The weekend of March 24-25th was officially, or unofficially, national fantasy baseball draft weekend. Millions of fantasy players from all areas of the country met at homes, bars, restaurants or anywhere else 12-16 grown adults could congregate in front of laptops, phones, and cheat sheets to pick the greatest make-believe team they could.
This author was a proud participant. We have a 12-team 5×5 league with the standard categories except one, in pitching, that is always a bone of contention – complete games instead of WHIP. This has been a hot-button topic since I joined the league ten years ago. It hasn’t changed but it really makes owners think about their pitching picks.
I had the 7th pick overall and after much time spent doing mock drafts, referencing Draft Buddy and other resources and, dare I say, some soul searching, I decided to go with Max Scherzer. I went with this pick for a couple of reasons. For one, I wanted a stud pitcher out of the gate. I was looking for somebody who would get me K, a sub 3.00 ERA and wins. With Schrezer in the National League East, I figured this would be the best option for me. Clayton Kershaw went 4th overall.
For my next pick, I needed a hitter. I was torn between the best player available or the 6th best outfielder. By the way, Bryce Harper went 11th. I wouldn’t say I “settled” but I did draft Joey Votto. I couldn’t pass up the projected .320 average, 36 home runs and 100 plus RBI. There may have been a couple players with a tick more home runs but none of them will hit .320 like Votto will.
I was extremely happy with my third through fifth picks – Josh Donaldson, Starling Marte and Edwin Encarnacion. Donaldson and Marte come with a few injury risks but the upside for both of them was too much to pass up. Donaldson is in his walk year and has finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting four of the past five years. Last year, he was hurt the first part of the year but finished on a huge hot streak. I fully expect this to continue if he stays healthy, a caveat for many players.
Marte was a wildcard. As a Minnesota Twins fan, I really wanted to take Byron Buxton in the 4th round but I’m still not sold on his overall offense. Yes, he did have a solid if not great second half last year but it’s a pretty small sample size to consider taking him in the fourth round. Marte should get me double digit home runs as well as stolen bases. He will be counted on to produce for a Pittsburgh Pirates lineup that should be decent but by no means elite.
Encarnacion was a luxury pick. We have an infield spot or utility spot and I decided to add more power. I drafted Encarnacion the past three seasons and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s not going to steal bases but you can pen in 110 RBI and at least 35 home runs. With the protection of his lineup, and the AL Central division, he will put up huge numbers.
Rounds six through eleven I nailed down two closers – Felipe Rivero and Jeurys Familia in the 7th and 10th rounds, two starting pitchers – Aaron Nola in the 6th and Jake Arrieta in the 11th – along with my second outfielder, Domingo Santana. Looking back on it, I probably should not have taken two Phillie pitchers but I like their upside. Nola will learn from Arrieta and Arrieta’s numbers at Citizen Bank Park are solid.
Rivero and Familia aren’t household closer names but each will get me saves. And I didn’t need to reach to get them. Like a good friend of mine always says, when drafting closers on bad teams, someone has to close those games out. Might as well get me some saves in the process.
Santana was the best available outfielder. I liked his power and speed and he is projected to hit anywhere from 26-30 home runs and drive in 90-100 runs. He also is projected double digit stolen bases, which is a plus. The downside is he’s no higher than a .265 average and has a tendency to strike out. I guess I could say I took a chance drafting him with the outfield situation in Milwaukee. I do think with his power and speed, they’ll find a place for him in the everyday lineup.
Without going into detail on every pick, I’ll end with what I thought were the best two late round picks on my team. I snagged Aaron Sanchez in the 16th round and Addison Reed in the 21st and final round. Taking two pitchers who are kind of in limbo is a high risk-high reward play. Sanchez has a history of blister issues. Jays Journal blog indicates, “Sanchez may be the biggest key to the Blue Jays’ playoff aspirations in 2018”. If he is healthy and can maneuver through the tough AL East, he is a steal in the 16th round.
Reed is another high risk-high reward pick. With the Twins signing Fernando Rodney, they are banking on the 41 year old closing games in 2018. Rodney’s track record though of starting out slow may give Reed a chance at closing games. With the Twins in win now mode, I think the leash on Rodney will be short and Paul Molitor will be ready to turn over the opportunities to Reed sooner rather than later.
So, there it is. A somewhat comprehensive look at my draft. The 7th pick wasn’t ideal but I thought I got some good value and am strong in the places where there wasn’t a lot of depth. As Chris notes, but I will reiterate it here: just because the draft is over and went well, there is still a lot of work to be done. Very true, let the games begin.