Last Saturday I took part in the venerable and long-standing FSIC Expert Draft. I'm in the AL-Only league, which is a great honor. I even took home the trophy (literally, this thing is like four feet tall) back in 2013. 2013 seems like a long time ago now, and I need to get another one.
It's a really tough group of competitors, but we did have a last minute dropout so that makes things a little more streamlined. I'm not saying 'easier' because it ain't easy. But a nine team "only" league is still fairly shallow and good players will still be hard to pick up.
In the draft my plan was to load up on hitters, particularly middle infield and outfield. I was betting that I could find starting pitching later, though I did want to grab two strong closers to handle saves and bring down my ratios just a touch overall. I thought that catcher went about eight deep in the AL and corner infielders could be had later.
The math is pretty easy in the outfield in particular. There are roughly 45 AL outfielder starters. 15 teams times three starters plus a few DH's minus some platoons. Since this league has nine teams and five starting OF slots every one of those outfielders will be required. If I can get six good ones I'm ahead of the game.
Middles and corners? There are about 30 each (a little more for corners playing DH) and our league starts about 27 each. I do see supply a little heavier at the corner for DH's and outfielders who qualify there, but I also see a smoother quality curve for corners.
Pitchers? Well, there are 75 or so starting pitchers in the AL and basically 15 closers. Not all of either list is quality. My plan was to wait on starters and get some upside guys in pitchers parks in the middle rounds. For closers, every team with two is ahead of the game. If you have two of the top six or seven you are way ahead.
So, on to the draft. My strategy played out almost exactly as I detailed above.
In round one I was hoping for the 'go big' pick of Carlos Correa at #6. He went #5... but that meant Jose Altuve fell to #6. Fine by me. Pairing him with an outfield-eligible Chris Davis at #13 gives me a lot of everything.
Adam Jones at 24 gives me another great outfielder as I build my stockpile. Xander Bogaerts at 31 completes my double play combo and really anchors my batting average.
Hosmer is a good value at 42 though a little earlier than I wanted to go for a 1B. He slipped for a reason. At 49 I reached a bit on Cody Allen since he was the last of the stud closers. Adrian Beltre fell to 60 and couldn't pass him up, even with the injury. Adam Eaton should deliver value with the next pick. Some might criticize Shawn Tolleson with pick #78, but I think he is a fantastic closer and paired with Allen should give me an unfair advantage. Don't pay for saves? It's a shallow league and I paid for saves. Sixth and ninth round picks is a sizable investment, but I've got a full infield plus Davis and Jones in the outfield.
I had hoped I'd have more outfielders by now, but starting pitching is empty! The cupboard is bare.
Yordano Ventura, Collin McHugh, Carlos Rodon, and Kevin Gausman are four of my next five picks. Boom. You want upside in a rotation? I challenge you to find a more boom or bust rotation in all of the fantasy world. Later in the draft I added Chris Tillman, Chris Bassitt, Hector Santiago, and Henderson Alvarez. I don't love the parks in Baltimore or Chicago for pitchers but I did grab a Royal and a couple A's. Mission accomplished? Meh. I do have considerable upside though. Add to that group the K's and ratios from Allen, Tolleson, and also Darren O'Day and maybe I'll do okay.
But the outfield tho. I thought you were going to prioritize OF? Well, Davis, Jones, and Eaton right? Ahem. Okay, three more spots to fill plus at least one bench spot. Funny thing about that. You see, Austin Jackson signed with the White Sox on Sunday and on Saturday I drafted Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Avisail Garcia. Garcia is the one in jeopardy here, but I do wonder how the DH situation works out if Adam LaRoche is done. Besides, Jackson is really a platoon guy at this point. Right? I supplemented my Windy City outfield with Byron Buxton in the middle rounds. Enormous upside if the light goes on. I also grabbed Seth Smith very late. He's the definition of replacement player, but he should get AB's in Seattle and be average across the board. Pretty good for an OF7, actually.
I also took Trevor Plouffe as Beltre insurance plus Didi Gregorius. I like to have a utility guy as well and Eduardo Escobar is another completely average guy, but he qualifies all over the place which is helpful in a shallow league. It's more helpful in a daily league and this one is weekly, but it's still nice to have a Swiss Army knife in the drawer.
Oh yeah, did I mention Pablo Sandoval? Yeah, him too. I know, I know... Panda's fallen on hard times. Nevertheless, he works into my 20/20 drafting strategy that I describe in my book. I needed a high upside guy for cheap, and I took Pablo in the 18th round.
The only player I haven't mentioned is my catcher. Robinson Chirinos in the 15th round. I could have pushed it and gotten him later, but I did say catcher is about eight deep in the AL and Chirinos is #8. Plus I like him. He could do what Matt Wieters often does - .238 BA with 23 home runs. That kind of power at catcher at this point is pretty good value, so I didn't wait any longer.
The auto-generated CBS draft scorecard had me third. I never know if I want those computer rankings to rate me highly since the idea is to go against the site on which you are drafting to find value. Maybe I played it safe enough to get #3 and my upside will carry me to another four-foot trophy.