On Friday, we held the $75K “Beat Chris Liss” NFBC RotoWire Online Championship Draft. Entry fees were $350, first place gets $1500, and there’s an overall grand prize of $75K. It’s a standard 12-team 5 x 5 format with 2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 1 CI, 1 MI, 5 OF, 1 U, 9 P and 7 bench slots. There’s no trading and no DL. For the full results, click on the grid below:
One other quirk of the NFBC is you get to choose your draft slot by ranking them in order of preference. Unfortunately, I drew the No. 11 slot (third-to-last among my preferences), so I figured the 3/4 turn would require some creativity because most of the players I liked at that price would probably be gone. Put differently, if I were in an auction I’d have gone the extra buck on some of the first 30 or so players or simply saved the money and spread the wealth to the middle rounds. But drafts don’t work like that – you’re slotted to a certain cost ahead of time, and you have to pick someone in that range. Once you get out of Round 4, the draft is enough of a free-for-all that slot no longer matters as much, and I actually prefer to be near the ends (1,2, 11,12) over being in the middle.
My strategy was to get two elite pitchers among my top-four picks, then wait like crazy on starting pitching as once you get beyond the top-12 or so, it’s more of a crap shoot. Moreover, it’s easier to stream in the 12-team format, and there are a decent number of good pitchers who emerge from the waiver wire during the year. As for hitting, the only position to which I gave a big scarcity bump was catcher. That meant I was going to invest in two good ones in the middle rounds and also that I’d likely miss out on middle infielders until late.
In any event, here are my round-by-round thoughts of the draft:
1.11 Max Scherzer – I was surprised to see both Toronto sluggers available and slightly preferred Edwin Encarnacion over Jose Bautista. But the guy picking 12th (Eric Heberlig) won the overall version of this contest a couple years ago, and took down the NFBC Primetime last year, in part – if I recall correctly – by going heavy starting pitching early. Because I have Scherzer in the NL East as my clear No. 2 behind Clayton Kershaw, I thought it was more important to get him over my No. 3 pitcher (I’m not even sure who that is) than my choice between Encarnacion/Bautista. And I was pretty sure Eric wouldn’t take both.
2.2 Jose Bautista – As expected Heberlig went pitcher/hitter, but took Encarnacion. No big – I was happy to get Bautista’s power here.
3.11 Madison Bumgarner – Sure enough, rounds 3-4 were exactly the no-man’s last in which I had expected to find myself. Ryan Braun went at 3.7, Bryce Harper 3.8 and even George Springer, who I might have taken, went 3.10. I had hoped to get one of those hitters in Round 3 and come back with Zack Greinke in Round 4, but even Greinke was gone at 3.3 – apparently some of the guys who signed up for this league actually listen to the SXM show. So I made an “agnostic” pick with Bumgarner. While some don’t seem to mind his crazy playoff and World Series workload, it worries me some, just not quite as much as Yu Darvish’s elbow inflammation or Corey Kluber and Johnny Cueto’s likely regression. I also thought about taking Aroldis Chapman here, but saves aren’t quite as hard to come by in the 12-team as they are in the 15.
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4.2 Billy Hamilton – Credit (or blame) this one on Peter Schoenke. After Heberlig took Chapman and Greg Holland at the turn, I considered Craig Kimbrel, but would have been more likely to take him had I taken a hitter in Round 3. And as I said, I didn’t trust the remaining top tier starting pitching. I might actually have taken Nolan Arenado, but somehow forgot about him – he was lower on both our internal RotoWire rankings and NFBC ADP list (the two between which I was toggling on our app), and Chrome was a little buggy running the NFBC software, so I was low on time. But Peter had suggested Hamilton for this situation on the radio show earlier in the day, and I had warmed up to the idea. While Hamilton’s projected 56 or 59 steals with weak batting average and decent runs was borderline at this spot, his job security doesn’t seem in question given his defense and the Reds lack of alternatives. And what if Hamilton in his age 24 season gets better? In retrospect, I’m happy with this pick – decent healthy floor (albeit skewed in one category) and 80-plus steal ceiling.
5.11 Freddie Freeman – Drafting against a league full of people who listen to my preferences on the radio (not that all of them care about what I think, but presumably some do) probably cost me a couple players over the course of the draft, but in this case, maybe the opposite happened. On several occasions I voiced skepticism about Freeman’s status as a late-second/early-third round pick. How is he that different from Justin Morneau or Brandon Belt? Still, in the late fifth and needing batting average and solid run production, this was an easy call.
6.2 Prince Fielder – I thought long and hard about Adam Wainwright, in whose health ESPN’s Stephania Bell expressed confidence on our SXM show last week, and also Matt Harvey who I think will be a fourth-round pick as soon as he blows away a few hitters in spring training. But I had my two aces, and I still needed to spend on closers, so I preferred to get a bat. I have no idea if Prince Fielder will ever be himself after spinal fusion surgery, but early reports are good, he’s playing in Arlington, presumably hitting behind Shin Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre, and in the sixth round was worth the risk.
7.11 Cody Allen – Relievers are fickle, but he’s been great for two years and heads into the season as the team’s unquestioned closer.
8.2 Koji Uehara – His numbers are so elite, even including some late season struggles due to a minor back injury, and the Red Sox were obviously satisfied he was healthy as they inked him to a two-year deal.
9.11 David Ortiz – He’s old, I had already clogged my 1B and CI slots, and I realized adding a UT meant I’d miss out on some of the first base bargains that would surely be around later in the draft. But this was low for a player who showed little sign of slowing down last year, barely has to jog around the bases and doesn’t play in the field. Plus with four pitchers in my first eight picks, and Billy Hamilton as one of my hitters, I needed to shore up power.
10.2 Brian McCann – McCann is arguably my No. 2 overall catcher. He’ll be a drag on batting average, but I’d make him the favorite to lead the position in homers as a lefty playing in Yankee Stadium.
11.11 Matt Wieters – There’s some question as to whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but barring a setback he shouldn’t be out more than a couple weeks. I still buy the pedigree, and sometimes catchers are late bloomers. I also like that his arm injury should have his legs well rested heading into the season.
12.2 Manny Machado – If I had a weakness at this point, it was in batting average, and I think Machado should be solid on that front with upside to hit .290-plus. I also like that he turned some of his doubles into homers before getting hurt last year. This was an elite prospect, and he’s in a major growth phase.
13.11 Jayson Werth – I love that he served some jail time for reckless driving. I want bad-asses on my team. Seriously, though, he’s an good source of run production, batting average, power and a handful of steals here.
14.2 Brett Gardner – I don’t know how real the power is, but I also needed a few extra steals so as not to waste the Hamilton pick.
15.11 Alcides Escobar – Okay, now I’m in great shape in steals, and I thought it was worth paying the price to get them without clogging up my entire outfield. I considered Pablo Sandoval or Justin Morneau for my bench here too because they were dropping too far, and of course, I’ll have at least *some* injuries, but Escobar’s steals stood out to me.
16.2 Santiago Casilla – With Sergio Romo having shoulder soreness already, I think Casilla is the unquestioned closer in a great run environment, and in this format, you really need three of them. I was aghast that Morneau was still available, but went with need over value.
17.11 Jake Odorizzi – I had planned to wait forever to fill out my starting pitching and so Odorizzi is my No. 3, mostly for his strikeouts.
18.2 Anibal Sanchez – He’s injury prone, but usually very good when he’s healthy.
19.11 Oswaldo Arcia – Of all the players left in the pool, I felt Arcia had the most power upside. He’s a batting average risk, though.
20.2 Matt Shoemaker – Great control, good Ks, good park. I considered taking my one of my two late-round MI targets, Rougned Odor or Scooter Gennett, but thought I could squeeze them through another round.
21.11 Aaron Hill – Okay, I botched MI. If I could go back, I’d probably have taken Odor and Gennett at the 19/20 turn. But Hill isn’t a terrible consolation prize in that park if he’s healthy.
22.2 Chris Owings – I liked him last year, but he got hurt and shared time with Didi Gregorius. Now he should have the starting shortstop job to himself and could easily put up a 10/10 season. In the 12-team format, I think this validates waiting on MI because even though I screwed it up, I’m not that upset about it. I just don’t see a huge gap between Owings/Gennett and players like Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist.
23.11 John Lackey – He was good the last two years in Boston, and while he struggled on the Cardinals over a small sample, it should be an environment upgrade. Jason Heyward will help out on defense, too.
24.2 Khris Davis – A power bat for my bench when one of my older players (Werth/Ortiz) inevitably get hurt.
25.11 Jose Peraza – I have no idea if or when he’ll be up, but it’s some insurance for my middle-infield error. Unless Hamilton gets hurt I should be fine in steals for this league, but in the overall contest you can never have too much of anything.
26.2 Tony Cingrani – He (along with Justin Verlander) destroyed my Main Event team last year, but he’s apparently healthy now, and maybe he was just pitching hurt last year.
27.11 Jordy Mercer – He actually had a pretty strong second half last year, is at his peak age and provides some insurance should Owings not pan out.
28. 2 Jake Peavy – I like him in San Francisco. A nice streaming option for home starts.
29.11 Shane Victorino – Apparently he has a starting job if he’s healthy.
30.2 Nick Castellanos – Dual eligibility and the potential for some growth.
C Brian McCann/Matt Wieters
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Aaron Hill
3B Manny Machado
SS Alcides Escobar
CI Prince Fielder
MI Chris Owings
OF Jose Bautista/Billy Hamilton/Jayson Werth/Brett Gardner/Oswaldo Arcia
U David Ortiz
SP Max Scherzer/Madison Bumgarner/Jake Odorizzi/Anibal Sanchez/Matt Shoemaker/John Lackey
CL Cody Allen/Koji Uehara/Santiago Casilla
Bench Khris Davis/Jose Peraza/Tony Cingrani/Jordy Mercer/ Jake Peavy/Shane Victorino/Nick Castellanos