I tried to open my eyes, but the sun was beaming death rays directly into my pupils. It was hot and sticky, like September in NYC hot and sticky. Yuck. My head was groggy and my body was aching. With my eyes no longer melting, I was able to survey the land. Trees. Lots of trees. Mud, bushes. What the hell had happened to me? Just as the synapses in my brain were starting to fire, I began to hear something in the distance. Boom da da. Boom da da. Boom da da. I reluctantly rose from the ashes and set forth towards the drum beat. I was thirsty as hell. Hopefully, there was water. Lots of water there, as nothing would be more satisfying and refreshing. After trekking for what seemed like days, which was in actuality more like 10 minutes, the Boom da da, Boom da da, Boom da da turned into BOOM DA DA, BOOM DA DA, BOOM DA DA. I had arrived. My thoughts of water all but dissipated, as the discovery of Niko Goodrum, a 15/15 player during a normal season at pick 239 in NFBC drafts, quenched the thirst for all facets of my life.

Goodrum is 28 years old, 6′ 3″, 218 pounds, and bats from both sides of the plate. He was selected by the Minnesota Twins back in 2010 with the 71st overall pick. In eight minor league seasons in the Twins organization, Goodrum produced a .250/.333/.379 slash with 42 homers and 122 stolen bases in 2796 plate appearances. The walk rate was routinely above 10% while the strikeout rate was in a palatable range of 25%.

In 2017, Goodrum elected free agency and signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers. He made the opening day roster and became the super-utility player for the major league club, playing all four infield positions along with the corner outfiield spots. His two seasons with the Tigers had been remarkably consistent.

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Visualize a game of Pong on the original Atari. For you millenials, here you go. Now imagine that your head is the ball. Pong. Ouch! Pong. Ouch! Thanks MLB and the MLBPA, because that’s how it has felt following the negotiations to start the season. But, but, but….Can I get an amen? Amen! Thanks to the old lady in the back. Baseball is back! At least on paper. Hopefully the Rona and his/her compatriots let us measly humans have some homeruns and strikeouts back into our lives. With that said, when Scott White at CBS Fantasy sent out the bat signal for a 12-team mock draft, I equipped my scouts with enough provisions so that they may get a detailed lay of the landscape. Before I unveil the map, I want to thank Scott for allowing me to participate. Now, for your viewing pleasure…

Here’s a LINK for the roster grid.

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Canned foods are good to have…..in the event of a nuclear holocuast, zombie apocalypse, and/or global pandemic. Usually I would not include the “and” in the above sentence, but we live in strange times that not including it would classify this piece as fiction. Anyways, back to canned foods. You buy lots of them, stack them on the shelves, then pray that you never have to open them. I get their utility. What I don’t get, though, are the canned foods that have NO PRESERVATIVES written on the label. How? One of life’s great mysteries. Another enigma I stumbled upon the other day was that Dansby Swanson was being drafted as the 224th player in NFBC drafts from 5/1/2020 to 6/20/2020. <insert Nancy Kerrigan sobbing why?>

Last November, Grey wrote a sleeper article on Swanson. That Grey guy is a wise, young, fella. To show that I don’t just parrot Grey and ride his coattails….Who am I kidding? Have you ever ridden coattails? It’s a glorious experience, especially when you can grab Grey’s mustache and use them as handlebars. I digress. I wrote a Bear or Bull article on Swanson back in June of last year, so I’ve been bullish on his prospects for a while now.

So, why is his ADP so low?

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….I sort of Long for him. How this website remains free is beyond me. Anyways, here’s a thought experiment for you. Say you were out shopping for shoes and you see a pair of Nikes for $150, while the Mikes are right next for $15. Which do you buy? Even if the quality of the two products are similar? For those who buy shoes for the status symbol, then the Nikes are the obvious choice, but for the practicality-inclined, the Mikes are the no-brainer. For fantasy baseball, there are some who draft players on name value, which is fine, but sometimes the name becomes a blinder which prohibits the eyes from identifying similar, yet cheaper players. Shed Long of the Seattle Mariners may be just that player, as he is being selected as the 418th overall player in NFBC drafts from 3/1/2020 to 5/24/2020. You won’t believe who the Nikes to Long’s Mikes is.

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From 2015 to 2017, Chris Archer threw over 200 innings in each season and racked up 252, 233, and 249 strikeouts respectively. Then, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the All-Star break in 2018, and was wheeled down into the basement lab of Ray Searage. When he resurfaced, Archer produced the highest xFIP, homerun rate, and walk rate of his career. Hip hip hooray for Ray Searage! Entering the Rona TBD season of 2020, Searage is out and Oscar Marin is in as pitching coach. Is there value with Archer, as he is the 67th starting pitcher and 244th overall player being drafted in NFBC drafts from 3/1/2020 to 4/26/2020?

During the three-year span when Archer was slicing and dicing American League East batters, he was primarily a fastball, slider, and changeup pitcher. So, of course, when Searage got a hand on him in 2018, he broke what was successful and incorporated the sinker/two-seamer into his arsenal. After not throwing the pitch for three years, Archer started throwing it over 10% of the time. Why do you ask? Well, throwing low in the zone and pitching to contact was an organizational philosophy, which neutered both Tyler Glasnow and  Gerrit Cole in the past. Good times.

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In 2014, the Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million contract. Doh! He only pitched 145.2 innings that season due to arm fatigue. The following season was cut short due to Tommy John surgery. 2016 consisted of only 23 innings and in 2017, Bailey had elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and finished with 91 innings pitched. 2018 brought DL stints due to knee inflammation and a subsequent benching after posting a 1-14 record with an ERA of 6.09. Doh! But then last season showed a flicker of hope, as he made improvements after being traded to the Oakland Athletics. Now that he is in Minnesota, and being drafted as the 396th overall player in NFBC drafts, is there profit to be mined here? Or is it just more Doh! from Homer?

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In these dystopian times, my mind can only wonder if Mad Max could ambush and/or eradicate COVID-19. Probably not since the Rona is invisible, but Max Rockatansky could do unimaginable things when mad, so I’m not completely dismissing the possibility. There is another Max, though, who may ease the pain that COVID-19 has brought into our fantasy baseball universe, and that’s Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins (Max Scherzer is too old and happy from winning the World Series). And this Max is mad as well because he’s being drafted as the 136th overall player in NFBC drafts from 2/1 – 3/23. Is it warranted for this Max to be mad, and can he bring a ray of sunshine into these gloomy days?

Kepler was signed at the age of 16 back in 2009 for the largest signing bonus ($800k) ever given to a European-born player. He then spent three years in rookie ball, where he hit for a high average, showed good plate discipline, had a high BABIP, and produced 10 home runs and 7 stolen bases in 269 plate appearances during the 2012 season. As he moved up the ranks, the walk rate continued to improve (from 10% to 13%), while the strikeout rate remained very low (13% to 15% range). The BABIP also remained above .300 while Kepler continued to hit for a good average. When he finally received consistent playing time with the big club in 2016, the batting average and BABIP both plummeted, while the walk rate went down to 9% and strikeout rate went to 20%. Not uncommon when making the leap to the majors. He was a 18 home run and 6 stolen base player the first two seasons in the majors. Then in 2018, things started to improve. The walk rate went back to above 11% while the strikeout rate cratered to 15.7%. The batting average and BABIP continued to trend lower, though. He ended the season with 20 home runs and 4 stolen bases. Last season, Kepler broke out with 36 home runs but only stole 1 base. The walk and strikeout rates were similar to 2018, but the ISO spiked while the batting average increased to .252 with a BABIP of .244.

Kepler ended last season as the 107th offensive player for fantasy, so the NFBC ADP seems fair. Is there room for improvement?

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Billy Bob was gracefully galloping across the Texas plains, chasing that magnificent butterfly he had seen five minutes earlier. The sun was blazing, the wind was lazy, and the CV-19 was raging, but all Billy Bob could think of was calibrating his senses so that when he swung his net in the air, the butterfly would be his. But then…………..aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. He was oblivious to the human-sized sinkhole and fell feet first for what seemed like hours, but in reality was just a few seconds. After gravity was defeated by the floor, Billy Bob ended up in a cavern about 10 x 10 x 10. In the middle stood a stand with a book placed on top of it. Billy Bob got up, shook the dirt off his clothes, and proceeded to inspect: The Book of Isiah. Intrigued, Billy Bob turned the page. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 24 years old, 5′ 10″ and 176 pounds. Meh. .238/.299/.322 slash with 1 home run and 3 stolen bases in 222 plate appearances last season. MEH. About to shake his fists and curse the gods, Billy Bob then turned one more page: .378/.410/.757 slash with 4 home runs in 39 plate appearances during Spring Training. Maybe Kiner-Falefa was a caterpiller and is now ready to transform. Did Billy Bob find his buttefly after all?

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Yusei Kikuchi experienced the full gamut of emotions last year. He followed in the footsteps of Prince Akeem and came to America, where he had to learn a new language, culture, and game. His father passed away from cancer, while becoming a father for the first time himself. On the mound, he experienced glory by pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays and struck out 10 Indians in seven innings back in May. On the flip side, he allowed 5 earned runs in a game three times, 6 earned runs four times, and 7 earned runs once. He did start 32 games, so there’s that, but the final line was 161.2 innings pitched, 5.46 ERA, 16.1% strikeout rate, and 6.9% walk rate. On average, he’s being drafted as the 434th overall player and 178th pitcher being selected in NFBC drafts from 2/1 to 3/11. Am I writing up Kikuchi as a peace offering to Donkey Teeth (noted Kikuchi lover) after hating on his other love, Luis Robert? Kind of, but for full disclosure, I’ve drafted Kikuchi everywhere. Here’s why:

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Reynaldo Lopez allowed the fifth-most home runs last season and had game logs that would have made NBA players jealous. There were four games allowing three homers in a game and one game serving up four. There were 14 games in which he allowed at least five earned runs, with six of those games giving up six earned runs and two games with eight! Reynald-NOOOOOOOOOO. But I’m intrigued for some weird reason. Is it the 296 ADP in NFBC drafts from 2/1 to 3/9? Could be. Maybe it’s the fact that he throws mid-to-upper 90s. I’m always a sucker for speed. I blame Maverick and Goose. Or could it be the six-inning, 14-strikeout performance in April of last season? How about the complete game, one-hit, 11-strikeout game against the Cleveland Indians in early September? Let’s dig in and see if we can say Lope-YESSSSSS.

Lopez signed with the Washington Nationals back in 2012 as an international free agent from the Domincan Republic. He pitched in Single-A until 2016, when he logged 76 innings in Double-A, 33 innings in Triple-A, and 44 innings with the big club. With the major league team, Lopez finished with a 4.91 ERA, 8.59 K/9, and 4.50 BB/9. The following year, he was traded to the White Sox. He suffered a rib injury in 2017, which kept him at 47.2 innings pitched that season. In 2018, Lopez pitched 188.2 innings, had a 3.91 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 3.58 BB/9. Last season, he pitched 184 innings, had a 5.38 ERA, 8.27 K/9, and 3.18 BB/9.

I know, I know. Yuckaldo Nopez, right?

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