Anatomy of a Fantasy Baseball Draft

March 10, 2010

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I am in the midst of my fantasy baseball draft.  As I have mentioned on a few ocassions, this league is a strange beast.  The main rule is that you are only allowed to start one player for each letter of the alphabet (based on last name).  You can’t play Matt Holliday and Cole Hamels at the same time.  This leads to some decision making that varies greatly from standard leagues.  Suddenly, Akinori Iwamura and Chris Iannetta are very valuable players, due to the scarcity of players for the letter I.  Iannetta is doubly valuable, since he’s a catcher within the scarce letter.  The Alphabet Soup League is in its third year of existence.

The league has a very strange draft.  There’s no way to use an out of the box automated draft, and an in-person draft isn’t feasible, with players scattered across a decent swath of the country.  Drafting one player at a time over email would take a long time.  Thus I have devised a way to allow participants to draft in a shotgun approach.

First, I developed a grid (shown below) that broke the draft into 10 rounds, with each participant assigned 2-3 letters for each round.  For example, in the first round, my letters were B and V.  Nobody else could draft players with B or V in that round.  This means that everyone could send me their picks whenever they wanted to – they didn’t have to wait for anyone else to pick (I announce my picks vefore the start of a round, to ensure that I don’t base my pick upon  how the round is unfolding).  To ensure that there is no bias, I use the last digit of the closing Dow Jones Industrial Average on a particular day to set the position in the grid.  We march through the draft, round by round.  Very good players drop to later rounds simply because their letter is deep in talent.



Why such a convoluted system?  Simply to make things more challenging, of course.  A few of the GMs (in particular, one “shark”) wouldn’t be interested if this was “just another fantasy league”.  I like winning, but it’s more important for me to match wits with quality opponents.

How is is the draft unfolding for me so far?

In round one, I snagged Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett.  These guys should be a good core for my rotation.

In the second round, I had the letters L and O.  L is easy – reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.  O is more difficult.  In a word, the letter O sucks.  I decide to go with Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo, even though he’ll be splitting time with Chris Iannetta (and in a pefect world for my Rockies, Iannetta will push him completely aside).  This is a low risk move, since there’s not a ton of value within O, aside from David Ortiz – and DH/1B  guys are a dime a dozen.  It also provides a bit of insurance – looking through the next few rounds, I don’t see any quality catchers would might slip to me.  I can’t simply grab a guy like Joe Mauer or Brian McCann – I have to wait until I get to the round with the correct letter.

In round 3, I decide to start snapping up the best available pitchers and worry about hitters later.  I grab young ace Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, and the closer for Seattle, David Aardsma.  A is not a great letter – Aardsma represents good value for that letter.  My strategy will be to win at least 4 of the 5 pitching categories in my weekly matchup, and pick up at least 1-2 wins on the hitting side.  2 hitting wins and 4 pitching wins is a fine 60% success rate.  That’s enough to make the playoffs – and winning 6 of 10 in the playoffs will advance me to the next round each time.

By round 4, some people are starting to realize my strategy.  I grab another young ace, Yovani Gallardo.  I also grab my second hitter, Matt Wieters.  Wieters, like Olivo, is a catcher.  However, Wieters has an extremely bright future ahead of him, as one of the top prospects in the game.  Miguel Olivo slinks toward my bench.

In round 5, I actually add a couple of hitters.  I think Howie Kendrick is the best of the remaining K players.  He played well down the stretch last year, and he should getting the starting second baseman nod ahead of Macier Izturis.  I also have the letter grouping % – which includes players from Q, U, X, Y, and Z.  The twist is that while these players are all lumped together in the draft (because they’re too shallow to stand alone), you can actually play a Q player AND a Z player – it’s different than playing two R players.  I grab Carlos Quentin – not only is he a good player, but he’s a Q player.  After the draft, I’ll try to nab a Y or Z player in free agency.

What lies ahead?

I need a first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, two outfielders, and a couple of pitchers.  I have specific players identified.  I wish I could tell you who … but I can’t – because other members of the league may be reading this.  Suffice it to say that I’m much more worried about shortstop and third base than I am about the other positions.


Interested in how the draft turns out?  Read the conclusion.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan @ 40Tech
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 08:51:41

    Interesting. Definitely the strangest draft rules I’ve seen, but sounds like fun. I participated in fantasy leagues (both rotisserie auction and straight draft) for several years, but finally had to give it up because it was just too time consuming.
    .-= Evan @ 40Tech´s last blog ..6 Options for Free Cloud Storage =-.


  2. Peter Rabbit
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 16:59:21

    This is very cool.

    I know you described this to me before but seeing it unfold it sounds even better.

    Maybe you have an opening next year I will try it out.


  3. Lazy Man and Money
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 11:25:47

    You should have gone with Ortiz. I know the position is a dime a dozen, but the production at that position is not. I think he’s going to come back and have a monster year.
    .-= Lazy Man and Money´s last blog ..Palm is Dead (and Personal Finance Links) =-.


  4. kosmo
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 11:35:12

    @ Lazy – that’s a valid point, but what I was trying to avoid was a complete void at catcher. I was more willing to roll the dice at first base than at catcher.

    I ended up with Carlos Pena at 1B and Nick Johnson at Util, which isn’t as optimal as Ortiz and Pena. On the other hand, I really couldn’t count on Wieters falling to me, and if he hadnn’t, I’d have been up a creek. While Olivo’s not a world beater, he’ll be playing in Coors and it’s conceivable that he could grab a majority of at bats if Iannetta fails (we’re all pulling for Iannetta to succeed, though).

    Best case scenario is that I scoop at someone’s waived player to put at Util if Johnson fails.


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