A continuing theme in the NFBC universe is the escalation of starting pitching prices – with an overall contest, you can’t just punt starting pitching down the road. You have to get your wins and strikeouts, and there’s a finite number of aces out there to help you get there, and a finite number of second-tier starters that we can trust. Add in injuries to Luis Severino, Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Martinez, and our inventory of aces has dwindled. While strikeouts are up in the game as a whole, starting pitchers are going shorter into games, meaning that it’s harder to find our workhorses.
It’s under this backdrop that I drafted in Saturday’s NFBC Main Event in Las Vegas, at the Park MGM Casino and Hotel (formerly the Monte Carlo). In the last two live Main Events I’ve done, the push on aces has been pronounced, but this one went to another level, as you’ll see with the full grid after the jump:
At pick 1.9 I figured that there was a 50-50 chance I’d get Jacob deGrom with my first pick, opening up the possibility that I could then take three hitters in the subsequent three rounds. That pipe dream didn’t make it past the fifth overall pick, nor did Chris Sale, who went immediately before me at pick 1.8. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t planning on taking Sale in the first, but it was illustrative of the push in starting pitchers throughout the room. The last weekend usually pushes starters more, and that was the case in most of the seven drafts in the room today, as far as I could tell.
But I also had a feeling that would be the case, so I had contingencies in mind, thinking that I’d have a choice between Trea Turner (nope), Nolan Arenado (nope), and maybe Ronald Acuña for that pick with deGrom gone. Instead, I had a whopping three choices of hitters that fell to me – Acuña, Christian Yelich and J.D. Martinez – players that I have ranked fourth through sixth overall, with Martinez on top. I decided not to be clever, and went with Martinez despite his fewer projected stolen bases, planning to get an ace in the second round. That was always Plan B if I didn’t get deGrom. And I got that ace at 2.7 in Aaron Nola, who I expected would be my top option.
What happened with the rest of the aces was pretty amazing, though. Gerrit Cole was the fourth ace to go in the first round at 1.12, plus both Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber went ahead of me in the second round. Then the remaining commonly accepted ace tier (according to NFBC ADP, at least) flew off the boards, with five of the next seven picks. For the first time that I’ve seen this draft season, the team drafting in the Mike Trout slot didn’t have one of the remaining aces available to him, let alone two as most leagues allow for. Instead, he had to push up Jack Flaherty (well, he didn’t *have* to, but given that he wasn’t picking again until pick 60, he didn’t want to wait for his first starter until then) at 3.1, the earliest I’ve seen Flaherty go. It was breathtaking to behold.
There was a similar closer run in this draft, and fortunately I didn’t get run over by it, thanks in good part to a pre-draft conversation I had with Scott Jenstad, discussing when we would take our first closers. He convinced me that I’d need to take one in the sixth round if I wanted to get one in my desired tier, and he was right. I grabbed Felipe Vazquez at 6.7, and saw Kirby Yates, Craig Kimbrel and even Jose Leclerc all go in the seventh round before me. But it didn’t stop there, as the secondary closer run began late in the eighth round and carried through the 10th round. I stayed out of that one and got my preferred target, Jordan Hicks, at 11.9. I tend to think I was lucky he lasted until then, having been named as “… most likely to be the primary closer without actually be named the closer …” in the past 24 hours. I saw Hicks go as early as the seventh round in other drafts in the room, in case that sort of validation means anything.
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Another fun thing happened during this draft – one of my picks, and a subsequent snipe of one of my targets after I took Hicks, inspired a sidebet between two people not in the draft – Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski and RotoWire’s Chris Liss:
So I didn’t get both guys that I wanted in the 11th round, but at least I inspired a sidebet between two of my favorite people in the industry. So at least I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
Here’s my full squad:
Broken down by position, here’s my roster:
SP: Nola (2), Strasburg (4), Tanaka (8), Musgrove, Woodruff (14), Toussaint (15), Newcomb (22), Lauer (25), Peña (29), Chirinos (30).
– Because I started with three strong starters, and was especially happy to get Tanaka in the 8th round, I waited maybe a round too long to get my fourth starter, so the back end of my rotation is a little too unproven. I love Musgrove and Woodruff both, but they really need to have great starts to have job security. I sort of hate Newcomb because of his walks, but felt that the price was low enough to take the chance that he’d fix whatever’s bothering him this spring. But that could be a wasted pick.
RP: Vazquez (6), Hicks (11), Diego Castillo (26).
C: Barnes (18), Astudillo (23)
– My first share of Willians Astudillo, and only because he came so late. But the Miguel Sano injury gives me confidence that Astudillo will make the team, and that he’ll have enough time for his hitting skills to carry the day.
1B/3B: Rendon (3), Matt Chapman (7), Smoak (16), Brian Anderson (21) – also OF, Belt (24)
– Man, I was really hoping to add Miggy in the 12th. That’s probably my biggest draft regret in not getting him.
2B/SS: Albies (5), Tim Anderson (10), Joey Wendle (19) – also 3B, Richie Martin (28).
– I’m not in love with taking Albies the Racist Dragon, as I’m now thinking I probably should have taken Lorenzo Cain there as well for a higher stolen base floor, but I went for possible skills growth instead.
OF: Martinez (1), McCutchen (9), Nimmo (found in the 12th), Bader (13), Franmil Reyes (17), Steven Duggar (27).
If there’s a weakness to this team, it’s the same as for most of my teams – it doesn’t have as much speed. I think that the stolen base category is packed pretty tightly in this league, which at least gives me some hope. But … I’m going to have to aggressively find stolen bases on the waiver wire, or hope that Duggar hits well enough that I can play him and he gives me a stolen base bump. Hope is a good thing, but it’s not necessarily a plan. I just have such a hard time paying up for the bags – you can see why J.D. Martinez slips in the first round in so many leagues.
The whole weekend was fantastic. As always, Greg Ambrosius and Tom Kessenich put on a great show. The venue was interesting – the usual location, the Bellagio, was already booked in part because our draft weekend was one weekend earlier than usual. Park MGM was pretty good for the draft, and they’ve done a few facelifts that make it more appealing, most notably adding “Eataly” – an Italian food court that was pretty awesome.
(a pre-draft weekend meal with some of the fellow NFBC degenerates)
There were a ton of hockey fans there on Thursday night, as Park MGM is adjacent to the Golden Knights’ home ice, and they smoked Winnipeg that night. I’m told that the rooms are still nothing special – after all, they didn’t root out all the rooms and rebuild them. I didn’t stay there – I stayed two doors down at Vdara, where I always stay for the NFBC.
I have one more draft remaining Tuesday night – my second annual “FOMO” draft in the RotoWire Online Championship. Can’t wait for the season to begin!