Cory’s NFBC Recap
I have to admit, I was pretty annoyed to not have won money in NFBC last season… first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury effectively missed the entire season after being run over by Reid Brignac, and would-be #1 starter Daniel Hudson was awful for nine starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery, among other challenges my team faced during the season, and yet I finished in fourth place, only 2.5 points out of the money. I got the performances I needed, so with a little bit better luck on the injury front, I would’ve gotten paid. I want to get paid this year.
So, I went into this year’s draft totally focused on carrying out my gameplan to build a winning team. My priorities were:
* Focus on categories over positions… given two comparable players I would let position scarcity be the edge, but I didn’t want to take a lesser player in the interest of position scarcity;
* Focus on power over speed, particularly in the early going… it takes a lot of speed to lead the league these days, but there’s also a lot more of it available, particularly in the late rounds. Power is scarcer, and one homer helps in four categories, whereas a steal only helps in one. I got caught short on power in my Tout Wars draft and didn’t want to make that mistake again here.
* Stay disciplined in following my rankings but be aggressive about getting “my guys”, being mindful that 24 picks would go by after each of my odd-round pick, before I got to pick again. I was going to take the player I thought was the right fit at that point in the draft, who best fit my needs at that moment, and try to not worry as much about ADP or other outside considerations.
With those goals in mind, with trusty wingman Derek Carty by my side and a full flask of Balcone’s blue corn whiskey courtesy of Will Carroll, here’s who we took:
1.3 — Miguel Cabrera (3B)
My first choice in our pre-draft KDS rankings was to pick third, because even though I valued Ryan Braun as the #1 overall player, I felt the difference between him, Mike Trout and Cabrera was so small that any of them were perfectly worthy choices. So, I decided to let the market make the choice for me and take the “best available” with this pick, and then be closer to my next pick on the 2/3 wheel. There was a 2 in 3 chance I’d get an outfielder with this pick so most of my pre-draft planning was based on that, so while I was mildly surprised to get Cabrera, I was not at all unhappy to take him.
2.13 — Jacoby Ellsbury (OF)
My original plan was to go for three power-first bats here and come out with as many homers as I could, but I didn’t want to completely punt speed either. So, after taking Cabrera first I knew I would need more steals with my next two picks, and I felt that made Ellsbury the clear-cut best choice. Even after last year’s debacle I wasn’t afraid to take him again, as I feel he’ll hit close to .300 with 15 or so homers, 40 or more steals and a ton of runs. Of course, I would have taken my man Edwin Encarnacion with this pick had he been available, then hoped for Ellsbury at 3.3, but E5 went at 2.10… my hat’s off to the team that took him.
3.3 — David Wright (3B)
I wanted power with some speed, and it came down to Wright or Paul Goldschmidt. As a first baseman Goldschmidt would’ve fit my roster better, but in my estimation his upside this year is pretty similar to Wright’s floor, and we know what Wright’s upside is. I wasn’t psyched to fill up my corner with the 43rd overall pick in the entire draft but I took who I felt was the best player. I won’t say that was a mistake, but in hindsight it did create some tactical challenges later on, given that injured third baseman Pablo Sandoval and David Freese fell well past the point where I would’ve taken them had my corner spot been available.
4.13 — Aroldis Chapman (CL)
When I have good closers, my teams have generally done very well. When I don’t, they don’t. I was determined to stay ahead of the pack on closers in this draft, and even contemplated taking both Kimbrel AND Aroldis at the 4/5 wheel, on the off chance that Kimbrel somehow fell to me with this pick; he went at 4.6, making it closer than I thought it would be. Ben Zobrist and Carlos Santana were considerations here too but I wanted an elite closer and didn’t want to take the chance of Aroldis not getting back to me at 5.3.
5.3 — Matt Holliday (OF)
Zobrist and Santana went on the wheel, so I also considered Matt Wieters here, as well as Jimmy Rollins and the all-around offense of Alex Gordon, but I wanted the best and most proven power bat left on the board (who will also provide a plus average and chip in a handful of steals too). Holliday is 34 years old and has some injury concerns, but he finished the spring in good shape and should provide solid value here assuming he plays 145 or 150 or so games.
6.13 — Alex Gordon (OF)
I might have taken Mat Latos, Jordan Zimmermann or Yovanni Gallardo as my #1 starter with this pick, but all three came after the board after I took Holliday. Given that I had seriously considered Gordon at 5.3 before taking Holliday, I was thrilled to take him here, and barely considered any other player once those starters were off the board.
7.3 — Ian Kennedy (SP)
I waited on starters as long as possible but didn’t want to go past this tier, so it came down to Kennedy or Brandon Morrow as my “soft ace.” I’m a big Morrow fan and recognize that his upside is higher than Kennedy’s, but he’s also more injury prone and has yet to put together a full season comparable to what Kennedy has done over the past two. Plus, knowing that I’ll be cycling in plenty of other starters throughout the season, I wanted an anchor I could pencil in and forget. I think Kennedy’s true value is somewhere between the past two seasons, so this is fair value. Morrow went at 7.14
8.13 — Howard Kendrick (2B)
Miguel Montero would’ve been tough to pass at this spot but he went at 8.9, and potential #2 starter Doug Fister with the next pick, so I opted to get a start on my middle infield with long-time favorite Kendrick. Even if his huge spring doesn’t portend any real growth this year, he’s still a solid bet for 25-30 total homers and steals, a strong average and decent run production. I strongly considered Rickie Weeks here too but prefer Kendrick’s offensive balance and relative predictability.
9.3 — Sergio Romo (CL)
The night before the draft I reviewed the draft picks by the other 11 teams in my league who were in the NFBC main event last year, to find out when they picked closers. I knew who I wanted for my bullpen and wanted to make sure I didn’t wait too long on them, especially since I’d have to go 24 picks after this pair of selections, and expected a big closer run to happen in that time. I only had one starter, and they were drying up a little faster than I had expected, but with four closers having been selected since my last pick I felt the run coming and decided to grab Romo here. It came down to him, Greg Holland or J.J. Putz, but I wanted Romo’s superior ratios even if that means a few less saves, and a greater injury risk, than the other two. Putz went three picks later and Holland at 10.4, with four other closers also going before my next pick.
10.13 — Jon Niese (SP)
I strongly considered Niese at 9.3, but after taking Romo he was my sole target with this pick. Like with the Holliday/Gordon pair, I gambled that my “second choice” player would get back to me 24 picks later, and I was relieved to be right twice. Erick Aybar and Danny Espinosa might’ve made this a harder choice, since I needed a shortstop, but both went between Romo and this pick
11.3 — Adam LaRoche (1B)
Coming out of the break I felt like we were in good shape overall, needing one more starter and perhaps a little more speed, but I didn’t want to lose my focus on power and viewed LaRoche as the most reliable option on the board who fit that need. The next true first baseman (not counting Nick Swisher) drafted after him went over three rounds later, so we definitely avoided “the cliff” with this pick.
12.13 — Marco Estrada (SP)
I had ranked Estrada highly enough that I would’ve taken him at 11.3 had the circumstances dictated it, but I also anticipated he would last until this pick and never really considered anyone else. I had to sweat it out though, as five other starters went between LaRoche and this pick, but this was my target all along for my #3 starter.
13.3 — Neil Walker (2B)
With all of my core needs met through the first five rounds I wanted to start focusing more on positions, but none of the remaining options were particularly interesting to me so I took the best remaining second baseman instead. Of course, this pretty much doomed me to having a relatively weak shortstop, but I didn’t want to over-state the importance of positional scarcity to the point where I felt I would be taking a clearly lesser player. Walker had a poor spring, but played regularly enough that I think his back his healthy, and he’s in his age-27 season.
14.13 — Jarrod Parker (SP)
Not only was Parker my pre-draft choice as my #4 starter, this was the pick where I wanted to get him. Homer Bailey and Jeremy Hellickson were my fall-back choices, but both went ahead of Parker earlier in the round, so there wasn’t much to decide here. I’m not worried about Parker’s health, since he’s already had Tommy John surgery and managed over 215 regular season and postseason innings between MLB and the minors last season without any fade, and I think his killer changeup gives him considerable growth potential in strikeouts.
15.3 — Dexter Fowler (OF)
Speed was starting to become something of a concern but I didn’t want to take a one-category specialist in the Ben Revere or Juan Pierre mode, so we started looking to layer it in 15-20 steals at a time. Fowler stole only 12 bases last year, but stole 27 as a rookie and has vowed to run more this season, and with Tyler Colvin being demoted he should see a significant increase in plate appearances this year, resulting in increased opportunities in his age-27 season. I seriously considered Lorenzo Cain here, and he went with the next pick, but I think we got a steal with this one.
16.13 — J.P. Arencibia (C)
We needed a catcher, we wanted to continue adding power, and we had already built an excellent batting average base with Cabrera, Wright, Ellsbury, Holliday, Gordon and Kendrick, so Arencibia was a natural fit. I considered Alex Avila also but opted for Arencibia’s power upside, especially after his huge spring going into his age-27 season. Jason Kubel or Justin Maxwell were on the radar also, but we needed a catcher more than an outfielder, and both of them went off the board in the next three picks.
17.3 — Denard Span (OF)
As much as we wanted to continue adding power, we didn’t want to forget about speed, and Span was the perfect compliment to Arencibia. He’s not a burner, but should steal 25 or so bases this year, with a strong average to further offset Arencibia’s, and a ton of runs batting atop what looks like a loaded Nationals lineup. Drew Stubbs was a consideration given his speed upside, but while I wasn’t terribly concerned about his poor average, I am concerned about him losing considerable playing time as a result. It was tough to pass Derek Jeter here, given that I still needed a shortstop and he had plummeted well past where I thought he was a great value, but I was more concerned with the speed Span offered.
18.13 — Brandon McCarthy (SP)
I had hoped for Trevor Cahill as my fifth starter but he went in the 16th round, much earlier than I had anticipated. This pick came down to McCarthy or Mike Fiers, so even though McCarthy is a major injury risk, I think he’ll put up excellent numbers when he does pitch, which is a bigger focus for me with my #5 rather than the volume I prioritized with #1 pick in taking Kennedy over Morrow. Jeter went at 18.6 so I waited too long on him.
19.3 — Jose Veras (CL)
I usually look for my third reliever around the 18/19 turn and it was either Veras, Carlos Marmol or Ryan Madson. Marmol is terrible and has Kyuji Fujikawa poised to take his job, and Madson is out indefinitely while recovering from TJ surgery, so I opted for Veras, who has very little competition in the Astros’ bullpen and should put up excellent strikeout numbers along with however many saves he gets. But, with Chapman and Romo as my first two closers, I wasn’t as concerned about his potentially shaky ratios.
20.13 — Jhonny Peralta (SS)
Um, I still need a shortstop. Everyone I like is long gone, so it’s either take Peralta here, or punt a full-timer and take the speed upside but uncertain playing time of Eduardo Nunez or Billy Hamilton. No, I’m not taking Yunel Escobar, that’s not a consideration. I’ll take Peralta and hope he has one of his periodic great seasons, as he did in 2005, 2008 and 2011. Nunez went at 23.9, when I had hoped to get him in the first reserve round, so we’ll be on the lookout all season for a better option.
21.3 — Nolan Reimold (OF)
I was targeting Justin Ruggiano or Wil Venable for my utility spot, since they’d both provide good speed and decent power despite less than everyday playing time. Well, imagine my surprise when both went in the 19th round! Reimold brings less speed to the table than those two, but with Wilson Betemit injured he should play nearly everyday – at least until he gets hurt – and he’s shown flashes of considerable offensive potential throughout his injury-plagued career. Hey, it’s my utility spot. A kid can dream.
22.13 — Matt Garza (SP)
Derek was pushing for this one for a few rounds so we grabbed him here to stash away until he returns, hopefully sometime in early or mid-May. Like McCarthy, he should produce strong numbers when he’s able to pitch, even though I won’t get a full season out of him.
23.3 — Yasmani Grandal (C)
We still needed a second catcher and assumed we’d be able to grab Chris Iannetta or Wellington Castillo with this pick, but we weren’t watching the board closely enough and Team 1 burned us by taking them both on the wheel at the end of the 22nd round, right after we grabbed Garza. So, we decided to stash away Grandal and hope he plays more or less regularly after he returns in late May… he was clearly the best bat left at the position, if nothing else.
24.13 — Kyle Kendrick (SP)
I’m very bullish on Kendrick this year; he had a huge second half last year after scrapping his slider, which was his weakest pitch. By focusing on his sinker, cutter, curveball and changeup – aka the Brandon McCarthy starter kit – in the second half, he lowered his ERA by two runs, increased his strikeout and ground ball rates, and cut his walk rate. I don’t expect an ace, but as my #6 starter who will get plenty of starts this year against the Marlins and Mets, I love this pick.
25.3 — Colby Rasmus (OF)
He’s 26, healthy, plays in a great lineup in a great hitters’ park, and at times in his career has shown good power, some speed and a decent batting average. I don’t have high hopes for him, but he’s young enough that a breakout would not be a shock either, and he’s in the right environment for it. Plus, he’s only my utility player and 7th outfielder, so the price was right for this upside gamble.
26.13 — Tommy Hanson (SP)
I good-naturedly trashed my friend Doug Cassidy for taking Hanson last year after I warned him of Hanson’s shoulder problems, and I’m still not convinced Hanson is fully healthy this year, either. But reports are he showed more dedication to his offseason preparations this past winter, and for a 26th round pick as my 8th starter, I’ll gamble that he can return to the form he showed from 2009 to 2011, or even 80 percent of that.
27.3 — Phil Coke (RP)
The Tigers’ bullpen is wide open and Coke was dominant during the postseason last year, so maybe he’ll win at least a share of the closer job this year. Or not.
28.13 — Nick Hundley (C)
He’ll do most of the catching while Grandal is out, and believe it or not I’ve been a fan of his for a few years. With mostly unchallenged playing time, in an improved lineup with the fences somewhat moved in, I think Hundley can actually be an asset until Grandal returns. I was actually planning on taking shortstop flier Pete Kozma here and waiting until my next pick to grab Hundley, but amazingly, Kozma went two picks earlier! I didn’t think anyone else would even know who he is!
29.3 — Mike Leake (SP)
He’s the opposite of Clayton Richard, in that he can only be used on the road. But he’s on an excellent team, with a strong offense and deep bullpen behind him, so as my 9th starter he could provide some spot-starting value.
30.13 — Chris Archer (RP)
He’s got a big arm and only has Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) in front of him for a rotation spot. With the 448th pick in a 450-pick draft, what else could I hope to find?
So, my final roster is:
C – Arencibia (16) and Hundley (28), with Grandal (23) on the bench
CI –LaRoche (11), Cabrera (1) and Wright (3)
MI – Kendrick (8), Peralta (20) and Walker (13)
OF – Ellsbury (2), Holliday (5), Gordon (6), Fowler (15) and Span (17)
UT – Reimold (21) or Rasmus (25)
SP – Kennedy (7), Niese (10), Estrada (12), Parker (14), McCarthy (18) and Kendrick (24), with Garza (22), Hanson (26), Leake (29) and Archer (30) on the bench
RP – Chapman (4), Romo (9) and Veras (19), with Coke (27) on the bench
Overall, I think we have an excellent team, certainly good enough to compete for a league championship. We have solid power with a handful of breakout candidates, an excellent base in runs, RBI’s and batting average, and while we did end up short in steals, we should at least be in the middle of the pack and could move up quickly if we can find a strong in-season addition like I did with Rajai Davis last year.
As for our pitching, we have a strong trio of closers, who combine excellent strikeout potential with solid ratios, and although we lack a true ace, I think our rotation is truly six deep, with Matt Garza waiting the wings and lottery tickets Tommy Hanson and Chris Archer also looming as potential contributors.
There’s no one standout part of my team, but there’s no weakness, either… this team is built to win, and I think it can. Now, let’s watch some baseball!