If baseball season crept up on you, there’s still time
The sports calendar gets busier and busier every year, at least if you like every sport. I’m finding out quickly that I’m one such person. There might be no sport that I will not watch if it is televised and I am sitting on a couch. I’m into college hockey. It’s only been a month since the Winter Games and I’m having curling withdrawls. Two soccer teams are playing at eight in the morning from English towns I have never heard of? I’m in.
As a result, I completely let baseball season creep up on me. Opening Day is already upon us, and I found on Wednesday afternoon that I was not prepared. I have my credentials settled, I’ve done some research, I’m ready to go, but I completely forgot to draft a fantasy team.
To make up for my lack of planning, I decided to go on a draft spree, drafting as many teams as I could for purposes of letting you, the last-minute fantasy baseball entrant, know what it might be like to draft a team with just hours to go.
First draft: The Mathball Sabermetricians
10 teams, rotisserie league, snake-style draft
For my first league I went classic. I like rotisserie scoring, even if it’s a bit antiquated in the days of instant information. 10 teams is enough to create competition, without too many to water down the teams.
I had the second pick, and decided with my first league to go light on the research. I watch a ton of baseball, why not just pick the players I want to watch? As a result, I eschewed Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve, and Nolan Arenado to take Red Sox RF Mookie Betts. I love watching Mookie Betts play baseball, and could not pass up an opportunity to have him on my team. It also helps that I honestly believe that Betts will have a great season offensively, with strong numbers in just about every category. It’s a tough call to select Betts over the other potential picks, but I think the tiebreaker in fantasy baseball should be the player you want to watch more.
This team’s pitching staff will be anchored by Noah Syndergaard, again because this is now somebody I have an excuse to watch regularly. Also included in the pitching staff: Shohei Ohtani, the pitcher who will also play regularly as a position player. Lutz’ own Lance McCullers was a priority, as were up and comers Manuel Margot and Yoan Moncada.
The draft took a little less than an hour, finishing up as I picked Albert Pujols.
Second draft: The Bad Mutha Shut Yo Mouths
10 teams, head-to-head league, auction-style draft
A slight variation on the first league, with players being auctioned off rather than drafted. The name is one I’ve used for fantasy baseball teams since college.
I quickly learned with Auction leagues that I really preferred running everybody else out of money to actually bidding on players. I waited a bit, running people out of money wherever possible. I struck toward the end of the first round of nominations, paying handsomely to bring in Carlos Correa, Chris Sale, and Anthony Rizzo. I later would go on to add Craig Kimbrel, Edwin Encarnacion, Brian Dozier, and Andrew Benintendi.
Consider that, while sportswriting is one of the major parts of my job, I was doing this draft while at work. Therefore, I found myself away from my computer for much of the second half.
This draft lasted well over two hours, and most of that time was considerably less than what one might consider “fun.” To me, auction drafts might be more fun in a room with friends, and they’re undoubtedly fun for the first thirty minutes, but it gets old in a hurry.
Despite leaving early, I managed to get Kenta Maeda at the back end of the draft. My team has no money for free agency, if that ends up mattering.
Third draft: The Gas House Gorillas
12 teams, head-to-head league, snake drafting
I now have three fantasy teams, and Anthony Rizzo and Shohei Ohtani wound up on all of them. I’m obviously bullish on the Cubs’ first baseman this season. Bryce Harper with my first pick is exciting, because it’s yet another excuse to watch Bryce Harper play baseball regularly. While we’re here, yes, this team name comes from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. On with the show. This is it.
I picked Syndergaard again, not necessarily because I’m bullish on a hurler who could turn out to not be the same after his injury, but because I really want him to get back on track. Who doesn’t like flipping on MLB Network on nights when he’s pitching to watch Pedro Martinez lose his mind over Thor? Good rule of thumb: If one of the best to ever do something likes somebody, that’s going to turn out to be a good player.
For this draft, I tried to think of the lineup around a player. I picked Andrew Benintendi over Rhys Hoskins and others because I think that the Boston lineup is going to give Benintendi many chances to score runs and knock runs in. Situational hitting is critical in fantasy baseball to produce those RBI that we all need so badly.
This draft also gave me a chance to select new Brewer Lorenzo Cain. Cain had been a critical piece with the Royals throughout their championship run a couple years ago, and he looks to still be in his prime in 2018.
Chris Archer is becoming a pattern for my teams. He’s a strikeout pitcher, and strikeout pitchers are inherently valuable in fantasy baseball.
I am really bullish on the following players: Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Mookie Betts, Chris Archer, Lorenzo Cain, and later in drafts Lance McCullers, Manuel Margot, Shohei Otani, Jameson Taillon, and David Price.
In most years around this time, a player with good numbers will tumble in fantasy drafts, sitting out there for rounds beyond where you might think they belong. This year, not so much. Spring Training didn’t lead to many major injuries, and there’s no outward indications of any players being on the verge of a sharp decline.
It’s a good climate, then, for the last minute drafter. So get those picks in while you still can and while your boss isn’t looking, and let’s get back to baseball. Happy Opening Day, everybody.