Team Doran Fires a Blazing Fastball at the TDGX Draft, Part 1
After 800 picks spread over three weeks’, The Dynasty Guru Experts League draft is complete. It was an absolute blast from #1 Mike Trout all the way down to #800 Cord Sandberg. I had tons of fun drafting my team while chatting with the knowledgeable cast of characters who have been assembled to compete in the country’s ultimate dynasty league. I was honored to be invited, and I am feeling a lot of pressure to manage my team well against such a talented crew. I want to beat these guys!
It would be a real badge of merit to prevail in a league filled with experts from the most prestigious baseball websites in the world: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, ESPN, RotoWire, Bloomberg Sports, RotoScouting, MLB Draft Insider, Razzball, Fake Teams, Bleacher Report, RotoRob, Bullpen Banter, MLB Advanced Media, SB Nation, RotoExperts, my own humble Blazing Fastball, and of course The Dynasty Guru. I probably forgot to mention some other great sites that are represented in the league as well. That is one impressive list of baseball’s best and brightest, which will make it an incredibly difficult challenge to win this league. I plan to document my struggles and triumphs right here in these pages, so stay tuned all season long and share your tips and advice in the comments below.
You can follow the draft and the league on Twitter by searching #TDGX. You can see the Complete Draft Results Here.
Why the League Settings are a Key to Success
Before I talk about my draft strategy and my actual player picks, let me set the stage by sharing the league settings. Pay attention here because these settings had major impacts on my draft strategy. It is a 20-team dynasty league with 40 man rosters (30 majors, 10 minors). We can keep 35 players each year. The league is a 5×5 roto with weekly lineups. The starting lineup consists of one each of Catcher, First Baseman, Second Baseman, Shortstop and Third Baseman, plus one Corner Infielder and one Middle Infielder, plus 5 Outfielders and 2 Utility slots. That is a total of 14 starting offensive players. We also have 9 pitching slots that are not broken down between starting pitchers and relievers, the balance is up to the team owner. There is a minimum innings limit of 900 per season.
Why is all that so important? Because there simply will not be enough hitters to go around. There are 20 teams x 14 starting hitters = 280 starting hitters needed for the league. But there are only 255 starting position players in the real major leagues (8 starters X 30 teams, plus 15 designated hitters). Then factor in that not every team has an everyday starter at every position due to platooning or rotating starters. I estimate there are only about 200 everyday starters in the majors. That means each team in our TDGX league will have an average of 4 part-time hitters in their starting lineup every week during the season (280 hitting slots minus 200 everyday starters = 80 part timers, divide that by 20 TDGX teams = 4 part timers per team).
So now we can see that hitting is going to be very scarce and valuable in this league, especially outfielders. There are only 90 starting outfielders in MLB, but we need 100 in TDGX. Catcher is the only position that is not scarce. We only need 20 of MLB’s 30 starting catchers. Every other position is overdrawn. This league is so deep that every single starting position player in major league baseball is worthy of being in a TDGX starting lineup. Even most of the backups and utility players in baseball will be in our starting lineups here in this league. Wow.
Starting pitching is not nearly so stretched. There are 150 starting pitchers in the rotations of major league teams at any given time. That is almost 8 for each of the 20 TDGX teams. We only need 9 pitching slots total, many of which will be used on closers and other relievers. So finding decent, usable starting pitchers on the waiver wire during the season will be much easier than finding hitters.
Closers on the other hand are going to be very valuable. Each TDGX team on average will only get 1.5 closers from the pool of 30 MLB closers. Setup men and middle relievers will be abundant. If you want to score a lot of roto points in the Saves category you better get at least 2 closers. If you miss out on all the closers that puts you at a 20 point disadvantage in the standings right from the start. I don’t think it is possible to win a league of this stature by punting a category such as Saves, or any other category for that matter.
In this league, depth is key. This is not a top-heavy type of league where you win or lose based on your top draft picks. In some leagues the difference between drafting Mike Trout and Carlos Gonzalez in the 1st round might make a big diffference. But in this league the key difference will be how much production you get out of the bottom 5 positions in your starting lineup. Having an everyday starter at every position in my lineup will give me 1000+ At-bats more than a team who has 4 part timers in his starting lineup. Those 1000 ABs will give me at least 130 more Runs, 25 more Home Runs, 130 more RBIs and 20 more Stolen Bases than my competition. That is a huge advantage, much bigger than the difference between Mike Trout and any other player.
The teams that are going to dominate the hitting categories are going to be the teams that have the fewest part-time hitters in their starting lineups. I wanted to make sure I got a good starting hitter at every position in my lineup. The only way for me to do that was to devote my first 14 picks to drafting hitters. That means I won’t get a pitcher until the 15th round, long after all the studs have been taken.
The 4 Phases of Team Doran’s Draft Strategy
My multi-phase draft strategy was to get a good hitter at every position so I can score 18-20 points in every hitting category. I placed extra emphasis on players with high Batting Averages because that was the only category where my big total of At-bats wouldn’t give me an advantage. After filling out my hitting positions in Phase One (rounds 1-14), my next focus would be on Closers. I wanted to get at least 3 closers, preferably 4, so I could get another 18-20 points in Saves in Phase Two (Rounds 15-18).
After that I would spend Phase Three scrambling to find the best 6 starting pitchers left on the board after all the studs were gone. I realize my starting pitching will be my team’s weakness, at least in season 1 of the league. I think finding up-and-coming young pitchers is a strength of mine so I hope to bolster my rotation over time with some savvy pickups. #HOPE.
In Phase Four (rounds 31-40) I will finally fill out my 10-man minor league roster. Since I was planning to get my prospects at the end of the draft I knew all the good ones would be gone, so I figured I would target very young players in the lowest levels of the minors who had elite upside potential. In other words I will be buying prospect lottery tickets with the hope of hitting the jackpot on a couple of them.
The structure of the league reinforced my standard strategy of investing heavily on hitting instead of pitching for the very strong reasons I outlined in this previous post: 5 Good Reasons Why You Should Prioritize Hitting Over Pitching
In addition to the above phases, my overall goal was to stay as young as possible with my team. I figured everyone else would be doing the same, but I was very surprised at how early all the good young players and top prospects came off the board.
This was my plan going into the draft. Was I able to execute the plan or did it all go to Hell once push came to shove?
I was interested to see how many teams would try to win in 2014 and how many would try to go ultra-young for a title run in 2016 or later. My goal was to try to win now and later. Was that even possible? Or would burning my candle at both ends ruin my chances of doing either?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this draft recap, wherein I will list my actual draft picks and my thought process behind selecting each of them. Some were smart I think. Some may have been reaches. Hopefully this draft will lead to a championship!
Here is a hint toward my 1st round pick: This youngster wore red, fled for green and ended up in blue while setting the world on fire.
My second round pick was divulged on TDG last week.