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Draft Strategy

The Greatest League draft results

by D.J. Short
Updated On: May 19, 2020, 10:25 am ET

It took two and a half weeks, but “The Greatest League” draft finally reached its conclusion late last week. This might sound like a complaint, but it was actually a wonderful time with a great crew of people. It was nice to take a trip down memory lane while putting older seasons into context against more recent performances. We also had quite the lively draft chat, with plenty of laughs to go around. We’re not going to post a transcript here. You’ll just have to trust us on that one.

You can take a look at the draft board below.

To recap, the purpose of “The Greatest League” is to take the best individual seasons from the rotisserie era (1980-present) for the ultimate fantasy baseball sim. Specific players can only be selected once, so you can’t have Barry Bonds 2001 on one team and Barry Bonds 1993 on another.  The league consists of 20 teams and 25-man rosters with the use of the universal designated hitter. The 162-game season is being played out on WhatIfSports.com over the next seven weeks and a winner will be determined by 5x5 fantasy stats produced in those games.

With Opening Day upon us (the league’s schedule began Monday May 18), I asked each competitor to break down their strategy and how they think they fared during the draft. You’ll also see a full list of each team’s roster.

Stay tuned for weekly progress reports right here on Rotoworld.com.

Editor's Note: If you're on the hunt for rankings, projections, tiers, auction values, mock drafts, strategy and advice on how to dominate your drafts, check out the all-new Rotoworld MLB Draft Guide. Now mobile-optimized with a new look and feel, it's never been easier to take our award-winning advice with you to your drafts for that extra competitive edge! Click here for more!

Team 1: Brad Johnson (@BaseballATeam)

Barry Bonds (2001) - OF
Roy Halladay (2011) - SP
Chuck Knoblauch (1996) - 2B
Joey Votto (2010) 1B
John Valentin (1995) - SS
Troy Glaus (2000) - 3B
Matt Harvey (2013) - SP
Noah Syndergaard (2016) - SP
Bobby Abreu (2000) - OF
Andruw Jones (2000) - OF
Kenley Jansen (2017) - RP
Shane Bieber (2019) - SP
Aroldis Chapman (2012) - RP
Lance Lynn (2019) - SP
Nick Anderson (2019) - RP
Ronald Acuna Jr (2019) - OF
Paul LoDuca (2001) - C
Rafael Furcal (2005) - SS
Russell Martin (2014) - C
Jayson Werth (2009) - OF
Will Smith (2019) - RP
David Hernandez (2012) - RP
Trevor Rosenthal (2013) - RP
Seunghwan Oh (2016) - RP
Carson Smith (2015) - RP

Johnson’s analysis: While I didn't do any heavy-hitting custom analysis for this league, I did go in with some basic strategies. The name of the game is to accrue fantasy stats while preventing my opponents from doing the same. One interesting wrinkle to this league is that the best sim team won't necessarily win, but they will have a strong advantage because of the pitching stats. The team with the most sim-wins will also have the most fantasy wins. The winningest clubs will also populate the top of the saves category.

Offensively, I emphasized on base and slugging percentage while minimizing strikeout rate with most of my hitters (Troy Glaus and Ronald Acuna notwithstanding). Every offensive strikeout I avoid is one fewer for my rivals. My approach to run prevention has more layers. I selected a fairly strong defensive roster. Most importantly (I assume), I picked two catchers - Paul Lo Duca and Russell Martin - with A+ arm ratings. Gunning down would-be base thieves is multiplicatively valuable. I'm directly denying stolen bases while fractionally reducing other fantasy outputs. On the pitching side, I strongly emphasized K/BB rates. The teams in this league are loaded with high OBP bats so it's key to avoid walk parades. High strikeout rates are obviously important for winning the strikeout category - whiffs also further deny stolen base and run scoring opportunities - the better to win ERA and WHIP.

Team 2: Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB)

Larry Walker (1997) - OF
Ellis Burks (1996) - OF
Kevin Brown (1998) - SP
Willie McGee (1985) - OF
Edgar Martinez (1995) - DH
John Tudor (1985) - SP
Alan Trammell (1987) - SS
Carlos Pena (2007) - 1B
Hideo Nomo (1995) - SP
Edgardo Alfonzo (2000) - 2B
Zack Britton (2016) - RP
Rick Wilkins (1993) - C
Andrew Miller (2016) - RP
Erik Hanson (1990) - SP
Fernando Tatis (1999) - 3B
Sergio Romo (2011)
Cole Hamels (2014) - SP
Tommy Kahnle (2017) - RP
Matt Williams (1993) - 3B
Jeremy Jeffress (2018) - RP
Ron Gant (1990) - OF
Ozzie Smith (1987) - SS
Sandy Alomar (1997) - C
Matt Carpenter (2016) - 1B/2B/3B
Pat Hentgen (1996) - SP

Crawford’s analysis: Power/speed combinations were really important to me, which is why it was easy for me to target former Blake Street Bombers Larry Walker and Ellis Burks with my first two picks. I also picked up Alan Trammell and Fernando Tatis Sr.; two players that should give me some steals and pop as well. On-base percentage was also critical for me to help in the runs category; the only players in my lineup with OBP below .400 are Willie McGee (who hit .353 and stole 56 bases) and Rick Wilkins. On the pitching side, I wanted hurlers who had low FIPs and who gobbled up innings since the dominant seasons like Pedro and Randy were long gone. I won't win the strikeout category, but I should be competitive in the WHIP and ERA marks, and I'm hoping that's enough with my (on paper, anyway) loaded lineup.

Team 3: Nick Doran (@RealNickDoran)

Rickey Henderson (1990) - OF
Miguel Cabrera (2013) - 3B
Jim Thome (2002) - 1B
Nomar Garciaparra (2000) - SS
Carlos Delgado (2000) - 1B
Brian Giles (2002) - OF
Jorge Posada (2007) - C
Lance Berkman (2001) - OF
Chase Utley (2007) - 2B
Kevin Millwood (1999) - SP
Koji Uehara (2013) - RP
Don Sutton (1981) - SP
Derek Lowe (2002) - SP
Bob Ojeda (1988) - SP
Odalis Perez (2002) - SP
Troy Percival (1995) - RP
Rafael Betancourt (2007) - RP
Jake McGee (2012) - RP
Tom Gordon (2004) - RP
Marwin Gonzalez (2017) - OF
Pablo Sandoval (2009) - 3B
Bobby Jenks (2007) - RP
Jason Isringhausen (2002) - RP
Rheal Cormier (2003) - RP
Chris Iannetta (2008) - C

Doran’s analysis: Simply said, my strategy was to kick some arse and I didn't play it safe with any of my picks. Having never played a sim league like this one I was sailing in uncharted waters during the early part of the draft. I pounded hitters in each of the first nine rounds -- I didn't draft my first pitcher until all of my starting hitter slots were filled, including the DH. My logic was that while pitchers can only contribute in five of the 5x5 categories, hitters in this format can contribute in seven of the 10 categories. How is that? Because if my team wins a simulated game one of my pitchers is guaranteed to get a win and another might get a save. That means hitters can contribute in two of the pitching categories! If my hitters suck my pitchers won't get wins even if they hurl like Bob Gibson against the '62 Mets. If my hitters lead the league in runs then my pitchers can rack up wins and saves even if they don't pitch that well. A hitter can have that sort of impact on all 162 games no matter who is pitching.

Since I knew all the big-name aces would be gone by the 10th round when I finally drafted an arm, I focused on low-WHIP pitchers who can keep the ball in the yard, trying to limit the damage against the Hall of Fame batting orders my opponents will trot out against me. My starting rotation definitely won't win me this league, but I think I grabbed some sneaky talent and my bullpen should be top notch. If nothing else my games will entertain the fans with fireworks -- my squad won't see many low-scoring pitchers' duels on either side of the diamond.

Team 4: Mike Gianella (@MikeGianella)

George Brett (1980) - 3B
Zack Greinke (2015) - SP
Kevin Mitchell (1989) - OF
Nolan Ryan (1981) - SP
Bobby Grich (1981) - 2B
Jack Clark (1987) - 1B
Aaron Nola (2018) - SP
Darryl Strawberry (1987) - OF
Manny Machado (2018) - SS
Andrew McCutchen (2012) - OF
Chris Carpenter (2009) - SP
Todd Hundley (1997) - C
Billy Wagner (1999) - RP
Lonnie Smith (1989) - OF
Rollie Fingers (1981) - RP
Frank Viola (2005) - OF
Cesar Cedeno (1980) - OF
Gleyber Torres (2019) - 2B/SS
Kevin Youkilis (2009) - 3B
Tyler Clippard (2011) - RP
Heath Bell (2007) - RP
Darryl Kile (1997) - SP
Danny Tartabull (1991) - OF
Matt Nokes (1987) - C
Doug Corbett (1980) - RP

Gianella’s analysis: I didn't have much of a strategy, but I prioritized offense over defense, especially at first base and in the outfield. I didn't dump speed, but I focused more on overall offensive contributions and building a strong lineup than I did on steals. I also made sure to grab plenty of multi-positional players in case I needed roster flexibility. On the pitching side, I wanted to grab enough volume in innings - both for starters and relievers - so I wouldn't run out. I tried to get a few players from 1981 so I could (hopefully) benefit from their pro-rated stats. My last pick - 1980 Doug Corbett - was an attempt to soak up as much volume as possible in innings.

Team 5: Rudy Gamble (@rudygamble)

Pedro Martinez (2000) - SP
Mike Scott (1986) - SP
Jose Bautista (2011) - 3B
Ryne Sandberg (1985) - 2B
Paul Goldschmidt (2015) - 1B
Paul O’Neill (1994) - OF
Fernando Valenzuela (1981) - SP
Brady Anderson (1996) - OF
Troy Tulowitzki (2010) - SS
Bernie Williams (1998) - OF
Carlos Beltran (2003) - OF
Mariano Rivera (1996) - RP
Bill Gullickson (1981) - SP
Keith Foulke (1999) - RP
Duane Ward (1991) - RP
Jason Bay (2005) - OF
Dennis Martinez (1992) - SP
Jean Segura (2016) - 2B/SS
Mike Stanley (1994) - C
Mickey Tettleton (1991) - C
Ron Davis (1981) - RP
Kevin Seitzer (1987) - 1B/3B
Pat Listach (1992) - SS
Jose DeLeon (1989) - SP
Gabe White (2000) - RP

Gamble’s analysis: My strategy from the start was to build a top 3 pitching staff with a high OBP balanced power/speed offense that was strong on defense. I invested heavily in SP1-SP3 (a 1st on Pedro 2000, 2nd on Mike Scott 1986, 7th on Fernando 1981) and 3 of the more dominant 100+ IP RPs (12th, 14th and 15th round picks). Around those pitcher picks, I stockpiled seven .290+/.390+/.520+ bats along with strong up the middle bats/defense in Ryne Sandberg (57 SBs in 1985), Troy Tulowitzki and a cheap catcher tandem (Mike Stanley/Mickey Tettleton). While several teams went with 12-13 pitchers to beef up on strong ratio RPs, the high IP in my top SPs + RPs let me go 14 bats/11 pitchers so I could platoon out LHB OFs and build up solid depth for aggressive pinch-hitting and pinch-running. I feel good about the draft strategy and execution - looking forward to seeing how it plays out!