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About a month ago, the ESPN Fantasy staff embarked on a journey of epic proportions. We decided to kick-start our very first dynasty league, with each of 10 owners attempting to build a 40-man roster from scratch.
Using ESPN standard rotisserie rules, we held a snake draft in order to stock our initial teams, with the key element of consideration being that once a player was drafted by an owner, he could keep said player for the duration of his career. So, whereas in a league without any keepers, you'd obviously find Ryan Howard to be far more valuable than some stud prospect who has yet to even prove himself at the Double-A level, and thus draft accordingly, that might not be the decision you make if you have an eye toward 2016 as well as 2013.
At long last, the draft is over and each team's starting roster is complete, so it's time for each owner to step back and take a look at what he's accomplished. Moves will be extremely limited, with only 13 waiver-wire transactions allowed during the season, so for the most part, this is the set list owners will be adhering to, with very little room for improvisation. However, there are no restrictions on trades and a restocking draft will be held each offseason, so there's room to grow, but not in the usual ways.
Our participants, listed in the randomly chosen draft order were: Nate Ravitz, Tristan H. Cockcroft, David Schoenfield, Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, me, Pierre Becquey, Brendan Roberts, Keith Lipscomb and James Quintong. So, on a scale of Houston Astros to Washington Nationals, how confident does each owner feel about his odds of winning the inaugural dynasty league crown? Let's find out.
Note: Each owner's depth chart reflects what he believed is his projected starting lineup, plus backups (highlighted in gray) and prospects (highlighted in orange) who aren't expected to start the season and/or still have rookie eligibility. Each owner filled out his own depth chart, so he's the one determining the distinction between backup and prospect.
Overall, Ravitz seems to be proudest of his ability to stockpile five of the top 20 prospects in the game today. With Jurickson Profar and Oscar Taveras leading the way, Ravitz not only has built a stable of players that should be able to provide a solid foundation for success in a few seasons' time, but also could be used as bargaining chips to help Ravitz make a key late-season deal should his team be in contention come September.
Speed is one area where Ravitz is going to have to rely heavily on his No. 1 overall pick Mike Trout in order to be competitive. If anything happens to him, or if he doesn't live up to the hype, Ravitz will indeed have to resort to thievery in order to avoid struggling in that key offensive category.
Assessment for 2013: Ravitz says he's the Tampa Bay Rays, likely to be in the "playoffs" with as good a shot as any other team of winning it all.
Cockcroft built his team with an eye on everything coming together a little bit down the road, though should players who already have proven to be solid major leaguers -- like Starlin Castro and Ike Davis -- take that next big step in terms of production, a 2013 crown is not out of the question here. This team could well finish first, or last, in home runs. It all depends if Cockcroft's starting lineup has reached a power plateau or if they can collectively crank it up a notch.
There also doesn't seem to be a real ace on the staff, so if this team is going to be competitive in the pitching categories, Cockcroft likely will have to juggle his resources and make a lot of "right calls" from week to week.
Assessment for 2013: Cockcroft feels his team is good, fairly young, built for both now and the future but not a clear leader in either regard. In other words, it could go either way in 2013. I'm going to call this the Cleveland Indians.
Schoenfield is certainly building from the bottom up, with eight of the players from Keith Law's list of the top 25 players under the age of 25. It's hard to look at an outfield of Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward and Austin Jackson and feel too pessimistic at the position. Plus, a rotation featuring five of the top 20 strikeout guys from last season -- Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and R.A. Dickey -- is going to keep this squad in contention.
However, there's a downside to stockpiling for tomorrow. It's a lack of depth, should injuries and slumps strike today. If all you have to jump in and help the cause is Mitch Moreland, for example, then you might not be able to right the ship when your team strays off course.
Assessment for 2013: Schoenfield is this league's Milwaukee Brewers. They're a middle-of-the-pack roster but one with surprising upside potential.
Berry's side has a ton of question marks taken early. Can Carl Crawford return to the form that made him a first-round pick? Is Evan Longoria able to put his injury history behind him once and for all? Will Melky Cabrera be able to contribute at the same level he did prior to his suspension? Can Brandon Beachy make it all the way back from Tommy John surgery?
Certainly there are some players who inspire a lot of confidence. He could have an MVP and a Cy Young Award winner in Miguel Cabrera and Stephen Strasburg anchoring this side. That's nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but an awful lot has to fall into place in order for this team to avoid a disastrous campaign.
Assessment for 2013: Pure Philadelphia Phillies. There's a lot of proven talent here, but perhaps too much of it is past its prime. This being baseball, though, you never know when a team catches that lightning in a bottle and everything falls into place.
Karabell had no interest in turning his fantasy roster into a day care center, and instead of targeting the team of tomorrow, he opted to load up on as many tried and true veterans that he was able. With selections of Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, Brandon Phillips and Mark Teixeira, Karabell could find himself with a bevy of over-30 All-Stars, making this a "win now" team of epic proportions.
Pitching, however, is going to be a concern. Karabell has 10 or so starting pitchers for six active spots, and, if this were a real team, nobody would be shivering in fear at the prospect of facing Matt Garza, Clay Buchholz and Michael Pineda is a three-game series. Zack Greinke is going to have to be huge for Karabell to be competitive in the pitching categories.
Assessment for 2013: An aging team built to win today with no regard for keeping a well-stocked farm system in place? Sorry, Eric. You're the New York Yankees.
I'm not quite sure what kind of team I have here. Certainly with guys like Ben Revere and Coco Crisp, there's no shortage of speed. With Prince Fielder and Giancarlo Stanton, there's going to be some pop in the lineup as well. I guess the best word I can come up with is "balanced."
As for pitching, I love the bullpen I've collected. With Craig Kimbrel, Kyuji Fujikawa, Joakim Soria and Bobby Parnell, I may not start the season with four closers in place, but the entire quartet might be earning saves at some point of the year. If Tim Lincecum ends up winning 15 games this year -- and yes, it's an "if" -- my rotation might well be one of the league's strongest.
Assessment for 2013: Say hello to the St. Louis Cardinals. There's a good team here, and probably will remain in contention for the length of the season without ever truly excelling in any one particular statistical area.
Becquey's strategy seemed to be along the same line as the one Ravitz incorporated. He went heavy in the direction of blue chip prospects, with many of them -- Shelby Miller, Dylan Bundy -- very close to becoming permanent parts of the big league roster. Certainly, he's lined up enough of these "lottery tickets" that he can afford to send some away as parts of late-season trades in order to fill in some gaps should he end up remaining close to the top of the standings as the summer months come to an end.
Injuries would be a problem for Becquey's team in 2013. He certainly has one of the better starting lineups in our league, but with a depleted waiver wire (owing to the 40-man rosters) and limited pickups allowed under the rules we've put in place, trading may become a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Assessment for 2013: If Ravitz was the Tampa Bay Rays, Becquey is as well. His talent could win it all and there's plenty in the pipeline to get it done if he sees the opportunity to strike.
Roberts is loaded with players who are in that sweet spot, ranging in age from around 26 to 30. As such, for better or for worse, this roster shouldn't need a ton of tinkering for the next few seasons. The majority of players starting today for Roberts should be able to maintain a long shelf life.
The problem with this strategy is that should injuries befall this team, Roberts lacks the trade bait that some other teams have in order to pull off a deal. Guys like Chris Nelson and Johnny Giavotella aren't going to be able to be parlayed into Robinson Cano the same way that Trevor Bauer and Travis d'Arnaud might. The buzz just isn't there.
Assessment for 2013: Roberts thinks his team is loaded, but needs to win today. I'd agree with both halves of that assessment, so I'd say we're looking at the Los Angeles Angels of our dynasty league.
Talk about under the radar. Lipscomb, sitting in the No. 9 slot of this draft, went about drafting a team that appears to have a ton of roster balance. It is neither too young nor too old. He's got some lineup flexibility due to the multipositional eligibility of players such as Hanley Ramirez and Ben Zobrist, which freed him up to take chances on Justin Morneau and Corey Hart where other owners could not.
Lipscomb did wait a long time on pitching, so his ace, Adam Wainwright, may have to do a lot of heavy lifting. In fact, when the season gets into full swing, if Lipscomb shuns the waiver wire, he might be forced to go with a 6-3 split at the position in favor of relievers. Wins and strikeouts might be his undoing.
Assessment for 2013: A ton of bats, but question marks on the mound? Built to win today, but perhaps as a result of a lot of 8-6 scores? Welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to the fold.
Quintong started his draft with a very strong team batting average, as his squad is anchored by Joey Votto, Cano, Pablo Sandoval and Victor Martinez. By being so front-loaded at the stat, it allowed him to take chances on some other potential albatrosses in the form of Chris Young, B.J. Upton and Cameron Maybin. That's a tactic to take note of in any format.
Still, I look at some of the names on this roster and I simply think "old." In addition to V-Mart, we've got Matt Holliday, Jimmy Rollins, Paul Konerko and Mariano Rivera. Combine that with the fact that the prospects Quintong did select are still pretty far away from making any impact -- Rymer Liriano, Noah Syndergaard -- and you've got a team that best win now, lest it never win at all.
Assessment for 2013: All or nothing, and mostly over 30? Quintong has built himself quite the facsimile of the Chicago White Sox.
So, what do you think? Which team's depth chart looks like it have what it takes to win both this season and for years to come? It won't be too much longer before the players take to the field and we can start to find out which owners will emerge victorious, and which ones will have to go back to the drawing board. Until then, we look excitedly to the future.