Crowd-Sourced OOTP Brewers: Offseason Update

Last year, faced with the prospect of an undetermined amount of time with no baseball to watch, I started an experiment: with the help of the FanGraphs reader base, I would crowd manage a team in an online Out Of The Park Baseball league. The OOTP Brewers made a series of crowd-determined decisions throughout the season, with plenty of un-voted upon input by me in the bargain. We fell short of the playoffs, but managed to finish above .500.

That league didn’t end when the season did. Since the virtual 2020 season wrapped up, players have been flying around in free agency, and now that spring training has started, I thought I’d check in on the team and work out some 2021 plans.

The team’s biggest move last year was an in-season trade for Kevin Gausman, a pending free agent. He’s a bigger deal in the game universe than in real life, a borderline top-25 starter with elite control. Rather than let him walk, we signed him to a four-year extension at $23 million per year.

Sounds like a lot, right? Well, our league isn’t a perfect reflection of real life, because most teams are trying to win now. Role playing as a rebuilding team is understandably not everyone’s cup of tea. Take a look at some contracts that notable free agent starters signed this offseason, as well as my scouts’ estimation of them on the 20-80 scale:

OOTP Pitching Free Agents
Pitcher Rating Age Years Total AAV Team Option
Chris Archer 65 32 4 100 25 2/56
Jake Odorizzi 60 30 5 116 23.2 1/28
José Quintana 55 32 3 41.5 13.83 n/a
Anthony DeSclafani 55 30 3 34.5 11.5 2/24.5
Robbie Ray 55 29 5 92 18.4 2/36
Marcus Stroman 55 29 5 75 15 n/a

The starting pitching market was indeed frothy, and half of those contracts had player options included as well, most notably Stroman, who has three separate chances to get out of the deal. I also left out another 55, because he’s now a Brewer. Collin McHugh signed a two year, $16 million deal with a team option for a third year at $6.5 million. His deal is the cheapest, but he’s the worst of the group; he’s more homer-prone than you’d like in our home bandbox.

The outcome of these deals for pitching is that we now have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starters. Here’s a rough look at the Brewers’ pitching depth chart, along with the years of control remaining on each:

OOTP Brewers Pitching Staff
Pitcher Grade Years of Control
Brandon Woodruff 65 4
Kevin Gausman 60 4
Collin McHugh 55 2-3
Corbin Burnes 55 4-6
Freddy Peralta 50 5-6
Brent Suter 50 3
Adrian Houser 50 4
Eric Lauer 45 4

That’s eight passable starters, though Suter, Burnes, and Peralta can all moonlight as relievers as well. There are only five starting spots, but between relievers and minor league options, we’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to put everyone even without any further moves. I’ve been exploring trades out of this depth, but short of something bowling me over, I’m inclined to hold onto people until we can sort out who should start.

That bullpen will be without the services of Josh Hader after I traded him to the Phillies in exchange for Scott Kingery and his delightful contract. That leaves the bullpen relying on Corey Knebel (an 80-grade closer per my scout), Devin Williams (a 60 closer with the potential to hit 70), and a variety of depth bullpen pieces. It’s always weird to see the strange paths that simulations go down, and Knebel being better than Williams certainly qualifies as strange after 2020.

On offense, the major change is the addition of Kingery. His versatility — he’ll play second and third in addition to moonlighting in the outfield and at short — gives us flexibility to build around our cornerstone pieces, Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura. Hiura, who signed an extension during the 2020 simulated season, benefits greatly from Kingery’s versatility. Adding extra infield help means that he can shift to a 1B/DH role, as the NL will add a DH starting in 2021 in our league.

Here’s a rough guess at what the lineup will look like on Opening Day:

Potential Opening Day Lineup
Player Position
Brock Holt 2B
Christian Yelich LF
Brandon Belt 1B
Keston Hiura DH
Luis Urías SS
Omar Narváez C
Scott Kingery 3B
Lorenzo Cain CF
Avisaíl García RF

There’s plenty of flexibility around that lineup, but the combination of that offensive core and a deep pitching staff makes me confident in the Brewers’ chances this season. The NL Central is going to be a complete toss-up, though, despite my best efforts to improve.

The Pirates won the NL pennant last year, though they suffered some steep losses in free agency, most notably Archer (great in-game) and Marcus Semien. The Cubs not only didn’t trade Yu Darvish, they added Corey Kluber and Nelson Cruz. The Cardinals won the Quintana sweepstakes and traded for Whit Merrifield and Brad Keller.

The Reds, though? The Reds are tanking. In the offseason so far, they’ve traded Eugenio Suárez, Trevor Bauer (recently extended), Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Nimmo (acquired as part of the Castellanos trade), Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, and Sonny Gray. Luis Castillo hasn’t been traded, but that’s only because he’s currently injured, and the game doesn’t allow trades of injured players. They won’t be competitive in the division this year, though the Pirates’ ascendance means the Central will be a four-team race anyway.

Now that spring games are underway, there aren’t many free agents left to sign. The team will be focusing on what every OOTP owner does each spring: frantically playing people at new positions to increase their defensive versatility. Before the season begins, however, we still have time for a few moves, and that’s where the crowdsourcing comes in.

First, should we trade from our pitching depth? I’m not interested in trading Woodruff, Gausman, or McHugh, but everyone else can be had — if the audience wills it:

Second, what should we be looking for in return? I’m interested in outfield help, as Cain and García look like the weakest links on the squad, but I’d also be interested in replenishing some minor league depth or trying to package a few pitchers and a position player into a blockbuster:

These are the key decisions facing the Brewers, but they aren’t the only league business we still need to settle. The league has three spots open after some offseason GM turnover; the defending NL champion Pirates, the Reds, and the Royals. Think you can take over an NL rival and out-manage the FanGraphs hive mind? Come on down and try your luck.

The requirements to join aren’t onerous. You’ll need a copy of Out Of The Park Baseball 21, of course. You’ll also need to be willing to role play a GM, which means paying attention to the league at least briefly every day, make decisions about the direction of your team, and manage your rosters with at least some frequency. The league handles everything else, down to server hosting generously provided by StatsPlus. If you’re interested, reach out to league commissioner Brad Johnson on Twitter (@BaseballATeam) or reply in the comments below. Good luck to any applicants, and I’m excited to manage another season of OOTP crowd-sourcing.





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

4 Comments
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bjsh44member
1 year ago

I would be excited to join your OOTP league! Let me know how to get in touch, Brad – I’m twitterless.

Brad Johnsonmember
1 year ago
Reply to  bjsh44

You can send me an email to pitchin432 AT yahoo.com.