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It's an age-old question when it comes to the latter stages of a dynasty league draft: Does the age of the players you're drafting make a difference?
Because this is a format where once you draft a player, you can retain his services for the rest of his career if you so desire, it does make it more enticing to take a chance on those young minor league "can't-miss prospects" as opposed to selecting a veteran who is pushing 40 and may well call it quits at the end of the season. However, if that player pulls a Carlton Fisk and wins the Silver Slugger Award, then it's more than worth it.
The ESPN Fantasy staff is in the middle of our inaugural dynasty league draft, where 10 owners are tasked with selecting an initial set of 40-man rosters, using a snake draft to choose whatever player we want when our turn comes up.
Our first 10 rounds appeared on Jan. 14 and Rounds 11-20 went live on Jan. 22. We'll finish off the proceeding with the final 10 rounds next Monday. For today, though, we're at the point in the draft where philosophical lines are clearly being drawn. Does age matter?
To Brendan Roberts, it clearly does: "I don't get why anybody would take a college pitcher or some guy a long ways from the majors when they could still take productive major leaguers, guys who already HAVE produced, who still have many good years [ahead] of them. Just don't get it."
I agree with Roberts' sentiment that just because it is a true keeper league, you shouldn't forget about being competitive today and for the very near future by eschewing players who can help you today in lieu of what I call "the shiny new toys" with no track record and who may well never reach the majors at all. But to me, it's a numbers game.
I'm used to playing in ESPN standard leagues with a very short bench, maybe three to five players deep. So when drafting a 40-man roster, I look at the process as giving me 10 or so "free picks" to do with what I want and take deep risks. After all, when the draft is done, we'll have selected 400 players.
With 30 teams and 25-man rosters in the major leagues, that means the free-agent pool is still going to have, at a minimum, 350 players available. So, for me, that's all the more freedom to take a few roster spots and dedicate them exclusively to the far-off future.
What do you think? Take a look at how our participants -- Nate Ravitz, Tristan H. Cockcroft, David Schoenfield, Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, me, Pierre Becquey, Brendan Roberts, Keith Lipscomb and James Quintong, listed in our selected-at-random first-round draft order -- decided to answer that age-old question of age in Rounds 21-30, listed below:
Picks 1-20: OF Mike Trout, 3B David Wright, SP Justin Verlander, 2B Jurickson Profar, 1B Eric Hosmer, C/1B Carlos Santana, SS Ian Desmond, SP Yu Darvish, 3B Mike Moustakas, OF Oscar Taveras, OF Alex Rios, 2B Rickie Weeks, SP Jon Lester, OF Carlos Beltran, RP Jason Motte, 3B/1B Todd Frazier, SP Doug Fister, OF Nelson Cruz, OF/1B Nick Swisher, SP Dan Haren.
Ravitz found himself able to pick up a pair of veterans who had fallen to the latter half of the draft in the form of Tim Hudson and Ryan Howard, who started the season with an Achilles injury and ended it with a fractured toe.
In Howard, Ravitz got a slugger who may well turn out to be the new Carlos Pena, a hitter who could hit 35 home runs, but with the albatross of a batting average that might not rise above .240 in the process. However, Ravitz is quick to point out that we may be selling Howard short. "I don't have a ton of confidence in my [or anyone's] ability to predict what will happen with Howard, so the chance that I'm wrong ,and his batting average range is more like .250-.280, makes him well worth the investment this deep into the draft.
As for youth, Ravitz is thrilled to have a guy like Devin Mesoraco. Players who were highly touted rookies but failed to live up to the hype are almost always there for the taking at bargain-basement prices the following year. "If he'd spent the year in the minors, he'd probably still be considered a top-15 guy in terms of prospects. As recently as 12 months ago, he was ranked eighth in Keith Law's top 100 prospects."
Picks 1-20: OF Ryan Braun, SS Starlin Castro, SP Felix Hernandez, 2B Ian Kinsler, C Matt Wieters, 1B Billy Butler, 1B Anthony Rizzo, OF Wil Myers, RP Matt Moore, 1B Ike Davis, SP Brandon Morrow, OF Shin-Soo Choo, SP Brett Anderson, 3B Pedro Alvarez, OF Dexter Fowler, 1B Mike Olt, SP Anibal Sanchez, RP Rafael Soriano, OF Nick Markakis, SS Jed Lowrie.
David Ortiz might well be the only full-time DH with his kind of upside. In an ESPN standard league, he'd probably have gone five to 10 rounds sooner, with the fact that he's only able to fill that UT spot in most formats being the thing that prevents him from rising any higher in the rankings. But once you get to this stage of the draft, Cockcroft was unable to pass on the value, even though "I already had one of my extra first basemen slotted in to that extra hitter spot." Depth is important in a league like this, especially if you're going to use some of your expanded roster to recruit lottery tickets for the future.
Cockcroft also selected a bunch of youth in the form of Zack Wheeler and Nick Castellanos, but he was more excited about Andrelton Simmons who will be turning double plays with Jurickson Profar in the World Baseball Classic for Team Netherlands. Not only will the young shortstop be a candidate to lead off in Atlanta, but, more importantly, he could well fill a lineup spot at a relatively weak position for the next five to 10 years.
Picks 1-20: OF Bryce Harper, OF Jason Heyward, SP Clayton Kershaw, 3B Manny Machado, SP Madison Bumgarner, OF Austin Jackson, SP Chris Sale, 3B Will Middlebrooks, C Salvador Perez, SP Max Scherzer, 2B Aaron Hill, SP R.A. Dickey, SS Alcides Escobar, OF Andre Ethier, 1B Adam LaRoche, RP Tom Wilhelmsen, RP Jonathan Papelbon, SP Homer Bailey, C Travis d'Arnaud, OF Angel Pagan.
It doesn't get much older than Derek Jeter, who was a 19-year-old prospect in Class A around the time Jurickson Profar was born way back in 1993. Still, we've counted the old man out before and it would shock nobody if he hit .300 with 10 home runs this season. That's nothing to sneeze at in Round 22 of a draft.
As for youth, Schoenfield could easily be able to replace Jeter at middle infield in the next year or two with Kolten Wong, who might well be able to find his way up to the big league club later this season if his hot bat continues to develop.
Drew Smyly is a name that is causing Schoenfield to smile a bit more, though. "There's a reason the Tigers are rumored to be shopping around Rick Porcello: Drew Smyly is the better pitcher." With a vast repertoire of pitches and an impressive K/BB rate (2.85) that is only likely to improve, Smyly "will turn into more than just a No. 4 or 5 guy in the rotation."
Picks 1-20: 3B Miguel Cabrera, 3B Evan Longoria, SP Stephen Strasburg, SS Elvis Andrus, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Curtis Granderson, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 1B/OF Mark Trumbo, C Jesus Montero, SP James Shields, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Hunter Pence, SP Brandon Beachy, OF Carl Crawford, 2B Dan Uggla, SP C.J. Wilson, C/1B Mike Napoli, RP Addison Reed, OF Delino DeShields Jr., SP Jeff Samardzija.
Berry was touting Shaun Marcum as a sleeper on Twitter when news of his deal with the New York Mets broke. One may wonder what he sees in a guy who has never won more than 13 games in any season. For one thing, we're talking Round 27. Finding 13 wins at this point is bordering on needle-in-the-haystack territory to begin with.
But consider this stat Berry throws out: Marcum is a career 3.10 ERA pitcher versus the NL East, his lowest ERA against any division, and for his career, he has a 3.48 ERA facing the National League. Berry adds, "At this point of the draft, everyone is a prospect. I'd rather take my chances with someone who has shown past major league success and might regain it than someone who never fulfills his potential in the first place."
As for youth, Nolan Arenado is still just 21, and if you're going to swing for the fences, why not go with a player who will be taking his own deep cuts at Coors Field? There are players in far worse situations out there, and keep in mind Arenado had only seven fewer hits in Double-A last season than he did in Class A in 2011 with only one fewer at-bat. There was no huge decline here.
Picks 1-20: OF Andrew McCutchen, 1B Albert Pujols, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 3B Adrian Beltre, 3B Brett Lawrie, 2B Brandon Phillips, OF Michael Bourn, SP Zack Greinke, 1B/OF Allen Craig, OF Alex Gordon, SP Jarrod Parker, 1B Mark Teixeira, SS J.J. Hardy, SP Trevor Bauer, C Jonathan Lucroy, SP Jonathon Niese, C Alex Avila, OF/DH Josh Willingham, SS Dee Gordon, SS Jean Segura.
Karabell's roster-building strategy probably most closely resembles that of a real-life general manager. After filling his hitting slots early, he decided to now focus exclusively on his pitching staff: notice all those "P's" in his grid above. Before he kicked off the process of staffing his rotation and bullpen, though, he drafted his "catcher of the future" in Mike Zunino.
"Catchers are generally poor fantasy investments in dynasty leagues, but Zunino brings power and plate discipline," Karabell explains. And while there are no added points in fantasy for being able to grow with a staff and to develop a rapport with them, the fact that Zunino's defense is indeed solid should only accelerate his path to the majors.
Karabell waited longer than most to grab relievers, and snickered with giddy glee as he took his guys late, refusing to waste mid-round picks on one-category closers who might lose their jobs in April. Sure, Bruce Rondon could just as easily be "renting a one-bedroom apartment in Toledo" as he is closing things out for the Detroit Tigers in a few months, but at No. 276 in the draft, the risk/reward equation is far more palatable.
Picks 1-20: OF Giancarlo Stanton, 1B Prince Fielder, OF Jay Bruce, 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Jose Altuve, SP Gio Gonzalez, C Wilin Rosario, SP Johnny Cueto, RP Craig Kimbrel, 3B Kyle Seager, 2B/SS Danny Espinosa, OF Ben Revere, SP Tommy Milone, OF/3B Martin Prado, SP Wade Miley, SP Tim Lincecum, C Brian McCann, OF Michael Brantley, RP Kyuji Fujikawa, 2B Chase Utley.
To me, in a dynasty draft with this big a roster, it's worth it to buy multiple lottery tickets, increasing the chances that in three years, at least one will end up paying huge dividends. That's why I went with Taijuan Walker, Gerrit Cole and Mark Appel.
Appel is clearly the riskiest of the three, as he's still plying his trade in the NCAA. However, we're talking about a guy who was drafted No. 8 overall last year and chose to return to school for his senior season. Anything can happen between now and the next MLB draft, but let's assume he once again gets selected in the first 10 picks. To me, that's a sign of confidence that could lead to a Stephen Strasburg-style swift ushering to the big leagues. I'll take that chance.
I'm also happy to grab some role players who would probably have been selected a good 10 rounds sooner without all these prospects mucking up the works and altering draft lists left and right. No, I don't expect Daniel Murphy, Coco Crisp or Trevor Plouffe to win an MVP this season. But again, at this point of the draft, we're looking for positional depth and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. I'm just trying to collect the tallest bottles left in the fridge, and I think I'm succeeding.
Picks 1-20: OF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Troy Tulowitzki, OF Jose Bautista, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, SP Matt Cain, SS Billy Hamilton, SP Kris Medlen, RP Aroldis Chapman, SP Matt Harvey, 2B Neil Walker, C Miguel Montero, SS Xander Bogaerts, RP Dylan Bundy, OF Brett Gardner, RP Drew Storen, 3B David Freese, SP Shelby Miller, SP Lance Lynn, 3B Miguel Sano.
Becquey was one of the most active owners in the previous set of picks in terms of the search for tomorrow, and while some may say his roster was looking a bit too young and restless, he was able to find some veterans in this set of picks who clearly have more than one life to live.
Case in point, Joe Nathan, who now has 51 saves in 114 games over the past two seasons, post-Tommy John surgery at the age of 35. Becquey wonders what's not to like in Nathan: "He was back to his dominant self, throwing as hard as before the surgery, and he has an option for 2014. As long as he's closing for someone, he can be on my team."
It's no surprise that our resident Canadian selected Jameson Taillon, whose parents both hail from our neighbor to the north. However, it's not a throwaway pick, either; he could easily get a shot to debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates at some point in 2013. As for Bubba Starling? "In a year or two we might be talking about him as the next big thing," Becquey says optimistically. Or he could be less valuable then than Jason Bay is now, eh?
Picks 1-20: C Buster Posey, OF Josh Hamilton, SS Jose Reyes, OF Adam Jones, 3B Chase Headley, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Jered Weaver, C Joe Mauer, SP Mat Latos, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Ian Kennedy, OF Josh Reddick, SP Roy Halladay, 2B Howard Kendrick, DH/OF/1B Chris Davis, OF Carlos Gomez, SP Jake Peavy, OF Shane Victorino, SS Everth Cabrera, RP Joel Hanrahan.
You won't see any names on this list that require a deep Google search. Roberts' disdain for the youth movement was duly noted earlier in this article. Agree or not, you have to admire how well he's sticking to his stated pre-draft strategy of looking for productive players in, or just about to enter, their prime.
With a gaggle of players all in the 25-29 pocket -- Chris Perez, Ryan Cook, Zack Cozart and yes, Kendrys Morales, too -- you can see the type of team that following the Roberts Plan can create, especially with no other owners going down that same road.
If you like what you see here, and I have a feeling that there are many out there who do, then perhaps you should pack up your bags and head down said road yourself, talking up those young prospects to your fellow owners as you go in the hope that they bite, leaving those "young veterans" out there at the bottom of the lake for your own late-round fishing.
Picks 1-20: OF Matt Kemp, OF Justin Upton, SP David Price, SS/3B Hanley Ramirez, 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Desmond Jennings, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, SP Adam Wainwright, SP Cliff Lee, 1B/OF Corey Hart, C Yadier Molina, 3B Aramis Ramirez, C Yasmani Grandal, SP Mike Minor, OF Michael Morse, OF Starling Marte, 2B Jedd Gyorko, RP Greg Holland, 1B Brandon Belt.
Josh Beckett finished out the season with a 2.93 ERA in Los Angeles over his last seven starts. Sure that doesn't completely erase the bad taste from his first 21 starts in Boston -- or that 5.23 ERA -- but certainly it's reason to be optimistic that Beckett is not that far from returning to form. After all, this is a guy who received Cy Young votes in 2011.
Lipscomb is looking at Christian Yelich to be on the fantasy radar very quickly. "I like prospects who wake up ready to hit. Even if Yelich never blows up in either power or speed, I'll gladly take a player who becomes a regular .300-15-20 contributor."
With that stat line as Lipscomb's benchmark, it's no wonder he also selected Josh Rutledge. After all, if he can keep the strikeouts down, that's exactly the kind of line you might be getting from Rutledge, who should be able to slide comfortably into the second base job after filling in admirably for Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2012.
Picks 1-20: 1B Joey Votto, 2B Robinson Cano, SP Cole Hamels, OF B.J. Upton, 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Yoenis Cespedes, OF Matt Holliday, SP CC Sabathia, SS Jimmy Rollins, SP Jordan Zimmermann, DH/C Victor Martinez, 2B Dustin Ackley, 1B/DH Paul Konerko, SP Josh Johnson, OF Cameron Maybin, SP Jeremy Hellickson, RP Mariano Rivera, OF Colby Rasmus, 1B Jonathan Singleton, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall.
Austin Romine? Chris Stewart? If they're lucky they may end up getting 50 RBIs combined as the New York Yankees' backstop this season. So why shouldn't Quintong take a shot with that "catcher on the horizon" in the form of Gary Sanchez? "He may not come up for another couple of seasons, but he has flashed decent power in the minors, and with the situation at catcher in the Bronx still very unsettled, who knows what a good spring could set in motion?"
Quintong also started in on his closer collection, grabbing any and all remaining pitchers with a chance at starting the season with a job, though with varying degrees of confidence and security. Jim Johnson, Jonathan Broxton and Carlos Marmol may not all finish the season with saves coming in bunches, but at least the multiple bodies give Quintong a better chance at having at least a few saves trickling in all year long.
So there you have it. Thirty rounds on the books and 10 rounds still to go. How does it end? Fear not! In just one short week, the puzzle finally falls into place. Until then, feel free to let us know which owner you think is doing the best job thus far, and which players you feel still need to be on a roster when all is said and done.