Another Draft, Another Review: NFBC Draft-and-Hold

I had participated in a too-early industry mock draft that ended a couple of weeks ago. Then I attended First Pitch Arizona (FPAZ), which I reviewed and at which I participated in another arguably too-early draft. This post is about that latter draft. Sorry for all the reviews lately.

The draft, which took place live at FPAZ, is hosted by the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). It’s a 15-team league, but instead of being a standard 30-round draft (seven bench players) with in-season transactions, it’s a 50-round draft-and-hold with no transactions (don’t worry, this only covers the first 23 rounds). I won’t say it completely changes the dynamic, but it does, or at least should, dramatically alter the plans of owners who take a lot of risks and plan to hedge them using their free agent acquisition budgets (FAABs).

What’s worse is I had, and still have, done virtually zero planning for the 2018 season. Accordingly, I relied on a strategy I outlined in the previously hyperlinked too-early mock draft review. I’m a risk-averse guy, so I typically draft player who are boring — boring because they’re old and/or you know what you’re getting. Low variance, things of that nature. This strategy inadvertently exacerbated this tendency of mine in these drafts, and the draft-and-hold nature of this league further compounded it. Without looking, the average age of my team must be, like, 33 years old.

But I like it. It’s so unsexy, so unapologetically (actually, very apologetically) boring that it’s almost not worth review. Except when I talk about boring, unsexy teams, I hear from guys like Jeff Zimmerman, Mike Gianella and so on — guys in the industry expert leagues such as Tout Wars and LABR — who say this is their jam, and that’s reassuring.

I drafted from the 11-spot again. Note that because we haven’t yet drafted the latter 27 rounds, I haven’t necessarily filled out my roster to completion (I drafted a bench player before a 9th pitcher). Here’s the draft board:

yo, team 11 looks reeeeal sexy

…and here’s my team up close:

2018 NFBC Draft-and-Hold: 1st 23 Rounds
Rd Pick Name 2017 2016 2015 2014
1 11 Clayton Kershaw 18 33 7 1
2 20 Dee Gordon 13 17 33
3 41 Nelson Cruz 20 19 14 12
4 50 Brian Dozier 19 9 47 27
5 71 Wil Myers 74 17
6 80 Jake Arrieta 107 50 4
7 101 Andrew McCutchen 46 124 31 17
8 110 Adam Duvall 82 68
9 131 Carlos Santana 115 69 103 62
10 140 Adam Jones 111 101 66 24
11 161 Drew Pomeranz 97 121 386
12 170 Eugenio Suarez 106 143 360
13 191 A.J. Ramos 252 172 158
14 200 Welington Castillo 171 249 241 431
15 221 Michael Fulmer 182 135
16 230 Melky Cabrera 137 136 140 88
17 251 Kole Calhoun 229 130 74 134
18 260 J.A. Happ 185 65 182
19 281 Santiago Casilla 324 203 173
20 290 Jose Reyes 153 484 155 53
21 311 Russell Martin 372 182 70 191
22 320 Jason Kipnis 774 60 98 273
23 341 Jason Hammel 428 131 141
Year columns indicate overall end-of-season rankings

1.11. Clayton Kershaw, LAD SP
Another draft, another 11-spot, another Kershaw share. He pitched 149 innings in 2016 and finished the season 33rd overall. It’s astounding how good he is.

I don’t get the First-Rounder Carlos Correa love… sorry. His highest finish in any season is 74th; he’s an exceptional talent, but I think we may be overrating his full-season ceiling. J.D. Martinez (2.19) feels like a reach here, but I keep hearing a similar refrain for all these deep competitive leagues: if you want him, go get him.

2.20. Dee Gordon, MIA 2B
Jazzed about this. Trea Turner, Gordon and Billy Hamilton are really the only three players you can draft who will free up your anxiety about drafting speed for, like, a dozen rounds. There will be cheap speed later — Delino Deshields Jr., Mallex Smith, Rajai Davis, perhaps a healthy Travis Jankowski or a rebounding Jonathan Villar, etc. — but locking it in with a super-high floor is helpful.

I actually had a chance to stick to my brand and draft Jose Ramirez (2.23), and I might have, if Gordon was no longer on the board. But I’m also not sold on his power. Remember when Xander Bogaerts went bananas power-wise in 2016? Fortunately, Ramirez has youth on his side. But so did Bogaerts last year, so Ramirez’s power spike can’t totally be chalked up to the “young talented player takes next step” narrative. I’m just saying be cautious with your expectations here; I’m not banking on any more than 15 home runs in a fully healthy 2018. (Not like 15/15/.300 doesn’t get the job done.) Robbie Ray (3.35) and Chris Taylor (3.37) were third-rounders… woof.

3.41. Nelson Cruz, SEA DH
I got him a round later in the too-early mock, and yet 41st overall is still great value for the next coming of David Ortiz, even if he “clogs” my utility spot. I’ll cash in on that designated hitter penalty any day. As soon as I second-guess myself, wondering if I could’ve waited another round on Cruz, I remember Team 10 openly asked about Cruz’s positional eligibility, obviously interested in him but deterred by the DH-only designation. It had to be then. If Edwin Encarnacion (3.38) stuck around until pick 41, I might’ve pushed my luck with Cruz despite the open query. Oh, and I forgot to mention: Cruz has finished top-20 the last four years(!!!!!).

4.50. Brian Dozier, MIN 2B
Snagged Dozier as the 50th pick again. He hasn’t finished worse than 47th the last four years and has three 1st/2nd-round finishes in that span. At this point, I’m sitting on something like 60 homers and 60 steals and the best pitcher in baseball (other than Ervin Santana) through four rounds. I don’t know if I’ve ever drafted two second basemen in the first four rounds.

I really like Jose Abreu at 4.51. Outside of a down 2016, which looks increasingly like the outlier in a very good four-year stateside career, he’s a legitimate 2nd-round talent, especially with his floor. This round is fun as hell, seeing a run of James Paxton (4.53), Tommy Pham, (4.54), Rhys Hoskins (4.55) and Whit Merrifield (4.56). If I had Cruz or Encarnacion with the other unavailable, I would’ve broken custom and popped Hoskins at 55th. That’s the lowest I’ve seen him fall. Also, Domingo Santana at 5.68 is interesting — I like him a lot, but I think the community has gotten way too bullish on him. Outside of contact gains, I don’t think there’s anywhere for him to go but down. This is his ceiling price.

5.71. Wil Myers, SDP 1B
This is an uncomfortable one for me — it’s my first time ever owning Myers — but it was hard to ignore the power-speed thing he did for a second straight year with the draft clock breathing down my neck. The aging curve probably won’t be too kind to Myers; there’s a high likelihood I won’t pull a positive return on investment on this one in light of it. But I was more than happy to add another power-speed threat, especially as a back-end top-10 first baseman.

6.80. Jake Arrieta, FA SP
If Aaron Nola hung around eight picks longer, I would’ve grabbed him here. Like Myers, I’ve never owned Arrieta, but with an average finish of 47th the last three years and a low of 107th (last year), I’ll risk it on a guy with a relatively high floor. I say “risk it” because he’s trending in the wrong direction, but it’s not dangerously so. This could end up being a fatal pick, but at this point, Arrieta effectively represented the end of the potentially elite tier and the beginning of the excellent-but-not-quite-there tier.

Rafael Devers (7.92) sighting. Devers could be one of the three best prospects in baseball, but it is so hard to bank on him in a format like this. Kudos to whoever has the guts to stake such an early pick on an unknown quantity.

7.101. Andrew McCutchen, PIT OF
And make it three straight picks of players I’ve never owned (at least not since 2012 for Cutch). McCutchen’s lowest finish the last four years is 124th, so even at his most depressing, he should still come close to breaking even alongside 3rd-round upside (which he hit the other five of the last six years). My only concern is if we invented a narrative to explain his explosive summer. His production resembles an inverted ‘V’; he turned in a .775 OPS and 103 wRC+ in the second half. The fade might still be real, folks — an increasingly likely danger at his age (31).

Would’ve loved for Eduardo Nunez (8.106), multi-category and -position extraordinaire, to linger past the turn.

8.110. Adam Duvall, CIN OF
Like Cruz, I took Duvall a round earlier than I did in the too-early mock (although not be design). If you like a guy, go get him. Duvall has finished 68th and 82nd in his first two full MLB seasons. I over-drafted him relative to too-early mock average draft position (ADP) data, but 110th could still shape up to be solid value, especially as we wade through tons of traps in these early-middle rounds.

Matt Olson (8.112) sighting. This will probably be where he ends up in March ADP. I think it’s reasonable, but I don’t yet feel comfortable drafting him here — not until I’ve done my customary deep dive, which hasn’t taken place yet. Brad Peacock at 8.114 is very bullish; I like the spirit of it, but I wouldn’t paint him as a 2nd-tier guy ahead of some other starting pitchers who followed him.

9.131. Carlos Santana, CLE 1B
This is about the latest Santana went in the too-early mocks, so I breathed a sigh of relief after this one. He has been a top-115 player the last five years with an average finish of 90th. And he’s still firmly entrenched in one of the game’s best offenses.

Ozzie Albies (9.134) sighting. Same opinion as Devers, even if it’s a little later; his playing time is even less guaranteed in a format where playing time is the chief currency. Jon Lester (10.136) and Jeff Samardzija (10.137) is ballin’. Lester should pretty easily crack the end-of-season top-100 and, if you’re a believer in even-year bullsh*t, has 2nd-round upside (19th in 2014 and 22nd in 2016).

10.140. Adam Jones, BAL OF
How many times have you yawned yet? Jones isn’t the perennial 2nd-round talent he once was, but with consecutive 101st- and 111th-place finishes and no real signs of decline, he’s a relative bargain. And that comes with exemplary health, having averaged 649 plate appearances the last eight years.

Charlie Morton (10.144) fell really far to me in the too-early mock. This seems about right for him. I also have to respect the owner who took Yadier Molina (10.148) in the 10th round. I thought he’d last maybe a half-dozen more rounds. As aforementioned, playing time is the chief currency. Molina likely won’t repeat his 2017, but 500 plate appearances of reasonable offensive production will do. I’ll go on record and say I think Chase Anderson (11.153), Luke Weaver (11.154) and Danny Duffy (11.156) will be this year’s predictably bad mid-tier starting pitcher trap plays. 2017 was littered with them; I haven’t dug into it much yet, but if this draft is a singular indication of future trends, then bleh.

11.161. Drew Pomeranz, BOS SP
This is the first of three times Team 10 sniped me. Man, that feeling of getting sniped never gets better. With David Price (11.160) off the board, I opted for his considerably less-good teammate, having completely forgotten Sonny Gray (12.168) was still on the board. I won’t call it a colossal mistake — consecutive 3.32 ERAs and 80% strand rates point to value and skill — but he’s also a glaring regression candidate. Meh. Far from an ideal SP3.

12.170. Eugenio Suarez, CIN 3B
A perfectly satisfactory pick, with two top-150 finishes under his belt. But I got fancy here, thinking I could wait one more round on a relief pitcher it seemed everyone has forgotten.

Instead of drafting Cole Hamels (12.176), just don’t draft him at all. Danny Salazar (12.179), Lance Lynn (13.184) and Lance McCullers (13.187) all got scooped before my turn, further underscoring my 11th-round blunder.

13.191. A.J. Ramos, FA RP
Team 10 snagged Mark Melancon (13.190) and I had a catastrophic meltdown. I don’t know how many closers deep we are at this point — 18, I think, clearly having waited on relief help — so a potentially healthy Melancon here is huge. I botched it, and in a panic, I grabbed Ramos, not even sure of who’s available with my makeshift player list. He’s a break-even pick here (as long as he signs on somewhere as a team’s closer, which I imagine he will, but no guarantees), so it’s not the end of the world — I guess it was good intuition, or perhaps good luck, on my part — but good lord, I fell apart for a hot second.

No discount for a perennially overhyped Kevin Gausman (13.193). He looks like a strong fade candidate — and that might be a good thing, if you believe in anything I wrote here. Be warned: he might actually, finally, have the upside he once promised us.

14.200. Welington Castillo, FA C
How many free agents do I have so far? Three, four? Molina was my last hope at a 500-PA catcher (or so I thought…), but I’ll take 420 from Castillo with 17 homers while batting .260. But this is an over-draft, my first true over-draft, so I’m clearly off my game a little. I wish I had remembered my 21st-round pick sooner.

15.221. Michael Fulmer, DET SP
His true talent naturally lies somewhere in between his 2016 and 2017 seasons as long as he’s truly a .270 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) guy. If he’s not there’s trouble in store. Otherwise, he should be good for 160 innings of 3.50 ERA ball. It’d be great if we can squeeze out another 20 innings, though. Regardless, I’m getting him at about a four-round discount. That’ll do.

16.230. Melky Cabrera, FA OF
And yet another free agent… I took the Melk Man one round later in the too-early mock, the third of three such players about whom I can say this. Cabrera is legitimately going outside the top 300, even 350, picks everywhere else but my team. His end-of-season rank the last three seasons: 140th, 136th, 137th. Get yourself some late-round Melky, especially if it’s a draft-and-hold, where his 654 plate appearances of 15-homer, 3-steal, .290-average hitting might be even more valuable and, thus, underrated.

17.251. Kole Calhoun, LAA OF
I’m a broken record, but even at his worst, he breaks even here. But if he floats toward his career average, he’s a 10th-rounder. A little light on power and BABIP last year, I anticipate both rebound enough to make him usable in even the shallowest of leagues. Having Justin Upton in that lineup full-time won’t hurt.

Another plan foiled with Francisco Mejia off the board as 18.256. He’ll qualify as catcher, but rumor has it they’ve been testing him at third base, which sounds like Ramirez would move to second base if the Jason Kipnis outfield experiment is to be believed. Also, I guess I really gotta pay more attention to Jose Martinez (18.249).

18.260. J.A. Happ, TOR SP

Remember when David Dahl (19.280) was a top-125 play, per NFBC ADP? Seems you can score him just inside the top 300 these days. I was never that high on him, but it would be unwise to think an injury has completely changed him as a hitter. If you liked him last year, there’s hardly any reason not to like him this year, especially at this price. Championship teams make shrewd picks like this.

19.281. Santiago Casilla, OAK RP

20.290. Jose Reyes, NYM SS
Despite his history, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Mets don’t exercise Reyes’ option, especially in light of the Amed Rosario experiment thus far. I only blame myself for writing him off; we will never see that kind of power again, but man, the guy still runs. And his power at least offset (and maybe contributed to) a sunken BABIP. It was hard for me to look at Reyes still there, with upside guys like Paul DeJong (14.202) gone long ago, and not think about a 8/20/.270 season. And those eight homers could very well become 16 — he has hit for peak Reyes power ever since upping his launch angle, as evidenced by the 7-percentage point jump in fly ball rate (FB%) prior to 2016.

How did Kendrys Morales (20.298) fall this far? Albert Pujols (20.291) is fantastic value here, too, no matter what you make of him at this point. Either could have made a great bench stash for me in case of injury, but filling my shortstop hole proved a more pressing matter. Aaron Hicks (21.308) is another one of those Dahl-esque low-risk, high-upside plays that help win leagues.

21.311. Russell Martin, TOR C
Thank goodness I remembered he existed. He’s locked in as Toronto’s backstop, and prior to last year’s injury-shortened campaign, he was good for nearly 500 PAs, so it’s not like he’s starved for reps, either. I’ll glad take his 20 homers and 140 runs and RBI outside the top 300, even if it means he barely clears the Mendoza Line. I pat myself on the back for this one.

Really wanted Addison Reed (22.317) to last through the turn. One of the last, and definitely forgotten, closers on the board.

22.320. Jason Kipnis, CLE 2B/OF
This is a top-100 player when healthy put together vintage Kipnis double-digit power-speed paces in 90 games. His BABIP clocked in some 65 points below his career mark; this could be attributed to too many fly balls and pop ups (and not enough of his usual line drive stroke) and/or his injuries. The Indians will make sure he finds a place to play, even if he is eventually forced out of center field. I now have an excellent fall-back plan on whom I don’t need to immediately rely for playing time, and he’ll have multipositional eligibility to boot. Another pat on the back.

Chris Davis (23.339) in the 23rd round…

23.341. Jason Hammel, KCR SP
Whatever — he was a top-160 player three straight seasons prior to the Royals breaking him. (I hope he’s not actually broken.) Another good bet to bounce back, especially in light of his previous BABIP success (as for the win column, well…), but I probably could have waited 10 more rounds to grab him. I was a little fatigued at this point. Even though he would’ve been my 3rd second baseman (and 4th overall), I may regret not grabbing Brandon Phillips. We’ll see.

Next steps:
I heard John Lackey doesn’t plan to retire. As long as the other 14 teams don’t read this (or, if they do read this, then they don’t remember; or, if they do remember, then they’re not one of the four teams to draft before me coming around the bend), he’ll be my 24th.

As for everything else, there’s a lot I haven’t mapped out yet, mostly because I’m not exactly sure how to proceed. For example, regarding saves, I realistically only need two closers to be competitive in the category. How many middle relievers should I stash? Forty percent of Opening Day closers lose their jobs in any given year, whether by injury or poor performance. So I should grab, what, another half-dozen setup men? More? I really don’t know. (Any insight?) Regardless, over the course of the next month and a half, I’ll have a more refined list of who’s available and have some targets scoped out.

I’ll also grab another catcher (I have my eye on Francisco Cervelli) and a few more MLB position player backups here and there (with Brandon Phillips, Curtis Granderson, Hernan Perez, and Cameron Maybin, among others, in my crosshairs). And I need to bone up on my Triple-A prospects… I just don’t know how to fill out a roster this deep. It’s roughly a 65-35 split in favor of hitters, yet I anticipate total DL time will skew in the opposite direction. So maybe I’ll end up closer to 60% hitters, 40% pitchers.

Self-applied verdict:
Boring. Unsexy. I warned you. But I wanted to build a low-risk core of players being relatively undervalued by draft slot. Turns out many of the fantasy baseball’s underrated players are consistent, older long-timers with generally clean bills of health.

We’ll pick this back up in March once we’ve finished slow-drafting the final 27 rounds.



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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Three-time FSWA finalist, one-time winner. Featured in this year's Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine. Doing everything I can to better understand (fantasy) baseball using only publicly available data.

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channelclemente
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Duvall could be quite a ballplayer, but his diabetes seem to make his second half production at times problematic.