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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

I have no idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone five years from now. But, as part of the recent First Pitch Arizona Fantasy Baseball Conference, I was among 12 soothsayers tasked with assembling a fantasy baseball team under the provision that whoever we picked would be on the squad through the 2017 season.

I was joined in this Five-Year Futures Draft by site partners Lawr Michaels and Brian Walton, with staffers Perry Van Hook and Don Drooker in the audience. The instructions were a bit vague (the only rule was as stated, whoever we pick we are married to until our fifth anniversary). Obviously, since this was a fantasy baseball symposium we drafted assuming this was a standard 5x5 roto league, but that was the extent of the boundaries.

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball since 1989 and have participated in exactly 4,216 drafts, without ever having the first pick. Guess who got the first pick in number 4,217? Here is a synopsis of my fellow combatants in order of initial pick:

2. Rob Gordon, co-author of Baseball HQ’s Minor League Baseball Analyst
3. Tim Heaney, KFFL Managing Editor and author of Rounding the Bases
4. Lawr Michaels, needs no introduction
5. Derek Van Riper, Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com and co-host of RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio
6. Brian Walton, neither does he
7. Steve Gardner, Senior Fantasy Editor for USA TODAY Sports
8. Matthew Cederholm, Baseball HQ Analyst
9. Steve Moyer, former President of Baseball Info Solutions
10. Nicholas Minnix, KFFL Managing Editor and author of Finger Nickin’ Good
11. Andy Andres, Baseball HQ Analyst
12. Jock Thompson, Baseball HQ Analyst

My strategy was buoyed by being awarded the initial selection. In real leagues of this nature, I selfishly try to win the first season as well as build a foundation for future championships. Admittedly, this is hard to do with a later first round pick and is anti to the advice I offer for those is keeper leagues – either go for it or rebuild, else you end up doing a half-ass job at both. Having the first pick gives me a head start at multi-tasking.

Going in, I was aiming for balance. I wanted a nice combination of established players versus prospects. While injury risk would be a consideration, with so many players visiting the disabled list nowadays, I would not shy away from a player with an injury history to take a less talented player. With respect to pitching, I did factor in this was a 12-team league, therefore I did not feel strategically it was necessary to secure one of the elite arms (either present or future), relying on my ability to piece together a contending staff starting a tier or two lower. If the draft went long enough, I would not shy away from taking a chucker, I just wanted to focus on a hitting base early.

Here is the draft. We completed six rounds:

1.01 Zola Ryan Braun
1.02 Gordon Mike Trout
1.03 Heaney Miguel Cabrera
1.04 Michaels Mike Stanton
1.05 Van Riper Jason Heyward
1.06 Walton Andrew McCutchen
1.07 Gardner Carlos Gonzalez
1.08 Cederholm Joey Votto
1.09 Moyer Bryce Harper
1.10 Minnix Starlin Castro
1.11 Andres Justin Upton
1.12 Thompson Matt Kemp
2.01 Thompson Albert Pujols
2.02 Andres Robinson Cano
2.03 Minnix Buster Posey
2.04 Moyer Elvis Andrus
2.05 Cederholm Stephen Strasburg
2.06 Gardner Clayton Kershaw
2.07 Walton Evan Longoria
2.08 Van Riper Troy Tulowitzki
2.09 Michaels Matt Wieters
2.10 Heaney Jay Bruce
2.11 Gordon Prince Fielder
2.12 Zola Ian Kinsler
3.01 Zola Brett Lawrie
3.02 Gordon Justin Verlander
3.03 Heaney Adam Jones
3.04 Michaels Desmond Jennings
3.05 Van Riper Yoenis Cespedes
3.06 Walton Felix Hernandez
3.07 Gardner David Wright
3.08 Cederholm Ian Desmond
3.09 Moyer Melky Cabrera
3.10 Minnix Hanley Ramirez
3.11 Andres Anthony Rizzo
3.12 Thompson Wilin Rosario
4.01 Thompson David Price
4.02 Andres Madison Bumgarner
4.03 Minnix B.J. Upton
4.04 Moyer Chase Headley
4.05 Cederholm Paul Goldschmidt
4.06 Gardner Eric Hosmer
4.07 Walton Jurickson Profar
4.08 Van Riper Billy Hamilton
4.09 Michaels Ryan Zimmerman
4.10 Heaney Billy Butler
4.11 Gordon Josh Hamilton
4.12 Zola Manny Machado
5.01 Zola Jose Reyes
5.02 Gordon Chris Sale
5.03 Heaney Dustin Pedroia
5.04 Michaels Matt Moore
5.05 Van Riper Pablo Sandoval
5.06 Walton Aroldis Chapman
5.07 Gardner Craig Kimbrel
5.08 Cederholm Gio Gonzalez
5.09 Moyer Carlos Santana
5.10 Minnix Matt Cain
5.11 Andres Edwin Encarnacion
5.12 Thompson Yu Darvish
6.01 Thompson Freddie Freeman
6.02 Andres Dylan Bundy
6.03 Minnix Johnny Cueto
6.04 Moyer Dee Gordon
6.05 Cederholm Ike Davis
6.06 Gardner Jesus Montero
6.07 Walton Allen Craig
6.08 Van Riper Adrian Gonzalez
6.09 Michaels Jason Kipnis
6.10 Heaney Austin Jackson
6.11 Gordon Joe Mauer
6.12 Zola Cole Hamels

Click HERE for the draft listed by team on a spreadsheet.

Here is a brief review of the thought process for my picks as well as some comments on other picks I favored or disagreed with. Please feel free to comment below and we will try to reply back as soon as possible.

1.01 Ryan Braun: More a pro-Braun than anti-Trout pick (see this MASTERSBLOG post), I just favor the tried and true over the up and coming. Braun has a proven track record that combines durability with excellence and is still relatively young, turning 29 in mid-November.

2.12 Ian Kinsler: I admit to fashioning the proverbial man-crush on Kinsler so I understand this pick could raise some eyebrows. The problem with Kinsler is inconsistency. His floor is Howard “don’t call me Howie” Kendrick while his ceiling is Carlos Gonzalez with second base eligibility. Age is a concern as Kinsler turned 30 in June, but he still should have a handful of solid campaigns left. Durability is also an issue, but my feelings about not worrying about health much aside, Kinsler has played 155 and 157 games the previous two seasons.

3.01 Brett Lawrie: Time to start adding some youth as well as (hopefully) shoring up an improving but still suspect fantasy position at the hot corner. In March, Lawrie, along with Eric Hosmer and Desmond Jennings, rocketed up in ADP as there is always a faction of drafters lusting after the shiny new toy. None of the three were worthy of their lofty draft status, but all remain candidates to be solid fantasy contributors and I like Lawrie to do it sooner than later.

4.12 Manny Machado: If this were a real draft, I just locked up my corner, but I would have done so anticipating Machado is moved back to shortstop right away. I admit this is a bit of a chance as he is not assured of a spot on the Orioles’ opening day roster, but it would take quite a confluence of events to send the surprise call-up back to the farm for more seasoning. Prospecting is not my niche, but the comp I’ve heard quite frequently from those I trust is Hanley Ramirez without the attitude. The main reason I was willing to chance such an unproven commodity is if this were a real draft, at some point we would be taking the older players. It is my experience that in a draft of this nature, there will be a couple of owners looking at youth from the get-go, eschewing the players a bit longer in the tooth, but yet still productive to help for the next couple of years, if not longer. I’d be the guy willing to pick up those scraps and fortify my chances to win sooner as well as later.

5.01 Jose Reyes: OK, so now I’ve locked up either my middle or corner, but I’ll somehow manage to piece together a legal lineup. Reyes turned 29 in June so I hope to squeeze at least three but hopefully more stellar years out of him. The injuries are a concern, but like I said when I picked him, it’s not like everyone else has a roster replete with guys that will go 162. I’ll take the chance, especially knowing I have Machado also on the team, meaning I can use either a second baseman or shortstop to replace him if he were to go down.

6.12 Cole Hamels: Coming into the draft, I wanted to choose one from Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Jered Weaver or Hamels as my first pitcher. At the 3/4 turn, I sensed at least one would be available if I waited so I did just that and alas, both Hamels and Weaver were there. As I announced when I made this pick, it was actually a coin flip between Hamels and Weaver with the loser being my first pick in the next round, which was the very next pick.

Overall, I feel I balanced a couple of older vets (Kinsler and Reyes) with a pair of emerging stars (Lawrie and Machado), glued together by Braun. I love starting my staff with the proven but still relatively youthful Weaver and Hamels. In a real draft of this nature, my guess is I’d be more willing than most to jump on the older but still productive starters to fill out the middle of the staff while saving the darts for the end.


Giancarlo Stanton: This is a matter of philosophy more than anything and is also apropos to how I will treat him in 2013 redraft leagues. While I concede he has the most power potential in the league, I am still leery of the excessive strikeout rate with health being a secondary concern. If your philosophy is second place is first loser, then Stanton’s your man.

Joey Votto: Out of sight, out of mind. Votto’s injury has made a few people forget how good he is (myself included) and could actually be a value play come the spring.

Bryce Harper: I have no issues with taking Harper this early, so long as the plan is to win in 2015-2017. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that the debate was Trout versus Harper. Presently, the debate is Trout versus Miggy for MVP and it will soon be a ménage-a-trios with Braun for the first overall pick.

Starlin Castro: Love the pick Nick, just maybe not the spot. I think this over indulges the scarcity element. On the other hand, like I alluded to with Harper, if your intention is to win in 2015-2017, I can see taking him here to lock him up and then making up for the lost stats later as even with the positional bump accounted for, I just don’t see Castro’s numbers as first round quality for the next couple of seasons, maybe in ’15.

Justin Upton: Would have taken him third, after only Braun and Trout. Guess you could say I’m still a believer. I hope to snag him in the second round in a bunch of drafts this upcoming season, perhaps even late first.

Buster Posey: Will have an NFBC ADP between 8-12 this spring, just you watch. I think it is warranted, but strategically, I’m not taking a catcher that early. In this draft, my concern would be if Posey is still catching in a couple of years.

Melky Cabrera: I’m assuming this will be questioned so I’ll just say that my gut says Steve just wanted to make the point that in his opinion, Cabrera’s numbers will not fall much as opposed to thinking he is a top-36 player overall, although with Steve you never know. Using the latter as the presumption, from a strategic perspective, I prefer to garner more counting stats from my hitting cornerstones and not realize so much of his value from batting average.

Wilin Rosario: Selfishly, I hope Jock is right as he is a keeper on my XFL squad. My concern is not just his unsightly strikeout rate, but there is some question as to whether he can stick at receiver defensively. That said, I am going to put together a list of names that will be “NFBC darlings” and Rosario will be the poster child.

Paul Goldschmidt: Another example of an NFBC darling, Goldschmidt is getting some serious love. Granted, my recent track record is anything but staunch, but it was not all that long ago that Goldschmidt was losing at-bats to Lyle Overbay.


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