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Stathead Sagas: Schlock Draft

Jack Moore

Jack Moore is a freelance sports writer based in Minneapolis who appears regularly at VICE Sports, The Guardian and Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee, among others. Follow him on Twitter @jh_moore.

One of the most amazing statistics of the fantasy season, at least to me, isn't one that counts in the rotisserie or head-to-head box scores. It's a statistic they keep on Yahoo called simply "MVPs." The MVPs Yahoo lists aren't necessarily the best players in Fantasy Baseball; instead, they're the players who appear most often on the top 500 Yahoo Public fantasy teams - all one-year redrafts, 12-team mixers. Standard stuff, really.

You already know who tops the list - it's Mike Trout. Nobody was drafting him because we knew it was going to take some luck with injuries and hoping Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto were prepared to bring him up. Now he's the #1 fantasy player according to both Yahoo's rank and our inseason dollar values, just edging out Ryan Braun $48 to $45.

Of course, Braun isn't on that list of MVPs, mostly because you had to pay something close to $45 (or a draft pick worth the equivalent of $45 in auction money) But Mike Trout? He's on an absurd 66% of the top 500 Yahoo teams in the rotisserie format and 58% in the head-to-head format. Since his owners basically made a $0 or $1 equivalent investment to bring him in, the surplus value he provides is unmatched.

But can Mike Trout save any team? How many Mike Trouts (or R.A. Dickeys, or Fernando Rodneys, or the other such monster waiver pickups) would it take to save the worst team you could draft?

Here's the kind of team we're looking for - struggling stars, but not just taking the easy way out with injuries. We want players that at least stayed on the field for most of the season, and a team that legitimately could have been drafted in a 12-team mixed snake draft. Here's the team I came up with:

Round: POS Player (Dollar Value) [ADP]
1: 1B Albert Pujols ($29) [3]
2: OF Justin Upton ($14) [10]
3: SP Tim Lincecum ($0) [24]
4: CA Brian McCann ($1) [50]
5: 2B Dan Uggla ($2) [55]
6: 3B Michael Young ($3) [70]
7: SP C.J. Wilson ($10) [80]
8: RP John Axford ($5) [87]
9: OF Ichiro Suzuki ($8) [101]
10: OF Cameron Maybin ($5) [106]
11: SS J.J. Hardy ($5) [130]
12: SP Ervin Santana ($-5) [146]
13: SP Ubaldo Jimenez ($-5) [154]
14: CA Jesus Montero ($2) [159]
15: RP Brandon League ($-7) [180]
16: UT Carlos Lee ($4) [186]
17: SP Clay Buchholz ($1) [206]
18: UT Lucas Duda ($-3) [227]
19: BN Carlos Pena ($-6) [232]
20: RP Grant Balfour ($0) [246]
21: BN J.D. Martinez ($-5) [268]
22: RP Frank Francisco ($-6) [294]
23: SP Daniel Bard ($-13) [320]

No big injury types here. No Jose Bautista, no Troy Tulowitzki. Not even a Brett Gardner. Everybody here is on pace to get to at least 500 at-bats (unless, like JD Martinez, they were sent down to the minors), the pitchers around 150 innings or more. Daniel Bard is just a fun pick at the end of the draft - he'll be gone for Trout soon.

This team produces a whopping $39 in value. The final 21 picks combine to be worth a sharp $-4. In a standard league, the average team (by definition) pulls in $260 worth of value. This? This is the kind of team that pulls in 18 roto points or a .200 winning percentage by the end of the year.

Can we make this team competitive with Trout? Just swapping him in for Bard adds a solid $61 to the total. Maybe we make a couple of other savvy pickups. Maybe picking up Justin Morneau ($13) for Carlos Pena, for another $19 improvement. Maybe a Wade Miley ($14) for Ubaldo Jimenez, another $19. How about Kyle Lohse ($15) for Ervin Santana, a $20 increase.

Adding it up, we have the initial $39 + $61 + $19 + $20 = $139. Nope. Still some work to do.

Let's grab a few more waiver pickups then. Fernando Rodney ($16) in for Brandon League ($-7). Alcides Escobar ($14) in for J.J. Hardy ($5). Aaron Hill ($23) for Dan Uggla ($2).

$139 + $23 + $9 + $21 = $192. Not even at average yet.

R.A. Dickey ($28) for Clay Buchholz ($-1). Rafael Soriano ($9) for Frank Francisco ($-6).

$192 + $29 + $15 = $236. Almost there!

Kris Medlen ($8) for Tim Lincecum ($0). Jason Kubel ($17) for J.D. Martinez (-$5).

$236 + $8 +22 = $266.

We did it!

All we had to do was grab the best player (Trout), the best pitcher (Dickey), two of the top closers (Rodney and Soriano), one of the top second basemen (Hill), one of the best available shortstops (Escobar), and four more surprisingly successful largely undrafted players.

No problem, right? Just go 10-for-10 with six homers on your waiver wire pickups, and you can be... just above average.

Trout saved more than his fair share of fantasy teams from a mid-tier finish this season. But it is possible - somebody, somewhere, probably drafted a team that not even Trout (nor Dickey, nor Rodney nor the rest) could fix.