The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) held their annual Experts Fantasy Baseball Draft in Tampa Bay on January 22nd, 2019. Yes, we just completed a fantasy baseball draft in January. There are still free agents looking for teams, games haven’t started yet either, but we drafted our teams in the first experts fantasy baseball draft of 2019. How did my team turn out? Did the cross-country trip leave me with a case of loser-itis, or did I power through it and draft a better team than Jeff Mans and Ted Schuster? You know the answer, but let’s break it down anyway.
Listed in order of draft spots.
1 - Rotowire - Jeff Erickson
2 - USA Today - Steve Gardner / Howard Kamen
3 - Colton & The Wolfman - Glenn Colton / Rick Wolf /Stacie Stern
4 - Scout Fantasy Sports - Dr. Roto
5 - Baseball HQ - Ray Murphy / Brent Hershey
6 - NFBC - Greg Ambrosius / Tom Kessenich
7 - CDM Sports - Charlie Wiegert / Vlad Sedler
8 - Fantasy Alarm - Howard Bender
9 - SiriusXM Fantasy Drive / Fantasy Guru - Ray Flowers
10 - Guru Elite - Jeff Mans / Ted Schuster
11 - RotoBaller - Ralph Rabe
12 - RonShandler.com - Ron Shandler / Lawr Michaels
13 - SiriusXM Fantasy Baseball - Jim Bowden
14 - Fantistics - Anthony Perri
5 x 5 Rotisserie style scoring.
Hitting Categories – BA, HR, RBI, Runs, SB
Pitching Categories – W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV
ROSTER: 2-C, 1-1B, 1-3B, 1-CI, 1-2B, 1-SS, 1-MI, 5-OF, 1-UT, 9-P, 6 reserves
Every team must have a minimum of 3,500 at-bats and 900 innings pitched.
Each player will have $1000 in FAAB money to spend on changes for his team.
The minimum bid on any player will be $1.
*Round taken in parenthesis.
Catcher: Austin Hedges (20), Jonathan Lucroy (26)
First Base: Freddie Freeman (2)
Second Base: Jose Altuve (1)
Third Base: Kris Bryant (3)
Shortstop: Jean Segura (4)
Middle Infielder: Brian Dozier (7)
Corner Infielder: Eric Hosmer (14)
Outfield: Tommy Pham (6), Andrew McCutchen (11), Nomar Mazara (12), Adam Eaton (16), Jay Bruce (19)
Utility: Marwin Gonzalez (18)
Pitchers: Jose Berrios (5), Kyle Hendricks (8), Cole Hamels (9), Miles Mikolas (10), Jake Arrieta (11), Archie Bradley (15), Drew Steckenrider (17), Dellin Betances (21), Jeremy Jeffress (23)
BENCH: Eric Thames (22), Anthony DeSclafani (24), Joe Ross (25), Justus Sheffield (27), Dustin Fowler (28), Mark Melancon (29)
DRAFT WRITE UP
Here are the overall Draft Results.
Note: The first 10 rounds were done live in Tampa Bay, Florida. The rest of the draft will be conducted via a slow draft which means you can bookmark this page and periodically check back to see how the team unfolds until it is complete.
ROUND 1: I was gonna go Nolan Arenado or Altuve as the draft was unfolding. Bender took Arenado leaving me Altuve. Last year was down effort for the Little Engine That Could, but Altuve still hit .316 and went 13/17 with 84 runs. His knee was fixed this offseason, he’s still just 28 years old, and here is his average effort the last four years: .328-19-76-98-29.
ROUND 2: I was hoping that Paul Goldschmidt or Alex Bregman would make it back to me. Damn Jeff/Ted who took Bregman one pick before me (I can’t be that mad since they were using our Fantasy Guru rankings). That left me with a tough choice that I narrowed down to Javier Baez and Freeman. Why not Baez? I’m a bit concerned of some minor pullback across the board, and I’m really not convinced that he’s a .290 hitter. So, I pivoted to Freeman, who I know is a .290 hitter, and because first base gets thinner than you think, quicker than you think, unless you’re just looking to keep pace at the spot. The last three years Freeman has posted an average effort of .306-28-87-93-8 with a .946 OPS. He’s one of the most stable hitters in baseball and if he and Altuve stay healthy that’s nearly 1,200 at-bats with a .300 average which is huge in 2019.
ROUND 3: My ideal third round selections are Charlie Blackmon and Bryant. When Blackmon went off the board early in the round, I could only hope that Bryant would fall… and he did. I know some are concerned about the exit velocity drop and the shoulder, but here’s what I know. Kris qualifies at third an in the outfield. He’s 27 years old. His career slash line is beautiful (.285/.385/.515). Per 162 games he’s posted an average line of .285-31-94-110-9 and he’s appeared in at least 150 games in 3-of-4 seasons. He was an excellent selection at this point of the draft and he will remind folks why he’s routinely been a top-20 overall selection.
ROUND 4: I’ve never gone into a draft and said ‘I want to fill my infield with my first four picks,’ yet that’s what happened (here’s some audio on the first four picks, all hitters). I don’t know how many people realize just how good Segura is. Over the last three years he’s hit .308 while averaging 14 homers, 25 steals and 91 runs scored. Through four rounds you can legitimately suggest that my team is batting .300. That early cushion will allow me so much freedom later to take guys with batting average concerns. Segura is also my second infielder in the first two rounds who can legitimately be said to have a decent shot at batting .300 with 20 steals. Simply put, the four rounds to start this sucker were terrific (I also considered Lo Cain since I didn’t have an outfielder yet, Bender took him with the next pick, and Anthony Rendon but since I already had Bryant I passed).
ROUND 5: I damn nearly went Wil Myers here. I hoped I could sneak him through to round six (which didn’t happen), but I deemed it time to get my first arm. I chose Berrios. All I heard was folks at the table talking about the need for strikeouts, the difficulty/need to find those 200 K arms. Yet when I grabbed Berrios no one seemed to care. Did everyone at the table miss that he punched out 202 batters last season? Did they miss the 1.14 WHIP and the slightly improved walk rate? Oh, and before you go and say ‘why Berrios?’ you might want to realize the following: Berrios was one of just 11 men who had 12 victories, 200 Ks and a WHIP of 1.14 or lower last season. Berrios is an excellent athlete, has some of the smoothest mechanics in the game and has made strides each of the last two seasons.
ROUND 6: I was excited about the prospect of combining Berrios with Madison Bumgarner or Jack Flaherty. Unfortunately, they both went at the start of the sixth round before it was my turn to select another arm. Realizing that I couldn’t go much deeper into a draft without an outfielder, and searching for some speed, I grabbed Pham. Tommy didn’t match his magical 2017 season but he still went 20/15 with 100 runs scored last year. Did you realize that? Do you know how many players went 20/15 with 100 runs last year? The answer is just seven guys. He doesn’t illicit the excitement of Lorenzo Cain, but Pham’s been just as good the last two years (Cain: .304-12-44-88-28 and Pham: .290-22-68-98-20).
ROUND 7: I didn’t see the names I was considering at hurler come off the board, and I just wasn’t ready to grab a reliever, so it was either Travis Shaw (second base eligible) or Dozier who were in my sights this round. Dozier was bad last season as he played hurt all year long. It’s remarkable how one down season has caused his value to tumble so quickly. It’s like folks forgot that from 2014-17 his average effort was .254-32-85-106-17. For goodness sakes, Dozier was second in baseball in runs over those four seasons while posting an average effort of 30/15… as a second baseman. He signed a 1-year deal with the Nationals, and at 31 years of age is a serious rebound candidate this year. If this group stays healthy, I will have the best infield in the league.
ROUND 8: When I called out Hendrick’s name at the draft table, a saw a grimace on the face of one of my league mates suggesting something akin to ‘why would Ray do that?’ With everyone seemingly obsessed with strikeouts, Hendricks just doesn’t register for some folks. He’s no star there, not close, but he does have 160 strikeouts in 3-of-4 years which isn’t horrible. Further, the guy is a pretty darn good ratio producer. Check out the numbers the last four years: 14th in ERA (3.14) and 15th in WHIP (1.11). Being that I waited on pitching, I thought that grabbing some solid ratio work was a good idea.
ROUND 9: ‘So Ray, why did you take Hamels here when you have Mikolas ranked higher?’ I got this question on Twitter, and it’s a good one. As I say all the time about rankings lists, you need context to select your players, not just an overall rankings list. A draft isn’t static. I might think that Mikolas is better than Hamels this season in a vacuum, but waiting on pitching meant that I was a bit short on strikeouts, so I ended up pushing Hamels ahead of Mikolas thinking that there might be a different of about 40 or so punchouts in favor of Hamels.
ROUND 10: Guess who grabbed Mikolas too? This guy (thumbs pointed inward), so it all worked out in the end. Mikolas was pretty darn solid in his first season back in the states with a 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 200 innings pitched. If he’s 90 percent of that guy this season, I’ll be plenty happy. So, to review, that’s four pitchers in the first 10 rounds with three guys who had a WHIP of 1.15 or less and two guys with at least 180 strikeouts. Not fantastic, but certainly solid.
ROUND 11: Folks like to put down McCutchen, comparing him to his MVP days and suggesting he’s no longer any good. It’s just not true. The last three years he’s average a season of .263-24-77-86-10 with a .356 OBP. Just 32, and moving into a solid place to swing the lumber in Philly, Andrew was second in baseball last season in swings at pitches outside the strike zone show an ever improving eye, saw a three year best in BB/K ratio, all the while posting his highest hard-hit ball rate of his career. There’s still some juice left here, even if the halcyon days are long gone.
ROUND 12: So, I sit here with three options. Byron Buxton, long a favorite of mine, and a legit power/speed source, albeit one dogged by continual injury and/or ineffectiveness. Jose Martinez, who qualifies at first and third, has a legit bat, but he’s also a brutal fielder who doesn’t seem likely to play daily unless he’s dealt. Then there is Nomar Mazara who, as I have long said, has shown zero season to season growth but at 23 years of age could, conceivably, take the next step this season. In the end I went with Mazara. I’m not expecting him to suddenly morph into the player that so many think he already is, but a steady .270-25-90 season would do just fine at this stage of the game. I don’t like this pick much, but I needed that third outfielder which I prioritized over my first catcher and a potential closer (the next two picks are likely to be arms of some kind, but we shall see when we get there).
ROUND 13: I struggled a bit here, thinking about whether or not to go with an arm, or with a bat. I was leaning David Robertson, but he went off the board two spots ahead of me. Looking at the landscape of bullpens at this point, it’s clear that in this draft I will be taking the low-cost bullpen arms, hoping to fall into saves, and be working the wire searching for them. I thought of a bat. I considered Jose Martinez (dual position), but his defense is just awful so I worry about playing time. Ryan Braun? This league setups lineups once a week. I thought catcher, but nah. Even considered Garrett Hampson for his speed quotient. In the end, I went with Arrieta. I don’t see much difference between him and a Jose Quintana or Dallas Keuchel, but without an ace on this staff, I thought it would to continue to build some solid depth on the bump, and though Arrieta is no star, he fits that bill effectively.
ROUND 14: So, Mans took Jose Quintana who was literally going to be my selection. Pretty sure he just used the rankings (smart man). What to do? Go Adam Eaton and grab a bit more speed (he’s always hurt but the last two seasons he’s still gone .300/.394/.422 over 118 games)? Roster Jose Martinez, who can’t field, but can really hit and qualifies at two spots? I’m just worry about playing time with him with the addition of Paul Goldschmidt. Take a shot at my first reliever and go the way of Will Smith, A.J. Minter or someone in that tier? I just don’t get a great feel this point of needing to go in any direction. The catcher pool does nothing to excite, the relievers really don’t stand out, and the starting pitchers, well, let’s just say one of the next eight guys I’m looking at is almost a lock to make it back to me. I took my shot on… Hosmer. He had a poor first season in San Diego, no way around that (it was bad), but he’s appeared in 157-games in 4-straight seasons, love that, while averaging an effort of .283-22-90-87-6. He will never be a homer bat, but we’re at the point at first base that we’re starting to dip into the area of the .250 hitter, so I took the chance on the boring stability of Hosmer. Hell, it sounds like J.T. Realmuto or Manny Machado might even end up in San Diego, and if that happens, the lineup gets a whole lot more difficult to face. Boring stable Ray here... but things are about to get interesting with my team. Trust me.
ROUND 15: I was gonna take Yusei Kikuchi, but was sniped by a pick. Garrett Hampson was the fallback, but he too was snagged. Jose Martinez qualifies at first base and the outfield, and the man can hit. Ultimately, I would have to hope someone in the Cardinals outfield is hurt or that Martinez is dealt if I’m taking him here (the obvious reason that no one else has taken the risk of drafting him). Therefore, the choice ended up being Bradley. Doing a draft this early you simply have to take chances in the bullpen, with so many situations unclear. Bradley could be the closer making this a strong selection. He could end up as a middle reliever and leave me in a precarious spot where I overpaid by about 10 rounds. So is the risk of drafting in January.
ROUND 16: So, I’m looking at the board here. It would be smart for me to add another reliever at this point, but no one stands out that makes me think that waiting a bit is gonna kill me (still thinking about that Bradley pick and if it was great or not). I could grab a starting pitcher, but there’s still a good group of arms that I would feel comfortable with as my next selection. So, I’m looking offense. Catchers could start to go in the next 20 picks, and if they do, so be it. I’m gonna pass there. Looking at my outfield, I think there are a couple of names left of interest. I like Eaton, who I spoke of above. Franchy Cordero has huge holes, but his power/speed combo is enticing. His teammate, Franmil Reyes has big-time pop. Hell, I really like Manuel Margot, though it would be risky to roster Eaton/Margot if the expectation is that both will be starting (you can only start one as the duo would leave you lacking in the power department). It’s evident that at this point of a draft, it’s time to start hunting out the players you like as there is a lot of equality on the board now. Ultimately, I went with Eaton. Please play 135 games.
ROUND 17: I was wrong last year with Steckenrider. I will be right about him this season. He will lead the Marlins in saves this season. Remove his outing on May 10th (six earned runs and one out), and his numbers look like this: 3.08 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP with 74 strikeouts in 64.1 innings. This pick was also a bit of a reaction to the rest of the room. With Bradley my only other closer, and relievers flying off the board, I was a bit more aggressive than I normally would be in rostering a guy like Steckenrider.
ROUND 18: Gonzalez isn’t sexy, but with roughly half of the guys you’re going to draft ending up on the DL at some point, he’s an extremely valuable team addition. Let’s stay he’s Asdrubal Cabrera at the plate, you know the .265-20-65-65 thing, and add in that he qualifies all over the field (24 games at first, 32 at second, 39 at shortstop and 76 in the outfield), and you have yourself a useful piece. Note, Marwin’s NFBC ADP since January 1st (225.0), which we’ve already surpassed here, will likely go up once he signs with a team and has his role firm up as human psychology dictates that we need certainty, and a team provides that.
ROUND 19: I wanted to go with Bruce, since he has dual position eligibility (1B/OF), but that’s a completely ‘Ray Flowers thing to do.’ With Jeff Mans in my head, I considered swinging for the fences, and that almost meant taking a shot on Franchy Cordero. The 19th round is well ahead of Cordero’s ADP, and knowing full well that he could be Chris Davis this season or potentially be the 4th outfielder in San Diego it’s hard to have confidence in selecting him. I think he could be an Aaron Hicks like producer, and Hicks went in the 10th round (note that comment is not based on overall real-world production, but merely on 5x5 fantasy stuff). Cordero could also hit .170 and end up back in the minors, so ultimately I went lame, boring, and productive Bruce. People love to hate, but from 2011-17 his average effort was .246-30-94-80, and now compare that to Travis Shaw last year (.241-32-86-73). I don’t notice any difference either.
ROUND 20: Now I can start playing with the house money that my .300 hitters of the first four rounds brought me. Hedges, and I’m obviously not buying reports that Realmuto is headed to San Diego, is a superior defensive player with pop in his bat. He’s hit .222 the last two years but he’s hit 32 homers or a pace for 25 homers over 530 at-bats. He could get to 20 homers for the first time this season by merely staying on the field, and I think he’s got a very good shot to make that happen. After Mans and I went catchers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see quite a few come off the board before my next selection, though I admit that passing on Dellin Betances and Eric Thames left me feeling a bit uneasy.
ROUND 21: So, since I made my pick in the 20th round, seven catchers went off the board (just as predicted) in my last comment. That allowed a bunch of players to slide further than they should in my humble opinion. Here’s where I’m at. I could go reliever, grab Alex Colome, and hope he locks down the ninth for the White Sox. I could take Dellin Betances knowing that he won’t get saves, but his 100+ strikeouts will give me an advantage over other folks relievers who will have 75 Ks (this would help to make up for the gap with my starting pitchers since two of my top four aren’t big strikeout arms). I could take Eric Thames and hope that a role opens up for him with the Brewers since his offensive game, especially against righties, is strong (plus he qualifies at two spots). Ultimately, I went with Betances who is just more highly skilled than Colome. The last five years his average effort has been a 2.22 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 121 strikeouts over 75 innings. Even as the innings have pulled back the last two years, he’s still averaged 15.3 strikeouts per nine leading to 108 strikeouts over 63 innings pitched. Guess I’m gonna have to get lucky here with a reliever in the reserve rounds and be aggressive early on when closer’s roles start changing (I’m not worried about that, as turnover is huge at the position – see Saves, Let’s Move On, Please).
ROUND 22: I’ve only mentioned his name like four times in these writeups, so I’m taking the plunge on Thames. Playing time was a struggle last year, but he still had a .804 OPS and .268 ISO against righties. With Keon Broxton gone, it would seem he’s a Ryan Braun injury away from playing full-time, and let’s not forget that he brings dual position eligibility with 1B/OF in his back pocket. Some will take shots on rookies, i.e. Nick Senzel at this point, but I’m taking a risk on a guy who we know can hit 30 homers if given the playing time.
ROUND 23: So. I got Betances, I got Thames and I got Colome, right? Nope. Missed him by a handful of picks. Looking at the starting pitcher landscape I see a lot of similarity, so I'll just wait there. Looking at relievers, a need if I'm talking a 9th inning role, names like Jeremy Jeffress and Nate Jones could be options. Still, there are a bevy of relief options with power arms that could fall into the 9th at some point, and help with ratios and punchouts in the interim. I could use a second catcher, but there is a lot of parity there as well. So really, this is kind of an open pick at this point. I’m gonna take a shot that Corey Knebel struggles again (especially with his control), and that Jeffress gets more 9th inning work than most are expecting at this point. If I get 25 saves this late, that will produce a lot more value than some SP6 or backup catcher I would be grabbing at this point.
ROUND 24: Considered Luis Urias, but he is more of a high floor than high ceiling youngster. Considered a second catcher, but at this point there all pretty much the same blah. As for arms, there’s a whole host of guys – Lynn, Gonzalez, Boyd, Ross, DeSclafani, Gibson, Ross – and one or two will surely fall to the next round. Keon Broxton went 20/20 a few years back, but he is in a battle for playing time and has the obvious contact deficiencies. Peter Alonso and that big power bat? I already have 1B covered. Ian Happ qualifies at a couple of spots, but playing time could be an issue given his manager. In the end, a totally uninspiring selection of DeSclafani. He needs to keep the ball in the park, but in the second half last year he had more than a strikeout per innings with an impressive 4.29 K/BB ratio.
ROUND 25: Jonathan Lucroy or Tyler Flowers would look solid as my second catcher. Looking at the five teams that pick again before I do, only one team has a single catcher as the other four have two. Given that I just can’t see a team taking three catchers, I can certainly wait on my backstop (I’m one of five teams with one catcher). I’ve always been a fan of Todd Frazier, and he wouldn’t be a bad pick here, but he’s sure be a boring one. I could go Keon Broxton, mentioned him in the last round writeup, but so many holes. I’m gonna take a shot on Ross, who was healthy enough to make three starts in September last season in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Think back to 2015-16 when Ross went 12-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 162 strikeouts in 181.2 innings. I was tempted to go for a more stable arm with my wealth of relievers, but instead thought I would try to be proactive with a still young arm that could return to fantasy prominence now that he is healthy.
ROUND 26: So, five teams still need their second catcher. Do I want another round? Do I grab a young power arm like Justus Sheffield? Do I take a shot on an injured player like Yoenis Cespedes or Bradley Zimmer? I’m a bit worried about the catcher spot since I think there are about three names I’m still comfortable with (with 28 starting catchers in this league, I really don’t want to have catcher #28 starting each week). Ultimately, I went with Lucroy, slightly, over Tyler Flowers. Lucroy should hit better than the .241 he hit last season, he only struck out 14.3 percent of the time last year and had a 34.7 percent hard-hit rate after his terrible 2017 giving some hope of a minor rebound. I’m not expecting much, but a .265-10 season seems possible, and I would certainly take that type of effort at this point.
ROUND 27: With unlimited DL spot, I was thinking about grabbing Yoenis Cespedes here, but he went two picks before I was up. We’re at the point of the draft where I could grab a reliable arm – Tanner Roark or Lance Lynn – but I decided to roll the dice knowing that a pitcher on that level will be available on waivers if I choose to wait. I’ll take a shot on Sheffield who figures, at some point, to be a part of the Mariners rotation. He’s got two impressive pitches with the ability to strike out a batter per inning. Could hit, or could be a miss that I drop during the first waiver period.
ROUND 28: Could go either Fowler here, but I’ll take a shot on the youngster Dustin Fowler of the Athletics. He was a disaster with the Athletics last season with a .610 OPS over 203 plate appearances. He still stole six bases and hit six homers, flashing intriguing skills. He also flat out mashed at Triple-A with a .341/.364/.520 slash line with 13 thefts over 55 games. Another year removed from injury, people have forgotten about the power/speed combo this 24 year old outfielder possesses.
ROUND 29: I spoke of Luis Urias earlier, and I reallllly wanted to take him here. However, I have Altuve/Dozier up the middle, and with Marwin also around to cover second base, I just couldn’t commit to Urias. I could have grabbed an arm, but the likes of Tanner Roark, Lance Lynn and Tyler Anderson just kinda blend into the woodwork. I also have three starting pitchers on my bench already, so another would be a bit of overkill. That left taking a shot on an RP and hoping he grabs a 9th inning gig, or taking a hitter. Names like Pujols/Healy/Frazier/Arcia/Hays/Fisher were options, but again, I don’t see something there that excites. In the end, cause this draft is so damn early, I’m gonna take a reliever, hope he closes, and if he doesn’t, drop him during the first FAAB run to add another hitter. Buttrey/Kela/Melancon were up for the choice. Cody Allen has seen his skills erode, but he figures to have a leash. Felipe Vazquez gets it done in the 9th. The Giants could go with Will Smith again, but he’s a lefty, slowed a bit of late, and there has been talk of a deal out of town for Smith, so I took Melancon on a hunch, nothing else, as he’s clearly not the most talented arm available (I need saves since I already have tremendously skills relief arms).
AUDIO OF DRAFT
Take starting pitchers early?
David Dahl’s worth?
Manny Machado and Bryce Harper on same team.
Here are the overall Draft Results.
Ray Flowers is the EVP of GuruElite. While others have dabbled, Ray is one of the few who has worked in the fantasy industry full-time for each of the last 17 years. A multi-time FSWA Award winner for Best Baseball Series, Ray also hosts The Fantasy Drive six days a week on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, a position he has held since the first day of the network's existence.