After 22 days and 10 hours, it was over. Late on Thursday night, my 50-round NFBC slow draft finally reached its end, and my focus immediately shifted to the Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft to be held this coming Saturday. As I've mentioned before, I like to use the NFBC Draft Champions draft as a preparation tool for my other drafts, most notably Tout, since both leagues are of the 15-team Mixed variety.
Although Tout is an auction, as opposed to a snake draft, at least I can get a feel for the depth of the player pool at each of the positions. However, there is a downside to participating in a snake draft before an auction, as it is entirely possible to purchase the exact same team that you drafted in the snake format. Unlikely, but possible. And this sort of overlapping is something I try to avoid if I can. Sure, there are always exceptions. There are always a handful of "my guys", players who I draft in two, three, or even four leagues. But what fun is that? Drafting the same players over and over again could lead to a dominant overall fantasy season but it could also lead to a rather depressing six-month experience. So, here are a handful of players who reside on my NFBC roster but are unlikely to find a home on my Tout Wars squad, for various reasons.
Adam Jones - Barring something crazy happening, I will not be investing in Jones next weekend, the main reason for this being that Tout is an OBP league. While Jones sports a solid .278 career batting average, his career OBP is a pedestrian .319, and he hasn't posted an OBP above .318 since 2012. The Orioles centerfielder could very well bounce back from what was a somewhat disappointing 2015 campaign, but in an OBP auction league, I'd sooner select one of the other outfielders in his tier.
Ketel Marte - There was a time when only Todd Zola was talking about Marte. Fortunately, I was able to draft him within that window. Now, the Mariners shortstop is included in every article on top sleepers to the point where he's no longer a sleeper. In fact, we may have reached the point where he's being overvalued. Note that Marte has only 57 games of big league experience. By no means will I be avoiding him at the auction table, but I have a strong feeling that his price will exceed my comfort zone.
Chase Headley - I waited too long to address the third base position in the NFBC draft, so I got stuck with this guy. That will not happen again. Aside from his MVP caliber 2012 season, Headley has turned in mediocre offensive numbers. When he's your starting third baseman in a mixed league, you know that something went wrong.
Gio Gonzalez - Gio has been a longtime favorite of mine, and drafting him this year for what will likely be a modest price could net a nice profit. That said, Gonzalez is coming off a 2015 season in which he posted his highest hit rate since 2009, and his lack of pitch count efficiency hurts him in the Wins department. He lasted more than six innings in just nine of his 31 starts in 2015. I'll probably draft him in multiple leagues anyway, as his low cost will be too tempting to ignore. But I'm not so sure that Tout will be one of those leagues. I guess it will all depend on price.
Anibal Sanchez - Like Gio, Anibal has been a member of many of my fantasy teams over the years, as you can probably tell from the first name references. Unfortunately, this is not the same Anibal as the one who registered a 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 202 strikeouts back in 2013. This is an older and more brittle Anibal. This is an Anibal who missed time last season due to a shoulder injury and has already dealt with multiple ailments this spring. On the other hand, this is an Anibal who will likely be available for a price no greater than five bucks.
This is an Anibal who I might end up drafting after all.
In 13 days, I will be making the trek from Downtown Manhattan to the SiriusXM headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to participate for the fifth time in the Tout Wars Mixed Auction draft. My preparation process has now officially entered the serious stage, but let's face it, auctions are pretty tough to prepare for. You can assign dollar values to players and make a list of players to target, but master plans can easily get thrown off by a few unexpected winning bids, so flexibility is a must.
Still, I do like to enter the draft room with a master plan in the form of an ideal team that I expect to fit under the $260 cap, though I make sure to include contingency plans. But, this column will not be about the auction phase of the draft. Instead, I'm going to focus on the easy (well, easier) part, the reserve rounds. Roughly ten minutes after the conclusion of the 345-player auction, we will conduct a six-round snake draft to fill out our benches. By this time, I'm usually so drained out from the auction that it's hard to think straight, which is why I like to have an extensive list handy of intriguing players that could be available in the reserve rounds. Using my still in progress 50-round, 15-team mixed slow NFBC draft as a guide, here are some of the players that are piquing my interest. (Note that all of these guys were taken in rounds 24-29 in the NFBC draft, coinciding with the reserve rounds in Tout.)
Trevor Story - This is probably wishful thinking, as the 23-year-old top prospect is the favorite to open the season as Colorado's starting shortstop. It seems likely that he will garner a bid at least in the $3-$5 range. If Story produces right away, it will be difficult for the Rockies to justify making a lineup change, even when (or if) Jose Reyes rejoins the team.
Brandon Finnegan - Although the Reds say that Finnegan will need to compete for a rotation spot this spring, I just don't see Michael Lorenzen standing in the way of the former first-round draft selection. Call it a hunch. There's immediate mixed league mid-rotation potential here.
James Paxton - Speaking of potential, injuries have so far prevented Paxton from making his mark at the big league level, and he was inconsistent during his 13-start 2015 campaign. But if he can pitch more like the guy who posted a 2.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his first 17 major league starts and actually avoids the DL, now that would be something.
Desmond Jennings - Him again? I just can't seem to shake off my fascination with Jennings and his power/speed ability, even though he lets me down time and time again due to a combination of health woes and overall mediocre performance. Jennings will likely still be available in the reserve rounds, and there's little risk in taking another chance on him for a price of $0. I will really try to resist though. Let's see how that goes.
Pedro Alvarez - It would help if Alvarez actually signed with a major league team. But assuming that Pedro receives fairly regular at-bats somewhere, even as the strong side of a platoon, go ahead and tell me where you can find a cheaper 25 homers.
Joaquin Benoit/Kevin Quackenbush/Ryan Madson - Don't we all love the saves speculation game? In deep mixed leagues, my general closer strategy is to draft one upper-tier stopper, one mid-range closer with a high degree of job security and one setup man who is next in line for saves behind a shaky or injury-prone closer. Benoit, Quackenbush and Madson all fit this description, and there's a good chance that at least one of these relievers will find a home on my Tout Wars roster in 13 days.
On Wednesday, February 17th at 1:00 PM ET, my 2016 Fantasy Baseball season officially began with the start of the NFBC Draft Champions League 3719, a 15-team mixed, 50-round slow draft. For those unfamiliar with the Draft Champions format, well, the draft is kind of important. In addition to no trading, a rule that applies to all NFBC leagues, no in-season pickups are allowed in Draft Champions leagues. The 50 players you draft (23 starters, 27 reserves) are the 50 players you will have for the entire season. The only in-season management required is setting lineups every Monday, with hitter lineup changes permitted on Friday as well.
Since owners are allowed eight hours to make each selection, patience is a must. While it is very rare that someone uses the full eight hours, it is not uncommon for an hour or two to pass between some of the picks. But the relaxed pace suits me just fine, as there is ample time to research players, and in the latter stages of the draft, research players who I might not know much about. In this respect, I have found the Draft Champions setup to be an invaluable tool to help me prepare for my other drafts, which is why I make sure to schedule it well in advance of the mid to late March draft crunch.
Let's now take a peek at the early portion of my league's draft and focus on a handful of players whose draft position differed significantly from their NFBC ADP. Although I will never use ADP lists to tell me who to pick, they can be useful when trying to determine if it is too risky to wait another round to take a certain targeted player. That said, every draft is different, so treating ADP too seriously can often lead to either missing out on a player you really wanted or, in hindsight of course, regretting that you reached for a player. So, if you plan on drafting any of the following players, it might be a good idea to ignore ADP entirely.
DC draft: 109
If Kipnis bats in the leadoff spot for most of this season, as he did for the vast majority of 2015, he should once again score a high number of runs. But he has yet to bat at least .260 in consecutive seasons and his power and speed production has tailed off in recent years. Considering the quality depth at the 2B position, I'm leaning towards going with one of the cheaper options in my March drafts, even though he could turn out to be a solid pick, especially at #109.
DC draft: 77
There's been plenty of hype surrounding Odor heading into the 2016 campaign, and maybe the Rougned Fan Club will prove to be right. But as I mentioned in a previous column, is there really a huge difference between Odor and Neil Walker, who was taken with pick #231 in the DC draft?
DC draft: 112
Although Kinsler's 30/30 days are a thing of the past, he remains a reliable across-the-board contributor. His ADP of 92 seems about right while drafting him at #112 could net quite a profit. Keep in mind that Kinsler was taken 35 picks after fellow second baseman Odor and a few picks after Kipnis.
DC draft: 49
You know the deal with Adrian. He's a little boring but he's also extremely consistent. In other words, he's a comfortable fallback option should you miss out on the truly elite first basemen. I have no problem with my DC league mate selecting him at #49 and I don't understand why he's ranked well outside of the top-60 in ADP.
DC draft: 62
Starting pitchers were going off the board early and often in the DC draft. In fact, Salazar was the 21st SP selected. That's right, more than one-third of the first 62 picks were starting pitchers. Taking into account the league format, it does makes sense, as streaming pitchers is not an option, so owning the high-end guys who can safely be started regardless of the matchup becomes all the more important. As for Salazar, there's a lot to like, most notably the high strikeout rate. But the track record is rather thin, so it's no sure thing that he will deliver low-end ace/high-end SP2 numbers. And that's what he will need to do for his Draft Champions league owner to break even.
It's now 5:30 PM ET on Saturday, February 27th. With pick #410, I'm on the clock.
Mock drafting is by far the most effective way to prepare for the real thing. In addition to providing an opportunity to practice making specific decisions between players, mocks paint a fairly accurate picture of the perceived value of certain players. And this is a major reason why I try to participate in as many mocks as possible, because if I come to the conclusion that a player carries more value than what the market is dictating, I know that I might not need to reach for him. Instead, I can address other needs before drafting that player a round or two later. This information is especially helpful when comparing two or more options at a specific position, focusing on the difference in their draft day cost compared to the difference in their expected production level. If the projections are close enough, you will obviously want to side with the cheaper choice.
On that note, with the 12-team MLB.com Fantasy 411 Expert Mock more than two-thirds complete, let's take a trip around the infield and look at a pair of players at each position that were separated by at least 20 spots in the draft but could post very similar stat lines in 2016.
Brian McCann: Round 11, Pick 4 (#124 overall)
Russell Martin: Round 13, Pick 2 (#146 overall)
Last year marked McCann's eighth straight season of at least 20 home runs, and his 94 RBI tied his previous single-season high. But Martin topped McCann in three of the five standard rotisserie hitting categories (AVG, R, SB) and will again benefit from hitting in a lineup that could once again lead the Majors in runs scored. All things equal, I'd rather have McCann, but when factoring in the 22-pick discount, the choice becomes a lot tougher.
Joey Votto: Round 2, Pick 10 (#22 overall)
Adrian Gonzalez: Round 4, Pick 6 (#42 overall)
After being limited to just 62 games due to injury in 2014, Votto enjoyed a fine bounce-back season last year, but the Reds first sacker remains an injury risk, as the last time he put together two consecutive fully healthy seasons was 2010-2011. Meanwhile, Gonzalez has appeared in at least 156 games in every season since becoming a full-time player back in 2006, and from an offensive production standpoint, he's been the model of consistency throughout his career. Outside of OBP leagues, Gonzalez is the more reliable option, and at a price nearly two full rounds cheaper than Votto, Adrian would be my preferred pick.
Rougned Odor: Round 7, Pick 8 (#80 overall)
Neil Walker: Round 12, Pick 4 (#136 overall)
Would I draft Odor before Walker? Sure. Would I draft him 56 picks before Walker? Not so much. After slugging 16 homers (including 12 in the second half) in 426 at-bats last year, Odor carries a great deal of upside heading into his age-22 season. That said, drafting him at pick #80 is paying for that upside, which might work out just fine, but it's risky. At this point, Walker's 23-home run campaign in 2014 is looking like the outlier, but he's settled in as a dependable top-12 fantasy second baseman. Give me the cheaper veteran and I'll use the savings elsewhere.
Corey Seager: Round 5, Pick 11 (#59 overall)
Jhonny Peralta: Round 16, Pick 4 (#184 overall)
Similar to the 2B comparison, this is a case of high ceiling neophyte versus boring older guy, except that Seager is widely viewed as the top prospect in baseball. For full disclosure (you can look it up but I'll save you the time), I was the one who drafted Seager in this mock, and I'm expecting big things from him. But if I had known that Peralta, fresh off yet another steady season, would be there for the taking 125 picks later, well, I might have followed a different route.
Kyle Seager: Round 5, Pick 8 (#56 overall)
Evan Longoria: Round 9, Pick 2 (#98 overall)
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Corey's older brother, who offers the valuable combination of a stable floor along with some room to grow. Longoria isn't the player he used to be, but the Rays third baseman is still just 30 years of age, and despite carrying a reputation of being injury-prone, the reality is that he has played at least 160 games in each of the last three seasons. Drafting Longoria at pick #98 could net quite a profit, and although I wasn't planning on targeting him in drafts this year, I might now need to reconsider.
Until my next mock draft suggests otherwise.