Last week, I recapped the first 10 rounds of my the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) draft. I’m feeling good about it so far, which is a somewhat predictable feeling to have, since I probably shouldn’t hate my team yet. But it’s more than I can say about last year’s draft, which went poorly. Of course, I’m writing this intro through 14 rounds, and anything can happen in the next six or 16.
If this is your first time hearing about TGFBI, you can click my last post in the first sentence for more information. Ditto, some of my pre-draft planning. Otherwise, here’s my roster through 10 rounds:
And here’s rounds 11 through 20. I should note the minimum (Min), maximum (Max), and average (Avg) picks and the player ranks (Rank) remain fluid as we get into the later rounds. The numbers below may change slightly over the next few days as I write this in real time. Apologies for any confusion/discrepancies.
* * *
11.159 Edwin Encarnación, CWS 1B
(To resolve the cliffhangers from my previous post: my [redacted] target was Kyle Hendricks (11.154). I also had eyes for Kenta Maeda (11.151) and Matthew Boyd (11.152); all were scooped up shortly after Ryu.)
A linchpin in my threading-the-needle strategy, I knew I need bankable power, and few mid-round hitters boast it the way Encarnación does. I have other needs, and I know there are still other power bats remaining, but I’ll shore up my weakness, reap the profit, and make due as the draft proceeds.
I have one other very underrated target at 1B; he may wind up on my roster as my designated corner infielder. We’ll see. (Hint: he’s an Oriole. And, uh, I should clarify, he’s not named Chris Davis.)
12.172 Keone Kela, PIT RP
Min: 152 / Rank: 181 / Avg: 177.2 / Max: 203
Considered taking: a different closer, Willie Calhoun (12.179)
Having been sniped on Perez, I accelerated my plan to accrue saves and took a closer whose projections, both mine and of the main projection systems, liked quite a bit more than the remaining crop. He’s a little loose with the free pass, but Kela has shown an above-average ability to limit contact quality — something Ian Kennedy, the “best” closer on the board by average draft position (ADP), does not possess (and, by the way, exists in a similarly dire team context).
I’ll need one more closer, and he’s going to be bad, so I’ll wait a few more rounds. Of the next six rounds, I imagine three or four will be pitchers. Again, threading the needle — there are some “promising” young arms at this juncture, but few will actually make an impact. I’ll need to choose wisely, and I’ll likely leap ADP to do so.
13.189 Christian Vázquez, BOS C
Min: 186 / Rank: 221 / Avg: 216.1 / Max: 250
Considered taking: a different closer, Omar Narváez (15.214)
Looks like this is my biggest reach of the draft. I came away from Vázquez’s profile this year extremely impressed, and I wish I had done a proper deep dive of him last year (Jason Collette confided he had seen the promise in Vázquez prior to 2019, when he scooped him up on the cheap). Fortunately, Vázquez is relatively cheap again; to me, he represents the last bastion of good catchers before the talent pool (and playing time situations) start to degrade.
By the way, Vázquez was a top-120 player last year in 521 PA. Moreover, nothing about his profile suggests any kind of egregious benefit from luck. Even with 450 PA, he should do no worse than break even, and I expect a healthy profit.
14.202 Justin Upton, LAA OF
A perennial top-75 player prior to last year’s injury-shortened campaign, Upton is a no-brainer full-time power bat at this junction. He and Encarnación populate my shortlist of ADP-based draft targets and was another linchpin in my threading-the-needle strategy. Thus far, I’m executing successfully.
But, again: pitchers. I need pitchers. And this is where the threading gets dicey. My starting bats are almost set — just need a catcher, a corner infielder, and two outfielders. All my favorite targets have suppressed market prices, so I’ll strategically wait a bit on those while I stockpile arms.
15.219 Joe Musgrove, PIT SP
Min: 167 / Rank: 193 / Avg: 189.6 / Max: 219(!)
Considered taking: Josh James (16.234)
Something about getting sniped in the later rounds hurts way more than the earlier rounds. Your margin of error is much wider as the draft wears on, which affords you more flexibility to reach for Your GuysTM (likewise, other owners and Their Guys). To have your mid-round draft plans coincide at such a precise juncture… it’s rough.
Fortunately, Minor wasn’t my only consideration here — I may have actually preferred Musgrove more — and it affords me the opportunity to finally capture that Musgrove breakout. Musgrove has shown tantalizing upside but has failed to capitalize on it, merely being a league-average pitcher in his first 450ish innings. That’s good enough for where I drafted him; just give me 180 innings of a 4.00 ERA and I’m satisfied as my SP4 in a 15-teamer.
Something that caught my eye, though, about Musgrove last season — or, technically, something that caught Ben Clemens’ eye: his velocity ticked up in a big way in September last year, and his fastball was more effective in June during a period of marginally increased velo. Four-seam fastball velocity and swinging strike rate (SwStr%) by month, per Statcast:
April: 91.3 mph, 4.4%
May: 92.1 mph, 4.8%
June: 93.1 mph, 8.8%
July: 92.7 mph, 5.5%
August: 93.3 mph, 5.5%
September: 94.5 mph, 12.6%
16.232 Renato Núñez, BAL 1B
I got too greedy about waiting on Shin-Soo Choo (16.227). Alas, I will not enjoy his ridiculously cheap spoils for yet another year.
Is it crazy to admit this was my hardest pick of the draft to date? With just one corner infield slot left to fill but two decently high-quality options to choose from — Núñez and Urshela — I toiled over this one for maybe half an hour. Ultimately, I went with the hitter who might be the best power source left in the draft and fills a big need for me. If he hits 30 home runs again, he’s a top-150 player, easy. I suspect the Orioles have no one better to play, too, which makes him a fixture at the heart of that pathetic lineup — something not guaranteed for Urshela.
That said, I am fully sold on Urshela’s breakout last year. I’m in the camp that it’s hard to fake something like what he did. Moreover, the breakout, by measure of average exit velocity (EV) on non-bunts, average launch angle (LA), and weighted on-base average on contact (wOBAcon) resembled Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor? He lacks their walk rates, but otherwise, Urshela was an elite bat in the two-thirds of a season he was healthy. He won’t hit as many line drives — as such, his BABIP will crater a bit — but if he sustains his authoritative contact generally, it could simply transfer those liners to homers instead.
In other words, I actually think Urshela is the better hitter. But I need big power more than I need modest power and batting average. I already took enough Urshelas already precisely to hedge for the kind of profile Núñez provides. You live and you learn. I’ll have a lot of exposure to both across my teams this year.
17.249 Tom Murphy, SEA C
I am drafting pitchers like I wrote take-home essays in high school: at the last minute.
Confirmation bias: if you punch in the TGFBI settings with Depth Charts projections into the FanGraphs Auction Calculator, Murphy spits out as the 12th-best catcher. I’m the third team with two catchers; three teams have zero. To each his or her own, but I’d rather get some modicum of production from at least one of my catchers. It’s going to start thinning out quickly.
More importantly, the Mariners have (well, project to have, but, I mean, just look at it) one of the weakest lineups in baseball. If Murphy’s bat produces, the team will find ways to get it into the lineup on days when he’s not behind the dish, which should be most days anyway. I’m bullish on the batting average, too; Murph ran up high BABIPs in the minors, and his contact is loud enough for me to take the over on the sub-.300 marks projected by the prominent projected systems.
So, I guess I’m just bullish on Murphy generally. News to me! Maybe I’ll have to target him more.
18.262 Alex Wood, LAD SP
Min: 254 / Rank: 306 / Avg: 288.3 / Max: 344
Considered taking: the same three outfielders
The needle hole is shrinking, friends, and I’m not sure my thread will make it out the other side without splitting. My shortlist of back-of-the-rotation targets — Bundy, Masahiro Tanaka (17.243), Adrian Houser (17.251), Aaron Civale (18.258) — are getting snatched up, so I elevated my would-be SP6 into my SP5 slot.
Wood hasn’t had quite the same fanfare since he left Atlanta. In fairness, in the last four seasons, he has averaged exactly 100 innings, eclipsing 150 innings just twice. His age-28 (and only) season with the Reds culminated in seven starts of 5.80 ERA pitching.
Which makes it easy to forget he has a 3.40 career ERA (3.44 as a starter), with no single-season ERA ever rising above 3.84 (in 2015). He should provide high-quality innings for the limited duration he remains healthy and in the rotation. I’ll need to find a big chunk of innings to replace him; he would be good to pair up with Ross Stripling right about now. Maybe I, uh… maybe I should grab Stripling right now.
19.279 Ross Stripling, LAD SP/RP
Min: 275 / Rank: 322 / Avg: 306.3 / Max: 355
Considered taking: the same three outfielders, and Domingo Santana (19.281)
Yep, I did it. I Frankensteined a starting pitcher. A pretty good starting pitcher! That first shot at the Los Angeles rotation should be Stripling’s when Wood (or any of the Dodgers fragile starters, for that matter) goes down. It’s not if but when Stripling sees the mound. Popped him at least a round earlier than I wanted to, though.
My decision to veer toward Stripling here all but ensures I will not have Grisham on my team. Maybe we find out in two sentences if he is. But if not: I think he’s going to be really good. Or, if not “really good,” at least good enough (and possessing enough playing time) to dramatically outperform his very low ADP.
20.292 Trent Grisham, SDP OF
Min: 215 / Rank: 264 / Avg: 260.0 / Max: 293
Considered taking: no one!
Yes! YES! Eat dirt, nerds!!!!!!!!! (Sorry. I’m sorry. I’m trying to delete it)
In all seriousness: I can now rest easy. Grisham’s max pick was 293, so I threaded that dang needle. I don’t perform actual real-life fist-pumps for draft picks often, but when I do, they have a high success rate. My Fist Pumps Above Average (FPAA) and Indexed Fist Pumps (FP+) are through the roof, y’all.
OK, to elaborate on my aforementioned optimism: Grisham’s 2019 minor league campaign (Double-A and Triple-A):
.300/.407/.603 (1.010 OPS! 166 wRC+!)
…in 370 PA. That’s a 42-19-.300 pace! It’s reasonable to expect Grisham to backslide, but the base skills — frequent contact, loud contact, patience, nonzero baserunning acumen — and a clear path to playing time with a new team will make Grisham one of those breakouts we kick ourselves for not having seen coming.
This is feeling like a serious 2019 Austin Meadows situation to me, but with less prospect hype and less momentum from Grisham’s mediocre debut with his former team, the Brewers. Fortunately, I don’t have to invest a whole lot to find out, whereas Meadows was a top-50 outfielder last year. In 10- and 12-team drafts, Grisham will be practically free. (To be clear, I’m not saying Grisham will be as good as Meadows. But also… I’m not saying I’m ruling it out!)
Compared to last I checked, my projections have begun to deviate more sharply from the Depth Charts. The hitting is still fairly close, although we’re starting to see a little more power and a lot more batting average seep through. On the pitching side, the disparities have grown even wider — although I’m impressed the strikeouts have remained nearly perfectly proportional on a per-inning basis.
I’m not concerned about this — in fact, I’d expect it. They’re my projections, and it’s reasonable that I favor the guys for whom my projections have rosier outlooks. One of the hills I’m willing to die on this year is contact management for pitchers. Guys like Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke are perennially underrated for overlooking their elite contact management skills — and why Chris Archer is perennially overrated for overlooking his lack thereof. I would upgrade Jacob deGrom over Gerrit Cole as the #1 pitcher overall solely on the basis of contact management skills.
My ERA and WHIP projections lean more heavily into what they see and less heavily regresses toward the league average. I think this is a shortcoming of some of the industry standards, as evidenced above, and I’m hoping this grants me an edge over those enslaved to projected ratios, which are way too neutral for my tastes. You gotta find your edge somewhere.
* * *
What do I still need? One more closer and whatever constitutes a quality starting pitcher outside the top-300. Otherwise, it’s time to start building out my depth. The phrase I’ve repeated countless times thus far is “threading the needle;” I’m so, so close to pulling it off, although I know I will fall short in the pitching department, as in years past. Still, I’m feeling pretty good about this — possibly too good, enough for me to be skeptical, as it pertains to all things in my life but specifically to this team, of my own happiness.
Hope whomever enjoys draft recaps finds this helpful, interesting, whatever. A penny for your thoughts? To view all data TGFBI-related, click here. I’m in League 18, FYI.
Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.