Here we are in these new Tuesday digs. So I figure it's time to talk about a new season. Baseball season, that is.
Pitchers and catchers report in three weeks, and my most competitive fantasy league is bickering in search of a draft date. So it must be about that time.
Let me explain how my fantasy baseball coverage will work. I'll be covering the Orioles this season, and it would prove to be an ethical conflict for me to comment on players' fantasy values while also reporting news about them. So I'll have to steer clear of the Orioles and their regular opponents.
What I plan to do is keep a sort of running diary on Childs Play, the franchise I manage in a 12-team league that drafts only National League players. I'll try to use my decisions about Childs Play as platforms to discuss topics of broader fantasy interest. Let's hope it works.
Here are a few introductory points about the league and team. Forty Acres, the league, has existed since 1993, when it was founded at Swarthmore College in the Philadelphia suburbs. I didn't go to Swarthmore, but I hooked into the league five years ago.
It's the best group I've played with. Every owner is knowledgeable and each brings a very particular style. Rob Utley is a master of trade psychology. Darius Tandon avoids big splashes in the draft (although he spent $60 on Jason Schmidt last season) but cobbles together potent blends of mid-level players. Nick Gisonda is positively neurotic in his preparations, tweaking his projected dollar values for each player until hours before our auction.
I have a reputation for being a strong drafter who's a little (maybe a lot) gun shy on trades. I've finished in the money (top four) three of my four seasons but have never won.
We play with a $260 budget for each team. (Just to be clear, that figure doesn't represent real money; it's just the structure handed down from our Rotisserie forefathers.) I'm contemplating my keeper list for this season. I can keep six, and a $1 John Patterson, a $7 Jake Peavy and a $12 Andy Pettitte are givens. Starters who yield strikeouts and have decent control are always at a premium, and with those three at a combined $20, I'm off to a nice start on the pitching side.
My offense is a little less clear. Forty Acres owners love, and I mean love, power. Most fantasy guides assign values between $35 and $45 for the league's top sluggers. In Acres last year, Todd Helton went for $59, Jim Thome went for $54, Carlos Lee went for $53 and Troy Glaus and Shawn Green went for $45 each. Crazy.
I'm in an interesting spot because I have three potential sluggers - Adam Dunn ($29), Carlos Beltran ($26) and Lance Berkman ($35) - at prices far below what they'd go for in this year's auction. But they're not exactly cheap. If I keep all three, I'd go into the draft with secure power and starting pitching but with only $150 to spend and thus, little flexibility.
My other options include a $6 Prince Fielder, a $3 J.J. Hardy, a $5 Matt Cain and a $1 Pedro Feliz.
Fielder, son of Cecil and a rotund slugger off the same old block, is the most intriguing possibility. He could be a major power source on the cheap. But he could also fail to establish himself as a starter.
His Milwaukee teammate, Hardy, struggled as a rookie but came on late. He plays a talent-scarce position, shortstop, and is projected to improve by fantasy guru Ron Shandler. Cain could be a stud starter for the Giants, but I'm already deep in the rotation.
So I face a classic fantasy dilemma. Do I keep a proven quantity in Berkman who's priced below what my league would pay for him? Or do I go for the riskier Fielder, who's cheaper and could provide a bigger reward? Or do I fill my shortstop spot with Hardy?
I don't have to decide until the third week in March. But now is the time to let questions like that start rolling around in your heads. If you're fairly new to the game, remember to think not just about which players you like, but also about the other owners in your league. It doesn't matter if some magazine says Derrek Lee is worth $35. If your league will pay $50, those are the market conditions you face.
Such variables make the game fun.