In the middle of another brutal Canadian winter, Fantasy Assembly’s Paul Hartman emailed my brother and I and asked if we wanted to join his start-up dynasty league. With 40 rounds of drafting and 15 minor leaguers, this brother duo decided it would be a lot of fun to jump right in together. Usually we try to kick each other’s asses in fantasy baseball, but this seemed like a good league to be co-GMs.
We documented our first 5 rounds through a series of text messages back and forth between each other. Here’s a peek into the “draft room” of two fantasy veterans:
We found out that we had the seventh overall pick and the consensus between us was that this was a very average position to be in. To us the obvious top 3 picks pre-draft were going to be Trout, Miggy and Harper, everything after that was up in the air.
Our pre-draft ranking of what was going to happen was as follows:
- Mike Trout
- Miguel Cabrera
- Bryce Harper
- Clayton Kershaw
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Andrew McCutchen
This left us debating back and forth as to who our pick would be at 7. We were hoping that any one of our top six players would fall to us but were not confident. We saw a big drop-off after our top 6 – we thought of guys like Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez but new team, Biogenesis and injury concerns ultimately soured us on those four respectively. Finally, it hit us like a ton of bricks, the cornerstone of our new team was so obviously right in front of us. The conversation then went like this:
Ricky: Call me crazy I’m thinking Stanton at 7
Neil: Don’t hate it
Ricky: His 162 average is 39 hr a year. He’s less than 25 years old, I think his keeper league value is tremendous. You think we’d get him on the downside in 2nd round?
Neil: I don’t actually. He might be the pick.
Ricky: I think he is unless Kershaw is there.
Neil: Ya – we’ll have time to decide. I want to see how many points he got in 2012 – don’t forget about negative for Ks. But I do like it. What about Puig?
Ricky: Hmm, I like Puig a lot but my gut says Stanton.
Our strategy for the remainder of the pool was going to be, take young players with big upside early. Later in the draft, take 30-year-old + players with proven track records who we wouldn’t necessarily keep and save all our prospects till much later. We both agreed that while we would love to have players like Byron Buxton, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, etc. they were not worth drafting too early. Prospects are fun and exciting but we have seen far too many Dustin Ackley, Brandon Wood, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Mike Montgomery, Manny Banuellos, etc. in the past few years flounder. We would rather take young players who have already tasted big league success.
We loved the idea of Yu Darvish or Joey Votto on the way back down in round 2. If those guys were unavailable, we figured that Jose Fernandez or Freddie Freeman were good backups.
As expected, there were no surprises in the first 5 picks with the order being Trout, Miggy, Harper, Goldschmidt and McCutchen. The big shock came at pick 6 when out of nowhere Xander Bogaerts was taken. This pick threw us for a complete curveball since we thought for sure Kershaw, a 25-year-old ace who had the most fantasy points in this new league’s format last year, 4th most in 2012 and 2nd most in 2011 was going to be taken. Our dilemma was now Kershaw or Stanton and after a vigorous debate, we both agreed that our pick was going to be Clayton Kershaw.
We were a bit surprised (and a bit disappointed) that Votto went that early but understood why. The 11th pick was Stanton and a big part of us still wishes he was on our team. We were utterly shocked to see Jay Bruce go 12th overall. He may be an extra base hit machine but not the 12th best fantasy player. The next few picks were pretty standard for a dynasty league with Puig going 13, Freeman going 14, Braun going 15 and Chris Davis going 16. Round one was over and we now had our sights set on Tulo, Cargo or maybe Jose Fernandez with our next pick – #26 overall. We also had a discussion about Wil Myers who we wanted on our team and debated when exactly we should consider taking him – the conclusion was that round 2 was slightly too early.
Round 2 started off going pretty well for us. Of the three players we coveted, only one went off the board with the first five picks of the round – first Adam Jones went 17th, then one of our targets, CarGo, went 18th which was disappointing but not catastrophic as he was probably our third option of the three players we wanted. The picks then went Posey at 19, Hosmer 20th and Fielder 21st. With only five picks to go, we really thought one of either Tulo or Fernandez would fall to us. But just when you start to get comfortable in fantasy, you’ll get thrown for a loop. At pick 22, Jose Fernandez was taken from us. This was followed up with a reach in our opinion as Scherzer was taken at pick 24 – one great season does not a dynasty career make. Then at pick 24 Tulowitzki came off the board. Now our queue was nearly empty and we were up in two picks. The next pick was inconsequential for us as Ellsbury was taken at 25. Now it was our turn and there was one guy that older brother Neil kept mentioning and ultimately, we recalibrated, debated some more and ended up selecting him.
Here is the actual chat log between us of our thought process throughout round 2 – leading up to our ultimate selection:
Ricky: If somehow Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez or Jose Fernandez fall to us, I’d be thrilled
Neil: Me too those are the guys. But I also kind of like Manny Machado
Ricky: Oh ya, Machado. Good dynasty league target.
Neil: Chris Davis, Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Jones off the board.
Ricky: Damn. Would have liked CarGo. What about Jason Kipnis here?
Ricky: I also like Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg. And of course Jose Fernandez, Tulo and maybe Manny Machado
Neil: Don’t love Sale or Strasburg here but maybe Felix Hernandez? Tulo, Fernandez and Machado are my guys.
Neil: Of the pitchers I like Felix or Jose Fernandez
Ricky: What do you think of Evan Longoria, Hanley Ramirez or Jason Kipnis?
Neil: Eric Hosmer and Prince Fielder just taken.
Ricky: We’re going to have options here.
Neil: What about Bumgarner here? He had more points than Felix Hernandez last year and he’s only 23 or 24.
Ricky: Maybe Kipnis? Middle infield is light and he hit 284 with 366 OBP and a 452 slugging % last year plus had 17 homers…
Neil: I think I like Longoria better. In a bad year, he hit 269/343/498 with 32 dingers plus there is major position scarcity at 3B. Look at 2B right now, you still have: Kipnis, Pedroia, Kinsler, Carpenter, Phillips, Altuve, Zobrist, Gyorko, Utley, Profar and a decent prospect in Alex Guerrero…
Ricky: Damnit! Jose Fernandez taken at 22.
Neil: Yup – that eats our queue but I think we’ll still get a great team.
Ricky: I want Tulo so bad
Neil: This is going to be a tough pick – unless Tulo is around (and it’s not likely to happen).
Ricky: Machado or Tulowitzki are my top 2.
Neil: I’d go in the other order, but I like it yes I agree. If Bogaerts can go #6 pick, Machado is a huge steal at 26
Ricky: If machado can turn 10 of his 51 doubles to dingers, he’s so money.
Ricky: So tough, a part of me thinks we should go hard after pitching or take Longoria or Tulowitzki if either are still around.
Neil: I would go hard after pitching except there are so many good hitters on the board. I think we take a hitter here.
Ricky: Tulowitzki, Machado or Hanley?
Ricky: I like it
Ricky: Man – I think we can very easily get Longoria or Kipnis in the 3rd.
Neil: Scherzer and Tulowitzki taken.
Neil: Going to be Machado or Hanley for us
Ricky: I’m torn on Manny
Neil: 21-year-old phenom
Ricky: True… I’m just thinking about our SS for this year If Hanley is off the board…
Ricky: Hardy in 15 rounds?
Ricky: We can still get Wright, Longoria or Encarnacion at 3B.
Neil: True, Good call. Ellsbury taken
Ricky: We up?
Ricky: Haven’t pulled the trigger yet
Neil: Machado is the move. Wil Myers is way down on the pre-ranked list. I think we grab him in round 3.
Ricky: Ok – let’s do it
Profar went right after Machado which made us think that if we didn’t snag Machado when we did, he’d have gone with the next pick. Edwin Encarnacion was a nice pick 28th overall but we had only floated the idea of him very briefly. He was a guy that we would have loved to fall to us in the 3rd round but if not, no skin off our back. The next 3 picks were all guys we were really hoping would fall to us in the 3rd round (Kipnis, Longoria and Hanley) and it was tough to see all of them go in a row. We loved Kipnis but 2B right now has a ton of talent, Longoria is who he is and that is a 260-280 hitter with mid 30 home runs and 100 RBI guy – that is nothing to sneeze at but he never took the next step to superstar so we didn’t think he warranted a 2nd round pick in a dynasty keeper league. Hanley is just an injury risk and besides his phenomenal half a year last season hasn’t been a fantasy stud for a few years. The 2nd round ended with Strasburg being taken, one of the guys we really liked but weren’t overly upset he was taken.
While round 3 was going on, we were in heavy discussions with how we wanted the next few rounds to play out. We wanted young guys with big upside – that was our philosophy from the beginning and we weren’t wavering on it. In Ricky’s opinion the best guys undrafted at this point were either Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez or Chris Sale. Neil kept chiming in with Wil Myers and Madison Bumgarner.
The consensus pick was going to be Wil Myers if he was available in 6 spots when it came – under 23 years old with huge upside. After Myers, we thought the best players available were Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner or Chris Sale but if we didn’t get Wil Myers, we weren’t sold on drafting a pitcher. The 3rd round started with Felix Hernandez, a player that we wanted since he was only 27 and is a perennial Cy Young candidate. After that went Adrian Beltre, a fantasy stud but at age 34 and turning 35 at the start of the season, he was not even on our queue at this point. For one thing, we already had Machado manning 3B and for another while he is not showing significant signs of slowing down he was down 6 HR’s and 10 RBI from the year before playing 5 more games in 2013.
The next pick was Wil Myers which was devastating – while he has the talent to go where he went, we really thought he would fall to us. In most leagues that we play, if a guy is not near the top of the pre-rankings list, he does not get taken. This was an instance where playing in a league of savvy owners hurt us. Myers was the perfect guy for our proven with potential team that we were trying to build. In 88 games, he had 13 HR’s and 53 RBI’s with a solid OPS of 831. His strikeout rate was higher than we like but we figured he would improve on that. Even at the young age of 22, we think Wil Myers will be a major impact player for 2014 and beyond.
Carlos Gomez went next and to be honest, he never really came up in conversation – the consensus between us was let’s see a repeat of 2013 before grabbing him this early. Next went Madison Bumgarner, a player we debated and both really liked. He improved on his K Rate with an almost K per inning average, his WHIP improved from 2013 and so did his ERA, the only thing that regressed were his wins which we didn’t put much (if any) stock into. Next pick went uber prospect Byron Buxton and we couldn’t have been any happier. This is the same guy that took Bogaerts and we truly questioned his strategy. We know that Kershaw and Machado are better than Bogaerts and Buxton now – and even in five years, Machado will only be 26 and Kershaw 30. Isn’t it possible (or even probable) that our team will be better too? Now it was our pick and we didn’t know who we were taking right up until we pulled the trigger. This one was hotly debated with Neil getting his way over Ricky.
Here is the actual chat log between us of our thought process leading up to our pick (takes place between 2nd and 3rd round):
Ricky: Myers next?
Neil: I’m not against picking Myers next. Reyes or Desmond if you are worried about SS but I think we’ll be fine with a JJ Hardy type or Starlin Castro
Ricky: Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Matt Kemp or Justin Upton would all be decent.
Ricky: Safe would be taking Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Adam Wainwright or Stephen Strasburg.
Neil: Ya – we’ll see…
Ricky: Profar taken
Ricky: After Profar it was Encarnacion, Kipnis, Longo, Hanley.
Neil: I like: Myers, Felix, Sale, Strasburg or Upton. People are talking up our Machado pick – he would have been gone by round 3
Ricky: We are building for now and later.
Ricky: Update? The way this draft is going we’ll be able to build for now in the middle rounds
Neil: After Hanley it was Strasburg, Felix, Beltre, Myers, Carlos Gomez. We are up in 2-3 picks.
Ricky: Myers off the board? There goes that idea.
Neil: Still a lot of good players. Would have been nice to have him though.
Ricky: 2 picks before us
Ricky: I am thinking Sale, Kemp, Upton or Pujols
Neil: I like Upton, in a terrible season he went 263/354/464 27 dingers 94 runs.
Ricky: Upton, Sale or Bautista?
Neil: I like Upton here
Ricky: Upton it is
While Ricky was not yet sold on Upton, the consensus was that this is a 26-year-old, two-time all-star who received MVP votes twice. He has a career OPS of .830 and is entering his peak age 27-32 years. He has had better seasons than a guy like Jay Bruce, who was taken in the first round (Utpon’s 2009 and 2011 seasons are much better than anything Bruce has ever produced). The value and potential upside here were too good to pass up.
Subsequent to this pick, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Dustin Pedroia, David Price, Justin Verlander, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Moore, Craig Kimbrel and Josh Donaldson all went. None of these guys were really discussed between us for our next pick. It is hard not to like Dustin Pedroia but approaching 30, his best fantasy days may be behind him. We love Craig Kimbrel and thought he the best closer in baseball but relief pitching isn’t something we were concentrating on with the 47th pick. We thought someone was getting great value with Justin Verlander, but after watching every inning he pitched, he just didn’t look like the same guy for most of 2013 as has been most years prior. He wasn’t on our radar just yet.
At this point, we still thought the 2 best players left on the board here were Chris Sale and Adam Wainwright and younger brother Ricky was pushing hard for these guys. Neil thought Wainwright didn’t fit our strategy, but Ricky correctly pointed out that he was amazing all year last year with pretty much the only exception coming in back to back to starts vs. the Reds where he pitched 8 innings and let up 15 ERs. In a head-to-head, points league, he was easily a top 5 player and since we already had the best pitcher in the game in Kershaw, he would slot in perfectly as our number 2 starter. Ricky further augmented his argument noting that he has only thrown 1300+ innings in his career at age 33 (compare that to Tanaka who at 25 has already thrown 1100 or CC Sabathia who is similar in age who has thrown 2700+ innings), Ricky deduced that his innings age is far younger than his actual age. Neil had to continuously refocus Ricky to stick to the plan. We had a mission statement before the draft started and we were sticking to it.
That being said, we were both in agreement heading into round 4 that Chris Sale was the target. We thought he’d slot in nicely with our strategy and we didn’t mind pitching being our strength. Once again though, you can’t get comfortable in fantasy and we had to change things on the fly. This time, younger brother Ricky won the debate and we ended up picking someone who had barely come up in discussion.
Here is an excerpt from our conversation after 3rd pick:
Neil: Pitcher on the way back… Sale or Price?
Ricky: I like them or Verlander or Waino
Neil: Old though, no? Maybe Gerrit Cole
Ricky: Who are we kidding, we want Sale.
Neil: ya. He’s our guy
Ricky: What about a middle infielder next? They are flying off the board. My thoughts are in no particular order
Jed Gyorko, Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips, Andrelton Simmons, Matt Carpenter, Jean Segura
Ricky: I like Carpenter best I think of those
Neil: Me too
Ricky: 10 till us or so?
Neil: Moore and Kimbrel taken. 10 till us
Ricky: MI and then Jose Abreu?
Neil: I like that – we may need to grab Abreu in the 5th though
Ricky: Ok, I’d like a SS
Neil: I agree, is Reyes the pick if he is there? Although, long-term, Machado will be our SS.
Neil: After Kimbrel, it’s been: Donaldson, Carpenter, Sale, Shelby Miller, Segura, Hamels, Reyes.
Ricky: Damn – Sale taken.
Neil: Change of plans again. #fantasylife
Ricky: You know what, another MI just went off the board. We have to be prudent. We were banking on Reyes or Carpenter here but since they are both off the board, we shouldn’t waste a pick on an old guy. I really like Ian Desmond.
Neil: Not a Desmond guy.
Ricky: Trust me, he is amazing. I really don’t see any real good MI options anymore. We really wanted Pedroia, Carpenter, Reyes or even Segura. We are going to get stuck with JJ Hardy and Dan Uggla at this point.
Neil: Let me check Fangraphs.
Neil: Wow, he is much better than I thought. I thought his seasons were flukey but his BABIP and isolated power numbers show they really weren’t. If anything, he can produce even better.
Ricky: Love him. He is only 28.
Neil: Sold. He is our next pick if available.
So to recap, Jose Reyes went off the board so we started to focus on middle infielders. Luckily for us, the next pick was Mark Trumbo which we thought was the biggest stinker pick of the draft. The guy is a K machine, OBP less than 300 and isn’t all that young. How can Mark Trumbo go ahead of Matt Kemp or Jose Bautista? We honestly thought Trumbo would go at least 70 spots later (Neil even mentioned him as a potential late round flyer). At best, Trumbo has an outlier Mark Reynolds circa 2009 type season but with a lower OBP. We would much rather have had Adam Wainwright, Jose Bautista or Matt Kemp here.
The next pick was Adrian Gonzalez, another marginal pick since he has no power anymore but we digress. Then “that guy” picked. Who is “that guy”? Well, he is the guy that makes the pick that everyone was thinking of doing but no one had the balls to pull off. He pulled Tanaka out of his arsenal and to be honest, it is hard to analyze the pick. While Tanaka’s Japanese stats were even better than Darvish’s, we both watched YouTube highlights of Tanaka and weren’t overly impressed with the movement of his fastball or his curveball. His slider/splitter seems to be a plus pitch, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he is a solid Hiroki Kuroda type in the big leagues. Tanaka might be very well suited for today’s major league baseball but that is still a big mystery. All that said, we liked the pick but didn’t love that it was Big Hurt’s first pitcher. We feel like Tanaka would be more well suited to be a fall back option.
Now it was our pick and we felt like shortstop was a need position. Ricky loved Ian Desmond and after Neil analyzed his analytics, we settled on him. We looked at our team and were quite pleased with Clayton Kershaw a 25-year-old ace, Manny Machado, a 21-year-old phenom and Justin Upton a 2-time near MVP while under the age of 25 and now Ian Desmond, a 28-year-old SS hitting in a very good Washington lineup and a true 20-30 threat.
The rest of the round ended with Carlos Correa coming off the board, Biscuits’ 4th super young player or prospect. His middle infield may look quite scary in a few years with Profar, Xander and now Correa but I am not scared yet. Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista and Gerrit Cole all went after that, each one on our queue, each one talked about, each one a player we liked but we weren’t overly upset that any of them were gone. Next went uber rookie talent Oscar Taveras to our commissioner. He looks like the real deal but he wasn’t a guy that hit our radar screen and after that another Cardinal rookie sensation Michael Wacha was picked.
This was the round where we finally decided we were willing to deviate from the strategy of young, proven with upside. Adam Wainwright was going to be our pick this round. We figured he still has 3 good years left in him at least. To get him in the 5th round would have been coup for us. If not Wainwright, Matt Kemp was a very solid next choice for us since at 71st overall, he was worth a risk. Needless to say, both of those guys went flying off the board and we were back to the drawing board. And our drawing board was young, proven with upside.
Also before our pick, minor leaguers Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Miguel Sano were taken which suited us just fine since we wanted people taking rookies at this point in the draft. We still had a hard time understanding why people were wasting picks on MLs at this point. As Baseball Prospectus once famously said: “Prospects Will Break Your Heart”. Why is winning a league championship tomorrow more fun than winning one today? When you are at the point in the draft where it comes down to taking Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano or Miguel Sano, we say go for Sano – you really aren’t going to get many more productive years out of Beltran or Soriano. But you will realistically get many more good years out of Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols or Adam Wainwrignt. Now onto our pick.
We went back and forth here a little bit, mostly by phone so we don’t have an exact transcript of the conversation but one of us, can’t remember which one suggested Jason Heyward. That became an easy choice for us since he is only 24 years old! He has already had a 20-20 season and even with his seemingly horrendous 2013 where he only stole 2 bases and had 14 dingers in 100+ games, we saw that it was largely due to a horrid April and May where he hit a combined 2 HRs and 5 RBIs with a sub 200 BA. He improved the rest of the way hitting 293 and 12 HRs, right around his previous year’s pace. Additionally, the 2 SBs showed that Heyward really was injured for the majority of the year and this was a potential harbinger for a big season to come. Heyward is not far removed from being a can’t miss prospect and he has already tasted major league success. For that reason, we refocused our strategy back to our mission statement and he was the obvious pick. We see him building off a very respectable 2012 campaign and being a potential top 10 outfielder, maybe even better than his teammate Justin Upton, our 3rd round pick.
The rest of the round played out with Carlos Santana being taken – if he actually plays 3B, 1B and C this year, then this represents great value due to position flexibility and big potential for offensive upswing. Then went Choo who is a perennial 20-20 guy, Andrus who has very little fantasy value in our opinion and Ian Kinsler who may be poised for a turnaround but in a worse ball park. Then went Matt Wieters, see our arguments about prospects above, this guy has been going early in fantasy leagues for 4 years now. Is it warranted? He does have 3 straight seasons of 20 HRs but his batting average has been getting progressively worse bottoming out at 235 last year and his OBP fell below 300. Willin Rosario who is 3 years younger went 50 picks later, was over 50 points better on his BA, had approximately the same number of home runs in fewer games and had more RBIs. The round concluded with Julio Teheran, Starling Marte, Albert Pujols and Trevor Rosenthal. All very solid picks except our strategy was to wait on relief pitching so while Rosenthal and his high 90s fastball is a force to be reckoned with, we weren’t too upset not to get him.
All in all, we were very satisfied with how our first five rounds played out. Going into the draft we wanted some young players who had tasted major league success but still had upside. We ended up with four guys aged 26 or younger who have already been major contributors on the field but who might still improve (Kershaw, Machado, Upton and Heyward) and we also got a 28-year-old shortstop in the middle of his prime who is probably the third best player at a premium position (Desmond).
It should be interesting to see how this season plays out, but we think we are in prime position to contend in this dynasty league both this season and for seasons to come.