weak on AVG (<.250) but love his 30 HR upside with Minute Maid Park’s short LF fence.

Last but not least, my pitching strategy.  I only planned on taking 4-5 SPs given the 180 GS limit and my faith in the Stream-o-nator.  With Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez at #4/#5, I could afford to be patient.  I opportunistically grabbed Aroldis Chapman in the 7th round (#75) feeling that it’s solid value if he starts and great value if he closes.  Before long-time readers start commenting about “Rudy loves pitching soooo much!”, my other SP picks were in the 14th (Lance Lynn) and 19th (Derek Holland).  I think both these guys have 15 W/180 K potential without killing me on ERA/WHIP.  Since it was unclear whether Chapman would close, I snagged two closers in the 12th/13th rounds (Addison Reed, Huston Street) as well as a late round value pick of Carlos Marmol in the 20th round with pick #238.  Given the GS limit, I used the slots that might go towards extra SPs to pick two of the best non-closing K-machines in Kenley Jansen (15th round/#171) and David Robertson (23rd round/#267).  While high K-rate MRs are usually available on the waiver wire given their year-to-year unpredictability, I didn’t mind paying a premium to get Jansen in a round where question mark closers were being taken (Frieri, Janssen, etc.).  I also snagged Al Albuquerque with my last pick – both because I like his peripherals and he still has a chance to win the Tigers closing role.

My overall take on this team is that it has a chance to be competitive in all 10 categories.  My team’s strikeout potential is insane and that will give me the liberty to focus on ERA/WHIP/Win potential with my streaming selections.  My offense should be solid-to-very good with the unknown variable being top 3-pick health/PED suspensions.  If I can get 1600  ABS from Braun/Longoria/Posey, I feel really good about my chances to win this league.