Draft Review: TGFBI

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) is a league of leagues in which hundreds of fantasy baseball analysts square off against one another in 15-team leagues and overall. Three hundred and fifteen competitors will face off in 21 separate leagues to test their wits and all that jazz.

I wrote about my performance last year here. After bottoming out in April, finishing the month 12th of 15 with only 63.5 points, I had the 3rd-best team from May onward, finishing the season 4th in my league and 51st overall out of 195 analysts. Of the $900 or so I spent on free agent auction budget (FAAB), roughly half was spent on chasing saves — of which I accrued only 22. It was a preposterously bad performance in that regard. Only one other team above me in the overall standings collected fewer saves, and maybe three others had fewer than 40. Otherwise, everyone had 60 or more. It stands to reason a sharper FAAB performance could have vaulted me up the standings.

This year, I’m running down my picks as they happen, almost like a diary, although I won’t publish this until the draft is complete. Still, you can track my train of thought as if it were real time.

Before I start, though: TGFBI, which is hosted this year by the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), uses Kentucky Derby System (KDS) preferences for draft order. Last year, it was randomized; this year, each competitor (in each league) ranked, from favorite to least favorite, their draft slots. While draft orders are randomized, the algorithm accounts for each owner’s preferences. If, say, I were the only owner to rank slot #6 as my favorite, I would receive it automatically.

My KDS preference: 5, 9, 4, 10, 7, 6, 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 8, 13, 14, 15
If I could do it again: 10, 9, 4, 5, 7, 6, 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 8, 13, 14, 15

Here I go, from the 9-hole:

1.9 Trea Turner WAS SS

I ordered my draft preference to optimize my likelihood of landing one of the following players: Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Jacob deGrom. I wouldn’t consider it a colossal failure if i I didn’t, but frankly I hadn’t considered a scenario where I wouldn’t. The ideal scenarios through four rounds looked something like:

4-hole: Scherzer, bat, Carrasco/Severino, bat
4-hole, v2: Scherzer, Kluber, bat, bat
9-hole: Turner, Kluber/Verlander, Carrasco/Severino, bat
10-hole: deGrom, Kluber/Verlander, bat, bat
10-hole, v2: deGrom, Story, arm, bat

The 9th spot works well: I got to pick between Turner and deGrom, which is nearly a best-case scenario. I wanted to play it safe, as I figured there would be an outside chance both could be gone by the 10th pick. Those worries were eventually proved unfounded, and not having an additional pick at the back end will end up steering me away from my ideal 9-hole strategy.

I opted for Turner because I knew I could land an ace in the 2nd round, whereas the odds of me specifically landing someone like Whit Merrifield or Starling Marte in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rounds were much slimmer.

2.22 Corey Kluber CLE SP

Everything according to plan. With the option between Kluber and Justin Verlander, I opted for Kluber, with less mileage (aka younger) and better mechanics. JV is coming off a monster season, but Kluber did the same in 2017. If I’m given the option, I’m pounding the under on 30% strikeout rate for Verlander (Steamer and the fans have taken the over, even if only slightly). Anyway, either works exceptionally well here. I wanted, and obtained, quality and volume.

3.39 Khris Davis OAK UT

This is where things quickly go awry. Luis Severino, Marte, and Carlos Carrasco all go within five picks of my turn — Carrasco, I got sniped on, at 3.38. It was painful to see my two-ace strategy blow up in my face, and I needed to pivot quickly to a high-floor power bat, a resource that might quickly run dry between now and my next pick. (Fragile aces are a dime a dozen at this juncture of the draft.) I may have over-drafted slightly on Davis, but only by average draft position (ADP); he not only is one of the only players to turn a profit in each of the last five years but also has out-earned this specific dollar-equivalent value (roughly $22) in each of those five years. He’s as much a lock to break even as anyone else, and the market has failed to account for this, specifically in his regard due to heavy emphasis on pitching.

(Side note: it wasn’t until after I selected Davis that I realized he is UT-only, at least to start the season. He may end up playing 10 games in the outfield, but I can’t realistically draft another UT early and wait until he does. This all but precludes me from drafting Nelson Cruz, the hitter I have hyped for probably four years straight and who has generated even more profit than Davis the last half-decade. This seriously bums me out. But, such is life. The silver lining is it lifts some pressure to specifically target him in a couple of rounds, giving me flexibility to see other people — er, pursue value elsewhere.)

4.52 Tommy Pham TBR OF

I woke up this morning to a very serious dilemma. I went to bed hoping James Paxton might still be on the board; it hadn’t fazed me Clayton Kershaw might also be there. After literally 20 minutes of soul-searching, groggily, from the comfort of my bed, I chose neither, opting for Pham. Pham is no worse than break-even at this junction, even with only 550 plate appearances. With the Rays, his playing time is unimpeded, so I see this as mostly upside. Paxton and Kershaw, on the other hand, need to throw something like 170 innings to break even here, even if those innings are elite, which is something Kershaw has barely achieved the last three years and somethign Paxton has achieved not once ever. And then I realized, in scanning the rest of the list of arms at this juncture — Jack Flaherty, German Marquez, Madison Bumgarner, Jameson Taillon, etc. — that I didn’t feel fully comfortable with any of them as a legitimate SP2.

So, it’s time to overhaul. I’m going hitter-heavy the next two or three rounds, then scooping up some of my favorite mid-round arms — pitchers who carry similar injury risk and will can give me excellent, perhaps near-elite, numbers in the process. One thing I lack here — not critically so, but relative to how I usually build my teams — is a stable batting average base. Turner helps, and Pham could hit .300, but I’m not banking on him for that. A lot of high-average hitters with above-average or plus power or speed still literally the board: Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, Eddie Rosario, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Michael Brantley, etc., among others. I plan to grab a least two of these hitters the next three rounds.

Yasiel Puig (5.68) sniped here helped me narrow down my decision. (Reframing a snipe as “helping narrow down a decision” hurts a whole lot less than “ohhhhhhh my god this hurts so badly I wanna die.” Besides, I think I might’ve preferred my next pick here anyway.)

5.69 Daniel Murphy COL 2B

This is where I would pop Cruz, were he still available. I narrowed my decision down to Murph and Votto, opting for the former. Both carry risk, in a sense: Murph’s is injury-related, whereas Votto’s might be decline-related. Few, if any, hitters are more cerebral about and have better control of their hitting than Votto; realistically, he’s fine next year (he says it’s mechanical, and I believe him). But he is getting older — entering his age-35 season! — and I didn’t want to risk another season of middling power.

Like clockwork, Cruz went 6.77.

6.82 Justin Upton LAA OF

My queue remains healthy. I emphatically love several hitters in these early-middle rounds for their stupid-good values. Even in a 15-team league, it’s hard to feel ripped off when you’re landing one of your guys — with a capital ‘G,’ Guys — every round. Here, I fully expected to take Rosario; in fact, he was third on my list of Murphy and Votto the previous round, but I gambled on ADP and took the guys I knew would go sooner. (Sure enough, they did — Votto went directly after Cruz, at 6.78.)

Thus, pivoting to Upton here was odd. To be clear, both are great values — they’re both my Guys — at this juncture. In this instance, I let Statcast sway me, as it loves Upton’s underlying power metrics, whereas it’s decidedly lukewarm about Rosario. I love Rosario for the batting average floor, but I wanted to take a hitter who, to me, more closely resembled a sure thing. And if, for some reason, Rosario’s plate discipline craters in 2019 — his chase rate (O-Swing%) is oddly high, although his aggression keeps everything in check — or his power takes a step back because of the shoulder soreness that slowed him last summer, I’d rather not incur those losses.

Having selected Upton here, I knew I would forfeit my shot at several hitters over the next 16 picks, including Rosario. Gallo (6.83) went directly after Upton — not unexpected, but this early surprised me. He’s worth it, by the way; he’s just getting downgraded unnecessarily for being a polarizing talent. Abreu (6.84), Rosario (6.87), and Travis Shaw (6.89) followed. Anticipating and mentally bracing yourself for these forgone/opportunity costs help ease the pain.

Wasn’t gunning for either of Jesus Aguilar (6.90) or Matt Olson (7.92), but I like both their values.

7.99 Edwin Encarnacion SEA 1B

Through seven rounds, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders. It’s not quite the trajectory I expected, but I’m pulling together (what I think is) a high-profit core.

Now, I need to execute the hell out of my pitching strategy (avoid the minefield in the middle of the pack) and catcher strategy (if not Yadier Molina early, then Robinson Chirinos and Austin Barnes late). Right now, the closer and catcher markets are moving slowly. Mentally mapping out my next few picks, based on both average and minimim draft position, if I can snare some combination of Charlie Morton, Kirby Yates, Yadier Molina, Brian Dozier, Ender Inciarte, or Mike Moustakas in the next four (or, optimistically, five) rounds, I’ll cry.

Wil Myers (8.100) and Josh Donaldson (9.106) out of my queue. Another instance of knowing I would very likely not get them if I took Encarnacion. Mentality is half the battle sometimes.

8.112 Charlie Morton HOU SP

Yes! Morton might be the only pitcher I like from the 3rd tier. In fact, it was Morton who, back in the 4th round, convinced me to bypass Paxton in favor of Pham. Perhaps it sounds ostentatious to say I was thinking that far ahead, but I was, truly.

Humor me and consider for a second these blind résumés, spanning the last two seasons.

Player A: 52 starts, 23 W, 3.40 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 30.4% K, 6.6% BB
Player B: 53 starts, 25 W, 3.05 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 26.2% K, 9.7% BB
Player C: 55 starts, 29 W, 3.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 27.7% K, 8.7% BB
Player D: 58 starts, 29 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 28.4% K, 8.0% BB

One is Morton (29th SP, 119th overall). The others are SP9, SP16, and SP19, not in that order, and all top-65 overall.

Point being, as much as I love Paxton, you can find nearly elite innings from brittle starters well outside the 4th round.

More of my queue hits the dust: Turner (8.113), Roberto Osuna (8.120), Yates (9.122), Brantley (9.126), Rougned Odor (9.128). As I’m wondering when the run on catchers will start… the run on catchers starts.

9.129 Salvador Perez KCR C

I grab Perez after Wilson Ramos (9.124) and Willson Contreras (9.125) and ahead of Yasmani Grandal (9.130). The slaughter is over, and I think I emerged victorious. I was left with the option of my two favorite bats among those four and opted it for the safer bet on playing time. Moreover, I fully expected to not have any of these options available to me and eventually settle for the perennially underrated Molina. This was a best-case scenario I hadn’t considered.

The mini-closer run continues: Wade Davis (9.131), Jose Leclerc (9.134), and Ken Giles (9.141) bite the dust, as I resign myself to the same fate as last year: one of poor closer options and hundreds of dollars spent FAABing replacements. There are a couple of decent-quality options, but from reading between the lines of Alex Fast’s post about saves from the other day, I think I’m better off targeting the back-end guys and embracing the volatility rather than pretend the mid-range closers are somehow safer or better.

Inciarte (9.139) and Dozier (9.140) get sniped, helping me narrow down my choice. Both will turn huge profits for the owners who drafted them, I assure you. It stings, but I still have two options here I love.

By the way, here’s how my draft shapes up through nine rounds. These rankings are a little imbalanced — the most advanced drafts have completed 11 rounds, whereas the laggards have barely finished four. Still, you can see where my allegiances lie at this point.

By the way, each category is out of 315 slots — so I already have among the best hitting (irrespective of average) of any draft prior to this next pick. I think I’ll regret opting for Upton instead of Rosario and potentially significantly better batting average. The best ways for me to recoup batting average losses without hurting my profitability: Buster Posey and DJ LeMahieu. Both are in the queue, and I plan to nab both at some point.

10.142 Mike Moustakas MIL 3B

My 3B and eventual 2B! Moustakas is already a steal at this price; that he’ll (likely) quickly earn multipositional eligibility makes him all the more valuable. I won’t have to rely on him as my primary 2B — that’s Murphy, who himself will eventually earn 1B eligibility. Discounted talent and flexibility is a plus at this stage.

For the record, Molina is still on the board. He was the other player I considered here. If he’s still on the board in 17 picks, I’m absolutely grabbing him. He’s worth more than this in a one-catcher format; in two-catcher, he could put my team over the top. I still like the idea of a late-round Barnes grab, but I don’t want to make myself reliant on getting the timing right.

But, yes, this draft has proceeded as if this were a one-catcher league. It’s… odd. We all stand to benefit in the overall rankings for this, I think, and any of us who have two of the top-7 or -8 catchers, all at discounts, will be in great shape. The queue right now: Molina, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rich Hill, Ryan Braun.

My first true snipe: Posey (11.158). He was never on my radar — I don’t even like him as much as Molina, who is was still on the board — but as my turn grew nearer, I had to consider the increasing likelihood with which I might be able to shore up my batting average. Alas, no dice. Instead, I have two very good catchers fairly early — an unusual strategy for me — but in a two-catcher league, these guys get bumped higher than they normally would. The opportunity to get 1,000+ plate appearances from two catchers is huge.

11.159 Yadier Molina STL C

Again, he’s slightly undervalued at this price in a one-catcher format. In two-catcher, this is robbery. The whole draft looks like this, though, so everyone is getting deals. It remains to be seen how this helps (or hurts) us in the grand scheme of things.

OK, I really need to focus on pitching. My priorities: Masahiro Tanaka, Rich Hill, and Yusei Kikuchi. Tanaka (11.160), Hill (12.168), and Hyun-Jin Ryu (12.170) get snatched up along with Braun (12.166). I was surprised Tanaka was still on the board and even more surprised that Braun and Hill went earlier than I expected. I have mostly been ahead of ADP this draft, and that’s by design. But as we get deeper into the draft, bigger reaches will become less surprising. This is my wake-up call.

12.172 Yusei Kikuchi SEA SP

Grabbed Kikuchi, but not before a nerve-racking run on my queue sent me into a minor panic. Kikuchi is my SP3, and I trust he overachieves the way many recent Japan- and Korea-league imports have done the past few years. Think Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Yu Darvish, even Miles Mikolas — all produced fat profits their first season in the league. Kikuchi’s discount isn’t quite as steep, but I think I’ll be OK. In the meantime, I’m hoping Maeda squeaks through the next 17 picks unscathed. With arms like Ross Stripling, Dallas Keuchel, and Nathan Eovaldi still on the board, I think there’s a chance. Otherwise, I’ll pivot to Carlos Santana or Justin Smoak as another free-money play at corner infield.

A lot of my favorite later-round buys here: Danny Jansen (12.173), Garrett Hampson (12.174), Alex Reyes (12.175), Paul DeJong (12.176). All a bit higher than I expected, I’ll say, but nonetheless. Will Smith (13.184) and David Robertson (13.188) off the board here hurts my “get a closer eventually” strategy.

13.189 Kenta Maeda LAD SP

My favorite perennially underrated starter. There’s worry about his contract affecting his usage, but I’m not sure the Dodgers can afford to play games with him if Kershaw’s sudden frailty lingers like a black cloud.

I hate how much love Collin McHugh (14.200) is getting this preseason. I thought he might be someone who flies under the radar, but I guess people can’t ignore his gaudy strikeout rate (K%) last year. I imagine I’ll have him only in 10- and maybe 12-team leagues this year.

14.202 Ryan Brasier BOS RP

There’s nothing like making a pick and instantly regretting it. To be clear, I like Brasier, at least enough to select him from the scrap heap of maybe-part-time-not-sure closers, but his ADP is so ridiculously low that I could’ve very easily waited, like, five more rounds to make this selection. Now, I have to sweat out the next two rounds, in which I desperately want to select Shin-Soo Choo. There are so many names stacked above them on the list of available players, I don’t fear too much of a snipe, but now I put myself at risk here to endure some excruciating pain. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which I don’t regret this.

This is a good time to lay out my closer strategy, though. The league format is a bit different this year: aside from two catchers and one utility slot (instead of vice versa), there are seven bench slots instead of five to make up for no disabled list (er, injury list). This allows me some extra flexibility, flexibility I’ll use to draft Brasier’s counterpart, Matt Barnes (I hope), and a similar closer tandem such as Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop, or Justin Hicks and Andrew Miller. I can afford to keep four relievers on the roster if they’re all scooping up saves sporadically — and maybe one or more emerge with resolution as full-time closers.

I’ll use three of the remaining five slots for starters and the final two slots for hitters. I’m less concerned about bolstering my offense given how much focus I placed on it mid-draft.

On second thought, I’ve shied away from LeMahieu as a reliable middle infield option with the crowded New York infield. Although Troy Tulowitzki is a virtual lock to get injured and/or do nothing, I’d still rather invest in more of a sure thing. I’m pivoting toward a similarly talented outfielder (modest power, modest speed, high average): Adam Eaton. Hoping he sticks around another few picks. Also keeping an eye on Santana and Smoak to see how far they fall. They make for excellent corner infield options this late.

…And Eaton (15.211) goes shortly after I write this. Bleh. Also, Carlos Santana (15.218) was finally selected, which prevented me from having to deal with the internal struggle of taking yet another corner infielder when I really need outfield help.

15.219 Shin-Soo Choo TEX OF

Tightening things back up here. Choo is an easy profit guy here. At this point, though, I’m not going a good job of accruing stolen bases or batting average. But my offense really should be killer.

Stripling (15.220), Asdrubal Cabrera (15.221), Max Kepler (15.222), Elvis Andrus (15.223), Trevor May (15.224) all off the board and out of my queue in consecutive picks. Amazed Andrus lasted that long. Considered taking him for batting average and stolen base help, as aforementioned. My predicament (which is more a feature than a bug): I can move Moustakas to MI during the second week of the season, so I can afford to take a big corner bat instead — namely, someone like Miguel Sano or Jake Lamb. If that plan doesn’t work out, I’ve got a couple of late-round middle-infield types I’m eyeing.

16.232 Justin Smoak TOR 1B

Another easy profit guy. There’s nothing glamorous about my team; it’s all utility, and I’m fine with that.

17.249 Odubel Herrera PHI OF

This was tough; Sano and Lamb were still on the board, but I’m sitting on just three outfielders, and Herrera might be the second-best bet to hedge my batting average a little bit (and maybe chip in a few steals) among outfielders, aside from probably Nick Markakis, who I hope to scoop from my queue in about four turns after I go on a pitcher run (looking at any number of relievers — Jordan Hicks, Andrew Miller, Drew Steckenrider, Shane Greene, Brandon Morrow, A.J. Minter — and starters such as Dylan Bundy, Anibal Sanchez, Luke Weaver, Brad Peacock, Michael Pineda, Trevor Cahill… lots and lots of options here, just not super high-quality ones. But that’s the price I’m paying to build a potentially juggernaut offense.

Sano (17.250) finally gone. Potentially great value here, although, man, his off-field issues are getting to be quite distracting. Lamb (17.253) and Bundy (17.255) throws a small wrench into my late-game gears.

18.262 Drew Steckenrider MIA RP

Allegedly, there could be a closer timeshare in Miami. Steckenrider is not great, but Adam Conley is significantly worse. I expect the Marlins make a decision early in the season about who is doing this job more effectively. My money’s on Steck (but an undetermined third party could always swoop in, too.)

Miller (18.265), LeMahieu (19.271), Sanchez (19.272), Frazier (19.278) all thinning out my queue.

19.279 A.J. Minter ATL RP

Just as I’m making an effort to hedge my awful decision to pop Brasier in the 14th, I read news of Minter lasting one pitch in his spring training appearance before being seen by a trainer. I think a lot of people like Minter to win this job outright, although in the back of my mind it has always been Vizcaino’s job to lose. Still, I liked the gamble. Now, it looks like wasted draft real estate.

Barnes (18.281) off the board here really, really screws up my relief corps endeavor. I might have, at most, one closer among three relievers drafted. I’m still not sold that Brasier doesn’t win the job, but I liked Barnes more than Brasier to begin with, and Brasier was, what, a 30-year-old rookie last year? Ugh. Greene (18.282), Weaver (19.286), Markakis (20.287) laying waste to my queue.

20.292 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B

I had this pick mapped out for a long time, and it’s a good thing I pulled the trigger because Yancy Eaton confided in me Kipnis was atop his queue. Hard to pass up on a player who is a guaranteed starter, no worse than a top-250 bat and, at his prime, a top-50 overall player. I’m obviously not expecting the former, but a dead cat bounce after last year’s performance makes this my best pick in several rounds, even if it’s incredibly unsexy. If he doesn’t pan out, I’ll move Moustakas to 2B to replace him — no biggie. (But that means I’ll need a late-round 3B who could feasibly outperform Kipnis — perhaps a tall order.)

Jeff McNeil (19.295) makes me sad, only because he’s My Boy TM, but at this point he doesn’t fit my roster construction at all. I love his skills, but the Mets’ ambitions to deliberately block him and their other talented prospects from seeing daylight is infuriating. Morrow (19.296) and Chirinos (20.305) thins out my queue further, although they, as many others before them, were mostly contingency plans. I’m still thinking about scooping up Barnes as a third catcher — one who, to me, has always been closer to his 2017 breakout than his 2018 flop. The Dodgers haven’t committed to a catcher yet after signing Russell Martin; while the latter can probably still pack a punch, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where Barnes is demonstrably worse.

21.309 Kole Calhoun LAA OF

And the award for least-sexy 5th outfielder goes to…

He out-earned this draft slot in a season where he might have literally been the worst hitter of the first six weeks of the season. He finished 2018 with a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) 50+ points worse than his career mark, and he owns Statcast’s worst wOBA minus expected wOBA (xwOBA) differential, indicating massively bad luck. Normal production plus a return to 630+ plate appearances could make him a top-150 player overall. To turn a profit here, he needs to be just a fraction of his normal self.

Merrill Kelly (20.310) and Brad Peacock (20.311) ravages part of my late-game pitching strategy. I thought I could wait, like, eight more rounds to grab Kelly; Peacock, I knew my time was running out. Starters on whom I still have tabs: Pineda, Cahill, Robbie Erlin, Derek Holland, Matt Shoemaker, Chris Paddack. I would like to grab three of these guys. Going off the NFBC’s minimum picks by ADP, I’m going to gamble and wait a few more rounds to grab Cahill and Erlin in order to extract value elsewhere in the meantime. I can see this backfiring easily.

Also, in an absolutely tragic turn of events, it was announced moments ago that Perez suffered damage to his UCL, turning my formidable two-catcher tandem into something pretty standard (that is, one good catcher and on awful catcher). The worst part about this is Barnes and Kurt Suzuki, arguably the last viable catchers on the board, were drafted almost concurrently with the news. I could’ve recouped that loss, at least marginally, but the two coinciding could not have happened at a worst time.

I’ll be real with you: this has taken the wind out of my sails a little bit. But there are a couple of silver linings here, one intentional and one accidental: I planned for this. I wanted Perez and Molina to kick ass together, but having at least one in tact means I’m in no worse shape than many other teams. But also, isn’t it better for Perez to incur this injury before the season starts? Yes and no. For all of us in this tournament, the news came after every share of Perez had been drafted. The upside is we can all pivot if we want or have to.

At the end of the day, I laid out for myself a couple of options: draft as I normally and hope that a couple of very-low-end catchers might still be on the board in a few rounds, or simply wait until round 30 (or the first week of FAABing).

22.322 Michael Pineda MIN SP

I could certainly do better for an SP5. I’m willing to gamble on a pitcher who once had tangible baserunner prevention skills and might benefit from a friendlier home ballpark. He has flashed the necessary velocity this spring to all but push me over the top before anyone else could snatch him from me. At this point in the draft, there’s a little to lose and a whole lot to gain. It’s hard to think of Pineda as having upside, but few starting pitchers, if any, at this stage of a draft could boast a K-BB% as strong as he could.

23.339 Trevor Cahill OAK SP

SP6. I knew I’d be making a run on arms at least half a dozen rounds before Pineda, if not more. My list of late-round arms I actually like is fairly short, and it included these two. Cahill as a starter the last two years (when healthy) has been a legitimate all-formats option.

24.352 Brad Boxberger KCR RP

Boxberger is not great, but he’s probably better than Wily Peralta. He could be toast by May, or he could pull a Shane Greene and save 30 games with a 4.00+ ERA. The way saves have been drafted in this league, I knew I could wait a long time to grab any number of late-round saves gambles; Boxberger may not be the best, but he could wind up with the most job security.

I would’ve liked Holland (24.359) to last another handful of picks. I may regret taking Pineda or Cahill instead of him; his pitch-specific peripherals looked stronger with the Giants than at any point in recent memory, leading me to believe their pitching coaches may have helped him tap into previously untapped potential.

Greg Allen (25.361) off the board here takes away my ideal outfield depth. It’s starting to run thin, so I’ll have to find it soon.

25.369 Robbie Erlin SDP SP

Guaranteed a spot in a bad rotation and equipped with an eye-popping 7.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), Erlin’s is pure upside at this point without playing time risk. He could mediocre, and that’s fine, because that’s what I paid for. But he could also be some kind of cheap Shane Bieber, a top-50 arm and is something of a darling among fantasy analysts this year.

A little mad at myself for not priorizing Jung Ho Kang (26.378) more immediately. He’ll be great 3B depth and maybe eventually a perfectly fine starter for some team that’s not mine — and it cost that team practically nothing to acquire pretty high-quality depth.

26.382 Trevor Richards MIA SP

Richards is a name that has not once entered my mouth this preseason — until now. Still in need of pitching depth, and with most of my position-player depth getting eaten up, I opted to bet on a young pitcher with a filthy change-up and a history of much better control than he exhibited in last year’s debut. If he can come closer to replicating his 4.6% walk rate (BB%) in the minors rather than the unsightly 9.9% rate from 2018. His other tools (or lack thereof) leave something to be desired, but hopefully one plus pitch and some semblance of above-average command will generate at least average value.

More position-player depth getting snatched up: David Fletcher (26.384), Ben Zobrist (26.386), Brett Gardner (27.395). Maybe I should just draft one instead of lamenting their unavailability? Nah, too logical.

27.399 Matt Shoemaker TOR SP

Shoemaker has always been a small man-crush of mine, what with being an (actually good?) Angels pitcher with a marvelous beard and all. Did you know he has a 12.6% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) since the start of 2016? There’s legitimate skill here, derived mostly from a killer splitter — which, for whatever reason, he declined to feature in lieu of a sinker last year. Granted, last year spanned only seven starts for Shoemaker. Still, such pitch selection is far from optimal. He’s a fly ball guy headed to a somewhat unfriendly home park, but given some good fortune in the health department, he could look like a poor man’s Pineda — which is to say they could both use some good fortune in the outcomes department as well. Realistically, he lets me down once again, but I’m happy to pay nothing to dream on what could amount to some semblance of upside.

28.412 Brandon Crawford SFG SS

In need of shortstop depth for Turner, I was somewhat astonished to see Crawford still on the board. He profoundly lacks the upside of top prospects, but more than 400 picks into a draft, I’m ecstatic to find a shortstop who not only is guaranteed robust playing time but also was once considered a legitimate starting option in shallow formats. This could turn into something much more than depth, but for now, quality depth is fine.

29.429 Steven Duggar SFG OF

Can I be honest with you? I’m not sold on Duggar as being a worthwhile fantasy contributor. I see some talk about double-digit power-speed potential, but it feels a bit overblown. That said, a lot of folks seem to like him as a late-round option. I wanted a sixth outfielder for depth, and, as with Crawford, I wanted to find a player who had guaranteed playing time to his name. Again, in the event of an injury, I’d prefer to have a guy who plays every day than have to scrounge around the waiver wire for a hitter who sits every fourth or fifth day (or wind up with a talented prospect who has yet to debut at the time of the injury, leaving me with a tough add/drop decision — remember, no disabled/injured list slots this year).

30.442 Hernan Perez 2B/3B/SS/OF

I like the positional eligibility, and I needed 3B depth for Moustakas. This is perfect, given he’s the direct heir in the event of a Moustakas injury. Perez is the better version of Duggar without the playing time.

I could’ve used this pick instead to replace Perez. Either way, I’ll have to FAAB before (after?) Week 1 to replace him, whether or not I have a third catcher on the roster. I won’t say who I’m looking at, in case someone else in my league, for some godforsaken reason, wants to grab one of these terrible catchers I’m eyeing.

* * *

Irrespective of the Perez injury, something about this roster feels lackluster:

TGFBI Roster
Pos Name
C Salvador Perez (RIP)
C Yadier Molina
1B Edwin Encarnacion
2B Daniel Murphy (1B)
SS Trea Turner
3B Mike Moustakas (2B)
MI Jason Kipnis
CI Justin Smoak
OF Tommy Pham
OF Justin Upton
OF Shin-Soo Choo
OF Odubel Herrera
OF Kole Calhoun
UT Khris Davis
SP Corey Kluber
SP Charlie Morton
SP Yusei Kikuchi
SP Kenta Maeda
SP Michael Pineda
SP Trevor Cahill
RP Drew Steckenrider
RP Brad Boxberger
RP Ryan Brasier
sp Robbie Erlin
sp Trevor Richards
sp Matt Shoemaker
rp A.J. Minter
ss Brandon Crawford
3b Hernan Perez (2B/SS/OF)
of Steven Duggar

As with all Chamberlain teams, it is deliberately unsexy. I cash in on guys (hitters, primarily) underrated for no particular reason. My late-round strategy consisted of low-upside, moderate-floor (easy-profit) bats and moderate-upside, low-floor arms. I think it feels like it fell flat because I would’ve preferred a better 5th starter prior to grabbing Pineda, and my outfield seems shallower than I’d like. The latter can attributed in part to me not realizing Davis was UT-only this year, relegating him to my utility slot rather than him being my OF1. Rookie mistake. But also, 15-team drafts can really make you feel like you drafted an inferior squad. It’s just impossible to fill each round with someone you truly like and come away feeling like you really nailed it. (Or maybe that’s just the pessimist in me, and everyone else genuinely likes, or at least convince themselves that they like, their teams.)

Ultimately, I’m where I left off last year: stacked with hitters and potentially left scrambling for pitchers. Last year, I netted a pathetic 22 saves. It’s hard to imagine I’ll do worse this year, but given how volatile the saves market appears this year, I wouldn’t put it past me. I also drafted a wildly injury-prone starting staff that will likely require lots of shuffling throughout the year. I’m hoping the additional bench depth will prevent me from having to dip too deeply into waivers, as I’ll have at least six reliable arms at any given time.

Had Perez not gotten injured, I’d have probably given this draft a B+, maybe even an A— — now, something closer to B—. Turns out I drafted Davis and Encarnacion (…and Brasier…) earlier than anyone else, meaning I effectively left money on the table. Still, they are high-EV guys who routinely turn profits in a game where few players actually do annually.

But that’s fine. While I tend to be too timid during FAAB in April, when some of the game’s best pickups are made, I do excel at scooping up others’ discarded scraps mid-season.

I’ll turn it over to you. What do you think?

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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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Salvador Perez: “The slaughter is over, and I think I emerged victorious.”

Ah, that one hurts, but this write up was a fun and comprehensive read! Unsexy, true, but functional and competitive. Get ready to spend your FAAB a little more wisely on saves gambles this year. You currently have between 0 and 4 closers…