To paraphrase a rather famous man known as Jay-Z, “If you’re having draft problems, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but a draft ain’t one.”
It is entirely possible that by the time you read this, Opening Day will have happened. That means it’s time to stop telling you how to draft and start telling you how to deal with the team you drafted, because you didn’t draft a perfect team. I know you didn’t. I know because perfect teams don’t exist.
Imagine a 12 team snake draft. Except instead of the first pick, the first person gets the first 12 picks, the second one gets the next 12, and so on. You might think the person picking 12th is at a huge disadvantage. Personally, I think the person picking 12th probably wins that league. 24 uninterrupted picks would give them a nearly unassailable advantage.
In a draft based on standard ESPN rankings, a plethora of good to decent closers are ranked 133 and below (Iglesias, Leclerc, Doolittle, Giles) along with some exceptionally decent starters (Chris Archer, JA Happ, Robbie Ray). You could grab all 7 of those, plus put Miguel Cabrera at 1b, grab Jurickson Profar, Paul DeJong, Eloy Jimenez, Harrison Bader, Brandon Nimmo, Yoan Moncada, Max Muncy, Rafael Devers, Yasmani Grandal. . . and you’d still have 7 picks left to gamble on Yu Darvish, pick up Kyle Hendricks, take a chance on Buxton breaking out, grab Schwarber’s power or Renfroe’s potential, plus add a control artist like Shane Bieber. And that’s only 6 names. You could potentially take all of that, in a row, and still have a pick to spare.
Which, in fact, is the point of giving you buy/sell advice: pointing out value. As that hypothetical scenario (hopefully) just showed, there’s tons of value in the middle of the draft – it’s our job to figure out how to turn that our advantage. Buy/Sell is going to occasionally veer toward specifics that may not apply to your team. That said, I’m going to try to find some middle ground that is applicable to everyone. So let’s begin.
What jumped out to me from my little draft experiment earlier was how much the outfield had thinned out. With Mike Trout and Mookie Betts bringing all the tools, and guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton bringing serious thunder, you want a superstar in your outfield. Eloy is exciting but unproven. Nimmo, Bader, and Cedric Mullins have tools, but not the high-end power that makes Trout such an exhilarating pick, nor the elite speed of a guy like Trea Turner. All are good outfield options, but if they are your number one or two outfield option, you’re starting the season with a second-rate outfield. Consequently:
A great many scouts believe Rafael Devers is due for a breakout. People all around baseball believe Miguel Cabrera still has something in the tank. Max Muncy was a star last year. Jurickson Profar went 20/10 for a bad Rangers team. Those infielders you jumped on so quickly? They have consistency on their side. They’ve (mostly) done it multiple times. But if you’re willing to gamble on a guy that has only done it once, on a sleeper or a breakout, the infield is a place where you can theoretically trade “down” without actually decreasing the quality of your team.
I’m not saying trade the Lindor’s, Bregman’s and Trea Turner’s of the world. However, if your best infielder doesn’t play shortstop, you might be surprised at how easily their production can be made up. Don’t be afraid to sell them to improve elsewhere.
Buy: Middle Tier Starting Pitching
Middle Tier Pitching is THE gamble of fantasy baseball. Get it right – you probably win. Get it wrong – your season has no chance. I advocate buying in for 3 reasons:
1. Talent. The middle tier isn’t in the middle for lack of talent. Most of these arms have high-end talent – that talent just comes with question marks. Health, consistency, age – all of these cause a potential high-end arm to fall into the middle tiers. That said, Robbie Ray has been a strikeout champ. J.A. Happ is consistent, and his strikeouts are still rising even in his mid-30’s. Luis Castillo has all the talent in the world if he can put it together. Chris Archer has been thought of as an ace before and still has the stuff for it. The whole tier is full of pitchers with the pieces to be a top-20 starter. Do your research, make your guesses, and make the trade. There’s plenty of value to be had here.
2. Opportunity. Everyone wants the big names. It’s quite comforting to look at your roster and see Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom holding court at the top of your rotation. I get it. But the price on the big names is generally absurd. Much like the infield, a middle tier starter can often approximate the results of a high-end arm, for less than half the price.
3. Depth. Pitching should not be your fantasy team’s last stand. From Kyle Wright to Casey Mize to Jesus Luzardo, there are tons of high-end minor league arms getting ready to make the leap to being fantasy assets. The deeper a position is, the safer it is to be in the middle of it. Don’t waste assets you don’t need to when a stud could get called up at any moment and be just a waiver claim away.
Closer is a shallow pool. Many teams have a committee, some teams have an injured guy who may or may not be back quickly, and still other teams have had a competition for the job, and any job “won” in camp is not a job with much security. Closers are at the other extreme from starters. The depth is thin, so safety is at the edges. Either go high or go low. High is Jansen, Diaz, Treinen, Hand, Vazquez, Yates, possibly Osuna, Chapman, Kimbrel, maybe Leclerc, Doolittle, Iglesias, and Hader in general (just for his strikeout potential). Beyond that, if someone offers you something you value for someone with the closer label attached, sell. One, maybe two guys will emerge from the fray to be this year’s Treinen and Yates. The rest won’t last the year, probably not even til July. The odds ain’t in your favor here.
Deep League Buy and Sell: Young ‘Uns
The game is trending younger. Know that and know who values it. If your team’s window is closing and you can get a couple of interesting young players for the future if you sell a star now, it’s okay to burn it down before the season starts. Conversely, if your team’s window is closing, and you can sell a couple of prospects to prop it open for one last run, now’s the time for that too. If there’s someone you are convinced is the future, buy now before they prove it. If there is someone you are convinced will flop, now’s the time to sell before they do so. Their value as a group is never higher than right now before the season starts, before the dream has been revealed as truth or lie.
You’ll never win every buy and sell, every trade or every move you make. It’s impossible. But don’t let that scare you. The draft is just the beginning. The real fun starts now.
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