This article is part of our MLB Best Ball series.
With the positional tiers completed for our Underdog best ball series, it is time to put the rankings and tiers to work. I entered my fifth and final Underdog tournament and drew the eighth pick. This article will focus on the construction of the team with insight by round as well. Hopefully, this exercise will highlight areas to target certain positions and highlight pivotal choices early on that will dictate the rest of the roster.
Rd. 1, 8 overall: Shane Bieber (SP 1)
So long as I have the chance, I want a tier 1 outfielder or tier 1 starting pitcher in round one. I accomplished that with the elite outfielders not available to me at pick eight.
Alternative picks: Bryce Harper and Christian Yelich were also available and would have been reasonable picks in this portion of the first round as well. Freddie Freeman is the only infielder I would have considered, though I prefer to grab my first infielder in round two.
Rd. 2, 17 overall: Trevor Story (IF 1)
Alternative picks: Manny Machado was the other tier 3 infielder available. Had I gone with a hitter in the first round, any of Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito and Yu Darvish would have been in consideration as well.
Rd. 3, 32 overall: Jack Flaherty (SP 2)
This is a spot where I got too wedded to ADP. I like the idea of drafting starting pitcher early, but would have been better off leaving Flaherty on the board and pushing my SP 2 selection to the next round.
Alternative picks: Kyle Tucker would be the selection if I had the chance to do it over. That would have given me a strong base at each position. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have selected Tucker and then added Tyler Glasnow as my SP2 in the fourth round.
Rd. 4, 41 overall: Vladimir Guerrero (IF 2)
Round 4 was a dead zone for outfielder, as only Luis Robert and Nick Castellanos were selected. This only makes the case stronger to have selected Tucker in the third round. However, having played it relatively safe to this point, I shot for upside with Guerrero based on public projections such as the Bat X and Steamer pointing to a breakout campaign.
Alternative picks: A safer pick would have been Jose Abreu. As already laid out, Glasnow is a strong selection had I not already been SP heavy.
Rd. 5, 56 overall: Austin Meadows (OF 1)
Meadows jumped out as the value selection when going through the outfield tiers and has been a target of mine in all Underdog drafts. I jumped him based on ADP (69.9), but it was important for me to land him based on both my roster build (no outfield to this point) and value.
Rd. 6, 65 overall: Tim Anderson (IF 3)
This was back to bit of a dead spot for outfielders, with Randy Arozarena and Nelson Cruz the only outfield eligible players selected in round 6. Given the lack of strong options in the outfield and already having pocketed two projected aces, I was comfortable using another pick to solidify my infield.
Alternative picks: Cavan Biggio. By ADP, Biggio would have been a significant reach. However, his patience plays well in the format and also would have given me a stack with Guerrero.
Rd. 7, 80 overall: Kyle Hendricks (SP 3)
Hendricks was a nice way to round out my projected starting rotation. His last extended stint on the injured list came in 2017, which lasted 46 days. In a format with short benches and no FAAB, Hendricks is a steal in the seventh round based on volume, even given his lack of strikeouts. This is another selection where I was confident in my choice.
Rd. 8, 89 overall: Joe Musgrove (SP 4)
Even with a relatively safe projected rotation locked in, drafting a lot of talented arms has been a priority in my Underdog drafts. Musgrove offers a nice combination of floor and ceiling. His injury history is worrisome, but the move out of Pittsburgh to San Diego offers hope that he unlocks another level.
Alternative picks: Ketel Marte would have given me another solid infielder to provide insurance in the scenario that Guerrero falls flat or Story is traded from Coors Field.
Rd. 9, 104 overall: Ian Happ (OF 2)
Meadows was my only outfielder to this point, but my next two picks showcase why I'm comfortable pushing starting pitching and infield up the draft board and leaving outfield for later in the draft. Happ is a solid proposition due to his ability to get on base and hit for power (career 12.2 BB%, .348 wOBA) and his locked in role as the Cubs' leadoff hitter.
Rd. 10, 113 overall: Michael Brantley (OF 3)
Brantley won't raise the excitement level of the team, but has had a wOBA no lower than .359 in any of the last three seasons. Once regarded as a health risk, he hasn't spent more than nine days on the injured list since 2017.
Rd. 11, 128 overall: Marcus Stroman (SP 5)
Stroman is yet another arm that should provide safe — if unspectacular — innings at a place in the draft where that becomes a harder commodity to find. He's a bit of an odd evaluation based on his injury and ultimate opt-out in 2020; however, he's has built up innings this spring and appears healthy and ready to roll.
Alternative: Carlos Santana would have fit a similar mold to Brantley. He would have further stabilized my infield
Rd. 12, 137 overall: Victor Robles (OF 4)
Robles' price has deflated after a ton of helium in 2020. He's gained some hype given the possibility of leading off for the Nationals, which could provide plenty of value this late in the draft.
Alternative picks: Had I chosen to strengthen my infield rather than outfield, Alec Bohm would have been a solid selection at this point in the draft.
Rd. 13, 152 overall: Josh Donaldson (INF 4)
Donaldson adds a lot of upside to the team, but is uncomfortable as my primary infield depth given his track record of injury. Now entering his age-35 season, Donaldson has had a healthy spring but expecting that for the entire season is likely wishful thinking.
Rd. 14, 161 overall: Andrew McCutchen (OF 5)
The outfield pool remains strong going deep into the draft. McCutchen is well into his mid-30s but still has strong plate discipline and should score plenty hitting in front of J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper. Grabbing McCutchen this late highlights the argument for Bohm over Robles in the 12th round.
Rd. 15, 176 overall: Nathan Eovaldi (SP 6)
Eovaldi finally put his skills together in the shortened 2020 season to deliver a performance fantasy manager have seemingly waited on forever. However, his track record of injury of poor results and injury keep his price deflated. With a strong base of volume built up at the position, he was worth taking the chance on.
Rd. 16, 185 overall: Jose Urquidy (SP 7)
Urquidy has thrown only 70 big-league innings across the last two regular seasons. That creates some volume concerns, but he stands out from a skills perspective compared to remaining pitchers at this point. Given his four-pitch mix, he should stay in the rotation for the long haul even after Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez return to the rotation.
Alternative Pick: Cesar Hernandez is projected to be the leadoff hitter in Cleveland, a bonus for the format given the potential for volume stats. He would have been another player to bolster my shaky infield.
Rd. 16, 200 overall: Tommy Edman (IF 5)
Edman adds some floor to my infield. He was officially named the starting second baseman in St. Louis and is also locked into the leadoff role. Grabbing him eases some of my concern about the position, though I still should have addressed it earlier.
Rd. 18, 209 overall: Jordan Montgomery (SP 8)
Montgomery is my final starting pitcher and a strong bet on skills with the hope he can remain healthy and provide enough volume. This selection illustrates the advantage of going heavy at starting pitching early, with the possibility of taking on risk at the end of the draft to spike a big return.
Overall, I was happy with the draft. My rotation is in good shape, a priority in all best-ball formats this season given the shaky starting pitcher landscape across baseball. A few missteps cost me along the infield, though if Guerrero breaks out and Donaldson stays heathy the team could be in very good shape.
There are two main takeaways this exercise has hopefully presented. The first is the ability to wait on outfield. Grabbing one elite option in the early going remains a strong idea and there are solid options even if drafters miss out in the first round. Tucker in the third round and Meadows in the fifth were highlighted in this piece as two solid options. From there, load up on the infield and starting pitching. Had I sacrificed Robles — a luxury pick — I would have liked this team more.
The other takeaway is to build a solid base in starting pitching. Bench spots are limited, making roster construction a challenge despite the relative shallowness of the league. Pitchers like Stroman, Hendricks and even Marco Gonzales may not be spectacular on the surface, but should provide some points rather than the potential zeros littered in the later rounds due to risk based on role or injury.