Just like riding a bicycle. You never really forget how. There is a different dynamic to drafting live (i.e. actually in the room with other people…nothing online should ever be described as “live”…). Watching the faces, cutting jokes, screwing up in front of your friends/competitors, and watching as all the mental mock drafts you did go POOF. And man was I happy to be there…just like riding a bike…badly just like I used to WAAAAAAAY back in 2019!
The best is seeing everyone. There are not enough thanks that can be made to Mike Massotto, who took the time out his own drafting to arrange a get together for us to shoot the shit and talk baseball. I am so glad the NFBC is as large and successful as it is. If it weren’t as big and successful as it is, it probably would have been lost to us years ago and certainly would not have survived COVID. But lost is a little bit of the intimacy we used to have, hanging around, checking out other draft boards, and not having to break down and rush for the next event. I get it…not a criticism…but Mike’s party is pretty much the only chance we get to hang outside of the active events. Always worth it.
I will not even attempt to name all the names of the folks I was able to speak with for fear of inadvertently leaving someone out. Some sported new facial hair, some still wore jersey’s for some guy named “Seaver”, some still wore sheep-friendly kilts. Just great to see everyone! Like a big family reunion…
So what a draft. I do not think I can imagine a deeper first round…ever. We went through several years where there was a clear #1 and maybe one or radically two pitchers in the first round. This year, we had 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e…and that is before you even look at pitchers. Between Acuna, Soto, Betts, Tatis, and Trout there was just a broad band of uber-anchors. And it is not like the drop off is huge to get to Ramirez, Turner, Story, and Yelich. Then the pick-em of DeGrom, Cole, and Bieber. Just so deep that the first round really just didn’t seem that important (yes, I sweated my choice just the same) because you were going to lock in a superstar.
I had the sixth pick in a league with three ex-Main Event champions. No pressure…
We had seen many leagues where at least two pitchers (DeGrom/Cole) were going in the top five so I believed I would have my choice of Betts or Trout but at least one of them. Would have been a coin flip (more SB or really rack up the counting stats though I guess I am the last person who thinks that Trout can/will steal bases). As it turns out, Mr. Schroter with the #1 pick grabbed DeGrom, then Acuna, Tatis (I refuse to write the “.Jr.” because it is not like anyone thinks we are drafting “Sr.”), Soto, and Betts went in order. Oh darn…that leaves me with Trout. Shoot…maybe 50 HR this year WITH the dead ball…there goes my whole draft…really disappointed.
A word about my draft in general. First, I had about 20% of the time I normally take to prep so there was going to be no nuanced draft strategies. Second, I think OF is overrated as in not as deep as it once was. Very wise people disagree and it is certainly likely I missed something, but I was going to commit to OFers early. The other key point to my draft is starting pitching should be a premium. Next year will be even tougher with just about every pitcher operating under the Verducci Effect, but this year, with out sufficient recency bias to allow us to convince ourselves we know who will be hot and who will be not, I wanted to lean on some veteran starters early. I just feel like they can rebound from the truncated season better. Like most believes, there is not much substance to my opinion, but it is mine and I am going to stick with it.
So, the second round, forsaking all those bats that COULD be first rounders next year (after our heaping helping of recency bias), I was going to get a starter. Based on the opportunity cost metrics (i.e. ADP) I felt I would be able to get one of Castillo, Flaherty, or Woodruff, a NL Central buffet of choices. I had Woodruff ranked as my preferred choice though it really was another mental coin toss. Then a funny thing happened. At or really near the turn, Scherzer, Buehler, and Nola have been going, either to those “two-ace” aficionados or the guys who felt the Maeda/Kershaw/Snell tranche would not make it back to them at the 3/4 turn. Turns out Woodruff did not make it back to me, but Scherzer dropped. He may be 36, but I still feel he is Cy Young level capable of over 225 K’s. Trout/Scherzer. OK…I can hang with those guys.
For my next bat/pitcher combo, I wanted/needed to lock some speed. Lots of players would fit that bill but filter for my OF bias, I focused on two, Merrifield and Starling Marte. One better BA, the other more power. Tough call (for me) but I also wanted to build a little BA cushion in case I have to grab some low-BA knuckle dragging thug in a late round power play. Merrifield. Lindy picked Marte seven picks later so obviously I picked the wrong player.
Coming around was a real decision point for me. I thought I would have a shot at the Strasburg/Ryu/Plesac/Burnes class. Very solid if not near the elite two-anchors. Or a closer. Kind of like “The-Position-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named”. Might have a chance at Hader/Chapman/Hendriks. Do I bite? Even if there is a closer run, by the time I grab another starter in two rounds, there will be a definite drop off. But there are only a few remotely stable closers, so yes, I jumped on Chapman as Hader went six picks earlier and Hendriks sniped just before my pick.
I was going to try not to yield to man-crushes and with only two teams this year it should not have been hard to avoid doubling up on players, but Eugenio Suarez keeps calling to me. I am giving back some BA, but I will take his 40+ potential in this year I think HR will be down. Coming back around I noticed Paddock was still there. Still really high on him. And he got closer…and closer…and two picks before me …gone. Turns out my neighbor would have grabbed him anyway. My consolation prize was another NL Central and veteran arm. Sonny Gray. I view that pick as “solid”.
I needed some more speed after grabbing Suarez, but (ok, there are no real slips but maybe there are some fortunate choices that maybe happen a little later than they should) Michael Conforto was there. Not really speed, but just too good a player hitting in the middle of a good line-up was too good to pass. Seven of the next eighteen picks were starters, including Musgrove, McCullers, and a couple of the young Marlin arms. I grabbed another solid if unspectacular veterans in Patrick Corbin. Solid ERA/WHIP, better than solid K’s. Out of my first three starters and Chapman, I am hoping for 750 K’s (if not a few more).
In rounds nine and ten, I of course wanted another pitcher, but thought it would be good to get a middle-infielder. I grabbed Carlos Correa. Remember when some thought he was worth a first round pick? I never did, but he is a target of mine in this range. Should hit in a money spot in the line-up and is in a contract year. Sure, no real stats say contract year bumps exist. I still consider it. Now I really need SB help. I grab my own Marlins pitcher, Sixto Sanchez. Not a solid veteran arm, but rather maybe the best arm in the Marlin rotation.
I have three outfielders, one cornerman, one middle infielder, four starters, and one closer. I feel good about my pitching. No team has more pitchers or starters at this stage than me but five of us have four starters each. Nine teams have closers including me and two of them have two. One team has only two pitchers and three have three. So I am more heavily invested, but not by much. Somehow do not feel behind on offensive stats, except SB.
I feel at this stage I need to fill out my roster. Catcher is, as always a black hole and only six were selected in the first ten rounds. The best of the rest are really “do-no-harm” types. I think the best of them is Christian Vazquez. Coming back in the 12th I took a little gamble. With the Braves sending down both Wilson and Wright, I get the feeling that Soroka will be back sooner than later, missing two starts, maybe three. I can live with that to add another really solid arm in the middle of my rotatation. I break pattern by select another pitcher in the 13th, a third tier closer in Greg Holland. There was no real closer run at this time, there could have been. I grabbed a first baseman next, really late for what has turned into a pretty thin position given to platoons. Another “Christian”, this time Walker. Not sure what Arizona will do and it will be hard for them to even make the wild card with LA and SD in the division, but Walker is a bit forgotten and should hit in the middle of the Diamondback order. Pattern here of good BA and good power.
Fifteen/sixteen more veterans in key batting order slots and two with real injury risk, first Lorenzo Cain (hope he still has some speed and holds his good BA) and Josh Donaldson (maybe the calf will hold-up and his power too). Seventeen/eighteen I grabbed another veteran starter, more for the team his in on than him, but I am not trying to build my staff around Jake Odorizzi. Another pitcher I will have to wait a bit on, but hopefully a steady source of (mainly) quality innings. Another duplicate from my auction team was next in Jonathan Schoop. What will it be? Flat Schoop or “Good MI Power” Schoop? Rolling 19/20 I went Andrus (speed maybe enough for me to forget his BA) and JD Davis (how much will the Mutts let one of their best bats play?).
For the final ten rounds, I held my nose and got my second catcher (only real BA risk in Alfaro), lots of pitchers (Weaver, Alzolay, Moore, Lorenzen, Gibson to fill in the back of my rotation until Soroka and Odorizzi pitch), outfielders (Pache and Kiermaier for speed) and for some tired, perverse reason, Rougned Odor, or as he will probably be known, my first drop.
That was my construction. I went with a primarily veteran roster (maybe a product of too little prep so I went with known commodities), which may translate into injury risk. At least for now, I am tied for first.
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Baseball is a slow, boring, complex, cerebral game that doesn't lend itself to histrionics. You 'take in' a baseball game, something odd to say about a football or basketball game, with the clock running and the bodies flying.