All the painful winter months of shoveling snow and watching basketball and hockey highlights are finally over! Spring Training is here, and along with it comes draft season. Most people might think March Madness refers to college basketball, but for me it means juggling a hectic draft schedule with a full time job while still finding time to spend with my family. Oh well, sleep is overrated anyway.
I have been doing mocks since October, but my first real draft of 2014 went down last Sunday (March 2). I was invited to participate in the inaugural season of the “League of Extraordinary Expert GMs” (LEEG) hosted by Mick Wayne of VicariousSports.com. The format closely follows that of the NFBC with one exception; there will be trading permitted in this league.
It is a standard 5×5 roto league with weekly line-up changes and also a weekly FAAB waiver process.There are 15 teams in the league and we conducted a 30 round draft with the following roster requirements:
1 each for all infield positions, MI, CI and UTIL
9 P- no designation for reliever vs. starter
7 bench spots
Some of the best fantasy baseball minds in the business were on hand, ready for a season long battle of attrition. Given the quality of the competition and the depth of the rosters, this draft was as challenging as any that I have ever done. Here is a list of all the participants:
Jon Williams – AdvancedFantasyBaseball.com – @bigjonwilliams
Dan Schwartz – RotoBanter.com – @RotoBanter
Smokey – Razzball.com – @Razzball
Doug Anderson – MyFantasyLinks.com – @rotodaddy
Devin Jordan – DavidGonos.com – @devinjjordan
Gregory Jewett – RotoAnalysis.com – @gjewett9
Rich Migliorisi – TheFantasyFix.com – @Rich_Migs
Brent Richard – VicariousSports.com – @VicariousSports
Timothy Kolar – RotoBanter.com – @thelastpoint2
Pat Donovan – WarRoomTalk.com – @Warroomtalk
Mick Wayne – VicariousSports.com – @VicariousSports
Tommy Landseadel – Fantasy Assembly.com – @tlandseadel
Nick Ligotino – WarRoomTalk.com – @Warroomtalk
Robert Burghardt – TGFantasyBaseball.com – @TGFantasy
Matt Moczygemba – TheFantasyFix.com – @MattMoczy
The goal of this piece is to take readers through each pick and my thought process at the time. I drafted from the 12 spot, so I broke the draft up into 15 two round increments. For the purpose of this review, I will take you through the first 20 picks in detail and then briefly highlight the end-game. Without further ado, here it is:
Rounds 1 and 2 (picks 12 and 19)
Outlook– I used my top 200 overall ranking to come up with my top 19 overall players. The plan was to take my highest ranked player with each selection, regardless of position. Before the draft, I thought I was most likely to end up with two big CIs, since they seem to dominate my overall rankings between 8 and 15.
Results– Robinson Cano fell all the way to me at 12. There were other players available who I really liked, but this decision was a no brainer. When Tulo and Votto each fell to pick 19, I had a much tougher call. I was tempted to grab the safe 1B, but the opportunity to snag two elite MIs was too difficult to pass up. I honestly could not imagine a better start for me.
Robinson Cano, SEA 2B
Troy Tulowitzki, COL SS
Rounds 3 and 4 (picks 42 and 49)
Outlook– My plan was to approach the first two rounds with a completely open mind and then make a broad list of needs to address for each additional round. Here, I assessed the most important needs to fill as: 1B/3B, OF and SP. I really wanted to get two more bats here because I felt like the difference between the SPs available here and in the next two rounds was not all that great.
Results– The two first basemen I was targeting (Hosmer and Pujols) went off the board at picks 38 and 39. Some of the big OF bats I was hoping might fall to me did not, so I was looking at either SP or another position. In a 15 team league where you have to start 2 catchers, I view Carlos Santana as a slam dunk top 30 value. I thought he would have been drafted by pick 42, but he was still sitting there. Drafting a talented catcher eligible bat who does not catch every day looked like an amazing value. I pounced. Nick Ligotino has already called this pick a reach, but in a two catcher league where teams are starting players like John Jaso, Derek Norris, Hank Conger and Ryan Doumit, I believe this pick is among the best values of the first ten rounds. There is a significant gap between Santana and the catchers drafted in round 5 because of the plate appearances and the counting stats. With pick 49, I was deciding between the top OF on my board (Pence) and the top SP (Bumgarner). It was a close call, but I opted for Bumgarner.
Carlos Santana, CLE C
Madison Bumgarner, SF SP
Rounds 5 and 6 (picks 72 and 79)
Outlook– By this point, it was pretty obvious that my biggest needs were in both CI positions and the OF where I had yet to pick anyone. This round was a tipping point for CI. If I passed here I was not going to get another value I liked for a few more rounds. Aside from the obvious, I also wanted to grab a high level SP2.
Results– I would have taken Trumbo if he fell to me, but he got snatched at pick 67 by Rich Migs. The next best options were Rizzo and Alvarez. I really did not want to go there, although in hindsight Alvarez would have made a good pick. There were some decent OFs available, but none that I really loved (Gordon and Myers went right before my pick also). I knew I could grab another SP, but I could wait until the sixth round for that. I went with the best value on my draft board, my third ranked catcher, Brian McCann. If I am going to have crappy CIs, I might as well be awesome where everybody else is weakest. Given the options available, my next pick was going to be an SP. My decision came down to either Gerrit Cole or Matt Cain. I went with youth for this one.
Brian McCann, NYY C
Gerrit Cole, PIT SP
Rounds 7 and 8 (picks 102 and 109)
Outlook– I am not a big fan of reaching for catchers, but I think this format is an exception to the rule. My needs are still pretty much the same as before, but I added in a couple new possibilities. I was looking for a CI (none made sense here), OFs, SPs, an MI with speed or an RP.
Results– I strongly considered Josh Hamilton with the 7th round pick, but opted to get some steals and complete my MI core with Everth Cabrera. Since Hamilton was selected in between my next two picks, my 8th round choice came down to either Dominic Brown, Manny Machado or Uehara, the last of the elite closers. I may live to regret passing on Machado if he breaks out further, but I thought Uehara was a better value.
Everth Cabrera, SD SS
Koji Uehara, BOS RP
Rounds 9 and 10 (picks 132 and 139)
Outlook– At this point, I was starting to embrace the fact that my OF and CI positions were going to be really weak, but given my obvious strengths elsewhere, I was okay with it. I knew my OF and CI needs would remain constant throughout the rest of the draft. Even once I filled them, depth would be a priority because of the obvious weakness. I was intrigued by a couple pitching options at this spot too, both starters and closers.
Results– The wait is finally over! I chose to go OF twice with Alfonso Soriano first and Khris Davis second. Soriano is a good value pick here. There is some obvious risk of him falling off the cliff because of his age, but I think 25 HRs, healthy counting stats and a handful of steals are likely. Khris Davis may have been a little bit of a reach, but I prefer him to some of the other options on the board like Yelich and Aoki.
Alfonso Soriano, NYY OF
Khris Davis, MIL OF
Rounds 11 and 12 (picks 162 and 169)
Outlook– The needs here were still pretty obvious. If I took a hitter it was going to be an OF or CI and I also needed to continue to build up my pitching staff. I definitely felt a little better after grabbing 2 OFs in the last two rounds, so now I was looking to grab the best talents on my draft board.
Results– There were two SPs on the board that would have made tremendous steals at this point. Iwakuma and Ryu were both still available. I like Ryu a lot this year, but I was willing to wait a few weeks for Iwakuma. I had him ranked as a top 15 SP before his injury. Getting him this late was an absolute steal. Since Ryu went off the board with the next pick, I was choosing between the best RP available and a speedy OF like Eaton. Jason Grilli was the best of the group despite the risk, so I went that route thinking that I could nab Ben Revere in the next round.
Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA SP
Jason Grilli, PIT RP
Rounds 13 and 14 (picks 192 and 199)
Outlook– In addition to the gaping holes in my line-up, I wanted to grab another pitcher here. As deep as the SP position is, I did not think there would be many attractive options available after pick 300, so I wanted to make sure I had five or six quality starters before then. Also, my OF target for this round (Revere) was selected in the 12th round.
Results– Francisco Liriano was the guy I had queued up. I think his success last season was due to some mechanical tweaks and the change of scenery. With so many pitchers still on the board, I was sure he would make it back to me. Pat Donovan made sure that didn’t happen. With the 192nd pick, I reluctantly decided to draft Corey Hart to man first base. I think Hart can be good if healthy, but I would feel a lot better if I was not relying on him as my top 1B. With my next pick, there were many solid SPs on the board, but none that I loved. I took the safety of Jon Lester over Johnny Cueto and C.J. Wilson. This was not a pick I was thrilled with, but it still makes for a good value.
Corey Hart, SEA 1B
Jon Lester, BOS SP
Rounds 15 and 16 (picks 222 and 229)
Outlook– There were still some pretty strong OF options available at this point, but I needed to start taking some of them. There also were not many SPs left who I would feel comfortable starting, so I was looking at some of the last few names on my list. I wanted to leave the draft with 6 SPs that I felt good about.
Results– Some sleepers like Kole Calhoun were already off the board, but surprisingly George Springer was still there. It is tough to draft a player likely to start the year in AAA when you have so many holes to fill, but I will take half a season of Springer plus some replacement level guy over a declining vet like Crawford any time. At pick 229, I had three options. I was looking at Marco Estrada, Oswaldo Arcia and Todd Frazier. I thought that Estrada was the most likely player not to make it back to me later, so I went with him.
George Springer, HOU OF
Marco Estrada, MIL SP
Rounds 17 and 18 (picks 252 and 259)
Outlook– There were still a few good pitchers left, but I needed to grab my 3B here. I could not wait any longer since Moustakas and Chris Johnson were selected earlier in the 17th round.
Result– I thought about Frazier in round 16 and he made it back to me here, and this pick was fairly easy since Arcia was no longer available. I actually like Frazier to bounce back this year. I am not expecting anything great, but he should easily out-produce this draft position. In round 18, I really wanted to take Beachy, but I thought it more wise to grab my 4th OF. Oscar Taveras was the best guy on my board, so I went with him. Starting with two of my top 4 OFs in the minors is a little scary, but I can easily find short term replacements until my studs are ready. I could not pass up the value here. In hindsight, I would have been better served to have taken Beachy here and Gregory Polanco in the next round.
Todd Frazier, CIN 3B
Oscar Taveras, STL OF
Rounds 19 and 20 (picks 282 and 289)
Outlook– I still needed a CI and lots of OF help, but I knew I could find decent options later on. Pitchers were flying off the draft board, so I wanted to make sure I got either a good starter or a reliever with strong ratios and saves potential.
Result– I was choosing between Sergios Santos and Mark Melancon here. I could either handcuff my aging, injury prone closer or I could maximize upside by adding Santos, who many believe is the best pitcher in the Blue Jay’s pen. I chose to be aggressive with Santos. In round 20, I went with Michael Saunders. He is going to drain my BA, but he has a pretty clear path to everyday ABs and he could flirt with 20/20 in a full season.
Sergio Santos, TOR RP
Michael Saunders, SEA SP
In these last few rounds, I was able to find some pretty solid OFs, a closer in waiting and a couple young pitchers with upside. Here were my picks:
Round 21- Justin Smoak, SEA 1B
Round 22- James Paxton, SEA SP
Round 23- Trevor Plouffe, MIN 3B
Round 24- A.J. Pollock, ARZ OF
Round 25- Noah Syndergaard, NYM SP
Round 26- Emilio Bonifacio, CHC, 2B/OF
Round 27- Ryan Cook, OAK RP
Round 28- Jonny Gomes, BOS OF
Round 29- Andrew Heaney, MIA SP
Round 30- Lorenzo Cain, KC OF
I really like the young pitchers I was able to grab here, especially Paxton and Syndergaard, but Heaney may end up being my first drop.
I was also able to lock up two more options for my CI position in Smoak and Plouffe. Neither is a great option, but both should be in the line-up most days. Pollock is a sneaky late value too. He should be an everyday player in the AZ outfield and he has the ability to post solid counting stats. Bonifacio is a lottery ticket that could help me in steals and Gomes and Cain are two more options I can use until my two AAA studs arrive.
Here is the finished product:
C- Carlos Santana- Rd. 3 pick 42
C- Brian McCann- Rd. 5 pick 72
1B- Corey Hart- Rd. 13 pick 192
2B- Robinson Cano- Rd. 1 pick 12
SS- Troy Tulowitzki- Rd. 2 pick 19
3B- Todd Frazier- Rd. 17 pick 252
CI- Justin Smoak- Rd. 21 pick 312
MI- Everth Cabrera- Rd. 7 pick 102
OF- Alfonso Soriano- Rd. 9 pick 132
OF- Khris Davis- Rd. 10 pick 139
OF- George Springer- Rd. 15 pick 222- fingers crossed
OF- Michael Saunders- Rd. 20 pick 289
OF- A.J. Pollock- Rd. 24 pick 349
UTIL- Emilio Bonifacio- Rd. 26 pick 379
B- Oscar Taveras- Rd. 18 pick 259
B- Trevor Plouffe- Rd. 23 pick 342
B- Jonny Gomes- Rd. 28 pick 409
B- Lorenzo Cain- Rd. 30 pick 439
P- Madison Bumgarner- Rd. 4 pick 49
P- Gerrit Cole- Rd. 6 pick 79
P- Koji Uehara- Rd. 8 pick 109
P- Hisashi Iwakuma- Rd. 11 pick 162
P- Jason Grilli- Rd 12. pick 169
P- Jon Lester- Rd. 14 pick 199
P- Marco Estrada- Rd. 16 pick 229
P- Sergio Santos- Rd. 19 pick 282
P- James Paxton- Rd. 22 pick 319
B- Noah Syndergaard- Rd. 25 pick 372
B- Ryan Cook- Rd. 27 pick 402
B- Andrew Heaney- Rd. 29 pick 432
I am pretty pleased with this team overall. I have some really obvious weaknesses, but so does everyone else in a league this deep. I think my team can be competitive in HRs and RBI and hopefully above average in BA and Runs. Steals are a weakness for sure, but if Bonifacio wins the Cubs 2B job or Springer breaks camp with the big club, I will likely be okay there.
My pitching staff figures to be pretty competitive too. My team has the potential to finish near the top in ERA and WHIP without being near the bottom in any single categories since I have a little bit of everything. My team may lag in Ks early on since I will have to start both Cook and Santos until Iwakuma is ready, but I think I have enough to be in the middle of the pack.
With a few good free agent acquisitions and some good health, I think this team can be pretty good. Aside from drafting six Mariners (4 hitters, yuck!), I like my team balance right now. Please feel free to agree or disagree with any of my picks in the comment section below. I hope you enjoyed the read!
Also, if interested, check out these links to other accounts of this draft:
Nick Ligotino breaks down the first 5 rounds of the LEGM draft here
Click here for Mick Wayne’s break down of his own roster from the LEGM draft
Mack Wayne breaks down the first ten rounds of the LEEG draft here