For the first time in the history of Torres, yours truly will be participating in the NFBC Main Event. I didn’t do anything to earn that entry, I just decided that it was more worthwhile to invest a lot of money in a fantasy baseball tournament than it was to put food on the table or replace the holey underwear I have on right now. But what if I win? Well, I’ll still be wearing holey underwear but at least I’ll have an extra $150,000 to invest in fantasy baseball next year! While taking down the Main Event would be fantastic, I also recognize that it’s not the most likely outcome. See, the people I’m playing against are the best of the best, the “sharks” of the fantasy baseball world. A minnow like me is going to need to really prepare and come up with a solid game plan to stand a chance here. So why not kill two birds (or fish) with one stone by writing an article about it and including you in that process?
Here’s what we’re going to do over the next three weeks: I’ll be going through the 30-round draft and tell you who I’m targeting in each round, with a brief explanation for why I like that player. While this isn’t a unique concept for a fantasy baseball article, I do want to add a few twists to differentiate it and make it even more helpful for you, my loyal reader (hi Mom). See, I think us fantasy baseball analysts generally don’t put enough emphasis on the importance of roster construction. Think of it this way. If you’re trying to make a meal, does it matter if you know the best ingredients but don’t know how to combine them? Listen, I recognize that my way of building a roster may be different than yours, especially since this will be specifically targeted for an overall contest. The point is that I want you to start thinking more about general strategy and roster construction during your draft prep, rather than just looking at individual player profiles or rankings. Another way in which I’ll try to make this article a little different is by planning out my draft in reverse, starting at round 30 and working my way backward. I’ve heard several successful high-stakes players advocate for this approach, since knowing what players you have available at the end of a draft can help you make more informed decisions during the earlier stages of the draft. Here’s some bullet points to set you up for the rest of the article:
- The Main Event uses a 15-team 5×5 rotisserie style format. This article is going to focus more on roster construction specifically as it relates to that scoring system. It’s also important to know that it’s a 2 catcher league with 5 outfielders, 7 bench spots, and no IL spots.
- Something you may notice is that I’ll be taking players ahead of their ADP in this article. And that’s by design. I don’t give a flying fuck about ADP, I’m going to be aggressive and get my guys, not just because I like them but because they fit my team build. Hey, watch out for that flying fuck!
- For each round, I’ll also mention a player that’s going to be my fall-back option if I miss out on the guy I’m targeting. No bitching about getting “sniped” on a player, we should always have multiple back-up plans in place.
- The ADP data I’ll be using is NFBC Draft Champion ADP since February 15th. I’ll also use the recent LABR draft results as an unofficial ADP barometer.
- This is a 30-round draft, meaning we’ll be breaking this article up into three parts. This week’s article will cover rounds 30-21.
- I understand that it’s impossible to truly plan out a draft, as no draft is going to completely follow ADP. But whether we’re talking about a fantasy baseball draft or life in general, I think it’s better to approach things in a prepared and intentional manner rather than just being reactive to what’s happening around us.
There’s a pretty low likelihood that a player I pick in the 29th round is actually going to be someone that stays on my team for the majority of the year. I like Wittgren as a speculative closer who I can hold for a few weeks, gather some more information, and then easily cut him loose if nothing develops during that time. Terry Francona has already said that Wittgren is the next man up if James Karinchack doesn’t hold the job, which is certainly possible given Karinchack’s lack of experience in the role and inconsistent command. There’s also been some doubt cast as to whether Karinchack is even the full-time closer, as there’s been speculation that he could be used in more of a “fireman role.” My guess is that we’ll have some more clarity on this situation by the time we reach the end of March; however, if nothing changes, I’m willing to take a shot on Wittgren with my final pick. My current plan for closers is to grab 2 of them from that 2nd/3rd tier unless Raisel Iglesias falls to me (he won’t) and then speculate on an 8th inning guy who I think has the potential to step into the role. It sure feels nice to experience that feeling of safety and security when taking one of those early closers but I’m more than comfortable living dangerously, scrounging the bargain bin, and getting my saves off of the wire.
This pick may change depending on what the Marlins decide to do with their 5th starter. According to Marlins beat reporter Craig Mish, Trevor Rogers and Nick Neidert are battling this Spring for that final rotation spot. Here’s to hoping it’s Rogers, as the 23-year-old former first-round pick flashed some really impressive skills in 7 starts for Miami last season. His final numbers from 2020 don’t look pretty but a peek under the hood gives us reason to get excited. Rogers put up a 30% K rate in that limited sample, which was backed up by a 33.9% O-Swing and 13% Swinging Strike. While his ERA was a hideous 6.11, Rogers’ xERA according to Baseball Savant was a solid 3.49. Listen, even if Rogers wins the 5th starter role, he’s likely not going to provide much more than 100 innings. I’m okay with that, as I’m going to at least feel good starting Rogers whenever he’s at home and possibly even more than that. If it doesn’t work out or Rogers gets sent down to preserve his innings, I drop him and pick someone off of the wire. We need to be aggressive churning those last few roster spots anyway so that scenario ain’t gonna botha me.
Back-up option: I’ll be targeting at least one Padres pitcher in the earlier rounds and wouldn’t mind backing myself up with San Diego left-hander Adrian Morejon, who may be used in a Julio Urias-type role.
Yandy Diaz is known for two things: big muscles and lots of ground balls. The ground balls were plentiful in 2020 for Diaz, as he had a ridiculous 66% ground ball rate and accompanying -7.9 degree average launch angle in the shortened season. The big muscles obviously can’t do much when you’re pounding the ball into the ground, as Yandy had a Nick Madrigal-esque .079 Isolated Power last season. While many are writing off Yandy after last year’s worm-burning extravaganza, I think there’s reason to buy back in on Diaz in 2021. Diaz was hampered all of last season by a hamstring injury, which eventually led to a month-long IL stint in September. Despite battling through that injury, Yandy actually had a 138 wRC+ and walked (23) more than he struck out (17) in his 138 regular season plate appearances. While wRC+ doesn’t’t do anything for us from a fantasy perspective, I do think it’s a solid indicator of a player’s overall skill as a hitter and can also be predictive of which players are going to get consistent at-bats. Though we all tend to have a bias against the platoon-happy Rays, Yandy has mostly been a full-time player since joining Tampa in 2019. Still only 29 years old, the main thing that has prevented a full-on Diaz break-out has been health. Early reports from Rays camp are that Diaz lost 20 pounds and improved his agility this offseason by eliminating sweets, sugar, bread, and cutting back on rice. As a fellow Latino, I have the utmost respect for Diaz being able to back on rice, since it’s certainly not something I would be able to do. I also respect those huge biceps and believe that Diaz can actually use those things to provide us with solid power to go along with a plus batting average and solid counting stats hitting atop the Rays lineup. We were drafting Diaz around pick 250 last season and now he’s barely being drafted in the top 450. I think that’s a major buying opportunity and one that I’ll be taking advantage of. He’ll be a bench bat to start out but I’m optimistic that Yandy turns into a season-long corner infield or util option.
Back-up option: Freddy Galvis-has an everyday job, dual-position eligibility (so important in this format), and plays in Camden Yards
I’m targeting Waino strictly to be a rotation stabilizer and a guy that I can feel comfortable throwing out there in decent matchups. I’m obviously not buying into Waino’s 3.15 ERA last year, as that was accompanied by a 4.39 SIERA. He’s not thaaaat bad though and I’ll gladly take him at his current ADP of 385. Let’s not overthink it, people. He’s pitching in the National League for a good team with a solid defense in a fantastic home park and gets to face the Pirates 3 or 4 times per year. We can also feel confident that Wainwright will get a full complement of innings, assuming his 39-year-old arm can ramp back up for another full season. I’m not enthusiastic about this pick but the reality is that I don’t need to hit a home run in every round. A Wainwright pick is like a blooper that dunks in over the head of the second baseman. It’s not exciting but it gets the job done (or it’s just a meaningless single and does nothing to improve my win expectancy).
Back-up option: Anthony DeSclafani-Love the move from Great American Smallpark to Oracle Park. Velo increase in 2019 that led to increased K rate and solid 3.89 ERA. Never got on track in ’20 after entering season with muscle strain, watch this Spring.
Go Tejay…that’s my Tejay. Go Tejay…sorry y’all I got a little carried away watching Tejay Antone’s Spring debut in which he was was throwing 99mph and struck out 5 of the 7 Dodgers hitters he faced. It’s hard not to get excited about the 27-year-old Reds’ right-hander, as Antone’s Statcast page from 2020 is as red as the team he plays for. Antone was a middling prospect heading into last year but certainly opened eyes with his improved velocity and subsequent bump in strikeouts (30% K rate). He’s also part of the Spin-Cinatti club, as Antone displayed 98th percentile spin on his fastball and 95th percentile spin on his curveball in 2020. Tejay is currently in a battle for the Reds’ 5th starter role with Michael Lorenzen. To be honest, I’m hoping that Antone loses that battle so that his ADP doesn’t shoot through the roof and I end up missing out on him. I’m totally fine with taking Tejay here even if he’s just a multi-inning reliever to start out the season. In my opinion, he’s the perfect bench piece; I can use him if I’m in a pinch but he also has major upside if things break right. Even if Antone’s in the ‘pen, I do think he sees his fair share of spot starts, though I’m be willing to bet that he eventually works his way into the rotation either due to injury or ineffectiveness from one of the Reds’ starters (looking at you, Wade Miley). One thing I like to do when evaluating a player is to ask myself whether I’ll be at a huge disadvantage if this player hits their upside and I don’t have him on my team. Given the tantalizing skills, potential opportunity, and current cost, I think Tejay fits that description and is a priority target of mine.
Back-up option: Adbert Alzolay
I’ve had a weird infatuation with Rockies catcher Elias Diaz since I used him a few times while playing DFS back in 2018. Like not a sexual or creepy infatuation, it’s just that he’s someone who I think about more often than I should. I don’t even remember if he did anything in those games I played him in DFS but I do remember he was hitting clean-up for the Pirates and was displaying some really nice batted ball data at the time. His 277 plate appearances that season were actually low-key fantastic for a catcher, as he put up 10 home runs and had a .286 batting average that was backed up by a 14% strikeout rate. Diaz fell off the face of the earth for a few years after that but thankfully, he’s back on earth and starting for a team that plays half of its games closer to the sky than anybody else. I like hitters playing close to the sky and I like catchers who I can count on to start the the majority of their team’s games. The Rockies have indicated that the 30-year-old Diaz is going to be their primary catcher this season, which makes sense given the fact that their only other catching option currently is rookie Dom Nunez. Diaz has what looks like a full-time role and is going to be playing half of his games in Coors, which would be enough to get me excited. See, the thing with Diaz though is that he actually has some ability. ATC has Diaz projected for a .260 average, which is obviously really solid for a catcher. I also think there’s more power in his bat than the projections are giving him credit for, as evidenced by his .180 ISO in 2018 and 113.9 Max EV in 2019. Also, check out this tweet by Sam Chinitz of Rotoballer, where he takes a look at players that improved their bat speed last season. Diaz was at the top of his list of bat speed improvers and according to Chinitz, Diaz showed the largest increase in bat speed of any player since 2015. I honestly don’t know how predictive that it but it is a data point that I’m factoring into the all the other positives that I think are working in Diaz’s favor. I hate the catching landscape this year and I like Diaz so much that I’m totally fine waiting on catcher and nabbing him as my second backstop.
Back-up option: Jose Trevino: Small sample but had a 12.5% barrel rate last season. It’s catcher y’all, we’ll take anything we can get.
I already explained to you in my Anthony Rizzo piece that I’m a boring guy so I might as well stay on brand. See, I like building my hitting base with average and speed guys, as those players are almost impossible to find later in the draft. That usually puts me slightly behind in home runs and RBI, which I’m okay with because I’m likely to have a guy like Upton waiting for me after pick 300. Upton is projected to hit 5th in the Angels’ lineup behind Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani. That’s not boring, that’s exciting. He’s going to play everyday and the HR and RBI should be there. Easy pick for me at this spot as my 6th outfielder.
Back-up option: Hunter Renfroe: Projected for around 25-27 home runs but I think there’s definitely upside for more. Sign me up for one of the most pull-happy, fly ball-heavy hitters in the league moving to Fenway Park. Fuck it, I think I want Renfroe over Upton but I’m too lazy to change it now (lazy and boring, my wife really hit the jackpot).
Back-up option to back-up option: Josh Naylor
I gave you my Matt Boyd/Mitch McConnell take within this “ADP Faller” article. He’s someone (Boyd, not McConnell) I’m targeting as a bounce-back candidate this season, as it was reported that Boyd pitched through two nagging injuries in 2020. Despite the disastrous final line from last season, there were some positives that came out of 2020, namely the development of Boyd’s changeup. Add in a deadened ball and I think there’s a good change that we at least get the 2019 version of Boyd, which many people were enthusiastically drafting last year. I think there’s upside for even more than that.
Back-Up Option: Caleb Smith
I gave you my disgusting Robbie Grossman take here. Go read it while you’re sitting on the can. But if you’re not sitting on the can (I know you are) then I’ll just give you a brief overview of why I like Grossman this season. All indications at this point are that Grossman is going to the be the everyday left-fielder for the Tigers. AJ Hinch loves him more than trash cans and the Tigers went out and gave him a 2-year deal. I think Grossman’s going to be hitting atop the lineup every day and he’s going to give you a nice little power-speed combo without killing your batting average. Sir Robbie’s not going to win your league but I think he’s undervalued and a perfect target as a fifth fantasy outfielder. I will be honest though, I worry that Grossman’s the type of player that could be negatively impacted by MLB deciding to go all homicidal with the balls. With that being said, I’m still targeting him, if only so I can use more “gross” puns before it’s all said and done.
Back-Up Option: Harrison Bader
If I miss out on Joey Votto this year, I might be left with almost as much regret as former Reds’ announcer Thom Brennaman after he used a homophobic slur on national television. That’s why I’m bumping him (Votto, not Brennaman) to round 21 and making Votto a priority target of mine. Let’s just start with the projections. The Bat X projects Votto for 93 runs, 25 home runs, 84 RBI, and a .261 batting average. If we plug those numbers into Rotochamp draft software, Votto grades out as the 118th most valuable player for 2021. While I’m not the type to just draft off of a projection, I do at least consider that a signal that I need to pay attention to. Votto has also said that he made a conscious effort to hit for more power in the second half of last season and that he plans to do have the same approach this coming season (check out this article by Trent Rosencrans and Eno Sarris in The Athletic for more details). We also know that Joey V will be in the lineup every day and will be slotted into either the #2 or #3 hole, playing half of his games in one of the best hitting parks in the league. If this more aggressive, power-hungry Votto shows up in 2021, he’s going to absolutely smash his ADP. Some may have doubts but I pride myself and see myself as a man of faith, as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos that will be a home run. And so that will make it a 4-0 ballgame.
Back-up option: Obviously a different player than Votto but I would pivot to Bobby Dalbec here. Would probably then scrap my plans to draft Upton/Renfroe and target Naylor, who won’t be as much of a drain on my batting average.
Okay y’all, we’re over 3,000 words in and that’s just part one. Even if you completely disagree with my targets and/or thought process, I hope it’s helpful to at least go through that mental exercise. I don’t know about y’all but all that exercise got my brain feeling as jacked as Yandy Diaz right about now. I’m going to give it a rest, stay tuned for part 2 dropping next Friday. Thanks for reading, feel free to leave comments below.