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Benchwarmer Baseball Offseason

Since none of my teams won their divisions, we’re finally to the part of the offseason where things get interesting again. I guess the one postseason highlight was my team Vega$ Chickabooms won their 2nd place tournament, which will get them some extra cash. Now I get to find out how well I set myself up for the next season.

This is what happens in this first part of the offseason:

  • We got all the cash we will get until opening day to re-sign players.
  • Players new salaries come out, and will go higher or lower based on how they did last season.
  • We can only carry over up to 28 players. You have to decide which ones to keep. You have to carry over ones you already signed to contract extensions.
  • We can make trades until 12/25, which is the deadline to have selected which players you are carrying over.

So this is kind of where my teams stand. All of them are in pretty decent shape compared to previous offseasons. I might actually be figuring out this Benchwarmer Baseball thing. A couple of them are in excellent shape and have a chance to greatly improve.

East Village Howlers

This team is one that is in really good shape to improve. After keeping the players that I want to keep, the should have around $16000 in cash left over.

This team avoided $3000 in salary increases by signing Carlos Correa and Chris Carter to contract extensions. I also avoided another $800K increase on Shawn Kelley. Another nice things about this team is several other cheap players who could really outperform their salaries:

  • Alex Bregman is still a bargain at $285.
  • David Peralta was injured most of last season, and his salary decreased by $900K. So he’s a nice depth player that is a bargain now.
  • Jordan Zimmermann’s salary decreased by over $2000, and so he is now a bargain, and a decent candidate to bounce back.
  • This team has Alex Cobb, whose salary is $377. If he bounces back at all from Tommy John surgery he could also be a nice player to have.

The nice thing about these players coming back from injury is that they have nice upside with little risk. If they don’t bounce back, I can just cut them. This team also has a few prospects that could graduate and help quite a bit. These are Jeff Weaver, Guillermo Heredia, Austin Meadows, Carson Kelly and a couple others.

This team finished 63-87. So they need a lot of things to go right. They are in a great position though to make a big signing or two this offseason. The $16000 they have to spend could land a couple really nice players, and still leave them with cash leftover heading into the season to make adjutments, which is something I failed at last season. If not, they could always trade and take on salaries of players that other teams are not planning to re-sign.

Vega$ Chickabooms

This team went 76-74 and won the second place Al Gore tournament in their league. This team should also be in pretty good shape to improve this offseason. I was able to avoid over $2300 in salary increases by extending Wil Myers. When you add up the salaries of the players I plan to keep, they should end up with almost $13000 to use to improve. Also, they will be getting an extra $1000 for winning that tournament

Like East Village, this team has Alex Bregman and Alex Cobb who are really cheap and should outperform their salaries. Another player this team has is Greg Bird. I traded for him at the deadline last year thinking this team had no shot at making the playoffs. His salary is only $144 and he could easily outperform that.

This team could use a big bat in the outfield, and another solid starter. They could be a pretty dangerous team since they are already starting from a higher floor than my other teams.

New New York Mets

This team is in the worst shape and will be the toughest one to improve. They went 65-85 last season. It was largely due to two of the team’s best players struggling. Dallas Keuchel had a really tough season and Jose Abreu struggled the entire first half.

This team’s biggest strength is starting pitching. They have Max Scherzer, Dallas Keuchel and Jose Quintana. I need to figure out how to put a better lineup together around them. Their biggest hole is at third base. I may try to make a trade this offseason for a third baseman. This team should have around $9000 left to sign players. This is not as much as my other teams, and could be less after the final salary adjustments are made. That’s why it will be tougher to improve this team.

This team also does not have quite as many young, inexpensive players as the others. Aledmys Diaz is the best one, and he was signed to a contract extension. The others that could contribute are Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Guillermo Heredia.

I think this team’s best shot is to make a couple small moves this offseason to try to make some modest improvements. Then see early in the season if there are some free agents that get off to a good start, and sign them. That’s how this team won their division 2 years ago. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to blow this team up and rebuild.

Last year, I turned down a trade offer at the deadline for Max Scherzer. The problem was that the team making the offer did not have any good prospects that would be able to contribute this season. The prospects being offered were a couple years away. Trading Scherzer would be a way to rebuild, assuming I could get some good prospects that are nearly ready to contribute.

Pelee Island

This team is in great, great shape and should improve greatly this offseason. This team finished 74-76, so they are starting from nearly a .500 record. They avoided about $7000 in salary increases by extending the contracts of Rougned Odor, Aledmys Diaz, Addison Russell, Mark Trumbo and a few others. It may make sense to trade Diaz or Russell. They are both good enough to start at SS, but only one of them can. This team’s main hole again is at third base, like my other teams. So it may make sense to trade one of them for a third baseman.

That might not even be needed, though. It may be better to just sit on that depth, in case one gets hurt. There is also an outside chance that Diaz could play some games at third base, and become my third baseman. The Cardinals announced that Matt Carpenter will be the every day first baseman next season. Jhonny Peralta and Diaz will split time at 3B and SS. The Cardinals may go out and try to get a better defensive SS this offseason, which would push Diaz to 3B or 2B.

In addition, this team has Kyle Schwarber, whose salary is only $200. They also have Michael Conforto, whose salary is only $577. This team has a great young base to build on.

When you add up the salaries of the players I want to keep, it only adds up to $19400 or so. This team has $38024 to spend. So they will have over $18000 to spend. Again, the best path may be to just sit on this depth and cash and see what players become available.

The risk with that is that I need to spend at least $13000. Later in the offseason, the cash balances get cut down to $5000. You just lose any cash you have above that. So if the players available via free agency aren’t appealing, I may be forced into trading some of this cash for players on other teams.

This team has several decent starting pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija, Vince Velasquez, Ian Kennedy and others. It could really use an ace and a really good #2 though. That would be the other main priority. Again, it might be best to do this through signings rather than trading. But this team has so much depth and cash that they have tons of different ways they could improve.

Davenport Blue Sox

This team is in decent shape to improve, too. This team finished 71-79, and was still very much in contention at the trade deadline. I made a trade for Chris Sale to try to make a run at the division, but it did not work out. However, this team is still in decent shape, and looks a lot more formidable with Sale at the top of the rotation.

Rougned Odor, Addison Russell, Christian Yelich, Joc Pederson and Alex Bregman are all inexpensive players that should be quite good, and are the core of this team. This team still has an aging Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Beltran and Ben Zobrist as well. Dallas Keuchel could also rebound. This team also has a really nice set of prospects. Jorge Alfaro, Carson Kelly, Lewis Brinson, and more.

Finally, this team is in decent shape in terms of finances, too. They should have around $12000 to work with to sign players and improve. It’s not quite as good as Pelee Island but it should still be enough to sign a couple decent players and have some left over.

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Benchwarmer Baseball: Half The Game Is 90% Pitching

A dominating pitching performance is the closest thing to a guaranteed win in Benchwarmer Baseball. Here are the rewards for a dominant pitching performance:

  • A complete game by a starting pitcher subtracts 0.25 runs taken off your opponents’ final score.
  • For a game where your pitchers combine to allow zero earned runs, then a whole run is subtracted from your opponents’ final score.
  • If your starting pitcher throws a complete game shutout, two runs are subtracted from your opponents’ score.
  • A complete game no-hitter is minus three.
  • A perfect game is minus four.

Obviously you can’t build a team around trying to get no-hitters and perfect games. However, building a team around dominant pitching is difficult but not impossible.

In games where my teams had pitching dominant enough to earn one of the above rewards, they have gone 30-5. In two of the five losses, the opposing team also had one of the above rewards in their score, offsetting mine.  In games where my opponents had one of these rewards, my teams have gone 3-41 (yes I’m painfully aware my teams have been out-pitched this year).

The rewards for these performances are huge because they come off your opponents’ total score, not just their raw score. For example, for your offense to offset one of the -2 rewards, you’d have to raise your raw batting score by 4. This is because your team’s batting score gets averaged with the other team’s already good pitching score before this extra reward is subtracted. The pitcher still gets credit for the strikeouts, earned runs allowed and the normal parts of the pitching score. If they throw a complete game or allow zero earned runs, odds are the rest of their score is quite good as well.

There is no equivalent to this for batting scores. For example, there is no “bonus” if a player hits three home runs in a game. Obviously three home runs will help your score a lot but there is no extra added-on reward for it like there is for a dominant pitching performance. This is probably done to balance out the two. Obviously, your pitching score can’t get much below zero without these rewards. Whereas for hitting, there is no real limit. The rewards for dominant pitching kind of bring the two back into balance.

Last year I was able to build a team around dominant pitching. Calfornia Whip (now New New York) have Dallas Keuchel and Max Scherzer. Keuchel won the Cy Young Award and Scherzer was nearly as dominant. I was able to round out the rest of the rotation and bullpen with good enough pitchers to make it an excellent pitching staff. My offense was a bit below average but was able to provide enough offense that the team went 88-62 and won their division by 11 games.

This year Keuchel has really faded and Scherzer has had a slight decline. When you are relying on dominant pitching – not just good pitching, but dominant pitching – a small change can make a big difference. This team has faded and is below .500 now. Keuchel and Scherzer aren’t the only reason why this team has struggled, but they are probably the biggest reason.

Because of the way pitching is rewarded I would say it is probably not possible to win 90 games without at least one ace in Benchwarmer. I’m sure there are exceptions but probably not many.

Bewnchwarmer Baseball: How To Win Close Games

As my frustrating season continues, it seemed like I had been losing a lot of very close games lately. Was this true or was I imagining things?

In a Benchwarmer Baseball game you will get a score that is rounded to the nearest integer on the main results page. However, the scores used to determine the winner and loser are carried out a few decimal places. So in a game where the score was 4-3, it could have been a very close game – such as 3.6 to 3.48 – or it could have not been that close – such as 4.4 to 3.0. They both look like a 1-run win on the results page. This is one reason I track the raw score results and not the rounded results.

So here is how my teams have done in close games this year:

Close games

At first glance this doesn’t seem too bad. Some teams have been luckier and others have been unlucky. It might be worth noting that St. Louis is in the Experts League and they are 2-6 in games decided by 0.25 runs or less. Maybe winning close games is a skill and not all luck? I don’t know.

Here is the maddening part: I happened to notice that three of my teams had not won one of these close games since game 40 or earlier. Through game 40, my teams were 12-5 in games decided by 0.25 runs or less. Since game 40, they are 10-19 in close games. So what changed after game 40?

Looking at the details from these games, it doesn’t seem to matter whether your team is at home or away. The number of Benchwarmer Batters or Pinesitter Pitchers also doesn’t seem to matter.

The Experts League has been the toughest league to win close games. That seemed to provide a clue. In these close games in the Experts league, the two teams combined to average scoring 7.84 runs in the close games, compared to 8.90 overall. So the close games were much lower-scoring than normal.

It makes sense that lower-scoring games would be more likely to be closer, so at first I wasn’t sure that meant anything. This was until I started looking at the pitching and hitting scores for my teams before and after game 40:

Close games 40

The thing that jumps off the page is that the pitching score for all my teams has increased a lot. Two of them (Vegas and Pelee) more than doubled! Two others increased by more than 1.4 runs/game.

It is interesting that all but one of the teams increased their batting scores as well, and the one that didn’t was almost flat. The improved batting was not enough to overcome the horrible pitching though.

This also illustrates better than anything how my season has gone this year. I knew my teams were off to a good start, and then have faded as the season has continued. I didn’t realize just how stark the difference was from early in the season until now though. I also knew pitching has been the main problem but also didn’t realize just how much better it was early in the season.

Benchwarmer Baseball Lessons Learned

This season has been maddening. Just when I think one of my teams is finally in a position to put together some wins, they go on an extended losing streak. Then at other times my teams put together a nice stretch with a lot of wins for no apparent reason. Here is what I’m talking about:

East Village Howlers (49-59, 12GB)

This team recently went through a horrendous 1-9 stretch. Then they recovered and went 7-2 in their next 9 games. I knew this team was not going to contend this year, so I was a seller. I traded closer Seung Hwan Oh for Pirates prospect Austin Meadows. I was also able to extend Carlos Correa’s contract though 2018. This team is a work in progress. The goal is to add players around Correa’s age so that they have a nice core group to build around. Besides Meadows the players that could be part of this core are Luke Weaver,  Mike Foltynewicz, J.P. Crawford, and Alex Bregman. I’ve also hung onto Alex Cobb. He will be cheap as he tries to come back from Tommy John surgery next season.

Las Vega$ Chickabooms (54-54, 3GB)

This is my one team that is still in contention, which is inexplicable, other than the fact they are in a pretty weak division. This is an orphan team I took over halfway through last season when they were awful. They went 59-91 last year. I knew they would be a challenge to rebuild, which would be fun. I don’t consider them “rebuilt” by any means. They are just in a very weak division. I was actually a seller with this team as well again this season. I traded closer Kenley Janson for Yankees slugging prospect Greg Bird and young Brewers pitching prospect Luis Ortiz. Bird may be able to help next season and Ortiz maybe the season after that.

Like East Village, this team had a horrible stretch before rebounding. They recently lost seven in a row, then recovered and went 9-2 in their next 11 games to claw back into contention.

St. Louis Prefectos (52-56, 8GB)

This team had a six game winning streak followed by a seven game losing steak. Since then they’ve won three of four games. They are in the Experts League, and the division they are in is really hard. Their 52-56 record is good for last place. This team had a large amount of money to spend, and so I extended the contracts of eight players. They also have Greg Bird and Corey Spangenburg waiting in the wings, along with Marco Gonzalez and a few other decent prospects. The hope is that the young players combined with the eight with contract extensions will leave enough money to be able to re-sign Paul Goldschmidt and Max Scherzer, and still have enough left over to add a piece or two to the starting rotation. This team isn’t that far from being very good, especially if any of the other teams in the division mercifully take a step back next season.

California Whip (51-57, 10GB)

This is a team that went 88-62 last season and won their division by 11 games. The main reason for their decline is the fact that Dallas Keuchel and Jose Abreu went from star players last season to average players this season. They also have Max Scherzer. The declines in Abreu and Keuchel’s salaries should help me be able to re-sign Scherzer. This team is not that far from turning it around. If Abreu and Keuchel can rebound at all and become above average players again, and then if I can get good contributions form young players like Aledmys Diaz, Vincent Velasquez, Mike Foltynewicz,  Luke Weaver and others, they could rebound next season. This team also had the recent seven game losing streak, which seems standard for my teams.

Pelee Island Pintails (53-55, 16GB)

A few weeks ago when I wrote about whether I was going to buy or sell with my various teams, I knew I should sell with this team. At the time, they were 41-31 and had the best record of any of my teams, but they were still seven games back in their division. Since then they’ve gone a horrendous 12-24. The bulk of the damage was done during a 12 game losing streak. Ouch.

Back when they were 41-31, I looked at this team’s hitting and pitching and I knew their record was largely due to luck and expected a drop off. I tried selling closers Brad Zeigler and Steve Cishek but could not find a buyer for them. Still, this team has a nice core to build around. I was able to extend the contracts of Rougned Odor and Mark Trumbo who are both having big seasons. Other nice pieces include Addison Russell, Aledmys Diaz, Michael Conforto, Vincent Velasquez, Mike Foltynewicz,  Luke Weaver and Kyle Schwarber.

This team has been hurt by injuries, too. Brett Lawrie, Michael Pelfrey, Colby Lewis, Prince Fielder, Schwarber, among others. Some of these players are missed more than others obviously, but all of the injuries have resulted in this team getting stuck with a number of Benchwarmer subs. Read about how bad that is here.

Davenport Blue Sox (55-53, 9GB)

This is a team that I felt could take a step forward. I felt their record didn’t indicate how good they were. Back when I previously wrote about them they were 38-34 and 6GB. I was a buyer with this team, trading Michael Conforto, Brad Zeigler and Jurisckon Profar for Chris Sale and a handful of throw-in prospects. Starting pitching has been this team’s problem all season, like most of my teams. I was hoping Sale would solidify the rotation and give this team an ace, since Keuchel is not pitching like an ace this season. Unfortunately, this team has continued to flounder around .500. I should not have a huge problem re-signing Chris Sale for next season with this team. They too have a nice core group to work with – Christian Yelich, Rougned Odor, Addison Russell, Vincent Velasquez, Mike Foltynewicz, David Dahl, and Lewis Brinson.

What would I do differently?

As the season has progressed, these are a few strategic changes I plan to make for next season:

  1. Be more aggressive earlier in the season about cutting underperforming players. I had talked about this in previous posts. Early in the season, there are usually free agents available that no one has signed but who are starting to have a good season. Once you get to a certain point in the season, those players are gone. I waited too long to cut some of my underperforming players and missed out on be able to replace them with these kind of players. I kept hoping my players would rebound, but they never did.
  2. Use my minor league slots more for fill-in players. I have been carrying too many players who take too long to get to the majors. Sometimes it makes sense to carry a player for a couple seasons while they develop in the minors, if they are expected to be a star. It probably makes sense to carry 5 or 6 players that are pure prospects. You can carry up to 12 players though in the “minors” as long as they have a salary below 250. I need to use more of these slots on players who have graduated to the majors, even if they aren’t that great of a player. It will give me more depth. A few of my teams losing streaks coincided with injuries, and I got stuck with too many Benchwarmer subs.
  3. Have more cash on hand if at all possible. I kind of alluded to this in this previous post about contract extensions, but I suspect doing more than 5 or 6 contract extensions in a lot of cases is overkill. I signed 8 players to extensions with one of my teams but that was because they had so much money on hand ($12 million). I could have maybe cut that back to 7 extensions and still been OK. Regardless, I think having $3 million to $5 million cash on hand during the season, if you can pull it off, can be a big advantage.

Benchwarmer Baseball Contract Extensions

It took me a while to figure out the best way to use contract extensions in Benchwarmer Baseball, and I’m still not sure I have it all figured out. It’s one of the most complicated parts to this game. There are a lot of trade offs.

How Contract Extensions Work

For a one year extension, you can sign a player through the end of the following season for this year’s salary, or $500K (whichever is higher). The second year, the price is the players’ base salary plus 33%, or $1750K (whichever is higher). The full schedule of salaries by year is here. So to sign a rookie like Carlos Correa last year to a two year extension, it cost $2250K ($500K + $1750K). To sign Kyle Seager for 2017 and 2018, it would cost $8737K ($3535K + $4702K). The toughest part is you have to have the cash on hand and pay it all up front, and it’s non-refundable.

The Obvious Times To Extend A Contract

If you have an inexpensive player that has a really good year, his salary will go up. The basic idea is to extend those players to avoid the salary increase. However, salaries are based on the last two years of performance. That creates some different situations.

A rookie will have a higher salary in their second year but it could really jump in their third year, when they will have two good seasons behind them. It only costs $500K to extend a rookie for one year so it makes sense to do it, but it may not kill you if you don’t. It’s that third season that gets expensive with rookies.

Another case is a player like Dallas Keuchel, who I extended on one my teams for this season. He was already a decent, established player with two years of experience. He was making around $2600K last season when he turned in a season that won him the Cy Young Award. When you get to the high end, the salaries tend to skyrocket. Even though $2600K was not “cheap”, his salary jumped to $5890K this season. So I saved over $3200K by extending his contract.

Another case where it makes sense to extend a contract is if you have a player that is bouncing back from an awful season, or one where they missed a lot of time with an injury. Their salary will also go back up after bouncing back.

How long should you extend a contract?

How long should you sign a player like Carlos Correa? Again, the first two years will cost you a total of $2,250K. The third year will cost you $3,250K, for a total contract value of $5,500K. The fourth year would cost you an extra $4,000K, and a total contract value of $9,500K.

Paying $4,000K for a season 4 years from now is steep. There were only 41 players with a salary higher than that in Benchwarmer. Correa definitely could be in that group in four years. But you won’t be saving much unless his salary is way above $4,000K. There are even fewer players like that.

Two year contracts are a great deal for a player like Correa, and you might be able to convince me that a three year contract isn’t bad. I just can’t see a doing four year contract. Very few teams will be able to come up with $9,500K up front anyway. You can always sign extend them again the following year to get that third or fourth year.

What about players whose salary won’t change much?

This is probably the biggest portion of players. You won’t avoid a salary increase by signing these kinds of players, but covering their salary now will save you money later. I don’t extend too many players like this though. If they are an inexpensive player whose salary won’t be changing a lot, it means that aren’t very good and should be easy to replace. If they are an expensive player whose salary won’t be changing much, there are other drawbacks and trade-offs which are covered in the following sections.

Trade Implications

You would think that paying a player’s salary ahead of time would make a player easier to trade later if needed. The team receiving the player in the trade will not have to pick up any salary. However, in that situation it means you would be taking on the salary of the player you’d be receiving. You would be paying both players’ salaries. Maybe this makes sense if the player you are getting is a lot better than the one you are giving up. You can also ask the other team to put money into the deal to help cover the costs. However, the whole reason a team might be interested in taking a player already signed to a contract is to save money. Sending you money may defeat the purpose of the trade for them.

If you are a team trying to “win now” maybe you’d be OK gambling and taking on that extra salary. The thing is, if you were trying to “win now”, why did you spend money on contracts for next season already?

From my experience, it is easiest to trade contract-extended players for other players with contract extensions, or for inexpensive players or prospects, where the dollar values are closer together.

Roster Implications

You are required to carry over all players signed to contract extensions to the next season. You can only carry over 28 players maximum, but during the season you can carry up to 40 players (12 minor league players plus the 28 in your lineup).

This means every player you sign to a contract extension reduces your flexibility in the offseason a little. One way it does this is if a better player becomes available in the offseason, but you already have a contract-extended player filling that position. It might be hard to justify carrying two players that play the same position.

The other drawback is it might force you into tougher choices when it is time to cut the roster down to 28 players. Maybe it is best to give an example with some numbers. Let’s say you get really aggressive and sign 15 players to contract extensions. That means 15 of the 28 slots you are carrying over for next season are already set. This only leaves 13 slots for the remaining 25 players that don’t have contract extensions. Well, if you want to keep all 12 of your minor league players, that means you only get to keep one other player!

Obviously in that situation you would likely cut some of those minor league players so that you could carry over some more MLB-ready players. You could be forced to drop some pretty decent prospects, though.

All teams will be facing the same dilemma about which and how many minor league players to carry over. Having fewer players that you must carry over just gives you a bit more ways you can choose to fill out those slots.

Cash Implications

You only get to keep $5 million heading into the season. At week zero you just lose anything above that. So if you get really aggressive about contract extensions to the point that you have a ton of money left over heading into the next season, you may just lose some of the money you saved. The big one though is if you spend a lot extending a contract and that player gets hurt the next season, you get no rebate if you drop them.

At first I erred on the side of not doing enough contract extensions. In one case I barely had enough money to fill the holes in my roster the next season. So you definitely have to use contract extensions to be competitive. If you truly have 10 or 15 players whose salaries will be going up, then it makes sense to try to sign that many players to contract extensions. However, if you only have five or six players in that situation, it probably would not make sense to sign several above that just because you can.

Benchwarmer Baseball Minor League Players

It took me a while to figure out was a strategy to use regarding minor league players. Obviously, if you have the chance to grab a top prospect like Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano, you take them and don’t let go. However, you can carry up to 12 minor league players. If you’re lucky, maybe one or two of those spots will be filled by a prospect as good as Buxton or Sano. What do you do with the other 10 or 11 spots?

Using Minor League Slots For Depth

In MLB, the most valuable prospects are the ones who are just about ready to play in the big leagues. This is also true in Benchwarmer. There is another benefit though with having these kind of players. If you have a player that just graduated to the major leagues, you can of course bring them up and put them in your lineup. You may have to cut someone to make room if you do that though.

If you have a minor league player who just graduated, you don’t have to put them in your lineup right away. You can keep them stashed in one of your 12 minor league slots. As long as the player’s salary is below $250K you can do this. So this is a way to carry some more depth for your team in case of injury without having to cut anyone or spend extra money. Obviously you wouldn’t stash a player like Buxton in the minors for long. However there are a ton of other players that it might make sense to do this with, at least for a while.

If one of your regular players gets hurt, you can bring up a player from your minor league list and put them in the lineup. If you have the roster space, you can put the injured players on your taxi squad. When that player gets healthy, you can put him back in the lineup and send the replacement back to the minors. This can be a great way for a cash-strapped team to have some depth.

What About Players A Few Years Away?

Any player who was a first round draft pick is available to be signed in Benchwarmer. First round draft picks could be years away from appearing in an MLB game and becoming a useful player, though. I still think you have to sign some of these players. They could turn out to be extremely valuable down the road. They’re like a lottery ticket.

I will normally carry a number of these kind of players. When it comes time to trim rosters down to 28 players in the offseason, I will look at how those prospects did. If they had a disappointing minor league season, then they may be a candidate to cut when the time comes to trim rosters to 28 players. If they are still on track to make the big leagues in another year or two, I try to hang onto them.

You Have To Pay Attention

This is the hard part. There are tons of minor league players out there. Again, unless they were a first round pick, the players don’t become available until they are added to a 40 man roster. So if there is a good player out there that was a second round pick or later, they won’t become available until some MLB team adds them to a 40 man roster. Likewise, even first round picks that no one picked up will be out there available forever in Benchwarmer, until they are done playing. It’s possible there are players out there available that might be worth grabbing.

To add yet another wrinkle, you need to pay attention to international signings. The same rules apply – they won’t be avialable until they are added to a 40 man roster. They could get added really quickly, like Yasmany Tomas or Jose Abreu did. Or they could get sent to the minors for several years, like Aledmys Diaz.

I follow the Midwest League and so I have some familiarity with the prospects coming through that league. That helps. Otherwise you have to look at leaderboards and top prospect lists to try to find these kind of players. These kind of players are important because if they are inexpensive and will give you a big leg up if they turn into productive MLB players.

Benchwarmer Baseball: Parity Is Forcing Tough Decisions

As the trade deadline and contract extension deadlines approach, I’m still trying to figure out if my teams should be buyers or sellers. The parity inside the divisions that I’m in is making these decisions tough. I have three teams that are hovering around .500, but are no more than 4 games out of first place. I have another team that is 10 games over .500, but is 7 games back. Finally I have one other team that is 4 games over .500 and is 6 games back. Here is what I am thinking I will do at the deadline after 72 games:

East Village Howlers (30-42, 14 games back)

This is the easy one. They will be selling. I expected this team to be better than they have been, but just about everything has gone wrong. They desperately needed Francisco Liriano to be good to have a decent starting rotation, and he was lousy. Outside of their top four hitters, their lineup really underperformed. Chase Headley is Exhibit A.

They have a gem to build around in Carlos Correa, who is already signed through next season. They also have a good set of minor league prospects that will be arriving in the next couple seasons. So the strategy will be to trade for players that will help the team the next season or two. They are particularly weak on starting pitching, so pitching prospects may be a focus.

Vega$ Chickabooms (36-36,  1 game back)

I just don’t know what to do with this team. They are still right in the division race. Their offense and bullpen have been very average. Their starting pitching has just been awful. They’ve managed to stay at .500 because the starting pitching was fairly average except for one really terrible stretch which brought them way down.

This team doesn’t have a lot of cash so they are kind of limited as to what they might be able to do. They could possibly trade an expensive reliever (Kenly Jansen or Santiago Casilla) for a starting pitcher.

The St. Louis Prefectos (37-35, 4 games back)

This is a team that has been very unlucky. They are two games over .500 and are in last place, and four games back. They have to pass three other teams to win the division. They’ve outscored their opponents by the widest margin of any of my teams but don’t have a lot to show for it. They also have $12 million in cash on hand. I  think I am going to buy with this team even though they are in last place.

Their offense is solidly above league average mainly due to Paul Goldschmidt, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager. Pitching once again is the weakness. They have Max Scherzer as their ace. They also have Carlos Martinez, but beyond that, the rotation has been unreliable. Rookie Vince Velasquez has shown flashes of potential but this team could use one more top end starting pitcher.

California Whip (36-36, tied for first)

This team is trying to defend their division title. They currently are in a 3-way tie for first place. The three teams have identical 36-36 records. Last season, this team basically rode Max Scherzer and Dallas Keuchel to a division title. This season, Scherzer has not been quite as dominant, and Kuechel has struggled. Their starting pitching is still fairly solid, because they  have Jose Quintana and Vincent Velasquez.

This team needs a closer. They had Trevor Rosenthal who finally lost his job after pitching poorly. That is one obvious place to try to upgrade. The offense has been fairly average and could do better if Jose Abreu turns his season around.

Pelee Island Pintails (41-31, 7 games back)

This team has the best record of any of my teams. Unfortunately, that’s only good for third place in their division, and they are 7 games back. This team has been somewhat lucky to put together this record. Their batting is well below average. This team will probably stand pat, or maybe sell a piece or two to try to improve for next season. I just don’t know if they can sustain this record, and even if they do, it might not be enough. They have two decent relievers in Brad Ziegler and Steve Cishek who might draw some interest from teams in need of a closer.

Davenport Blue Sox (38-34, 6 games back)

This team is practically a clone of the Vega$ Chickabooms. Their offense has been better than Vegas’ though. This team has Miguel Cabrera, Rougned Odor, Ben Zobrist and Christian Yelich who are having fine seasons. Their starting pitching has just been every bit as atrocious as Vegas’ though.

It’s tempting to buy with this team. They won’t have many seasons of Miguel Cabrera left and they have plenty of depth to trade from in the minors. They, too, could trade a reliever where they have some depth.

So to recap: my last place team is probably going to be a buyer at the deadline, and my team with the best record will probably be selling.