Ben Palmer’s TGFBI Draft Recap
If you’ve been on Twitter for the past couple of weeks and you follow a fair number of fantasy baseball writers, you’ve probably seen the abbreviation TGFBI. If you’re wondering what that means, it’s The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational—a league of loads of fantasy analysts put together by Justin Mason.
Over the past couple of weeks, TGFBI participants (myself included) have been selecting their teams in a slow draft on NFBC. My league recently finished its draft, and here, I’m going to recap the picks I made picking from the No. 2 spot.
For reference, this is a two-catcher league with five outfield spots, a corner and middle infield spot, nine pitcher spots, seven bench spots, and a 15 teams. Also, there are no DL spots or trading in TGFBI.
Round 1: Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox)
Not much to say here. Just about every single person drafting from the second spot will take Mookie Betts, unless someone gets cute and decides against drafting Mike Trout first. Betts will contribute in every category with a great average, power, and speed—the whole shebang.
Generally speaking, I like to draft an anchor or two for my pitching squad and then wait on pitching. Trevor Bauer was the first step toward that. The guy was a lights-out Cy Young candidate last year with a killer repertoire, and all the peripherals suggest it was legit. I think he’s around a Top Five pitcher this year.
Round 3: Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)
Kris Bryant had a disappointing season last year due to injury, but he looks like he’s fully healed and back to being the Kris Bryant we all know and love who’s likely good for a solid average and 30-ish home runs. I also really like the third base and outfield flexibility Bryant offers.
Now, normally I’m a pretty risk-averse drafter, so taking Clayton Kershaw is out of character for me. But in the fourth round (at the time of the draft), it felt like the value was too good. Now, in retrospect, that may have been a bit of a reach, because I do really worry about his injury. But the upside is just too good for me to ignore. Sure, he could go all Cliff Lee and totally collapse, or he could recover and be the best pitcher in baseball. Even if I just get 120 innings from him this year, I’ll be perfectly happy with that. And if he does collapse, I’ve got Bauer as a backup anchor to my pitching staff.
Round 5: Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
TGFBI is a two-catcher league, and as a result, I feel like you have to try to grab a Top 10 catcher if you can, because the position is such a dumpster fire. Fortunately, I was able to grab Gary Sanchez here in the fifth round, which I’m happy with. Sure, Sanchez had a pretty down season last year, and not all of it was due to injury, but the guy also has the biggest upside of any catcher in the game.
Round 6: Travis Shaw (3B/2B, Milwaukee Brewers)
It’s been three straight seasons of Travis Shaw lowering his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate, which I absolutely love. Plus, he’s got two straight 30-home run seasons, and there’s a pretty solid chance his average gets better than last year’s .241 mark. Plus, he’s got some great positional flexibility (and I’ll likely start him at second base for most of the year). He’s one of my favorite players to target in drafts, and I was happy to snag him in the sixth round.
Round 7: Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
Matt Olson won’t blow you away with his batting average, but he’ll maintain a decent one while mashing home runs—and mash them he can, with a 12.2% barrel rate and 52% hard-hit rate (percentage of balls hit at 95+ mph), good for fifth in baseball. Plus, his plate discipline numbers are decent, so mixed with his power upside, he makes for a good pick.
Round 8: Max Muncy (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I’m a believer in Max Muncy‘s breakout last year. The dude hit the ball hard, with a 45.9% hard-hit rate (good for 30th in baseball) and a 16.9% barrel rate (good for second in baseball behind only Joey Gallo). He also had a 19.9% high-drive rate, tied for seventh-best in baseball, and his .263 average came with a .275 xAVG. I’m not saying I expect him to repeat that this year, but there’s a good chance he has a similar season, and I’ll happily take that production in Round 8.
Round 9: Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
In most normal-sized drafts, I’m not drafting a closer until the double-digit rounds. But, given how large this league is, I felt like it made sense to grab Kirby Yates here. Some good drafting wisdom Nick Pollack passed down to me from someone else (I’m not sure who)—if you’re in a draft and you don’t really love the options available and you’re not sure who to take, that’s when you draft a closer. I’m a believer in Yates’ skill (his splitter was among the best in baseball last year), and I think he can nab be a good handful of saves.
Now, again, this is a little out of character for me. Usually, I avoid risky players, yet here I am with both Kershaw and Yu Darvish on my team. The thing is, I sort of am with Nick here on Darvish—I think he could have himself a nice bounceback season. He seems to be healthy and his velocity has looked good in spring training so far. If he’s totally healthy, he has the ability to be a Top 30 pitcher pretty easily, and that would be a great value in Round 10. It’s a bit of a risk, but I like the upside for the price.
Round 11: Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Austin Meadows has always had a lot of talent but never really got an opportunity to show it with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now he’s with the Rays in what will probably be an everyday gig, and he’s shown to have a good hit tool with some solid power and speed. I think a 15/15 season is definitely in the cards with the ceiling of a 20/20 year.
Round 12: Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins)
I’ve been a Jorge Polanco fan for some time now—ever since he tweaked his approach in the second half of 2017. Since then (which is 140 games), Polanco has slashed .290/.351/.463 with 16 home runs and 14 stolen bases. I think he’s totally legit, and I think it’s realistic for him to have a 15/15 season with a good average. He’s not a super-high-ceiling guy, but he’s a pretty high-floor guy, and I like that a lot.
Round 13: Jonathan Schoop (2B, Minnesota Twins)
I’ve talked about Jonathan Schoop a lot among the Pitcher List staff and among our Discord community (which you should totally join). In short, I think Schoop’s awful year last year can almost entirely be written off because of the traumatic season he had. He spent a lot of the year fighting an injury, and on top of that, his best friend, Manny Machado, got traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers while Schoop got traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Schoop himself has even talked about the effect last year had on him. I don’t believe that you can go from crying at your best friend’s house because he got traded, to being shipped off to another team for the first time in your career, to being an awesome hitter. Now, Schoop is in Minnesota in a good lineup in a decent hitter’s park and has a good chance at a bounceback. If he can be the Jonathan Schoop we’ve seen him be in the past, Round 13 will be awesome value.
Before Tyler Skaggs injured his groin last year, he was sporting a 2.62 ERA with a 25.5% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. That injury and the bad starts that accompanied it really marred his stats, but this year he’s healthy, and he can be a really solid pitcher, especially given how well his fastball has developed (up to a 7.3 pVal last year, a career-best).
Round 15: Mychal Givens (RP, Baltimore Orioles)
While I know that the Orioles are only going to win, I dunno, 50-60 games this year, I think Mychal Givens will have a pretty firm hold on the closer job, and he’s a good pitcher, too. Yes, he had a 3.99 ERA last year, but it came with a 3.07 FIP, and I think that’s more in line with what we can expect from him. Plus, he’s got an excellent fastball that logged an 11% SwStr rate and a 12.2 pVal last year, and I think we can trust in that. He’s a cheap closer since he’s on arguably the worst team in baseball, but there’s a pretty real path to 20-30 saves here.
Jimmy Nelson got hurt in 2017 because we still let pitchers hit for whatever stupid reason, but now he’s back and appears to be healthy. He also appears to have been forgotten about (that tends to happen when you miss a whole season), but it’s important to remember he was awesome in 2017, adding velocity to his fastball to go alongside his excellent breaking pitches. As long as he is and stays healthy, he can be a valuable pitcher.
Round 17: Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)
If there is one thing Randal Grichuk does for your fantasy team, it’s hit home runs. Last year, he had 25 home runs that came along with 27.3 xHRs, as well as a 14.4% barrel rate (tied for 13th-best in baseball) and a .257 ISO that would have been 13th-best in baseball had be qualified. And his .245 average last year? That came with a .258 xAVG, so I think he can improve. If he hits 25-30 home runs with a .250s average, I’ll be perfectly happy with this pick.
Round 18: Tucker Barnhart (C, Cincinnati Reds)
I wanted to grab a second catcher who wouldn’t kill my team, and I’m glad I was able to get Tucker Barnhart for that exact purpose. He’s not a great catcher, but he’s not terrible either. He saw a power increase in the second half of last year, which is encouraging, and he’s in what’s now a pretty good lineup, so there’s a decent chance he does well this year. But at the very least, he’s a guy who will contribute a little in average and a little in power, and not kill your team. In a two-catcher league, that’s about all you can ask for from your second backstop.
I’ve talked a lot about the season Anibal Sanchez had last year and why I think it’s possible he repeats some of his success this year. Without diving too much into it, Sanchez tweaked his cutter and changeup to the point that they became exceptionally good pitches, and he started replacing his fastball with his cutter. If he keeps all that up this year, he could be a great end-of-draft value pick.
Round 20: Daniel Palka (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Daniel Palka is another guy I’m targeting a lot in deeper leagues. He’s nearly going undrafted in most drafts, and I really believe there’s some fantasy potential here. Last year, he slashed .240/.294/.484 with 27 home runs and a 14.4% barrel rate (13th-best in baseball). While he does have a bad strikeout problem, I think he can keep his average afloat enough that he won’t kill you while still providing good power. Plus, it’s worth noting that in the second half of last year, he slashed .246/.309/.503.
Round 21: Nick Kingham (SP, Pittsburgh Pirates)
I’m not 100% sure that Nick Kingham will end up with a rotation spot, but I’m a fan of his upside. Both his changeup and slider had excellent numbers, with a 20.6% SwStr rate and 22.4% SwStr rate, respectively. And on top of that, he appears to have upped his velocity this spring, which is exciting if true (though there’s some question as to the accuracy of the readings we’ve seen so far). The big key will be his sinker, which was hot garbage last year. If he can either improve that or just eliminate it and rely on his fastball, there’s some definite upside here.
Round 22: Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)
Looking at Teoscar Hernandez‘s batted-ball data is enough to get just about any analyst hot and bothered. Last year, he had a 15.5% barrel rate, good for 10th-best in baseball, a 45.9% hard hit rate, good for 29th in baseball, and his 22 home runs came with 29 xHRs. He also had a 19.9% high-drive rate (the best kind of hits a batter can hit), tied for seventh-best in baseball just behind Mike Trout and just ahead of Aaron Judge. So yeah, he hits the ball really well, but the average and the playing time are going to be questions. I’m hopeful he’ll get some meaningful playing time, and if he does, there’s some significant upside here.
Round 23: Avisail Garcia (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
After an awesome 2017, last year was terrible for Avisail Garcia, in part thanks to an injury that cut out a lot of his season. Now he’s with the Rays and will likely be DH-ing most of the time. If he’s able to stay healthy, there’s a chance he could be useful. While he did hit .236 last year, that came with a .271 BABIP and a .261 xAVG, so his average could get better. And he hit the ball hard last year, hitting 19 home runs in 93 games, which paces out to about a 30-home run season, and that all came with a solid 11.6% barrel rate.
Derek Holland had a really bad 2017, but he had a really good 2018. So which is real? I’m kind of inclined to believe in the season he had last year. There were two main things about Holland that changed: First, his sinker got way better. In 2017, his sinker had a .397 wOBA and .211 ISO against with a 16.4% walk rate and 46.4% zone rate. That changed significantly in 2018, with a .296 wOBA and .110 ISO against with a 7.4% walk rate and 54.7% zone rate. Basically, he started controlling his sinker a lot better, and it worked well. Then, he turned his curveball into a Money Pitch (the second of his career). It was a big switch from 2017, when the pitch had a .419 wOBA and .380 ISO against, compared to a .235 wOBA and .143 ISO against in 2018. Especially now that he’s back in pitcher heaven Oracle Park, I’m very interested in him.
Round 25: Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)
Jorge Soler has had great potential for a long time now, so long that I think most people have given up on the idea of him having a breakout season. Still, he’s just 26 years old and hits the ball well, logging a 10.3% barrel rate last year. If he hits 20-plus home runs with a mediocre average, I’m perfectly happy with that in the 25th round, and of course there’s the potential for better.
Round 26: Franchy Cordero (OF, San Diego Padres)
Franchy Cordero‘s biggest obstacle is playing time in a crowded outfield; it’s not his skill. I think he often gets overlooked in the shadow of Franmil Reyes, but Cordero is a talented hitter. Both he and Reyes have similar hard-hit and barrel rates, yet Cordero has a much better HROpp rate (22.35%) than Reyes (14.36%). I like Cordero’s skills and think he could play his way into some playing time. Maybe it’ll just be in a platoon with Manuel Margot, but even if that’s the case, I like the upside here.
I feel like the Phillies have so many interesting pitchers that many people have almost entirely forgotten about Jerad Eickhoff. He was excellent in his short debut season of 2015 and was still pretty great in 2016, though he took a pretty big step back in 2017. Last year, he didn’t really get much of a chance, as an injury derailed the entire season, but now he’s back and healthy and has a fairly nice repertoire. In 2017, what killed him was his sinker, which was total garbage, but he’s got a decent fastball/curveball combo that could translate into some success. Only problem is, that Phillies rotation is stacked. He’s not supplanting Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta, and I’d say there’s a safe bet he doesn’t supplant Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez. So who’s left? It’s a battle between him and Zach Eflin for the final rotation spot. There’s definitely potential in Eickhoff, but playing time does limit that a bit.
Round 28: Orlando Arcia (SS, Milwaukee Brewers)
This late in a draft this deep, I’m just tossing out picks for upside, and Orlando Arcia certainly has that upside. While, yes, he was terrible last year (except for the postseason), let’s not forget that Arcia posted a .277/.324/.407 slash line with 15 home runs and 14 steals in 2017. He’s still just 24 years old and has shown how talented he is in the minors. I’m hoping he can really start to put it together this year. Sure, he’s got a low floor (we saw it last year), but he’s got steady playing time and a pretty solid ceiling, too, and in Round 28 of a deep league, that’s worth a shot.
How do you end up grabbing a pitcher who posted a 2.81 ERA in the 29th Round of a deep league? You draft Dereck Rodriguez, that’s how. Rodriguez is almost certainly not going to come close to what he did last year, as his season came with a 3.74 FIP, 4.58 SIERA, and a measly 18.3% strikeout rate. All that being said, he does have a couple of things going for him. First, he pitches in Oracle Park, which I mentioned before is a great pitcher’s park. And second, he’s got a pretty solid repertoire. He throws five pitches—not a single one of which posted a negative pVal last year. Now, none of those pitches were particularly dominant—his best pitch was his changeup that he commanded well but still only got an 11.1% SwStr rate with it (though a nice 34% chase rate). All of this is to say, while I don’t think Rodriguez will be the pitcher he was last year, he could be a perfectly serviceable one, and in the second-to-last round, I’m fine with drafting that.
Round 30: Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox)
I’ll be honest, at this point in the draft, I was looking for basically anyone who had some steady playing time, and once I noticed Mitch Moreland, I got kind of interested. Fun fact: Despite the fact that he had just 15 home runs last year, Moreland hit the ball pretty darn hard. Last year, he posted a 44.3% hard-hit rate, good for top 50 in the league ahead of notable power-hitting names like Paul Goldschmidt, Hunter Renfroe, and Randal Grichuk. He also had a solid 11.7% barrel rate, also good for top 50 in the league last year. But what’s most interesting to me is that Moreland had the largest differential of all hitters between his actual home run numbers and his xHRs. Last year, he had 15 home runs, which came with 23.5 xHRs. That suggests to me that he got pretty unlucky last year and should have had better home run totals. Now, as for playing time, Moreland is probably going to end up in a first base platoon with Steve Pearce, but I think he’ll end up on the better side of that platoon, and there’s some good power potential here.
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