Wednesday night was the “Beat Jeff Erickson” draft as part of the NFBC’s RotoWire Online Championship. As a reminder, the NFBC features both your individual league and an overall contest, and a good chunk of the $350 entry fee goes to that overall prize. There’s no trading within the league, for obvious reasons. The individual leagues have 12 teams apiece, and you can enter as many leagues as you want.
This is the sixth year that we’ve offered this particular contest as part of our partnership with the NFBC. I’ve done better in this 12-team format than in the 15-team Main Event. I’m not really sure why that’s the case – beyond just the statistical likelihood of finishing worse when there are more teams. I’m comfortable with both formats.
In this draft I drew the fifth spot, following NFBC legend Lindy Hinkelman in the four-spot. This league was a shark tank – not only did it have Lindy but it had many other veterans who have frequently cashed, including Derek Pierson, who was won the NFFC and NFBC Ultimate Contests as well as the NFFC Platinum Contest. I knew this going in, though, and had to plan as if there were no secrets in the draft and very few players that would “fall” to me. Those that would fall would have some sort of risk attached, and managing that risk would be the key to my results.
For instance, it’s no secret that I’m big on taking Clayton Kershaw early – as early as the second pick and arguably the first overall pick, especially in the 15-team leagues. But I knew that in this league there was no way he’d fall to me at No. 5 (and sure enough, he went third overall). So I had to plan my early round strategy on when to grab my top pitchers – it seems too early to take Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner or Noah Syndergaard, which ends my top tier. But those three don’t often fall to the 20th pick, especially with the recent good news on Scherzer’s finger. Do I reach up for the next starter on my list (Corey Kluber) at 2.8? Do I push the next best guy up at 3.5? Or do I wait and hope that Stephen Strasburg (whom I value highly) gets to me at 4.8? I chose Door #3.
Full draft results are next, and I’ll discuss my picks afterward:
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1.5 – Jose Altuve: Once Kershaw went, I was hoping for Kris Bryant, but Lindy took him. I’ve got a couple of shares of Nolan Arenado already and wanted to diversify, so I took Jose Altuve over him and Paul Goldschmidt. I also considered Bryce Harper here. The decision-making process here underscores that pick 1.8 is a pretty comfortable spot to be.
2.8 – Carlos Correa: I mocked out this draft a couple of times and never expected Correa to fall to me. I thought I would end up choosing between Joey Votto and Starling Marte instead, but when Brian Dozier and Robinson Cano went before my next pick (and yay – seeing other 2B go in the intervening round after I took Altuve was nice), Correa was a windfall, one of the few I received.
3.5 – Freddie Freeman: This was a critical juncture in the draft. My top available starters at this point were Yu Darvish and Stephen Strasburg. I don’t *love* Darvish and thought I could gamble on Strasburg making it back to me in the 12-team format (note, in the 15-team format there’s almost no chance that Strasburg makes it to pick 40+ if he’s healthy next weekend), so I went with my best available hitter. All the indicators on Freeman are great, with the possible exception of the team context, but the Braves’ offense was perfectly acceptable in the second half of 2016. Plus the new ballpark appears to have a short porch in right field, albeit with a high fence. We’ll see how that plays.
4.8 – Stephen Strasburg: Sure enough, Strasburg made it to me. If he didn’t, my “failsafe” was the climbing Jacob deGrom, whom Lindy took immediately after me.
5.5 – Zach Britton: In retrospect, I wish I would have taken my second starter here and grabbed Masahiro Tanaka, who I think I’m going to put above Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks now, with the tier rapidly evaporating below that (see my next pick). I could have gotten closers I like in rounds six and seven and been happier with my second starter. I didn’t manage risk well here.
6.8 – Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco has already had a health scare, with elbow swelling this spring, but had good results in his most recent outing. But there’s no doubt, I’m taking on a lot of risk with my top two starters. They could be both aces, or they could both miss 10+ starts.
7.5 – Kelvin Herrera: Very happy with this pick, as most of the closers I like were snagged – Giles, Colome, Diaz, Osuna plus the obvious names. After Herrera I have Wade Davis and Cody Allen, and then a mess of guys I’m far less comfortable taking. My plan all along was to have two closers and two starters taken by the seventh round, and then load up on hitters.
8.8 – Alex Bregman: I could have taken Evan Longoria instead of Bregman to lock in more power and diversify my teams, but I think Bregman has a better chance to hit for high average and score a ton of runs batting second between Springer and Altuve.
9.5 – Matt Kemp: As one Twitter follower noted at this point, I was light on power at this point. But in today’s environment, there are a lot of mid-tier power hitters available, such as Kemp. My plan all along was to attack hitting in this tier and load up on the power, though it costs me the likes of Aaron Sanchez and James Paxton (by the way – in case you were thinking he’s your sleeper, he’s not – he’s everyone’s sleeper.).
10.8 – Stephen Piscotty: I expect another level of growth with Piscotty, particularly with his command of the strike zone.
11.5 – Jake Lamb: More power, more power!
12.8 – J.D. Martinez: I’m more inclined to take the injury risks in a 12-team league than the 15-team league, merely because the replacement level is so much higher while I wait for Martinez to return back from his foot injury. The risk here of course is that he aggravates the injury coming back too soon, and a four-week absence becomes a eight-week absence. My belief is that you have room on your roster for one such risk – after that, you’re going to need your bench spots for other injuries, starting pitcher streaming, managing the half-week schedules (we can swap out hitters for the Friday-Sunday games) and speculating on closers. So when Jason Kipnis fell to the 21st round, I still stayed away.
13.5 – Joc Pederson: This was a purposeful reach. I waited some on outfielders and already have an injured outfielder, so I wanted to pick an ascendant player at the position, and Pederson fits that bill. He’s +.200 ISO’s in his first two seasons, a walk rate over 10 percent and his contact rate improved last year. The platoon problem is real, and why this is a reach, but I think that there’s another level here.
14.8 – Steven Matz: Again, the injury risk is apparent, which is why a pitcher that’s had two 23 percent strikeout seasons is available in the 14th round.
15.5 – Russell Martin: My instinct was that Martin fell in the draft and that I was getting a pretty good bargain, but upon further review he went right about at par. I’m ok with that, but I might have been better off taking two catchers in the 20’s as Chris Liss has done.
16.8 – Sean Manaea: I like Manaea’s skills and ballpark, hate his team context. Taking him took me out of the Jharel Cotton market, as I didn’t want two A’s starters. Cotton went in the 20th round.
17.5 – Nomar Mazara: Another “in retrospect” moment – I’m too leveraged in young outfielders that are looking to take the leap. Mazara held his own as a 21-year old, but I’m going to need significant improvement from him for this pick to work.
18.8 – Greg Bird: I wanted one share of Bird, and this was an affordable chance to take a shot at a lot of power upside with a lefty hitting in Yankee Stadium.
19.5 – Yasiel Puig: I can’t quit Puig, though usually I’m in leagues with Liss and Dalton Del Don and get locked out on him.
20.8 – Joe Ross: I’m going to be watching a lot of Nats games, with Strasburg, Ross and Gio Gonzalez (24.8) all on this team.
21.5 – Brandon Crawford: I can’t stress this point enough – MI is *deep*. Unless you have an affinity for a particular player, there’s no need to push up your final middle infield slot.
22.8 – Marco Estrada: Estrada is the AL version of John Lackey – he always seems to be there for me. I needed volume in starters, Estrada fits that need.
23.5 – Zach Davies: ESPN.com’s Tristan Cockcroft is excellent at identifying late-round starting pitchers that do well in controlling the strike zone, and Davies made the list in his “Kings of Command” column this spring.
24.8 – Gio Gonzalez: I don’t have a whole lot of love for Gio, but he’s streamable against weaker opponents and at least racks up strikeouts.
25.5 – Travis d’Arnaud: I was actually pretty happy with this pick. A couple catchers that I was targeting to go later (Chris Herrman, Tom Murphy) had already gone off the board, and I like d’Arnaud a little better. He’s retooled his swing and is so far healthy, and having a good spring.
26.8 – Jose Berrios: I’m hoping that Berrios is a classic post-hype sleeper. My only concern is that because Puerto Rico used him as a reliever in the WBC, he hasn’t built up enough innings to use early on this season.
27.5 – Jacoby Ellsbury: How the once-valuable have fallen! Ellsbury might be active frequently early in the season for me, given Martinez’s injury and the risk profile of my young outfielders. I was light on speed at this point in the draft, so he fits a need for me.
28.8 – Joe Panik: Always handy as a late middle infielder – he and Josh Harrison always seem to be available for me if and when I need one. I sort of like to have a fourth MI in this format in case of injuries or lack of games.
29.5 – Collin McHugh – A minor mistake – McHugh is fine, but I prefer Trevor Bauer slightly more. But I was connecting to my broadcast unit to do a segment on SiriusXM Fantasy with Tom Kessenich and had to hurry in a pick. I guess Tom will just have to owe me the $100K.
30.8 – Matthew Strahm – I like Strahm’s skills, but I’m mostly holding him for a few weeks as insurance for Herrera in case he gets hurt early. He’s the proverbial first cut.