My 15-team NFBC Main Event league took place this morning at a hotel conference room in midtown Manhattan. 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 sixth pick, my No. 2 KDS choice, because I wanted to get Clayton Kershaw or Giancarlo Stanton there and get one of my three Tier 2 pitchers (Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner or Stephen Strasburg) in Round 2, especially if I took Stanton. Moreover, I knew Paul Sporer and Dustin Wagner, who had the fourth pick, were going to take Nolan Arenado or Mookie Betts, and I was positive Mike Trout and Jose Altuve would also be gone. That meant unless two teams jumped ADP, I’d definitely get either Kershaw or Stanton, and I figured there was a decent chance I’d have to choose between them (I was leaning Stanton.)
Here’s how the draft actually shook out:
1.6 Trea Turner – So Teams 2 and 5 took my guys and destroyed the plan before my draft even started. The NFBC Main is ruthless, and Paul Sporer/Dustin Wagner and Matt Modica/Chris Vaccaro (Team 7) were laughing their asses off. I took my time and grabbed Turner. All things being equal Bryce Harper is probably worth more, but steals are scarce, and because you need balance they’re worth slightly more in this format.
2.10 Madison Bumgarner – I got my Round 2 target. I knew Modica wouldn’t let Syndergaard get by him, but it never came to that because Mike Massotto took him at 15. Modica snaked Strasburg from me, but I actually have him one slot below Bumgarner anyway, and I’d have been happy with either. I’m probably jinxing him, but if I had to bet on any one pitcher to lead the majors in innings it would be Bumgarner.
3.6 Carlos Carrasco – I thought I might have to take Kenley Jansen here, but Carrasco made it to me, and he was the last of my Tier 3 pitchers after which I didn’t want to take one until much later. I snap-called.
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4.10 Craig Kimbrel – I didn’t expect this. Kimbrel’s ADP was 43, and this was 55. Another snap call, but I was awfully light on power with Turner and three pitchers.
5.6 Nelson Cruz – I agonized over this pick. I never draft him, and while he’s been a machine the last half decade, he’s banged up in camp, clogs the utility spot and will be 38 in July. But he was a perfect fit for a team that needed power without compromising average. I considered Miguel Cabrera, but figured he might make it back, and I also wanted Aroldis Chapman, but I couldn’t go five straight pitchers.
6.10 Miguel Cabrera – He made it all the way back, and I didn’t hesitate. He looks healthy this spring and could match Cruz’s numbers.
7.6 Joey Gallo – I wavered between Gallo and Yasiel Puig, but I have a couple shares of Puig and wanted to roll the dice on a player who could hit 50 HR. Plus, I knew Modica would take Gallo because he’s been posting his other drafts, and Gallo’s always on his teams. I thought there was a chance Puig would make it back, but he went three picks before me. Modica told me after the draft, he’d have taken Puig too.
8.10 Brandon Morrow – I have Morrow higher than most. Injury is the main risk, but he’s healthy now, he has the skills and he’s on a good team. You must get your saves and steals in this format. (I tried to draft A.J. Pollock here, but he was already taken, and the room mocked me mercilessly. Tough crowd.)
9.6 Miguel Sano – Power went from a weakness after Round 4 to a strength. Sano could be suspended, but I hope it’s more like 15 games rather than 50 if it happens at all. Suddenly speed was a minor concern even with Turner, but not really because I had two middle infield slots and all five OF slots open, i.e., all the places you can get speed, and I was slow only because I had filled my corners early. Of some concern was the fact I had three corners and my UT locked up, preventing me from pouncing on CI bargains later, but I’ve found MI and OF is deeper anyway, so it was a small price to pay for a player who could hit 40 HR.
10.10 D.J. LeMahieu – I don’t like him because he’s not a good real-life player, and he doesn’t even run much anymore. But after taking Gallo and Sano, I needed batting average more than anything, and he’s a rock there
11.6 Ian Desmond – I needed to start filling my OF, and I needed some steals. Desmond was the top player on my board, runs a little and plays at Coors.
12.10 Michael Wacha – Pitching was flying off the board. Targets like Taijuan Walker (10.13) and Trevor Bauer (9.9) were long gone. Wacha throws 95, was a big prospect and seems healthy again.
13.6 Aaron Sanchez – Another target and not a pick too soon because Modica had him queued up next, it turned out.
14.10 Aaron Hicks – Another OF with a little pop and a little speed in a good environment.
15.6 Michael Brantley – See Hicks, Aaron. More injury risk, but also some batting average upside, still my weakest category.
16.10 Carlos Gomez – Another power/speed OF, though also a batting average and injury risk. He went a couple rounds after the other Cargo (Carlos Gonzalez), and I joked this was the real Cargo, the other guy just baggage. Sporer pretended not to appreciate that turn of phrase before conceding its genius.
17.6 Yasmani Grandal – Catchers were flying off the board, and I wanted to get at least one decent one, though he’s another batting average drain.
18.10 Jose Peraza – I told the room I was about to take a terrible player, and I delivered. Apparently, he’s worked on his approach (who hasn’t?) this offseason, and he could keep the shortstop job as Nick Senzel isn’t particularly suited to the position, either.
19.6 Victor Robles – Massotto told me this was a reach during the next break, but I don’t look at ADP if I can help it, and at this stage it takes only one drafter to jump and take your guy. Robles is not even my guy (even though I have him on all three teams), but if he comes up in the first month or two, he could be a difference maker.
20.10 Felix Hernandez – I don’t believe in him, but I keep taking him. Maybe it’s the endowment effect – I’m starting to value him more because I have shares already. But the price is always right, the peripherals were good last year and I keep remembering how dismissive I was of Zack Greinke before last season.
21.6 Kevin Pillar – After gambling on Robles, I needed a reliable every-day starter, and Pillar – another power/speed option – fits the bill.
22.10 Neil Walker – I don’t know how long he’ll keep the job, but he couldn’t be in a better spot. If he holds off Gleyber Torres all year, 25 homers is not a stretch.
23.6 Colin McHugh – This was my first bad pick. I hated all the pitchers left on my cheat sheet, so I just randomly took a guy with moderately better skills but no clear path to regular work. But looking at the rest of the garbage in that round, I’m not sure who I would have taken.
24.10 Dellin Betances – I tried to take “Nick Kingery” a combination of Nick Senzel and Scott Kingery, both of whom were gone anyway, and was mocked ruthlessly. (I neglected to mention I destroyed Sporer for all of his picks, and Massotto for some of his even though just about all of them were terrible, so there was some payback.) I also tried to take Chris Devenski who was gone, and those animals were borderline frothing at the mouth. So I settled for Betances and in retrospect like the pick. The research I did for the 12-team format showed how bad the low-end starting pitching was last year, and you’d have been much better off with an elite middle reliever. I suspect it was even worse in the 15.
25.6 Jose Reyes – He qualifies at second, third and short and had 15 HR and 24 steals last year.
26.10 Andrew Heaney – I got him with my 30th pick in the Beat Chris Liss 1, and bought him for $2 in AL Tout Wars, so why not? He might be terrible, but he was once a top prospect, he’s in a good park and finally healthy. The endowment effect is a powerful thing.
27.6 Jurickson Profar – Another player I bought in AL Tout. He was an elite prospect once, he’s finally healthy again and hitting in a good park.
28.10 Yan Gomes – I got snaked at catcher a few times. I thought I could wait on Christian Vazquez when I took Reyes in Round 25, and Modica took him with the next pick. (That’s who I probably should have taken instead of McHugh in Round 23.) When batting average is your weakest category, low-average catchers who strike out 26 percent of the time are not ideal. (What is ideal is both my catchers have the uncommon initials Y.G., something I didn’t realize until later that afternoon.)
29.6 Ryan Madson – Sean Doolittle is the clear closer, but he’s an injury risk, and Madson could also do the job.
30.10 Amir Garrett – He’s throwing hard in camp.
Overall, I’m happy with the team. I’m most concerned with batting average – I need Gallo to hit .235, Cabrera to make it to .290-plus and Brantley to stay healthy. The back end of my pitching is weak too, but that’s par for the course in this format, and I plan to use Madson/Betances/McHugh as needed even if they don’t have starts. I’d also like to have a third closer candidate, though I can FAAB that later.
The live draft was a lot of fun too – fun trash talking all the owners and getting about two thirds as much as I was giving.