Some of the teams in the league are so strong, that you almost feel like giving up even before the auction. Inaugural member, Brent S Gambill, has assembled a roster that is nothing less than spectacular. When you consider that his team is called the Acuna-Tatis-Vlad All-Stars and his best player last season was Aaron Judge, then it really makes you consider tearing it all down to rebuild.
However, just as in real baseball, the team with the best roster is not gifted the championship; they must fight for it. And 2022 wasn’t Brent’s year.
Our strategy for the Scott White Dynasty League is to split the season into three sections. In the first third of the season, we aim for a .500 winning record, playing the waiver wire aggressively as the free-agent pickups could be hitters, starters or closers on the roster all season.
The second third of the season determines whether or not we are a contender. The sheer volume of trade deadline deals can transform the roster of a fringe competitor… if the owner is bold enough.
The third part of the season is the final push to the playoffs. We still need to watch free agency, especially as the rebuilding teams will dump the high-salary players that they could not offload ahead of the trade deadline.
And then you have the playoffs. Despite the two-week scoring format reducing randomness, the team with the best regular season record tends to do worse than the team coming into the playoffs with the hottest form.
THE 2022 SEASON
Small rosters mean tough decisions, and I doubt there has been a year when I haven’t looked back with regret about a player we ditched.
David Robertson $2: Getting 20 saves from the waivers was like gold dust. And, although he isn’t the primary closer for the Mets in 2023, we will probably keep him at $3 (contract plus first-year inflation)
With the lack of starting pitchers available, and the inevitability that we would need more than the few on our roster, we churned through Mitch White, Tyler Beede, Josh Fleming, Miguel Yajure, and Caleb Smith all in the hope that one would get a chance to start and then stick in the rotation. We also added Griffin Canning to stash on the IL as trade bait or a 2023 starter.
Keegan Thompson $1: The one that did stick was all David’s work. David suggested that we pick up Thompson five weeks before he made his debut as a starter in the Cubs rotation. It was an inspired move as Thompson made 17 starts and scored points more than far more illustrious names like Michael Kopech, Frankie Montas, and Nathan Eovaldi.
I would presume if any of that trio are available in the 2023 auction, they will cost between $35-$50.
Although it was frustrating that Chicago booted Thompson from the rotation in September, the silver lining was that he gained RP-eligibility. SPARP status is invaluable. All we need is for the Cubs to find room in their rotation.
Seiya Suzuki $117: As Suzuki had not signed before the auction, there was a free-for-all free-agent bid. With 24 teams knowing no other free agent of his calibre would appear, the prices would be high.
The rules changed recently which prohibited zero-dollar bids, and in mitigation, the free agent budget increased from $100 to $150.
The trend in previous years was that if you pick up a player early, that is before they make the team/rotation or get the closer gig, then the price is only a couple of dollars. If you wait, for the closer to get injured, then the next in line will immediately go for $20-$50.
Suzuki was an unknown quantity, but if he was everything that the hype suggested, his presence in our outfield could be a difference-maker. As such, we decided to go all in for Suzuki and rely on $1 bids for the rest of the season.
Although there is no way of knowing the second-place bid, I saw on the league’s Discord that two teams bid $42 and another bid $47.
We entered May with two wins and two defeats. Tyler Mahle had an 8.71 ERA since his first start, and Anthony DeSclafani landed on the IL. Keegan Thompson was still working as a reliever, and Tyler Alexander was bumped from the rotation after four starts of 8.76 ERA. We were desperate for another starter, but it was such a rare and precious resource.
TRADE: Drew Smyly – with our options exhausted, we had to overpay in a trade. We flipped one of our prospects, Connor Norby, to The Wrath of Kwan (David Greenman) for veteran starter, Drew Smyly.
Smyly contributed just 26 points in May, and Norby is now ranked by Fantrax as the 18th-best prospect for dynasty. Oh well! That was the price of trying to stay in contention in the league.
Matt Moore $1: The Rangers reliever was a frustrating member of the roster. In the real world, he was having a fantastic season, striking out 83 batters over 74 innings with a sub-2.00 ERA but as he only had six save opportunities, his value in the league was very limited.
We picked up Mychal Givens, but he blew four of his six save opportunities.
Robel Garcia $1: One of the aspects of a 24-team dynasty league with such knowledgable opponents is that whenever I stumble across an interesting prospect, he is always on someone else’s roster. So I was shocked when Garcia was available. He was on fire in Triple-A with 12 home runs and a 1.013 OPS, but instead of a call-up to the Cubs, he moved the KBO. I guess that’s why he wasn’t already owned.
With four wins out of four in May, we were tied for fourth on 6-2. The fact that Bowling Green Massacre (R.J. White) was 8-0 didn’t concern us. Our only aim was to reach 12 wins which was usually the requirement to make the playoffs.
Elias Diaz $1: We struggled with catcher more than any previous season. Usually, there are usable options on waivers, but this year several teams rostered two or three. We kept two catchers, both with OF-eligibility, but neither Eric Haase nor Jorge Alfaro were getting enough playing time. We also picked up Reece McGuire, but he was jettisoned when Diaz became available.
Another pick-up the Pirates shortstop Diego Castillo. He had been their best player in spring training, so I was pleased when he became available after a slow start. Unfortunately, instead of turning his season around, he would be DFA’d at the year of the year.
Matt Vierling, Dallas Keuchel, and Yermin Mercedes all came and went.
Ross Stripling $1: The Blue Jays’ right-hander didn’t have a great April or May, but luckily we kept him after the pickup. Despite the lack-lustre start to the season, Stripling accumulated enough points to put him just outside of the Top 50 starters, sandwiched between Charlie Morton and Carlos Carrasco. And he is a $2 keeper.
Three wins in June had us sitting pretty 9-3 in joint third, although the position flattered us as five lower-placed teams had scored more points. Bowling Green Massacre was still unbeaten 12-0. Simply amazing.
Tyler Gilbert $2: Less than a year earlier, Gilbert had thrown a no-hitter, so he seemed worth a gamble in our continual quest to get another starter. He made three starts for a 3.07 ERA before landing on the IL with a season-ending elbow injury.
TRADE: Blake Snell – one of the fascinating aspects of this league is the different valuations people place on players. Some teams, like us, are going all out to win; others are playing for the future. Couple this with the fact that some managers work in the fantasy baseball industry while others have proper jobs (winking emoji). For us in the UK, we don’t have constant baseball news and analysis, so we have to proactively search for the latest developments. As such, we tend to be behind the curve with the latest, hottest prospect yet it appears that we have a greater tolerance for the boring players. More on this later.
When we traded for Snell, he had a 1-5 record with a 5.22 ERA, but the rest of season projection systems still rated him. With a $5 inflation attached to Snell’s $25 contract if he was kept in 2023, we offered a combo of injured starter Griffin Canning and 20-year-old Bryan Ramos, a 20-year-old Cuban slugger in the White Sox system. If $1 Canning makes the Angels rotation in 2023 this will be a great deal for Dirty Sox (Jeremy Latzke). The success of Cubans in White Sox franchise and the lack of depth of their roster, suggest Ramos (White Sox No.5 prospect) is in a good position to debut in 2024.
With no trading allowed between the July trade deadline and the completion of the 2023 auction, the final couple of days (even hours) before the deadline are hectic. In 2022, the deadline fell with four matchups of our regular season still to play. The top four teams – we were fourth – felt confident of making the playoffs, and the bottom 12 teams – those with losing or 8-8 records – knew they were playing for 2023. That left eight teams in limbo, not knowing whether they were buyers or sellers.
Add to this, the shrewdness of high-flyers like RJ White and Booger Swamp attempting to flip their expensive-contract players in calculated moves which further muddied the water of the trade markert.
One final quirk of 2022 was that the actual MLB trade deadline was a couple of days later than the SWDL. This meant that certain situations, closers in particular, were liable to change.
Walsh my Balls: Giancarlo Stanton ($45)
The Wallet Inspectors: Nick Yorke ($0)
Walsh my Balls: Kyle Lewis ($5)
’14 Champs: Ricky Tiedemann ($0)
These deals by Big Hurc (Walsh my Balls) are exactly what make the SWDL special. Someone prepared to go all in for the win.
His next deal was one of those head-scratchers. Full disclosure, I think most of the deals in the league are head-scratchers.
Walsh my Balls: Jacob deGrom ($36), Paul Goldschmidt ($44), Dylan Carlson ($10), Oscar Colas ($0)
Booger Swamp: Matt Olson ($15), Miles Mikolas ($12), Skye Bolt ($1)
I mean, I get that Olson is exceptional value and will be a keeper for several years, and that deGrom hadn’t made his season debut when the trade went through. But deGrom outscored Mikolas by 57 points over the remainder of the season and the difference between soon-to-be NL MVP Goldschmidt and Olson was 26 points. With championships won and lost by such small margins, it was surprising to see the second-placed team trade away elite talent like deGrom and Goldschmidt.
In a league where pitching prospects are simultaneously exceptionally valuable and notoriously votatile, K’LL ‘EM (Fleming/D’Addio) executed some excellent deals.
K’LL ‘EM: Marcus Semien ($29)
The Ragged Tigers (Al Melchior): Owen White ($0)
K’LL ‘EM: Jonathan India ($2)
’14 Champs: Jackson Chourio ($0)
Trading away the reigning Rookie of the Year on a $2 contract for an 18-year-old high-risk/high-reward prospect was another head-scratcher for me, but I guess if Chourio becomes the next Juan Soto then it will go down as an ingenious move. India, however, did not stay long on the Fleming/D’Addio roster.
K’LL ‘EM: Jordan Lyles ($2), Carlos Carrasco ($17)
Nando’s Must Stash (Frank Stampfl): Jonathan India ($2), Matt McLain ($0)
Looking from the outside, I saw one of our main competitors (and the pairing that eliminated us from the 2021 playoffs), strengthen their rotation and add the red-hot Marcus Semien in a couple of smart moves. Grrrrrr.
There were 12 other deals that went down in the final 72 hours before the trade deadline, including this one which was agreed at 23:59 on 31 July.
Acuna-Tatis-Vlad All-Stars: Rhys Hoskins ($15)
Hot Lava Talent: Marcus Stroman ($25)
The Phillies’ first baseman started the season on the ATV All-Stars and then was traded twice in the space of 22 minutes during Scott White’s salary dump/instant rebuild.
Get Off My Lawn: Ryan Pepiot ($2), Miguel Vargas ($0), Rhys Hoskins ($15)
Acuna-Tatis-Vlad All-Stars: Mookie Betts ($30), Alex Bregman ($26), Zack Greinke ($28)
Get Off My Lawn: Ketel Marte ($59), Adrian Houser ($10)
’14 Champs: Cole Winn ($2), Nick Pratto ($2), Ken Giles ($4), Dustin Harris ($2)
Get Off My Lawn: Grayson Rodriguez ($0), Josiah Gray ($0)
Hot Talent Lava: Corey Seager ($25), Ketel Marte ($59), Adrian Houser ($10), Rhys Hoskins ($15)
There were too many other trades to note down.
Just as we had with the Fleming/D’Addio deal to get Carrasco and Semien, we looked on with helpless dismay as two of our potential playoff competitors added players like Mookie and Seager.
Hmmm, 11-3 third place quickly became 12-6 and we dropped down to seventh. With only eight teams making the playoff, we were making qualification hard work.
Rowan Wick $1: With David Robertson and Mychal Givens liable to be traded away from Chicago at the deadline, Wick was one of the candidates to take over the closer role. We had to act fast while Robertson and Givens were still in the Windy City. Had we made this move 48 hours later, we would not have got him for $1.
Full disclosure. I had no knowledge of Jackson Chourio when he was traded to ’14 Champs a few days earlier. Six months later and I would realise that he is now one of MLB’s Top 10 prospects. The other 23 teams are far more switched on to the shiny, new prospect. The surprising thing about the league is the lack of interest in older/late developers or players with no prospect pedigree.
Lars Nootbaar $1: The Cardinals outfielder played all but one of St Louis’ games from 1 August onwards with an .847 OPS.
Joey Meneses $1: The 30-year-old Mexican was even better with .930 OPS.
As well as useful additions for the rest of the season, the unfancied pair of Nootbaar and Meneses will be intriguing $2 keeper options in 2023.
Omar Narvaez $1: We were still churning over catchers having already gone through Jorge Alfaro and Jacob Stallings in August.
We finished in fifth place with a 14-6 record and made the playoffs.
The final couple of days of free agency are an opportunity to dump higher-priced, non-keepers and take a punt on some speculative names: Brad Keller, Hunter Dozier, Edwin Rios, Anthony DeSclafani, Cavan Biggio, and Donovan Solano joined the roster. Offseason trades/spring training improvements could catapult these unexciting players into keepers.
Another first-round loss for us, this time to the ATV All-Stars. However, despite their stellar roster, they failed to reach the final. That was fought out by the regular season 19-1 juggernaut of Bowling Green Massacre and Triple Crown (Greg Lathrop). After such a dominant season, R.J. White (Bowling Green Massacre) thoroughly deserved the championship. Our eighth different champion in 10 years.
Props to Greg Lathrop for an education in taking over a failing roster and transforming into a contender in short order.
Featured image of Keegan Thompson by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)