Roundtable: "The Greatest League" Picks

Drew Silva
Rotoworld

Welcome to the Fantasy Roundtable, where the Rotoworld Baseball staff will have a free-flowing discussion about a topic de jour. The back-and-forth between the five of us occurred via email, but we’ve repurposed it in an article for your enjoyment. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, anyway.

Drew Silva: All of us here are participants in "The Greatest League," a simulation of drafted rosters made up of the best individual seasons of the rotisserie baseball era, dating back to 1980. As the draft continues, I wanted to reach out to gather some quick thoughts from the group. We already touched on our Round 1 selections, now give me your favorite pick (best "value," or just someone you want to highlight - from your team) among rounds 2-10 ...

I guess that's a tricky proposition, to have you each single out just one selection in an exercise asking us to identify all the best fantasy seasons from the last 40 years. The pick of mine that seemed to get the most positive reaction in our draft's Twitter DM thread was Jason Kendall's 1998, which I grabbed in the middle of the ninth round. Catcher is the shallowest position in redraft leagues, as we all know, and it somehow still seems shallow in this sim league draft even with the several-hundred options available. Kendall batted .327 with a .411 on-base percentage and 26 stolen bases in 147 games that year for the Pirates, to go along with 12 homers, 75 RBI, and 95 runs scored. High batting average with impactful speed is a rare profile among catchers in modern baseball.

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Christopher Crawford: I was pretty thrilled to see Alan Trammell and his 1987 campaign still available when I picked him with the second pick of the seventh round. Trammell was always underrated, but his .343/.402/.551 line with 28 homers and 21 steals was pretty easily the best, and it should have won him an MVP (sorry, George Bell). Getting a shortstop I can hit around my Blake Street bombers Larry Walker and Ellis Burks was something I coveted, and I was happy to procure just that. 

Matthew Pouliot: I was annoyed Trammell lasted as long as he did. Made me wish I had gone in a different direction than taking Cal Ripken Jr.’s 1991 season in the fourth round (Nolan Ryan’s 1981 was the other option I considered at the time).

I think my best value might have come in the second round, when I was able to land Greg Maddux (1995) as the 10th pitcher (and 32nd player) off the board. I had been considering him with the ninth overall pick. Huge strikeout rates are surely going to help in this sim, but from an ERA standpoint, Maddux’s ’94 and ’95 seasons were the second and third best available in the sim (only Pedro’s 2000, the first pitcher season off the board topped them). I chose ’95 because it was his biggest strikeout season; he fanned 23% of the batters he faced, which was fourth in the majors then (and the league average in 2019). He also had a 0.811 WHIP that year, which was the third best among eligible seasons (Martinez at .737 in 2000 and Justin Verlander at .803 last season).

D.J. Short: Put me down for the 2004 version of Adrian Beltre, who I managed to pick up in the fifth round. He's the earliest pick we've mentioned thus far, but I really think he could have been drafted a couple of rounds earlier. Think about it. Beltre blasted 48 homers while hitting .334 during that standout season with the Dodgers. Only three third base-eligible players hit more home runs during this 40-year span. Granted, Beltre was never a big on-base percentage guy, but a .388 OBP should play just fine in this format. Defense also matters in this sim as far as run prevention, so the future Hall of Famer offers a nice bonus in that regard.

Ryan Boyer: I thought landing Ryan Howard's 2006 campaign in the seventh round was a pretty good get. Howard is often maligned because the long-term extension the Phillies signed him to didn't work out well (perhaps that's putting it kindly). However, there's little disputing that he was one of the premier power hitters in the game for a while and he was particularly lethal during his MVP season, posting a 1.084 OPS with a whopping 58 home runs and 149 RBI. Howard gets dinged a bit for his defense, but I'm not as worried about so-so defense at first base. I'll gladly slot him into my lineup.

Silva: Now give me a pick from another team, rounds 2-10, that you really envied or maybe stirred up some memories ... 

For me, it's Jose Fernandez's 2016 season, which Boyer grabbed at the top of the fifth round. I might have gone with Fernandez's rookie year from 2013 -- 2.19 ERA compared to a 2.86 ERA -- but the innings total was higher in 2016 and so was the strikeout rate. Fernandez was just 24 years old when died in a boating accident in late-September 2016, and he was one of my favorite pitchers at the time -- a delight to watch every day/night he took the mound. He'd be 27 years old right now, and probably a first-round consideration in redraft leagues for 2020 given the trajectory of his early-career output.

Crawford: I'm also going with a fifth-round selection, as I was very envious of Mr. Short's selection of Adrian Beltre and his 2004 campaign. He was sensational that year, as Boyer touched on, hitting .334/.388/.629 with 48 homers and an OPS+ of 163. It was also his last year as a Dodger, and while his time in Seattle saw him put up his worst offensive seasons, it was a pleasure to watch him play with the Mariners before he left for brighter/greener pastures. Needless to say, I was hoping he might find his way onto my roster, but I was too late. As good as Beltre was over the rest of his career, that 2004 season is definitely the standout.

Pouliot: I probably should have grabbed Trevor Bauer's 2018 before Drew did in the sixth round. It's lacking in the quantity department because of the liner he took off his leg, but the 2.21 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 175 innings are exceptional. It's still incredible how he allowed just nine homers that season after giving up 25 in the same number of innings the previous season and 34 in 213 innings last year.

Short: Chris Towers snagged Jacoby Ellsbury’s outstanding 2011 campaign at a nice discount in the seventh round. I think he ended up being penalized for all of his injuries in recent seasons. Ellsbury really did it all that season, mashing a career-best 32 homers with 39 steals and a .321/.376/.552 batting line. Those numbers alone should have been good enough for him to be selected earlier, but of course defense matters in this sim too and Ellsbury was also fantastic in that regard. I’m just a little bit jealous here.

Boyer: The turn at rounds 9 and 10 was the first time I took two hitters and not one hitter and one pitcher. In hindsight, I kind of wish that I'd stuck with the hitter-pitcher formula, as the two pitchers I was hoping would make it back around to me -- Adam Wainwright and Javier Vazquez -- ended up being selected in the next five picks. Wainwright's strikeout rate isn't elite, but he posted a microscopic 2.42 ERA in 2010 and was a workhorse in tossing 230 1/3 innings. As for Vazquez, he might be one of the more underappreciated hurlers of the recent past. Grimm getting Vazquez's 2.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 238 strikeouts across 219 1/3 frames in the 10th round looks like a steal to me.

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