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Gimmicks and Gambits: Auditing the 2014 Friends & Family League

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Rip Hamilton or All-Right, Hamilton? (USAT)

Back on March 18, we rounded up the usual suspects and held the tenth annual Yahoo Friends & Family Draft. It's a meandering 375-pick mixed league, a highly-competitive industry throwdown. Rotoworld's D.J. Short is the man to beat, coming off his Ichiro Suzuki debut (Rookie of the Year and MVP) a year ago. It's the fourth time an outsider has snagged the championship; the Yahoo crew has five collective titles.

[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Have a gander at the draft, then settle in for the usual Q and A (pick out a comfortable chair – it's long). Each pundits was asked a question about his team and a question about the league's perceived hits and misses. We welcome your comments (and predictions) in the comments; maybe this will be the year we have a 15-way tie for last.

 

MEET THE FAMILY

Yahoo – Brandon Funston – @1befun

Previous F&F Finishes: 13th, 13th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 9th, 7th, 9th, 1st

Q: Everyone loves Manny Machado's future but there are some questions about his present, off a major injury. You snagged him in the sixth round, pick 82. What are you expecting for 2014?

Yes, he did undergo a significant operation to his knee. But all his rehab reports have been good and it appears he'll need only a 15-day DL stint to open the season before he's good to go. And I feel confident in his ability to recuperate in a timely and complete manner given that he's still in the growth stage at just 21 years old. When he does get back in the O's lineup, I'm hoping to see some of those 51 doubles he hit last season turn into four-baggers this season. I'm not expecting a dramatic surge in the HR department, but I think he can push 20 with a .280-plus batting average near the top of the order for a team that should score a lot of runs. I was admittedly a bit aggressive with where I drafted him, but he's a special talent that has actually put some special numbers in the books already as mostly a 20 year old last season. I'm willing to gamble a little more on guys like that.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

I thought Freddie Freeman at No. 24 was a reach. I could see him losing at least 20 points off last season's batting average (.319) as he finished with the 5th highest BABIP in '13 (.371). And his power is modest for a first baseman. I think he projects similarly to Adrian Gonzalez, who went 32 picks later.

Alex Wood was a steal at No. 220 overall. He's locked into the Atlanta rotation and offers the promise of a K per IP while inducing a lot of ground balls. And with an innings pitched cap in this league, it's not gonna hurt too bad if Wood is limited to something like 170 IP.

Yahoo – Andy Behrens – @andybehrens

Previous F&F Finishes: 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 7th, 1st

Q: How do you feel about picking 15th in a 15-team draft? How worried are you about Yu Darvish?

Well, I think we've all learned this spring to never expect good news on injured Rangers. So I'm still on high alert regarding Darvish, despite the seemingly favorable reports on his neck issues. The reason he belonged among the top-15 picks in Friends & Family, of course, is his top-of-the-charts strikeout rate. We're forced to manage around a relatively low innings-pitched limit in this league (1400), so pitchers capable of posting double-digit K/9s are basically gold.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

I didn't see an extreme reach in the early rounds of this draft — that's no great surprise, considering the quality of the competition. As I've written a few times, I don't like the price we're generally paying for Matt Carpenter, a guy who offers little power or speed; his fantasy value relies too much on run-scoring and batting average for my tastes. As for steals, I think Yordano Ventura in Round 14 (Salfino) and Alex Wood in Round 15 (Grey) were spectacular picks. Both are high-ceiling, low-cost starters who should pile up Ks.

Yahoo – Brad Evans – @YahooNoise

Previous F&F Finishes: 4th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 10th, 10th, 4th

Q: With your first pick (No. 8 overall) you selected Chris Davis, off a mammoth career-year. Are you worried about a numbers regression?

Generally speaking, I tend to abstain from selecting guys off likely peak seasons, but Davis is a unique case. He’s still only 28, plays his game in a pitcher’s league and will be the RBI workhorse in an above average lineup. Reaching the cheap seats another 53 times with 138 knocked in is unrealistic, but a final line around .275-45-120 isn’t at all farfetched. The baseline package doesn’t suggest he’s the Kajagoogoo of power hitters.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

SOD: Adam Eaton, Round 13, Pick 9. Nice Funston fleece. Eaton has the green light to run and run often. A year removed from an injury marred season and in new digs, he could be a buffet of multicategorical goodness. He’s a quality OF3/4 in mixers.

ROD: Billy Hamilton, Round 4, Pick 13. The buzz around Billy is understandable. The base blazer could realistically steal 75-plus bags, provided he can stay in the lineup. However, the risks involved and given the lack of category juice in HRs, RBI and likely BA, say he’s a bit overpriced in Round 4.

Yahoo – Dalton Del Don – @daltondeldon

Previous F&F Finishes: 6th, 5th, 5th, 2nd

Q: You started off with four pitchers in five rounds (Kershaw, Fernandez, Scherzer, Cole), with a Billy Hamiton chaser. Explain to the masses.

I decided to try going SP heavy early in all my drafts this year, so this was definitely planned. I also own Hamilton on all of my teams, as I'm all in with him as well. I know it sounds crazy coming away with zero home runs projected through five rounds, but getting a middle infield of Aaron Hill, J.J. Hardy and Kelly Johnson meant I was able to still get some cheap power late. We will see how this all turns out, as I'm well aware most disagree with my pitching heavy strategy. I'm probably just crazy.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

The biggest steal looks like Joakim Soria, as closers are extremely valuable in this format, and he's shot up boards since we held this draft. Behrens got him in the 14th round.

I didn't think any picks were big reaches, but I'm concerned enough about Yoenis Cespedes not to take him in the fifth round.

Yahoo – Scott Pianowski – @scott_pianowski

Previous F&F Finishes: 2nd, 11th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 2nd

Q: No starting pitchers? What's up with that, silly rabbit?

I was in the mood to do something different, and given that this league has no floor for innings pitched, I thought a double-punt might be fun to try. The idea is to compete in saves, ERA and WHIP through a few reliable relievers – maybe cobble together 40 pitching points or so – and try to get 60-plus in hitting. If you're at or over 100 total points, you have a shot to win here. This strategy is not a good idea in less-competitive leagues (in those pools you need to score very well across the board to think about winning), but in a bloodbath like the F&F where we fight for every point, I think it can work.

Batting average was one of the focuses on offense, as it's one category that isn't volume-driven (and participation-driven). That's what led me to Joe Mauer, normally a player I avoid (I also like that he's a non-catching catcher these days, always a plus in fake-baseball).

If I don't like where it's all going in the middle of the year, maybe I can abandon ship and start building a conventional pitching staff. I know that might sound impossible to some, but generally speaking you can acquire SPs in this league (be it through free agency or in trade). That's Plan B. In the meantime, full speed ahead with Plan A (and hurry back, Aroldis Chapman).

A notable downside: one man's gambit is another man's gimmick. While most of my leaguemates don't care how you choose to compete, this strategy may have annoyed some others. So it goes. Next year, I'll probably do something else – no matter if this works or not. Back to the laboratory.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Josh Hamilton's problems are well-documented, but at Pick 90, he's almost all upside. I like that play from Boyer. Other values I'm on board with: Everth Cabrera (Pick 106), Justin Masterson (Pick 175), John Axford (Pick 177), Alex Wood (Pick 220), Dexter Fowler (Pick 231) and Josh Reddick (Pick 234).

I have nothing against Jedd Gyorko, but he's a no-steal player with batting-average risk, and ADP suggests he could have gone a lot later than pick 100. Other possible reaches: Jean Segura (Pick 34), Billy Hamilton (Pick 58), Norichika Aoki (Pick 138), Jose Abreu (Pick 72).

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Did Ryan Braun slide in your draft? (USAT)

Wall Street Journal – Michael Salfino – @michaelsalfino

Previous F&F Finishes: 13th, 2nd, 7th, 11th, 12th

Q: Some are a little wary of Ryan Braun this year, but you snagged him at No. 6 overall. Any debate on the pick? Who was Plan B? What's your Braun expectation for 2014?

I honestly didn't have a Plan B because I knew that Dalton was taking Kershaw at third overall. If someone took Braun before my pick, I assume Goldschmidt would have been most likely to fall and I would have taken him. If Dalton reversed his course with Kershaw AND Goldschmidt and Braun were gone? Probably Harper for me. The ZIPS projection for Braun looks about right to me (the other have too severe playing time adjustments, strictly formulaic): .300-99-33-116-22. I think the steals there may be high. That's the category among those that I worry most about. I could see 15 and can't see much (any?) upside over 22.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

SOD: Erasmo Ramirez at pick 313 by Razzball Gamble. He's a favorite of mine who I thought all would have pretty much given up on in this format. His great spring hadn't yet settled. He was penciled in for me as a pocket pick. When healthy, Ramirez has a great change and knows how to deploy it.

ROD: Have so much respect for Andy Behrens but I have to go Starling Marte at pick number 46. I get that he offers speed with maybe some pop and he could turn out to be McCutchen Jr. But I see a guy who barely had a decent average WITH a .360 BABIP. All those Ks are not going away. I think Leonys Martin offers similar value five full rounds later.

MEET THE FRIENDS

Rotoworld – D.J. Short – @djshort

Previous F&F Finish: 1st

Q: I love the last year's bum strategy, but you probably paid full sticker on Jose Reyes, Jason Heyward and Pablo Sandoval in Rounds 4-6. Sell us on one of them (or all of them).

With those three, it was mostly a matter of holding my nose and hoping for value. If healthy, they are all capable of meeting their respective price tags. I might be most confident about Pablo Sandoval, who lost a bunch of weight and appears motivated going into his contract year. Jose Reyes worries me, which is why I was aggressive to get Andrelton Simmons later on, who I think will only get better in 2014.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Steal – Brad Miller (Razzball Rudy Gamble) – While I was happy to get Simmons at No. 157 overall, it wouldn't surprise me if Miller (No. 163) ends up being better. The 24-year-old offers pop and speed, attributes which are sometimes hard to come by for a middle infielder, and has shown an ability to make contact and get on base. He has a chance to be a tremendous value.

Reach – Alex Rios (Razzball – Grey) – The idea of a full season in Texas sounds good on paper, but it isn't as good of a ballpark for right-handed batters as it for left-handed batters and I find it highly unlikely that Rios will be able to duplicate his stolen base output from last year. I just don't see him as a top-20 outfielder.

Rotowire – Chris Liss – @chris_liss

Previous F&F Finishes: 9th, 3rd, 2nd, 9th, 1st, 6th, 3rd, 1st, 9th

Q: You made an aggressive play on Jose Abreu (Pick 72). Tell us what you expect.

I couldn’t pick Abreu out of a lineup, and I don’t know much about him. But top Cuban hitters from Yasiel Puig to Yoenis Cespedes to Kendrys Morales have hit well soon after getting to the majors, and Abreu’s in the right park for a power hitter. Also his NFBC ADP is 85, and that league has 5 OF and 1 U, while this league has 4 OF and 2 U, meaning the CI are a little more scarce. Vegas O/U has him at 28.5 HR, and that’s pricing in the usual 20 games missed for injury for the entire player pool. If he plays 150-plus, give him 32 HR, 90 RBI, 72 runs and BA of anywhere between .240 and .285.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Steal: Besides my entire team, I like Josh Hamilton at 6.15, Soria at 14.1 was good even before the news was official,

Reach: Jean Segura 3.4 – Too early given his second half with too many good players available. Buster Posey 4.15 – too high in one-catcher league (Would also include Mauer but for the specific strategy). Manny Machdo 6.7 – I have him everywhere, but this is high given that Arenado went 10.6

Razzball – Rudy Gamble – @rudygamble

Previous F&F Finishes: First Year as solo owner

Q: You went for some intriguing young players (Michael Wacha, Tony Cingrani, Brad Miller, Avisail Garcia). Which pick, relative to slot, are you most excited about?

Brad Miller went 90 picks lower than where I have him ranked so I'm most excited about him. I don't need him to do more than 15/15 with decent R/RBI to make a profit on that pick. Cingrani and Garcia came at a lesser discount vs. my values while Wacha was a complete reach based on 'gut'. If I could do it over, I'd take Rosenthal with the 6th pick and get someone like James Shields or Julio Teheran with my 8th pick.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

I tlike the back-to-back picks at #102/#103 – Christopher Liss with Anthony Rizzo and myself with Wilin Rosario. Very good HR/RBI value there without hurting R/AVG.

Reach of draft is Matt Carpenter at #53 by Brad Evans. There are too many 2Bs with uninspiring HR/SB and solid R/RBI/AVG (Kendrick, Murphy, Walker, Infante) that it doesn't pay to reach this high for one. I also think Dalton's Jose Fernandez pick at #28 was about a round too high. I think Wainwright was the better SP pick there.

Rotographs – Brad Johnson/Paul Singman – @BaseballATeam

Previous F&F Finishes (Singman): 11th, 6th, 12th, 4th, 4th

Q: You took Chase Headley (pick 137) almost 60 slots ahead of his Yahoo ADP. Let's hear the elevator pitch.

I usually ignore first/second half season splits, but Headley was recovering from injury early last season. During the second half, his power (as measured by ISO) was much closer to his 2012 rate. If healthy, I see no reason that Headley can't pop 20 home runs while swiping 10 or more bases. People will remember 2012 if he gets out to a fast start, which will help Paul trade for a position of need.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Steal: It has to be Michael Pineda with the 363rd pick of the draft. Good bet by Del Don.

Reach: There were no egregious reaches, but I guess I'd call Coco Crisp the biggest since that combination of power and health can't possibly be repeated. In most seasons, he hovers closer to the waiver wire than the 9th round.

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Padre with Power (USAT)

Razzball – Grey Albright – @razzball

Previous F&F Finishes: 12th, 10th, 10th, 3rd

Q: You took Jedd Gyorko (Pick 100) about three rounds ahead of his Yahoo ADP. Tell us why old Jedd's a millionaire.

I'm looking at getting more Padres hitters because I love 'Murica, and San Diego is a good city. Their fans drink white zinfandel as they picnic in the grass; I envy that. Gyorko hit 23 homers last year while missing 30 games and playing hurt for another month. I don't know why he's so low at Yahoo, but I have him ranked higher and think of him as a young Dan Uggla. Let's call him Younggla.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Steal: Anthony Rizzo in the 7th round by Liss. I think Rizzo's gonna be top three round value this year.

Reach: Could just say any pick by Brad Evans of a pitcher who was in Dr. James Andrews's waiting room was the reach of the draft, but will forgive him because he was on autodraft due to getting stuck under a stack of old newspapers. So, instead I'll go with Joe Mauer in the 5th round by Pianowski. I think we're gonna see a season comparable to Martin Prado for Mauer and to that I say yawn.

Fantasy Insiders – Derek Carty – @derekcarty

Previous F&F Finishes: 8th, 9th, 13th

Q: Jean Segura (34th overall) sucked in the second half and Jayson Werth (87th overall) is old and injury-prone. Tell us why we shouldn't worry.

The biggest thing with Segura is that the talent, tools, and context (good park/lineup spot/etc) are there. Second-half looked like a combination of some bad luck and fatigue. Werth is old and injury-prone, sure, but he's also still extremely talented, and in a mixed league, won't be all that hard to temporarily replace should he spend some time on the DL.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

In a league w/ daily transactions on a team w/ that strategy, Rajai Davis is killer in Round 19. Play him every day he's in the lineup, play someone else when he's not.

We all know DDD loves Hamilton, but Round 4? Even if he steals 80, there's not much value upside at that price.

Rotowire – Jeff Erickson – @jeff_erickson

Previous F&F Finishes: 4th, 4th, 1st, 13th, 11th, 12th, 8th, 10th

Q: You waited patiently on the middle infielders, eventually taking a cast of thousands (Aybar, Walker, Cozart, Rutledge, Guerrero) from Pick 200 and up. Stump for any of these guys.

I generally try not to play up positional scarcity, especially in a 15-team mixed league with two UT spots. That said, I waited too long, seemingly getting snaked on my mid-tier targets on multiple occasions. Frequently I end up with the likes of Andrelton Simmons or Starlin Castro, but both of those were snagged just before my pick in their respective rounds. I just timed it wrong. I've already cut Guerrero, even though I think he'll still end up with more plate appearances than Gordon eventually. I do like the Cozart pick – I think he's going to run this year under new manager Bryan Price.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Salfino got a great price on Yordano Ventura (14.10). Just a week later, he'd probably have to grab him a couple of rounds sooner.

I'm on record as saying that David Price (3.15) doesn't belong among the top tier starters. I'm wary of the velocity decline, the trip to the DL last season and his contract status. If for some reason the Rays' season goes off the rails, a trade could send him into a less-friendly pitching environment, say Texas for instance.

Rotoworld – Ryan Boyer – @ryanpboyer

Previous F&F Finish: 10th

Q: You took some interesting upside bats from the 16th round and up (Castellanos, Teixeira, Wong, Morales, Smoak). Who excites you the most, and why?

I'd say I'm most excited about Wong of that group. The Cardinals second baseman has crushed the ball this spring and offers speed upside, a little bit of pop and the potential to hit for a high average. I also wouldn't be surprised if he's eventually moved up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, creating plenty of chances to score runs.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

Steal: Chris Owings. It looks like he's got the Diamondbacks' shortstop job locked up. There's across-the-board fantasy upside here.

Reach: Billy Hamilton. I get the intrigue with him, but I'm just not sure he'll hit. He could wind up being a one-category player.

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