The worst kept secret in the fantasy sports industry is that the people in it are amazing. A little over a year ago, with the help of some friends (with fantasy benefits), I entered the industry with a silly little podcast, a website, and no real expectations that it would ever turn into anything more than a hobby. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how helpful and encouraging the majority of the fantasy industry is. No one ever said no to an appearance. I was given a ton of advice on what works and what doesn’t in the industry. You read what these people write and listen to what they have to say, but what you don’t realize is that they are just as cool in real life as they appear to be from the outside.
Let’s be honest though, I am not getting invited to LABR and Tout Wars any time soon. So when Tod, a listener of my podcast that I have befriended, came to me with a brilliant idea, I grabbed the ball and ran with it. He owns a bar called The Wreck Room in San Francisco and wanted to host an industry draft for local analysts. He would supply the place, booze, food, and prizes, if I could rustle up the interest. I reached out to everyone I knew (and some I didn’t) and the response was amazing. Even those who couldn’t make it wished me luck and offered suggestions of local analysts that might be able to. After a ton of email and twitter messages, I was able to put together a league of twelve industry members. Even after two last minute cancellations, there were people willing to step up and help out. Lawr Michaels even came up with a fitting name for the league with the “catchy” acronym BARF. Here is the lineup/draft order that was assembled:
1 – Justin Mason, Rotographs/Friends with Fantasy Benefits
2 – Tim Williams, Friends with Fantasy Benefits
3 – Howard Bender, Fantasy Alarm/Sirius XM
4 – Danny Zarchy, Giants Pod
5 – Christopher Welsh, In This League
6 – Greg Smith, Two QBs
7 – Lawr Michaels, Mastersball
8 – Spencer Silva, Freelance Writer
9 – Ray Flowers, Fantasy Alarm/Sirius XM
10 – Tod Alsman, The Wreck Room
11 – Angry Mike, The Wreck Room
12 – Mike Werner & Eli Rosenswaike, Friends with Fantasy Benefits
When the two last minute cancellations happened, I had resigned to the realization that we would have only ten members. I sent out a randomized draft order and was pretty excited to have received the last pick. Then once we got replacements, I rerandomized the draft order and ended up with the first pick. I was a little disappointed with this draw, but it gave me the opportunity to be able take whoever I coveted the most and then have back-to-back picks throughout the rest of the draft. My strategy became to take one of the three elite hitters, then in the second and third rounds grab at least the best starter available, and the player I value the highest from the remaining pool. I would then take the best player available while trying to balance upside versus safety. I tend to not worry as much about positional scarcity because I am pretty confident with my in-season management skills and am an active trader. However, as you will see below, I blew up my plan after my 2nd/3rd round picks and instituted a new strategy. You can see everyone’s team here.
Traditional roster positions with five bench spots. 5 x 5 roto with OBP and QS instead of Avg and Wins. 20 game positional eligibility (unfortunately this was changed after the draft because I couldn’t figure out how to change Yahoo’s settings.)
Round 1, Pick 1 – Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: I have done a ton of mock drafts and the one thing I have noticed in all of them is that I hate my team when I miss out on one of the elite first basemen. Taking Goldy number one ensures I won’t have to worry about the inevitable drop off at first and gives me a stud that offers five category production, allowing me to not have to worry what the strengths or weaknesses of my next hitter are.
2.24 & 3.25 – Starling Marte, OF & George Springer, OF: Here is where my plan went to hell. I was surprised to see both of these players on the board and even more surprised to see only one pitcher had gone thus far. In a pre-draft interview for the Fantasy Sports Network, I had predicted that the pitcher run would start somewhere in the back of the third round. However, with only Kershaw gone I hypothesised that it might start later than I anticipated. I decided to take a gamble that there would still be a few studs available with my fourth and fifth round picks. With Marte and Springer, I got two of my favorite fantasy players that have huge upside.
Right then and there, I decided I was going for it. In a league with so many talented owners, you are going to have to hit on your gambles. No one remembers who finishes 2nd – 12th, but everyone remembers the champion. From here on out, I was going to take the best player with upside and ignore the potential risks. Like I said above, I feel like I am a confident in-season manager and with only 12-teams, replacement level is still not dreadful.
4.48 & 5.49 – Carlos Carrasco & Xander Bogaerts: Well, I was wrong about the pitching run starting late. I watched almost all the guys I love go in between my third and fourth round picks. As my pick approached, I was salivating over the fact that Jacob DeGrom and Gerrit Cole seemed to be dropping. Of course both went for bargains right before I could grab them. Pretty sure I fired Tim Williams when he took Cole right in front of me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carrasco even if Howard Bender was not a fan of the pick.
— Howard Bender (@rotobuzzguy) February 21, 2016
I think Carrasco is an ace in the making and while he is not my Cy Young pick, I am fine with him as my #1 starter. Now, I am not the biggest fan of Bogaerts, but he does have upside with a very nice floor. If that power does show this year, he is a steal, but worst case scenario he should earn a top 50 value as a shortstop batting at the top of Boston’s loaded lineup.
6.72 & 7.73 – Anthony Rendon & Garrett Richards: I was extremely high on Anthony Rendon coming into last season and like many was burnt by his 2015 campaign. However, at pick 72 I couldn’t pass up his upside. By this point, all the elite second and third basemen were gone and Rendon’s positional flexibility helps fill in any potential holes I might have throughout the draft. I love Garrett Richards, always have. I mean, I wouldn’t leave my wife for him, only because we are married and have a kid together, but I still love him. He is my pick for the AL Cy Young this year. He has huge velocity and good secondary pitches. After a gruesome leg injury ended a brilliant 2014, he had a very underrated season. Give him another year removed from the injury and I believe the strikeout rate will increase and walks will come down to his 2013 and 2014 rates. He has all the tools and now is the time.
8.96 & 9.97 – Zach Britton & Prince Fielder: I was left out of the initial starting pitcher run and was not going to be left out of the closer run. 7 closers had already gone off the board and I was happy to see Britton and Cody Allen were still available. I thought about taking both, but in a 12 team league I felt I could make due with one elite guy and a hodge-podge of cheaper guys. I settled on Britton because I felt his rates would be better. Fielder is a boring pick, but safe. I think there is more power coming this season. He was almost taken a number of rounds earlier, but was changed when the owner realized that he was DH only to start the season. I am never afraid of DH only guys and expect him to gain first base eligibility at some point in-season.
10.120 & 11.121 – Marcus Stroman & Joc Pederson: I was pretty surprised that Stroman was available at this point. I figured he would go with the Richards’ and Salazar’s of the draft. Sure there is risk with every Toronto pitcher, but there is huge reward here too. He came back to finish out the season and immediately showed us why the hype was going crazy last spring training before he got hurt. I don’t think we have even seen the best from Stroman as he hasn’t yet shown the 10+ K/9 rates he displayed during his quick ascent through the minor leagues. Pederson was another guy I was super high on coming into last season. I was looking like a genius until he fell apart in the second half. I am sure his 2016 will look like a mixture of his 2015 first half and second half with more speed, but this is an OBP league and that skyrockets his value in my opinion. I didn’t need another outfielder at this point but I loved the value with the immense upside.
12.144 & 13.145 – Jake Odorizzi & Ian Desmond: I was really hoping to land my first catcher and either Taijuan Walker or Carlos Rodon here. Of course they all went, but Odorizzi and Desmond were nice consolation prizes. Odorizzi is a tad bit underrated to me. I know he is still searching for that third pitch but he is only 25 and has shown the promise of a number 2 pitcher. If he does find a third usable pitch, watch out! Desmond was a lottery pick at this point. I know there are serious concerns about him, ranging from massive holes in his swing to the face that he currently doesn’t even have a team, but in the 13th round, I will take him every time. Even if he doesn’t get back to stealing 20 bags, I think he is a shoe-in for 20/10 no matter where he plays. At shortstop, I will take that floor with the upside that he can go back to being the 1st or 2nd round talent we saw prior to 2015.
14.168 & 15.169 – Corey Dickerson & Luis Severino: These are the picks that people are going to hate. Most people are down on Dickerson, but if you buy my first article for Rotographs, then you will think he is a steal at this point in the draft. Severino is another risk/reward pitcher. He looked stellar when he arrived at the end of last season, but there is some level of regression coming. The upside is enough to warrant the chance here and I am believer in his talent. Girardi’s comments made it sound like there won’t be an innings limit for the young fireballer, so I am optimistic that he will at least return this value.
16.192 & 17.193 – JT Realmuto & Jorge Soler: I had wanted to get my first catcher earlier, but kept getting sniped. Realmuto was a nice consolation prize though. Little bit of speed with a little bit of pop, but most importantly he shouldn’t hurt me in any category. Remember when Soler was going in the top 100 last spring? That was funny. Seriously though, this late in a draft he’s a pretty sweet lottery ticket. He has power and is playing in one of the best lineups in all of baseball.
18.216 & 19.217 – AJ Ramos & Logan Forsythe: I thought about taking Capps here but needed to fill my second base slot and thought Forsythe had fallen too far. I know everyone is on the Capps train right now, but Ramos was fantastic when he took over the role. I believe he gets the first shot at the job as the incumbent. The leash may be short, but it should be his job to lose.
I am not a Forsythe fan or believer, but at some point the value becomes too good to pass up.
20.240 & 21.241 – Andrew Heaney & Jimmy Nelson: I believe in both Heaney and Nelson as late round pitchers with upside. Heaney is suffering some prospect fatigue, but showed that he belonged. Maybe he never turns into the ace he was drafted as, but after pick 200 is too late in my eyes. Nelson needs to solve his Home/Road split issues, but I am more a believer that he can turn that around given his age and that 2015 was his first full season. At worst he is a streamer.
22.264 & 23.265 – Chris Carter & Hyun-Soo Kim: One bounce back player in Carter and one unknown flyer in Kim. Carter gets a small bump from the OBP and is moving to one of the best home parks for power in the Majors. Kim is an unknown, but at this point in the draft there is only upside.
24.288, 25.289, 26.312, & 27.313 – Cory Spangenberg, Nomar Mazara, Ryan Madsen & Mike Leake: Time to fill in the bench. Spangenberg could provide cheap speed and some depth if Rendon gets hurt or Forsythe regresses. Mazara is my Rookie of the Year pick. Hamilton is close to done and Mazara should be up by June at the latest. I believe Madsen will be the closer at some point. Doolittle’s health scares me. Mike Leake will most likely be a streamer for me, but offers some safe rates and a few strikeouts in the meantime.
28.336 – Jason Castro: Everytime I wanted a catcher, someone took the guy I was targeting. There’s a good chance Castro isn’t on my team by Opening Day.
I was pretty happy with my team overall. There is risk, but it was all calculated. I don’t usually care too much about projections, but I finished first using Rotowire’s and my own projections, but 5th in Roto Lab’s according to Mike Werner. I felt like I compiled a strong offense with the most ceiling out of any team. I am a tad bit worried about my pitching. I would have preferred to get Carrasco as my second starter and Richards as my number three, but I think I filled in my staff well enough to compliment those picks. There were a number of strong teams and I have linked their breakdowns below.
Lawr Michaels of Mastersball: BARF With Upside
Ray Flowers of Fantasy Alarm: The BARF Draft
Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.