Tank to Win: My Rotowire Dynasty Invitational Draft
When BP’s Greg Wellemeyer invited me to participate in James Anderson’s 20-team industry dynasty startup (Razzball’s Ralph Lifshitz does a nice summary of the league format here) I only had one condition – we had to intentionally tank for two seasons. Greg is one of the best dynasty players I have ever competed against; he’s more than capable of beating 19 industry players, but he quickly agreed. Why? Perhaps it was because he’s seen what the insta-tanking dynasty startup strategy can achieve first hand.
Exhibit A: The Dynasty Guru Experts League 2017 standings (I’m MLB.com).
|2||Greg Wellemeyer, BP||94.5||76.5||171.0||3.5||21.5|
My 20-team dynasty league roster features Correa, Trout, Betts, Harper, Machado, Arenado, Vlad Jr., Jose Abreu, multiple first-round picks, multiple second-round picks, etc. It’s just an absurd, demoralizing collection of talent and I have not collected it because I have more dynasty evaluation acumen than the 19 other owners. It’s because I delayed gratification the most and intentionally tanked the first two seasons (2014 and 2015).
Not sold? Here’s Exhibit B from 20-team industry league known as Devil’s Rejects. (I am Trade Spam.)
|2||The Scioscia Network||95.0||88.5||183.5||3.5||6.0|
This is a bit of a cheat, because I took over a Devil’s Rejects orphan team in 2012, but it was one that might have finished in the top five that year with a decent collection of pitchers and older bats. Instead of scratching and clawing, I burned to the ground. My co-owner, Craig Glaser, and I finished 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st and 1st between 2013 and 2017.
WARNING: Non-baseball tangent. I know a lot of our readers also play dynasty football and dynasty basketball – this strategy has worked for me in those formats, too.
In Laidback Legacies, a 2015 dynasty football startup, I tanked year one and then finished 4th in 2016 and 1st in 2017. In another dynasty football league, I tanked a 2016 startup and easily won this year. In my dynasty basketball 2012 startup, I tanked year one and have finished 1st in the regular season every year since with three championships.
Back to the latest baseball experts league, RDI – here are our picks so far (20 teams, 40 rounds):
1.13 – Ronald Acuna (TLDR: The best fantasy prospect I have seen since Trout n’ Harper)
2.8 – Vlad Guerrero (TLDR: Never been more optimistic about .280/.380./.500 mean outcome; much further along than Devers was at his age.)
3.13 – Eloy Jimenez (TLDR: for some reason I am not quite as excited as others, perhaps it’s the ground balls or the lack of speed, but can’t ignore consensus opinion this early. Was tempted to take…)
4.8 – Fernando Tatis Jr. (TLDR: … THIS GUY! Checks all the boxes – age-adjusted production, tools, Correa-like build, adoration from scouting community. Not really afraid of PETCO anymore, either.)
5.13 – Nick Senzel (TLDR: I wanted to take Brendan Rodgers, but Greg convinced me to go with the mature approach and absurdly high floor of Nick Senzel.)
6.8 – Kyle Tucker (TLDR: I am skeptical he runs into his MLB career, but tough to ignore the five category potential and ISOs at a young age in the high minors).
7.13 – Willie Calhoun (TLDR: The bat will have to carry him. I was impressed by his aggressive projections to go with his minor league resume with the stick.)
8.8 – Keston Hiura (TLDR: If left to my own devices I probably would have taken Robert since Hiura is awfully far away, may have no defensive home and won’t run.)
9.13 – Luis Robert (TLDR: 2017’s mystery box prospect. Reports of his tools and where his speed will net out at maturity are somewhat mixed, but he hit in Cuba as a teenager and continued to do so in rookie ball last year.)
10.8 – Taylor Trammell (TLDR: was hoping for Jorge Mateo, the closer, middle infield version of Trammel, but Greg preferred Trammell’s bat and power.)
11.13 – Clint Frazier (TLDR: if you believe in the stickiness in xStats in 100 PA then you shouldn’t be optimistic about Frazier, whose aggressive approach was exposed in his first taste of the show. On the other hand, he’s still so young that further gains and adjustments can be expected.)
12.8 – Estevan Florial (TLDR: 70 OFP type K’s a lot, but also offers superstar upside and a realistic path to achieving it.)
13.13 – Carter Kieboom (TLDR: Didn’t have the Bichette meteoric ascension, but I’ll lazily call him poor man’s Bichette.)
14.8 – Dansby Swanson (TLDR: hoping this brand name kid can make a random jump, because he was legitimately bad.)
15.13 – J.P. Crawford (TLDR: RT “hoping this brand name kid can make a random jump, because he was legitimately bad.)
16.8 – Luis Urias (TLDR: Surely you can’t be an everyday player and not run into 10 bombs, right? RIGHT!? Might be a 70 hit tool here.)
17.13 – Derek Fisher (TLDR: Post-hype prospect has serious hit tool question, but the power/speed combo is still there.)
18.8 – Kyle Lewis (TLDR: Doesn’t check a lot of boxes for us statistically, but pedigree plus 70/80 raw power carried the day.)
19.13 – Nick Gordon (TLDR: A floor guy we are confident will be a regular to compile solid counting stats in a deep-AF-league.)
20.8 – Wander Javier (TLDR: Our first of many teenaged, cross-your-fingers-they-pop bonus babies. Javier is a promising one.)
21.13 – Cole Tucker (TLDR: A personal favorite of mine; above-average raw speed, instincts and aggression on the bases. Has the frame to find more power at maturity.)
22.8 – Luis Garcia (TLDR: Wander Javier, only a year before.)
23.13 – Akil Baddoo (TLDR: Mature approach and good production with perhaps five average or better tools. Prospect people love Baddoo.)
24.8 – Shane Baz (TLDR: Pirates ’17 1st round pick is the high variance, upside prep arm I am willing to roll the dice on and hope he pops in ’18.)
25.13 – Chance Sisco (TLDR: Bat-first catching prospect lacks power, but hit tool and relative youth for his levels in his minor league career allow us to dream on a batting-average driven top ten catcher.)
26.8 – Ian Anderson (TLDR: Anderson lacks the upside of someone drafted third overall, but has three potential average or better pitches.)
27.13 – Jose Siri (TLDR: Perhaps overshadowed by Trammell in the Reds’ system, Siri plays a mean center field, is a plus runner and has drawn some Nick Williams comps, which is a compliment this late into the draft.)
28.8 – Nate Pearson (TLDR: Could be dropped by July, but as Greg says, “he has some Kopech in him.”)
29.13 – A.J. Reed (TLDR: Post-hype first base prospect needs a lot of things to break right to get an opportunity to prove his not quad-A, but we can be patient.)
As you can see, we are light on arms, which is by design. We need to end up with nine to have a legal roster.
Here’s my hypothesis (take a deep breath ‘cuz things are about to get reallllyy smug and know-it-all’ish, even for fantasy writers): the dynasty community suffers from group think. Specifically, that established veterans are always more sensible, safer investments than prospects. Period. However, that as a blanket statement is not true. Yes, anyone who has won multiple long-term keeper or dynasty leagues has surely had success because they’ve sold prospects to over-eager league mates. Generally, I believe that prospects are for trading, particularly for contending teams. However, Ronald Acuna is not Jesus Montero. (In fact, I would have selected Acuna has high as fifth.) In other words, not all prospects are equally risky. Moreover, even if Acuna isn’t quite The Goods that we all hope he is, you still get his entire 20’s worth of production. I reference that because I’m sick of hearing things like, “why take Acuna over Goldy when you are HOPING Acuna turns in to Goldy?” Bruh, if Acuna can develop into Goldy, then you get an extra decade of that sweet Goldy-style production as compared to the actual (30+ year-old) Goldy!
Further, if you pursue a strategy that includes high volume of quality batting prospects, religiously seek 5-10% future profit whenever an asset’s present value is higher than its future value during your projected contention window, and tank for a top draft pick to get a steady flow of blue-chip reinforcements while your other seeds are growing, then you can start to turn the numbers dramatically in your favor.
Note: regarding the future profit reference, to give an example of that – if Clint Frazier hits this year, we will absolutely try to trade him for a prospect we like more for 2020 when we expect The Death Star to be fully operational. Ditto if we roster any closer specs and we hit on a closer. (Do not hold closers if you’re not contending that year, folks. I don’t care how good/young the closer is.)
The alternative to this strategy is that Greg and I go head-to-head with 19 other talented fantasy owners and hope we can pick the right players with the same goal (win now, try to stay young), the same information that others have, and no additional access to premium kids in future drafts. If the goal is to finish 1st as many times as possible, that strikes me as a far riskier strategy than tanking.
So next time you are drafting a startup, I recommend that you have some humility, delay gratification with furious dogma and Tank to Win ™ to put the odds back in your favor for future league domination.