Auditing the 2015 Friends & Family League

On March 18, we rounded up the usual suspects and held the 11th annual Yahoo Friends & Family Draft. It’s a meandering 350-pick mixed league, a highly-competitive industry throwdown. The Yahoo crew has won six of the titles; outsiders have stolen away four of them. Last year’s standings are here. 

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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 14-way tie for last.

One key rule change this season: we’re capping transactions at 125. 

MEET THE FAMILY

Yahoo – Brandon Funston – @1befun

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

Q: You spent two premium picks on a couple of big-name sophomores who have 76 games of MLB experience to their names (Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler). Does the glut in Boston concern you, or the inexperience of these two players in general? Talk up your future stars. 

Yes, these two do lack MLB experience, but they both offer laudable pedigrees, and they passed the eye test with flying colors in the limited action they both saw in the majors last season. As it stands, Betts is looking like the leadoff hitter for what could be the highest scoring team in the league (and I think his outstanding spring along with Rusney Castillo’s health has pushed Betts into the worry-free playing time zone). And Soler is slated to bat cleanup behind Anthony Rizzo in Chicago. This is a league where a premium is put on “youth with intriguing potential” – for example, George Springer No. 35 overall, Nolan Arenado No. 44 overall, Kolten Wong No. 75 overall. If I wanted Betts and Soler (and I did) I wouldn’t have landed them had I waited any longer than I did. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I regret the Matt Kemp pick at No. 32. I was queued up for Bryce Harper or Buster Posey, and they both went right before me. I was scrambling and a little panicked because I felt like there was nobody left on the board that really commanded a No. 32 overall value. But if Kemp somehow manages to stay healthy, I don’t think I’ll be too upset in the end.

Loved landing Jimmy Rollins in Round 10 as the 8th SS off the board. He’s averaged 15.5 HRs and 27.5 SBs over the past four seasons, and he’s leading off what should be a potent LA Dodgers offense. I’ll live with a .250 BA if he gets his usual in the other cats.

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft   

I think Starlin Castro in Round 5 was a reach – it was 4.5 rounds later before another SS was taken, and two of the following three shortstops (Alexei Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins) I liked better than Castro.

He’s no longer a sexy pick, but I thought Ian Kinsler at No. 78 overall was a really good value (probably about two rounds later than he should have gone). The guy scored 100 runs and drove in 92 last season, and he showed he’s still good for at least 15/15 in the power/speed department. Not bad for the 7th 2B off the board. 

Yahoo – Andy Behrens – @andybehrens

Previous F&F Finishes: 14th, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 7th, 1st 

Q: I don’t know about you, but I hate picking on the wheel. Does Robinson Cano’s power did concern you? Are you confident Hanley Ramirez can play 145 games? Are you rolling out TMCB here? Tell us about life at the end of the first round.  

When you pick at the turn, you really can’t get locked in on names. That’s the path to disappointment, always. I’d expected to find myself choosing from a group that included Cano, Hanley, Rizzo, Scherzer, Jones, Edwin and Altuve. I didn’t have a specific plan to target the high-end middle-infielders, no. My focus in this league in every round — given the non-existent bench and the thin free agent pool — was to draft proven, predictable players. So Cano is the least of my worries. We all knew the homer dip was coming in Seattle; he still hits for average and piles up counting stats. It’s fair to say that Hanley carries injury risk, but I’m also getting a SS-eligible with a terrific resume, and he’ll do his hitting is a scary-good lineup. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret 

Taijuan Walker in Round 20 works for me. The talent is obvious, he’s had a silly spring and it’s tough not to love his situation in Seattle. I suppose the pick I kinda/sorta regret is Adam Wainwright, because it cost me Kris Bryant. (And I realize Bryant may not fit the whole proven-player thing discussed above, but I don’t think that kid is gonna flop.) Also, Wainwright clearly has a few red flags attached. 

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft 

I’ll say Cody Allen as the reach, using him as a representative of the big bunch of non-top-tier closers who went curiously early. I’m not sure Allen will be so much better than the closers who were selected in Rounds 8-11. Among the many steals, I’ll call out Micah Johnson. He’s had a wonderful spring (.444/.500/.667), and he has a shot to deliver plenty of steals and runs from a tricky roster spot.

Yahoo – Dalton Del Don – @daltondeldon

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

Q: The first few weeks of Spring Training have belonged to Kris Bryant. Tell us about your expectations (include a projection along with games played). Did you pre-target Bryant, or merely feel the price was right at Pick 91?  

I didn’t target Bryant at all, but having said that, I strongly considered him in the previous round. All the chatter since suggests I’ve reached, which may very well be true because I don’t pay any attention to ADP, but this is the universally rated No. 1 prospect in baseball (who’s 23 and plays in a park that’s increased HRs for RHB by 10 percent over the past three years), who’s likely to be brought up after just two weeks, assuming his recent shoulder injury isn’t significant. I’m actually surprised this pick was deemed controversial. I expect something like 135 games with 25 homers, 80 runs, 85 RBI and eight steals. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I love Matt Harvey at No. 50. Frankly I give him around a 50/50 chance of being more valuable than Stephen Strasburg, whom I took in round two. Of course, I’m more aggressive taking starting pitchers than most. But I expect a huge season from Harvey, who’s even more valuable in an innings cap league like this. As for regret, I’m not loving my Mike Fiers pick after he’s since revealed he’s dealing with “shoulder weakness.” 

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft 

Danny Salazar in round 16 was a steal, especially in a league that’s essentially K/9. He was a huge disappointment last year, but there’s a ton of upside still. As for a reach, while I know most disagree, I just don’t see Ian Desmond as a second round pick. I’d have taken teammate Bryce Harper ahead of him.

Yahoo – Scott Pianowski – @scott_pianowski

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

Q: Some people view Jose Altuve as a second-round pick and Michael Brantley as a third-round pick; you selected them at 12th and 17th overall. Are you worried about having enough power? Isn’t it a bad idea to buy after a career year?

Three elements drove those selections: I’m floor-driven with early picks (which incorporates the idea of avoiding hurt players); I didn’t want to take two outfielders early on (the position looks deep, so I’ll fill it at a gradual pace – reverse position scarcity); and I wanted to get a batting average base early, for two reasons (counting stats are often about staying the course for six months, but the ratio categories won’t discriminate against teams that check out early). I don’t feel Brantley and Altuve need to replicate last year to justify what I paid; just keeping the majority of their 2014 stats will be fine with me. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

When Chris Davis is discussed, the monster 2013 season is often contrasted against last year’s crash landing. I take a different approach: let’s note what he did in 2012 (.270-75-33-85). If he can get into that general 2012 neighborhood, I love him with the 73rd overall pick. He also qualifies at both corner positions, a handy tack-on. 

I hate to target players in the early stages of the draft, sucking out so much potential value, but I wanted A.J Pollock (Pick 124) on my team. I’m positive he wouldn’t be anywhere close to his Public ADP (203), but I didn’t know what the right price was in this exercise. I’m also concerned I might like him more than the Diamondbacks do. For the love of all that is holy, please don’t screw with his at-bats. 

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft 

For some reason I lost track of Anibal Sanchez, who went 229th overall. At that price, he’s all potential profit. He would probably be the No.2 pitcher on my staff. I also liked the values on Kennys Vargas (221), Scooter Gennett (225) and Marcus Semien (239), and the Ibanez All-Star outfielders who went for nothing (Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, some others). 

In a capped-innings world, Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t move the needle for me at Pick 49. I’d still want to be collecting offense at that point. 

Wall Street Journal – Michael Salfino – @michaelsalfino

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

Q: You’ve been telling everyone to embrace Zero-SP and that’s what you did here. Tell us how it went. 

I thought zeroSP went great. The key was getting the dominant K minus IP closers. I paid retail for them, for sure. But with Robertson and Betances I project 60 Ks over IP. That means I can give my closers a still-winning 9 Ks/9 and have 60 Ks left over. I view that as raising the K/9 of my starting staff by 1.0/9 for 540 innings. And I think my starters are going to be be better than average in Ks anyway. I realize that K/9 isn’t a category but we have a IP cap and, honestly, when we pay the premium for starters a good chunk of that is K rate, as it should be. Now if only I liked my hitting as much as I paid for it.

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret 

I don’t like my Drew Stubbs pick. I was trying to be agnostic with the hitters and just go by the site projections and he gave me 20 steals and double-digit homers where I needed it. But can I afford to roster a potential 350-AB player? I was pushed into making it because I believe he is a better hitter than Blackmon in that park (was last year, easily) and as good a fielder. But it’s so obvious they’ll platoon there. 

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

It was a really good room. There weren’t any stupid picks. But given the one-catcher format, I would not have taken Posey where he went at the top of Round 3. It’s not like Posey is going to be a dynamic hitter irrespective of being a catcher. So I’d rather take whoever is left late.

I like Wilmer Flores in Round 23 because he does have some serious power upside — 20 bombs this year would not shock me. He’s already a league-average hitting shortstop and there is upside from there given that he’s only 23 and 6-foot-3.

MEET THE FRIENDS 

Rotoworld – D.J. Short – @djshort 

Q: Although you landed three big-name players to start, not everyone would take Giancarlo Stanton at 2, or David Price in the second round, or Buster Posey in the third (in a one-catcher league). Give us a glimpse into your War Room thoughts through the opening three picks. 

I overlooked power in this league last year, so when I saw I had the No. 2 pick, I knew I was going for Stanton. He has a legitimate chance to lead the majors in home runs and RBI this year and nobody else can touch his power. Price is coming off the best strikeout rate of his career with elite control. Sure, Comerica Park isn’t as pitcher-friendly as his old home, but that I took him over Bumgarner tells you that I don’t expect much of a drop-off. The Posey move even caught me by surprise, as I never draft catchers this early, but Adrian Beltre and Ian Desmond were gone and I was staring at some names that I didn’t particularly like for this year — Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Freddie Freeman — so I decided to take the best player at his position. The bonus is that Posey is multi-position eligible (and so is my second catcher, Stephen Vogt) and versatility comes in handy in this league. I’m sure I’ll take some criticism for it, as I know people were waiting on catchers, but if Posey produces like he’s capable of, I won’t be complaining. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I think getting Garrett Richards at 170 overall was a steal. All indications are that he should be ready by mid-April, so we’re not talking about a long absence. He was an ace prior to his knee injury last year. The top of my staff (with Price, Cole Hamels, and Michael Pineda) could be dominant.

I cringed a bit taking Jenrry Mejia at 167 overall, but all the closers were pretty much off the board at that time and I wanted to make sure I had a second one alongside Trevor Rosenthal. It’s not that I think Mejia won’t keep the job, necessarily, but in retrospect, I would have been more aggressive to get two top-tier closers than reach in the middle of the draft for a bottom-third closer like Mejia out of desperation. It was just a poor value in the big picture.

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Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

I really loved Carlos Carrasco at 122. It’s a small price to pay for someone who could emerge as an ace this season. He was great down the stretch last season and I’m excited to see what he does with a full year in the rotation.

For the reach, it’s Matt Kemp (No. 33 overall) for me. Bad home ballpark. Bad recent health history. Sure, he was really good during the second half last year, but this just isn’t a combination I want early on in a draft. Better bets to be found among outfielders.

Rotowire – Chris Liss – @chris_liss

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

Q: In this land of disappearing offense, you went to the mound with three of your first four picks (Scherzer, Greinke, Kluber). Explain to the world. Does your drafting strategy for offense change if you don’t get much of it early? 

I might have taken offense had say George Springer fallen to me in Rd. 3 but I’m just looking for the most stats for my buck so to speak. I don’t care which side of the ledger they’re on. Thought those SPs will move the needle more than the available hitting which I could find later.

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

Maybe I should have taken Chapman over Greinke in this format, but I still like Greinke. I felt Scherzer at no. 11 overall was an easy call in this K/9 format facing the NL East so much. Also liked Seager in Round 5.

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

Reaches: Posey (1-c league), Rendon (injured) and Jay Bruce struck me as picks I wouldn’t even consider at those spots. But who knows – maybe they’ll pan out. Oddly, nothing jumps out as a steal. Maybe Kershaw at No. 5 – could argue he should go No. 1. 

Razzball – Rudy Gamble – @rudygamble

Previous F&F Finishes: 6th

Q: You opened with three stat-grabbing outfielders (Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Starling Marte), and although they’d be welcome on anyone’s team, this is a league that only requires four OFs in total. Explain to the masses. Did you feel pinched elsewhere on your offense?  

I want an OF as one of my UTIL in this league so I am always targeting 5 OF. The McCutchen/Ellsbury/Marte trio helped set a great SB/AVG foundation that gave me some leeway in drafting power bats (Trumbo, Gattis, K. Davis) and 4-category MIs in Walker and Lawrie. I didn’t mind the flexibility I gave up by going OF/OF/OF as there really was not an OF that jumped out at me until the 13/14th round with Oswaldo Arcia and Khris Davis still on the board.  

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret 

My favorite pick is Gio Gonzalez in the 11th round with pick #143. Great value especially considering how aggressive the room was on the top half of SPs.

My biggest regret is not picking Bryant instead of Shields (6th) or Trumbo (7th). If I could do it again, I’d pick Bryant instead of Shields, take Carrasco as SP2 with my 8th pick, and pass on Gattis with my 9th pick for Josh Harrison. Or blacklist Trumbo for Bryant and target Brandon Moss instead of Gattis.

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

Steal: Corey Kluber and a C-eligible Carlos Santana making it to Round #4. I like both better than about 50% of Round 3 picks.

Reach: Brandon Funston’s Matt Kemp with pick #32. He’s injury-prone, no longer an SB threat, and is moving to an awful hitter’s park. Much prefer Springer or Dickerson there.

Rotographs – Brad Johnson/Paul Singman – @[email protected]

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

Preview Tandem Finish: 2nd 

Q: Some of the Regression Police are dogging J.D. Martinez and Josh Harrison this spring, but you don’t seem concerned. Go to bat for your bats.  

Martinez was a favorite of mine entering last season based on some personal scouting by Dan Farnsworth. We had every reason to expect his power outburst. He’s not going to hit .315 again, but he should repeat the power numbers. 

As for Harrison, I was almost forced into taking him. Since I selected two starting pitchers in the first three rounds, I needed sources of power and speed. Playing time, contact ability, and speed aren’t concerns, but I won’t be surprised if he fails to pop 10 home runs. With his position flex, that floor is fine in the ninth round. 

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

There are probably better picks on my draft board, but I was pleased to select Juan Lagares at 285th overall. Very few starting players were available, and Lagares appears to have a leadoff job sewn up. He’s a potential three category guy at a point in the draft where it’s hard to find one category of production.

I nearly grabbed Corey Dickerson over Chris Sale in the third round. If I had, I could have snagged a comparable hurler like Jordan Zimmermann in the fourth round and solved catcher late in the draft. Russell Martin went in the 21st round. While I like Carlos Santana more, I don’t like him that much more than Martin. 

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

The steal of the draft was Martin at pick 293. He’ll bat second in a potent Blue Jays lineup, which should translate to a ton of runs scored with solid supporting stats.

Razzball – Grey Albright – @razzball

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

Q: You were one of the last teams to enter the saves chase, but you made up for it by taking a bunch of relievers. Explain the process/strategy, and sell us on this bullpen.  

If I may, an anecdote.  I went to the supermarket yesterday and bought toilet paper.  It cost $18.  Ten years ago, you could buy a car for $18.  Now you get four-ply TP.  You know what that toilet paper looks like in three months?  That’s what expensive closers look like too.  So, I bought two-ply $8 toilet paper closers named Koji Uehara, Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson.

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I love Kolten Wong this year.  But what I find weird (weird as in I don’t know what the rest of the world is thinking) is Kolten Wong hit 12 homers and stole 20 bases last year.  If Pedroia did that last year, he’d be a third round pick.  Only Wong is 24 years old and about to explode.  My one regret is my shortstop (Wilmer Flores) and MI (Jonathan Schoop) look like hot garbage that is left in the trunk of a car on the surface of the sun.  

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

There were so many great picks!  Oh, on someone else’s team.  Hmm… Marcus Semien went in the 8th round of my Tout Wars draft (which was an awful pick), but I do like him and Behrens got him in the 18th, which is nice value.  The reach of the draft is Victor Martinez in the 4th round by Rudy Gamble.  I guess he expects him to hit 30 homers again.  Ow, I just hurt myself by rolling my eyes too histrionically.  

Rotowire – Jeff Erickson – @jeff_erickson

Previous F&F Finishes: 7th, 4th, 4th, 1st, 13th, 11th, 12th, 8th, 10th

Q: Only three of your projected starters (Yelich, Martin, Escobar) offer much stolen-base potential. Tell us something good about one of your rabbits, and/or discuss your view of Speed 2015. 

I’d add Pagan among the potential stolen base guys, but yeah, I did feel as if I were lacking speed all throughout the draft. I also think that Odor might have some hidden SB potential now that he’s more established as a big league player. Clearly Martin is pretty important to me  –  if he sticks at the top of the order, there’s a higher bags upside. I just missed out on Ben Revere before that pick – he would have been a better fit.

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I thought I’d regret Alcides Escobar where I took him  –  it was an overdraft  – but as we established, I’m thirsting for bags. So the pick I sort of regret is Javier Baez   he very well could be sent down by May, but I was trolling for upside. I was pretty happy to get Johnny Cueto when I did  – nobody believes he’s for real.

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft 

Steal – Alex Rios in the 14th by Salfino. He’s going to run a lot this year. Bust  – Trevor Rosenthal in the 8th. I think he’s going to implode this year. Glen Perkins, too.

Rotoworld – Ryan Boyer – @ryanpboyer

Previous F&F Finishes: 4th, 10th

Q: You went with a budget starting staff, taking Julio Teheran with Pick 112 but otherwise ignoring the position for 13 rounds. Stump for one of your cheap AL pitchers (Jesse Hahn, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House).

I’m obviously a fan of all three, but let’s talk about Hahn. It’s just hard for me to believe he won’t be successful as long as he stays on the field. Hahn never posted an ERA higher than 2.77 in any season in the minors and struck out a batter per frame. He then went on to hold a 3.07 ERA with a whiff per inning last year with the Padres and this winter got traded from one extreme pitcher’s park to another. Hahn will be great if he’s healthy.

Q: Give us a pick to promote and a pick of regret  

I’ve been buying lots of Ryan Braun stock in drafts. The reports on his thumb are encouraging, and there’s just too much five-category upside to pass on at the end of the second round.

I like Brian McCann just fine this year, but that pick was a regret in hindsight when I see perfectly capable catchers getting drafted multiple rounds later.

Q: Identify a steal and reach of the draft  

I’m not sure why Anibal Sanchez kept getting passed over, but the Singman-Johnson duo got a steal in the 17th round. 

Jose Altuve had a special 2014 season, but the first round is too early for my taste. He finished outside the 120 players in 2013.


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