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Stars and Scrubs and Keepers

Over the last week, I’ve participated in three drafts for similar 12-team keeper leagues. They all share the ability to keep as many players as you want at an escalating dollar cost. One of those leagues is FanGraphs Staff Two on ottoneu. This will be my fourth season with my fellow staffers. The others are my home league (11th season) and my college league (sixth seasons). In other words, these are long standing, fully mature leagues.

In ottoneu, player costs increase by $2 every year plus the results of an arbitration period. In short, other teams get $25 to allocate toward other rosters – maximum of $3, minimum $1 per team. For example, my $7 Charlie Blackmon garnered $5 of allocations for a total cost of $12 to keep. The other two leagues use a set of keeper rules I derived long ago. We use previous draft price + $7.

In time, I’ve slowly developed a strategy I call Stars and Scrubs and Keepers. It’s not so much a new technique as it is an explanation. Stars and Scrubs is a particularly potent approach in these leagues with uncapped keeper totals.

I trust you’re familiar with the Stars and Scrubs approach to roster building. If not, it’s exactly what it sounds like. In an auction setting, one option is to spend most of your money on top 50 talents, filling the bulk of your roster with $1 players. Where you draw the $1 line depends upon the depth of your league. In ottoneu, I try to fill every active position with an established player. I dedicate most of my 20-player bench to $1 types. By contrast, I’m comfortable starting a lineup of $1 players in my H2H college league. More on that in a moment.

Since keeper value is derived via the gap between actual value and keeper price, finding a few $1 studs is the quickest way to build a keeper juggernaut. Not only do players like Jonathan Villar fuel victories, if you need to raid a rival’s roster, Villar is worth his weight in gold. Not only will he supply all the usual categories, his $8 keeper price ensures roster flexibility. I traded Max Scherzer and Zach Britton to get Villar last summer (college league).

It’s also a lot easier to bid on a Clayton Kershaw or Miguel Cabrera when you have $8 stars already supporting your roster. In this way, the strategy is self-perpetuating. Every successful $1 discovery enables you to afford another full price juggernaut.

Shall we talk about the rosters in question?


Ottoneu – FanGraphs Staff Two

Here’s the unit I kept in ottoneu. We have a $400 budget for 40 players and score using FGpts (rough linear weights). Overall, I kept $368 spread across 26 players, leaving $32 for 14 players. One important ottoneu wrinkle – your $400 budget must also cover all in-season moves.

Kept Players – FG#2

The bones of this roster – Goldy, Kershaw, and Trout have won back-to-back seasons. Now I’m targeting a three-peat. If and when this unit finally crumbles, I’ll have multiple stars to convert into high value, low cost keepers. Let’s check the draft results.

Draftees – FG#2

I grade my execution as a C-minus. I have big hopes for a few of these guys like Candelario, Herrera, Hedges, and Hernandez. For the most part, this is a support unit to help fuel another season of victory. Hopefully they’re enough. Zimmermann is earmarked for a cut – I already won a 41st player ($1 Tony Zych), I just haven’t made the corresponding roster move.

Home League

I talked about this league a couple weeks ago because it’s loaded with high upside sophomores. This is a 12-team 5×5 roto league with OPS instead of AVG. We have a $310 budget. Most of the owners have or at one point had some sort of site affiliation.

Kept Players – Home League

I was left with $93 to supplement my roster. Any leftover auction dollars are added to our $100 FAAB. Since keeper price is based on draft cost, you want to spend all your auction dollars, but it’s also sometimes ideal to leave a couple bucks on the table.

The plan was to acquire a couple big names – perhaps Kershaw or Cabrera and a $30 player. The remaining eight spots were supposed to go to the $1-$2.

Draftees – Home League

Sometimes, it’s not possible to execute your plan. Cabrera was $53 despite already playing banged up. Kershaw ran $65. I pivoted to Bumgarner and some outfield depth. Since the draft, an opportunity arose to trade Pederson and Taillon for Daniel Murphy (and Matt Harvey). My first base was perilously thin with the bird-footed Pujols as my only guy with eligibility. Now I have depth everywhere.

I did manage to pick up six cheap plays, all with a high ceiling. I’m relatively pleased with the crop even though there should have been more of them.

College League

This one is just a tad odd, and you’ll notice my roster construction reflects that oddity. It’s a 6×6 H2H league with OPS and K/BB as the sixth categories. I’m a big believer in discarding the traditional 70/30 batter/pitcher split when playing H2H, especially when there’s a sixth category to inflate high-end pitcher value. Our offensive positions aren’t quite standard. In addition to the normal spots, we use one catcher, middle infielder, three outfielders (one is CF only), and two utility. No extra corner infielder.

I only kept five players so I’ll forgo the fancy table. Recall, I acquired $8 utility man Villar in this league. I also kept $18 Story, $21 Carlos Carrasco, $21 Jake Arrieta, and $28 Corey Kluber. While it’s a bummer that Carrasco was injured between keep day and the draft, I probably would have kept him anyway. I was left with $164 for 20 players.

I’m quite pleased with how this draft turned out, it’s a perfect execution of the Stars and Scrubs and Keepers strategy as applied to these settings.

Draftees – College League

I’m giddy about the price on Kershaw. Here’s a quick mockup from the FanGraphs auction calculator, projecting a $72 value on Kershaw. Even after adjusting, he’s worth better than $60, and that’s with a 208 inning projection. Scherzer and Sale are probably mid-$40s quality pitchers. The K/BB really inflates the production of aces.

I also find it easiest to win on a weekly basis via elite pitching. I can usually chase down a couple hitting categories without issue. Big leads in pitching rate stats enable me to target the waiver wire with confidence. Overall, I spent an unseemly $208 of my $260 budget on pitching. I even have a trio of interesting relievers with big upside. Remember, Doolittle has a career 5.98 K/BB, and he’s certainly a better pitcher than Ryan Madson.

On the hitting side, my club is “good enough.” With Villar and Story available to singlehandedly supply some category wins in home runs and stolen bases, I have the luxury to mix and match until I find the right group of breakout hitters. My first base trio should deliver plenty of power, and I don’t know how Lamb got to me so cheaply. Broxton was a dollar days heist. Some of these guys should develop into $20 assets.

Common Players

All three rosters include the following players – Carter Capps and Addison Reed. That’s it. Story, Kershaw, Villar, Lamb, Joseph, and Hedges appeared on two rosters.

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