For a two-time World Series Champion with over 40 years of experience in MLB front offices, Dave Dombrowski gets a bad rap. The consensus on the baseball operations veteran seems to be that his only formula for success is to either ink big contracts or swap top prospects for elite talent that comes accompanied with hefty salaries. However, Dombrowski’s maneuvers have largely come as a result of the hands he has been dealt and the relative competitiveness of his various organizations at the time of his hire. He turned the 1997 Florida Marlins, a 1993 expansion team, into a World Series Champion. He built one of the greatest starting rotations in modern history in Detroit. He came to Boston in 2015 with a mandate to take the Red Sox to the top and did just that in 2018. Is he perfect? Far from it. Can he win a championship? Clearly. You should desire the same.
I say this to explain why I frequently refer to my strategy in dynasty leagues as Dombrowski-esque. It is not simply because of Dave’s suave, shiny gray hair to which I look forward to sporting myself in my mid-50s. In these formats, managers are drafting using such polarizing strategies that the key is to seek out excess value by pitting your opposition’s own intelligence (or so it may seem) against them. Seek opportunity where it presents itself, and if that means honing in on proven talent to win now, then do so. There will always be newer, shinier (but not as shiny as Dave’s hair) prospects to target in these leagues down the line. That’s why today I will be reviewing my selections in the 12 team, H2H points dynasty startup mock that fellow Razzballer Dylan Vaughan Skorish and I partook in this past week. Although I will reveal all of my selections, my focus in this piece will be to review my strategy and discuss the prospects I targeted in this mock draft.
Starting off, remember what I said about opportunity. The same goes for competitive windows. If everyone around you is stockpiling prospects and trying to prove they are the very best at identifying young talent, realize that it makes more sense to compete against a small handful of teams in the short-term while the other two-thirds of the league battle it out three-plus years from now and beyond (chances are, half their prospects won’t pan out anyway). And here is the most important thing: just because you build a roster of proven, veteran talent, does not mean your team will suffer three, four, five years in the future — or even more. There will be a new prospect/first-year player draft in 2021. And 2022. And 2023. In these drafts, there will be former college prospects joining MLB organizations after having their names called, instantly vaulting into top 100 status and possessing MLB timelines of potentially two years or less. Along with those players will be breakout prospects who were overlooked the year prior, but significantly raised their stock as a result of the previous MiLB campaign. I’m not saying to build your roster as if it’s a redraft league. What I’m recommending is to go into every dynasty draft with an open mind, seize value/opportunity where you see it, and don’t be a slave to proving you can identify prospects better than your peers. You could prove just that and never win the league once. It’s all about winning. If you do just that with Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley and Clayton Kershaw on your roster in year one, it’s just as valuable as winning with former prospects in year five. Don’t expect to have a massive winning window just because you stockpiled in year one, as you never know how these youngsters are going to develop.
Without further adieu, let’s get to my first several picks.
In a nutshell, my strategy in this draft was defined by my first four picks. I didn’t necessarily snag four aging players, but I didn’t put an overly high emphasis on youth, either. However, all of these selections will be under 30 at the start of the 2021 season and only one (Arenado) will turn 30 during the upcoming campaign. The average age of my first four picks was 27.25 years — a total I am 100% comfortable with in drafts such as these. The way I saw it, I snagged a trio of top-20 players for 2021 and likely 2022 as well, which reinforces my hypothetical intention to compete for a championship with this roster the next three years to come, possibly even five depending on how the aging curve plays out for my core players. For some perspective, Luis Robert (pick 17), Kyle Tucker (21), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (22), Wander Franco (27), Jarred Kelenic (37), Jesus Luzardo (32) and Sixto Sanchez (41) all went during these rounds as well. This is simply to show just how drastic the differences in strategy can be from team to team in these drafts. I observed the emphasis that was being placed on premium prospects and youth, and decided my best route was to build a win-now team that will be aging out of its prime roughly around the time my prospects are ready to hit their own (not just arrive at the MLB level, but excel). We’ll get to those names later.
Again, these targets were not necessarily emerging players in their early 20s, but rather established MLB players with relative youth on their side. Every player I drafted in these rounds will be either 27 (Fried, Framber) or 28 (Lamet, Baez) on Opening Day 2021, and each player recently celebrated their birthday with the exception of Lamet, who turns 29 in July. After not selecting a pitcher in the first four rounds, I grabbed three fairly young arms with under 300 career innings on their resume (Lamet has under 200, albeit with existing health questions). For what it’s worth, I view all three of these pitchers as top-30 starters for 2021 (and you should, too, if you’re keeping up with your homework) and given their age, there’s no reason to value them any lower for the 2022-23 seasons as well for the time being. As for Baez, I continue to find myself perplexed by just how much his stock has fallen as a result of his disastrous, 60-game season in 2020. Truthfully, I’ve never been much of a Baez fan and have never owned him in any leagues, but he was a steal for me at 81, even when baking in the fact I already drafted Lindor and Torres. In redraft leagues, I would be okay taking him even higher. Again, for reference, other players to go during these rounds were Julio Rodriguez (52), Randy Arozarena (56), Cavan Biggio (61), Kyle Lewis (62), MacKenzie Gore (67), Ke’Bryan Hayes (76), Ian Anderson (77), Alec Bohm (80), Alex Kirilloff (90), Andrew Vaughn (93), Gavin Lux (94) and Spencer Torkelson (96). While all these players and the aforementioned ones from rounds one-through-four were selected, I found myself entering round nine without a single prospect… as a prospect writer.
Round 9, Pick 9 (105): Jasson Dominguez, OF
Round 10, Pick 4 (112): Clint Frazier, OF
Round 11, Pick 9 (129): Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Round 12, Pick 4 (136): Dylan Bundy, SP
Round 13, Pick 9 (153): Max Meyer, SP
I started off my next five selections by breaking through into the prospect realm, selecting Yankees uber-prospect Jasson Dominguez, who turned 18 this past week. This is one selection I wasn’t incredibly pleased with, as I allowed the direction of the draft to force my hand to a degree. But still, I did so while getting a prospect with as high of a ceiling as there is in the game, so I’m okay missing here when weighing the bust potential against the relative upside. Thereafter, I took 26-year-old Frazier alongside a duo of veterans in Goldschmidt and Bundy. Goldy represented the first player I drafted sitting on the wrong side of 30, as he’ll play the near-entirety of the 2021 season at 33 years of age. However, this is a points league and I snagged Goldschmidt just over 30 spots past his 2021 ADP (98) in redraft leagues. This is the type of selection I will continue to have firm beliefs about, even in dynasty formats: if you can get a steal on a proven commodity in the middle rounds of a draft, I will take that player every time vs. adding a top 100 prospect who may never become a formidable fantasy asset. As for Bundy, he represents another arm I see as a borderline top 30 starter in 2021 and at 28 years of age for all of the 2021 season, he’s a long-term asset as well. Rounding out rounds nine-to-13, I added the electric Meyer, who wields an 89-92 MPH slider and a fastball that reaches 100 MPH. Those were perhaps the best two overall pitches in the 2020 MLB Draft and I happily added him in round 13 after seeing some arms go in the single digit rounds that I have significantly lower grades on. Other players to be drafted in these rounds were Marco Luciano (101), Adley Rutschman (102), Dylan Carlson (103), CJ Abrams (104), Michael Kopech (109), Noelvi Marte (110), Kristian Robinson (113), Austin Martin (115), Bobby Witt Jr. (120), Nate Pearson (124), Jo Adell (125), Dustin May (127), JJ Bleday (128), Corbin Carroll (131), Casey Mize (137), Drew Waters (141), Nick Madrigal (142), Zac Veen (146), A.J. Puk (148), Spencer Howard (151) and Vidal Brujan (152). For what it’s worth, Skorish grabbed Abrams the pick before I was going to take him — a fine selection.
If I were Grey, I might title this tier of picks “like father, like son” or “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” because Blackmon is nearly old enough to be Gorman’s dad. 14 years separate the two, so that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point: I hit two entirely different ends of the spectrum with these picks. Funny enough, the average age from these four players comes out to 27.25 (same as my first four picks), which is why your third grade teacher taught you about mean, median and mode and why to always lean on them collectively while analyzing data. Obviously, Blackmon is a controversial pick in a dynasty startup draft, as he’ll turn 35 this July. However, I viewed him as a valuable, win-now starter in my outfield mix alongside Yelich and Frazier, and he was available at nearly 100 spots after his redraft ADP on NFC (89). That’s the kind of value I’m talking about and the type of pick that can help you win in the short-term. There will always be time to recoup youth in the years to come, especially if you stockpile a few prospects in later rounds once your lineup is filled. Again, that was just my strategy in this particular draft.
My drafting of Muncy was another example of attempting to find such value, as his redraft ADP currently sits at 93 and I was in need of a starting second baseman before honing in on more prospect talent. Speaking of which, I used my picks in rounds 16 and 17 to draft Gorman and Garcia, who are just 20 and 21 years of age, respectively. Based on the valuations I observed in this draft, my own personal opinion of Gorman should have placed him in roughly the ninth or 10th round. Some may argue the signing of Arenado hurts Gorman’s long-term outlook in St. Louis, but the kid can flat-out hit and has generational in-game power in my estimation. Garcia was one pick I regret, as I would have preferred to snag him a round or two later, but given that I already drafted four starters and had every position on my roster filled save for catcher, it’s one I’m okay swallowing. Other players selected during rounds 14-17 were Triston Casas (158), Triston McKenzie (163), Riley Greene (164), Ryan Mountcastle (168), Logan Gilbert (173), Hunter Greene (175), Tyler Stephenson (176), Trevor Larnach (182), Tarik Skubal (185), Cristian Javier (186), Daulton Varsho (188) Emerson Hancock (193), George Kirby (196), Luis Patino (197), Edward Cabrera (200), Cristian Pache (202) and Grayson Rodriguez (203). Although I am not going to continue this exercise into my final two tiers of picks, I do want to note that Heston Kjerstad and Asa Lacy went 206 and 224 overall, respectively.
A catcher and a reliever, what a riveting tier of picks! This will be nearly as exciting as discussing the top 10-20 catchers for 2021 fantasy baseball. As a matter of fact, finding myself still in need of a catcher, I went with a top five option at the position and focused on the short term. I’m a big fan of Rutschman and a believer he is going to develop into one of the premier fantasy catchers of the last two decades, but he and other high-upside youngsters alike were long gone, and I was happy to vulture the value. Plus, unless you’re getting a blue-chip guy like Rutschman, I don’t truly see catcher as a position to heavily invest in long term, and Grandal should still have a few years left as a top ten option at the position. Bassitt will pitch all of 2021 at 31 years old, but as my fifth starter, he should provide plenty of rotational stability in the short term. After undergoing Tommy John surgery and subsequently missing all of 2020, Hicks is already healthy for Spring Training and will be just 24 for the entirety of the upcoming campaign. That made him a good fit for my somewhat aging roster, considering I was still in need of two relievers. However, my favorite pick of this tier was Jung, another player I have graded significantly higher than where I got him. If only I had landed Vaughn or Sixto — I would have been celebrating and dancing down the street like I was on a Japanese game show. Nothing is guaranteed with prospects, but Jung looks like about as safe of a bet to provide 25 homers/.265/75+ steaks as an established corner bat as any. He was one of my highest graded college prospects in the 2019 MLB Draft, when the Rangers selected him No. 8 overall. In his first pro season, he batted .316/.389/.443 with a 16.2% K-rate and 9.1% BB-rate across 198 plate appearances split between Rookie ball and Single-A.
Round 22, Pick 4 (256): Jazz Chisholm, 2B
Round 23, Pick 9 (273): Matthew Liberatore, SP
Round 24, Pick 4 (280): Anthony Santander, OF
Round 25, Pick 9 (297): Domingo German, SP
Round 26, Pick 4 (304): Sam Delaplane, RP
These were the final five rounds of the draft, and I selected three prospects to pair with a 26-year-old outfielder and a 28-year-old starting pitcher. Truthfully, my main regret in this tier was losing out on Hedbert Perez in the 25th round, whom Skorish snagged one slot before me at 296 overall. That damn Skorish, let me tell you. Who would have thought putting two Razzball writers back-to-back would throw a wrench in prospect-drafting strategy? I pivoted from there and settled upon German, who I don’t feel great about (for obvious reasons) but feel possesses legitimate upside in both the short and long term, given where I got him. Jazz Chisholm is a prospect I have gone over in the past and am still bullish on despite other ‘perts’ placing declining grades on him. Speaking of prospects I have broken down previously, I also hauled in Liberatore at 273 overall. *swoon* You can relive that prospect breakdown in its entirety here. Still, given the fact that I missed out on countless premier prospects while building the best roster I could for 2021-23, I was thrilled to get a pitching prospect of Liberatore’s caliber in the 23rd round of a dynasty startup draft. *double swoon* He’ll be 21 for all of the 2021 season. *triple swoon* At 26 years of age, Santander represents a two-way type of sorts, as he instantly factors into my short-term plans but also could continue develop into something more as he enters his prime. Lastly, I was still in need of a second relief pitcher as my final pick rolled around, so I elected to use it on a prospect with tremendous upside. We were required to draft at least five “prospects,” and I ended up with seven — eight if you include Garcia. Delaplane could be the next James Karinchak to hit the Bigs, as he hasn’t been talked about a ton to this point, but could become a major storyline in his call-up year, which is likely to be the upcoming season. Delaplane registered a 0.49 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and 58 strikeouts across 37 Double-A innings in 2019, while only walking nine. As a Seattle farmhand, he could see a high-leverage role shortly after reaching the MLB. Plus, this was a mock, so what the hell, right?
In summary, I certainly did not draft the perfect roster. None of us did. There are several picks I wish I could have back and others I wouldn’t change even with an unlimited number of do-overs. That said, I was thrilled with the amount of win-now talent I was able to stockpile while simultaneously adding seven prospects I’m very high on. This exercise was not an excuse to flaunt my picks, as I’m sure many readers and even other writers here at Razzball likely disagree with countless selections I made. Rather, the purpose here was to illustrate the drastically different strategies that teams deploy in these formats, and how many times, it is important to remember that winning in year one counts for just as much as winning in year seven.
With that said, it’s time to put a bow on this exercise. That said, let me know what you think: picks you liked, picks you didn’t like, how you would have attacked this type of draft given the different strategies, etc. As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.