We Have a Winner! Team McKahn Claims the Dynasty Guru Experts’ League 2014 Championship – #TDGX
TDGX is the nation’s premier dynasty league. The Dynasty Guru Experts’ League pits some of the industry’s best fantasy baseball writers against each other in a high-profile competition. The league’s inaugural crown goes to Team McKahn, co-managed by Ian Kahn and Tim McLeod. Ian Kahn not only a fantasy baseball writer, he is also a well-known actor who currently portrays George Washington in AMC network’s hit show “Turn”. Tim McLeod writes for RotoRob and Patton & Co and shares his thoughts on the Prospect361 podcasts. You can also hear him on SiriusXM radio on Sunday mornings. In addition to his TDGX title, Tim also won the championship in this year’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The Canadian is clearly a fantasy baseball force to be reckoned with.
Ian and Tim didn’t just win the league, they absolutely thrashed the league. They won by 20.5 points over the 2nd place team. Dominating this league by that margin is pretty darn impressive when you consider the caliber of the competition. Every team in this league is owned by a respected fantasy baseball expert. Nearly every major fantasy baseball website is represented in this league. Defeating this formidable lineup is certainly an accomplishment to be proud of. Congratulations Ian and Tim for a very impressive season!
As you know by now, all of the writers here at TDG have been playing in an epic 20-team dynasty league with fantasy baseball writers from all over the Internet. Matching wits with some of the best players in the country has proven to be quite a challenge and a ton of fun — exactly the way a fantasy league should be. Below you will find the complete final standings as well as plenty of enlightening comments from the team owners themselves.
I will summarize the league setup here, but for a more in-depth overview of how it all got started read this: Welcome to The Dynasty Guru Experts’ League. The league is a dynasty league of course, with 30 man rosters plus a 10 man minor league roster. We can keep 35 players each year. There are 20 teams owned by experts (20 teams x 40 players = 800 rostered players plus about 50 on the DL, now that’s a deep league!). It is a 5×5 roto league with weekly lineups and transactions. We start 14 batters and 9 pitchers each week.
Our goal is to share all of our strategies with our readers. We want to let you know not only what we did but why we did it. It is great to get inside the minds of the experts as their strategies unfold all season long. There have been lots of articles here on TDG and on several other websites as well. Each week Bret posts an article detailing all the trades and waiver wire pickups complete with comments from the team owners who made them. You can see all league-related articles here: TDGX Articles. You can also follow the league on Twitter by searching #TDGX to see us brag and bellyache about our teams’ trials and tribulations.
This was the 1st season of the dynasty league. We had our 40-round draft back in March. Some teams tried to “go for it” right from the start, other teams decided to punt 2014 and draft only youngsters and prospects with the goal of winning in 2015 or even later. Some teams took the middle ground and tried to do both. With 20 teams there are going to be a lot of different strategies. Things began to settle out pretty early in the season. After the first 2 months it became apparent there were really only three teams with realistic chances of winning the first championship. Those teams were McKahn, Shlain and Doran. Many of the remaining teams that had started the season in “win now” mode quickly changed course and became sellers. This led to a flurry of trading activity in June. There were a lot of sellers and only a few buyers, so the price for veteran players was low and the value of prospects was high. It was a buyers’ market for sure. The result was the rich got richer and the top teams separated even further from the pack.
The three team race became a two team race about the time that Edwin Encarnacion and Paul Goldschmidt went down with injuries, taking Team Shlain out of the race. By the time the All Star break came around Team McKahn was out to a 10 point lead, by the end of July it was a 13 point lead. By the end of August they had a 19 point lead, and the 2nd place Team Doran had a 16 point edge over 3rd place Team Shlain. September was all about the battle for 3rd place and jockeying for positioning in next year’s draft.
Here are the Final 2014Roto Point Standings:
The maximum potential score was 200 points, so a score of 192 is absolutely fantastic. Team McKahn was dominant in the pitching categories right from the beginning. They worked hard to improve their offense as the season progressed. After swinging some smart trades and making some clutch FAAB additions Ian and Tim built an elite offense to match their ace-caliber pitching staff. Key hitters for the champions were Victor Martinez, Dee Gordon, Brian Dozier and Adrian Beltre. Team McKahn’s pitching staff was anchored by the otherworldly Clayton Kershaw along with Craig Kimbrel. They survived the loss of Masahiro Tanaka without skipping a beat. But in an ultra-deep league with 20 teams and 40 man rosters you don’t win with a few star players, you win by having solid everyday performers at every roster slot where other teams are starting platoon players and bench warmers. Team McKahn’s roster is a powerhouse from top to bottom. Not only did they annihilate the competition this season I am sure they will be awfully hard to beat next year too. But I am excited for the challenge!
Here are the actual stats for each team:
You can easily tell which teams were playing for the future and which ones were trying to win this year. Team Glaseau was the team that went full force from day 1 of the draft to create a team built to compete in the future. They drafted nothing but prospects. Because they didn’t have many major league players they were unable to meet the required minimums of 900 innings pitched and 4000 ABs, so they had to take a penalty and reverted to last place in AVG, ERA and WHIP. Before the penalty they had 39 total points with a .2732 AVG, 3.938 ERA and 1.3128 WHIP. I don’t think the penalty was a setback for them because they planned to do that from the beginning. They were not worried about 2014, they are building for 2016 and beyond.
Because this is a dynasty league, the standings at the end of Year 1 are just a snapshot in time. It will be interesting to watch the various long-term strategies come to life as the next few seasons unfold. Quite a few of the teams were not even trying to win the 2014 championship. Their strategy right from the beginning was to build a rock-solid foundation of very young players and develop it into a true dynasty: a team that will be dominant for multiple seasons. The older, veteran MLB players are concentrated on the teams who fared well this season. Next year and beyond we may see those teams begin to slip in the standings as their key players age beyond their primes. That will create opportunities for the rebuilding teams to creep up the standings and begin to challenge for championships.
I am sure next year’s final standings will look quite a bit different than these. Some teams who suffered injuries this year will be healthier next year. Some teams who managed to stay injury-free this year will not be so fortunate next year. Some players who had career years in 2014 will struggle next season, while some mediocre scrubs will unexpectedly rise to stardom next year. It happens every year and 2015 will be no exception. Some things stay the same but a lot of things change. If you had a good year this year don’t get too cocky. If you had a bad year in 2014 don’t get too depressed. The balance of power shifts faster than we expect, even in dynasty leagues.
Looking forward to our 2015 draft, the top three picks will be determined by lottery and all teams in the bottom half of the previous year’s standings will be eligible. The 20th place team will get 10 chances, 19th team will get 9 and so on until the 11th place team, which will get one chance. All 2014 MLB draftees will be available in our draft, including Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber and the like. All the Cuban and Japanese players who were not signed by the end of last year’s TDGX draft will be available as well. That includes the likes of Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Each TDGX team will also have to drop 5 players from their 40 man roster. In addition to all of that, any team who participated in last years “Invisible Hand” draft slot bidding process will have to drop additional players. Two teams will have to drop 15 extra players and several others will have to drop 1-7 extra players because of the Invisible Hand. All things considered there should be a good number of valuable players available in our 2015 draft.
For those who are not familiar with the Invisible Hand, we were allowed to bid for our draft slots. If you wanted to take a shot at getting the #1 overall draft pick to select Mike Trout, you could bid any number of extra drops to win that pick. For example, Mike Buttil’s team bid 15 drops and won the right to draft Trout, so he will have to drop an extra 15 players before the draft in addition to the normal 5. That played heavily into his 2014 trading strategy during the season because he needed to distill as much of his team’s roster value into his 20 remaining keeper slots. Some teams chose not to bid on any draft slots and just take their chances with the randomized draft order, but all except one of the top 10 draft slots were won during the bidding process. A total of 60 extra players will be dropped before the draft due to the Invisible Hand. It was a cool new wrinkle that spiced up the draft. I liked it even though I chose not to bid and ended up with the 12th draft slot.
A group of TDG readers got together last Spring to start a TDGX clone league of their own. If any of you would like to check in with an update to let us know how your season went we would love to hear it. Next year we hope more clone leagues will begin. It is a really fun league format. I heartily recommend it to all of our readers.
This next section will give you some information about each of the participants in TDGX. There is also some commentary from the participants themselves.
1st – Team McKahn — Ian Kahn (Formerly of The Dynasty Guru, currently George Washington in AMC channel’s “Turn”), Tim McLeod (Patton & Co, SiriusXM)
We went into this inaugural season planning on building a team for today. Why play for tomorrow, when there are always so many questions marks as to what that future may hold. With that strategy in mind our early targets were players in the 25-30 age group with both a proven history and upside potential. Clayton Kershaw, Jay Bruce, Elvis Andrus, Craig Kimbrel, and Alex Gordon in the first five rounds were just what the Doctor ordered. We then moved on to Masahiro Tanaka in Round Six who was lights out until the elbow woes.Brett Gardner in round 9, Brian Dozier in Round 11, Nick Markakis in Round 15, Jose Quintana in Round 18, Dee Gordon in Round 22, and Mark Melancon in Round 25 were absolutely huge in determining our fate.We had two waiver wire acquisitions that turned out to be golden. On April 21 we invested the sum of $4 on the Twins’ Phil Hughes. At the end of June, we noticed that Sergio Romo was showing some cracks in his armor and invested $2 in what we perceived to be the next best option in San Francisco if Romo lost the job. Two weeks later he did. Both acquisitions were invaluable in strengthening our already strong pitching.When you roll it all together, our strategy, speculative mid-round draft gambles, and waiver wire additions proved to be a recipe for success. Oh, and we also seemed to catch a heck of a lot of breaks along the way. — Tim
Congrats to Ian and Tim for winning the title! If you had told me before the season that my team would score 171.5 points I would have been thrilled. I thought that would be enough points to win the league, but I was wrong there obviously. My season turned out much like I had planned and hoped it would. My first 14 draft picks were all hitters because I wanted to build around a solid offense. That part worked out great. I took Yasiel Puig, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy and Adrian Gonzalez early and they all performed well. My best selections were Kole Calhoun in the 9th and Michael Brantley in the 13th round. That was huge. My worst selections were Aaron Hill in the 7th and Kendrys Morales in the 12th.
I knew I would have to scramble all year long to piece together a decent pitching staff. It was so bad at first that I had Alexi Ogando as a starter in Week 1 and Dillon Gee was the “ace” of my staff. I traded for Dan Haren, Hiroki Kuroda, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Collin McHugh and Jordan Zimmerman. I snagged Matt Shoemaker as a free agent. I ended up with a good rotation despite a lack of starpower. To obtain those pitching upgrades I traded 9 out of the 10 prospects I drafted, including Jesse Winker, Jose Berrios, Mike Foltynewicz, Taylor Guerrieri, Gabriel Guerrero and Billy McKinney. I was able to replace them with some pretty good minor leaguers like Clint Coulter, Matt Olson, Ben Lively, Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen. I also had Kennys Vargas on my minors roster but had to drop him due to a roster crunch. Fortunately I was able to re-add him later but it cost me a good chunk of my FAAB budget.
I was fortunate on the injury front. Kole Calhoun, Shane Victorino, Dillon Gee and Josh Beckett were the only good players that spent extended time on the Disabled List for me. I doubt I will be as lucky next year. One good thing about not drafting any good pitchers last Spring was that I missed out on the Tommy John Surgery epidemic. If you don’t want to lose an ace to elbow surgery don’t draft an ace! — Nick
3rd – Team Karaman — Wilson Karaman (Baseball Prospectus, The Dynasty Guru)
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty stoked to grab a podium position in the inaugural TDGX season. I primarily play in head-to-head leagues by trade, and this was my first foray into a roto league this deep and competitive. It was a strange season for being so successful, from the standpoint that I got really poor aggregate production from my top 7 picks in the draft (Braun, Longoria, Springer, Cliff Lee, Shelby Miller, Everth Cabrera, Billy Butler). But on the flip side I found a ton of surplus value in the tween and teenage rounds (Kluber, Iwakuma, Alcides Escobar, Denard Span), supplemented it with some solid, low-cost trade acquisitions (Wei-Yin Chen, Uehara, and Matt Garza), and got lucky with a couple big hits on the waiver wire (Mesoraco for $8, Josh Harrison for, um, $0). And voila.
I’m a bit hamstrung for next year’s draft, with no second or third round pick, but with some solid progression of minor leaguers on my farm I’ll hopefully be in decent shape to make some upgrades that I’ll need to make next season to take the next step forward. — Wilson
4th – Team Shlain — Nick Shlain (RotoWire)
I thought I was going to challenge for a title this year, but that wasn’t really in the cards for my squad. Then Edwin Encarnacion and Paul Goldschmidt went down with injuries down the stretch and the time missed by Gattis and Pagan didn’t help either. I had a good BA/power team, but lacked speed, to go with my great pitching staff. Honestly, I’m just happy I survived the draft. — Nick
5th – Team ChateSonn — Luke Chatelain (The Dynasty Guru), Adam Sonnet (The Dynasty Guru)
It was an interesting year for the Chatelain/Sonnett team and we ended up taking home 5th place. Coming into the draft we aimed to set ourselves up for the future while hoping to compete in 2014, a tough balance but one I felt was necessary with our draft position. With our late draft selection (20 of 20) We planned to take some high upside MiLB players (Byron Buxton, Gregory Polanco) while hedging those picks with some vets whose 2014 value would be way more than their draft position (Jose Bautista). This strategy worked well to get us near the top of the standings but we couldn’t keep up with the 1st/2nd place teams who went for broke and pushed everything they had into 2014. In order for us to have competed we would have had to deal Polanco and Buxton, alongside the other top prospects we moved, Jorge Soler and Taijuan Walker, but we just weren’t confident enough that we could finish in 1st place to confidently move all of our high-upside youngsters.Looking to 2015 we are in a pretty good place, a couple of our upside bets paid big and look to have bright futures (Corey Dickerson, Jose Altuve, Yan Gomes), and while our 1st and 2nd round picks offered little help in 2014 a small bounce back from Chris Davis and some health from Buxton would go a long way to help put us back in contention. It will be interesting to see what we do with our aging sluggers, Bautista and Albert Pujols, but it looks like both of them will be around to make a significant impact in 2015. — Luke
6th – Team Sayre — Bret Sayre (Baseball Prospectus, The Dynasty Guru)
You can listen to Bret’s comments about TDGX here on the TINO podcast on Baseball Prospectus.
7th – Team CielyMitch — Jake Ciely (RotoExperts), Chris Mitchell (RotoExperts)
Going in to the draft the plan was to try to mix youth with experience in an attempt to win now without selling out only to have to rebuild four years from now. The draft was the tale of three approaches. A few owners completely dumped 2014 (I would suggest some rule adjustments to address this issue) while some owners built mostly for now and others took the middle ground like we did. As the draft unfolded our minors turned out to be weaker than I originally wanted. Some key draft decisions at key times when good prospects could have been had didn’t happen which led to a major league focused draft with some late, long term developmental prospects on our roster instead of high end, close to the majors, safer ones. Some owners took prospects much too early, in my opinion, which thinned the top tier prospect pool pretty signifcantly. So, we ended up with a group of prospects that I like, but that are speculative and a long way away from contributing, no blue chippers and almost nothing that will contribute in even small ways in 2015. Not the way I like to build a minor league system but the situation we are in.All and I all I believe we achieved our original goal which was to try to contend in 2014 while being young enough to have 3-4 years of competitive seasons. We came nowhere close to winning the league, which is disappointing, but to finish 7th amongst 20 teams with a roster hobbled by injuries and killed by significantly poor years from key players, I think it was a successful season with reason for optimism going forward. Especially considering how disappointing a season a significant number of our players had this year. Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Villar, Allen Craig and Wil Middlebrooks were complete busts that provided zero production while Mike Minor was very disappointing as well. In a 20 team league with rosters as deep as this league with so few bench spots and so few DL spots (which is a rule I would suggest be changed), you can’t afford dead spots. Starling Marte had his moments but we expect better things from him in 2015.Early in the season we were forced to carry disabled players on our bench or cut them which damaged our ability to compete. Add to that that James Paxton missed 80% of the season and Mike Minor never recovered his 2013 form due to off season injuries, so he went on to have an extremely disappointing season and our already thin roster was very weak in the pitching categories.On the positive side, Jonathan Niese and Jake deGrom may have been the steals of the entire draft with Chris Tillman being right behind them. Niese is an extremely underappreciated pitcher and deGrom took two steps forward from any expectations Fantasy owners had for him when the season started and Chris Tillman pitched like a #2. It looks like our staff could be pretty good in 2015. Lester/Paxton/Tillman/deGrom/Minor and Niese have the makings of a very competitive rotation. Add that to Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Steve Cishek in the bullpen and it looks like a staff that really struggled the first half of 2014 but could be a dominant force in the pitching categories in 2015. On the offensive side, Lucas Duda quietly had a fantastic season and we expect good things from him as well as Jason Kipnis, who we acquired late in the year, in 2015.Looking forward, I would like to have some prospects to funnel into our majors in 2015 but outside of some steals from Billy Burns, we do not. If there was one place I feel weak and in need of major work it is the prospects. We have so few minors spots in this league and in such a deep league it is difficult to get ahead of the curve and build a strong minor league system that evenly distributes a high upside future of young blue chippers with “close to the majors” contributors. At this stage, our minors are not built the way that I would like them to be but that was decided on the fly in the draft room more than anything else and will take some time to address.As far as how the season unfolded I would say one thing. Being a new league with owners we were unfamiliar with competing against, we did not get a chance to benefit from the early season trading where inequities were exploited. Some whopper trades happened early where a significant amount of talent helped teams win now with a limited cost to their futures. Unfortunately, our team didn’t benefit from this early barrage of trades. I think the league will settle in and find a balanced price when dealing Now for Later players but this year, early on, that price was very unbalanced in favor of the teams trading for now. I wish we had benefitted and exploited the inequity of that period but we got left out in the cold. It hurt us. But in new leagues it takes some time to feel your way through and I have no doubt I will. I would like to thank Jake Ciely for contributing to the draft, especially drafting Jake deGrom. I don’t believe he will be back next season so I will have to manage the draft on my own from here on out. — Chris
8th – Team Crawford — Chris Crawford (ESPN, MLB Draft Insider)
9th – Team Rosenbaum — Mike Rosenbaum (Bleacher Report, RotoWorld)
My squad was sitting comfortably in 10th place with 96.5 points at the fantasy halfway mark (Week 13), and we picked up 10 points over the second half of the season en route to a ninth-place finish in #TDGX.
My team’s greatest strength this year was hitting, as our 70 offensive points ranked fifth among all 20 teams. Though I traded several veteran hitters during the season in Ian Desmond, Brian McCann and Martin Prado, I was very encouraged by the performances of my young hitters, many of which were acquired in deals for the aforementioned players. In general, I really like the state of my offense moving forward, though I will have to patch up some holes on my infield before next season. And to those who thought I overdrafted Yelich in the third round…I say to you: suck it.
My pitching staff was a different story, as it finished the season ranked 16th in the league with 36.5 points. My staff’s struggles stemmed from a combination of bad drafting (stupid Ubaldo Jimenez) and untimely injuries, as I lost left-handers Matt Moore and Tyler Skaggs to TJ surgery. However, I do have some nice arms in the high minors who should make an impact next season and help fill out my staff. — Mike
10th – Team Carsley — Ben Carsley (Baseball Prospectus, The Dynasty Guru)
2014 was obviously a disappointing year for me. I left the draft thinking I had a top-5 finish locked up and a real chance to win the thing, and made a few major acquisitions – Carlos Gonzalez, Joakim Soria — to bolster my short-term future. I then suffered a bevy of injuries to my outfielders, relievers and the back end of my rotation, and I was never able to recover. The bad news is I gave away a lot of young talent — players like Trevor Bauer, Oswaldo Arcia and Jonathan Singleton. The good news is that I enter 2015 with a core of CarGo, David Wright, Robinson Cano, Hunter Pence, Julio Teheran and Justin Verlander, and I should be able to compete if a few things go my way. — Ben
11th – Team Newman — Mike Newman (ROTOscouting)
12th – Team GoldRubio — Craig Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus, The Dynasty Guru, SB Nation), Mauricio Rubio (Baseball Prospectus, Cubs Den)
You can listen to Craig’s comments about TDGX here on the TINO podcast on Baseball Prospectus.
13th – Team Cwik — Chris Cwik (CBS Sports, FanGraphs)
14th – Team Kantecki — Alex Kantecki (Baseball Prospectus, The Dynasty Guru)
15th – Team Hunt — Jason Hunt (FakeTeams)
The season went about as expected once the rebuilding effort started, and with a 15th place finish there will of course be a lot of work to do. With the rules of the minor league draft, I will have at worst the 9th pick in the draft (with the potential to net the 1st), which should net me a very good player to help with those efforts. Beyond that, it will be just about looking for long-term value and players who could turn a profit in future years. — Jason
16th – Team MBTDG — Mike Buttil (Razzball), Paul Clewell
TDGX was a lot of fun and a great challenge. Congrats to Team McKahn for their win. With the initial season under our belts, we will look to restock the roster with 17 picks in the 5-round FYPD in 2015. With 11 of those picks coming in the first three rounds, we’re hoping to navigate the Mike Trout keeper penalty without losing too much ground overall. In the lottery system, we may even have a chance at a top pick.Our offense fared well with Trout, Rendon, Heyward, Castro and Arenado leading the way. We have some younger offensive pieces rounding into form with Alcantara, Soler, and Franco. Now it’s a matter of building some pitching around Garrett Richards, Archie Bradley, and Ken Giles to give our rotation a chance to compete. Releasing Carlos Carrasco early in the season looks like it was a mistake. With 20 roster spots to fill in 2015, our team will have an exciting new look from this point forward… and now we can actually keep them all! — Mike
17th – Team Sussman — JD Sussman (FanGraphs, Bullpen Banter), Nathaniel Stoltz (FanGraphs)
18th – Team Breen — J.P. Breen (Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Disciples of Uecker)
I aggressively sold and engaged in a full-scale rebuild much quicker than my competitors. It resulted in a bottom-of-the-standings finish, but things have been looking up for my squad. In the past nine weeks, my team has finished 9th, 12th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 6th, 19th, 6th, and 9th. That points to a middle-of-the-pack squad that can be improved upon over the winter and also through the simple progression of young talent. The goal is to shorten my rebuilding time as much as possible, and it appears I’m well on my way. — J.P.
19th – Team BaldBarn — Noel Baldwin (The Dynasty Guru), Andy Barnes (The Dynasty Guru)
Suffice it to say that a 19th place finish and trading Price, Cain, and Fielder were not what team Bald/Barn had in mind at the start of the year. Nevertheless, it was a fun season and we laid some blocks for a future contender with the trades. Plus, the Jeter farewell tour was a blast! Until 2015. — Noel
20th – Team Glaseau — Craig Glaser (Bloomberg Sports, MLB Advanced Media), Tom Trudeau (Bloomberg Sports, ESPN, MLB Advanced Media)
TGDX is one more data point that dynasty is truly the most fun way to play fantasy baseball. It’s the only format that gives every single owner something to play for or build towards from opening day until October.
Having punted on 2014 from day one, Craig and I embrace our role as the guinea pig for playing the long game in inaugural dynasty drafts. It’s been a really interesting year and we can’t wait to see if delaying gratification pays off soon. — Tom
That’s it for the 2014 TDGX season, but stay tuned to this website for lots more coverage of this league and dynasty leagues in general. We will have all the information you can handle regarding the recently completed season and good ways to improve your squads heading into the 2015 season. One good thing about dynasty leagues is you don’t have to wait until the draft to improve your team in the offseason.
Feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments below. Congratulate the winners, make fun of the losers. Criticize. Compliment. It is up to you!