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Monday 18th Dec 2017

Early in the week, my Tout Wars Hour mate, Justin Mason, of Friends With Fantasy Benefits, went on a kind of crazed mission, initiating a chunk (well, four) of industry mocks under the pretext that it was draft day, 2018.

I am a huge believer in mocks--I really feel they are the best draft preparation for both knowing the player pool, and understanding true player value--but I only had room for one of Justin's extravaganzas.

A pretty good gaggle if miscreants are participating in the slow mock, such as Howard Bender, Sammy Reid, Brent Hershey, Clay Link and The Welsh.

I have been giving my 2018 leagues a lot of thought, especially in deference to the teams I assembled this season, and their collective and relative failure. For, both my Tout and LABR teams shot out of the blocks hot, holding tight around first place until a week into May. Then it became clear that while I had plenty of pitching, I was going to be short on power.

This is a nominal problem for my teams the last handful of years, and the problem is partially rooted in the success I have had in the past, and what worked. For, while I have never really factored out an auction split of dollars allocated to pitching and then to hitting, I have generally built off pitching and tried to then get as much balance out of my hitters as permits. 

Theoretically, operating out of a pitching surplus as such would give me chips to trade as the season progressed, and there have indeed been times when this worked really well. Alas, the plot does not work so well, however, when Eduardo Escobar is having a 15-homer season, like just about every other middling middle infielder on the planet.

Mind you, I am not knocking Escobar, for he has been a fantastic $1 player in all of my leagues. But the cast around him, in the days where home runs rule, pitching is derelict and strikeouts are plentiful simply will not lead to success.

So, I am really trying to deconstruct how I approach my drafts, how I can stack power and still have enough bucks or slots left to fill out my pitching staff successfully. And that should be doable since building pitching staffs is a strength.

Anyway, with months ahead to prepare, and apparently mocks abounding, this is indeed the time to practice, no?

With four rounds gone thus far, I am indeed pushing towards hitting, so here are my first picks in the 15-team standard 5x5 draft (I picked in the fifth slot). If you would like to peruse all the rosters, the link to Couch Managers is here.

Nolan Arenado (3B): As a 26-year-old, the Rockies third sacker put up his third monster season in a row with a career high in average (.306), doubles (42) and OPS (.949). The guy is a production machine and exactly the kind of steady and durable hitter I need to anchor a team. That means in a mixed auction I would spend the $40-plus to get him. 

J.D. Martinez (OF): I have always shied from Martinez, a little because I wasn't sure he was the real deal, and partially because of the injury factor. Martinez has played a full complement of games only once --158 in 2015--since becoming a starter, but he is so steady and productive. In fact, Martinez seems to me to be the new Magglio Ordonez.

Starling Marte (OF): I will treat this season as a loss leader and figure Marte picks it back up for a full season with his suspension behind him, both picking up his offense and giving me a core for some steals.

Robinson Cano (2B): Cano has had a bit of a dropoff this year, but I too expect him back with a last laugh, leaving us with a fantastic HOF career. Even with the down season, Cano managed a .284-23-93 line. The question for me is whether it's time to seriously look at someone like D.J. LeMahieu as a better option and spend more money on a first sacker, like Joey Votto. But that is why the mocks are helpful, for over the course of a dozen or so of these exercises, the path will be clearer.

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and follow me @lawrmichaels.

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