GM's OFFICE: Questions entering the 2020 FSGA draft

This week in Las Vegas is the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association winter conference, the traditional host of the first major industry draft of the season. I'll be in attendance and representing BaseballHQ. Actually, not just representing us, but defending our title in this league from a year ago: with two wins and a final-day second-place finish in this league over the past four years, we have momentum in this league and want to keep the winning ways going.

The draft is tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm ET (follow the live grid here), with live coverage on SiriusXM FantasySports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). Co-GM Brent Hershey will be collaborating with me remotely via Slack, and likely documenting our picks on Twitter.

As far as preparation, I wouldn't say I'm quite in peak March form yet. Obviously, editing the Baseball Forecaster each fall is a nice springboard for draft prep. I do have one draft under my belt this cycle; a private league held in December. That draft was an unusual one for me, as I'm generally loathe to draft without my trusty RotoLab, which isn't going to be released for another week or so. Given the timing of this FSGA draft, though, RotoLab provider (and patron saint of unparalleled customer service) Merv Pate has provided me with a sneaky pre-release copy of my invaluable draft-table security blanket.

As of this writing (Monday afternoon), I plan to spend my Monday night flight to Las Vegas with RotoLab, immersing myself in draft prep. Since I haven't had that valuable time yet, I can't comment too much on our as-yet-unhatched draft plan. But, I do have a collection of eight questions that I'll have in mind during that prep session. Some are annual riddles of the player pool, others are a little more tailored to this year's environment:

1. What goes neglected in Rds 1-2?

We drew the 12th pick in the 14-team snake draft; so our first picks will be at #12 and #17. The headline debate at the top of this year's ADP is "power or speed?" I don't expect this group of industry players to adhere that closely to ADP, but... according to that measure, the population of batters who fall in the range of our first picks are generally the four-category stud hitters: Juan Soto, Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman. There are also plenty of pitchers dotting this area: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler (pictured above).

To sum up, there are three ideal fits for our first two picks: the five-category bat (candidates in this ADP range include Trevor Story, Jose Ramirez, Fernando Tatis), the power bats above, or a pitcher. One of those boxes is going to go unchecked until pick #40. A couple of those needs (particularly SP and speed) could be fairly scarce by pick 40. Does that box us into a corner with the direction of our first two picks, or can I find other "safe harbors" to fill those needs at picks #40/45, and #68/73?

2. What's our approach to speed?

Extending the thought above about speed, there are two paths forward after making those first two picks. If we got some decent speed, we can just continue to try and pick it up in chunks as we build our roster. If we didn't get it, we can try to play catchup, which might mean taking on a high risk/high reward option like Adalberto Mondesi (whose ADP sites right at our #40 pick). Or, since this is a standalone league with no overall competition, we could just choose to bang the power incessantly and de-emphasize speed. Basically, just reduce our category target to something that should be within hailing distance of the middle of the category.

3. Outside of catcher, is there such a thing as positional scarcity anymore?

One of the things I love about RotoLab is the way it displays the tiers in the player pool. I've seen some debates on Twitter about which positions are deeper than others (here's one such discussion between a couple of my favorite writers). To me, RotoLab's grid view (or our Custom Draft Guide grid view, which are basically the same view) is the quickest and easiest way to visualize the player pool. I can spend a solid hour knocking around that single view, clicking into individual players, setting some flags, and at the end of that hour I'm a decent ways toward a draft plan.

4.Where are the unusual skill profiles at each position?

The second component of the exercise above is to spend some time identifying the unique skill sets at each position. There are a couple of angles to play here:

  • The first is just the what-if scenario: if you end up needing to bang on a particular category for multiple picks/positions, where are the places where you can get that category? If you need speed and have only corner infield spots left, is there a place to look in the middle rounds? I always like to keep multiple OF spots open into rd 18-20 just because they're so versatile (you can always find OFs with just about any category-contributing profile you want), but in the draft I did in December I had 4 OFs at the end of round 10. That's not optimal, but I like to know what my pivots are in that scenario.
  • The second angle here is the value proposition. For instance, take that Twitter thread linked above between Bloomfield and Zola. SS is a top-heavy position, but one of the names in that group is not like the others: Xander Bogaerts. I've heard other industry voices say that they are de-valuing Bogaerts because he's the only SS in that range who doesn't give (much-needed) SB. When I hear that, I hear a buying opportunity for Bogaerts. But, I need to make sure that I know what that means in terms of my options to find that speed if I pass on it at SS. There are other examples of players whose contribution doesn't match the rest of the position, and I like to know who those guys are and where they are likely to get taken.

5. Is there a sweet spot in the catcher pool? Where?

I'm rather agnostic when it comes to my approach to the catcher pool. I'll take a higher end guy (this year: Realmuto or Grandal) if presented the opportunity at the right pick. Even in a two-catcher league like this one, I'll wait til round 20+ to fill both slots if the right fit doesn't come along sooner. I just want to find a sweet spot where the ADP/cost of a catcher matches our projected value, and I don't much care at which stage of the draft that happens. But where is that spot? I need to check out our values and the ADPs and come up with some targets to check on throughout the draft.

6. How has the market adjusted to the fractured Saves market?

Ah, the Saves question. It's hard enough to project saves in March. It's even harder in January. Even knowing that to be true, I need to sit and absorb just how messy the Saves market is right now. How many identified "lead" closers are there right now? How does the ADP rank them? I can say with some certainty that I will only try to come out of this draft with one "established" closer, and I will hope to get him after round 10. Then I'll throw some darts later in the draft, and hope I have a second closer come Opening Day. If not, we'll just spin the FAAB wheel as needed.

7. Is there a role for the non-closer reliever?

This is a strategy I used with success last year and want to re-visit this year. I got good mileage out of Ryan Pressley in Tout-Mixed last year, using him in my active lineup most of the year. With starting pitching churning so regularly and closers not holding their jobs for 26 weeks, there are plenty of times during the year where you don't have 9 starters or closers on your roster who you want to use. Having a Pressley around to effectively hold down a roster spot when needed can be a ratio and strikeout booster, even if (like Pressley) they never sniff saves. So, I may draft one of these guys in the end game, or I may just plan to find one in April. But this will be part of our roster plan.

8. Since this draft is so early, where can we take advantage of roles that aren't yet clarified?

Drafting in January, there's always an angle to be had: a job battle that we might think is going to break differently than other sites project, a rookie who might graduate into a role sooner, an injury rehabber who could show up at camp next month suddenly far ahead of schedule. I'll be combing the player pool for some of these guys.


That's my plan for draft prep! I'll report back on Friday with what I learned, and how the draft went.

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