MLB Barometer: Taking All Betts

MLB Barometer: Taking All Betts

This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.

What a grind. The 15-team NFBC Main Event is the most grueling of challenges. It's a four-hour live draft in Las Vegas with some of the country's most skilled fantasy players who make you scramble and leave you fighting for scraps each and every round. Last weekend, Andrew Moody and I teamed up for our encore as a duo after falling out of first place in the final month of last season. In the end, our Paul Goldschmidt/Bryce Harper combo could only take us so far. Our lack of quality arms and having to stream guys like Ubaldo Jimenez really put the nail in our roto coffin.

For this year's draft, Andrew and I drew the eighth pick -- smack dab in the middle -- and planned to take Nolan Arenado as our first selection. Giancarlo Stanton was the backup plan. Although we both foresee a monster season for the Marlins' slugger, we hoped for the healthier, younger player in baseball's best home ballpark.

We mapped out several scenarios for our first few rounds, but kept coming back to the idea that taking two aces to anchor our squad in the second round (pick 23) and third round (pick 38) was the optimal path. Assessing NFBC's average draft position (ADP) from other 15-team leagues the last couple weeks, we gathered that we'd likely be able to secure the services of an ace like Jacob deGrom or Corey Kluber in the third round -- and that we'd still be

What a grind. The 15-team NFBC Main Event is the most grueling of challenges. It's a four-hour live draft in Las Vegas with some of the country's most skilled fantasy players who make you scramble and leave you fighting for scraps each and every round. Last weekend, Andrew Moody and I teamed up for our encore as a duo after falling out of first place in the final month of last season. In the end, our Paul Goldschmidt/Bryce Harper combo could only take us so far. Our lack of quality arms and having to stream guys like Ubaldo Jimenez really put the nail in our roto coffin.

For this year's draft, Andrew and I drew the eighth pick -- smack dab in the middle -- and planned to take Nolan Arenado as our first selection. Giancarlo Stanton was the backup plan. Although we both foresee a monster season for the Marlins' slugger, we hoped for the healthier, younger player in baseball's best home ballpark.

We mapped out several scenarios for our first few rounds, but kept coming back to the idea that taking two aces to anchor our squad in the second round (pick 23) and third round (pick 38) was the optimal path. Assessing NFBC's average draft position (ADP) from other 15-team leagues the last couple weeks, we gathered that we'd likely be able to secure the services of an ace like Jacob deGrom or Corey Kluber in the third round -- and that we'd still be able to grab an All-Star caliber hitter in round four (pick 53). With this in mind, we hypothesized that Justin Upton, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gonzalez, Lorenzo Cain, Adam Jones or Carlos Gomez would still be available. This level of comfort allowed us to target Stephen Strasburg, the ace we want to go to war with this year, in the second round.

Here's how our draft shook out:

Round 1 -
Nolan Arenado (3B, COL)

Round 2 -
Stephen Strasburg (SP, WAS) - He has a legitimate shot to contend with Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. Also, the Nats' No. 1 owns one of the league's best strikeout rates, is in a contract year and is due for an uptick on last year's 11 wins behind an offense that should provide ample run support. We were one pick removed from Max Scherzer, which would have been a difficult call for us.

Round 3 -
Matt Harvey (SP, NYM) - We both had Harvey rounding out our top five SP rankings (Kershaw, Scherzer, Strasburg, Sale, Harvey) and were happy when he was the one who fell to us at pick 38.

Round 4 -
Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL) - Our first two hitters calling Coors Field home -- why not? Gonzalez is a perennial injury risk, but traded in his trademark contact for some power last year with a career-high 40 homers. The .300 days are behind him, but 35 HR and 95 RBI are well within reason. Cruz, Gomez and Yoenis Cespedes were taken right before us, who we weren't interested in anyway.

Round 5
- Troy Tulowitzki (SS, TOR) - With Strasburg and CarGo in tow, this was now becoming a high-risk, high-reward strategy based on injury concerns. Since both Andrew and I concentrate on competing for the overall title, we were willing to roll the dice with a few hitters that we like.

Round 6 -
Miguel Sano (UT, MIN) - Sano should be OF eligible in a couple of weeks, but for now he'll man our utility spot. Neither of us were targeting the Twins' slugger, but there was no chance we could pass him up at pick 83 (he was drafted toward the end of the third round in another Main Event that was taking place across the hall). We typically avoid players who drain the batting average category until the later rounds, but his 43-percent hard-hit rate was delectably elite and means he could flirt with 35 homers as soon as this season.

Round 7
- A.J. Ramos (RP, MIA) - I'm a big fan of closers in the NL East in 2016 and we had no choice but to draft Ramos here. Can't you just envision tons of 4-2 and 6-3 scores between the Mets, Marlins and Nationals this year? There were 11 closers taken before we got Ramos, and NFBC Main Event teams require at least two closers to compete for your league and the overall championship. Generally to place in the 80th percentile in this category, it's preferable to have at least another on hand, also.

Round 8
- Ben Revere (OF, WAS) - The need for speed. Many wise NFBC players gather chunks of steals along with power, early in drafts. The Andrew McCutchen/Mookie Betts combo was a popular one in the first two rounds this spring. Our team was clearly lacking those early-round steals and we didn't want to rely on the bulk of our speed coming from reaching for someone like Dee Gordon too early.

So, we selected Revere over Billy Burns (who went a few picks later) because of his reliability. Revere is .295 over his career and has hit over .300 in each of the past four seasons. Additionally, the 27-year-old has averaged 35 steals over that span. Leading off ahead of Jayson Werth (or eventually, Anthony Rendon) and Bryce Harper is a nice position to be in for run production, too.

Round 9
- Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) - Another leap of faith here, but the middle of the ninth was a good spot to take a shot at him. The Indians have stashed him on the 15-day DL to start the year with shoulder tightness after getting surgery in November, but Brantley is just two years removed from first-round fantasy value and AL MVP consideration, so there's plenty of upside once he's healthy. He should return not longer after the season starts.

Round 10
- Santiago Casilla (RP, SF) - The runs of closers being selected always sneak up on you in this format. But this season, closers were being plucked especially quickly. By this pick, Jake McGee (round 9, pick 7), Brad Ziegler (round 9, pick 9) and Sean Doolittle (round 10, pick 1) were all off the board, leaving Casilla as the last bona fide closer not named Fernando Rodney. We owned Casilla last year, but didn't love him despite the 20-percent bump in strikeouts-per-nine from the previous season. Our plan was to back him up with Hunter Strickland around the 23rd round, but he got sniped a few picks ahead of us.

Round 11
- Kenta Maeda (SP, LAD) - Our third starting pitcher. Let's hope he's as good as advertised.

Round 12
- Yan Gomes (C, CLE) - Catchers were going fast. Our primary target, Travis d'Arnaud, was gone, so we opted for the AL backstop who's two years removed from a 21-homer, 74-RBI campaign.

Round 13 -
Yu Darvish (SP, TEX) - I learned my lesson years ago about stashing too many DL and minor league players. With only seven bench spots in the NFBC format, it's extremely difficult to have the proper lineup flexibility if you have two or more of the aforementioned stashes. Nevertheless, grabbing Darvish 47 spots after his ADP felt like the right move at the time despite his targeted return date of mid-May after offseason Tommy John surgery.

Round 14
- Carlos Santana (1B, CLE) - This was our first real quarrel. I have Santana in one other league (12 teams) and that's because he fell about 40 spots past his ADP. I simply don't like carrying players that are a risk to hit as low as .230 in a given season. But Andrew is a big believer in Santana this year, and he was right last season on numerous players I wasn't excited about, like Shelby Miller, Mark Teixeira and Brandon Phillips. We're a 50/50 partnership, but it just happens to be that both of us are stubborn fantasy players. I thought we should grab another starter there, but the options in that range weren't appealing.

Round 15
- Ben Zobrist (2B, CHC) - The best days appear to be behind Zobrist, but a move to Chi-Town may inspire him. Zobrist will hit in the top-third of an incredible lineup and could challenge his career high of 99 runs scored. He is eligible in the outfield as well.

Round 16
- Matt Duffy (3B, SF) - We had to do a triple-take to make sure Duffy was still available at 80 spots past his ADP. We're hoping for results similar to last season - something in the range of 80 runs, 80 RBI, 15 bombs, low double-digit steals and a batting average north of .285.

Rest of the draft:

17 - Andrew Miller (RP, NYY), 18 - Clay Buchholz (SP, BOS), 19 - Nathan Eovaldi (SP, NYY), 20 - Socrates Brito (OF, ARI), 21 - Jayson Werth (OF, WAS), 22 - Wilmer Flores (2B/SS, NYM), 23 - Anthony Gose (OF, DET), 24 - Matt Cain (SP, SF), 25 - Carlos Perez (C, LAA), 26 - Franklin Gutierrez (OF, SEA), 27 - Cody Anderson (SP, CLE), 28 - Yunel Escobar (3B, LAA), 29 - Julio Urias (SP, LAD), 30 - Jose Ramirez (2B/SS, CLE)

We were mindful of our needs as the draft went along. Not wanting to delve into the world of dicey bullpen situations in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Atlanta, we grabbed what we hope will be a month of elite ERA/WHIP and a handful of saves from the Yankees' Andrew Miller. We lost out on my middle-infield speed target, Cesar Hernandez, and opted for multi-eligible MI's Wilmer Flores and Jose Ramirez -- two players without full-time positions, but ones we believe have good upside and growth potential. We targeted and drafted Indians' pitcher Cody Anderson, whose velocity has increased by four MPH since last season. We also added a pure rabbit in Anthony Gose, who will play every day until Cameron Maybin (wrist) returns. Angels' leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar wasn't a horrible addition to the bench, either. Finally, we added one more stash in Julio Urias. We're hoping he gets off to a scorching start in Triple-A and forces the Dodgers to call him up despite the fact that he's only 19.

In retrospect, it's clear that our team's pitching staff beyond Strasburg, Harvey and Maeda is weak. We need Eovaldi to improve his control and throw more strikes this year, and for Buchholz to actually play a full season. But most importantly, we need Darvish to come back in mid-May and be at least 75 percent of what he's been in the past. Our offense could definitely use some additional swipes since it's probably too reliant upon Revere. But that power -- it should carry us as we work on our deficiencies through hard work and grinding in our weekly FAAB.

Here's the final product (rounds in parenthesis)

C: Gomes (12), C.Perez (25)
1B: Santana (14)
3B: Arenado (1)
CI: Duffy (16)

2B: Zobrist 2b/OF (15)
SS: Tulowitzki (5)
MI: Flores (22)
UT: Sano (6)

OF: C.Gonzalez (4), Revere (8), Brantley (9), Brito (20), Werth (21)

SP: Strasburg (2), Harvey (3), Maeda (11), Buchholz (18), Eovaldi (19), Cain (24)
RP: Ramos (7), Casilla (10), Miller (17)

Bench hitters: Gose (23), Gutierrez (26), Y.Escobar (28), J.Ramirez 2B/SS (30)
Bench pitchers: Darvish (13), Cody Anderson (27), Urias (29)

RISERS

Mookie Betts (OF, BOS)

Betts received first-round status quite frequently at NFBC live drafts over the weekend, going ahead of Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado in a handful of the draft boards I saw. In just his second full season, Betts looks like the total package. He is going to contend for the league lead in runs scored, and most consider 20 homers and 20 stolen bases his floor this season. Despite the talent, it will be interesting to gauge Betts' year-end numbers, especially in relation to fellow young studs Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant.

Joey Votto (1B, CIN)

Unfortunately, I was never in a position to draft Votto in the third round in any of my seven drafts, usually opting for my first starting pitcher there. What I couldn't figure it out is why Votto was such an unpopular fantasy choice again this spring. Does his RBI projection really place him a notch below first basemen like Jose Abreu, Miguel Cabrera and even Anthony Rizzo? Votto is arguably the best hitter in baseball. After the All-Star break, he hit .362 with a mind-shattering .535 OBP, and he finished the year with 29 dingers and 11 swipes. A full season of Zach Cozart and emerging young shortstop Eugenio Suarez ahead of Votto in the lineup should help Votto increase his RBI output. At the end of the day, though, it doesn't really matter who's in front of the Canadian, as his batting average more than pays for itself.

Reymond Fuentes (OF, KC)

Fuentes is a recent riser who not only made his big league club, but was named the starting right fielder on Opening Day in place of Jarrod Dyson (oblique). While he's seeing regular playing time, Fuentes is worth a look in deep leagues if your team feels weak in the stolen-base department. A former first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2009, the 25-year old averaged 35 stolen bases per season in the minors over the last five years. Dyson should be back before the end of the month, so get what you can out of Fuentes if you're in a pinch.

Alex Colome (RP, TB)

Colome has yet to be named the team's closer, but it appears as though he's first in line to get a shot. He started 13 games last season but pitched much better out of the bullpen in 30 appearances (2.66 ERA and nearly 10 K/9). There are plenty of fantasy folks in Danny Farquhar's camp since he actually has closing experience under his belt, compared to Colome who has zero career saves. But Farquhar barely made the team out of camp and is not as skilled as Colome, who appears to have that closer's mentality and approach on the mound. If he can convert on his first couple of opportunities, he'll have a good chance at warding off the rest of the Rays' pen until Brad Boxberger (abdomen) returns.

FALLERS

Kolten Wong (2B, STL)

The first-rounder from 2011 felt like an afterthought in drafts this spring. Despite an ADP of 144 (Round 12 in 12-teamers), he was available in the 15th round in four of my drafts. Wong's 2015 numbers were nothing spectacular, especially in the final three months of the season when he hit .235. Moreover, he hit one less home run last year than he did in 200 more plate appearances in 2014, his first full MLB season. The Hawaiian struggled badly against left-handed pitching, hitting .229 against them last season, which is the part of his game that will require the biggest improvement if he wants to be considered among the league's best fantasy second basemen this season. Wong is only 25-years old, so it would be unfair to assume he won't improve. Sometimes draft season's biggest duds turn into the biggest studs. Let's see if that's the case here.

Sonny Gray (SP, OAK)

There are still plenty of Gray fans out there. But there seems to be more folks who noticed his 3.45 xFIP last season and point out that another sub-3.00 ERA season isn't happening. The other concern that keeps him out of the "ace" conversation is his uneventful strikeouts-per-nine rate - 7.5 over the past two seasons, which is good, but not ace-like. Gray has also failed to surpass the 14-win mark over his first two seasons. He and Jon Lester were two arms I avoided this year, as I typically opted to grab a third starter from the next tier that includes Francisco Liriano, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. I certainly don't expect huge regression for Gray, but I also don't think I'll lose much sleep over not taking him this year.

Hisashi Iwakuma (SP, SEA)

If it weren't for injuries and health concerns, Iwakuma would have had an ADP much closer to Gray's, instead of falling nearly 80 spots below him. Add in the fact that Iwakuma was consistently available far beyond his 155 ADP, those who got him at a discount might be in for a treat. Owners shouldn't expect a sub 3.00 ERA nor 200 innings, but pinpoint control and a solid WHIP should be in the cards. Health-wise, he's been fine this spring, except for a blister earlier in camp which forced him to work on a new changeup that could be useful in his arsenal. The Mariners' defense should be a stronger unit this year, and their offense might be as well as long as Ketel Marte continues to progress and Leonys Martin rebounds. Let's hope Iwakuma can appear on the mound 30 times this year and help out those who believe in him.

Scott Kazmir (SP, LAD)

Kazmir was one of the biggest ADP fallers over the course of a miserable spring. Despite the move to a pitcher's park in the National League, Kazmir fell by several rounds over the last couple of weeks because of velocity and injury concerns. The southpaw's fastball hovered in the high 80's a few weeks ago, and he was pulled from a spring start due to abdominal discomfort. Nevertheless, Kazmir looked great in his Freeway Series exhibition outing against the Angels last weekend, as he allowed just one run and struck out four in 4.2 innings - his longest outing of the spring. Best of all, his fastball was clocked in the low 90's again, which is a promising sign. Perhaps a fresh start in L.A., in a new league with a new ballpark can help balance out some of the negatives and helps Kazmir regain some of that flair he showed off in the first half of 2015.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MLB Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MLB fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vlad Sedler
Vlad Sedler covers baseball and football for RotoWire. He is a veteran NFBC player and CDM Hall of Famer, winning the Football Super Challenge in 2013. A native Angeleno, Vlad loves the Dodgers and Kings and is quite possibly the world's only Packers/Raiders fan. You can follow him @RotoGut.
College Baseball Picks Today: Best Bets for Friday, March 1
College Baseball Picks Today: Best Bets for Friday, March 1
Six Mid-Round Pitchers with League Winning Upside (Video)
Six Mid-Round Pitchers with League Winning Upside (Video)
Five Sneaky Outfielders We Can't Stop Drafting (Video)
Five Sneaky Outfielders We Can't Stop Drafting (Video)
MLB Futures: Home Run Leaders and Head-to-Head HR Picks
MLB Futures: Home Run Leaders and Head-to-Head HR Picks