Hometown hero

I raised my bid on Bryce Miller Sunday night just an hour before the NFBC FAAB deadline. On one hand, it seemed absurd to bid $233 on a rookie pitcher who had just been called up by the Seattle Mariners earlier in the week. On the other hand, he had just pitched six shutout innings to pick up his first win against the World Champion Houston Astros.

Miller was dominant on Sunday, giving up only a pair of singles and a walk. No Astros even got into scoring position, and the Texas native retired the last 11 batters he faced. Five days earlier, he had set down the first 16 batters he faced at Oakland. That was the second-longest perfect game bid in a pitcher’s MLB debut dating back to 1961. But that was the A’s.

In his second MLB start and his home debut in front of 42,000 fans, Miller showed the same poise on the mound as he did in Oakland. He shut down the team he grew up watching as a kid in New Braunfels, Texas and at Texas A&M University. For the record, my $233 bid was not even close to landing Miller. He went for $317 of FAAB in my TGFBI league.

In his third start on Thursday, Miller earned his second win, tossing seven scoreless innings in which he allowed only three hits. He struck out three Tiger batters and didn’t issue a walk. This lowered Miller’s ERA to 0.47 and WHIP to 0.42. He has allowed just one run in 19 innings, while posting an 18:1 K:BB ratio. He’ll face his most difficult test to date on Friday when he pitches in Atlanta.

Before Miller’s quick ascent to baseball fame, the name may have not been known to many fantasy managers and analysts, but it was not unknown to me. After all, I live in New Braunfels – less than 10 miles from the high school Miller graduated from six years earlier. Anyone who follows baseball in New Braunfels, a small town, outside of San Antonio, knows who Miller is.

Miller was named an all-district first team pitcher as a senior at New Braunfels High School after earning all-district first team distinction as an outfielder the previous year. That’s right, folks. One of the most dominant young pitchers in the majors can also hit. He played one season at Blinn College before moving across town to attend Texas A&M.

Mike Thomas, a friend of mine, coached Miller on a select team shortly before he graduated from high school and went on to pitch for the junior college in Bryan, Texas. Thomas recalls that Miller was throwing in the low 90’s back then. When Miller started pitching at Blinn, he was soon on the radar of Texas A&M Head Coach Ron Childress in College Station.

Childress saw the potential in Miller and recruited him to come to Texas A&M. Childress went to work with Miller and helped him develop into a pitcher worthy of major league consideration. Miller contracted Covid his Senior year and was out about three weeks. But the star athlete battled back and had a couple of good outings before the end of the year.

Miller and already developed what had he called a “gyro” slider, which he’d thrown since his days at Texas A&M under Childress. That pitch, which is more “velocity driven,” has a harsh downward break and is thrown in the high 80s. But the “sweeper” slider would come later. That pitch offered hitters a different plane and pitch shape completely.

With a fastball close to 100 mph, Miller can work effectively up in the zone to hitters. The gyro slider down in the zone kept hitters off balance, and a nasty, sinking changeup completed the trifecta of pitches that has made Miller what he is today – a 24-year-old pitcher that fantasy managers will bid more than $300 to acquire at NFBC.

Those three-pitch offerings allowed Miller to climb three levels of the minors in 2022, with over half his innings coming at High-A and a 10-start run to close the year at Double-A. He had three double-digit strikeout games over his final 13 starts, compiling a 3.46 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 81:22 K:BB in 67.2 innings over that run to close the year.

The sky is the limit for new Mariners star pitcher, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Thomas says Miller still stays in touch with him and others who helped him develop his elite skills. But Thomas says there is more to the young man from New Braunfels than baseball talent. He remembers the positive attitude or Miller, who always encouraged his teammates.

“I remember Bryce would take the mound and always look to heaven and hold his cross necklace up just before his first pitch in every game,” Thomas said. “This is a clear representation of his devotion and commitment to Jesus Christ. He continually expressed his gratitude and appreciation to God and his parents. He is a devoted Christian.”

Thomas recalls Miller as quiet and humble, always putting his team first and not seeking personal glory on or off the field. “In my many years of coaching teenagers and youth, I have never met a more loyal teammate. It was witnessed by many here (in New Braunfels), at Blinn College, Texas A&M and in professional baseball,” Thomas said.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. He’ll be taking a break from writing his weekly column but will return to pick up the pen in July. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rookie pitchers to the rescue?

April is in the books, and if your fantasy baseball team is struggling on the pitching side, you’re not alone. Before I go on, it’s worth noting that 30 games in a 162-game season is a small sample size. But what we’ve seen so far doesn’t feel like an anomaly to me. There have been too many starting pitchers drafted in the early rounds that are struggling.

Corbin Burnes, selected in the first round in many drafts, gave up 10 runs in his first two starts before settling down to pitch more like himself in his last four outings. But his 4.01 ERA and 1.13 WHIP are his worst since his awful sophomore year in 2019. He has also only struck out 27 batters across 33.2 innings – tied for 74th among all starting pitchers.

Aaron Nola, the third pitcher off the board in my TGFBI league, has been worse. Nola had a 4.46 ERA and 1.13 WHIP heading into his start on Wednesday against the Dodgers. Spotted to a 5-0 lead, Nola couldn’t deliver, giving up four earned runs on seven hits across 6.1 innings.  He struck out five didn’t walk a batter and didn’t get a decision in the game.  

Sandy Alcantara, the fifth pitcher off the board in my league, was worse than either of them. I was fortunate enough to draft Alcantara on my TGFBI team last year, and he won the NL CY Young with a 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 207 strikeouts across 228.2 innings. Alcantara, 1-3, currently has a 5.09 ERA and 1.25 WHIP across his six starts. He has 31 strikeouts.

Four of the top 10 pitchers drafted in my league are currently on the IL – Brandon Woodruff, Carlos Rodon, Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander. The latter will reportedly be activated from the IL on Thursday to make his season debut in Detroit. Verlander, 40, the AL Cy Young winner, will have an injury risk albatross around his neck for the rest of his career.

With all the bad starts, some fantasy managers have added some exciting rookie pitchers. The first top 50 prospect to be called up was Taj Bradley, a 22-year-old Tampa sensation, who won his first game on April 12th. He went for $234 of FAAB in my league, won his next two starts and was rewarded by unceremoniously being sent back down to Triple A.

The following week, Oakland called up 24-year-old fireballer Mason Miller, who frequently touches triple digits with his fastball. Miller gave up two earned runs on four hits across 4.1 innings, but that didn’t deter one fantasy manager in my league from bidding $211 to land him. Unlike Bradley, the team context is a concern with Miller unlikely to win many games.

A week after Miller’s debut, Cleveland called up not one but two promising rookies – Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee. While Bibee was a highly regarded top 50 prospect, Allen flew in under the radar and made a splash with a win and eight strikeouts across six innings on April 23. Three days later, Bibee matched him with a win and eight strikeouts across 5.2 innings.

With pitching my TGFBI team’s rate limiting step, I wanted to land one of the Guardian pitchers.  After underbidding badly on Bradley and making only a courtesy bid on Miller, I made my most aggressive bid of the year for Bibee – $212. It was not only the highest bid of this year but my highest bid ever, but it fell short by $17. My $74 bid on Allen fell $60 short. 

Rookie hurler fever continues to rage this week with three more prospects getting the call from their respective teams – Bryce Miller, Gavin Stone and Brandon Pfaadt. Like Bibee, both Stone and Pfaadt were ranked in the top 50 in baseball, but both failed to impress in their debuts on Wednesday. It was Miller instead who pitched brilliantly the previous night. 

Miller didn’t allow a baserunner in the first five innings at Oakland but gave up a run in the sixth inning on two hits. Seattle went on to win, but Miller didn’t get the decision since his team was behind when he was lifted after six innings. While the A’s were an easy draw for his first start, Miller still gets credit for striking out 10 batters without walking a single one.  

Meanwhile, Stone only lasted four innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits, walking two and striking out only one for the Dodgers. Pfaadt was even worse, giving up seven earned runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out three for Arizona. It will be interesting to see what the FAAB bidding is on this trio when Sunday night rolls around.

Bradley, Mason Miller, Bibee, Allen, Bryce Miller, Stone and Pfaadt are all still widely available in most leagues. Don’t get me wrong. You shouldn’t expect any of these pitchers to save your season. Michael Richards, last year’s TGFBI champion, gave me this piece of advice last year when he scoffed at the exorbitant bidding on untried rookie pitchers.

However, one or more of these rookies could help you get back on track. If you play in a deeper league like TGFBI, it’s likely all but the last three are not available. In the deeper leagues, you need depth in your starting pitching roster. I am currently rostering 11 starting pitchers on my team, and it’s likely one of this trio will be on my roster Sunday night.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Avoid the herd mentality

If you’re a regular reader of Doubting Thomas, you know that I was a financial advisor for more than 30 years. Before I became a fee-based advisor, I traded stocks for clients and my own portfolios. I read thousands of stock reports and recommendations from so-called experts in the industry, and this inevitably affected my decisions on what stocks to buy and sell.

The financial industry is just one of many peer groups where herd mentality is evident. In the case of investments, herd mentality is the investors’ tendency to do what other investors are doing. This is also true of stock brokers and portfolio managers who track the behavior of their peers. They have a tendency to follow the herd and buy the same stocks in their portfolios.

Let me give you an example. If I am managing a large cap growth stock portfolio, I am going to feel pressure to own a significant number of Apple shares – even if the stock’s P/E ratio of 30 is too high by historical stock market standards. My instincts tell me that the stock is due for some negative regression, but I’m afraid to not own the stock because the herd might be right.

You might be wondering what this has to do with fantasy baseball, so let me connect the dots. Having worked in the fantasy baseball industry for the past three years, I see how peer group pressure and the herd mentality often dictates the players consistently recommended by the analysts and pundits and also the ones being faded. Unfortunately, the herd can be wrong.

To illustrate this point, I’m going to discuss two players on my TGFBI team. One had a lot of helium heading into draft season, while the other was a popular fade. If you drafted Chris Sale, you probably recall the industry’s love for the Boston Red Sox hurler. You might also recall that the same peer group had very little love for Texas Rangers slugger Adolis Garcia.  

“At this time last year, Justin Verlander was the longtime ace who I thought was being unfairly dismissed coming off surgery, and he went on to win the AL Cy Young. But Sale is so far going 60 picks later in drafts. Like Verlander last year, a strong spring could send Sale’s cost soaring, so if you can get in before his prices rises, take advantage,” a popular analyst wrote. 

(“Adolis) Garcia delivered again in 2022, slashing .250/.300/.456 with 27 HR and 25 SB over 657 PAs. Despite that, you’ll find him on fade lists this season because his plate approach is terrible. His 40.3% chase rate indicates too much flailing outside the strike zone, and the resulting strikeout numbers are ugly and create real batting average risk,” another analyst wrote.

It’s still April, but I can tell you that I’m very happy that I broke from the herd and drafted Garcia with the 69th pick. As I write this, Garcia leads the majors with 29 RBI, is tied for fifth with seven home runs and tied for sixth with 20 runs scored. And his .255 batting average is right in line with last year’s average. Garcia’s success has helped boost me into the top 10 in TGFBI.

On the other hand, I must admit to a severe case of buyer’s remorse after taking Sale in the 10th round. I knew Sale hadn’t been good since 2018. After a disappointing 2019 season, he underwent Tommy John surgery. He had pitched less than 50 innings since then, always seeming to be injured, but the analysts loved him. Instead of trusting my gut, I bought into the hype.   

After five outings, Sale has one quality start, an 8.22 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP. I’m sad to say he was in my starting lineup Monday night when he surrendered five runs on nine hits and a walk across five innings without striking out a batter. After being staked to an early 4-0 lead, he suffered his second loss. The loud contact was deafening in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

There’s a lesson to be learned from both Garcia and Sale. Do your own research and draw your own conclusions about the players being drafted before you add them to your fantasy team. Don’t be afraid to select a player the pundits hate if you really like him. And don’t hesitate to pass on a player if you have reservations about him – even if the whole world loves him.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Team management, part 2

In my last column, I discussed the management of your fantasy baseball team from the emotional perspective. After the draft, the early weeks of the season can prove challenging if you get off to a slow start. The challenges of slow starts from star players can get in your head and cause you to make costly mistakes – if you give in to all of the negative emotions you are experiencing.

“April is the cruellest month,” T.S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, and April can certainly be a wasteland in MLB. Juan Soto was my first-round draft pick, and he’s currently batting .164. Aaron Nola isn’t on my team only because someone else in my TGFBI league got him first in the middle of the second round. That manager can’t feel good about his 5.91 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

As stated last week, there hasn’t been enough time to even consider dropping star players who are off to slow starts. Did you buy into all the hype surrounding Jazz Chisholm Jr.? He went in n the third round of my TGFBI draft and is currently batting .237, with six runs, two home runs, five RBI and four stolen bases. I’m sure his managers wanted a lot more out of the Marlins’ star.

Every year, players drafted early get off to slow starts. Othes get injured. Carlos Rodon, drafted at the end of the second round in my league, suffered a forearm strain in spring training and hasn’t thrown a pitch yet. Jose Altuve, selected with the first pick in the third round, suffered a fractured thumb during the World Baseball Classic and may not see any action until June.

I’ve been lucky with injuries – so far. I say lucky because some of the injured players, like Nola and Altuve, aren’t on my team only because they were drafted before I would draft them. That’s part of the reason why I’m off to a great start in TGFBI, 29th overall in the 435-team field. I did lose Joe Musgrove, my sixth round pick, but he’s expected to make his 2023 debut this weekend. 

Frankly, my position players have exceeded my expectations. I’m tied for first in my 15-team league in runs and stolen bases, third in RBI, tied for fifth in home runs and eighth in batting average. Pitching isn’t as good, but it’s not awful. I’m tied for sixth in wins, fifth in saves, sixth in strikeouts, and I’m fifth in ERA and sixth in WHIP. I’m satisfied but not getting complacent.

In the last FAAB run, I added four pitchers, dropping one pitcher who was sent down to the minors, and three injured position players. The injured players dropped included Joc Pederson and Josh Donaldson, who could be activated from the IL soon. But I don’t like carrying injured players on this team with only seven bench spots to play with. There are no IL slots in NFBC.

The fact that I don’t like carrying injured players doesn’t mean I won’t carry injured players. If Soto, is injured, I’ll carry him (unless he suffers a season-ending injury). However, Pederson was an 18th round pick and Donaldson just an afterthought in the 29th round. Pederson, a career .237 hitter, is unlikely to get 400 plate appearances because he doesn’t face left-handed pitching.

I’m sharing this information because you might find it helpful to understand my philosophy and methodology. Four-star general and former secretary of defense Jim Mattis told soldiers that “the   most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.” The same thing can be said about the fantasy baseball battlefield, where you need to do a lot of thinking to be successful.

I may have been guilty of overreacting to my current situation by adding four pitchers to my team. The net gain of three pitchers – two starters and a relief pitcher – left me with 15 on my roster. That’s right, I’m currently carrying 11 starters and four relievers. With only nine pitcher slots to fill in the starting lineup, I have six of my seven bench spots occupied by pitchers.

If you do the math, you realize that I only have one bench spot for a position player. What if one or more of the starting position players gets hurt? Frankly, it’s not if but when. It’s a long season, and I know I’m going to have injuries to deal with. When a starter goes down, I’ll replace him with someone from the waiver wire. If he’s worth keeping, I’ll drop one of my pitchers.

You might be wondering why I would roster 11 pitchers. The answer is that I lack confidence in most of my pitchers. Aside from Julio Urias, Musgrove and Josh Hader, no one has job security on Doubting Thomas’ team. That includes you, Chris Sale. I was happy about your last start but your 8.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP leave a lot to be desired.

That’s not to say that I didn’t draft some surprisingly good pitchers last month. Justin Steele, my 20th-round pick, is 3-0, with a 1.42 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 24 strikeouts across 25 innings. His dominant performance against the Dodgers in Los Angeles last week made a believer out of many managers. He followed that up with another win on the road on Wednesday in Oakland.  

Steele, like Urias, was an automatic when I locked in my starting lineup for the week in TGFBI. But I agonized over the other 12 pitchers (Hader was an obvious start, too, since he has four of my team’s five saves). This week, I elected to roll with eight starters and one reliever.  The other six starters are Musgrove, Sale, Merrill Kelly, Jack Flaherty, Wade Miley and Colin Rea.

I’ll bet that last name caught you by surprise. If you don’t play in a deep league, he’s not relevant to you. But the 32-year-old did earn a spot in the Brewers rotation last week after a stellar debut in San Diego. Rea didn’t get the win, but he did limit the Padres to one earned run on two hits, walking one and striking out six across 5.2 innings to stick with the major league club for now.  

Rea’s start on Tuesday night wasn’t quite as good, as he surrendered four runs on five hits, walking two and striking out two over five innings. He actually held Seattle scoreless in four of five innings, but got touched up in the third inning. His next opponent is Detroit at home early next week, and he should make that start with Brandon Woodruff on the injured list.

Previous to his two starts this season, Rea hadn’t toed an MLB subber since 2021, but the price was right. While one of my fellow league managers was paying $234 of FAAB for Taj Bradley, I picked up Rea for $2 of FAAB. Maybe Bradley will win a Cy Young, but I’m cheap when it comes to spending FAAB, compared to other managers. I’m always shopping for a bargain.  

Setting your starting lineup is not a perfect science, and two of my benched pitchers turned in great performances this week. Chris Bassitt surprised me by beating Houston Tuesday in Minute Maid Park, pitching six shutout innings on three hits. He struck out five batters. Taijuan Walker picked up his first win, allowing two runs on five hits against the Whitie Sox on Wednesday.

While I hated to lose those stats, I was happy to see two of my marginal pitchers perform so well on the road. Hopefully, it will be a difficult decision every week to set my starting lineup because my pitchers are doing this well. But I know they won’t all do well, and there will be injuries. That’s why you plan ahead, build depth on your roster and keep your fingers crossed.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer.

Fantasy becomes reality

You spent weeks, even months preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts.  Everything was looking good. You identified sleepers, breakouts, busts, overvalued players, undervalued players and you had your targets. You created tiers at each position and made your projections based on Steamer and The Bat. You memorized the ADP of the top 200 players. You read all the articles, listened to the podcasts and did numerous mock drafts.

When draft day arrived, you were confident because you did the prep work. You were ready to draft the perfect team, with solid players at every position. And then, the draft happened. It was supposed to be so smooth. But the early run on starting pitching left you without the SP1 you wanted. Or you realize that it’s the 12th round, and you don’t have a first baseman. Are you really going to settle for Christian Walker as your starting first baseman?

In the fiercely competitive TGFBI draft, I found myself midway through the 12th round without a second baseman. I ultimately settled on Jonathan India and took him with the 172nd pick, but this was not a player I would be bragging about on Twitter. Nor was I feeling particularly good about reaching the 10th round with only one active starting pitcher (Joe Musgrove, my sixth-round pick, was going to be starting the year on the IL).

When TGFBI draft was over, I had a letdown. It wasn’t a terrible draft, but it could have been better. Every draft can be better. But I was exhausted and needed a break from fantasy baseball – at least for a few days. But then it was time to get back after it. It was time to update my projections and identify shortfalls in Roto categories. For me, the biggest problem appeared to be saves. I had only Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Liam Hendriks rostered.

No matter how your draft worked out, the first few weeks are the time when things get real. This is the time when you identify your fantasy team’s weaknesses. Suffice it to say that the deeper the league, the more difficult it is to make those improvements. In a 10-team league, there are always good players on the waiver wire. But in a 15-team league, it’s a different story. Joey Wiemer was the hot ticket in the first FAAB run in my league after the season started.

Most leagues allow trades, and you should always be looking making trades because this is the fastest way to improve your team. For example, if you’re weak in starting pitching, you’re bound to be strong in hitting. Look at the rosters of other teams in your league and find a good trading partner. In this case, it would be a team that’s loaded with starting pitching but weak in position players. Don’t try to win the trade. Look for a win-win in your trade offer.

If you play at NFBC, you know there are no trades. I wish they would change that rule because I love trading, but NFBC doesn’t appear likely to change it anytime soon. The reason cited for barring trades is the possibility of collusion. TGFBI has no entry fee, but some of the other competitions (like Main Event) have entry fees as high as $1,800.  With managers competing for thousands of dollars, the possibility of collusion is real.

But let’s get back to the subject at hand. What do you need to do now to improve your team? Do you make trades? Do you work the waiver wire? Or do you sit tight? There is no clear-cut answer, but someone who drafted Edwin Diaz, or Justin Verlander, is going to feel pressure to make some sort of an early season move. Here are a few general principles that should aid you in managing your team over the first 4-6 weeks of the season.


Less than two weeks are in the books, and two weeks is not enough to drop players who are off to slow starts. Did you buy into all the hype surrounding Gunnar Henderson and are now being crushed by his .148 batting average and 40% strikeout rate? Don’t give up on him yet. A manager in one of my public leagues dropped Teoscar Hernandez and Alex Bregman because both are hitting under .200. I was literally salivating as I scooped them up.

Every year, players get off to hot and cold starts. The hot players won’t keep it up, and the cold players are likely to turn things around before the month is over. I wasn’t thrilled about Juan Soto, my No. 1 draft pick, going 4 for 29 (.137) right out of the gate. But he’s already starting to turn things around.  If you drafted Bobby Witt in the second round, you’re probably not thrilled with his .158/.238/.316 slash line through 11 games. Don’t trade him away.

On the other hand, mediocre players can always heat up. It happens all the time. Please know that I wasn’t racing to the waiver wire to add Brian Anderson after his hot start. Do you really believe that this marginal 29-year-old player with a career .257/.342/.414 slash was going to continue slugging over .700? Always look at a player’s track record. Anderson is in his 7th major league season, and it’s highly unlikely that he is a reborn superstar.


This is the time of the year when the sharks start circling, trying to get inexperienced fantasy managers to panic and “sell low” on proven stars who are likely to rebound. Let’s go back to the struggling Kansas City third baseman. I felt like Witt was being overvalued in drafts and don’t have him on any of my fantasy teams. However, I wouldn’t sell low on him now. I’d rather be one of those sharks trying to entice the panicky manager to trade him for a song.

The takeaway here is that the season is very long, and we are not even through the first 10. A lot is going to happen between now and October. If you drafted a player in the early rounds, keep in mind that there was a reason why he was being drafted early. Some hitters and pitchers are notorious for getting off to slow starts. Give them time to get through April. If he’s a proven slugger, or ace, it’s likely he will start heating up with the weather.

I think I need to add a caveat here. My advice on being patient with players applies to only those with a track record, or possibly an amazing rookie pedigree. An example of the latter is Nolan Gorman. The Cardinals second baseman was called up midway through 2022 and didn’t perform. But his track record in the minors was stellar. I was amazed when his ADP slipped outside the top 400 in February. I wish I had been able to get him on my TGFBI team.


Whether your team is off to a hot start or cold start, you want to make sure you know what’s happening in you league. Is there a hot player on the waiver wire waiting to be picked up when Oneil Cruz goes down with an injury? Are there players on other managers’ teams who are underperforming and can be bought cheap? Take advantage of other team managers who won’t exercise the excruciating patience that is required of a fantasy baseball champion.

You should always be collecting as much information as possible, so that when the time comes to make moves, you’ll be prepared. If you’re off to a slow start, be patient with your slow-starting stars but don’t hesitate to move on from players you only thought might be good. As stated previously, I’m a big believer in track record. If a player who has been a fantasy asset for several years is off to a slow start, give him plenty of time to turn things around.

Don’t blow up your team. No matter how badly your team starts out, resist the urge to turn over your roster with poor trades and by adding the flavor of the month off the waiver wire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this, even in leagues like TGFBI.  One manager in my league drafted Francisco Alvarez and then dropped him when he was sent down to the minors. One week later, Alvarez was back up and the hot item on FAAB bidding last Sunday night.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Closer carousel goes round

Real baseball and the fantasy version begin Thursday, but The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) had its first of 27 FAAB runs on Sunday night. I predicted that New York Mets reliever David Robertson would be the hot ticket, and I was right – at least in my 15-team league where he went for $145. I bid $107 on him, but my bid fell well short.

TGBFI uses a $1,000 FAAB budget, unlike many other leagues that allot only $100. That may sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind that it needs to last for the entire season. My wife, who knows nothing about fantasy sports, understands living on a budget. She chided me last year for running low on FAAB dollars in the second half of the season.

If this isn’t your first year, you’ll recall that D-Rob was in the spotlight a year ago after earning one save for the Chicago Cubs. At that point there was no guarantee he would be the full-time closer for the Cubs. But managers paid up, with the average winning bid at NFBC $166 for Robertson. He went on to earn 20 saves for the Cubs and Phillies.

Robertson will get most of the saves in the Mets’ bullpen if you believe some analysts. Steamer and The Bat both project him to save 24 games following the Edwin Diaz injury. But Adam Ottavino, Diaz’s setup man in 2022, had better ratios. Ottavino racked up six wins, three saves and 20 holds, His 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP were top 20 rates among relievers.

That’s why I’m not too upset taking home Ottavino as my consolation prize on Sunday night. I only paid $11 for him. Paying $150 or more in some NFBC leagues for a pitcher who might be the team’s closer borders on insanity in my mind. But there’s always an insatiable hunger for closers and possible closers – even if they only help you in one category.

This leads me to my point. There is no category more frustrating in roto than saves. Thehigh-stakes players at NFBC push up top-tier closers as high as top-25 ADP. In my TGFBI League, four of the 11 winning bids on Sunday night were on relief pitchers. There’s always an insatiable hunger for closers and possible closers – even if they can’t help you much.

Less than a month ago, I watched all of those relief pitchers fly off the board during mydraft. In my league, managers showed some early restraint, with Emmanuel Clase going No. 34 overall and Edwin Diaz 38th. They had been going in the first two rounds in many drafts. I bit my lip and took Josh Hader with the next pick in the third round of our 15-team league.

I hated taking Hader that early because of the opportunity cost. I would have preferred to take a starting pitcher, and I lost out on Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler. I was able to take Julio Urias in the fourth round but would have liked him to be my SP2. A starting pitcher can help you in four categories, while a closer really only helps you in one.

Hader was fine for three months last year and then awful for the next two months. He waseven being dropped by many managers in August when he briefly lost his closing role in San  Diego. Hader finished the season with 36 saves but an unsightly 5.22 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP – his worst ratios of his stellar career. I sure hope that doesn’t happen in 2023.

Meanwhile Liam Hendriks, the consensus No. 2 relief pitcher last year behind Hader, finished third in saves and produced good, not great ratios – 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP. But eight of the relievers who finished among the top 20 – Ryan Helsley, Daniel Bard, Evan Phillips, Paul Sewald, Alexis Diaz, Clay Holmes, Felix Bautista and Jorge Lopez  – went mostly undrafted.

These statistics are the reason why Todd Zola and many other of the finest fantasymanagers won’t use an early draft pick on a closer. Others, like defending TGFBI Champion Michael Richards, embrace the Hero-RP approach. They’ll pay up for one of the elite closers because of the scarcity at that position. I understand both sides of this argument.

There are about 10 major league teams who have not settled on a closer. I predict that about half of these will take a committee approach and several more of the “settled” situations will have a new closer by the end of the season. But still, all of us managers will continue searching desperately for relievers we hope will emerge from these murky closer situations.

“And the closer carousel, goes round and round,And the ERAs go up and down.We’re all captive on the closer carousel.We can’t get off, we can only look around,Behind, from where our pitchers came.And go round and round and round, in the closer game.”

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. He also shamelessly adapts song lyrics lyrics from Joni Mitchell and other popular songwriters. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Here’s my TGFBI team

With the regular season just starting in two days, I thought it would be worth sharing more information on the team I drafted in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. This team was drafted more than three weeks ago, and some of these picks look a lot better to me than others. For instance, I would not have taken Juan Soto if I had known anything about his oblique injury. It’s considered minor, but I would have passed on him in the first round.

The injury Joe Musgrove suffered in the weight room was known just hours before I took him a month ago. I made a careless mistake. Before I finalize a pick, I always check to be sure that said player didn’t sustain an injury in the last day. I didn’t check Joe Musgrove’s status until after I had drafted him. What are the odds that he would have broken his toe just hours earlier in the weight room? My SP2 will start the season on the IL.


I had been assigned the 9th pick in the draft. I wanted to be close to the middle in draft order but also wanted the 22nd pick in the second round. So, I was fine taking Juan Soto when my turn came. I had planned on taking Yordan Alvarez but was spooked by news that he wasn’t even swinging a bat on draft day. If you draft Alvarez, you have a higher risk tolerance than me.  


Part of my draft strategy was getting an elite third baseman here. This is why I wanted the 9th pick in the draft. My belief was that either Rafael Devers or Austin Riley would still be on the board when the draft snaked back to me in the second round. Sure enough, Riley was still there and I took him. With two solid seasons under his belt, I feel confident he’ll deliver the goods.


Hating the idea of finishing dead last in saves, I took Josh Hader with the 39th overall pick. To wait another round might mean missing out on drafting one of the few closers that could deliver 30-plus saves. Surprisingly, the closer run started late in this draft, with Emmanuel Clase not being selected until early in the this round and Edwin Diaz going right before my turn came up.


Julio Urias was on a short list of starting pitchers I was targeting in the fourth. I had intentionally waited until the 52nd pick to take my SP1. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Shane Bieber were already gone (although I would have taken Urias ahead of Bieber). Urias has been very good the past two seasons and gets additional points for durability, reliability and team context.


Haters have to hate, and analysts and pundits seem to line up to hate on Adolis Garcia. That was true even after he repeated his breakout 2021 campaign, adding a few more steals. Most 20/20 hitters have been gobbled up by the 69th pick of the draft, but not Garcia. His strikeout rate improved from 31.2 percent to 27.9 percent, while his walk rate rose to 6.1 percent. I’m a buyer.  


No one is perfect, and this is where I made a careless mistake. Before I finalize a pick, I always check to be sure that said player didn’t sustain an injury in the last day. For some reason, I didn’t check Joe Musgrove’s status until after I had drafted him. What are the odds that he would have broken his toe just hours earlier in the weight room? My SP2 will start the season on the IL.


Am I worried that Abreu managed a mere four home runs after the All-Star break last year and only one in the the final 55 games? Yes. But there are too many positives for me to fade him. A lifetime .292, hitter, Abreu still had great season-long marks in exit velocity and hard-hit rate last year in spite of hitting only 15 home runs. Again, I love his track record and the team context.


There was a run on catchers in the previous three rounds, and I knew it would be unwise to leave this round without securing a C1. In two-catcher leagues, you can’t afford to ignore the position until late in the draft, so I took Sean Murphy with the 112th pick. Murphy, who was with Oakland last year, was the fifth-best fantasy backstop. And that was before he was traded to the Braves.


Still without a shortstop as I neared a cliff, I took Nico Hoerner in the ninth. Hoerner was not on the top of my list after having come out of nowhere to take the starting shortstop job in Chicago. He finished the year with a .281/.327/.410 slash line, 10 home runs, 55 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 2022. Cubs manager David Ross said Hoerner will be the primary leadoff man to begin 2023.


Drafting a fantasy team is a balancing act, and I was in danger of losing my balance if I finished the first third of this draft with only two starting pitcher – especially since one wouldn’t be active on opening day. So, I took Chris Sale in the 10th. Sale has dealt with injuries, but when healthy, he’s still a very good pitcher. He has a lifetime 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and can miss bats.


I came right back with another starting pitcher, Chris Bassitt, in the 11th. I had Jeffrey Springs at the top of my queue, but he was sniped by Ariel Cohen right before me. Like Springs, Bassitt is not the type of pitcher that wows you with his stuff, but he does a good job of keeping hitters off balance and limiting hard contact with a diverse pitch mix. Again, I like the team context.


I knew second base was a shallow position before I started drafting, and yet I found myself in the 12th round without one. The choice was between Jonathan India and Brandon Lowe. What a contrast. Lowe’s power was alluring, but he has had health issues and is a batting average risk. India is projected to lead off for Cincinnati and rack up double-digit steals and home runs.


I was surprised to find Josh Bell still on the board in the 13th. Bell was having a terrific season in 2022 until he was dealt to the Padres at the trade deadline. His performance cratered out west, but I’m cautiously optimistic he can return to his pre-trade production with Cleveland. Bell brings power to the middle of a good lineup, and I’m happy to have him as my corner infielder.


If I was surprised to find Bell undrafted in the 13th, I was shocked to find Lowe still on the board in the 14th. I had almost taken him two rounds ago, and this was Christmas in March. Lowe was outstanding in 2021, with 39 homers and an .863 OPS. Last year, he was limited to only 65 games. If he stays healthy in 2023, he can bounce back and deliver value as my middle infielder.


Masataka Yoshida was my final selection in the first half of the draft. Yoshida was one of the best hitters in Japan since he debuted in 2016. How he will fare in the major leagues remains to be seen, but Fenway Park is a good venue. Even if he can’t replicate his 20 plus homers in the United States, I expect him to be a .300 hitter. I always have my eye on my team batting average.


I started the second half of the draft by selecting Jack Flaherty. This was not an easy pick for me to make because of the risk, but I took him because he’s fallen so far in drafts. Four years ago, Flaherty was one of the top pitchers in baseball. Since then, he’s been hurt. Flaherty has only logged 190.2 innings over the past three years, but all of that injury risk is baked into his ADP.


Having already drafted an injured pitcher and one who is injury prone, I needed one who was healthy and could eat innings. Merrill Kelly fits the bill. He’s averaged more than 180 innings in his last three full seasons. Kelly keeps hitters guessing with a diverse repertoire of pitchers. He doesn’t miss bats, but he limits walks, induces weak contact and his team context has improved. 


After having built a foundation of good contact hitters expected to hit for average, I decided to make a power play. I took Joc Pederson in the 18th. Coming off a career year with the Giants, the lefty-hitting outfielder slashed .274/.353/.521 with 23 home runs and three steals in 134 games in 2022. On the strong side of the Giants platoon, he should still see enough plate appearances.  


My projections showed me falling behind in the stolen-base category, so I drafted the 2022 AL steals champion. Jorge Mateo had 35 last year, and he should be able to swipe 30 plus bases this year unless he loses playing time. He had a 27.6% strikeout rate and a .286 BABIP last year, which resulted from a 41 percent fly-ball rate, with below-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. 


TGFBI champion Michael Richards had advised me to take a take a starting pitcher if no hitter was jumping off my draft board. So, I took Justin Steele in the 20th. The southpaw took a big step forward in 2022, emerging as a staple of the Cubs rotation. He made 24 starts and posted a 3.18 ERA, with 126 strikeouts across 119 innings. Steele can miss bats and could be a real sleeper.  

The final one-third of the draft saw me select three more outfielders, three more catchers, two more relief pitchers, one more starting pitcher and one more third baseman. As it stands, my current TGFBI roster includes four catchers, two first basemen, two second basemen, two shortstops, two third basemen, seven outfielders, eight starting pitchers and three relief pitchers.

As previously stated, a balanced team is critical to your success, and I attempted to achieve that balance. Here’s my final 10 draft picks to round it out: Shea Langeliers (21st), Charlie Blackmon (22nd), Aroldis Chapman (23rd), Joey Bart (24th), Taijuan Walker (25th), Marcell Ozuna (26th), Myles Straw (27th), Hendriks (28th), Josh Donaldson (29th) and Endy Rodriguez (30th).

This team is the culmination of more than a hundred hours of research and 13 difficult days fighting with 14 other talented fantasy managers for the best players at the best prices. The folks at NFBC gave me a score of 90 and grade of A-. My draft effort was ranked as the fourth best in my league. What lies ahead is six months of hard work managing this team. And it’ll be a blast.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rolling in the deep, part 4

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you know that the Houston Astros will be without second baseman Jose Altuve for the next 8-10 weeks. Fantasy managers who drafted Altuve before he suffered a fractured right thumb during the World Baseball Classic felt the pain. But the smart ones were rushing out to add David Hensley to their rosters – if they could.

If you play in an NFBC league and have already completed your draft, like me, you’re waiting until Sunday to bid on Hensley. His rostership percentage at NFBC is currently only two percent. The 26-year-old infielder made his major league debut last August. He contributed as a utility man, making appearances at second base, third base, shortstop, left field and designated hitter.

More importantly, Hensley shined at the plate, batting .345 with a .441 on base percentage, 1.027 OPS, 191 OPS+, one home run and five RBI. Hensley is slashing .286/.412/.500, with two home runs and two steals in 34 plate PA in spring training. I will be surprised if there aren’t several triple-digit FAAB bids made for the 26th round pick in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft.

But Hensley is only one of several players who should be considered by fantasy managers looking to improve their rosters. Here are eight more, and all were undrafted in my TGFBI league. This is the last of my four-part series, Rolling in the Deep. If you play in a deeper league, this series was written with you in mind. The eight players listed below are in alphabetical order.


This 24-year-old rookie has allowed just one earned run across 13 innings in an impressive spring, while striking out 15 batters as he competes with Jared Shuster for the fifth spot in Atlanta’s starting rotation. The duo’s spring numbers are nearly identical across the board –  Dodd has a 15:2 K:BB through 13 innings, while Shuster has a 16:2 mark in 12.2 frames.


Garcia is slashing .355/.375/.516 in spring training. He was a solid contact hitter in limited time in the majors last season, batting .318 with two RBI, a double and a run scored over 23 plate appearances. He slashed a combined .285/.359/.427 line over 118 games between Triple-A and Double-A, while adding 11 home runs, 39 stolen bases, 61 RBI and 104 runs scored last year.


Lopes is slashing .441/.462/.618 with a home run, eight RBI, eight runs and six stolen bases in Cactus League play, and he’s in contention for one of the Padres’ roster spots. Lopes hasn’t done much as a major leaguer to this point in his career, slashing .246/.310/.352 with three homers and 11 steals over 290 career plate appearances but the spring training performance has been noticed.


McCormick began 2022 as the strong side of a platoon in center field and had a .676 OPS through the first three months of the campaign, but he came alive during the second half of the season with a .271/.356/.416 slash line, working as the Astros’ primary center fielder. The strong second half and playoff run gives him the edge for a starting job in Houston on opening day.


Montero has hit four home runs across 49 plate appearances, with 11 runs scored, eight RBI and is slashing .318/.388/.614 in spring ball. He made his MLB debut in 2022, with a .233/.270/.432 slash line in 53 games. He struggled with strikeouts at time in the minors, which carried over to the big leagues with a 32.4 percent strikeout rate, and his 4.3 percent walk rate was also poor.


Between shuttling back and forth between the minors and majors and two IL stints, Olivares only played in 53 games for the Royals last season, batting a healthy .286 with four homers and two steals across 174 plate appearances. He has pop and has stolen as many as 35 bases in the minor leagues. The outfielder is just entering his age-27 season and he’s available in my TGFBI league.


A majority of fantasy analysts expect Robertson to lead the Mets in saves in 2023 following the season-ending injury to Edwin Diaz. After pitching just 18.2 major league innings between 2019-2021, Robertson re-established himself, serving as Chicago’s closer for the first four months of 2022. After a solid first half, earning 20 saves, Robertson was traded to Philadelphia.


Shuster was a first-round pick for the Braves in a 2020 Draft class which also included Spencer Strider. Shuster, who is battling Dodd for the a starter spot in the Braves rotation, posted a 3.29 ERA and 145:38 K:BB over 139.1 innings between Double- and Triple-A in 2022. He struck out seven over four scoreless innings in a spring training game against the Red Sox on Friday.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rolling in the deep, part 3

When I started this series, I told you playing in a 15-team league is far more challenging than the traditional 12-team or 10-team league. Players outside the top 250 are generally not going to be interesting to fantasy managers. But playing in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational means that I must know about at least the top 450. This is the perils and pleasures of a deeper league.

In part one of this series, I gave you eight players to consider with ADP between 250 and 300. Last week, I presented eight more with ADP between 300 and 350. In part 3, I’m going to cover eight more with ADP between 350 and 400. These are players being drafted in rounds 24-27. It’s likely that most of these will be bench players for me unless one of my starters gets injured. 

The headliner today is Bubba Thompson, a 24-year-old outfielder for the Texas Rangers. The seventh fastest man in baseball stole 49 bases in 80 games for the Round Rock Express before he was called up for his big-league debut in August. Thompson spent the final two months of the season as a fixture in the Rangers lineup. The young outfielder finished with a .265/.302/.312 slash line.

More importantly, Thompson stole 18 bases in 55 games. Do the math. If the rookie had played a full season, he would have exceeded 50 steals. Remember, he also stole 49 bases in what was equivalent to a half season in Triple-A. Thompson had become Round Rock’s stolen-base king July 23 after he swiped his 45th bag. He added four more to that total before heading to Arlington.

It’s not to say that Thompson’s MLB transition was seamless. He had 13 home runs and 48 RBIs across those 80 games with the Round Rock Club. He also had a solid .355 on-base percentage. But his OBP dipped to .302 with the big-league team.  He also only had one home run and 9 RBI across 181 plate appearances. He had a 30.9% strikeout rate facing major-league pitchers.

A high strikeout rate for a rookie is not unusual, but it will need to be improved upon if he’s going to stick in the lineup. Thompson, who had demonstrated decent power in the minors, had a .047 ISO during the first taste of the majors, which was absurdly low. The rookie had only six extra-base hits. All that to say it’s no guarantee that Thompson makes the starting lineup in April.

But with an ADP of 375, the risk of acquiring Thompson is very low, and the upside is high. There aren’t many places where you can find an additional 30-40 steals this late in a draft. The eternal optimist in me can’t help but point out that Thompson has already gone 2-for-5 in spring training games, with a run scored, a .400 OBP and a 1.000 OPS. Don’t laugh, it’s a start.

In addition to Thompson, I have seven more players for consideration in your deep-league draft. One of them is even a pitcher. I’m not predicting that any of these players are going to win you a championship. However, when one of your starters goes on the IL, you will be glad to have these players. Based on my research, they won’t hurt you and they could make a positive contribution.


Wainwright, 41, delivered another strong season in 2022 with a 3.71 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 143:54 K:BB across 191.2 innings. But his ADP has slipped outside 350. His average fastball velocity dropped below 89 mph for the first time, and the 17.8% strikeout rate also dropped more than three percentage points, but he remains a mainstay in the Cardinals starting rotation.


Let’s stick with the Cardinals and consider Gorman. He was promoted with much fanfare in May and had 14 home runs and a .226/.300/.420 slash in 89 games. Strikeouts were an issue at times in the minors and that remained true at the big-league level with a 32.9% strikeout rate. He’s off to a good start in spring training as he tries to win back the starting job at second base.


At his current ADP, Trevino is a real bargain. After a trade from Texas, he flourished with the Yankees in 2022 with his best power numbers to date and stellar defense behind the dish which enabled him to overtake Kyle Higashioka as the primary catcher. Trevino hit 11 home runs in only 353 plate appearances, and his defense will keep him batting in a deep Yankees lineup.


In a two-catcher league, finding value at the position late in the draft is a bonus. Garver, one of the top catchers in the game a few seasons ago, has had a hard time staying healthy. He was limited to 54 games in 2022. He saw action in only 14 contests at catcher and worked primarily as a DH. He’ll soon regain catcher eligibility as he enters his last season of arbitration eligibility.


Kepler hit just nine home runs last, with a big drop in power stats. He did struggle with injuries as he played just 115 games though none seem to be dogging him currently. Kepler showed outstanding command at the plate with an 11% walk rate and a career-best 14.8% strike out rate. He’s still capable of above-average power as his Max Exit Velocity was in the 98th percentile.


Looking for power late in your draft? Gallo joins the Twins after a terrible year. He put up a .160/.280/.357 slash line with 19 home runs and a 40% strikeout rate across 126 games for the Yankees and Dodgers. He won’t help you batting average, but he was one of the most prolific home run hitters in the game for the five seasons prior to 2022, and he can play good defense.


Part of the package of prospects the Twins sent to Cincinnati in the Tyler Mahle trade, Steer finds himself in a good situation from a home park and playing time standpoint. He played 14 games at third base, nine games at first base and five games at second base, and he should again move around the diamond. Steer, 25, could hit around .240, with 20 home runs over a full season.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rolling in the deep, part 2

Two weeks ago, in Rolling in the Deep, Part 1, you got your first glimpse of eight players you could draft outside the top 250. Playing in shallow leagues, you might not be interested. But in deeper leagues, players like Austin Meadows and Miguel Vargas should be on your radar. In a 15-team league, 300 players are drafted in the first 20 rounds. But in TGFBI, there are 30 rounds.

In this column, I’m going to look at eight more players with average draft positions (ADP) between 300 and 350. The ADP data comes from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC). Since the 2022 season ended, there have been hundreds of drafts. As I’ve said previously, these are the high-stakes fantasy players drafting. This is where TGFBI is played.

The headliner today is a player you might be trying to forget if you drafted him in 2022. It’s none other than 24-year-old Dylan Carlson. The Cardinals outfielder was a trendy pick even as he climbed inside the top 150 last year. Manager Oliver Marmol couldn’t shut up about how high expectations were, predicting he would be the team’s leadoff hitter. And he was for a while.  

The hype train went off the rails in a hurry as Carlson struggled at the plate before landing on the injured list in May with a hamstring strain. When he returned, he continued to struggle until he finally went back to the IL in September. In the end, Carlson slashed .236/.316/.380 across 488 plate appearances. After hitting 18 home runs in 2021, Carlson managed just eight last season.

Meanwhile the Cardinals emerged in July as the frontrunner in the Juan Soto trade sweepstakes. When they lost out to the Padres, a report surfaced in St. Louis that the team was unwilling to throw Carlson into a trade. As a Cardinals fan, I was stunned. While it wasn’t the only reason Soto went to San Diego, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back according to reports. 

Cardinals fans have been cursing under their breath for the past six months, but this still begs the question – what does this organization see in their young outfielder. After a solid rookie year in 2021, Carlson was a bust in 2022. Holding onto Carlson, the right fielder for the Cardinals, means the front office still believes he will become at least a solid outfielder in the coming years.

Of course, money may have had a lot to do with it. Having good young players on your roster is valuable on the field and in the financial department. By not trading him in a package for Soto, it means the Cardinals not only believe in him but are committed to him. That should mean a long leash for Carlson in 2022 and makes him a screaming good value at his current ADP of 327.

Carlson enters spring training with the thumb and wrist injury healed. And he’s only one year removed from a third-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting for 2021 after slashing .266/.343/.437 across 619 plate appearances. The Cardinals organization believes in Carlson, and you should be able to believe enough to risk a 20th round pick in a 15-team league. Come on.


While everyone was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Nolan Gorman in St. Louis, Donovan made his big-league debut for the Cardinals in late April of last year. In 126 games, he slashed .281/.394/.379. He hit only five home runs, but he showed good plate discipline, with a 13.3% walk rate and 15% strikeout rate. He is also eligible at three different positions.


If money talks, the Phillies were heard when they signed Walker to a four-year, $72 million deal. After all, he is coming off a 3.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP across 157.1 innings last year for the Mets. Walker’s strikeout rate dropped two percentage points to 20.3%, but he also cut his walk rate to 6.9%. Although his strikeout numbers limit his upside, he’s cheap at his ADP.


A career year for Perez in 2022 hasn’t convinced fantasy managers to draft him in the top 300. Perez, cut his home-run rate dramatically and trimmed his ERA to 2.89, ranking 14th among qualified starters. History screams regression though the estimators paint his performance last season in a generally favorable light. If he really broke out in 2022, he’s a terrific draft value.  


After a disappointing 2022, Garcia should bounce back. He’ll see playing time in Miami after signing a four-year, $53 million deal in November 2021. He hit only .224 with the Marlins, with just eight home runs in 98 games during his first contract year. But he’s a career .265 hitter just one year removed from a 29-home run season. He can also be expected to steal a few bases.


No one doubts Kiriloff’s ability, and a healthy amount of injury risk is baked into his ADP, which is outside the top 300. The 2016 first-round draft pick has shown flashes of being a productive regular with the bat. His minor-league pedigree and 2021 underlying numbers (12.8 Barrel%, 43.9 HardHit%) suggest he can be an impact hitter with upside if his wrist is healed.


Eligible at three infield positions, Flores is appealing in the last third of a 15-team draft. He has a .261 career average, so his .229 BA last year might be an outlier. His 17.1% strikeout rate, a career high was below league average, but it was also his worst ever. He had a career-high 19 homers. Flores doesn’t run, but he does offer a player with roster flexibility and some power.


Ozuna sat out most of 2021 with an injury and served a suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, but he returned to the fold for Atlanta in 2022 and played in 124 games. The veteran slugger hit 23 home runs. Granted, he only had a .226/.274/.413 slash line but he’s still under contract and should get enough playing time to help your fantasy fortunes.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about baseball and football for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.