Welcome to over-reaction season, friends! I’ll admit, I’ve drafted Jordan Walker in the 11th round already, and I have Adalberto Mondesi rostered as my [checks notes] starting Middle Infielder. The season is spicy!

There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to draft a team. However, there are more “statistically optimal” and “downright stupid” ways of drafting teams. When in doubt, always choose “balanced” roster composition. Unless you’re in a league with unique scoring settings. If you’re one of those weirdos, then draft whatever makes you wake up with such verve and enthusiasm that you lace your coffee with hot sauce.

Especially in roto and head-to-head formats — which is probably 75% of you readers — you don’t get extra points for clobbering your opponent with 35 surplus Wins or 70 surplus Home Runs. It’s useless to win one category by a 2x-3x margin if that means you lose 3-4 other categories. And if you’re in a tournament, you won’t claim the overall pool if you can’t compete in each category.

Think about your build, and what makes sense for that build. Your build is somewhat affected by chance — your draft order, and how the people in front of you draft — which means that it’s good to think about it like a chess opening.

In a classic game of chess, your optimal play is likely pawn to E4 — you control the center, you start attacking, and you force your opponent to respond in defense. But there are over 1,300 ways to open a chess game — some of them are more optimal, and some of them are suboptimal.

Generally, the optimal way to start a fantasy baseball draft is with a 5-tool hitter that plays every day, like Trea Turner. The second-best opening is a power hitter — Vlad or Yordong or Ohtani (and Ohtani is still the 1.01 in best ball leagues). From there, you’ll encounter a number of different strategies — some players want Gerrit Cole, and others want Bobby Witt Jr. By now, y’all should know that I will almost never take a pitcher in the first round, unless I’m purposefully trying a pocket aces build (i.e., starters in the first and second round) in order “to see what happens.”

In this year’s TGFBI draft — which is a 15-team roto tournament — I went with a “Hero SP” build. I took Aaron Nola at pick 25 (round 2), followed by my RP1 Ryan Pressley in Round 4. My next SP came in round 9, in the form of Joe Musgrove (discussed below), and then I took 4 more pitchers in the next 6 rounds: Kyle Wright, Brady Singer, Jon Gray, and Alex Lange (RP2).

My Hero SP build suits my playing style: I tend to do better on mid-and-late round SP, so I prioritize getting the hitters that help my build. I don’t like playing the waiver wire (thus my affinity for best ball), so I want to collect as many HR/SB/SP/RP as possible. Your opening should suit your playing style. As the great AI ShakespeareGPT once said, “Know thyself, and your fantasy teams will follow.”

Let me know how your early drafts are going, and let’s get some news and rankings below!

News and Notes

Joe MusgroveI mean, I can’t lift a cheeseburger to my face before dropping it all over my plate. I kid, I have no time for plates. The burger glops all over my belly and splatters on my laptop like a cutaway from a slasher movie. You ever stop and think that a cow lives through a slasher movie plot before they become our $1.29 lunch from a gas station? Funsies! ENYWHEY. Joe Musgrove can probably lift more than us regular Joes and Janes, except for when he dropped a weight on his toe. Can we call him “Joe the Toe” yet? Musgrove is slated to miss [reads the digital fishwraps] at least 2 starts. When Rudy first heard of the injury, he subtracted 20 in-season games, or 3-4 starts. The Padres had planned to use a 6-arm rotation to start the season anyway. How progressive of the Padres to take inspiration from Vishnu! I picked up Musgrove at a stunning 5-round discount in TGFBI as my SP2. Sure, it’s a risk. There are running backs in football who break a toe, tape it up, and come back the next week. There are people who play through plantar fasciitis with minimal effect, and those who can barely stand. I mean, half the world is drafting Jacob deGrom in the second round despite his elbow being held together with congealed nacho cheese. The Athletic indicates there’s a non-zero chance Musgrove misses no MLB starts, and there’s another Athletic article saying he won’t touch a baseball until the end of spring training. See what you get for being owned by the New York Times? I don’t play conservatively, and I’m drafting Musgrove at a massive discount. If we hear something about his rehabilitation status, then we can change our later drafts. For now, Musgrove seems like he could be a massive SP2 discount for teams that fade pitching, or a no-brainer SP3 for 12-team leagues.

Tyler GlasnowSpeaking of random injuries that linger, Glasnow is dealing with an oblique strain. This can be nightmarish for pitchers (see Jack Flaherty’s Odyssey). Remember Elieser Hernandez? Lat strain, but same concept — a core muscle pull can lead to massive deficiencies in pitchers. I remember as a kid, I had the Nolan Ryan Pitcher’s Bible. It instructed would-be-pitchers to do hundreds of sit-ups per day. How many IP did Ryan end up throwing? More than Glasnow will this year. TySnow (or is it GlasLer?) is officially a glass cannon. I’m not sure why so many people consider him a “must-have” starter (myself included) — he hasn’t topped 150IP since 2017 (minors included). We all love the stuff, but from my armchair analysis position — wouldn’t it make the most sense to turn Glasnow into a high-leverage reliever? John Smoltz this thing and let’s enjoy Glasnow closing out a run of Rays World Series wins rather than having the monthly “he’s injured again” update. ENYWHEY. Glasnow is slated to miss all of April and at least half of May, which makes him a last-round draft pick in 12-teamers, and an avoid in industry tournaments.

Grayson RodriguezWe love a good rookie hype story out of spring training, don’t we? Remember when Randy Dobnak introduced a new slider and whiffed everybody on the planet in 2021? He went on to have a sub-5 K/9 2021 and hasn’t seen the Majors in nearly 2 years. Of course, GrayRod is on a different planet than Randy Dobnak, but the principle still applies: Spring Training is not actual MLB. When GrayRod’s teammate and uber-prospect DL Hall debuted last year, Hall’s first start resulted in 5ER in 3.2 IP, and he maintained a cumulative 10+ ERA through his first four appearances. Woof. But the Orioles brought GrayRod along on many of those trips while he recovered from injury, ostensibly to learn the MLB ways. In my TGFBI league, GrayRod was drafted before Brady Singer, Tony Gonsolin, Jon Gray, and Kodai Senga. At this point, we don’t know if GrayRod even breaks camp with the Orioles. From a rookie contract standpoint, it would make sense for the Orioles to keep him in the minors: he’s just 23, was injured for half of 2022, and they don’t need to start his service time clock for any pressing reason. Are the Orioles going to win the AL East in 2023? Again, just spitballing here because we don’t know for sure, but it seems pretty bold to expect early-season success from GrayRod. Rudy has him down for 120ish IP, which screams “Service Time Manipulation” and “Add him on the waiver wire in May.” I’d avoid in 12-team drafts except as speculative SP6. For tournament drafts, I’d minimize exposure — the AL East is a tough division, and there’s not a lot of upside for a rookie pitcher om that environment.

Kenta MaedaPitchCon so loud, your mom could hear it in the stands. Still, Maeda sang. Our favorite sleeper from 2021 that isn’t named Ketel Marte seems like he’s ready for MLB work again after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. There are those pitchers that are just kinda fragile, and Maeda’s always been in that category. Rumors swirled that the Dodgers knew something was up with Maeda’s elbow, which is why they relegated him to the bullpen at the end of his tenure in LA. Now 34 and on the Twins, we can expect some shine off of Maeda’s ratios and temper the IP more toward “16-team starter” than “12-team starter.” Maeda will likely slot at the end of the Twins’ rotation, and he’s probably not appearing on your 12-team roster. Let’s put it this way: his ADP is up near 360, which is 40-round draft territory. If you’re looking for a RazzSlam arm, Maeda is a fine dart throw — if we regress his career ratios by a notch, he’s still a 9 K/9 guy with a sub-4.00 ERA and FIP. Problem is, Maeda will probably throw something like 120 IP. Twins being the Twins, there’s a non-zero chance that Maeda gets traded at the deadline and ends up as a Roleless Rob on a playoff team — the same spot where he finished his tenure with the Dodgers. Woof. Personally I love Maeda and will watch him every minute of a non-blacked out game, but there’s a fair amount of risk and not a ton of upside to drafting him in 2023.

Confidence Score

Time for the juicy bits! The usual spiel: my system demonstrates confidence in a pitcher on a per IP basis. These aren’t necessarily ranks, although they do filter nicely into a hierarchical order. I take my personal confidence score and then multiply it by Rudy’s industry-leading IP projections, which helps elevate lesser-known players and demote players who are popular by virtue of social engineering. If you have your own IP projections, feel free to take my column on the right and multiply it by your projections. There’s no significant difference between players who are within, say, 10 points of each other. Use that similarity to search for value by ADP. ADP is from March 5, 2023. I fixed Luis Castillo and Luis Garcia in this edition. Chris Sale is kind of the arbitrary cutoff — if I paste the whole table here, it makes for a ridiculous amount of scrolling. Let me know how you’re doing, and I’ll see you in the comments!

Rank Name 2023 Draft Confidence Current NFC ADP 2023 Conf/200IP
1 Aaron Nola 586 37.29 0.32605
2 Corbin Burnes 559 17.66 0.3419
3 Gerrit Cole 555 19.44 0.33835
4 Shane McClanahan 489 42.72 0.3524
5 Shane Bieber 459 57.1 0.40265
6 Shohei Ohtani 454 7.7 0.3637
7 Carlos Rodon 430 40.72 0.38665
8 Brandon Woodruff 427 38.23 0.41825
9 Max Scherzer 401 48.01 0.4185
10 Spencer Strider 399 32.37 0.4034
11 Kevin Gausman 387 64.15 0.4454
12 Yu Darvish 377 79.48 0.49045
13 Dylan Cease 369 47.26 0.4838
14 Joe Musgrove 353 86.85 0.4583
15 Brady Singer 350 188.19 0.5278
16 Charlie Morton 342 161.51 0.49515
17 Framber Valdez 340 83.6 0.5712
18 Kyle Wright 331 131.33 0.55875
19 Sandy Alcantara 320 29.41 0.62525
20 Zac Gallen 314 74.13 0.5879
21 Clayton Kershaw 314 127.67 0.4486
22 Max Fried 312 73.44 0.6129
23 Logan Webb 311 117.57 0.5947
24 Luis Castillo 308 61.86 0.5998
25 Chris Bassitt 307 159.6 0.60155
26 Cristian Javier 300 62.87 0.5541
27 Zack Wheeler 297 59.28 0.6127
28 Alex Cobb 286 233.39 0.552
29 Julio Urias 284 59 0.6188
30 Triston McKenzie 280 93.15 0.64915
31 Jordan Montgomery 274 168.7 0.6288
32 Jon Gray 273 204.69 0.59745
33 Jeffrey Springs 272 173 0.52275
34 Alek Manoah 272 69.8 0.69105
35 Andrew Heaney 270 215.22 0.50845
36 Nestor Cortes 270 123.12 0.58915
37 Jacob deGrom 269 33.3 0.5155
38 Justin Verlander 268 42.97 0.64265
39 Hunter Greene 266 111.64 0.5697
40 Blake Snell 264 118.89 0.55255
41 Corey Kluber 262 438.24 0.58995
42 Robbie Ray 262 101.26 0.6929
43 Lucas Giolito 259 150.48 0.63075
44 Nick Lodolo 258 136.57 0.6101
45 Jesus Luzardo 258 153.39 0.56305
46 Luis Garcia 253 165.9 0.64615
47 Lance Lynn 248 138.59 0.72145
48 Tyler Anderson 247 274.54 0.7102
49 Patrick Sandoval 244 214.33 0.6704
50 Pablo Lopez 239 174.31 0.6841
51 Tony Gonsolin 237 173.23 0.66655
52 Sonny Gray 236 223.07 0.6431
53 Merrill Kelly 230 244.55 0.7902
54 Marcus Stroman 229 271.01 0.73975
55 Nathan Eovaldi 228 240.03 0.7187
56 JT Brubaker 226 566.79 0.67135
57 Miles Mikolas 223 232.57 0.82765
58 George Kirby 217 105.24 0.7667
59 Joe Ryan 217 147.16 0.7667
60 Adam Wainwright 215 353.45 0.8024
61 Luis Severino 215 113.57 0.7162
62 Logan Gilbert 211 118.09 0.84575
63 Martin Perez 211 315.52 0.79005
64 Carlos Carrasco 210 290.64 0.7363
65 Tyler Mahle 208 252.56 0.7296
66 Sean Manaea 207 298.14 0.77705
67 Eric Lauer 202 284.44 0.7959
68 Jameson Taillon 201 247.48 0.8004
69 Nick Pivetta 197 461.16 0.86105
70 Alex Wood 196 381.06 0.6187
71 Taijuan Walker 194 325.95 0.87115
72 German Marquez 192 493.41 0.94445
73 Kodai Senga 192 186.79 0.73
74 Jose Urquidy 189 270.08 0.91515
75 Freddy Peralta 187 148.57 0.6872
76 Ross Stripling 187 297.49 0.75755
77 Reid Detmers 185 211.65 0.86805
78 Drew Rasmussen 181 175.94 0.83965
79 Kyle Gibson 180 498.93 0.8756
80 Edward Cabrera 180 219.44 0.742
81 Garrett Whitlock 178 285.41 0.5923
82 Jose Quintana 175 347.81 0.9167
83 Shintaro Fujinami 173 527.14 0.73
84 Ranger Suarez 171 301.82 0.97065
85 Grayson Rodriguez 170 191.41 0.73
86 Justin Steele 170 290.9 0.87155
87 Roansy Contreras 170 295.07 0.8221
88 Paul Blackburn 167 620.94 0.886
89 Aaron Ashby 165 410.34 0.55365
90 Jose Suarez 164 412.51 0.8562
91 Steven Matz 163 363.43 0.76
92 Mitch Keller 163 429.15 0.9513
93 Braxton Garrett 160 433.62 0.62825
94 Kenta Maeda 159 299.73 0.73
95 Zach Eflin 158 288.56 0.85495
96 Andrew Painter 156 297.19 0.73
97 James Paxton 155 500.34 0.73
98 Nick Martinez 150 456.04 0.78905
99 Rich Hill 146 639.51 0.74805
100 Kyle Bradish 145 352.08 0.9657
101 Johnny Cueto 141 521.59 1.08425
102 Spencer Turnbull 140 521.21 0.73
103 Aaron Civale 139 315.79 0.7856
104 Graham Ashcraft 138 554.19 1.16285
105 Seth Lugo 138 570.5 0.7031
106 Noah Syndergaard 135 288.42 0.97
107 Jose Berrios 133 227.13 1.24625
108 Michael Soroka 133 450 0.73
109 Drew Rucinski 133 647.51 0.73
110 Dean Kremer 132 577.82 1.1181
111 Chris Sale 129 152.37 0.99465
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22 days ago

Sandy Alcantara at 19?!?!?!?!?

23 days ago

You seem really low on Joe Ryan.

23 days ago

No Hunter brown love?
Would you keep either Brown or GrayRod over Vargas(LAD)
Keeper must be rookie eligible, I might be able to land one of these guys, I have Vargas

gary z
gary z
24 days ago

Hey EverywhereBlair! Great stuff, I love your breakdown of pitching content! Im in a 12 team head to head league that counts 8 pitching cats:
QS, W, L, K, ERA, WHIP, SV, H. If it matters, of the 12 roster spots needed, 4SP, 4RP are required, and then 4 pitching spots are up to me how to fill. Pitching went way earlier than I anticipated, so please dont judge me harshly lol…

We only are allowed 100 transactions for the year, so cant really stream. Please give me your opinion on my pitching roster:

SP: Scherzer
SP: Severino
SP: Bassitt
SP: J. Springs

RP: S. Barlow
RP: Bard
RP: Graveman
RP: Seranthony Dominguez

P: Gallegos
P: Floro
P: Bummer
P: B. Abreu

SP Pablo Lopez
SP T. Mahle
SP/RP M. Brash
SP Maeda
SP Clevinger

RP L. Hendriks
RP D. Castillo
RP Tanner Scott
RP Alvaredo