Taking a page from RotoWire's own Jeff Erickson, Chris Liss and Andrew Martinez, among others, I thought it'd be fun to share my own NFBC Online Championship draft review. This particular 12-team mixed league draft took place on March 25, and aside from the $75,000 grand prize, I had extra incentive to do well considering I drafted against RotoWire's Senior Baseball Editor, Derek VanRiper.
Prior to the #BeatDVR draft, I participated in three separate NFBC Draft Champions league drafts, plus did some research on last year's Online Championship winner Eric Heberlig. While the Draft Champions league format is an entirely different beast, I've always finished these drafts with a strong feel for the player pool. This year, I made a point to register for a Draft Champions league draft with Heberlig himself to get a bird's eye view of his strategy. You might argue that drafting with a highly successful NFBC veteran is poor game selection (a big "no-no" for all you poker sharks out there), but I wanted to see if Heberlig deviated at all from the strategy that propelled him to the Online Championship title in 2013.
To summarize, Heberlig's grand prize winning team featured an elite trio of starters (Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer) and a strong foundation of hitters (Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Trumbo). Mix in some excellent value picks in the late rounds of his draft (Jean Segura, Pedro Alvarez and Alfonso Soriano) and some well timed free-agent pick-ups (Francisco Liriano, Tony Cingrani) and Heberlig had whipped up a recipe for success.
I used the stats he compiled as rough targets for this draft.
Drafting from the fifth spot, my strategy was to land two or three elite starting pitchers in the first four rounds. Here's how my portion of the #BeatDVR draft played out:
The Scioscial Network v2.0
1.5 (5) - Clayton Kershaw - Pick 5 was an ideal draft spot for me because I was 100 percent comfortable drafting Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen or Paul Goldschmidt with my first selection. After the fifth pick, there were too many question marks (most notably, Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun) for me to feel fully confident in my selection. I was thrilled (at the time) to land Kershaw, who ended up hitting the DL four days after this draft was complete.
DVR's Pick - Mike Trout
2.8 (20) - Jason Kipnis - As the seconds ticked away, I was torn between Kipnis and Giancarlo Stanton, who ended up going one pick later at 2.9. Admittedly, I may have let Heberlig influence me a bit here, as he took Kipnis with his second round pick of our Draft Champions league draft. I'll also admit I'm a Tribe homer, but as a five-category contributor, I gave Kipnis a slight edge over Stanton.
DVR's Pick - Evan Longoria
3.5 (29) - Yu Darvish - RotoWire broke news several hours before the draft that Darvish had been scratched from his Opening Day start and was set to see neck/back specialist. This made Darvish a risky selection, but my co-manager, Chris Hahn, and I knew before the draft that there was a likely chance he'd be available for this pick. We discussed the possibility of drafting him at length, and since Darvish was previously a target of mine in Round 2, I felt the risk was worth it. Yasiel Puig went one pick before me at 3.4. Had he been available, my decision would have been much more difficult.
DVR's Pick - Freddie Freeman
4.8 (44) - Jay Bruce - I was hoping to land Chris Sale with this pick, but taking Darvish the round prior started a run on the remaining crop of elite starting pitchers. Therefore, I opted for the best power option available in Bruce, who delivers consistent stats year after year. It's hard to believe he's still only 27 years old.
DVR's Pick - Hunter Pence
5.5 (53) - Jean Segura - I've never been a big Segura fan. With an NFBC ADP in the mid-to-late thirties, I always felt he was drafted too high for my liking. At this point in the draft, however, he had fallen far enough below his ADP that the prospect of shoring up two middle infield spots with high-steal guys was too good to pass up. I likely would have chosen Jason Heyward if he was available, but he went the pick right before me at 5.4.
DVR's Pick - Zack Greinke
6.8 (68) - Matt Holliday - Joe Mauer, Greg Holland and Eric Hosmer went off the board with picks 5.8, 5.9 and 6.3, respectively, which left me to choose between Holliday and Billy Hamilton. As much as I would've liked to own Hamilton as a potential difference maker in a national contest setting, I already had a good base of steals with Kipnis and Segura. That considered, Holliday was a no-brainer choice here, as I needed a player who would provide a boost to my team batting average.
DVR's Pick - Billy Hamilton - As a funny aside, when I passed on Hamilton, I said out loud "I can't believe I'm going to let him fall to DVR." Sure enough, VanRiper snatched him up four picks later.
7.5 (77) - Jonathan Lucroy - I was devastated to see Michael Wacha and Jose Abreu go off the board with the picks right before me. When drafting, there's nothing worse than seeing players you really want get sniped from you. Ugh! Anyway, Josh Donaldson was all set to be my pick, but I highlighted the wrong player from my queue and drafted Lucroy by mistake. I know I'm not the only one who has made an error like this while drafting, but when you're playing at high stakes, you can't help but come down on yourself for making such a silly mistake. Fortunately, I've been touting Lucroy as a top-three catcher long before he broke out, which made the pick sting a lot less than it would have if I chose a player with far less talent.
DVR's Pick - Matt Cain
8.8 (92) - Josh Donaldson - By the luck of the Fantasy Baseball gods, I ended up with Donaldson anyway. Go figure!
DVR's Pick - Josh Hamilton
9.5 (101) - Julio Teheran - I, like many fantasy owners, was pleasantly surprised by Teheran's breakout season in 2013. I was particularly impressed by his sharp command (2.2 BB/9), and a strong spring saw him shoot up my starting pitcher rankings. After narrowly missing out on Michael Wacha two rounds prior, I was thrilled to draft Teheran as my SP3.
DVR's Pick - Alex Gordon
10.8 (116) - Glen Perkins - Part of my initial strategy going into the draft was to make sure I had an elite closer. Perkins may not be considered "elite" as defined by the likes of Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland, but he's got a pretty firm handle on his role in Minnesota and was the best closer available.
DVR's Pick - Sergio Romo
11.5 (125) - Brandon Moss - Moss is a player who I feel doesn't get enough credit. His power potential makes him a bargain in Round 11, especially when he's not likely to drain my team batting average. Moss does have problems with lefties and strikes out more than you'd like, but he's a player I targeted heavily this year and ended up with on most of my teams.
DVR's Pick - Jason Grilli
12.8 (140) - Tony Cingrani - Many of my targets, including Wilson Ramos (11.8), Andrelton Simmons (11.11), Leonys Martin (11.12) and Aroldis Chapman (12.3) got drafted prior to this pick. The Chapman pick especially hurt, as I wrote down "Round 13" next to his name, hoping he would be there for me during that selection. Regardless, that left Tony Cingrani sitting all alone at the top of my queue. The fact that he's working to improve his secondary offering is encouraging.
DVR's Pick - Jim Johnson
13.5 (149) - Manny Machado - I didn't really target Machado in any drafts this year, but I forced myself to take a look at him at the urging of my co-manager. Pick 149 was a bit below his ADP, which made it easier to take the gamble on Machado in this round. Obviously, I'm not expecting him to duplicate his numbers from last season -- especially since Machado is still so young at 21 years of age -- but if he can stay healthy and provide similar statistics in the time he does play, I'll be more than pleased.
DVR's Pick - Jason Castro
14.8 (164) - Casey Janssen - Janssen, RotoWire's sixth-ranked closer prior to the season, had just made his first Grapefruit League appearance at the time of this selection. He appeared to be on track to close for the Blue Jays sometime in early April, so I was happy to take him after narrowly missing out on Rafael Soriano and Fernando Rodney. A recent setback in Janssen's recovery has left me a tad skeptical that the 32-year-old will produce much this season, but here's hoping he can overcome these nagging injuries. I'd just hate to waste the roster spot on him if it can be avoided.
DVR's Pick - Chase Headley
15.5 (173) - Curtis Granderson - I could hear my co-manager groan from several cities away when I made this pick. I realize Granderson will likely be a batting average drain, but I needed another power bat and he's only two years removed from a 43 home run season. I'm optimistic that he will produce numbers that far outweigh his draft day price.
DVR's Pick - Will Middlebrooks
16.8 (188) - Adam Eaton - I was probably more excited about Eaton's prospects this season than I was last year when he was being drafted as everyone's favorite sleeper. Needless to say, I couldn't make this pick quick enough when he was still available in Round 16. Health permitting, Eaton should rake inside U.S. Cellular Field whilst putting up gaudy run totals.
DVR's Pick - Hiroki Kuroda
17.5 (197) - Alex Wood - In a classic battle between an unproven player and an injury risk, I had a tough time choosing between Wood and Johnny Cueto. Ultimately, I went with Wood simply because I tend to choose the high-upside player over the injury risk nine times out of ten. Early returns have been positive thus far, although Cueto has been brilliant in his own right.
DVR's Pick - Zack Wheeler
18.8 (212) - Jonathan Villar - Secure in his role as the starting shortstop in Houston with Carlos Correa at least a year away from contributing at the big league level, Villar was a player I targeted for my middle infield slot. Dee Gordon went three picks before me and I didn't think Villar would make it back to me since we were approaching his ADP. I love that he's showing a bit of pop early in the season to go along with his 40 steal potential.
DVR's Pick - Tyson Ross
19.5 (221) - R.A. Dickey - Coming off a disappointing season in his first year with the Blue Jays, the 39-year-old knuckleballer wasn't my sexiest pick of the draft, but he was the last "ace" remaining and I felt he'd be solid as my SP6. George Springer went right before me at pick 19.4.
DVR's Pick - Ervin Santana
20.8 (236) - Torii Hunter - It pained me to see Christian Yelich and Michael Brantley go off the board with picks 20.3 and 20.7, respectively, but I was happy to see Hunter fall well below his ADP, even after an All-Star campaign with the Tigers.
DVR's Pick - Neil Walker
21.5 (245) - Javier Baez - Because I missed out on George Springer, Baez was the other uber-prospect that I absolutely had to draft. He's off to a slow start in 2014, but he recently returned from an ankle sprain and should get back to his power hitting ways soon enough. Although a promotion to Chicago is no guarantee, I can only drool over what he might contribute to TSN v2.0 over a half season.
DVR's Pick - Jhonny Peralta
22.8 (260) - Tim Hudson - Initially drafted for streaming purposes, Hudson may end up being a weekly starter for me if his early season returns are a sign of things to come. Given his age and health concerns, I'll remain cautiously optimistic for now.
DVR's Pick - Dan Haren
23.5 (269) - A.J. Griffin - Griffin probably should have gone undrafted, but I was under the impression he'd be back sometime in April instead of late-May or early-June. Oops. I have since cut Griffin for Ian Kennedy.
DVR's Pick - Kelly Johnson
24.8 (284) - Nick Markakis - It's hard to get excited about Markakis, but the fact he hits leadoff in a potent Baltimore lineup is a plus.
DVR's Pick - Angel Pagan
25.5 (293) - Noah Syndergaard - Envisioning a Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler like impact around mid-season, I drafted Syndergaard from a handful of prospects that I had lined up in queue. However, a stockpile of injuries on my bench forced me to drop the Mets' pitching prospect for a healthy Chris Colabello in Week 2.
DVR's Pick - Welington Castillo
26.8 (308) - Matt Dominguez - Dominguez flew under the radar in the second half last season, posting a .260/.323/.430 line with 10 homers, whilst nearly doubling his first half walk rate. I probably won't start him much when Machado returns, but he should serve as an adequate fill-in until then.
DVR's Pick - Ryan Howard
27.5 (317) - Wade Miley - Miley had already delivered a solid outing against the Dodgers when this draft took place, so I gave him a quick look. I recently dropped him for Rangers' starter Matt Harrison.
DVR's Pick - Tanner Scheppers
28.8 (332) - Oswaldo Arcia - I'll be the first to admit that I jumped on Arcia's sleeper bandwagon due to his power potential, however I replaced the ailing Twins' outfielder with A's reliever Sean Doolittle.
DVR's Pick - Carlos Quentin
29.5 (341) - Derrek Norris - I really liked Norris going into the draft, and purposely waited on a second catcher with the intention of drafting him in the last few rounds. His batting average might be a little low, but I'm confident he can produce 10-15 home runs and a handful of steals, even on the wrong side of a platoon with John Jaso.
DVR's Pick - Robbie Erlin
30.8 (356) - Sergio Santos - Janssen opening the season as the Jays' closer was no sure thing, and I didn't want to blow a quarter of my FAAB budget on his backup.
DVR's Pick - Derek Jeter
Overall, I like the balance of my team on offense. I'm a bit short on power, but I have plenty of speed and look to be on target in the remaining categories. As for my pitching staff, my most glaring need is a third closer. At some point, I'll have to acquire one through FAAB, and I've already missed out on Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Lindstrom, Jonathan Broxton, Luke Gregerson and Kyle Farnsworth. Kershaw's injury set me back for the month of April, but once he returns, I'll have a formidable rotation that I can start with full confidence.
Here is the current The Scioscial Network v2.0 squad by position:
C - Jonathan Lucroy, Derek Norris
1B - Brandon Moss
2B - Jason Kipnis
SS - Jean Segura
3B - Josh Donaldson
MI - Jonathan Villar
CI - Chris Colabello
OF - Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday, Curtis Granderson, Adam Eaton, Torii Hunter
UT - Nick Markakis
SP - Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Julio Teheran, Tony Cingrani, Alex Wood, R.A. Dickey, Tim Hudson
RP - Glen Perkins, Sergio Santos
Bench Pitchers - Casey Janssen, Sean Doolittle, Ian Kennedy, Matt Harrison
Bench Hitters - Manny Machado, Matt Dominguez, Javier Baez