One of the most exciting developments in the Fantasy Sports world is the volume of new and different Fantasy games that are surfacing. We are incredibly fortunate at SCFE to have been invited to participate in the unique league format being offered at Shandler Park (yes, the site of the incomparable Ron Shandler).
Rather than drafting teams for an entire season, each team in the league drafts a new team each month. Every owner gets a $300 budget to put together a roster each month. Lineups are set bi-weekly (Monday and Friday). The prices are set by the fine folks at Shandler, so you get the joy of delving through the database to come up with your favorite deals each month. The prices will rise and fall with player performance each month.
The scoring categories are as follows:
- Home Runs
- Stolen Bases
- On Base Average
- Runs Produced (Runs + RBI – HR)
- Wins + Quality Starts
- Saves + Holds
Our writers will be competing against each other, and each month will share their insights regarding their strategies when compiling a team. For subsequent drafts we’ll also discuss how the previous month shaped our subsequent decisions. We urge everyone to head over to Shandler Park and sign up for your own league today!
The SCFE Experts Take On Shandler Park
I played a lot of daily Fantasy Sports in 2014 and with my draft in Shandler Park, I applied a lot of those same concepts to my draft, especially in the month of April where weather will inevitably be a factor. I chose a lot of players from the west coast. Namely, players from the Giants for two reasons: the Giants get to play the Diamondbacks and Rockies for a home and road series in April, and they should have good weather throughout the month as their schedule is heavily based in the state of California.
I went with two major stud pitchers, as pitching is generally more consistent than hitting. Getting Kendall Graveman for $1 was icing on the cake. He was the hottest player in spring training not named Kris Bryant. Oh, and he pitches in a pitcher friendly park that just happens to be on the west coast.
I drafted players from teams with only two off days in April (New York Mets, San Diego Padres, among others) to optimize my chances at racking up counting stats. From there, I wanted to stack up on two start starters per week (No. 1 and No. 3 in their rotation) and then find the best value remaining. I elected to have only three bench hitters, but would still essentially cover me for an injury at any one position, and then load up on pitching.
The best values I drafted was Adam Jones at $13, which seemed ridiculously cheap, so I jumped on that. I then grabbed Ian Kinsler at $12 and he seemed very affordable to fill my second base spot with a top option. Perhaps my favorite bargain is Michael Taylor for $1, as he should easily play everyday throughout April.
I added quite a few cheap saves and holds to mix in each week (Joel Peralta $3, Neil Ramirez $2, Tommy Hunter $1), while benching guys like Bartolo Colon ($1) when he would only get one start. That strategy became even more advantageous given that I can adjust my lineup on Fridays as well as Mondays to bench those starters not starting over the weekend, and start additional relievers.
I don’t look at schedules, weather and projected rotations because all of those things are impossible to really predict. I just focus on putting the best team up that I can, given the scoring categories.
I was like a kid in a candy store with pitching. I thought a number of pitchers were criminally underpriced. It’s impossible to list all the guys that leapt off the page, so lets limit it to three: Starting with two Yankees starters, Michael Pineda ($6) and Masahiro Tanaka ($12). The only thing I can figure is that there is some sort of injury discount factored in here, because both of these guys are priced well below a number of inferior options.
In this month-to-month format, however, we don’t have to be nearly as injury averse as we do in annual leagues. Next, Aroldis Chapman at $14? He’s an elite contributor to ERA, K, and Saves (75% of our categories) but costs less than K Rod??? It would be asinine not to roster him.
It’s pretty clear how the fine folks at Shandler Park weighted the hitters. On base average was the trump card here. This can clearly be seen in the price splits of superior on base guys like Votto ($25) compared to a guy lacking in on base skills but who is otherwise a superior commodity in standard leagues (Adam Jones $13). That being said, because I found so much value on the pitching side, I was able to spend much more money on my bats ($10.53 per batter versus $8.07 per pitcher).
I found a lot of value (not surprisingly) in players that broke out to claim opening day roster spots this spring (Micah Johnson, Archie Bradley, Carlos Martinez). Next month the market will adjust to these players. My quick diagnosis is that I may be a little light on power, but I think I have a comprehensive contribution to all seven other categories.
I drafted players with soft schedules during the first month of the season, didn’t pay for catchers (you must start two) and play to the scoring system – which is always a wise decision.
Because he’s the best player in baseball (well he is) I decided to pay up for Mike Trout with a price tag of $41. Bryce Harper is a fantastic price at $15, so that was a no-brainer. My third outfielder was more of a fun pick. I really have no idea what to expect to start the season, but if there is a player that can rival Mike Trout’s 40 HR/40SB potential, it’s George Springer. I’ll pay $20 for the excitement. Getting back to value, I was shocked to see Adam Jones for only $13! He bats in a great lineup and in the heart of the order. To finish off my outfield I snagged Jorge Soler for the cheap price of $8.
I can’t trust relievers early in the season so I tried to go as cheap as possible here. Steve Cishek cost $10 and might get 10 saves during the month April. Have you seen the Marlins’ schedule? Dreamy! To that end, I spent $7 on Mat Latos for that exact reason. I now have just one closer and to ensure I have another on my roster, I spent $4 on Addison Reed as my first reserve player. It’s a fair price for a category that is hard to predict.
I decided to look at who was going to be playing the most games in this first month of the season, especially for hitters. For pitchers I tried to stay away from the dreaded No.5. In April, these pitchers will get skipped a time or two due to there being less games played in April than other months of the season. I wanted to stay away from teams who play in cities that may have bad weather. Additionally, I did not chase wins, since they are just too hard to predict. Instead, I went after quality arms who I think can give me a lot of Ks and a quality start, all while not ruining my ratios.
After I picked my team, I noticed that I went heavy with starting pitching. This was due to the fact that we only set our lineups every two weeks. I wanted to be able to get as many two-start pitchers as possible, and then I will supplement the rest of the active pitching spots with bullpen arms. Speaking of bullpen arms, I did not pay for saves or holds, with my most expensive being Kevin Quackenbush at $4.
When it came to hitting, I got a good all-around team for this format. I have power (Josh Donaldson, Carlos Gomez, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Miguel Cabrera, Marcell Ozuna and Joc Pederson) and speed (Gomez, Pederson, Kolton Wong, Jace Peterson, Dalton Pompey and Eric Young Jr.). I know you’re looking at Chris Davis and Adam Jones, among others, and thinking this is an OBP league, they are not that good in this format. At $11 and $13, I think Davis and Jones are steals.
First, I wanted to load up on pitchers. I don’t want to be constantly switching hitters around trying to catch a hot streak. I’d just end up second guessing myself all week. Second, I made my value picks first. By buying cheap guys first, I got players I think are undervalued and filled out most of my starting roster with some really solid guys. Then I was able to go out and buy a Carlos Gomez and a Josh Donaldson to beef up a team I already thought was strong. Lastly, I picked guys with favorable parks and schedules. I tried to avoid pitchers going to Cincinnati and Colorado and looked for pitchers facing weak lineups or in big parks. Obviously I tried to do the reverse for hitters.
My favorite picks were Nolan Arenado, who was a no brainer for $10. I took a tip from Baseball Prospectus’s Bret Sayre and grabbed Manny Machado ($7) and Chris Davis ($11) for cheap since they’re playing a lot of home games in April and Camden Yards is a nice hitter’s park. My two favorite buys were Matt Harvey and Bryce Harper, both for only 15 dollars!
Setting up my Shandler Park roster for April 2015 was a “Stars and Scrubs” process. Perception and roles can change so rapidly during spring training that this first month might be the only time I’ll see some of these players as bargains. I zipped down the price list to find hitters earning (or defaulting) their way into more at-bats, including Mike Zunino ($1), Arismendy Alcantara ($4), and Justin Smoak ($2).
A few post-hype products in Brett Lawrie ($5), Nick Castellanos ($4), and Jedd Gyorko ($4) can also fill up slots without much spending. That way, if I want a reliable Mike Trout at $41 instead of Carlos Gomez at $30, I can swap out one of those under $10 guys for what might be the bargain of the year, C.J. Cron for just $1. My biggest surprise? Adam LaRoche and Adrian Gonzalez both at $19 – when Todd Frazier is just a buck more and can steal a few bases.
For pitching, I focused on ballparks and opponent lineup construction. I reviewed the entire April schedule for each team to find who plays in places like San Diego or Tampa Bay instead of Colorado or Toronto. Jered Weaver ($6) pitches in Seattle, plus he has potentially three starts in Anaheim, while Hisashi Iwakuma ($16) likely has three starts in Seattle and one on the road against the Dodgers.
I also targeted pitchers facing teams with either injury-impacted lineups or greater uncertainties. The 3-4-5 starters for Oakland might face Houston twice, so Jesse Hahn is a steal at $3. As for relievers, with so many starter bargains, I can afford more solid options such as Francisco Rodriguez ($15) or Greg Holland ($18) who also earn more strikeouts. To maximize closer value, I also checked to see which teams have fewer games in a row, so closers like Fernando Rodney ($9) get every save chance.
With my first Shandler Park draft, I thought I would try to combine match ups with value. I approached building my squad like I would in Daily Fantasy and took a look at who was hitting in small parks during the month and which pitchers were lining up against teams with limited offense and susceptibility to strikeouts. I was surprised to see Adam Jones at only $13 and jumped at it. My most expensive player was Troy Tulowitzki at $27. I figured he is worth it while healthy and the Rockies have three home stands as well as a trip to Arizona this month … good news for Colorado hitters.
I got my ace in Max Scherzer and loaded up with middle range to cheap pitching after that. Oakland plays Houston six times this month and gets to play in a great pitcher’s stadium at home, so I ended up with three Athletics on my pitching squad. I’m optimistic this group can stand up to those other “so called fantasy experts.”
Just about any strategy article you read tells you to “learn the scoring categories,” and that is vitally important when playing in Shandler Park. The leagues use a hybrid 4×4 roto format, which devalues quite a few of the top players over traditional 5×5 settings. Batting average and WHIP don’t count for anything in this league, and a good, high-strikeout starting pitcher can return a ton of value with a single dominant outing. Holds are counted together with saves, and home runs are something of a double-edged sword, as they count against you in the “Runs produced” category.
With these unique settings in mind, I thought Chris Davis was a tremendous value at $11; though he batted only .196 last season, his OBP was a more palatable .300 – and he posted a .370 mark during his breakout 2013 campaign. Among pitchers, Madison Bumgarner at $22 and James Shields at $13 struck me as nice, if not extreme values, and I rostered them both.
The Shandler Park game’s salaries were calculated on March 16; at that time there was still plenty of uncertainty regarding the status of some injured veterans, and that is reflected in their price. Fast-forward to April, and we now know that Miguel Cabrera ($26), Troy Tulowitzki ($27), Matt Harvey ($15) and Michael Pineda ($6) are back on the field and look fully healthy. I took advantage of what I saw as their deflated prices; for the purposes of a one-month league, I’m not worried about whether or not they will hold up for an entire season. Brandon Belt ($9) has shown flashes of brilliance during his career, and I’m willing to bet his nine dollar price tag that this is the year he breaks out.
In a similar vein, some younger players had not yet attained a place on their team’s depth charts back in mid-March, but Ryan Rua, Taijuan Walker, C.J. Cron, Drew Hutchison ($1 each) and Rougned Odor ($4) have since emerged as starters – making them solid low-dollar options for salary-cap games. We knew that Jorge Soler ($8) and Joc Pederson ($7) were fine young players, but both have cemented their starting jobs and each should play a vital role in their team’s offense this season.
In addition, many bullpen hierarchies have resolved themselves over the last two weeks: Luke Gregerson ($6) is now officially the closer in Houston, while Joakim Soria ($4) has had a great spring and could be closing in Detroit sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Edward Mujica ($1) will open the season as the Red Sox closer. Since holds also count in this format, Gregerson, Soria and Mujica look like good bets to return solid value for a minimal investment.
Prior to Opening Day is the time to take advantage of some “holes” in player pricing and try to get a leg up on some of the other combatants!
For the hitters, “Runs Produced” is counted, which is the combination of HR, RBI and runs scored. This prompted me to go back and remove Ian Kinsler, who I considered a bargain at first, for just $12, from my lineup.
I also stole some strategy from RotoExperts’ Jake Ciely, who mentioned trying to grab a good ace and a good fourth or fifth starter from the same team, so that every scoring period, I’d have some starters on good teams pitching. So I paired Max Scherzer with Gio Gonzalez, for a total of $40. I loaded up on Andrew Miller and Edward Mujica, who should get plenty of holds and saves in the first month of the season. Finally, I made sure to add Matt Harvey for $15, figuring this will be the last time we see him for less than $20 this season. He has been out of baseball for 16 months and he’s ready to destroy hitters.
So now that you’ve seen the number of strategies we’ve employed at SCFE, it’s time for you to get in the game! Head over to Shandler Park right now and sign up!
Stay tuned next month for another SCFE Experts Take On Shandler Park.
- Supervised Minors: Boston Market in Our Prospect Rankings - May 2, 2015
- “Supervised Minors” Prospect Rankings: Carlos Rodon to Riches - April 18, 2015
- 2015 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: Supervised Minors - April 11, 2015