We’re back for part 2 of my Mapping out the Main Event series, where I take you into my planning process for the big kahuna of fantasy baseball contests, the NFBC Main Event. No long intros this week, but here’s the primer from part 1 to provide you with context for the rest of the article.
- The Main Event is a 15-team league that uses a 5×5 rotisserie scoring format. There’s a prize for winning your individual league but the main draw is the $150,000 overall prize for the best scoring team out of the approximately 600-team field.
- Roster: This is a 2-catcher league with your normal infield positions, 1 CI, 1 MI, 1 UTIL, 5 outfielders, 9 pitchers, 7 bench spots, and no IL spots. No trades allowed, meaning that it’s especially important to try and draft a balanced roster.
- Something you may notice is that I’ll be taking players ahead of their ADP. 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.
- For each round, I’ll 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.
- My KDS slot (draft preference) is going to be the 8-hole
- The ADP data I’ll be using is NFBC Draft Champion ADP since February 15th.
- This is a 30-round draft, meaning we’ll be breaking this article up into three parts. This week’s article will cover rounds 20-10.
- 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.
Glad to see Grey and I are on the same page here. Ol’ Danny boy disappointed us in ’19 and frustratingly fell into a pretty even timeshare with Pee-Pee Reese (McGuire) last season. While many have already jumped off of the Danny Jansen bandwagon, I think we sometimes forget how difficult it is for younger catchers to adapt to the big leagues. Jansen is still only 25 and was a well-regarded catching prospect just two years ago. Maybe it’s still a 60/40 split with McGuire or Alejandro Kirk but that’s fine with me. I just want every goddamn piece of the Blue Jays lineup that I can get. Rudy has Jansen projected for 12 home runs and a .232 average, which doesn’t sound great, but I think there’s upside for a little more in the power and average departments. The margins at catcher are so thin that if Jansen can even a manage a .245-.250 with 15 home runs, this will likely be a profit pick at his current price.
Back-up option: I know everybody can’t wait to see top prospect Adley Rutschman get called up, but we have no idea when/if he gets the call this season. Pedro Severino is still the primary backstop in Baltimore and usually hits 6th or higher when he’s in the lineup. If I miss on Jansen, I can wait a few rounds for Severino and move up on some of my later-round targets.
I’ve heard a lot of “why is Starlin Castro going so late” chatter this offseason but his price doesn’t ever seem to change. At a current ADP of 310, Castro seems like a no-brainer pick at this stage of the draft. One of my tried-and-true late-round strategies is to find guys who have playing time with even a tinge of upside. Castro fits that profile for me, as he’s penciled in to be the National’s every-day second baseman. That Nats lineup is improved this season and Castro is going to be in a prime RBI spot hitting behind Turner, Soto, Bell, and Schwarber. As we’ll talk about later in the article, it’s not easy finding players who can be a batting average asset while also not killing you in other categories.
Back-up option: I was skeptical of Ty France’s playing time but everything from Mariners camp indicates that he’s going to be playing every day and hitting in the middle of the their lineup. He’s had a great spring training so far and I imagine his price will rise by the time we reach late March.
The best thing to return from Korea since Dennis Rodman, Josh Lindblom is a priority target for me this season (sorry Josh, you deserve better than a Dennis Rodman comparison). Lindblom’s min pick over the past several weeks is 271 and I’m willing to blow that shit out of the water. Lindblom came back to MLB last year after putting up two stellar seasons in the KBO. You may look at his 5.16 ERA from 2020 and write Lindblom off as a guy who just can’t cut in the big leagues. But as I tell my therapy clients, I think we need to explore that a little more. Lindblom had a solid 27% K rate last season, which was backed up by a 12.8% swinging strike rate. He’s got a legitimate six-pitch mix arsenal that includes a 4-seamer with an 11.6% swinging strike rate. While Lindblom isn’t going to light up the radar gun, he makes up for that with a high spin fastball, ranking in the 98th percentile of fastball spin last season. ATC has Lindblom projected for a 4.27 ERA and a 1.24 ERA with a strikeout per inning over 158 innings. While that projection might not blow you away, I think it’s pretty damn solid for a 6th starter in a 15-team league. But here’s the thing y’all, I think there’s upside for more. The Brewers have significantly upgraded their defense with the additions of Kolten Wong, Jackie Bradley Jr., as well as the return of Lorenzo Cain. Having an elite defensive outfield is a plus for Lindblom, as he was a heavy fly-ball pitcher last season (41.2%). League-wide factors that are also of benefit to Lindblom include the elimination of the NL DH and the reportedly deadened ball that will be featured in 2021. While there’s still some uncertainty about exactly how the deadened ball will affect things, even a 5-10% reduction in home runs will have a pretty significant impact on the final stat line for someone like Lindblom. Lindblom also has an elite bullpen to back him up, which may impact his innings per start but will also help preserve those wins.
Back-up option: Mike Minor is one season removed from putting up a 3.59 ERA in 208 innings. His velocity appears to be up, as he was hitting 94mph in his Spring training debut. Another player that will see his price rise if he continues to show well in camp.
Kikuchi’s another pitcher with ugly surface stats (5.17 ERA) who deserved much better last season (3.37 xERA). The most encouraging aspect of Kikuchi’s season was his uptick in velocity, boosting his average 4-seamer to 95mph in 2020. He’s apparently carried those velocity gains into Spring Training, as it was reported that Kikuchi was hitting 96mph in his most recent Spring outing. Kikuchi also introduced a solid cutter in 2020 that he threw 40% of the time and registered a 10.5% swinging strike rate. The command is iffier than my chances of winning the Main Event but a peak at Alex Chamberlain’s pitch leaderboard makes me feel a little better, as Kikuchi had a solid 5.1% deserved walk percentage last season. He’ll be part of a 6-man rotation in Seattle, meaning that we’re not getting any 2-start weeks and probably can’t project Kikuchi more than 150 innings. I’m cool with that though, as I think we generally need to re-calibrate our thinking around what is a good innings projection in 2021. Yusei, I say, we’re all going to be saying ‘Kikuchi’ by the end of this season.
Back-up option: Elieser Hernandez
I’m reluctant to write up Canha in this spot because I have a feeling he’s going to go several rounds higher by the time I reach draft day. But this article is not really for me. It’s for you, my loyal reader (hi Dad), and I feel like you need to be aware of Mark Canha’s upside this season. The A’s appear to be leaning toward using Canha in the leadoff spot, as evidenced by the lineups they have been putting out this Spring Training (go follow @mike_kurland on Twitter to check out his indispensable Lineup Takeaways). Placing Canha at the top of the lineup certainly makes sense, as Marky Mark has displayed really solid on-base skills over the past few years, in addition to showing that he’s just a really good player. Check this out. Of players with at least 700 plate appearances since 2019, Mark Canha is 11th in MLB with a 141 wRC+, sitting just below Freddie Freeman, Cody Bellinger, and DJ LeMahieu in this stat. I know that wRC+ doesn’t score any fantasy points. However, it does ensure that a player stays in the lineup and usually indicates that they’re going to hit near the top of it. With the losses of Robbie Grossman, Marcus Semien, and Tommy LaStella, the A’s have a huge vacancy at the top of their lineup and Canha seems to be the most logical choice to fill that void. This would provide a nice boost to Canha’s counting stats and make him an easy buy at this price.
Back-up option: Mitch Haniger
Everybody’s afraid of being Kapler’d, meaning that Jake McGee is going too cheap at an ADP of 318. I expect that ADP to rise as we get closer to Opening Day, which is why I think I’m going to have to spend at least a 15th round pick on McGee in my Main Event draft. There’s a narrative that’s developed around Giants manager Gabe Kapler never wanting a true closer because of his wonky bullpen usage. What I think a lot of us forget, however, is that Kapler did actually use Hector Neris in that role when he was managing the Phillies back in 2018 and 2019. Neris shit the bed in ’18 but actually went on to notch 28 saves in 2019. Kapler pissed us all off last year but maybe that’s just a result of not actually having anybody who was worthy of taking the role. Kapler has stated that he wants more of a true closer this year and has said that McGee would be a “nice candidate” for this role. The Giants gave McGee a 2-year deal coming off of a stellar bounce back season pitching in relief for the Dodgers last year. I have faith in this new Giants regime and I think they’ll continue to get the best out of McGee, which is a damn good pitcher who had an elite 38% K-BB% rate in his 20-inning sample from 2020. I’m obviously expecting some regression in that K-BB% but my point is that McGee actually has the skills to be a top closer if he were to take the job. Worst-case scenario? He splits the saves with someone else while providing solid ratios, kind of like the Giants version of Will Smith (who I like as well). Seeing how Will Smith’s ADP is 180, I think we’re getting McGee at a major discount.
Since we’re talking closers, I just want to expand a bit on my closer strategy. I mentioned in part 1 of this article that my plan at closer is to wait and grab two of the tier 3 closers and then just try to play the FAAB game. Some may scoff at that idea and think it’s too risky but I think it’s the best play in this format. I get it, it’s human nature to crave safety and security. We come out of the womb and one of the first things we do is try and latch on to our mom’s boobs because that’s comforting. Similarly, many of us want to grab an early closer and feel that warm comfort of knowing that we have 30 saves locked up. Is grabbing a closer like sucking on your mom’s nipples? Somewhat. While there’s really not much downside to breastfeeding (at least according to my lactation consultant), there is a huge downside to taking a closer in those early rounds. See, the thing is that I’m usually passing up a stud hitter or starter at that point in the draft to lock up those “secure” saves. But let me ask you this. What happens when another team hits on a late-round guy or picks someone off of the wire who unexpectedly gets 25 saves (which we know is going to happen). In that case, that other team has a huge advantage over yours because now they have a similar amount of saves, while also having the stud hitter or starter they took in round 4. Sure, a guy like Liam Hendricks is more of a sure bet to give you elite ratios. That certainly has value but remember, that’s only around 60 innings of the 1,300 innings that you’re going to need over the course of the season. Bottom line, it’s not moving the needle that much. For a more much intelligent, empirically supported discussion of why we’re drafting saves wrong, go check out this excellent article by Alex Fast of Pitcher List from 2019. Fast’s argument made sense back then and I think it’s even more valid now because of the ambiguity around closer situations entering 2021. If you’re going to be a fellow save-chaser, I highly recommend reading Kerry Klug’s SAGNOF articles at Razzball as well as following @gjewett9 and @mdrc0508 on Twitter to keep up with bullpens around the league.
Back-up option: I haven’t had much interest in Adam Ottavino this offseason but recent quotes coming out of Red Sox camp are leading me to believe that Ottavino could get the first crack at the closer role there.
We’ve had a Catfish (Hunter), a Salmon (Tim), a Trout (duh), and we finally have a Bass. Anthony Bass is probably the smallest of all the aforementioned fish but here’s why I won’t be throwing him back this season: every indication is that the Marlins brought in Bass to replace Brandon Kintzler to fill their closer role. Everybody has a type. I like petite brunettes and the Marlins like ground-ball heavy pitchers to fill their closer role. I know there’s the Yimi Garcia stans out there who say that Garcia is the better pitcher and will eventually work his way into the role. While I won’t argue that Yimi is the more skilled pitcher of the two, I think people are underestimating the importance of experience and contract status when handicapping this situation. Teams are cheap. They don’t want a guy like Yimi Garcia to accumulate a bunch of saves this season and have his price in arbitration skyrocket next year. Yimi also has no closing experience and while you may think it’s silly, that matters. Sure, Bass only has 15 career saves but there’s something to be said for a guy who’s done it before (at least in the eyes of Don Mattingly). It’s also important to note that Bass is a decent pitcher. He’s not a huge strikeout guy, but a 21% K rate and 62% ground ball rate (2020 stats) will play. I see Alex Colome, who has a similar skill profile, going 100 picks earlier than Bass. That makes no sense to me, as we already know that Colome is going to be sharing the saves with Taylor Rogers. And let’s not be fooled by Colome’s 0.81 ERA from last year since that was accompanied by a 4.26 xFIP. I would honestly take Bass straight up over Colome this season.
Back-up option: Joakim Soria. It doesn’t have to be pretty, I’m just here for saves.
I keep hearing that “outfield is sooooo deep” but I have to vehemently disagree. To be honest, I look at a lot of the outfielders going at pick-200 and beyond and I see a ton of question marks, including injury risk and playing time concerns. Winker is one of those players who has a playing time issue, given that the Reds have a crowded outfield and have also made it clear that they see Winker as a strong-side platoon hitter. I’m a little hesitant to use such an early pick on a platoon hitter, but I need another outfielder and none of the other options in this range really excites me. One positive for Winker this season is the fact that the NL Central mostly features right-handed pitchers, meaning that he’ll be in the lineup for most of these intra-division contests. The other reason I’m in on is Winker is because he appeared to unlock more power during last year’s shortened season (.289 isolated power). While we have to be careful not to overreact to last season’s 60-game sample, I do believe we have to also consider that some players took a step forward in their development. I believe Winker was one of those players and he’s someone that I’ll be buying into this season.
Back-up option: Andrew McCutchen
In a vacuum, I don’t love Justin Turner. I’m not sure why Justin Turner would be hanging out inside of a vacuum but apparently that’s something people do these days, along with axe-throwing parties and other shit about the modern world that I don’t quite understand. Anyway, the point is that I didn’t start my draft prep saying “I need Justin Turner on my team” this season. But as I construct my roster, I’m seeing how difficult it is to build a good batting average base. The reality is that there are so few players, especially outside of the Top 100 picks, who I can depend on for a plus batting average while not also hurting me in other categories. People are taking Nick Madrigal in the top-200 because of his batting average and 15 projected steals, even though he’s also projected for 4 freaking home runs and is going to be buried at the bottom of the White Sox batting order. With Turner, I get a batting average asset while also getting solid power and counting stats in the middle of that ridiculous Dodgers’ lineup. The Dodgers aren’t going to push Turner during the regular season, meaning I’m probably looking at an upside of like 500 plate appearances. In those plate appearances, I can pretty much bank on a .280-plus average, 20 home runs, and around 75 RBI.
Back-up option: Jean Segura has similar batting average upside to Turner but can also provide 15-20 steals. I like him, I just hate that he’s projected to hit 7th in the Phillies’ lineup. If he can work his way back up to the 2-hole, this would be a slam-dunk pick. Also has multi-position eligibility (2B, 3B), which is super helpful in this format.
Razzball’s own Cool Whip has you covered with this excellent Marcus Stroman hype piece. Stroman opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID, meaning we only saw him in a Mets uniform for the second half of the 2019 season. Stroman changed his pitch mix and upped his K rate during that 2-month stretch, while still maintaining an above-average ground ball rate. It feels like we know who Stroman is, but remember, he pitched the majority of his career in the AL East in a home ballpark that plays terribly for ground ball pitchers. Even in that terrible context, Stroman still owns a career 3.76 ERA. Moving to the National league and adding a new split-change, I feel good about the chances of Stroman giving us around a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with nearly a strikeout per inning. I think we can also feel confident in his ability to provide wins on an improved Mets team. For more Stroman propaganda, go check out this fantastic article by Razzball’s TheTinDoor, in which he looks at starting pitcher strength of schedule. Make sure you go read the article, but one of the main takeaways was that the Mets’ and Dodgers’ pitchers have a huge advantage relative to the rest of the league in terms of strength of schedule. I find this information super helpful, as aside from my “set it and forget it” guys, I’m playing the matchups with the rest of my pitchers throughout the season. For this reason, I’m trying to find guys with as many soft landing spots as possible (get the f***away from my team John Means).
Back-up option: Jordan Montgomery
Civale is the prototypical Cleveland pitcher: Bad fastball, plus secondaries, and good command. Cleveland knows exactly how to mold this type of pitcher into a top-of-the-rotation starter, meaning I’ll be grabbing all the Civale shares that I can this draft season. While I believe in Civale’s skills and potential development, I also want to take advantage of Cleveland’s organizational philosophy to allow pitchers to go deep into games. That’s going to be especially valuable this season, as we know that most teams are going to be super conservative with their pitchers. While I doubt Cleveland runs Civale out there for 200 innings, we can be pretty confident that they’ll be on the less conservative end of the spectrum relative to the rest of the league. Zach Plesac is going approximately 100 picks earlier and while I like Plesac, I’d much rather get my Cleveland exposure by buying into Civale at his price. Civale also fits the profile of a player that I want to draft in the middle rounds, as he provides a solid floor but also has a very realistic path to upside. Entering his age-25 season, I could easily see Civale taking a step forward this season and going several rounds earlier in drafts next year.
Back-up option: Tyler Mahle is a popular breakout pick after adding a slider and bumping up his K rate last season. I slightly prefer Civale because of his better command and more pitcher-friendly home ballpark.
Back-up to my back-up: I might consider taking Braves’ pitcher Will Smith here. I am slightly concerned that closers get pushed up to a ridiculous point, meaning I might be taking a risk by assuming Bass and McGee will be there for me in rounds 14 and 15. Shit, I might be foolish for thinking that Smith lasts until round 10. Even though I want to wait on closer, I would like to make sure I have two closers to start the season. Smith won’t get all of the saves but I feel confident projecting him for 60%-70% of them while providing solid ratios in the process.
We’re done with Part 2! Give me some feedback and let me know whether you love, hate, or don’t give two shits about this fake team that I’m putting together (eh, keep that last one to yourself). As always, thanks for reading!