This past weekend, I finally reached another milestone in my Fantasy Sports career that is beginning to near the two-decade mark. There have been many great moments along the way, none of which I take for granted and I owe a world of appreciation to those that helped me arrive where I did on the morning of Saturday, March 21 – The draft table at the Tout Wars mixed league auction draft. It’s truly an elite spot among the greatest minds in our industry, one of the most prestigious chairs to occupy in our space.
It’s a journey that began in late 1996 under the watch of Rick Wolf at SportsLine
USA, who took a chance on me as a Fantasy analyst, and my direct supervisor, Chris Weeks, who helped me train my journalistic eye on Fantasy Sports in a most distinctive manner. There were other great influences along the path of the earlier years, including David Hersh of Commissioner.com. Fast forward to this decade, and we’re making history at Anthem Media as Chief Strategy Officer Louis M. Maione keeps the historic RotoExperts train of success rolling along with Len “Coach” Asper and his team. It’s been a long and exciting trip filled with lots of great memories, accomplishments and friendships made along the way. I’m not forgetting anyone, I just need to get onto the analysis so as not to make it look like this is a Fantasy Baseball version of a Grammy speech and have Dave Chappelle run me off the with his “Wrap it Up Box”.
Before I run off the stage, though, I need to share the deepest measure of gratitude to my wife, Victoria. I just don’t get to where I did without her. Hopefully she approves of my 31 dollar bid on Hanley Ramirez. I know some on social media said I overspent. But I believe he could be in for a huge year. So my 31 insights from the Tout Wars mixed draft are dedicated to my bid on him.
- I went in not wanting to engage in any of the 40-dollar bid wars that might land me a top superstar. When the bidding reached 40 dollars on Anthony Rizzo, I dropped out. Hanley was my most expensive bid. Larry Schechter already sent me an e-mail with Rick Wilton’s injury analysis on Ramirez, with the subject line, ”thinking of you” and detailing why Hanley is a big risk again this year. But moving away from shortstop and playing in another new environment could boost Hanley to one of his best seasons ever, and I was willing to spend on him to get that potential return. Ramirez always puts on his best face when he arrives in a new city, and there will be less wear and tear on him in the outfield.
- Legend has it I am conservative. But spending 31 on Ramirez and 27 on Prince Fielder, who is headed for a big rebound year, should shatter that myth. You can’t compete with the likes of Derek Van Riper and Ray Flowers if you are not willing to take some chances.
- Scott Pianowski tells a lot of bad jokes at the draft table that seem to entertain him more than anyone else. He should leave the one-liners to Cory Schwartz, who was killing it all day. But his acquisitions of Jake Arrieta (16 dollars) and Brett Gardner (14) reminded us he is much better at landing key players than comedy.
- I did not intend to build around top-level pitching, but I felt Kluber (24) and Bumgarner (22) were ideal choices at their prices, I was willing to go up to 25 dollars for them.
- Travis d’Arnaud was well worth it at 13 dollars. He is going to hit near .280 with just under 20 homers.
- Nothing beats spending time with Steve Moyer. He is the biggest KISS fan in the industry other than me, and bantering with him throughout the weekend only made the experience more fun.
- Tim Heaney was one smart cookie to land Dexter Fowler later in the draft at six dollars. Excellent OF depth pick in an OBP format.
- Sure, Dee Gordon is not an ideal pick in an OBP format. But he is in a great new situation and will swipe bags like a madman with Giancarlo Stanton making pitchers think twice about throwing fastballs when he is on base. Gordon will lead the league in steals, blaze it up in runs scored and will be well worth the 18 dollars I spent on him.
- I love Lawr Michaels dearly, but he needs to stop showing me pictures of his excursion to the Museum of Sex. Especially the ones with large toys in them.
- Gotta like what Al Melchior did with his starting pitching, getting Carrasco (13), deGrom (14) and Wacha (11).
- I threw out Wilmer Flores for a dollar at the point of the draft when I thought no one might go to two. No one did, and he’ll provide very nice middle infield production for that price.
- I threw out Yordano Ventura for eight dollars. When no one else bid on him, it was very satisfying to get him for that price, I thought.
- I later thought that Andrea LaMont, who predicted Matt Harvey’s Tommy John injury, says Ventura might be next. Maybe I just wasted eight dollars?
- Scott Swanay landed Joc Pederson for 10 dollars. Very impressive.
- Joe Pisapia served notice he is no rookie. His draft has been widely praised, maybe with the value play of the day with Nolan Arenado at 19 bucks. He also has a great last name for Beavis and Butthead fans. “Pisapia! Pisapia!”
- I was very satisfied to land Marlon Byrd for five dollars. He is one of my favorite interview subjects, because he knows everything on every player in the league. That is what a big part of makes him click; it goes beyond the numbers.
- I knew this was a true gathering of great minds because Mike Cardano was nowhere to be found. But some of our listeners stopped by, and it was great to see Brian from New Jersey and Ed from the Bronx and spend time with Jay from Boston. We do what we do because of you guys.
- Kris Bryant went for 16 dollars to Swanay. It was too early in the bidding process for me to get involved. I love the upside nearly as much as anyone else among experts, but wanted to save my money for Hanley, Prince and Yelich and then see what fell around that offensively.
- I was very happy to land Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose for a buck each. Other than Gordon, I did not want to spend much on pure speed merchants. I was not going to spend up for Altuve, and once I landed Gordon I was not going to get involved in the bidding for any guys like Revere.
- I threw out T.J. House late for a buck when most people had burned up their budgets and I was hopeful. But David Gonos went to two bucks. David is a brilliant writer and tells me I helped him a lot in his career. Not anymore.
- Seeing Tim McCullough, Doug Anderson , Andrea, Pat Mayo and Jake Ciely debut in the new Tout Wars X league was such a proud moment for us at RotoExperts. Seeing Craig Mish in the league shows us that none of them will finish last, either.
- Patrick Davitt drew raised eyebrows for his 19 dollar bid of Russell Martin. But he deserved a slap on the back for getting J.D. Martinez at 15.
- Gonos had two impressive picks with Alex Rios at 12 and Steven Souza at 10. The guy can contend with anyone in any Fantasy Sport.
- I really wanted Neftali Feliz as my second closer. He became more of a pitcher than just a pure thrower last year so I spent the needed 13 dollars later in the auction.
- In a mixed auction, I was willing to overpay a bit for the guys I really wanted. I finished with nine one dollar players, but I really like the guys I landed for those prices. I still did not go much over my projected values for each top player.
- Two of the one dollar guys I was really glad to land were Kyle Hendricks and Jon Niese. Both will bolster the back end of my pitching staff and Niese will not hurt me.
- As expected, Nando Di Fino landed Jedd Gyorko. He also acquired Matt Harvey for 19 and Leonys Martin for 12, two more of the niftiest selections in the auction.
- I threw Buster Posey and Billy Hamilton out early. Posey went for 27 dollars, I will just not spend that much on a catcher. I wanted to get Hamilton out of there to see how much might be spent on a speed guy like that, and I wanted Gordon more anyway.
- Jeff Erickson is the best auctioneer ever. What a pro.
- Todd Zola is entertaining as hell. Tristan Cockcroft is still worth every big hug I give him. Jeff Mans’ Corey Parson impression is worth a price of admission, and Kyle Elfrink is always total class, as is Glenn Colton. I don’t mean to forget anyone else. Especially Brian Walton, Steve Gardner and Stephania Bell, some of the truly wonderful people in the industry.
- Thanks to Tout brass that includes Peter Kreutzer, Jeff, Lawr and a man I am truly honored to call a friend, Ron Shandler, for having me in the mix.