My 15-team NFBC Main Event league took place this morning at the Hilton in NY. The Main Event consists of 32 15-team leagues that compete both for their individual league prizes ($6,500 for 1st, $3,200 for 2nd, $1600 for 3rd) and also for overall prizes ($125K for 1st) among the 480 total contestants. The overall works much the same way as the smaller leagues do, only instead of 15 points for being first in a category, you get 480 points if you’re first, 479 if you’re second… all the way down to one point if you’re 480th.
Because so much of your $1,600 entry fee goes toward the overall payouts, it makes no sense to try to win your individual league at the expense of the overall. Accordingly, you don’t want to tank saves or batting average or anything else because no matter how strong your team is elsewhere, you’ll never beat a 480-person field with a “1” in saves. For that reason and because this is a no-trade league, that means you must strive for balance across the categories, coming out of the draft.
I drew the second pick in a tough field that included my industry colleague Glenn Colton (Team 10) and last year’s defending champ, Rob Silver (Team 15.)
I knew I had the second pick for the last five days, but the guys picking first, Matt Modica and Chris Vaccaro wouldn’t tell me whether they were taking Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. I was hoping they’d take Trout, but I assumed the worst and prepped for getting Trout at No. 2 and grabbing two pitchers on the 2/3 turn. I toyed with Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander, and even Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. Of course, it was all for naught as Matt and Chris took Trout after all, leaving me Kershaw and the easier task of selecting hitters afterwards.
Here are my thoughts, pick by pick:
1.2 Clayton Kershaw – pick two was my first choice because usually Kershaw’s available here, and worst-case, you’d get “stuck” with Trout. That said, the difference in value is fairly small between the two.
2.14 Ryan Braun – My plan was to go Braun/Stanton at the 2/3 turn. I knew the Modica/Vaccaro team liked Stanton, and I was risking losing him, but I liked Braun more, so I took the gamble.
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3.2 Jonathan Villar – Sure enough Team 1 took Stanton, but Villar fell further than he usually does in this format (where you must have steals), and I snapped him up. I was lighter on power than I imagined, but much stronger in speed, and I knew there would be plenty of power in the middle rounds.
4.14 Zach Britton – You must get your saves, and I was hoping for Britton to come back to me. I have him as my No. 3 closer after only Jansen and Chapman. The only thing that gave me pause was Will Myers slipped all the way to my pick, and it was tough letting go of that potential value (and more speed.)
5.2 Will Myers – Now the draft was going my way. I thought it was 50/50 I’d get Britton and didn’t think it remotely possible I’d get Myers. Now, I was in great shape with speed, though a little light on power.
6.14 Alex Bregman – I thought about Adrian Beltre and Hanley Ramirez here, but I decided to gamble on the young elite pedigree player in a good lineup.
7.2 Hanley Ramirez – Ramirez made it back to me, and now I was back on track in power too.
8.14 Miguel Sano – One of the great things about drafting Kershaw is you can pound the hitters in the middle rounds. Sano qualifies at two spots and has 40-HR upside. It was also satisfying to hear Team 1 groan that I took their guy.
9.2 Rich Hill – Kershaw can’t do it entirely on his own. Hill is as almost good as anyone besides Kershaw on a per-inning basis.
10.14 Dallas Keuchel – I took him at 3.1 last year, but he seems healthier, and this is a better price.
11.2 Jim Johnson – Closers were flying off the board, and during the 10-minute break after Round 10, I did some research on the few remaining, and Johnson, who has experience in the role and was good down the stretch last year, seemed the safest. I figured it would cost me the power-hitting outfielder I wanted, though.
12.14 Yasmani Tomas – In fact, Johnson did not cost me Tomas as I had feared. That steals are scarce and power plentiful doesn’t mean you can ignore power – quite the contrary, it means the bar for being competitive in HR and RBI is higher.
13.2 Yasiel Puig – After having Puig everywhere last year and paying dearly for it, I missed out on him everywhere before today. I still think there’s second-round upside for a 26-year old with his talent level.
14.14 Brandon Maurer – I thought about Logan Forsythe as I needed a second baseman, but Maurer was the only palatable closer left, and you always want to have too many rather than too few saves.
15.2 Devon Travis – Of course, Team 1 took Forsythe at the turn, and so I had to pivot to Plan B. (Plan A was actually to have Forsythe and Travis at 2B and MI, respectively.) Travis is a health risk, but all he does is hit when he plays, he runs a little and he’s in a good park and lineup. He’s also supposedly healthy enough to start Opening Day.
16.14 Ivan Nova – Kershaw’s amazing, but you have to give him *some* help. I like Nova in Pittsburgh, and pitching was flying off the board. Colton grabbed Dylan Bundy, my target, eight picks earlier.
17.2 Jason Kipnis – Usually I pick fast, within seconds of being on the clock, but I used almost the entire minute here. Kipnis could be back in a few weeks, and he was a good fit for my team which had a few Sano/Tomas/Puig/Myers types that might be light on runs relative to power. Of course, Kipnis’ shoulder problem could affect his play even if he’s able to come back, so it’s a risk, but it seemed like the price was right. I passed up Eduardo Rodriguez, Max Kepler and Jason Heyward for him.
18.14 Jason Heyward – Kepler was gone, but Heyward is still only 27, and he’s been working with his swing plane to get more loft on the ball. He’s also capable of double-digit steals.
19.2 Eduardo Rodriguez – he’s had a strong spring, David Price is out indefinitely, he throws hard, and he’s a lefty. Unfortunately, Fenway is tough on lefties, but he should have plenty of run support.
20.14 Cesar Hernandez – one of my staples this year, a young, speedy second baseman who draws walks and hits for average. With Kipnis out and Travis so fragile, I needed him.
21.2 Jurickson Profar – time to swing for the fences at this stage. Profar was MLB’s top prospect before shoulder injuries cost him two seasons. Still only 24, he raked on the WBC and should see plenty of at-bats at various positions this year.
22.14 Sonny Gray – I was still thin on pitching, and Gray’s out for a month, but he looked better in spring training, and his injury isn’t arm related.
23.2 Jayson Werth – I’m not proud of this pick. In retrospect, I’m not really sure why I made it except that for whatever reason I had Werth atop my cheat sheet. I’d rather have had Eddie Rosario or Tyler Naquin, both of whom went a couple rounds later. Still, I needed a backup OF.
24.14 Jett Bandy – I’ve punted catcher in every draft, and this was no different. Bandy looks like the starter in a good park on a decent hitting team, and he’s got a little pop.
25.2 Chad Kuhl – Pitching was thin, and I figured a starter in Pittsburgh was worth a shot. He also draws the Braves opening week, and I’ll need someone with my ninth pitcher, Sonny Gray, on the DL.
26.14 Tom Murphy – My third currently injured player, something that’s not recommended in the NFBC where there are no DL slots, but I couldn’t pass up the likely eventual starting catcher for the Rockies. Moreover, all three of my injured guys are due back in April, and I’m not carrying any minor leaguers.
27.2. Chris Tillman – He’s also banged up, but has been pretty good four of the last five years, and I needed more pitching depth.
28.14 Tony Wolters – He’s the Rockies Opening Day catcher who I need until Murphy gets healthy.
29.2 Yonder Alonso – His new uppercut swing is fueling massive power in camp.
30.14 Joaquin Benoit – When Jeanmar Gomez falls apart, Benoit could get the job.
Roster By Position
1B Will Myers
2B Devon Travis
3B Alex Bregman
SS Jonathan Villar
CI Hanley Ramirez
MI Cesar Hernandez/Jason Kipnis
OF Ryan Braun/Miguel Sano/Yasmani Tomas/Yasiel Puig/Jason Heyward
U Jurickson Profar/Jayson Werth/Yonder Alonso
SP Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Dallas Keuchel, Ivan Nova, Eduardo Rodriguez, Sonny Gray, Chad Kuhl, Chris Tillman
RP Zach Britton, Jim Johnson, Brandon Maurer, Joaquin Benoit