GM's OFFICE: Previewing tonight's FSGA draft

Tonight, the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association hosts their annual experts league draft, which I've taken to (semi-jokingly) calling the "BaseballHQ Invitational." Why? As our Titles and Awards page shows:

Not only have we won this league the last two years; if not for a "last inning of Game 163" loss to Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf in 2018, we'd be working on a four-titles-in-five-years streak.

This event is usually the first industry draft of the season, held at the FSGA winter conference each January. But that conference went virtual this winter. The draft was delayed until this week, losing its "first of the year" status to last week's LABR-Mixed draft, where Ryan Bloomfield capably represented BaseballHQ.

Brent and I spent some time this weekend planning our approach to this 14-team mixed 5x5 league. Behind the safety of our paywall, here's a preview of our thinking on some key pre-draft issues that are shaping our draft strategy.

You can follow the draft here; it starts at 6pm ET and will also be covered live on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio.

Picking from the wheel

In the draft to determine draft slots, we drew the 6th choice. (Seriously, no respect for the two-time defending champs here!.) Draft positions 1-5 were claimed ahead of us, so we elected to buck the trend and slide down to the wheel at #14. There were a couple of reasons for that:

1. Logistics: Brent and I work well together at the draft table, but it's still sometimes dicey to coordinate from remote locations, so taking the wheel is a way to minimize the logistical challenges.

2. I see a pretty clear top-5 batters in these drafts this year (in some order: Tatis, Acuna, Betts, Soto, Trout) before things start diverging at pick #6. If one of those top-5 spots were available to us, we probably would have taken it and dealt with the logistics.

3. In the handful of drafts I've done this year, I've ended up at either one end of the snake or the other: I've had picks 1, 2, 13, 15. While I would like to get a chance to work from the middle at some point, I've also gotten comfortable with some of the early decisions that present themselves at the back end.

For instance, in the First Pitch Arizona Speaker's draft that I used to audit our projections a few weeks ago, I loaded up on hitting early, missing the ace pitcher tier entirely. I compensated in the middle rounds by loading up on the next tier of SP:

This past week, from the 13th slot in a "Beat Ray Murphy" event that we filled up with a bunch of our forum posters, I took a different approach:

Clearly, item #1 to discuss with Brent was his position on Jose Berrios. But seriously, these two paths gave us some good fodder for discussion about how we might play our first couple of pick-pairs.

Pocket Aces?

Since this isn't an NFBC event, it isn't clear how relevant the NFBC ADP is as a planning tool. But it's interesting that Trevor Bauer currently sits right on our 14th pick in their ADP: Gerrit Cole (5), Jacob deGrom (6) and even Shane Bieber (9) are unlikely to drop down to us. But Bauer sits on a bit of an ADP island of his own, ahead of the cluster of nine additional SP who fall in Round 2 by ADP, and are therefore out of reach for us after our first two picks.

In fact, Bauer or not, there's a pretty decent argument for the "Pocket Aces" strategy at this point, opening our draft with two SP here before a hard pivot to bats for as many as 6, 8, even 10 picks following the first two.

The best argument against Pocket aces is captured in this picture of the Rotolab SP dollar-value rankings for this league:

This is where I insert a reminder about the perils of just straight-ranking pitchers by dollar values: there's more to pitcher evaluation than dollars, which can be heavily influenced by IP and Wins projections. You need to lean heavily on the underlying skills in your decision-making, not just the dollar values.

Especially in that green cluster, there is an awful lot of similarity between those pitchers. Only a few of them will last even back to our 3-4 turn. Maeda and Glasnow's ADPs fall right around that ADP range. But Ryu and Hendricks, who rank higher by dollars (again: see disclaimer), have at least a chance of making it all the way to our 5-6 turn. The aforementioned Berrios, perhaps Carlos Carrasco, perhaps the on-a-normal-spring-schedule-so-far Stephen Strasburg are also conceivable options down toward our 5-6 picks.

So, with multiple off-ramps of broadly-similar pitchers available at both the 3-4 and 5-6 turns, it doesn't seem like Pocket Aces is called for here. Roughly speaking, we expect to get an SP at our 1-2 turn, and then three more hitters and one more pitcher in rounds 3-6.

Some other topics of our pre-draft discussions...

Closers

For whatever reason (smaller league? more conservative FAAB bidding? good success speculating on emerging saves sources?), we never seem to have trouble finding Saves in this league. Admittedly, that seems to get harder every year, so as the financial guys say, "past performance is no guarantee of future results." But, we're not inclined to pay for the top end of the closer pool here. We'll try to find a "dependable" (well, everything's relative) #1 closer down around Rd 10 (give or take, depending on how the saves come off the board), a low-end #2 closer more toward Rd 15, and then a couple of speculative saves sources for our bench. But we expect to be one of the cheaper teams in terms of draft capital spent chasing saves.

Speed

My preferred approach to speed thus far this draft season has been to accumulate it a chunk at a time. As mentioned above, not having any mid-first-round selections thus far has kept me away from Trea Turner and Jose Ramirez. I haven't drafted Adalberto Mondesi or Luis Robert yet this year, and don't expect that to change in this draft. Put those things together, and you're basically forced into the "get your speed in bits and pieces" lane. If you're going to do that, you need to start early... which actually works pretty well from the back of the snake. Freddie Freeman is really the only SB dead spot among the batters going in that range. Yelich, Story, Bellinger, Lindor, Harper (that's the full list of hitters within ADP 11-20 right now) all offer double-digit projected SB, leaving Freeman as the only single-digit SB leadfoot.

That's just something to be mindful of, that if we end up with Freeman as our first bat, we may lean toward a Whit Merrifield/Tim Anderson/Starling Marte on the 3-4 turn. While a Freeman/Anthony Rendon/Marcell Ozuna trio offers massive power, that trio creates a speed deficit that would be tough to repair. Conversely, even the double-digit steals of a Harper or Bellinger, rather than Freeman as the first bat, gives a little more flexibility as you move through each successive pair of picks.

Theme alert

Not to spoil anything, but if things go according to plan, we also expect that you'll see a recurring theme or through-line in our roster construction. Watch for it on the draft board tonight if you're available. We'll be back with a recap here on Friday, we'll see if the theme developed as we hoped.

 

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.