I thought I’d take a break this week from deep diving to come up for air and share my draft thoughts. Why should you care? Well, I finished 9th overall in last year’s RazzSlam and also finished 1st in 2 other 1-off best balls, and 3rd in another. I think I might know what I’m doing just a bit (watch me now sink like the Titanic this year lol). Last year’s slam squad was propelled on the wings of a career season by Marcus Semien, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager to name a few on the hitting side. Also boosted by values on the pitching side by Corbin Burnes and Alex Wood to name a couple. All had an easy shot at returning a positive value with just career average outcomes (except Burnes).
All fantasy drafts are about finding value, and points leagues are no different. One thing that does make them different though, is there’s more relative value to the field. This player is projected for X amount of points, and this player for X+20 points. It’s important to pick your spots on when to seek value plays and when to shoot for the moon and when you see windows of equivalent value. Obviously, with an overall, you want those moon plays, but you also don’t want to overexpose yourself to a flop should you miss. You want the floor and/or median outcome to be as close to the slot or better as possible, no matter whether it’s a hitter or pitcher since all contributions are converted to the same point scale, the categories don’t matter. Who cares about 10 steals or 20 steals, because 1 steal = 2.5 R/RBI = 1.25 hits, etc.
Equivalent value. What does that mean? The top 10 pitchers last year averaged about 579 points. The top 10 hitters last year averaged about 826 points. That’s a big difference at the top. It’s slightly skewed by Guerrero’s 924, but the #10 hitter Bryce Harper was still 761. It’s not until you get close to pick 100 that the first wave of average value in hitters/pitchers moves within 20 points each other… that’s the equivalency line (one of them). There were many aspects to how I approached my draft, but I will tell you following these pockets was one of them. And best way to identify these pockets was using Rudy’s Best Ball War Room that subscribers have access to just like me; I’m not just a spokesperson, I’m a client.
I pondered how I was going to break down this draft here, and seeing cousin Itch break down position, that’s fun. People like fun. Let’s have fun…
I’m going to say this so everyone in the back can hear me: YOU DONT NEED A TOP RANKED CATCHER AT COST TO WIN YOUR LEAGUE OR EVEN THE OVERALL. In fact, in most cases taking a top catcher is committing to a suboptimal build in favor of a security blanket. Momma isn’t going to tuck you into first place. Sorry not sorry. The top 3 last year (and myself) did not pay up for a top catcher. Some players that got plus-plus ROI (well above draft slot) on Salvy did finish top 10, but it was not a guarantee and he was not the top drafted catcher. To paraphrase my friend Rudy, playing suboptimal is not bad/impossible as long as you have a plan to make up that lost value later. Friends, countrymen, I don’t want to give anything up from the start, so unless I’m going for a meme, I don’t want to build suboptimal from the start.
My first catcher was Alejando Kirk, the projection in the War Room which appears to be close to a median outcome with full-time ABs puts him around that draft slot. I believe that the Jays will deal one of their catchers, possibly Kirk, which would finally open up playing time. And with 30 new DHs positions open this year, if he’s dealt I’m sure he’ll get plenty of run because there have been several teams checking in on his price since last year. THIS COULD BE THE YEAR. I hope. Stassi is above average and poised for lion’s share. MJ Melendez led the minors in HR last year, and could be a likely platoon partner with Salvy should he be called up to share C/DH duties; Moon shot. Pedro Severino is an above-average hitting catcher (the zero-breakpoint in points leagues is a .250 AVG) and signed with the Brewers. At that cost? Please and thank you. The worst thing in Cutline is to post zeroes in a week, so you want points coming into both C spots, that’s why I took 4.
First Base (5)
Alonso in round 3 was a bit of a reach, but also a discount from last year coming off his 50 HR season, there’s plenty of room for him to get plus value after his improvements post-homerun derby. I liked the underlying contact numbers on Lowe and $500M+ boost the lineup will certainly take the focus off of him and allow him to see more fastballs and maybe pull some more HRs to the left side. Bobby B is a moon shot that looks to get more run this year in Cleveland. Miller and Peterson are depth plays with multi-position coverage. This is important in best-ball formats to ensure that you avoid weeks with zeroes. Miller is guaranteed 20 HR no matter how many games he plays and Peterson should see more run in the field this year in MIL with guys being cycled through DH like Tellez, so I like him for sneaky late value.
Second Base (4)
I love me some India this year. Real good opportunity for accumulation stats in 600+ PAs. Volume is a key contributor to points leagues. You want the guys that get a lot of run and bat over a .250 AVG. India does that and will get plenty of runs and his share of HR and SB that should give high floor. McMahon is a hot/cold value play as a Rookie hitter in Coors and a respectable 80/20/80/5/.250+ line from last year that should have some nice peak weeks during home stands. Toro is a moon shot, looked good in his limited play last year, and after the M’s acquired him looks like he’ll get a starting gig.
It’s no mystery that I also love Franco this year. There is years of evidence that 2nd-year elite hitting prospects take a huge jump forward (Trout, Acuna, Tatis, Bichette, etc) and I think Wander is no exception. I expect big things from him and a ceiling of 2nd-to-1st round value in this format. Isiah was a value play with the chance that he was traded, he is essentially Tapia going 3-4 rounds later. And now with Jung likely out most of the year his ABs are secured. Barrero then is my moon shot play. There’s a chance he gets run Opening Day in CIN and might even earn the starting gig in centerfield to add another multi-position player to the mix.
Third Base (3)
Justin Turner is routinely overlooked in best-ball formats, I don’t get it. He’s built for this format. I didn’t get a deep discount on him but there’s enough value there that his median outcome still returns positive value. The reason being, the addition of the NL DH should net him more ABs and help keep him healthy throughout the season (ideally). And with McMahon and Toro backing him, I feel like I got the position well covered.
Outfield I took a lot of shots because outfield is probably the easiest position to replace on waivers. I started with Luis Robert because at the end of last season after his impressive return from injury I said that he’d be an easy target for me early 2nd round and here he fell to me at the end of the 2nd. Please and thank you. Another elite prospect headed into defacto year 2 since most of last year was taken from him due to injury. Winker was an easy pick because there were stretches last year that he was a top 5 OF in fantasy and with a deep roster in best ball, I want those elite weeks even with the injury risk. The rest is a mix of undervalued bounce-back candidates and tried and true producers along with some moon shots in Kwan, late-career surge Taylor/Naquin. I still can’t quit Wil Myers. But one thing though… I GOT SNIPED ON SEIYA SUZUKI… the burden of when people read your work… sigh.
YOU KNOW I HAD TO TAKE OHTANI RIGHT? haha, for real though. The only player that has the position eligibility of both a batter and pitcher is so valuable in best ball. He can cover so many blemishes of off weeks by pitchers with a good one by him or provide elite production at the utility spot. What’s even better though is that last year might not even be his best season for a points league. His average trailed off in the second half as he got tired and as teams singled him out while the Angels featured the majority of their AAA squad around him. The Angels had many struggles last year, but the key is they cycled over 60 players on their active roster throughout the season. David Fletcher was the only other hitter to play every day. How insane is that? So with an actual big-league lineup around him and hopefully a one Mike Trout for 120+ games, Ohtani could maintain the .280 AVG as he had prior along with MORE counting stats in a more prolific offense. Sign me up. And Franimal is who he is and when the second half comes around he will have OF eligibility again to support that position for the cutline push.
And lastly, we arrive at pitching. Pitching is the most interesting position in best ball for a few reasons. One, closers are not necessary and for the most part represent a floor play. Only 1 team that finished in the top 10 had a “top” closer and he had both of them. Everyone else in the final cut had minimal saves from 1-2 discount closers or none at all. You might think that their overall points are comparable but that ignores the fluidity of the pitching landscape during the season. Two, just like in roto where 2-start pitching weeks are prime for streaming, the same is true in best ball points. With enough variance luck and sufficient pitching depth you can aim to maximize those 2-start weeks for your pitching points. Three, equivalent value. Aside from Ohtani and taking a moon shot on the max pick for deGrom, I waited until round 9 to take another pitcher, Luis Castillo, who is the avatar of variance and ideal for best ball and could be set up for a nice bounceback season especially if he gets traded to the Angels like the rumors say is being discussed *crossed fingers*. I then waited until round 12 and hit a tunnel of value where the pitchers were close in value to surrounding hitters so I wasn’t giving up much ground according to the War Room as I took pitchers in windows from 12-15 and then from 27-33.
All around I like the squad I walked away with… I acquired a balanced position coverage, several multi-position guys without overpaying draft slot for their flexibility (which would neuter their advantage), avoided taking too many hitters below the perceived .250 AVG threshold, and finally mixed in some high variance players with a variety of moon shots at different positions. I did manage a few mild team stacks with CIN, LAD, and COL (each with plus offense home parks), but I didn’t go out of my way to force the issue. With this build, I think I give my team a shot at overachieving draft value without sacrificing too much floor. The median outcome can still be respectable and consistent since I didn’t overpay for too many players. Here’s hoping for another top ten finish!
If you want more Coolwhip to top off your baseball experience, fantasy or otherwise, you can follow me on Twitter: @CoolwhipRB.