My NFBC Team from AFL

If you have read my work or listened to the podcast, you know I’m obsessed with my Arizona Fall League trip every year. It’s just the best. One of my favorite things about that trip is the NFBC Draft & Hold league we start there. We do the first 23 rounds live and then the other 27 online starting in January. It’s a little bit of a reach-fest. I think part of it is the draft and hold aspect, part of it is recency bias of the season just ending, and part of it is just getting the oohs & ahhs (or playful curse outs) from another participant.

I’ve been doing this draft since 2012 and I think I’ve had an early pick just one. I regularly draft from one of the last three spots in the 15-team league and this year was no different as I nabbed spot 15. For those unaware, it’s a Kentucky Derby Style draft slotting process where they draw the names out of the hat and then you can pick your spot among those available. I can’t recall exactly when my name was pulled, but 15 was available and that was exactly what I wanted. I had done a mock in mid-October and was struck by how deep the first round was so I felt more than comfortable getting the wheel.

Another reason I love pick 15 is because I get the first pick in the January restart. After a few months of Hot Stove activity, there are usually a handful of players who have improved their status beyond a round 24 pick, making them great values at this slot. Of course, this year they cancelled the Hot Stove so there might not be any of those gem picks available to me.

Let’s take a look at my first 23.

You don’t have to fill your active roster in this portion of the draft, but it just so happened that I did this year.

THE FOUNDATION

I’ll start by looking at my first five picks and then we’ll breakdown my position groups (C, CI, MI, OF, SP, RP).

Round 1: Kris Bryant (3B) – A 26-year old former MVP at pick 15? Yes, please! The RBI total might be scaring some folks away as he dropped 29 from his 2016 total, but I just don’t see how that’s going to happen again, especially when his triple slash was almost identical to his MVP campaign:

  • 2016: .292/.385/.554
  • 2017: .295/.409/.537

I think the depth of the first round will keep Bryant in this range. Looking at our first round, I don’t see any guys ahead of him that were egregious. I personally wouldn’t take Aaron Judge (pick 12), but it’s not out of bounds. The first round in full: Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Paul Goldschmidt, Trea Turner, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Judge, Carlos Correa, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryant.

Round 2: Chris Sale (SP) – I followed up my foundation bat with a foundation arm in Sale. Really love this duo to kick off a draft. Yes, it was tough to pass on Joey Votto (who went with the next pick), but I wanted in on the top tier of SP to see how it goes. Of the teams that went hitter/pitcher (or vice versa) with their first two picks, which duo do you like best:

  • Bryant/Sale by Team 15
  • Kluber/J.D. Martinez by Team 11
  • Kershaw/Dee Gordon by Team 10
  • Scherzer/Freddie Freeman by Team 8
  • Turner/Madison Bumgarner by Team 4
  • Trout/Stephen Strasburg by Team 1

VOTE HERE!

Round 3: Alex Bregman (SS) – Remember when I said it was a reach-fest? It’s not that I don’t believe in my Bregman pick, but I took him earlier than he went in any of Justin’s mocks. Despite a 0 HR April, Bregman rallied to pop 19 with 17 SB and a .284 AVG. I don’t think a 20/20 season is out of bounds. He also has the contact skills to best the .284. Of course, you can’t go around just thinking all of your picks will best their breakout season across the board so I get the risk.

He could be more .270/15/15 and it wouldn’t necessarily be an awful season, but it wouldn’t slot as a 3rd round pick unless they de-juice the hell outta the ball. The SS/3B flexibility played a role in my desire to get him, too. I tend to value flexibility a decent bit in general, but even more so in a draft and hold because we don’t really know which of our rounds 30-50 guys will emerge so flexibility helps ensure you can fit everyone even when surprise breakouts jump up.

Round 4: Billy Hamilton (OF) / Round 5: Khris Davis (OF) – While the Bregman pick is peak Sporer, I don’t even know who was at the wheel with my next two picks. I’m pairing them because I drafted them essentially as a duo. We know the scarcity of speed which probably makes Hamilton self-explanatory, but I’m pretty “anti-rabbit” in fantasy because I think they really alter the rest of your draft as they usually have multiple major deficiencies, but I hoped to mitigate by drafting a power stud right away.

This particular duo ended up being a major AVG sinkhole, but I figured I could attack that aspect later while pocketing 40 HR and 55 SB. Getting AVG late in drafts isn’t easy, but I’d zero in on some high contact guys and hope to spike some .290+ gems. I also didn’t need to pay much attention to speed the rest of the way.

So that’s how the foundation looks. Here’s how it turned out from there:

CATCHER

Austin Barnes (14th round), Christian Vazquez (22nd) – This shouldn’t surprise you much if you listened to my podcast discussing some of my favorite catchers. I’m not going to be active in the upper tiers of catcher, but I won’t just leave it until the very end as I’ve done in years past.

CORNER

Joey Gallo (6th), Bryant (1st), Yulieski Gurriel (13th) – I took another power monster in Gallo so now the HR drain of Hamilton’s spot is more than covered, but yet another AVG dud will make that category a grind.

MIDDLE

Starlin Castro (16th), Bregman (3rd), Joe Panik (19th) – Well, now you can see where I tried to get some AVG back. Castro was back at .300 last year and has hit .282 for his career. Panik got his AVG back to .288 last year after a weird 2016 and he also hits .282 for his career. Gurriel, too. Hopefully my MI, C, Bryant, and Gurriel can counter Gallo, Davis, and Hamilton enough to compete in AVG.

OUTFIELD/UTILITY

Hamilton (4th), Davis (5th), Nomar Mazara (11th), Lewis Brinson (17th), Hunter Renfroe (18th), Franklin Barreto (23rd) – Pretty happy with this group. Went with upside plays in the mid rounds and I’ll scoop some of the more stable, high-floor veteran types in the later rounds when we restart.

STARTERS

Sale (2nd), Masahiro Tanaka (7th), Luis Castillo (8th), Garrett Richards (12th), Alex Cobb (20th), and German Marquez (21st) – I’m quite thrilled with my starters. Ideally Cobb will go somewhere nice in the NL and get away from that pesky AL East. Contrary to popular belief, I did not strain my back reaching for Castillo. I had a very strong feeling that it was my last chance to get him and based on the response in the room, I was resoundingly correct on that. I just love Richards’ talent. Yes, he needs to stay healthy, but if he does, he has ace upside. I’m taking that shot in the 12th every day of the week.

RELIEVERS

Archie Bradley (9th), Sean Doolittle (10th), Mark Melancon (15th) – At the time of the draft, I didn’t realize that Bradley was still hoping to go back to starting so it was news to me when I was told as much by another participant, but thankfully he appears to still be on the closer track. I could also see Washington bringing someone who might push Doolittle from the closer’s role, but that’s why I grabbed Melancon, who maintained his base skills in a rough year and should bounce back just fine if healthy (admittedly, a big “if”).

OK, that’s the crew through 23. I’ll give an update in January/February when we finish up. What do you think so far? Favorite pick? Least favorite?





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Was there a pitcher paired with Trout in that poll question? I just saw his name and voted…