Baseball is back, friends!  Well, maybe not quite yet, but 2019 brings us the earliest opening day in MLB history (and that doesn’t even count the games in Japan a week earlier), so that’s something, right?  And I guess the offseason really hasn’t been all that slow, especially compared to last year, but it sure feels like it when you’re checking MLB Trade Rumors news every ten or fifteen minutes!

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your offseason.  Me, I started drafting fantasy baseball teams back during Thanksgiving weekend.  A couple of guys that I hooked up with ages ago during the NFBC in Vegas (probably a bad choice of words, not nearly as sketchy as it sounds) run a few slow drafts every year starting in November, which I eagerly agreed to participate in four or five years ago.  They are 15-team, standard 5×5 mixed re-draft leagues, with no timer rushing each pick (although folks are generally expected not to hold the clock up for hours upon hours, and it gets quite comical when owners get snippy about the amount of time others are taking when there’s three or four months to go before the first pitch of the season will be thrown).  The teams are anonymous, so while I know a handful of guys in the league, with about two-thirds of the teams I never know if it’s a fantasy baseball ‘pert (and I know there are several of them in these drafts), or a random friend/neighbor/mail carrier of one of the commissioners (although one would assume anyone agreeing to start drafting in November has a fairly significant interest in fantasy baseball).  We do play these leagues out — everyone contribute an entry fee that is just large enough to keep folks serious about both the draft and playing things out over the course of the season.

I’ve really gotten to enjoy the slow drafts, mainly because they usually take up about ten winter days each, and during those ten days I have an excuse to spend an inordinate amount of time doing baseball research that I really probably don’t need to start worrying about until sometime around the end of February.  They are also a great test to see how I really, really feel about a player when push comes to shove, and it still surprises me how often my gut instinct ends up going against the notes and numbers and ordered lists I’ve so carefully compiled.

This year, I did something I’ve never done before:  I ranked all hitters in one long list, without separating players into positional lists (though I did note positions by each player’s name, in a really cute color-coded way).  As some of you may know, my usual fantasy baseball preference is of the deep-league variety, and this is something that I will not be doing in my NL and AL-only leagues, where I need to pay a bit more attention to positional scarcity and such.  But I consider a 15-team mixed league to be exactly in the middle of the deep/shallow pool, and I felt that every position this year is deep enough to try drafting the best available hitter whenever possible, rather than worrying exactly how many second basemen that I really like are left.  (By the way, this started when I removed catchers from my master list, deciding that there was no way I wanted to pay for one, and just planning ahead that the two catchers I was required to draft in these leagues would be the last two picks I made, no matter what.  This won’t end up being my strategy in all leagues this year, but I was happy punting the position entirely at least for these first few drafts… if you really want to get queasy, take a look at an AL-only catcher ranking list for 2019.  It is NOT pretty).  So far the upshot of this is that I have a very strong outfield in each league, and really haven’t been too bummed about the late picks I’ve made to fill in the positions that I refused to reach for in the middle of the draft.

In a slow draft, I feel like one of the main differences in terms of strategy is the ability to see trends developing and deciding whether or not that will affect your choices.  In one league, I noticed about halfway through the draft that one team was absolutely hoarding speed, which I probably would never have picked up on in a real-time draft.  I mean, one guy started with Trea Turner and later grabbed Dee Gordon, Mallex Smith, and Billy Hamilton.  When I did a quick math check, I realized that with the gap there would be between first and second place in the stolen base category, the number of steals a team would need to come in second or third in the category was most likely much lower than one would expect from a league of this size.  Once I realized that I was already in surprisingly good shape in steals, I changed my mind about my next pick, ignoring the semi-speedy guys that were left and going straight for some power.  It’s also easier to avoid getting caught up in positional runs in a slow draft… when four or five closers have gone off the board in a round and you only have a minute or two to make a decision, it’s hard not to panic and grab whatever ninth-inning guy is near the top of your queue.  But with time to think and look over your options, you may realize that you can afford to wait another round or two, and instead grab that hitter that you’ve been hoping would fall to you.

The main information winter drafting provides is a sense of how others value players, especially since there isn’t exactly a lot of ADP information floating around in November.  Of course, each draft is very different, and depending on the ebb and flow, positional runs, speed/power binges, etc., a player may be drafted several rounds later in one draft over another, even if most of the owners feel the same about his value.  Meanwhile, player values can and will change constantly during the off-season.  Overall though, I still find crazy-early drafts to provide a great heads up as to whether or not other owners feel the same way about the guys you know you’re probably going to be targeting in March, whether it’s how early a pick you’ll need to get certain studs early in the draft, or how long you can wait on your sleepers towards the end of one.

I’m just going to touch on a handful of players (in a completely random, haphazard order) that I thought I might draft but didn’t, found myself drafting more enthusiastically than I thought I would, or was whose value I was curious about due to wildly varying opinions going into the offseason.  After each player’s name, I’ll list his overall draft position in each of the three drafts I’ve done this winter.  For now, I’m going to just talk about hitters, and if we’re all so inclined, there’ll be an upcoming post that covers pitching.  If you’d like to know where a specific player that I didn’t mention was drafted, feel free to drop a comment.  I’ll also include the first round of each draft at the end of this post.

Jonathan Villar (125, 111, 103)  I wrote a post on him at the end of last season discussing how much more valuable he’d been over the last couple months than people probably realized, and that I’d probably grab some shares in 2019.  So far, I haven’t; he’s not been dropping as low as I’d hoped.  A good spring and I may not end up owning him at all.

Daniel Murphy (162, 63, 119).  To say the trade to Colorado made a difference in his draft position is a bit of an understatement.  I think the first number was too late even without the trade, and the second one is way too early even with it.  I have always had a soft spot for Murphy but don’t know that I’m going to want to pay what I need to own him, and of course his price will only go up if he looks healthy this spring.

Jesus Aguilar (54, 72, 77).  Another player that I wouldn’t mind owing but probably won’t because I’m not confident enough to pay his 2019 price.  Could still end up being a nice value though, if he repeats or builds on 2018.

Gary Sanchez (57, 62, 56).  The fact that he is still being drafted this high after a disastrous 2018 shows how anxious folks are to get a catcher who could make a difference.  As I said, I’m basically on a catcher boycott right now, but if Sanchez does in 2019 what folks thought he’d do in 2018, I suppose grabbing him where he’s getting drafted could pay off.

Aldaberto Mondesi (36, 42, 43).  In terms of 2019 value, seems like he was the most disagreed-upon player by the experts at the end of the season.  I feel like I’m a little higher on him than some, but still didn’t come close to drafting him.

Mallex Smith (104, 83, 96).  One of my favorite sleepers going into last year; obviously his price has climbed significantly since March of 2018.  I haven’t drafted him yet, but I may end up with him on a few teams once I wrap my head around where I’d need to draft him.

Ramon Laureano (194, 180, 185).  Wanted him in each league and waited too long every time.

Miguel Andujar.  (70, 62, 65).  Pick 70 felt like he was being undervalued , so I went ahead and grabbed him in the fourth round of my second draft.  Gotta figure there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to play — and hit — whether he’s on the Yankees, or any other major league baseball team.

David Dahl.  (82, 80, 72) .  I didn’t really target him, yet ended up taking him in two of my three drafts.  Perhaps I overpaid, but round 6 or later seemed like a fair price with this league set-up — it won’t be a disaster if he busts, and if he does finally actually get to play and goes nuts…

First Rounds:

Draft 1:  Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, J.D. Martinez, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, Alex Bregman, Jacob deGrom, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Javy Baez, Christian Yelich

Draft 2: Trout, Mookie, Turner, Ramirez, J.D., Lindor, Arenado, Yelich, Scherzer, Bregman, Machado, Harper, deGrom, Sale, Altuve

Draft 3: Trout, Mookie, Ramirez, Lindor, J.D., Yelich, Scherzer, Acuña, Turner, Arenado, Bregman, deGrom, Baez, Machado, Harper



  1. The Great Knoche says:

    Hopefully the Villar momentum goes backwards. He’s up to 97 NFBC ADP right now. I was hoping to get him in round 8/9 in 15 team draft which is now looking doubtful.

    Ramon Laureano is also creeping up into undraftable range, although he’s gettin taken right after Buxton. I’d rather have Ramon.

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:

      @The Great Knoche: Yeah, I’m surprised there’s that much love left for Buxton, though I suppose the upside is still there. I’ve gotta look things over to figure how high I’m willing to go on Villar since I know I won’t be able to draft him where I wanted to — hopefully folks will look at him as a speed-only guy and forget that he’s likely to hit around 15 home runs as well.

  2. Squat Cobblers says:

    Great stuff Laura. Love the strategery talk / early drafting discussion.

    Agreed on Villar/Mondesi. I will avoid the Mallex/D Gordon/Hamilton guys and target players that won’t kill me in BA and/or HR-RBI..Therefore, I’ll be drafting either Mondesi or Villar everywhere.

    Having said that, NFBC, 15-team adp over the last month has Mondesi at 40 and Villar at 74! So it appears the days of drafting Villar after pick 100 are over. And I’ll likely draft 3 hitters in the first 3 rounds that I like better than Mondesi… Oh well, So much for getting one of these two.

    Doing a search for 1.) highly likely to have a starting job, 2.) 11+ HRs, 3.) 15+ SBs and 4.) won’t kill my BA…leads me to target the following after pick 90 or so:

    Robles-Current ADP: 95 (assuming Harper doesn’t return)
    T Anderson-125
    J Polanco-200

    Thinking H Perez-372 might be a sneaky late pick if Spangenberg subs all over the field and Hiura stays down.

    I know you mentioned you like Laureano. Do any of the others above look enticing to you?

    Thanks! and Good luck this year!

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:

      @Squat Cobblers: I’ve already drafted Peraza, Anderson, and Odor. Love Peraza this year, especially his sneaky BA upside, which I’m always trying to look out for. Didn’t think I’d draft Anderson, but got him somewhere around that ADP you listed, which was I much better price than I expected. Bader and Meadows are both going a tick higher than I expected, but I would definitely draft either of them at the right point. Oh, and I have Polanco and Mullins each on a team as well now that I’m looking at your list again — if their ADPs stay around where they are, I’m sure I’ll be talking about both of them in my upcoming deep-league posts. Thanks for reading — can’t get to the draft discussions too early as far as I’m concerned!

  3. Phil B.

    Phil says:

    “but it sure feels like it when you’re checking MLB Trade Rumors news every ten or fifteen minutes!” How’d you know?

    Taking Betts over Trout is just being silly. And Ramirez going 3rd is simply crazy.

    Agreed on Sancez too, what are people thinking taking him in top 70 picks? Also all in on Andujar.

    Good stuff!

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:

      @Phil: Sorry, didn’t respond directly to your comment… winter rust I guess!

  4. Laura Holt

    Laura Holt says:

    Hey Phil, thanks for reading! Will be interesting to see if Andujar’s ADP moves at all once off-season moves are complete and his situation becomes completely clear one way or another.

  5. Cap says:

    Villar and Mondesi make for an interesting comparison. Both middle infielders with pop, speed, and likely weaker batting averages. Each is expected to be a major part of their teams offense. Taking Villar 60 picks (4+ rounds) later than Mondesi seems like a winner. While Mondesi probably has more upside given the KC offense and his skill set, a case can be made that Villar is the safer pick. Taking a second tier SP in that end of 3rd to early 4th round slot would just add to the trade-off.

    Curious as to your thoughts

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:

      @Cap: Hey Cap — yeah, I agree with you, I feel a little more comfortable with Villar 4 rounds later. I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference; if Mondesi does anything close to what he did at the end of last year he could still be a huge value where he’s being drafted I guess. Honestly if their current ADPs hold, I may not end up drafting either, as one thing these early drafts have taught me is that MI is pretty deep in a 15-teamer or shallower. I love Peraza (current NFBC ADP is 100/fantrax 109), I’ve drafted Odor (127/148), Lourdes Gurriel (221/215), and even Jed Lowrie (275/288). Like you said, for now I’d rather grab someone else in those 3rd/4th round slots especially — some very nice SPs, not to mentions a stud OF or 3B should be available.

  6. Nick says:

    !Hi Sweety,

    welcome back for the new season…

    here is my dynasty team hitters : (we’ll tlk about pitchers… in your next post !)

    C: Alfaro
    1B: Abreu
    2B: Villar
    3B: Rendon
    SS: Lindor
    OF1: Acuña
    OF2: JDMartinez
    OF3: Kris Davis
    Util : Castellanos
    Bench :
    SS backup Tim anderson
    3B Bakcup : Andujar , oh yeah :p
    1B backup : i’ve put a bet on Pete Alonso, but looking at Grey’s rankings, i’d rather go Voit (else of consideration is Jake Bauers),,, Desmond and Braun avb, but i’d prefer some youth
    2B bakcup : Adames, but i may go Odor for a comeback year (grey’s rankings again) , last year i was high on Calhoun,,, (else of consideration is Hampson)

    so would you drop : Alonso for Voit (or Bauers)? Adames for Odor?

    other OF avb: Buxton, Kepler, Franmill Reyes, and your Laureano

    Frenchy Nick

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:

      @Nick: Hey Nick, happy January! That’s quite a nice collection of young men you’ve gathered for yourself! As for your 1B backup, I don’t think I’m quite as high on Voit as some — not that he couldn’t be a nice contributor next year, but I feel like we’ve seen his ceiling, and am worried that the floor (i.e. potentially losing his job I guess) could be not-so-great. I like Alonso and have him in my deepest NL-only league so am hoping for great things as soon as realistically possible, but I wouldn’t go nuts for him if you are in win-now mode — in that case I guess I’d probably prefer Voit. Honestly, even though I somehow haven’t drafted him yet, I have an admittedly soft spot for Desmond and while I abhor his potential BA drain, I’d find it really hard to pass on a potential 20-20 guy if you are trying to compete this year. (Though I should mention the caveat that I do tend to have a lack of patience for prospects, and dynasty leagues in general, and a weakness for guys that I should probably move on from). I like both Odor and Adames a lot this year, but definitely have Odor ranked significantly higher — he is inconsistent and a complete crapshoot b/c his numbers have rarely matched his underlying metrics, but I think he has the talent to be worth a shot that he’ll put things together over the course of a whole season (still only 24!) As for the other OFs you mentioned, don’t think any of them is worth a look right now given your other options. GL with whatever decisions you make on this team; looking forward to hearing more over the next weeks/months!

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