Recently, our ESPN Fantasy staff dynasty league held its annual draft, and the writers and editors involved have provided their thoughts on how their teams look heading into 2016.
This is a 10-team league with 40-man rosters, featuring two catchers but otherwise ESPN standard settings. Teams can keep as many players as they'd like of their 40-man rosters, and any roster spots not kept turn into draft picks.
This year's participants are the returning crew of defending champion AJ Mass, runner-up David Schoenfield, followed by Eric Karabell, Todd Zola, Pierre Becquey, Tristan H. Cockcroft and Keith Lipscomb. Last year's three worst finishers had their teams handed over to new owners, as ESPN fantasy editors Leo Howell, Tim Kavanagh and Andrew Feldman round out the 10-team field.
Below you will find a recap of every team's picks during the draft, as well as their thoughts on the process of finalizing their protected players and moving through the process of filling out their rosters from start to finish.
The freeze: I'm pretty strong at the corner spots and in the outfield, so I was happy to shed a little dead weight with Giovany Urshela -- pretty much a glove man for now, and with Cleveland signing Juan Uribe in the offseason, a man with a ticket to Triple-A in his future. Wilin Rosario signed with a Korean team. Coco Crisp is a walking injury. If Yunel Escobar were still playing shortstop -- a position that I struggled to fill on a regular basis last season, using the waiver wire as a revolving door -- then maybe I would have kept him on, but not with only 3B eligibility as I already have Nolan Arenado and Kyle Seager. Robbie Ross Jr, was only on my roster to try to steal a few late-September saves last season, which he provided, "saving" me two crucial points in the standings as I held off Dave Schoenfield down the stretch to earn my second straight crown. Joakim Soria as a set-up man, rather than a closer, no longer has a ton of appeal. Wade Miley? He's at best my No. 7 starter if I keep him. Why not let him loose in order to see if the grass isn't greener out there in the draft room?
I should note that Leo Howell and I made a last-minute trade just before the freeze, where I sent Eric Hosmer and Jordy Mercer away in return for Steven Souza Jr and Marcus Semien. With Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu and the pair of third baseman I've already listed, I found myself with Hosmer on my bench for most of 2015. Trading him away for a little security at shortstop (Semien should play everyday) as well as a 20-20 guy in Souza seemed to make more sense in terms of my overall roster construction.
The draft: My goal heading in was to build up my bench depth in the outfield and to "replace" Hosmer with at least one, if not two first-base options -- as well as to grab a closer somewhere along the way. For the most part, I want young players with a chance to contribute in 2016. So I grabbed Bour first and added Tucker later on (who has been working out at first base a bit this spring). With five OF slots that you need to fill each week, it's always better to have guys like Santana and Jankowski at the ready in case the injury bug bites you hard -- or to simply throw in there, say, if Milwaukee is playing at Coors in the hopes that you'll catch that lightning-in-a-bottle week.
Saves is a category, so you need them, hence the Cishek pick. Though in hindsight, I wish I had waited a round and grabbed LeMahieu instead. I mean, when you have Jose Altuve, you don't exactly sweat second base, but still ... a minor blunder on my part. Bassitt has 10-win potential, and if I can pick and choose my spots with him, I might be able to utilize his strong home splits (2.28 in Oakland vs 5.12 on the road in 2015) to my ERA advantage.
Best pick: Domingo Santana, OF, MIL, Round 3.
Best pick made by another team: Socrates Brito, OF, ARI, Round 10 by Kavanagh.
Pick I wish I had back: Steve Cishek, RP, SEA, Round 2.
I can't believe I missed out on: DJ LeMahieu, 2B, COL, Round 3, who Feldman picked.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Jameson Taillon, SP, PIT, Round 5.
The freeze: Most of these were pretty easy cuts as I had positional depth to cover their areas. I could have kept Josh Harrison for his versatility but with Kris Bryant and Manny Machado at third base and Kolten Wong and Logan Forsythe available to cover second, I dropped Harrison back into the draft. It seems like it's time to give up on Nathan Eovaldi's enticing high-octane fastball, at least in a league like this. He still gives up too many hits and while he did pitch better in the second half he missed most of September with an injury. I considered keeping Justin Bour, who looks like a solid 25-homer bat, but doesn't help much across the board. With Lucas Duda at first and Forsythe eligible to slide over if needed, I decided I'd rather have the extra pick.
I did keep three young pitchers who may or may not contribute much in 2016: Aaron Nola, Eduardo Rodriguez and Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow was a no-brainer keeper as one of the top pitching prospects in the minors and I expect him to get a midseason call-up with the Pirates. I'm not that high on Nola's upside and he's not going to win many games for the Phillies, but with a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner (how did I only finish second last year?), I figured I could easily put Nola on the bench this year and see if he develops into something more than a No. 3.
The draft: I had A.J. Reed targeted as my top guy. I wanted some first-base depth behind Duda and my biggest weakness in 2015 was RBIs and Reed looks like a future middle-of-the-order bat. Alas, he went sixth overall and then Jose Berrios went eighth, right before my pick. I wanted a young guy no matter what so happily went with Braves shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson. Don't worry, Brad Miller, I still believe you in! Brandon Crawford is still my top shortstop but Swanson could be a long-term solution there.
Otherwise, since I'm obvious contenders with that pitching staff plus guys like Bryce Harper, Bryant, Machado and George Springer, I focused on immediate contributions for the most part, although I wanted to add a few prospects as well. You have to always keep that pipeline churning. Second-round pick Hyun Soo Kim is a bit of a wild card but his stats from Korea suggest he can be a solid on-base guy and it wouldn't surprise to see him end up hitting high in the Baltimore lineup and scoring a lot of runs in front of Machado and Chris Davis.
Best pick: Getting outfield prospect Manuel Margot, OF, SD in Round 6.
Best pick made by another team: Reed is going to be a masher at the Major League level, with power, walks and a good enough batting average. In this age where there aren't THAT many first basemen who put up huge numbers, he's going to be a valuable roto player.
Pick I wish I had back: Jayson Werth, OF, WAS, Round 5.
I can't believe I missed out on: I wanted to add a young outfielder but Karabell stole Max Kepler one pick before me in the second round. So I instead too Hyun Soo Kim, which... umm, isn't looking too good based on his spring training performance.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Anibal Sanchez, SP, DET, Round 4 was terrible in 2015 but could be a great pick if he bounces back.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Swanson and Margot.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Kim/Werth. Need veteran outfield depth for 2016.
The freeze: Several of the players I dumped had retired, and thus wouldn't be able to help me much, and basically I had decided to give up on the young options for various reasons. For example, I've seen enough of catcher Mike Zunino and his awful batting average, though I'm sure he'll get another chance to play. There were times last season I went with only one catcher, that's how bad Zunino was. Things also looked better a year ago for the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero but at this point it appears the Dodgers know what he is, and it's no longer gleaming with statistical upside. Anyway, when it comes to the draft I'll be focusing on prospects and wanted to create sufficient room to get it. I could regret tossing back Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr., as he showed he's capable of hitting though the streak didn't last long.
Of course, not all the players I did opt to keep are so laden with upside. Age isn't really a factor for me; I am trying to win this year as well. You couldn't get me to throw back Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia or even Mark Teixeira. Beltre is the only one of the group a clear starter for me today, but Pedroia and Teixeira still aid fantasy owners. I'm no big fan of Jean Segura statistically and it feels like several of my outfielders are far better known for defensive exploits than helping fantasy owners, as with Kevin Kiermaier, but not every hitter has to be a top-10 guy at his spot.
The draft: I was looking for prospects early on and wasn't too concerned about proximity to big league jobs. After all, how many openings on my active roster are there? There's a catcher and not much else. Jose Berrios is blessed with upside and could be on the Twins soon. I would have chosen Washington's Trea Turner, since my shortstop isn't a fantasy star or likely to improve much, but Berrios serves a distinct need. My second-rounder Max Kepler is a terrific, young hitter. And while it's probably going to be two years before middle infielders Alex Bregman and Nick Gordon debut, several of the other youngsters acquired are closer to helping. Andrew Knapp could play catcher for the Phillies in a month. Brett Phillips could be patrolling the Milwaukee outfield this summer. And I got a decent catcher, eventually, in Francisco Cervelli, though I see he's not much different than a few undrafted options.
Later in the draft I focused on pitchers who could end up active for me, as this team does have several injured hurlers already, and it's a rather large split in terms of skills. R.A. Dickey certainly doesn't throw hard, but the numbers are usable. Robbie Ray and Jason Hammel have had moments of statistical goodness in the majors, and bring modest upside. Colin Rea should make the San Diego rotation soon and I've got him stashed on myriad squads.
Best pick: Max Kepler, OF, MIN, Round 2. He's going to hit.
Best pick made by another team: Trea Turner, MI, WAS, Round 1. Not sure how I hadn't scooped him up last season! Should be Washington's shortstop right now.
Pick I wish I had back: Francisco Cervelli, C, PIT, Round 6. He's fine, but the next pick was Manuel Margot. Alex Reyes soon followed. Those guys are far more valuable in dynasty formats and I probably could have drafted Cervelli or stats of his ilk much later.
I can't believe I missed out on: Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL, Round 1. Worked out OK since I got Bregman and Gordon for short, but I thought Swanson would last a bit longer.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: R.A. Dickey, SP, TOR, Round 7. Can't imagine he'll help me in '17!
Pick that was most long-term focused: Alex Bregman, SS, HOU, Round 3.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Cervelli/Dickey.
The freeze: It's usually best to try to win or rebuild but not both. However, in a 10-team league, you can do both. On paper, my team should compete offensively with the pitching the deciding factor. I opted to keep players that could help this season even though they may not be the best future bets. Even with that said, I cannot understand why David Wright was kept. With Todd Frazier, Matt Carpenter and Mike Moustakas on the team, there was no reason whatsoever to retain Wright.
The draft: While I like Blake Swihart long-term, I am concerned about him this season so in the vein of wanting to compete in 2016, the first pick was Welington Castillo, someone I have as a top-ten receiver so he's a bonus to be available in the draft. After that, the idea was to find a couple of emerging arms which serve two masters - help for this season as well as possible keepers. The bulk of the picks were indeed young arms with promise, mixing in a couple of possibly dominant closers. Closers will emerge in-season but locking down a couple of high-K relievers is fine in a deep dynasty league. Hitting wasn't completely ignored with Kevin Pillar in the mix to hit lead off for the explosive Blue Jays and C.J. Cron, Albert Pujols' understudy both added for their short-term productions and long-term potential.
Best pick: Erasmo Ramirez, P, TB, Round 3.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Welington Castillo, C, ARI, Round 1.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Vincent Velasquez, P, PHI, Round 2.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Welington Castillo, C, ARI, Round 1.
The freeze: My team is loaded with players who are either competing for a spot in my starting lineup, or will in the near future. The five players I threw back (Francisco Cervelli, Lance Lynn, Bobby Parnell, Marco Gonzales and Matt Cain) did not fit that description anymore so I set them loose. It's a low number; I had by far the fewest picks in the draft, but I liked the idea of five rounds of digging for values and keeping the rest of my core intact. Kind of sad that Matt Cain has dropped this far from fantasy ace to waiver wire fodder, but consider the fact that he was not picked up in the draft as proof that he is more name than game.
The draft: A.J. Reed was an easy first pick for me as a top fantasy prospect with a short waiting time and playing a position where I was weakest (Ryan Zimmerman was my corner infielder coming in). I also knew that he'd make a great bargaining chip with some of the rebuilding squads, and in did in fact flip him and Xander Bogaerts - a luxury player behind Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Correa) for an immediate corner infield solution, Joey Votto, and Drew Storen, to pair with Roberto Osuna. In Orlando Arcia, I simply wanted to grab another young prospect/trading chip, and having that long-term depth at shortstop made it easy to part with Bogaerts. Wilson Ramos was a pick based on the fact that last season, when I got in trouble at catcher, I had to turn to Francisco Cervelli. Finally, Darren O'Day and Josh Harrison were nods to roster flexibility. Harrison plays everywhere, and O'Day is a good guy to have to plug in when you've got injuries or bad matchups at starting pitcher.
Best pick: A.J. Reed, 1B, HOU, Round 1.
Best pick made by another team: Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL, Round 1 by Schoenfield. I would have picked him if not for my need at corner and my depth at shortstop.
Pick I wish I had back: I really didn't have that many picks and I don't regret any of them. I do wish I didn't have to reach for a catcher in the third round but I think I got the right one.
I can't believe I missed out on: Carter Capps, RP, MIA, Round 1 ... my No. 1 target in the draft. Thankfully I didn't have the pick to get him, as he was out for the year two days later.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Wilson Ramos, C, WAS, Round 3.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Orlando Arcia, SS, MIL, Round 2.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Wilson Ramos, C, WAS< Round 3.
The freeze: With the exception of a good foundation of pitching, my team was aging... badly. I decided it was time to swiftly lower my squad's median age, with the best way of doing that being an aggressive approach to cuts, setting free any player I didn't expect would be instantly scooped up in a keeper league. For the most part these were no-brainers, but the choices on Kyle Gibson, Aaron Sanchez and Matt Moore were particularly tricky; they would up calculated gambles that they'd linger deep enough into the draft, with strong alternatives available even if they didn't.
Pedro Alvarez, incidentally, hadn't signed with the Orioles at cut-down time. He'd have likely been kept if he had. I almost immediately regretted cutting Moore, but was able to recapture him in the 10th round.
The draft: In retrospect, I certainly should've taken A.J. Reed or Dansby Swanson with my first pick, but even with a strong base of pitching, Luis Severino was too good to pass up. But that forced more of a prospect-heavy hitting draft, including Rafael Devers (Round 4), Clint Frazier (Round 6), and Greg Bird (Round 11). I'm probably not a contender this season as a result, barring a couple of good swaps of starting pitchers for hitters.
Best pick: Matt Moore, P, TB, Round 10.
Best pick made by another team: Patrick Corbin, SP, ARI, Round 3 by Schoenfield.
Pick I wish I had back: If it wasn't Severino, then maybe it was Jorge Soler, OF, CHC, Round 2, since Lewis Brinson might've been a wiser pick for my squad.
I can't believe I missed out on: Dansby Swanson, SS, ATL, Round 1, mainly because I didn't expect anyone would take a clear minor leaguer that early.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Pedro Alvarez, 1B, BAL, Round 7.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Rafael Devers, 3B, BOS, Round 4.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Alcides Escobar, SS, KC, Round 5. We have to play a MI, right? Um, OK. If you say so.
The freeze: I liked most of what I had, so these were generally easy choices, with Kyle Hendricks being the toughest call, because he was a favorite for the fifth-starter role on the north side of Chicago. That said, I figured I could get him back, if I really wanted to.
The draft: I felt my team was a little weak up the middle, so I took Trea Turner, in hopes he shakes free of Dusty Baker's usual ways and is given an opportunity to shine. I wound up with Joe Ross and re-drafted Hendricks to round out the depth on my staff. While I'm in OK shape at catcher for starters, I was happy to grab Tom Murphy, because it's a luxury to have catcher depth. We'll see how that plays out in Colorado. I was also happy to get Brett Lawrie in Round 5. I needed one more closer, but I don't chase saves in drafts, so I was happy to grab Will Smith, because that's who I expect to start the season in the role. And even if he doesn't, he'll be helpful in ERA, WHIP and Ks. My final pick was Jackie Bradley, and while I'm unsure if he'll be able to duplicate his impressive August over a large span of time, it was worth the gamble.
Best pick made by another team: Domingo Santana, OF, MIL, Round 3 to AJ Mass (not easy to find a young player with 20-homer ability this year at this juncture).
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Brett Lawrie, CHW, Round 5.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Alex Reyes, STL, Round 8.
The freeze: Carlos Ruiz and Kurt Suzuki are at best replacement level catchers, wanted to open the door for younger, better options, can just re-draft them if the pool gets that thin. Carl Crawford and Jimmy Rollins are past their primes and not valuable enough to hold onto to try and trade when there are prospects and good young players in the draft pool. Jon Singleton, Oswaldo Arcia and Rusney Castillo were tougher to get rid of, as they all hold some sort of prospect status, but they all have red flags that led me to ditch them. Singleton's bat hasn't caught up to the big leagues, Arcia doesn't seem to be in a great spot for playing time and has some defensive and platoon concerns, and Castillo is kinda old and has yet to develop into a well-rounded fantasy asset.
CC Sabathia might not even make the New York rotation, Brandon McCarthy is hurt and turning 33, Tyler Clippard showed signs of decline/fatigue and isn't guaranteed a shot at saves any time soon and Jonathon Niese is replacement level and has little upside.
I kept some questionable players (Didi Gregorius, Yasmany Tomas, Luke Gregerson) that others may not have just to make sure I have a competitive team, and because I (rightfully) didn't expect much to be in the draft. This team is building for the future, and I wanted players I could load into my lineup every day and not just a team full of prospects. I plan to make some trades after the draft to turn veterans like Joey Votto (already accomplished), Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes and Cole Hamels into younger, more promising players.
The draft: I targeted Lance McCullers as my top overall pick, and wanted to make sure I left the draft with both him and A.J. Reed... and then Reed went with the sixth pick. I "settled" for another promising young arm, Blake Snell, but felt disappointed I wasn't able to get my top bat.
From there, I spent a couple of rounds targeting younger guys with upside, some of whom have yet to see a pitch or an inning in the field in the big leagues. This is the right approach for a rebuilding team, and getting players like Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams and Tim Anderson sets me up with three shots at a top-100 player in a couple of seasons. I then shifted focus to guys who can help just a bit sooner, as Austin Barnes, Jonathan Schoop, Eugenio Suarez and Jonathan Villar are all still relatively young but have a clearer path to lots of playing time this season. And in the name of being as competitive as I can be this season, Jason Castro and Danny Valencia are plug-and-play veterans who I can use while my prospects fight their way to the big leagues.
Best pick: Lewis Brinson, OF, TEX, Round 3.
Best pick made by another team: Max Kepler, 1B, MIN, Round 2 (Karabell) (I would have said Carter Capps if healthy. He was someone I was considering with the 1.3.).
Pick I wish I had back: Lance McCullers, SP, HOU, Round 1 (Would have rather taken Reed first and hoped McCullers fell than the other way around.).
I can't believe I missed out on: A.J. Reed, 1B, HOU, Round 1.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Jason Castro, HOU, Round 8.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Tim Anderson, SS, CWS, Round 7.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Eugenio Suarez and Jonathan Villar, SS, CIN/MIL, Rounds 9 and 10.
The freeze: I changed the makeup of my team significantly with the freeze and draft process. As it was constructed at the tail end of last season, this team (with a different owner) had a lot of bench pitchers, and I figured I would switch some of those guys out, knowing that I could pick better pitchers both in the draft and once the season begins. I wound up re-drafting Francisco Liriano in the second non-keeper round.
The draft: With such a strong base (but aging, in spots), I went for a risk/reward play in the first non-keeper round, grabbing Korean import Byung Ho Park. I considered Trea Turner or A.J. Reed there, but figured they were a little behind in terms of contributing at the MLB level. From there, I focused on landing high-impact bats, including Reds OF Jesse Winker, Pirates 1B Josh Bell and Braves 3B Hector Olivera. As noted, I've got a strong base of hitters already, but wanted to secure some young guns to keep around for the longer haul.
Best pick: Well, that'll depend on what transpires this season, but I'm liking me some Byung Ho Park, 1B, MIN, Round 1 thus far.
Best pick made by another team: Greg Bird, 1B, NYY, Round 11 by Cockcroft. If you're willing to sacrifice the roster spot all season, this is a player to target with 2017 in mind (whether he's a Yankee or not).
Pick I wish I had back: We did a "slow draft" over a period of weeks, so when I drafted Aaron Altherr, OF, PHI, Round 8 he was a healthy outfielder. Now, not so much, but hey, he could have some value next season.
I can't believe I missed out on: The tossed back player I should've drafted in Round 2 was Jorge Soler, OF, CHC. He'll either force his way into the Cubs' lineup, or be traded.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Francisco Liriano, SP, PIT, Round 2.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Winker/Bell/Olivera, Rounds 3/4/5.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Jeremy Jeffress, RP, MIL, Round 9.
The freeze: As the new owner for this team, I have a pretty big challenge on my hands. The first thing I needed to do was to make a move to get rid of the three DH-only players that were on my roster. If I was unable to move any of them, I'd be sitting with a useless player on the roster. Despite the fact that he was the least-desirable DH-only player I wanted to let go, I moved Gattis right before the draft for Corey Dickerson to give me a little bit of depth in the outfield. I also had few legit starters on this team, plus zero closers. Let's face it: I'm rebuilding. Big time.
The draft: Things didn't get much better with the draft. Having the first overall pick, I needed to tackle some holes and with no relief pitching on this team (who owned this team before?!?!), I grabbed Carter Capps.
Yup. Good season, Carter.
From that point on, I wanted to get a lot of youth and picked up a number of Keith Law's top prospects on both the pitching and hitting side. I also grabbed D.J. LeMahieu and shored up a hole at MI that I have due to the Jose Reyes situation. I then tacked on four No. 4 or 5 starters that I'm favorable on, and Maeda which was a very speculative pick, but has tremendous upside.
Best pick: DJ LeMahieu, 2B, COL, Round 3. While it was a pick based on a need, LeMahieu brings good value to my team and allowed me to focus needs away from the speculative MI crop.
Best pick made by another team: Byung Ho Park, 1B, MIN, Round 1. The pick I should've made.
Pick I wish I had back: Carter Capps, RP, MIA, Round 1. Wonderful timing on that injury, one of the perils of a slow draft.
I can't believe I missed out on: Jose Berrios, SP, MIN, Round 1. I really thought he would make it to me in Round 2.
Pick that was most 2016-focused: Austin Jackson, OF, CWS, Round 9.
Pick that was most long-term focused: Aaron Blair, SP, ATL, Round 11.
Pick I had to make due to scarcity/need: Robinson Chirinos, C, TEX, Round 10.