Ben Pernick’s TGFBI Draft Recap
Open up—TGFBI! No, we’re not government agents in cool sunglasses, we’re an amalgamation of baseball writers from all over the internet! And we were assembled to show our smarts in a fight for glory through the most intense means possible: a two-week-long slow draft on NFBC that we completed at our convenience!
For reference, this is a 15-team, two-catcher league with five outfield spots, a corner and middle infield spot, nine pitcher spots, and seven bench spots. That gets deep, as it’s 30 rounds and 450 picks in total. Also, there are no DL spots or trading in TGFBI, which does impact the strategy quite a bit. Categories are standard 5×5: Average, Runs, RBI, HR and SB for hitting, and W, K, ERA, WHIP and Saves for pitching.
I will be including the round, pick number, and also the ADP for each player among the 21 TGFBI leagues. Note that the ADPs may get wonky at the end as players are undrafted in some leagues. I had the 5th overall pick, so I had the 26th pick in the second round. Here’s how my draft went.
Pick 1.5: J.D. Martinez (OF, Boston Red Sox)
My plan all along was to get J.D. in the fifth spot, thank goodness some fool took Nolan Arenado at #3, probably to spite me and my anti-Arenado article. The only knock on J.D. is health, but I don’t see him as a legitimate injury concern, as it’s nothing lingering and he bounced back super fast from his Lisfranc injury and has been healthy since. Unlike Arenado, J.D.’s statcast metrics fully support his average and power, with a near-perfectly identical xStats line of .330/.402/.632 with 43 xHR. Take stolen bases out of the picture, and I’d argue he’s the best hitter in the league (and hey, he even stole 6 bases, which counts for something). He also has extra value in a 5 OF league, making him an easy pick here.
Yeah, I knew I wanted my top two starters early, but I may have picked the wrong one. I wanted Trevor Bauer but I got cute thinking that I might have a better chance of snagging Bauer in round 3. Oops. I was also swayed a bit by Sporer and Mason’s #6 ranking for Klubot, and both admitted on a recent pod that they didn’t follow that ranking in their own drafts so they should bump him down (Score one for Pitcher List for ranking Bauer above him from the get-go). It’s still a pick with a minimal risk, as he’s logged 200+ IP and logged 5+ WAR for 5 straight years. But with a bad fastball, his slowly rising HR rate is a bit concerning.
This may be my favorite pick of the draft, as it’s usually hard to get such a value this early on (ADP: 29), thank goodness Luis Severino went just before. Snell is unlikely to repeat his stellar 2018 season, with a 21-5 record, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 221 Ks, but I’m surprised with how far he’s being faded. Sure, he benefited from luck with an 88% LOB% and a .241 BABIP, and he’s unlikely to top 200 IP as the Rays plan to hold him back. But Snake Blell‘s pitches have more bite after a series of adjustments to his place of the rubber and pitch mix, and with his youth and pitching smarts, he still may have even more upside to be untapped. He’s also a perfect complement to Kluber atop my rotation.
Pick 4.56: Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
I was sniped on J.T. Realmuto, but I knew with him gone I wouldn’t be able to get Sanchez in the next round, and my favorite players on the board, Mike Clevinger and Jameson Taillon, I no longer needed. Sanchez is hardly coming at a discount after an awful year, but it’s easy to see why not. He’s still just 26 and already has established a track record as a 30+ homer bat. Even if you don’t project a full return to his 2016-2017 levels, he’s still far above the toxic dumpster fire that is catcher in 2019, and in a two-catcher league, I felt fine making a slight reach for some security with star upside.
Pick 5.65: Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)
This was my biggest reach of the draft (ADP: 85), and I’m not going to try too hard to defend it…my team would’ve been much more balanced if I took the safer pick in Jean Segura (ADP: 62) as I needed the speed. Many experts believe Seager is a bounceback sleeper and it’s easy for me to buy, as I still remember his initial hype of being a superstar bat, and he hit .312 with 30 Homers in his first 800 PA as a 22 and 23-year old. He’s still only 24, but the Tommy John and hip injuries make me concerned he’ll stay on the field for enough of 2019 to round back to form. But if healthy, he could help me win the overall, as the overall upside is still higher than Segura or even Xander Bogaerts. Okay, I tried somewhat hard to defend it…my only regret is I just probably could’ve waited on him one more round.
Pick 6.76: Felipe Vazquez (RP, Pittsburgh Pirates)
This was my second straight pick I was too aggressive on (ADP: 95), as I strayed from the plan once the closer run began before I expected (six closers were already off the board). I wanted a top-tier closer, and I felt at the time Vazquez was the better pick than Roberto Osuna, as I read Alex Fast’s article about how we’re drafting saves wrong. He noted that the Pirates are one of the few teams sticking to the old style of giving all save opportunities to the designated closer, though I may have missed the bigger picture. What I hadn’t considered was that Vazquez could get flipped at the deadline in the likely scenario that the Pirates aren’t contenders. Well at least I got the better human being. And this year there are a few likely contenders with shaky closer situations where Vazquez should become their top option in the 9th inning, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Pick 7.95: Marcell Ozuna (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
I finally got back to my simple plan of trying to get value (ADP: 80), as I got Ozuna a full round past his typical ADP. I’ve learned that in spring, even minor injury news tends to make owners get cold feet, and this news seemed mostly a nothingburger, as it was already known he’d take time to start fielding, and he’s still fine with hitting. He clearly wasn’t healthy in the first half with his shoulder issues, and while he may not yet be 100%, the results should be far better than last year. He’s a solid bet to go .290/30 and produce a ton of runs in a now more formidable Cardinals lineup.
Okay, so I did think I was getting a bigger discount, but TGFBI faded him more than I expected (99). Still, I think he’s one of the last good starters before The Glob (all credits to Paul Sporer) begins, and I think he’s being underrated due to his lower-K but excellent WHIP. I believe Nick when he says there is likely more strikeout upside as he has a hard fastball and whiff-inducing pitches. And after making this pick, I can focus on shoring up my hitting.
Pick 9.125: Josh Donaldson (3B, Atlanta Braves)
The spreadsheet says this was my best value of the draft (ADP: 100), and I won’t disagree. Heck, in an early mock draft, I was psyched to get him in at pick 88! There seemed to be a game of chicken at 3B, as my pick was preceded by Max Muncy, and shortly after Donaldson went, so did Matt Chapman and Mike Moustakas. But I expect Donaldson to be the best of this group, especially as his walk rate and extra base hits make him a superior run producer. In his final month, Donaldson showed the skills that made him an elite fantasy contributor, with an exit velocity and barrel rate on par with Bryce Harper. All he needs to do is stop his strikeout rate from rising any further and stay on the field to return value here, especially with such a stacked lineup.
Pick 10.136: Billy Hamilton (OF, Kansas City Royals)
I’m not going to bash this pick too much because I made it in the bathroom on a hot date after several rounds of tequila (ADP: 153). Such is the nature of week-long slow drafts. I was hoping Ender Inciarte would fall to me, but after completely ignoring speed in the single-digit rounds I really needed Hamilton-level speed reinforcements, anyway. It’s still a solid value as his sprint speed hasn’t dropped off an iota since his debut and he’s cheaper than ever before after a lousy year. He’s one of the few players for whom going from the Reds to the Royals is actually beneficial to his fantasy value. He just needs to hit better than last year, though with his elite defense and the Royals’ crappy offense, he’s at minimal risk for losing playing time.
I don’t know if it’s funny or sad that Darvish’s ADP (152) was actually lower than Hamilton. But hey, that’s scarcity for ya. I found it hard to pass up Darvish despite taking him above his ADP, as Pitcher List actually ranks him as the #24 pitcher—just one spot behind Mikolas and three long rounds later. While Darvish has been a maddening player to own for the past two years, he’s entering the year fully healthy and showing great stuff (helloooo 97 mph cheese), and is still plenty young enough to rebound with an ace season on a competitive team. Even without a full bounceback, he should be an asset in strikeouts, at least on a per-inning basis.
I initially hadn’t planned at all on winding up with Ohtani, he kept falling further and further down the board and I could no longer resist the star ability (though I still took him ahead of his ADP of 181). Even a partial Ohtani season can easily provide more counting numbers than most of the players on the board at this point. I’m not a subscriber to the idea of over-penalizing UT-only players, especially ones that have superstar offensive ability at the age of 23.
Pick 13.175: David Robertson (RP, Philadelphia Phillies)
This is the third player in a row where I jumped ahead of ADP (183), but I think Robertson is an unheralded reliever likely to get the lion’s share of saves on a dominant Phillies squad. He’ll likely cede a few saves to Seranthony Dominguez, but I think he’s still the favorite due to his excellent stats and closing experience, which goes a long way towards predicting future save opportunity. Due to the combination of that and some Boring Name Syndrome, he’s remaining a great sleeper in drafts despite the Phillies’ formidable lineup.
Pick 14.196: Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)
With Franmil, I knew I was jumping ahead of ADP (213), but I just believe in his ability so much I didn’t want to risk losing him. I really believe Franmil’s big second half was due to a sustainable approach change (in the minors he worked on shortening his swing) and hit .315 with 10 HR in 180 PA in the second half. His plate discipline went from ugly to surprisingly tolerable: He had a 6% BB and 39% K rate in the 1st half, then a 10% BB and 22% K in the 2nd half. With his 70-grade power, if he can maintain those second half gains, he can easily become a Top-15 outfielder.
Pick 15.205: Andrelton Simmons (SS, Los Angeles Angels)
I think Simmons is a player that is being significantly overlooked (ADP: 216) due to the high crime of being kinda boring. The power/speed combo isn’t much to write home about, as he’s like a 10/10 contributor maxing out at 15/15 upside. Still, he’s maintained his elite contact rate with solid discipline resulting in a 5.5% SwStr, while improving his exit velocity to 88 mph overall and 92 mph on FB/LD. Maybe that’s why xStats said he got unlucky with his 2018 line of .292/.337/.417, as xStats gave him a rosier .313/.356./441 . Especially seeing as he’s likely to hit leadoff ahead of Mike Trout and eventually Ohtani, his stock deserves to be higher.
Pick 16.226: Welington Castillo (C, Chicago White Sox)
I was done playing the game of catcher chicken, since I did not want to be left picking through the trash options on the horizon. Many sites rate Francisco Mejia over Castillo, but I’m too scared off by Mejia’s over 50% O-Swing in his small sample and his unclear playing situation with Austin Hedges. Castillo could lose a bit of time vs. lefties to James McCann, which is unfortunate as Castillo mashes lefties too. While he dealt with disgrace with injury and PEDs, based on his history, he’s a fairly safe bet to hit .260 with 20 homers with the upside for .280-25, and to me it’s absolutely bananas that a leaguemate took Jorge Alfaro over him. I HATE Alfaro this year for fantasy.
Pick 17.235: Lourdes Gurriel (2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays)
It’s hard to find upside combined with playing time at this point in the draft, but I still think Gurriel might have it and be overlooked. Gurriel’s 2018 xStats said he deserved to be hitting .320 as he was breaking out, and those projections only came down to earth when he was dealing with injury. If we give Tyler Skaggs a pass on sucking while hurt, why not Lourdy? Glass man Devon Travis won’t hold him back and Gurriel plays defense well enough to stick, and it’s encouraging if not shocking how fast his bat has come along. Like Yuli Gurriel, he can’t draw a walk to save his life, but this is an AVG league where that matters less, and unlike Yuli, he actually has legitimate power.
Pick 18.256: Trey Mancini (1B/OF, Baltimore Orioles)
I hadn’t really been planning on Mancini, as I assumed he’d be gone (ADP: 239) and I’d go for some intriguing later round options, but maybe everyone else had the same plan. He has added value in an AVG league as I expect him to bounce back a bit in 2019, not as good as 2017, but still hitting above .260 and perhaps .270. Even with his ugly 54% GB rate, his line of .242/.299/.416 was still unlucky, with an xSlash of .260/.315/.435. He’s still only 26 and if he can even get his GB% down to mid-40%, with his high barrel rate he could easily hit 30 HRs in Camden’s bandbox. Even if he doesn’t, he’s unlikely to be platooned and will have every opportunity to hit cleanup, which is great for counting stats. And he’s dual-eligible at OF, so there’s that.
Pick 19.265: Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)
Although he’s probably one of the least sexy fantasy options around (ADP: 259), with his boring profile and advancing age, he’s always an underrated run producer, and he’ll be batting leadoff for the surprisingly potent Rangers lineup. While I’m not expecting more than a handful of steals, the rest of his game has remained remarkably consistent with minimal decline, with THE BAT projecting him to hit .262 with 20 HR, 84 R, 70 RBI and 8 SB over 631 PA. Not too shabby for a 5th OF.
Considering that he’s virtually guaranteed a rotation spot with Josh James out of the running, I was thrilled to get him here. I may be in the minority here, but I consider Peacock (ADP: 297) the more intriguing fantasy option than Collin McHugh. As a starter in 2017, he already displayed an ability to dominate, and despite a higher 2018 ERA than McHugh, he had a fantastic 35% K and 7% BB, for a 28% K-BB, which was 8th best in baseball (McHugh’s was 26%). Control had always been a weakness for Peacock, so now all he’ll have to do is hold on to some of those gains and hopefully lower that 18% HR/FB. Don’t sleep on him.
This was my way of thanking him for Brad Peacock. Okay, not really, but I think he’s starting to fall so far now (ADP: 236) that he’s becoming a true sleeper again. The injury that knocked him out of opening day contention is quite minor, and it would not be surprising to see him up in June or even May. Unlike Forrest Whitley, he’s already 26 so there’s not much sense in wasting his bullets in Triple-A, especially with bullets like his. He has a 70-grade fastball and two hard breakers that give him great strikeout ability, as he demonstrated in a small sample last year. He may end up in the bullpen, but I still think he’d log 100+ innings as a swingman and multi-inning reliever. Of course, I’m hoping he finds his way back into the rotation, where he could perform like a Top-150 player.
Pick 22.316: Ryan Brasier (RP, Boston Red Sox)
It’s kind of crazy that the Red Sox, who survived the wobbly bridge to Craig Kimbrel, are now relying entirely on that bridge to support itself. The Red Sox have yet to give any indication on who will close other than saying that Matt Barnes and Brasier are both candidates, so I may as well take a post-300 dice roll (ADP: 313) on him. I don’t trust Barnes (who went at pick #236) to hold the job down, as his control is simply too unreliable if he can’t maintain his 2018 K-rate spike. Brasier is more boring with better control compensating for his pedestrian K rate, but he was excellent for the Sox in 2018, and it seems his low 6% HR/FB may be more skill than luck.
Pick 23.325: Justin Bour (1B, Los Angeles Angels)
This was probably my favorite late round value. Paul Sporer and Justin Mason have waxed poetic on how Bour (ADP: 349) is one of their favorite 1B sleepers, ranking him 25th on the 1B rankings ahead of C.J. Cron and even Luke Voit. With Ohtani being out for at least a month, Bour will have the opportunity to make the most of full reps at 1B, and I expect him to slough off Albert Pujols when Ohtani returns. He’s only Angels lefty hitter who can take advantage of the Angels’ lowered right field wall besides Kole Calhoun, and Bour’s a much better power hitter. He should easily bop .260 with 25 yaks, but could spike to .280 with 30 with some luck. If he keeps falling this late, I’ll be getting all the shares of him.
Pick 24.346: Scott Kingery (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)
I believe the adage “Prospect growth is not linear”, so it blows my mind that after all the 2018 preseason hype, he’s now a forgotten man while Byron Buxton gets free pass after free pass. It might seem unfair at first to compare the two, but they’re closer than you’d think. Kingery hit the ball as hard in 2018 as Buxton did in his “breakout” 2017, as they both had a 85 mph EV and 3.5% Barrel (counting Buxton’s 2018 seems unfair). While Buxton is the fastest in the league, Kingery’s speed is overlooked at 29.4 ft/sec. That is as fast as Amed Rosario and faster than Victor Robles. While he’ll likely start in a super-utility role, he’ll get multi-position eligibility. He can get time at 3B when Maikel Franco inevitably lays an egg.
After the top 3 in my rotation, I had filled out the rest of my rotation with pitchers with strong rate stats but uncertain innings totals, and Eflin is a pitcher with the potential to do both. Ariel Cohen’s ATC projections have him as an $8 pitcher for a $1 price, and his bad second half just makes him a great sleeper (ADP: 327). His fastball bumped up 1.6 mph, and had a slider that was almost a Money Pitch (that categorization requires a 40% O-Swing, 40% Zone, and 15% SwStr). But it’s his changeup that I think that really got unlucky, as it was also practically a Money Pitch (43% O-Swing, 38% Zone, 17% SwStr) but had an awful -5.8 pVAL. That’s probably why he has a 4.36 ERA despite other indicators saying he should have been way way better, with a Statcast FIP of 3.19 and a Batted Ball FIP of 3.26. There’s a solid chance he becomes a top-50 starter, and could be one of the best post-300 pitcher values.
Perhaps I ODed on pitching since I really just didn’t like most of the hitters left on the board, but I’m encouraged by Mike Minor’s strong second half. I wasn’t buying his hype last year but the price is so low now (ADP: 347). His fastball velocity increased nearly every month, from 92.6 mph in April to 94 mph at the end of the year, and another year removed from shoulder surgery should only help. What I’m really hoping for is a mid-season trade out of Texas where he can truly break out with fewer of his many flyballs going over the fence.
Pick 27.385: Kendrys Morales (DH, Toronto Blue Jays)
I get that nobody wants a 35-year-old DH on their team, but to me it’s a bit of a headscratcher that a 36-year old Edwin Encarnacion went in Round 9 (pick 127) and Morales went in Round 27 (ADP: 366). Sure, it’s true he’ll likely lose some playing time to other youngsters, but his bat is arguably as good as ever. Despite hitting just .249/.331/.448 with 21 homers, he had elite exit velocity and barrel rates, which is why xStats implies he deserved far better: with an xSlash of .277/.356/.524 with 26 xHR. Granted, xStats has said he deserved better every year since 2015 (likely due in part to his molasses-like foot speed), just not to this extent. Every projection system has him hitting at least 20 home runs and producing a ton of runs with some projections (THE BAT, Depth Charts, Smada) calling for 25-28 jacks. Especially in a batting average league, I don’t see why I should get E5 when I can get a basic approximation 258 picks later.
Pick 28.406: Ty Buttrey (RP, Los Angeles Angels)
I already had 2 or maybe closers, so no, I didn’t need Buttrey much at all, which I paid for since I really wanted Steven Duggar or Dustin Fowler and they didn’t make it to me around the turn. But I think Buttrey has a fair chance to return huge value if Cody Allen falters, and after being a mess last season I think there’s enough smoke for Allen to get fired. Buttrey is not a household name but he has prototypical closer stuff with a fastball that can hit 100 mph and had a 10% SwStr. Even as a set-up man, he can provide value as his 14.3% overall SwStr makes it likely he’ll be a dominant reliever with 80+ Ks. And while he won’t repeat a 0% HR/FB, his high 55% groundball rate should keep it nice and low.
I definitely had a pattern of drafting teammates together, not by design, just coincidence. Harvey’s definitely a dart throw (ADP: 388), but a smart throw after he raised his fastball velocity by two ticks to 95 mph after leaving the mess with the New York Mets. His second half peripherals improved a lot, with a 17.9% K-BB after a 11.5% K-BB in the first half, but it was hidden by his second half 5.37 ERA mostly due to moving to an extreme homer-happy park in Cincy. This could be the season where he builds off the foundation of his improving fastball and slider to beef up a third pitch and rise back to relevance.
Pick 30.436: Keon Broxton (OF, New York Mets)
It was clear that even with Hamilton and Kingery, my team was still sorely lacking speed, as it came at a premium in my draft I wasn’t willing to pay. As bad as Broxton was in 2018, he may have deserved better in his small sample, as his .180/.281/.410 actual line was far more horrific than his xSlash of .240/.334/.412. In 798 career PA, he’s hit 33 HR and stole 50 bases, which prorated to 600 PA, would be 25 HR and 38 SB. They say he’ll be a backup, but I don’t think Juan Lagares will hold Broxton off if he hits and I’m hoping for lightning speed in a bottle. At pick 436 and on my bench, may as well shoot for the moon.
I was clearly drafting in a room of sharks, but I’m still happy with how I did overall. According to Smada’s projections, my team ranks 25th out of 313 teams (That doesn’t mean much, but I’ll take it). My biggest mistakes were overlooking power/speed players in the early rounds and making a few picks that in hindsight were too aggressive (Seager and Vazquez especially) but I did make up for it with some great bargains on power hitters (Ozuna, Donaldson, Bour) and potential breakout pitchers (Darvish, Peacock, Eflin). I’m not going to punt speed as I believe this year it could be plentiful on the wire…I’ll have another article about just that coming shortly.
(Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire)