Draft Season Has Begun!

It is time to put 2022 behind us and begin to look at 2023!

One of the things I do to begin to hone in my prep for an upcoming season is do some early best ball and draft and hold leagues. For many they do mock drafts and that is great if you like those, but I tend to believe that most do not take mock drafts seriously enough for me. I also believe if you start your prep work as early as I do, you have a distinct advantage over others that are doing early drafts as well. Here is my first draft of the season and the take aways I had from it:

For those that are unfamiliar with the KDS, it stands for Kentucky Derby Style. This is a way to try and get a preferred draft spot over just a random assignment. Each manager in the league ranks their preferred draft spot. There then is a random draw and the managers are given their highest ranked spot left available. For example, if you really want to draft in the middle you could rank the seventh spot as you first choice and as long as no gets that spot before you, you can end up there.

In my draft, I had hoped to end up in the middle because I feel like there are a bunch of guys that are worthy of a top tier draft spot. I ended up drawing the 15th choice out of the 15 people in my league and ended up with the only remaining draft spot which was 13th. I was actually ok with that. I had seen a few draft boards already this season and saw some pretty great names at the end of the first round and early second, so this feels like a decent year to have a late pick.


Initial Strategy
I really wanted to start off with a top tier closer in the first five rounds. I think there is a huge advantage to getting a top tier guy in the draft and hold format. For those that do not know, the draft and hold format is a 50 round draft with no in-season pickups. You have to nail your closers in the draft. Too many of my draft and hold teams last year didn’t nail down a first or second closer in the draft and it meant I struggled all year long.

I also wanted to get three hitters in the first five rounds as well with good categorical balance. I like 5-category guys in the first round, but I am not opposed to taking guys that are deficient in one of the categories especially when I have picks that are close together at the back of the first round.

I hoped to get a top five starter as well, but that was the least important of the early draft goals. I planned to hammer pitching in the middle and late rounds. If you read any of my series on my teams last year, you would see the common denominator was how bad my middle and back end pitching was. My plan this year is to hammer those pitchers in the middle to late rounds with at least one anchor guy early to go along with my elite closer.

Finally, I wanted to stay as injury-free and stash free as possible. I think that the common misconception in these leagues is that you should stash high upside guys like prospects and injury prone or currently injured guys. It is actually the opposite. Because there are no pickups in-season, you can’t replace the guys that get hurt. If you have too many injury or prospect stashes, you risk the possibility that you will have to field an incomplete lineup if you have a rash of injuries before these stashes make it to your active roster. A few stashes are fine, like 4-5, but do not overload your team with them.


Rounds 1-5

Justin Mason’s First Draft Champions Rounds 1-5
Round Pick Player Pos
1 13 Soto, Juan OF
2 18 Guerrero Jr., Vladimir 1B
3 43 Hendriks, Liam P
4 48 Albies, Ozzie 2B
5 73 Musgrove, Joe P

So this was not the start I had expected. I didn’t really think Soto would make it to 13 and had anticipated getting Bo Bichette at 13 and then taking either Gerrit Cole or Corbin Bunes in the second round. Bichette went at 12 and I couldn’t pass up the chance at getting Soto on the roster. I took Vladdy in the second round and that may have been a mistake. Both Cole and Burnes went, but I could have easily taken one of my other top three starters in Sandy Alcantara, Shane McClanahan, or Brandon Woodruff. I think the real mistake was that I didn’t pair a hitter with more speed with Soto because it limited my options later on.

In round three, I grabbed one of the elite closers. Closers always go high in this format because of the above stated reason and I think that is the right call. I was happy to get Albies in the fourth as a potential bounceback guy that was a borderline first rounder in 2022 and now is going considerably later. Round five is where I got my first starter. Think Joe Musgrove is an underrated ace. He isn’t one of the picks people swoon over, but he has a pretty safe floor with SP1 upside.


Rounds 6-10

Justin Mason’s First Draft Champions Rounds 6-10
Round Pick Player Pos
6 78 Edman, Tommy SS
7 103 Gilbert, Logan P
8 108 McKenzie, Triston P
9 133 Rojas, Josh 3B
10 138 Diaz, Alexis P

Here is where I wished I had started off my team a bit differently. With drafting Soto and Vlad with my first two picks, I felt very speed deficient. I took Tommy Edman in the sixth and Josh Rojas in the ninth. I like both players but there were other shortstops I prefer from a straight skills perspective over Edman, but his speed and multi-positional flexibility were what my team was looking for. At this point I also realized how shallow the outfield is this year. By the time it got to me in the ninth round, all of the outfield targets that have power and speed were taken. While every position has drop offs, this year outfield has the biggest drop offs and my team has a huge weakness at the position. My goal became to get as much positional flexibility on my team as possible to try and offset this weakness.

By taking Logan Gilbert and Triston McKenzie back-to-back, I began implementing my strategy of stacking starters earlier than I did last year. I think they both have tremendous upsides and the ability to outperform their ADPs. Alexis Diaz is a skills based gamble at closer. Closers were flying off the board with 16 relievers going prior to me taking Diaz in the tenth round.


Rounds 11-20

Justin Mason’s First Draft Champions Rounds 11-20
Round Pick Player Pos
11 163 Murphy, Sean C
12 168 Muncy, Max CI
13 193 Hayes, Ke’Bryan CI
14 198 Verdugo, Alex OF
15 223 Singer, Brady P
16 228 Sandoval, Patrick P
17 253 Nootbaar, Lars OF
18 258 Grandal, Yasmani C
19 283 Marsh, Brandon OF
20 288 Abrams, CJ UT

In these rounds I got my top two catchers. Catcher is a much better position this season than it looked coming into 2022, but there are distinct drop offs. I would like to get at least one of the top 12, but I want to try and wait as long as possible to get them unless I am getting J.T. Realmuto. I think I did a good job in waiting and still landing Sean Murphy. Murphy should be a volume monster in Oakland and even if he loses playing time if the Athletics trade him, he would get an uptick in value from a new team and park. Yasmani Grandal just felt way too cheap at this point in the draft. Maybe he is washed at this point in his career, but he still will play regularly for the White Sox.

Max Muncy, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Alex Verdugo were all value picks. They also complement each other well with the power from Muncy, the speed from Hayes and the average and runs from Verdugo.

Brady Singer and Patrick Sandoval felt like steals at this point in the draft. Both are young and coming off of breakout seasons. Singer especially seems like he could be a favorite target of mine in early drafts. Great stuff in a great park and division.

Lars Nootbar and Brandon Marsh are favorite players, but both outline just how ugly outfield can get if you don’t attack it early. They are my third and fourth outfielder because I need Edman to play shortstop. This is a bad domino effect of not attacking speed early. I grabbed Abrams because I believe he can still be the stud many thought he could be as a prospect. If he is, I can move Abrams off of shortstop and strengthen my outfield.


Rounds 21-30

Justin Mason’s First Draft Champions Rounds 21-30
Round Pick Player Pos
21 313 Rodriguez, Eduardo P
22 318 Scott, Tanner P
23 343 Civale, Aaron P
24 348 Torkelson, Spencer UT
25 373 Yepez, Juan OF
26 378 Suarez, Jose P
27 403 Trevino, Jose C
28 408 Winn, Cole P
29 433 Friedl, TJ OF
30 438 Barnes, Matt P

I continued to hammer starting pitching with Eduardo Rodriguez, Aaron Civale, Jose Suarez, and Cole Winn. E-Rod felt like a huge steal at this point. I know he is coming off of a disappointing and weird season, but he was an SP2-3 coming into 2022 and there is no reason he should be the 118th pitcher (including relievers) off the board. Civale and Suarez both finished their year’s off strong and should have solid roles in their respective rotations. Winn is my first stash, but the Rangers have been aggressive with prospects and really need the pitching. I think he could be on the Opening Day roster with a good spring and at worst he should be up with the first wave of prospects in May.

Both Tanner Scott and Matt Barnes are closer dart throws. Scott got some late saves and Dylan Floro could be traded as he is going to be expensive in arbitration for the Marlins. Barnes seemed to be the favorite down the stretch for the Red Sox, but who knows what they will do?

Spencer Torkelson, Juan Yepez, and TJ Freidl were all power plays as I felt I was falling behind in the category. Torkelson is still a top natural talent that should get plenty of opportunity in Detroit in spite of his awful debut. Yepez should have more of an opportunity with Pujols retiring. Friedl was one of my deep sleepers in 2022 and is now just a regular sleeper in a Cincy outfield that is not that great.


Rest of the Draft

Justin Mason’s First Draft Champions Rounds 31-50
Round Pick Player Pos
31 463 Herget, Jimmy P
32 468 Frazier, Adam OF
33 493 Perdomo, Geraldo SS
34 498 Manning, Matt P
35 523 Taylor, Michael A. OF
36 528 Lynch, Daniel P
37 553 Wade Jr., LaMonte 1B
38 558 Kremer, Dean P
39 583 Higashioka, Kyle C
40 588 Aranda, Jonathan 1B
41 613 Florial, Estevan OF
42 618 Hernandez, Jonathan P
43 643 McKinstry, Zach SS
44 648 Fletcher, David 2B
45 673 Smith, Pavin 1B
46 678 Benson, Will OF
47 703 Moronta, Reyes P
48 708 Bumgarner, Madison P
49 733 Tepera, Ryan P
50 738 Outman, James OF

I finished my draft with a lot of loading up on pitching. I think I probably could have taken one more starter over one of the relievers I got. I did take a gamble that Matt Manning is healthy. He finished the year strong before hitting the IL with elbow soreness. The move was characterized as precautionary, but it is a bit scary. I have seen him go 4-5 rounds later than where I took Manning, so it may have been a reach. However, I wanted to double up on Angels relievers with Ryan Tepera after taking Jimmy Herget earlier in the draft.

With a number of my final picks, I really wanted to get guys that would help me load up on at bats. Adam Frazier, Michael A. Taylor, Zach McKinstry, David Fletcher, and Pavin Smith are pretty boring, but they should play regularly on their teams and three of the four have multi-positional eligibility. I mixed their safe floors with the upside on Will Benson, Estevan Florial, and Jonathan Aranda. I actually think Aranda has a pretty safe floor if he gets the at bats in Tampa, but it is hard to know what the Rays will do.


Final Thoughts
Looking at my final team, I feel like I have good balance in my offense and a good amount of pitching depth. There are definitely things I will do differently in attacking positional and categorical drop offs. Each position has big drop offs, but after this draft I feel like I have a better understanding of how bad the drop offs are at certain positions, especially in the outfield. While there are drop offs in pitching, I think there is a lot of dissent about who belongs in each tier which should offer some really nice values in drafts if there are guys you are higher on than others like I experienced with Eduardo Rodriguez and Brady Singer. However, there are some really big helium guys like Spencer Strider (third round), Kyle Wright (eighth round), Hunter Greene (ninth round), and Nick Lodolo (ninth round).

Closers went incredibly fast. 19 relievers went in the first 10 rounds. This isn’t uncommon in a format where you can’t find saves off the waiver wire since there are no pickups, but you need to make sure you get the guys you want early. Prospects also went extremely early, especially the ones that made debuts in 2022. Corbin Carroll and Oneil Cruz both went in the sixth round. Vinnie Pasquantino and Gunnar Henderson were taken in the eighth round. Josh Jung and Franciso Alvarez both went in the fifteenth round and Jordan Walker went in the eighteenth. If you like prospects, they won’t be cheap.

As drafts continue to roll in, we will get a better idea whether some of these observations are patterns or aberrations.

Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as other periodic articles. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, and the owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.

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1 year ago

Ozzie Albies has been going way too late in the early drafts. Absolute steal at 48.