One time. That’s all I’m asking for. One time where all the BABIPs and xWOBACONs in the universe align to propel me to the $150,000 grand prize in the NFBC Main Event. I understand that I’m a huge long shot, especially given the fact that it’s my first time in this contest. But remember that movie Little Giants, where a bunch of rag-tag underdogs coached by Rick Moranis went on to beat the clearly superior Cowboys? That movie gives me hope that even the biggest long shots can come through sometimes. One of the pivotal moments in the Giants’ upset victory was when Rudy Zolteck let out a huge fart and cleared the running lanes for Johnny “Viper” Vennaro. I may not be planning to let out any massive farts during the draft (unless I accidentally pick Hyun-Jin Ryu) but I do think there’s a path for things to fall into place and for me to take down the overall. Another thing Little Giants taught me is the importance of preparation. While they had the Annexation of Puerto Rico playcall queued up for the game’s most important moment, I’ll have my “Mapping out the Main Event” pulled up throughout my draft. This is the 3rd and final installment of that series, where I take you through rounds 9-1 and provide you with the finished hypothetical product. If you’ve missed out on the first two parts of this series, check them out here and here. Remember y’all, we’re building this team backwards with a focus on constructing a balanced team that can compete in all 10 roto categories. I’ll give you my main target in each round as well as outline one back-up option if I miss on my main target. Let’s get to it.
Holy shit, the anti-Util-only mob gathered outside of my house the moment I wrote this sentence. They’re standing around with their pitchforks screaming “Roster flexibility!” at the top of their lungs. Calm down y’all, I understand that Util-only players are not ideal from a roster construction perspective. But why exactly am I going to pass up 34 home runs, 92 RBI, and a not-gonna-kill-me .255-ish average at this point in the draft? I have to fill the Util position with somebody! In the 9th round, I’m more than comfortable filling it with Reyes, who I think provides a solid floor but also some possesses some upside entering his 25-year-old season. Just keep raising that launch angle Franimal and we’ll be all good. That’s it for the Franmil breakdown but give me a second while I sing “Oh my Marwin” to the mob and shower them with Tommy Edman baseball cards.
Back-up option: Orioles’ outfielder Anthony Santander has an intriguing combination of power and above-average contact skills. I have some slight concern about his elevated K% against lefties but I still think he has a solid floor with some tantalizing upside.
Shake your Bohm Bohm and while you’re at it, give me that plus average, handful of steals, and developing power in the middle of the Phillies lineup. We know that Bohm’s .410 BABIP from last season is more unsustainable than me sticking with my Crossfit workouts but with that being said, I’m really intrigued by Steamer’s projected line of .287-22-5 for the Phillies’ third baseman. I entered this draft season thinking that Bohm was being overdrafted but we have to remember that being a successful roto player is not just about picking individual players, it’s about picking the player that best fits your team. I like the way Bohm fits my overall construction and I’ll feel good about slotting him into third base. For those of you that have been paying attention, I know that I said I planned on taking Justin Turner in the 12th round. Scrap that plan. We’re going with the all-around game and multi-position eligibility of Segura in the 12th and filling my third base slot here.
Back-up plan: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Robles had an ADP of 76 in last year’s Main Event, even though we knew there was a strong possibility that he would be buried at the bottom of the Nats’ lineup. Now check this out. His ADP over the past two weeks is 124, even though it’s been confirmed that he’s going to start the year hitting leadoff in front of that guy named Juan Soto. Sure, Robles’ 189 plate appearances in 2020 were a disaster. But remember y’all, in his 21-year-old rookie season Robles hit 17 home runs and stole 28 bases, while also scoring 86 runs mostly hitting from the 9-hole. We need to remind ourselves that not everybody has the same development path as Juan Soto. I’m willing to make a bet on Robles’ prospect pedigree and improved lineup position propelling him to a breakout season. While I’m not counting on a huge power breakout for young Victor, I think 15 home runs, 35 steals and over 100 runs scored is well within the range of outcomes. That profile is going in the top 3 rounds next year. I also love the fact that he’s been aggressive on the base paths in Spring Training, as he’s tied for the MLB lead with 4 stolen bases already. For more Robles propaganda, check out this piece from The Athletic that provides some details about the adjustments that Robles made this offseason.
Back-up option: Byron Buxton. Stolen bases dry up super quick so I’m going to make sure I leave this round with somebody who helps me in that category.
Here’s another player who’s going later in drafts this season as compared to last, despite what I see as an improved situation in 2021. Semien is moving from one of the worst hitters’ ballparks in the league (Oakland Coliseum) to one of the best (Dunedin/Buffalo/Toronto) as well as getting more at-bats in places like Fenway, Yankee Stadium, and Camden Yards. He’s going to be hitting at the top of an absolutely loaded Blue Jays lineup and will also be picking up second base-eligibility 10 games into the season. Don’t forget, Semien gave us 35 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and a .285 average in 2019, placing him third in the MVP voting. In what I see as a vastly improved context, I think Semien can come close to replicating those numbers.
Back-up option: Dansby Swanson
My SP2. I’ve seen a good amount of anti-Berrios talk this offseason, as it seems that some people think he’s being overdrafted given what he’s done to this point in his career. I’ll admit, Berrios hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that many had for him when he entered the league in 2016. While he hasn’t been a true ace, “La Makina” has stayed healthy, put up solid innings totals, and hasn’t had a full-season ERA above 4.00. You may want more than that, but let’s remember, Berrios is still only 26 years old and may not be a finished product yet. One of the most bullish signs for Berrios’s future outlook is the increased velocity that he displayed last season, which helped bump his K rate up from 23% in 2019 to 25% in 2020. Unfortunately, that was accompanied by a 3.5% jump in walk rate in 2020, which contributed to a career-high 1.32 WHIP. While that may not sound very encouraging, I’m intrigued by what Berrios can put together over a full season with that improved velocity. Berrios seems to be holding the velocity gains this Spring, as his fastball has reportedly been sitting at 95mph and hitting 97mph. Even if he doesn’t have a full-on breakout, I’m fine getting a pitcher here who provides me with a solid floor.
Back-up option: Zach Plesac
Boring but consistently solid, I’m comfortable taking Hendricks as my SP1. I understand he’s not going to be a strikeout asset but what Hendricks does provide is elite ERA and WHIP. I’d honestly prefer Maeda or Lynn in this spot but I’m skeptical they’re going to make it back to me at pick 55. That’s fine, I’ll take the elite ratios from Hendricks, which gives me a little more cushion to pursue high strikeout guys later in the draft and off the wire. Hendrick’s projections don’t blow you away but I think we’ve come to realize that ERA estimators and projection systems don’t quite understand how to quantify contact management savants like Hendricks. For more Hendricks propaganda, check out this fantastic Alex Chamberlain’s article over at Fangraphs.
Back-up Option: Lynn/Maeda
I’m not going to get into the whole launch angle debate around Vlad. Sure, so far in his career he’s hit a lot of ground balls. I understand those concerns, but to be honest, I’m more of a “big picture” kind of fantasy player. What I see in Vlad is a 22-year-old uber prospect who’s had some time to adjust to the big leagues, and is going to be hitting in the middle of a fantastic lineup in a great home ballpark. On top of that, all of the projection systems are pointing to a major breakout. Steamer/Razzball has Vladdy projected for 28 home runs a .296 average, which is the 4th-highest projected batting average in MLB. While Guerrero isn’t giving me many stolen bases, I think he does provide an elite power/average ceiling that’s difficult to find once you get out of the first 3 rounds. I think we’re looking at an upside of .300-30 home runs-120 RBI and if that’s case, we’re taking him in the late 1st/early 2nd round next year. Sure, I can wait until I see Vladito put it all together. But I’ll close this Vlad Jr. write-up with a nugget from another well-respected Vlad, high-stakes fantasy player Vlad Sedler. He correctly tweeted the other day that the biggest mistake in fantasy is saying “I’ll pay for it when I see it.” That strategy may have been viable 10-15 years ago but that approach is guaranteed to be losing one in today’s fantasy game.
Though we’re still only 340 plate appearances into his career, I feel confident in Bichette’s 5-category skillset. All of the projection systems seem to back this up, with Steamer penciling him in for 23 hon rons (shout-out to Simon Dice), 24 stolen bases, and a .279 average. As I mentioned in my Vlad Jr. write-up, I want to build my base of stolen bases and batting average in the early rounds. Given that Bichette checks both of those boxes and gives me one of the top-tier shortstops, I’m all-in on his current 2nd-round price.
You also may have noticed that this is the third Blue Jays hitter that I’ve taken so far. And that’s by design. While I recognize that I’m not playing daily fantasy, I think there are some principles from DFS that are still applicable in a season-long format. Nearly everybody stacks in DFS because we recognize the importance of correlation within one lineup but people rarely talk about the benefits of this approach within a season-long context. Y’all already know I like the Blue Jays situation. They’ll be playing in hitters’ ballparks in Dunedin and Buffalo for a good portion of the season, with a potential return to another positive hitting environment in Toronto. The lineup is also significantly improved with the additions of George Springer and Marcus Semien. Combine those factors with with what I see as likely break-out seasons from Vlad Jr., Gurriel, and Bichette, and I think the Toronto lineup is going to be putting up video game numbers throughout the season. Even if one of their regulars gets hurt, they can just slide Rowdy Tellez into a full-time role, who I think is another good bet to take a big step forward if given the opportunity. Now let’s imagine the effect that this influx of talent and breakout seasons would have on everybody in the Blue Jays’ lineup. We’ll have a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation in which all of the Blue Jays hitters accumulate more at-bats and more counting stats, enabling many of them to beat their projections.
Back-up option: Tim Anderson isn’t giving me as many home runs and RBI as Bichette but he’ll put up similar runs, batting average, and stolen bases. Also hits in a monster lineup.
I expect some combo of deGrom, Cole, Tatis, Acuna, Soto to go in the first four picks, which means that I’ll probably be looking at a choice of either Mookie or Turner with the (hopefully) 5th pick. I started out preferring Turner but I’ve moved to Betts because I like the shortstops better than the outfielders available in the second round. Not much to say here, both of dudes are bona fide studs and are going to be 5-category contributors.
Okay, let’s take a look at the finished product. Let me note that I’ve replaced some of the targets that I mentioned in part 1 of the article, as Joey Votto was diagnosed with COVID and Trevor Rogers and Tejay Antone have seen a significant bump in their ADP over the past few weeks. I’m also swapping out Robbie Grossman for Gregory Polanco, as I look at my overall offense and feel as if I could use an upside power bat coming off of the bench.
|Alec Mills (Streaming spot)||BN|
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: my pitching staff. I know it’s a contrarian approach nowadays to fade early pitching. Starters are being pushed up more than ever and the “pocket aces” trend has become increasingly popular. While I respect the people who advocate for pocket aces and I understand the premise behind it, I don’t think that strategy is optimal in 2021. I see all these people posting pocket aces draft boards in 15-teamers and I’m always left asking the same question. Where exactly are you getting your stolen bases and batting average from? Another reason that I’m willing to wait on pitching is because of the increased volatility that we’re going to see with starters this season. Pitcher injuries significantly increased in 2020 and I think it’s fair to assume that we’re going to see a similar rate, if not more in 2021. In an effort to combat that increased risk, teams are going to try to limit their pitchers’ innings and spread those innings out to their back-end starters, which is going to provide us with more viable streamers throughout the season (make sure you’re signed up for the Razzball MLB Roto Deluxe package to satisfy all of your in-season streaming needs). As we talked about in last week’s closer discussion, I understand that people want to seek out the feeling of security when they’re faced with a volatile situation. But I think we need to do the opposite. Rather than trying to seek out a feeling of safety, my opinion is that we need to embrace that volatility and find a way to leverage it, especially when we’re trying to beat 600 other teams in an overall contest.
As you can see, I’m not advocating that you do anything super extreme and wait until round 10 to draft a starting pitcher. I see people doing stuff like that and I think that’s just silly. I intentionally targeted players in Rounds 4 and 5 who are going to give me volume, but also tried to find starters with some upside in Berrios, Civale, and Stroman. Behind them, I have Lindblom and Kikuchi, who are going to be strikeout assets and are as likely as any other late-round pitcher to break out this season. I round out my the last spot in my rotation by playing the matchups with Matthew Boyd, Adam Wainwright, and Anthony DeSclafani. Maybe I’m trying to talk myself into this rotation like Jennifer Lopez tried to talk herself into dating Alex Rodriguez (we know how that ended), but I feel pretty good about the possibility of this staff keeping me in the upper half of all of my pitching categories.
I think my offense is pretty solid overall, though I may be a little short in power. I’m okay with that, as I’m confident that I’ll be able to find cheap power throughout the season. Not to beat a dead horse (who the fuck is beating dead horses anyway), but I made it a priority to bank enough stolen bases and batting average to place me near the 80th percentile targets in both categories. The benefit of building up that batting average floor is that it allows me to absorb more risk when taking those power-only guys that will crop up throughout the season. I also want no part of chasing speed, as it’s nearly impossible to find players on the wire that provide stolen bases who won’t also hurt me in other categories.
So I’ve given you more than 10,000 words and 30 player breakdowns over these past three articles. This was super helpful for my draft planning process but I hope that it was equally as helpful for you. More importantly though, I hope I’ve inspired you to believe in yourself when the odds are stacked against you. So whether you’re playing in the Main Event, going up against Rudy Zolteck in a farting contest, trying to snag a date with newly single Jennifer Lopez, or doing anything where you feel like you’re a huge underdog, just remember people, there’s always ONE TIME.