Draft Review: “Beat Alex Chamberlain” NFBC Rotowire Championship

Allow me to break the fourth wall (more than I normally break the fourth well) and say I’m glad a few of you have enjoyed my recent (mock) draft recaps, especially the format of them. It can be tough to make that kind of content both interesting and informative, so I’m glad it has achieved at least the minimum thresholds in both regards.

(Mock Draft Review: RotoBaller Friends and Family Draft)
(Draft Review: The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational)

I was fortunate enough for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) to sponsor a “Beat Alex Chamberlain” high-stakes league. It was my first time competing in this specific contest: the $350 Rotowire Online Championship. With that kind of buy-in, I knew I would likely face some sharp competition despite having no prior exposure to any of the other owners.

The league specifications are as follows:

Draft: snake
Clock: 1 minute
Teams: 12
Positions: C-C-1B-2B-SS-3B-MI-CI-OF-OF-OF-OF-OF-UT; P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P; 7 bench (30 total players)
Roster moves: weekly
FAAB: $1,000
Trades: not allowed

Like the Great Fantasy Baseball Championship (TGFBI), the Rotowire Online Championship is a two-catcher league and uses Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) preferences to create a draft order. Unlike TGFBI, it’s a 12-team league, which I think is my sweet spot in terms of drafting. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite recalibrate from drafting for 15 teams to drafting for 12 teams as seamlessly as I hoped.

What I think I did do well, though, is plan out the first dozen rounds of my draft very meticulously, mapping out the likely paths I would follow like a thread through the draft. I said this in a previous review, but I felt like I was firing on all cylinders — up to a certain point, where I got cute and derailed my late-game strategy. In the long-run, it likely won’t be a huge deal; I tend to excel on the waiver wire, and this league is shallow enough that I won’t be placing my FAAB bids on a replacement level wasteland.

KDS preference: 4-5-6-7-1-2-3-8-9-10-11-12
If I could do it over: 3-4-5-6-7-1-2-8-9-10-11-12

1.04 Jose Ramirez CLE 3B

You know how I said I mapped out my draft very meticulously? Every scenario I envisioned had me landing Max Scherzer at #4 overall. So, of course, the owner drafting third selected Scherzer, instantly throwing me into chaos. I didn’t have a particularly hard decision to make — a 20/15/.290 version of Ramirez might come within swinging distance of 1st-round value, and I think we can agree that’s a low-end projection for him — and the window until my next pick (17 picks) afforded me time to rejigger the whole shebang. Still, color me rattled.

2.21 Corey Kluber CLE SP

My ideal start included Scherzer in the 1st round and either Corey Kluber, Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, or Trevor Story in the 2nd round, with Kluber as my priority to assemble a fierce two-ace tandem. With Scherzer off the board, I might’ve sacrified my first-born to ensure I landed Kluber (acknowledging that Chris Sale wouldn’t fall to me, and he didn’t). I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but my work here isn’t done. One of the next two rounds, which I had dedicated to hitters, needs to be a pitcher now. (Not needs to be, just that I’d deeply prefer him to be.)

3.28 Whit Merrifield KCR 2B/OF

Of my first dozen or so picks, the third round was one I did not populate with a name, having no idea who might fall to me at this juncture. The big names on the board: Trevor Bauer, Andrew Benintendi, Kris Bryant, Charlie Blackmon, Blake Snell, etc. Lots of quality here, yet I opted for Merrifield, a high-average, high-speed, modest-power option that further solidifies my average and speed bases. Many of my early-round targets are power hitters. This helps me avoid getting desperate in later rounds when speed and average runs dry sooner than power.

Off the board here: Marte (3.35), Khris Davis (3.36), Carlos Carrasco (4.40), and Anthony Rizzo (4.41). Carrasco was the biggest blow here, as he’s my ideal consolation-prize ace in the event that I didn’t string together Scherzer and Kluber in the first two rounds. I knew my best odds to pull off something like this would be from the 4-hole. All this is to say: when mapping out your draft, you should be thinking well beyond the first round. Play chess, not checkers.

4.45 Luis Severino NYY SP

This is a dicey play, given the inauspicious news yesterday about Severino’s shoulder being tender. Still, with Carrasco off the board, we officially enter the territory of talented-but-fragile starters. To attest: James Paxton was drafted prior to Severino. It was that fact, and that fact alone, that I used to justify Severino in the 4th round despite the negative press. Severino is more talented than Paxton and, realistically, will still throw more innings.

Anthony Rendon (4.48) and Tommy Pham (5.50) depletes my queue but makes my next decision a bit easier. As I mentioned in another recap: you’re better off reframing “snipes” as simplifying your next decision, not getting robbed. It really helps alleviate the mental load.

5.52 Joey Votto CIN 1B

A slight overdraft at his current average draft position (ADP), I knew I wanted either Votto or Daniel Murphy here. Having faced this exact decision during my TGFBI draft and chosen the latter, I opted for the former here, simply to diversify my portfolio. Besides, if Votto fixes what he himself diagnosed as a mechanical issues that depressed his launch angle, he could easily bounce back to 2nd-round value.

I’d be lying if I said I hoped Murphy (6.61) might last until my next pick, but alas. Yasiel Puig (6.62) and George Springer (6.64) shakes up my outfield plans a little. I can tell you now, my outfield will end up being shallower than I expected. I actually end up moving Merrifield to my outfield mid-draft in order to accommodate more second basemen.

6.69 Nelson Cruz MIN UT

Death, taxes, and Nelson Cruz is undervalued in fantasy baseball again. I strongly considered popping Davis in lieu of Merrifield in the 3rd round, bringing me dangerously close to being, if not cementing me as, Davis’ minimum pick, thereby leaving money on the table. Davis, however, is UT-only this year — something I learned the hard way during TGFBI. I knew I had about a 99.9% chance of landing Cruz in the 6th, and I didn’t want to clog my utility slot and deprive myself the joy of owning a very cheap, very profitable share of Cruz. He is aging like David Ortiz, which is to say he could be sending baseballs into orbit into his 40s.

I got sniped here. With Eddie Rosario (7.75) off the board, I did something I haven’t done in not only 2018 but also several years.

7.76 Craig Kimbrel FA RP

I took a closer early. A healthy, functioning Kimbrel is a $18-equivalent closer. My 7th-round pick here is worth roughly $14. Few closers boast Kimbrel’s track record. At a position where job security is increasingly difficult to come by, Kimbrel should be fine no matter where he lands. That’s the rub, though: he hasn’t landed anywhere. His agent dismissed reports that he wouldn’t sit out the 2018 season and he would sign somewhere. There are maybe five teams where he might not uproot the incumbent closer, and it’s hard to imagine him landing with any of them. It’s a risky play, but I’m feeling daring.

I still don’t have a true outfielder, which is a rarity for me. Throughout this draft, I’ll proceed to take who I believe is the best player on the board at any given time, unless I’m able to engage in ADP arbitrage and gamble on waiting an extra round or two. Frequently, this worked in my favor.

8.93 Justin Upton LAA OF

Another draft, another Upton share. It’s weird to think of him as my OF1 (and, eventually, I don’t, moving Merrifield there instead). I won’t draft another outfielder until the 18th round — again, very unorthodox for me. In the early/middle rounds, though, you should be drafting talent, not position. (Except in two-catcher leagues. I’ll get to that shortly.)

9.100 Travis Shaw MIL 2B/3B

I don’t make it publicly known, but I kind of irrationally love Shaw.
The age-27 breakout was divine, and he still generated substantial value on his sequel campaign despite an absurdly unlucky .242 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). I’m banking on another .200+ isolated power (ISO) and a batting average rebound with zero expectations for speed. A full season of 30/2/.260 makes Shaw an easy profit play here and provides me additional multipositional flexibility.

Justin Turner (9.101), Michael Brantly (9.102), Corey Seager (10.111), and Josh Donaldson (10.113) further deplete my queue, although none of them where my primary focus — although I did kick myself for not considering Seager more heavily in my previous turn. It’s remarkable how far he fell in this draft. (Speaking of easy-profit guys.)

10.117 Charlie Morton TBR SP

I made my case for Morton in the TGFBI review linked at the top. Morton is wildly underrated relative to the types of pitchers with whom he should be compared but basically isn’t. My only concern — something that hadn’t fazed me until this draft — is a legitimate “Houston effect.” Trevor Bauer already alleged what I might allege; I just hope that the basis of those allegations don’t undermine Morton’s effectiveness with another team.

I thought long and hard about Scooter Gennett (10.119) where I took Morton, but I knew from the start of the draft that I wanted Morton in the 10th. Still, Gennett has been stupendous the last two years with hardly any recognition for it. But, come on: how many second basemen do I need? (Spoiler: at least one more.)

11.124 Edwin Encarnacion SEA 1B

Encarnacion is one of a few hitters that I, in all sincerity, would have taken three rounds ago. With a first baseman already rostered, I instead targeted areas of greater concern, letting Encarnacion fall. When he remained on the board, I was more than happy to welcome this Chamberlain cornerstone back onto another squad. A consistent top-60 player every year since his breakout in 2012, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he and the parrot don’t turn a profit this year.

Not gonna lie: Ender Inciarte (12.136) devastates me a little bit. Love his speed-average combo, even if it’s low-key. I really wanted him here because I still don’t really have any dang outfielders. The wait continues.

12.141 Yadier Molina STL C

Yadi is a great price here in a one-catcher league. In a two-catcher league, he’s a fantastic value. I didn’t know exactly when I wanted to grab a catcher, but I knew I wanted it to do it before a run on catchers occurred. I had mapped it out to the 12th round, and with Inciarte off the board, it created a perfect circumstance to execute the plan.

Rich Hill (12.133) and Mike Moustakas (12.134) rattle me a bit. Moustakas, not as much, although I looked forward to his 2B/3B dual eligibility. But Hill? Let’s just say I gave myself a similar 99.9% chance to draft him in the 13th round. (I might be misremembering this, though. A 14th-round selection of Hill is still aggressive relative to ADP. I guess someone likes him more than me.)

13.148 Brian Dozier WAS 2B

Like Encarnacion, I considered drafted Dozier as many as three rounds earlier. And, like Encarnacion, I bypassed him just to see how far he’d fall. He didn’t fill a need, but I’d be damned if a healthy Dozier is not only the best player left on the board but also maybe the most valuable pick in the triple-digits. It remains to be seen how he recovers from his knee woes, but a bounceback campaign from Dozier could put my team over the top.

OK, time to start thinking about pitching. I have a couple of arms in mind, and I end up landing them both here. Eduardo Rodriguez (14.161) is a solid value here. I hadn’t considered him until moments before he was selected, but I do have him a few shares of him, and I like his upside. Also, for a split second, I thought about how Stephen Piscotty (12.163) would make a great addition to my team at this juncture — then, poof, he was gone.

14.165 Yusei Kikuchi SEA SP

What do I know about Kikuchi? Next to nothing. What do I know about highly regarded overseas talents in their first years as fantasy baseball assets? They are routinely underrated. I make the gamble, injecting a giant question mark into my lineup as my SP4 without batting an eye.

It doesn’t surprise me to see Hyun-Jin Ryu (14.167) leave the board shortly after Kikuchi. I think there’s a subconscious association that ties together Japanese and Korean pitchers. I would’ve liked to have Ryu, but I like my next arm more.

15.172 Kenta Maeda LAD SP

Another draft, another Maeda share. (Another Maeda share, another recycled rhetorical device.) Love me some Maeda. Here’s to hoping the Dodgers don’t maliciously manipulate his playing time. I’m not sure they can afford to with Clayton Kershaw ailing.

Like clockwork, Ross Stripling (15.173) goes immediately after Maeda. Ryan Braun (16.188) sniped once again decimates my outfield plans. It’s not like I need to catch a break, but man, I really need some outfielders. Like, really really.

16.189 Andrelton Simmons LAA SS

This is a pretty steep overdraft by means of ADP, but I need a shortstop, and I have always loved Simmons’ contact skills. He pairs his high average with just enough power and speed to make him a $10ish hitter the last two years — almost doubly valuable compared to the $6 equivalent of this pick.

I had no room for him, but Carlos Santana (16.191) is stupid good value here. Consistency is a myth for statistical purposes, but anecdotally, he is as consistently healthy and productive as anyone.

17.196 Welington Castillo CHW C

Hoping to extract 900+ plate appearances from Molina and Castillo. There really is no reason to punt your second catcher slot if the draft dynamic makes it cost-effective to lean into it. This might’ve been a little early — no other catchers were selected for another 35 picks — but after my boy Robinson Chirinos got snatched away from me, and with a lull in my game plan, I figured I’d load up while the getting was still good.

In my “might as well grab a catcher” self-monologue, it hadn’t fazed me it might also be a good time to take a closer. I don’t regret my choice, but having Will Smith (18.202) sniped was a briefly felt but sharp pain.

Time to grab a whole bunch of pitchers and outfielders.

18.213 Shin-Soo Choo TEX OF

……..Another draft, another Choo share…

19.220 Adam Eaton WAS OF

I haven’t had any Eaton shares in, like, three years, so this feels both foreign and refreshing. A fully healthy season from Eaton gives me Inciarte-esque production, but with a little less speed (and a little more power). Maybe it’s closer to Michael Brantley-esque production — a little more power, a little less speed. Regardless, there’s delightful upside here. It just comes with its risks.

Max Kepler (19.222), Jesse Winker (19.227), and Randal Grichuk (20.236) thins out several of my remaining outfield targets in one fell swoop. As I commit myself to a closer, my ideal target — Matt Barnes (20.235) — gets scooped.

20.237 Mychal Givens BAL RP

Givens isn’t particularly good, but Baltimore’s bullpen is considerably worse than he is. He might have his warts and the occasional hiccup, but it’s hard to imagine anyone actually earning this role or usurping it from Givens. Might as well grab a guy with a secure role before we plunge into the myriad time-shares and spring training battles.

The Domingo German (21.242) hype is real. And for good reason: he could be reeeeal good. I’m kind of bummed, though, but for selfish reasons: I thought I could make a glowing bold prediction about him. A sidelined Severino makes it less bold. Also, with Severino sidelined, maybe I should’ve been more bullish in pursuing German?… Anyway.

21.244 Anibal Sanchez WAS SP

It seems like every draft I made a stupefying decision. Look, I like Sanchez. He’s fine. His change-up was stupid good last year, and he smartly weaned off his sinker. I’m just not sure I really wanted to hitch my wagon to a guy with a track record of poor health and subpar results. It’s possible he has cut ties permanently with the truly horrible Anibal Sanchez of 2015-17. It’s also possible 2018 was just a nice upper-percentile performance, with one of his pitches working especially well.

Anyway, all this self-loathing stems from the crossroads I reached: do I want to fill my last pitcher spot before I start building my bench? Sanchez was never in my game plan, and I had my sights set on two very solid, very underrated late-game hitters: Marcus Semien and Jake Lamb. Semien would’ve given me really nice shortstop depth; ditto, Lamb at third base. Both could generate huge returns on investment this season. Sanchez could very well be a replacement level pitcher, if barely better than.

Semien (21.246) and Lamb (22.253) go. Justin Smoak (22.254) fits the Santana mold of “stupid cheap first baseman who doesn’t fit my roster construction but should turn an easy profit.”

22.261 Nick Markakis ATL OF

I feel like I’m starting to lose myself a little bit. Sanchez sent me spiraling. Markakis is good enough; he’s actually one of a single-digit number of players who has turned a profit each of the last five years. He produces steadily and consistently, and he remains underrated because he doesn’t possess any standout tools. Markakis’ ceiling is low, though, and I could’ve waited another couple of rounds, at least, to grab him. But, in fairness, I was feeling uninspired by the remaining crop of outfielders. As my 5th outfielder, I could do worse.

My ideal two picks there, rather than Sanchez-Markakis, was something like Semien/Lamb and Michael Pineda (22.263), who has considerably more upside than Sanchez. I took myself out of his contention.

23.268 Drew Steckenrider MIA RP

Still feeling a little lost. I’m having a spiritual and existential crisis! I do like the idea of having a third closer in a 12-team format (because each team averages two-and-a-half closers, I like to err on the side of the overs), and, despite talks of splitting duties, Steckenrider is far superior to Adam Conley. Sergio Romo could, and perhaps should, steal away the role at some point, but I’ll take my chances on Steck for now.

I probably would’ve preferred Sonny Gray (23.269) or Brad Peacock (24.275) over Sanchez, too.

24.285 Dylan Bundy BAL SP

Bundy has comprised a minuscule portion of my 2019 draft plans, but having missed out on Pineda and in need of pitching depth, I figured there’s no better time to invest in a pitcher with strikeout upside and tons of bad luck from last year suppressing his draft price. Yeah, his fastball sucks. Like, it really, really, really sucks. But his slider is good — really, really, really good — and he could be a tweak or two away to taking the coveted Next StepTM.

25.292 Trevor Cahill LAA SP

No such thing as too much Cahill.

I love Willians Astudillo (26.303) as much as anyone, but detractors who have pointed to his lack of playing time opportunities have a very valid point. That said, recent news of Miguel Sano missing time in the early goings coupled with Astudillo’s recent start at third base points to a shrewd buy. Luke Weaver (25.293) and Jay Bruce (26.301) sport massive bounce-back potential.

26.309 Austin Barnes LAD C

Were there not quality catching options this late in the draft, I wouldn’t concern myself with grabbing catching depth. I boasted of a Barnes breakout prior to the 2017 season, and there’s little reason for me to believe he doesn’t still retain excellent contact skills and a modest-but-productive assemblage of power and speed. He’s a poor man’s J.T. Realmuto, and I believe, completely sincerely, he could be a top-5 catcher with an outside shot at top-3 (especially with Salvador Perez sidelined for 2019). If he doesn’t pan out, then it’s no skin off my back. But with seven bench spots, I can afford to make room for him (and be a little bullish in doing so).

Sad that Didi Gregorius (26.310) is scooped here, as I planned to make him my high-ceiling (for a shortstop) depth stash as a contingency plan for Simmons. If DJ LeMahieu (27.313) works his way into a full-time role with the Yankees, he will pay massive dividends.

27.316 Kole Calhoun LAA OF

Calhoun is not a sexy late-draft upside play, but he’ll contribute steadily and should handily out-earn this draft price.

28.333 Merrill Kelly ARI SP

Will Kelly even be relevant in 12-team leagues? I have no idea. Is he better than Jeff Samardzija (30.359) or Robbie Erlin (undrafted), the two starters I considered in lieu of him? Perhaps not. Figured I’d stick to the book — the Book of Drafting Potentially Undervalued Overseas Import Arms — and find out the hard way.

I considered grabbing a fourth reliever, but it dawned on me this league is shallow enough for me to not have to concern myself too greatly with missing out on high-upside bullpen arms. Regardless, when Dellin Betances (29.337) was drafted, it put an end to that dream anyway, although I did give brief consideration to Chad Green. As expected, he went undrafted, and he joins a crop of many other relievers who could provide strikeout and ratio help at some point during the season without me dispensing draft capital for it.

29.340 Brandon Crawford SFG SS

I wanted shortstop depth. I got shortstop depth. Realistically, Crawford will be my first cut. We’ll see.

30.357 Jeff McNeil NYM 2B

I should be grateful it took me only 28 rounds to recalibrate my expectations of a 12-team league relative to 15-team, or else I might not have had the wherewithal to grab one of my favorite late-draft buys. I kept a close watch of McNeil prior to his call-up and subsequent raking at the MLB level. An argument could be made he outperformed his teammate and hype-beast Peter Alonso (21.243) last year in the minors. McNeil flashed his already-elite contact skills, but there could be sneaky 15- or even 20-homer power lying dormant, waiting to emerge. I would kill a man for a 15/15/.300 full-season line from pretty much anyone, let alone an afterthought hitter. (To be clear, I know he’s an after thought because the Mets deliberately try to bury their best prospect/minor-league talent. Thus, my gamble is on the talent with hopes for playing time to open up. The Mets aren’t exactly the healthiest squad.)

Here’s my final roster. I’m mildly jazzed about it, and despite being unhappy with some of my middle-late picks, I know the waiver wire is bountiful enough to help me offset some of the mistakes I might’ve made (as opposed to TGFBI and other 15-team leagues, where waivers often look like a war zone).

What do you think?

Pos Name
C Yadier Molina
c Welington Castillo
1B Joey Votto
2B Travis Shaw (3B)
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Jose Ramirez
MI Brian Dozier (2B)
CI Edwin Encarnacion (1B)
OF Whit Merrifield (2B)
OF Justin Upton
OF Shin-Soo Choo
OF Adam Eaton
OF Nick Markakis
UT Nelson Cruz
SP Corey Kluber
SP Luis Severino
SP Charlie Morton
SP Yusei Kikuchi
SP Kenta Maeda
SP Anibal Sanchez
RP Craig Kimbrel
RP Mychal Givens
RP Drew Steckenrider
sp Dylan Bundy
sp Trevor Cahill
sp Merrill Kelly
c Austin Barnes
2b Jeff McNeil
ss Brandon Crawford
of Kole Calhoun

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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.

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Roster looks solid (old and boring, the Hauldhagen special), and appreciate the quality write-up, but what those of us who couldn’t drop $350 to play in really want to know is, what were the in-league perks you were teasing on Twitter!?