After giving it serious thought last year, I finally took the plunge and signed up for an NFBC league. I figure the worst case is we have someone at Razzball who has first-hand experience in the format to answer reader questions. Better case, I really like the format and we consider sponsoring a league or two next year as a complement to the Razzball Commenter Leagues. Best case I win some money and get to brag about it on the site.
For those of you familiar with the format, just jump ahead to the ‘My NFBC Slow Draft Strategy’ part.
For those of you unfamiliar with the league, NFBC stands for the National Fantasy Baseball Championships and it is the pre-eminent organizer for high-stakes fantasy baseball leagues. Their ‘Main Event’ has a $1500 buy-in and a $100,000 grand prize (we played in a Draftday-sponsored AL-only league with the 14th place finisher last year – Clark Olson) .
Before you all get too excited, I didn’t join the Main Event. I went with the cheapest league option ($150 Draft Champions) because 1) I’m cheap and 2) I’m intrigued with the format. It is a 15-team 5×5 MLB format – which is similar to what we will be playing in LABR and Tout Wars this year – with a snake draft, no IP/GS caps (1000 IP minimum), and a starting roster of 2C/1B/2B/SS/3B/5 OF/CI/MI/UTIL/9 P. You can update your starting roster on Mondays (with an additional Friday switch for hitters only).
The catch is that it is a 50 round draft and no in-season roster changes are allowed. No trades. No free agents. While I like trades/free agent pickups, this format seems like the perfect polar opposite for the Razzball Expert League’s daily rosters and constant FA pickups.
Before I start talking about the players I drafted, here are some topline results from the draft:
- Draft began on February 14th (I used 2 of the allotted 8 hours for my 1st pick while at V-day dinner with Mrs. Gamble). Finished up March 6th. Yup, 20 days. From what I’m told, that is quick as all it takes is one drafter to kill a day’s worth of drafting productivity. It felt interminable at times – especially when one drafter was on the clock for a couple of hours. If it was up to me, each drafter would get 25 hours of draft time between 8 AM and 11 PM EST (30 minutes a pick). Once you use up your 25 hours, you are on auto-draft the rest of the way. This would encourage the slowest drafters to go on auto-pick for a round (you can queue up players) when they are going to be offline for a while.
- Of the 750 players drafted, 694 were in my 15-team auction values (going into the draft) which meant I projected 1+ AB/IP for the hitter/pitcher. The 56 players that I projected zero playing time are mostly prospects but includes a few free agent veterans like Dice-K, Carlos Lee, and former Grey crush Kevin Slowey. Javier Vazquez was drafted only to retire a couple days later. I was responsible for drafting 5 of these players (Nick Franklin, Jake Marinsick, A.J. Ramos, Eury Perez, and Sonny Gray). After reviewing these 56 players, I added in playing time for about 25% of them but it is doubtful that any will make a dent in mixed league formats except for maybe A.J. Ramos if he can become the Marlins closer at some point this year.
- Here are the number of players drafted by position by me as well as the average players taken by other teams (me / avg of other teams). Note that I only count a person at their most valuable position so it looks like I have two 3Bs when I really have 4 (Chris Nelson and Daniel Descalso counted at 2B and SS, respectively):
- Catchers – 4 / 4.1
- 1B – 3 / 2.8
- 2B – 3 / 2.8
- SS – 3 / 4.0
- 3B – 2 / 3.6
- OF – 10 / 11.2
- DH – 1 / 0.14
- SP – 16 / 13.9
- RP – 8 / 7.4
- The top player on my draft board that went undrafted was Jason Marquis (had him #353). I would’ve taken him with a late pick but I already have 3 Padres pitchers. I could only use so many Hodgepadres. The next 50 or so undrafted players were relievers. This makes sense since non-closer RPs have limited value in a weekly league with no GS/IP caps. Other undrafted players at the top of my end-of-draft leaderboard are Philip Humber, Hector Noesi, Travis Blackley, and Kevin Correia. Michael Bowden would have likely been the next pitcher I would have drafted.
- The best available hitters were WAY further down the list with Justin Turner (#766), Jose Lobaton (#782) and Jonathan Herrera (#784) as the top three. Was close to taking Turner as a Daniel Murphy handcuff but was intrigued on the prospectiness of Wilmer Flores.
My NFBC Slow Draft Strategy
I was surprised at the paucity of information online for NFBC slow draft strategy (I did find a good slow cooker recipe though while searching). The only useful tidbit I found was in the Mastersball forum from WCCW wrestling legend Perry Van Hook. Hopefully the below will be of some help to other drafters.
My strategy was:
- Focus on hitters in the first 10 rounds with a bias towards power. Draft at most 2 SPs in the first 10 rounds.
- Stick with my 15-team auction values when it comes to valuing position scarcity – i.e., do not bite when C/2B/SS start getting snapped up. Discount catchers further by using $ values for 1 catcher leagues vs. 2 catcher leagues.
- Back up all hitter positions with the best hitters available. Draft multi-position players if deciding between two players.
- Channel my inner LaRussa (Tony not Daniel) to build a deep starting pitching staff with a bias towards favorable home parks. View each SP from the perspective of “How often will the Stream-o-nator view his starts favorably?” Goal is to be able to start 7 pitchers every week and take advantage of 2-start weeks.
- Get two solid relievers, handcuff them where possible, and draft 4-5 relievers with Save potential. Ignore middle relievers with strong peripherals who have no shot at closing (e.g., Eric O’Flaherty).
Below is my team. Here is a Google doc with all 750 picks.
1 | 10 | Giancarlo Stanton | OF
2 | 21 | Evan Longoria | 3B
3 | 40 | Matt Holliday | OF
4 | 51 | Cliff Lee | SP
5 | 70 | Desmond Jennings | OF
6 | 81 | CC Sabathia | SP
7 | 100 | Anthony Rizzo | 1B
8 | 111 | Mark Trumbo | 1B,OF
9 | 130 | Ryan Doumit | C,OF
10 | 141 | Greg Holland | RP
11 | 160 | Howie Kendrick | 2B
12 | 171 | Huston Street | RP
13 | 190 | Ryan Vogelsong | SP
14 | 201 | Josh Beckett | SP
15 | 220 | Starling Marte | LF
16 | 231 | Yunel Escobar | SS
17 | 250 | Daniel Murphy | 2B
18 | 261 | Chris Carter | 1B
19 | 280 | Derek Holland | SP
20 | 291 | Chris Nelson | 2B,3B
21 | 310 | Edinson Volquez | SP
22 | 321 | Darin Mastroianni | OF
23 | 340 | Jason Castro | C
24 | 351 | Brett Wallace | 1B
25 | 370 | Luke Gregerson | RP
26 | 381 | Justin Masterson | SP
27 | 400 | Chad Billingsley | SP
28 | 411 | Clayton Richard | SP
29 | 430 | Scott Baker | SP
30 | 441 | Nate Schierholtz | OF
31 | 460 | Daniel Descalso | 2B,SS,3B
32 | 471 | Jared Burton | RP
33 | 490 | Joe Saunders | SP
34 | 501 | Carter Capps | RP
35 | 520 | Jake Westbrook | SP
36 | 531 | Luke Scott | DH
37 | 550 | Josh Thole | C
38 | 561 | Nick Franklin | SS
39 | 580 | Erik Bedard | SP
40 | 591 | Wesley Wright | RP
41 | 610 | Jose Molina | C
42 | 621 | Jake Marisnick | OF
43 | 640 | A.J. Ramos | RP
44 | 651 | Jeremy Hefner | SP
45 | 670 | Jimmy Paredes | OF
46 | 681 | Anthony Bass | SP
47 | 700 | Wilmer Flores | 3B
48 | 711 | Kyle Farnsworth | RP
49 | 730 | Eury Perez | OF
50 | 741 | Sonny Gray | SP
- I am real happy with this draft. I met all my pre-draft goals.
- Loved that Stanton fell to #10. Debated between Longoria and Strasburg on the 20th pick but glad, in retrospect, I got Longoria as I feel that Cliff Lee in the 4th round is better value.
- I had targeted Goldschmidt, Rizzo, and Ike Davis for 1B. I decided to gamble on Holliday over Goldschmidt in Round 3 and he was snapped up before by Round 4 pick. I had my choice of Rizzo and Ike in the 7th round (chose Rizzo) and was set to take Ike in the 8th round but he was drafted 3 picks ahead of me. Went with Trumbo instead who has similar power and has OF-eligibility to boot.
- I ‘reached’ based on my rankings for Desmond Jennings in the 5th round. I wanted to get some SBs without sacrificing power and I felt he provides good balance. I was able to get Starling Marte at a much better value (15th round/ pick 220) to solidify SBs.
- I had no plans on taking a 2nd SP in round 6 but Sabathia was too good of a value to pass up. I think he is underrated because he’s hefty. Bunch of fattists out there.
- Drafted the boringest middle infield that middle rounds can buy in Kendrick (#160)/Yunel (#231)/Murphy (#250). Would’ve loved Rutledge but he went higher than I’d liked. I think these three can provide solid contributions in all 5 categories. With Jennings and Marte, I was able to avoid overpaying for an MI SAGNOF like Alcides Escobar (#127) or accept what I think will be poor non-SB stats from someone like Jean Segura (#240).
- Very happy with my bullpen. Waited as long as I could to pick my first closer (Greg Holland – round 10 / #141) and acted quickly to get a 2nd solid closer in the 12th round with Huston Street. Figure he’ll be very good when healthy and was able to get the Gregerson handcuff at minimal cost (#370). Hopeful that there are times during the year when one of these other relievers gets Save opps: Jared Burton, Carter Capps, Wesley Wright, AJ Ramos, and Kyle Farnsworth. The only reliever I wanted and failed to get was Josh Fields on Houston who went sooner than expected.
- After taking two SPs in the first 6 rounds, I waited until the 13th/14th rounds before I struck again with Vogelsong and Beckett. Not a coincidence they pitch in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium. Out of my 14 non-ace SPs, 10 of them pitch in pitcher-friendly parks: Petco (Volquez, Richard, Bass), AT&T (Vogelsong), Dodger Stadium (Beckett, Billingsley), Metco (Hefner), Safeco (Saunders), St. Louis (Westbrook), and O.co (Sonny Gray). I deviated from the plan for Derek Holland (was a good value, like his upside if he can minimize the HRs), Masterson (another good value, feel I can limit his exposure to away starts + LH-heavy teams), and decent K-rate pitchers that came at discounts because they will be lucky to deliver 20 starts each (Baker, Bedard).
- My 16 SPs were the 3rd most as one team drafted 18 SPs and another drafted 17 SPs. But, based on my projections, I easily drafted the most starter IP with 2,373 which was 173 IP more than the team with the next highest IP and almost 500 IP higher than the average team.
- I’m hopeful that my offensive depth will be enough. I gambled on two Astros 1Bs (Chris Carter, Brett Wallace) for CI/UTIL. I’m hopeful they will both get playing time and go 20+ HR / 70+ RBI. It will be a bonus if/when Carter gets OF eligibility and Wallace gets 3B eligibility.
- While I regret not picking Nolan Arenado earlier in the draft, I still think Chris Nelson (#291) will be a solid backup at 2B/3B and someone I can swap into the lineup when he is starting during a homestand. I still think Nelson gets the majority of starts through April/May as the Rockies buy time with Arenado to avoid Super-2 status.
- There was not a lot of power to be had for backups but I took a flier on Luke Scott (#531) figuring he usually has a few hot weeks and I can live with DL stretches.
- There was plenty of speed to be had for OF backups and prospects. I ended up with Darin Mastroianni, Jake Marisnick, Eury Perez, and Jimmy Paredes. Mastroianni has a 50/50 chance of being the Twins CF/leadoff hitter (fighting Aaron Hicks who I hoped to get but missed out on) while the other three are dark horse candidates for playing time but could see time if the starters underperform or get injured. Perez and Paredes have definite 30+ SB potential.
- Re: prospects, I went in realizing that the top prospects (Myers, Shelby Miller, etc.) were going to go higher than I liked. I ended up with only one guy in Scott Evans’ Top 50 fantasy baseball prospects list (Jake Marinsick – #25). Hopefully I have outsmarted Mr. Evans with some of my more under-the-radar prospect picks.
- Last and least, catchers. I did diverge from strategy and snag Doumit with my 9th pick (#130) as he was the last catcher available in my unofficial 2nd tier (along with Jesus Montero and Sal Perez). I waited until pick #340 to nab my 2nd catcher in Jason Castro – figuring he’ll deliver so-so stats but should get 400 ABs. Given that both those players (and all catchers in general) are a bit injury prone, I drafted two more catchers that should at least get 200+ ABs in Josh Thole and Jose Molina.