On Sunday, April 2, I drafted my $100k grand prize, NFBC RotoWire Online Championship team. It’s a 12-team mixed league, standard 5×5 scoring rules, with no trades allowed. It’s the same format as the “Beat Jeff Erickson” and “Beat Chris Liss” leagues that you’ve read about, so as I do every year, I’ve unofficially dubbed this the “Beat Ryan Rufe” league. Among the other participants were Wim Miree (11th pick), who finished 2nd in the overall contest last season, and Eric Heberlig (5th pick) who won the Online Championship overall prize in 2013.
I drew the 2nd pick for the second straight year.
Here are the full draft results:
Here are my thoughts as I was working through the draft:
1.2 (2) – Clayton Kershaw – I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I would have been slightly bummed if Bob Mazur took Kershaw first overall instead of Mike Trout. It’s not like I would have been upset if Trout fell into my lap, but I have a sense of comfort with Kershaw since he’s been a cornerstone of many of the teams I’ve had success with in recent years. To be honest, I should have been more prepared entering the draft in case Kershaw wasn’t available to me with this pick. In that scenario, I would have taken Trout with the intention of drafting one or both of Corey Kluber and Chris Sale in Rounds 2/3. But if you look at the draft board above, you’ll notice both pitchers were long gone by then! I’m just thankful that I didn’t have to stray too far from my preferred draft plan in the early rounds.
2.11 (23) – Joey Votto – Miguel Cabrera went the pick before me, but I would have taken Votto over him anyway despite Miggy’s ADP being 5 spots higher. Votto gets the edge since he runs a bit and Cabrera doesn’t.
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3.2 (26) – Robinson Cano – This pick was a tough choice, as Edwin Encarnacion, A.J. Pollock and Yu Darvish were other possibilities. In prior drafts this season, I had waited to draft my second baseman. If I didn’t land Ian Kinsler, I’d wait even longer on the position to get someone like Logan Forsythe or Cesar Hernandez. Taking a 2B this early was out of the norm for me, but similar to Votto, I love Cano’s floor.
4.11 (47) – Kenley Jansen – This was an odd round, as Matt Carpenter and Greg Bird were taken with the 39th and 40th overall picks, ahead of Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, George Springer and Jacob deGrom. Picking at the end of the round, I planned to double up on pitching and was thrilled when Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasburg were available when my 65 second countdown began. I was guaranteed to land two of the four pitchers and would have been content with any combination, but wanted one of the closers and didn’t want Mazur to double up on them at the turn.
5.2 (50) – Stephen Strasburg – Sure enough, Mazur picked Cueto and Chapman, which meant Strasburg was mine. I absolutely love getting first-round upside in the 5th round, but he’s still a risk due to his injury history.
6.11 (71) – Yoenis Cespedes – I planned to take a second closer here. Seung Hwan Oh, Ken Giles and Kelvin Herrera were all available and I loved all three, but I couldn’t ignore that Cespedes fell way too far in the draft. Other possibilities were Christian Yelich (who went the pick after this one), Gregory Polanco and Carlos Gonzalez (both of whom fell in the draft as well).
7.2 (74) – Gregory Polanco – I could have taken Giles or Herrera here, but I had my eye on Polanco last round and couldn’t pass him up either. Scott Jenstad and Jeff Erickson recently discussed Polanco’s value on the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Podcast. Jenstad loves him and Erickson didn’t quite agree, and while I respect both guys’ opinions, I’m on Team Jenstad with regard to Polanco. I think we’ll all be taking him in the second round next year.
8.11 (95) – Todd Frazier – There was a closer run in Round 7 as nine went off the board within 14 picks. That left me with Gerrit Cole at the top of my queue, but he was taken the pick before mine. I wasn’t too upset about it though because Frazier fell way too far in this draft. He was a 3rd rounder prior to last season’s drafts, didn’t lose a touch of power or speed, and fell nearly 6 rounds? I realize his batting average dropped 30 points, but he’s a .250 hitter for his career. If he hits closer to that as opposed to the .225 from last year, this may be one the best values of the draft.
9.2 (98) – Alex Bregman – I had Bregman in queue right behind Frazier and Mazur doubled up on starters at the 8/9 turn with Jose Quintana and Jameson Taillon (who I really love). The Cole and Taillon snipes put me on tilt, so I “begrudgingly” took Bregman, even though I love him too. Hitting second in the Astros’ lineup between Springer and Altuve is certainly appealing.
10.11 (119) – Michael Fulmer – In my draft mapping exercise, I was targeting five pitchers within the first 8 rounds and I had only drafted three to this point. I was a bit behind the pitching curve for my liking, so Rounds 10 and 11 were going to be starters that I liked. I may have jumped the gun on Fulmer and Stroman a round or two early, but I liked them more than Aaron Sanchez, Danny Salazar and Matt Harvey. I had McCullers highlighted on my sheets and drafted him everywhere this year, but for some reason he didn’t register in my queue and I overlooked him. Now I was on extreme tilt!
11.2 (122) – Marcus Stroman – See above.
12.11 (143) – Cam Bedrosian – James Paxton and Dallas Keuchel were long gone and I just missed Kevin Gausman by one pick. I needed a second closer and Bedrosian really intrigued me after a strong season last year and a dominant spring. This pick was extremely risky since Mike Scioscia hadn’t officially named a closer yet. K-Rod and Blake Treinen were available and would have been better choices. Now I have to cross my fingers and hope Bedrosian earns the job and runs away with it all season.
13.2 (146) – Aledmys Diaz – I owned Diaz last year and made the decision to sell high on him after his blistering hot start. I traded him to Chris Liss/Tim Schuler in the Staff Keeper League for a rental, and realized during my draft prep this February that it was a huge mistake. I wish I had more shares of him.
14.11 (167) – David Dahl – All of the outfielders I was targeting with this pick — Michael Brantley, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez and Byron Buxton — flew off the board right before me. I’m pretty sure I shouted an expletive when Gomez was drafted the pick before me. Dahl isn’t a bad consolation prize if he can overcome the rib stress fracture and return to the Rockies fairly quickly. I do worry that a rib injury may affect his success at the plate. Tons of talent if he comes back fully healthy though!
15.2 (170) – Sean Manaea – Out of the 7 fantasy baseball teams that I’m managing this season, I own Manaea in 5 of them. He’s someone I loved back when he was pitching in the Royals farm system and now that he’s shown that he can be successful at the big league level, I’m fully invested. I just wish he played for a better team and had a better defense behind him.
16.11 (191) – Dansby Swanson – Daniel Murphy was my 16th round Online Championship pick last year and I’m hoping Swanson brings me the same good fortune. I’m not expecting a ton of power or speed, but exceeding expectations in either category would be nice!
17.2 (194) Rajai Davis – I missed Kevin Kiermaier by one pick (before I took Swanson) and Delino DeShields was drafted the pick before this one. I had an “oh, crap!” moment realizing I was extremely light on speed, so I panicked and picked Davis. I’ll always think fondly of him after his World Series heroics with the Indians. but I don’t love him this year for fantasy purposes. He only signed a 1-year deal with the A’s, which means he’ll probably be traded later this season and fall into the short-end of a platoon role instead of an everyday gig.
18.11 (215) – Ender Inciarte – Inciarte would have been a better choice in the previous round. Now I’m stuck with two guys who will likely hit single-digit HRs in my lineup. That’s just poor awareness and draft planning on my part.
19.2 (218) – Jerad Eickhoff – Mazur took two guys I really liked (Tommy Joseph and Joe Ross) at the turn, but I still had my choice of Eickhoff, Garrett Richards and Ivan Nova with this pick. I thought Eickhoff was most likely of the trio to provide 200 innings with solid ratios and strikeout totals.
20.11 (239) – Jay Bruce – I needed power and Bruce was the best option on the board at this point. He also fell a few rounds past his ADP, so I was happy to scoop him up here. Remember when we were drafting him in the 4th round a few short years ago?
21.2 (242) – Lance Lynn – Looking back at the draft board, Robert Gsellman, Dylan Bundy and Joe Musgrove were all SPs I liked, but somehow overlooked. Not having an organized queue may have attributed to what could be a costly draft error. I still like Lynn, just not as much as the other guys.
22.11 (263) – Dellin Betances – I’m not sure why Betances fell as far as he did — 67 picks past his ADP, but I was happy to scoop him up here after seeing the aforementioned starters fly off the board.
23.2 (266) – David Peralta – Peralta will be in my lineup when Arizona faces a bunch of righties on their schedule. Maybe he gets more chances to prove himself against southpaws this year?
24.11 (287) – Zach Davies – He was the last remaining SP on the board that I liked.
25.2 (290) – Mike Zunino – There was a catcher run prior to my Davies pick, which included three guys I had been waiting on: Austin Hedges, Chris Herrmann and Travis d’Arnaud. I settled for one who will play regularly and provide double-digit HR. Batting average was a team strength to this point, so I thought I could absorb the hit.
26.11 (311) – Kevin Pillar – I picked Trea Turner in this round last year. It’d be crazy of me to think Pillar will offer the same type of impact, but I think he went overlooked in drafts this season. Underrated player.
27.2 (314) – Jason Hammel – Nothing exciting to see here.
28.11 (335) – Alex Cobb – This pick was between Cobb and Tyler Anderson. I already had a few Anderson shares on other teams, so I chose to mix things up a bit.
29.2 (338) – Tyler Flowers – He’s been one of the catchers I’ve been targeting all draft season, but this is my first share.
30.11 (359) – Joey Gallo – One of my stepson’s hockey teammates has the same name. Let’s see what he can do while Adrian Beltre is on the DL.
To summarize, here is the “Stealing Signals” roster for Opening Day:
C: Mike Zunino (25), Tyler Flowers (29)
1B/3B/CI: Joey Votto (2), Todd Frazier (8), Alex Bregman (9)
2B/SS/MI: Robinson Cano (3), Aledmys Diaz (13), Dansby Swanson (16)
OF: Yoenis Cespedes (6), Gregory Polanco (7), Rajai Davis (17), Ender Inciarte (18), Jay Bruce (20)
UT: David Peralta (23)
SP: Clatyon Kershaw (1), Stephen Strasburg (5), Michael Fulmer (10), Marcus Stroman (11), Sean Manaea (15), Jerad Eickhoff (19)
RP: Kenley Jansen (4), Cam Bedrosian (12), Dellin Betances (22)
Hitter Reserves: David Dahl (14), Kevin Pillar (26), Joey Gallo (30)
Pitcher Reserves: Lance Lynn (21), Zach Davies (24), Jason Hammel (27), Alex Cobb (28)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my team, so hit me up on Twitter.