GM's OFFICE: FSTA Draft preview

This week, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association holds its Winter Conference in Tampa, FL. The highlight of the conference for us is the annual experts league draft, which will be covered live on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports channel on Tuesday night (Jan 22).

This isn't a mock draft; the league gets played out. We have had good success in this league in the past: we won the league in 2016, and last year we finished 2nd by a hair—losing out to Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf's team by the margin of Christian Yelich's stolen base in Game 163. (It's been a few months, and we've gotten over that... mostly.) The league is a 14-team mixed, traditional 5x5 scoring format.

Repeating last year's approach, my co-GM Brent Hershey will be attending the conference and sitting live at the draft table. I'll be at home, but chatting with him online throughout the proceedings. This arrangement worked well for us last year, so I feel good about using it again. However, throwing a wrinkle into this year's plan is that Tuesday also happens to be my wife's birthday, and I have this lingering suspicion that her idea of a nice birthday doesn't include me back-seat-driving this draft over Brent's shoulder.

So, just in case my availability gets compromised at any point, I figured I would write a strategy memo for Brent to review on his flight to Tampa. And if I'm going to the trouble of writing something, I might as well share it with all of you subscribers. If our 13 competitors happen to read it... oh well. They're likely more interested in their own plans than ours.

The draft grid will be updated live here, during the live draft from 5-7pm ET on Tuesday as well as the subsequent slow-draft portion.

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Dear Brent,

On behalf of my marriage, thank you for representing us at the FSTA conference and taking the pilot's chair for this draft. I will do my best to follow the draft live and ping you suggestions for our picks via our Slack channel during the proceedings. But I figured we should sync up on our overall strategic approach to this draft, before we get into any pick-by-pick tactical discussions.

I don't imagine that any of the below will come as a surprise... I'm borrowing themes from the essays in the Baseball Forecaster, from First Pitch Arizona, and the insights our writers have already shared this preseason.

I've got a few topics I want to survey here:

First round

We ended up with the 5th spot in the draft, thanks to a fairly late selection in the KDS draw. Still, I think this is a pretty workable slot for us. I'm of a mind that this year's player pool mandates an early focus on acquiring speed. "Early" doesn't necessarily mean Round One, but there will be some nice options available there which offer a foundation in SBs: Trout and Betts will be gone before we pick, but Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Christian Yelich, Trea Turner, and Ronald Acuna all offer some speed as part of their broad skill bases.

For more traditional first-round bopper types, JD Martinez and Nolan Arenado will be available and give elite power baselines. The only knock on them is that they are four-category contributors instead of five. And although it sort of goes against our DNA to take an SP this high, Max Scherzer's still-elite skills and flawless track record of reliability put him squarely in the conversation at this slot, as well. That gives us ten names to work with here.

Ace pitching

The best argument for taking Scherzer at 1.5 is that he is the last of the ace-level workhorses. His 220 IP/280 K projection is about 120% of what you can expect from virtually any other pitcher. The first-round pick would come at a high price, but one could presumably make back that value on offense by deferring SP2/SP3 picks to a later round than most other teams.

Assuming we don't take Scherzer at 1.5, we're likely going to want to get an ace pitcher on our 2/3 turn. Looking at the NFBC ADPs now live on our site, if we were to wait until our 4th round pick (pick 52) to get our first SP, the ADP is down to about the 15th starting pitcher: that's the neighborhood of Patrick Corbin, James Paxton, Stephen Strasburg. Now, the NFBC community tends to run pitching up the board early, and this draft may not behave that way. But I'm still not comfortable betting on a top 12-ish SP coming back to us for Round 4, so I think we should grab an SP in Round 2-3. According to ADP, that should give us at least a look at any SP after Scherzer/deGrom/Sale. On your flight, take a look at that next SP tier and put some thought into which ones you want to target.

Speed

One of the arguments for getting speed in Round 1 is that we'll be kind of squeezed for speed options in the 2/3 turn if we don't get speed in Round 1. There are some appealing options in that ADP range: Starling Marte is a great option that stands out for both his SB contribution and his low risk level (suspension jokes aside, of course). Also appealing here is Whit Merrifield (who we owned in this league last year), and lightning rod Adalberto Mondesi (he's on my avoid list, though).

If we're looking for 20+ SB contributors on our Round 2/3 turn, that's pretty much the whole list. And the SB market only gets sketchier as you wait longer: if we don't have ~50 SB rostered at the end of round 3, we're looking at overpaying for something like Mallex Smith, Dee Gordon, or Billy Hamilton at some point later on, or just punting the category. You'll be in a much better position if you have an SB foundation at that point, and can basically sit back and focus primarily on collecting power, which will remain abundantly available even deep into the draft:

 

Closers

The closer market is a horror show right now, continuing a trend I wrote about last summer, and exacerbated by the number of roles still unsettled this early in draft season. As a result, the few "reliable" (always a sketchy term) closers are getting pushed up the draft board. The good news is that this draft on Tuesday is capped at two hours, with the rest to be finished as a slow draft. I would expect that you will only get through 15-18 rounds in those two hours.

Let's take advantage of that timing and defer some decisions about these unsettled bullpens. Make sure to get one of the "established" closers somewhere around the Round 8-11 range, depending on how the table is chasing saves. That will keep us from getting totally closed out of the category, and buy us some time to read some of the more muddled situations in the slow-draft portion, and continue to mine the Saves market in-season as needed. This approach also frees up another pick in the top half of this draft which we can use to bully our offense.

Catchers

This position is a wasteland, again. This is a 2-C league, so I'd prefer to avoid having both catchers be a drag on our offense. I like Realmuto well enough, but his current 4th-round ADP is pricey. Our Market Pulse article on the C/DH market still rates him as a buy at that ADP, but that's based on a lofty 600+ AB projection that we have already revised downward in the past few days, and may trim further. 

Beyond Realmuto, I would also be ok with the Willson Contreras / Wilson Ramos / Yasmani Grandal / Yadier Molina tier, which you would probably need to target in the round 10-12 range. But if you don't get any catching in the live portion of the draft, I have no objection to that outcome, either.

Cheat sheet

Here's a stripped-down cheat sheet of some targets I like for the first 10 rounds, in a format I usually find helpful to reference at the draft table. Feel free to add more names as you see fit:





Round C 1B 2B 3B SS OF SP RP
1 /         Ramirez / Arenado Lindor / T. Turner Yelich / Acuna / JDMartinez Scherzer  
2 / 3   Freeman / Goldschmidt Merrifield Bryant Story Marte / Stanton / Benintendi /
K. Davis (DH)
Kluber / Carrasco / Nola / Cole / Bauer / Verlander / Snell / Buehler  
4 / 5   Bellinger   Rendon     Corbin / Paxton / Strasburg / Greinke / Clevinger / Taillon  
6 / 7   Votto            
8 / 9 S. Perez   Cano / Odor / Dozier / Murphy / Shaw          
10 / 11 Grandal / Ramos / Molina / Contreras             W. Davis / Osuna / Hand / Doolittle / Yates / Giles / Leclerc

 

Good luck! Write back and let me know how it goes....

Ray

 


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