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Tuesday 21st Feb 2017

First off real quick, I would like to extend a true heartfelt thank you to a few kind and generous individuals without whom I would not be able to write this review.

I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon in the basement, drafting what I hope is the grand champion of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). Of course there are 419 others with the same goal, but hey, at least my chances are better than hitting the Mega Millions drawing.

By means of quick review, 28 leagues with 15 teams each comprise the Main Event of the NFBC. There will be 28 league champions, then all 420 get lumped together and an overall winner is crowned and gets their picture taken with one of those really big checks, with $100,000 in the amount box.

I was assigned the 15th pick in the first round and was perfectly okay with that. While I would have preferred picking in the first two to start with either Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera, I am not a fan of the second round inventory usually available to those picking in the first half of the first round, so if I did not pick first or second, my next desired area was thirteen to fifteen since there are sixteen or so players I would like to start my team with and I would be assured of getting two of them from the back end of the first.

Coming in to the draft, my plan was as usual: to strive for balance in terms of stats and positions so during the latter two-thirds of the festivities, I would be choosing the best player available and not chasing a position or a category. While I am by no means married to the average draft position (ADP) reports the NFBC provides based on its earlier drafts, I do use them to get a feel for the market value of certain players and when I can expect runs to occur.

The 15-hole has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is the possibility of players you really like falling to you at the 15/16 turn. Another is the ability to force runs on players, most likely closers, by doubling up at a position later in the draft. Personally, I happen to like picks close to the wheel as I will often choose the players in tandem as it helps me piece together the big picture. A major disadvantage is the strong possibility of missing out on a run, again, usually closers, as there are 28 players chosen between your picks when you are 15th.

When I was mocksterbating from the 15th hole (to mocksterbate is to do a mock draft by yourself), I came to the realization that something had to give. I don’t care who you are and how good a drafter you may be, after 10 picks, you are not going to have a thunderous offense, lights out starting pitching and shutdown closers. You may think you do, but you don’t. Unless you are drafting with a bunch of morons, if you go through the other 14 teams, each one will be better than you in one of the three areas. And if they are not, they tried too hard to be solid in all three and ended up mediocre instead. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply the draft is won in the first ten rounds, far from it. But the idea is to have a thunderous offense, lights out starting pitching and shutdown closers by the end of the 23rd, so what you do in the first ten sets you up for that. I came to the conclusion that you can draft an edge in two of the three areas, while you need to work hard to realize that edge in the third, unless you get extremely lucky.

The most likely means of getting lucky was to wait on closers and hope a couple of reliable stoppers slip, but the danger of that is as suggested, not having it happen and completely missing out on runs. And, while I know closers are constantly emerging during the season, those advising to troll for saves are overlooking a couple of important things: there will be others fishing and for every guy that emerges to save twenty games, there were twice as many that failed to hold the job. Not to mention, the impact closers have on your ERA and WHIP is more important now than a few years ago as the ratios categories are now more tightly bunched top to bottom and these in-season closers often have suspect peripherals. A such, I made the conscious decision to make sure I had to closers I really like by the end of round ten, even if I (hopefully) started the run.

Based on that, it was apparent my entire draft would be predicated by what I did at the 3/4 selection turn. As many of you know, my spring crusade has been to contradict those suggesting the smart strategy is to “wait on pitching.” However, I do not consider not taking an arm until the 5th round to be waiting on pitching. In the week leading up the draft, I was waffling between doubling up with stud starters at 3/4, taking one arm and one stick or eschewing hurlers all together and starting with four bats. Ultimately, I decided I would let the draft dictate my direction, but with the overriding thought that between hitting and pitching, it is easier to rely on the old axiom: bully hitting, manage pitching. I may get out of my comfort zone not taking a top-eight or so starting pitching, but it is easier to overcome that than make up offense.

With that as a backdrop, here is the team I will be taking into battle, with a brief description of the thought process at each pair of picks.

1/2 – Prince Fielder and Evan Longoria: Scarcity is so misunderstood in today’s landscape. I decided I was not going to get hung up at all on positions and leave potential stats on the table early by reaching for a middle infielder. My top remaining hitters were Fielder, who was #8 on my board and Longoria, #15. As it happens, I indeed had a better player fall to me, at least according to my rankings, though I am certain the ADP will have both right around that area.

3/4 – Hunter Pence and Brandon Phillips: I was all set to take Cole Hamels and Jered Weaver here, but Weaver was plucked two picks previous to my turns. I then thought about Hamels and Dan Haren, but ultimately fell back on bully hitting and manage pitching. Phillips may have been a reach based on ADP, but he was right where he should have been according to my numbers and I like Pence as an early round upside play.

5/6 – C.J. Wilson and James Shields: For a second I thought I was actually drafting with morons (he says tongue in cheek, this was a strong group) as Haren and Matt Cain kept falling, but alas, they were both selected before my turn so I took the two highest ranked guys on my cheat sheet. As an idea of how my earlier drafts have gone, Shields is my THIRD starter in several, now he is my co-anchor. This is my virgin experience owning Wilson. The more I look at his numbers, the warmer I am becoming to the Angels new starter. I think I have a decent shot at the target 400 K’s from my first two arms.

7/8 – Alex Avila and Jason Werth: This was a small risk as many closer runs occur in the next couple of rounds, but one I was willing to take as Craig Kimbrel was the only closer off the board thus far and it would take a TREMENDOUS run to lock me out. I wanted to draft a catcher at this spot, hoping for Matt Wieters or Miguel Montero but happily setting for Avila. Werth was strictly the proverbial value pick and someone I had identified as a likely selection since my rankings have him higher than the NFBC ADP.

9/10- Joel Hanrahan and Jason Motte: YAHTZEE!!! These names may not seem that sexy, but they profile perfectly for what I wanted – I consider then both secure in their jobs, they are minimal health risks and fan a goodly number of hitters. I really need the reliability because they are in effect helping me recoup some of that edge I lost by waiting a little bit for starters. To this point, only Kimbrel, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, John Axford and Jose Valverde were off the board. Hanrahan and Motte were my 4th and 5th ranked closers, so I was quite elated. And I would be even more ecstatic if this double dip forces a run.

11/12 – Anibal Sanchez and Neil Walker: I LOVE it when a plan comes together – of the 28 previous picks since my last one, a whopping 15 were closers! While I am not sure I took advantage, it did give me the opportunity to think long and hard about Sanchez, a guy completely off my radar as I usually have three quality starters at this point and am looking in other directions. Suffice it to say I saw enough in Sanchez to make him my SP3 and I think he has upside. Injury is a concern, but he has notched over 200 stanzas each of the past two seasons. Walker closed out my middle infield but I like his potential as a clean-up bat in an improving lineup and there were at least three shortstops I still liked available.

13/14 – Wilson Ramos and Gaby Sanchez: This was a combination of figuring if I passed on pitching at 3/4 I should probably make sure I keep the hitting edge along with there being no starters I liked here. Ramos is a guy I have picked a lot lately while Sanchez is solid and the last corner man before the injury risks top the lists.

15/16 – Alejandro De Aza and Justin Masterson: I need some speed, but did not want to do it at the complete expense of homers and De Aza has a shot at double digits albeit very low double digits. If Masterson can retain the gains he made versus lefties, he is a solid SP4.

17/18 – Ian Desmond and Ted Lilly: I really did not expect to end up with Desmond, figuring to get Marcos Scutaro or Zack Cozart. I played chicken with Scutaro and ultimately lost. Cozart is a bit of a wild card so I went with Desmond, who should provide excellent counting stats and I should be able to absorb his average, since he is my first player to really be deficient in the category relative to the position. I like the Lilly pick as a balance to the Masterson choice. Fly ball guys like Lilly have a better WHIP but worse ERA while the opposite is true for worm burners like Masterson, so overall my ERA and WHIP should stay in sync.

19/20 – Michael Brantley and Jeff Samardzija: Once it was announced Brantley would be atop the Tribe order, those extra plate appearances and stolen base opportunities vaulted him up my rankings several spots. This brings us to Samardzija. It is cliché, but he is a complete wild card with tremendous upside, which is something this staff needs. I am going to be throwing pitching darts all summer, why not start now?

21/22 – Dayan Viciedo and Nolan Reimold: Viciedo is a site favorite and Reimold is another wild card of sort, but again, hitting at the top of the order is enticing. I consider these spots somewhat fungible, but like the upside potential of both.

23/24 – Sean Rodriguez and Ty Wigginton: The NFBC allows Friday activations for hitters, so I like to have some multiple eligibility guys to afford some flexibility. Save catcher, I now have everything covered.

25/26 – Andrew Cashner and Jonny Venters: Remember that whole manage pitching thing? One way to do it is to deploy solid set up men with high strikeouts while you search for the emerging starter. And with Cashner, it doesn’t hurt that he is behind Huston Street, not known for his ability to avoid the disabled list.

27/28 – Kris Medlen and Mark Melancon: Medlen is an arm you want regardless of role and Melancon is the probable understudy of the American League’s version of Street in Andrew Bailey.

29/30 – Kyle Seager and Chris Narveson: Lawr is very high on Seager so this pick was an ode to my esteemed partner while Narveson is a guy whose underlying peripherals are promising and prescient of an increase in strikeouts.

C: Avila, Ramos
1B/3B: Fielder, Longoria, Sanchez
2B/SS: Phillips, Desmond, Walker
OF: Pence, Werth, De Aza, Brantley, Viciedo
UT: Reimold (S Rodriguez, Wigginton, Seager)
SP: Wilson, Shields, A Sanchez, Masterson, Lilly, Samardzija (Narveson)
RP: Hanrahan, Motte, Venters (Cashner, Medlen, Melancon)

I’ll spare you the trouble.

Zola, your pitching sucks and your outfield ain’t so hot either.

I agree. But I also feel both areas can be addressed in-season and I have plenty of high K relievers to hold down the fort with respect to pitching, while the bats should be strong enough to get by until I can get one more quality stick in the lineup.

 

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