TGFBI diary, part 1

More than three months ago, I wrote about my excitement as I prepared for The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. This was my first opportunity to compete in a major fantasy baseball tournament against the best managers in the game. These are pros, like Todd Zola, who make have made their living and carved out a prominent place in this world of players and statistics.

If I had to choose one word to describe my experience so far, the word would be humbling. Entering TGFBI with quiet confidence, I completed the draft and was awarded the highest grade in my league (A+). Based on the draft, I was projected to win my 15-team league and finish 97th overall in the field of 465. But things have changed quickly since the draft was completed.  

Since that time, I have been keeping a diary of my experience, beginning with the draft on February 28th. I’ve recorded more than just my strategy and moves. I’ve also written about my thoughts and feelings as the season has unfolded. With the season nearing the three-quarter pole (three quarters left), it’s time now to share some of my diary entries full of my raw emotions.

MARCH 8, 2022

I made my final pick today in the draft, and my roster is complete. Overall, I think I have a good team. My starting pitching appears to be my strength, while speed is a weakness. By design, my outfield is weak because something had to be weak and I waited late to take my first outfielder. In the coming days, I will do a deep dive and make projections in each of the 10 roto categories.

MARCH 11, 2022

I’m pumped! The baseball lockout ended late yesterday, and the regular season will start on April 7th. Let’s play ball!  Spring training will start on March 17th. The first FAAB bidding will occur on April 3rd (four days before the season starts). I am already in need of a replacement player as Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer was injured and will is expected to miss the season.

APRIL 1, 2022

Oh, snap! It’s being reported that the Dodgers and White Sox have agreed to a trade that sends closer Craig Kimbrel to Los Angeles. I really thought I had a steal, drafting Blake Treinen in the middle rounds of the draft a month ago. Now, it looks like Treinen is in the same boat as Will Smith. Pity me and the poor guy who drafted Smith for overpaying for a couple of setup guys.  

APRIL 11, 2022

The first (short) weak of the season is in the books, and my team is off to a decent start. I have 90 total points and am 7th in my league and 135th overall. The hitting has been better than the pitching. Tyler Stephenson hit a home run yesterday to top off a 3-for-10 week, with 4 RBI. Ace Max Scherzer got a win but Jose Berrios lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up four runs.  

APRIL 12, 2022

My euphoria was fleeting. The bottom just fell out for me as I fell from 135 overall to 279th overall in just one day. My hitters only went 4 for 24 (.166) in the first week, and Adrian Houser’s crappy start didn’t help things. I really wondering if I should be rolling out these subpar starting pitchers so that they can destroy my ratios. Maybe, I need to focus on relief pitchers.

APRIL 15, 2022

What’s up with the love fest everyone had for Charlie Morton? After a less-than-inspiring start against the Reds (the worst team in baseball), he lays an egg in San Diego. He gives up nine hits, five earned runs and three walks across five innings last night. I’m beginning to think that I only have a couple of reliable starting pitchers, and my ERA and WHIP are heading for double digits.

APRIL 17, 2022

The giant shadow of Edward Aloysius Murphy Jr. (Murphy’s Loaw) is hanging over my TGFBI team. Ryan Pressly, my only good closer, got injured yesterday and was put on the 10-day IL today. With Blake Treinen now a setup man in Los Angeles and Lou Trivino sitting on the bench in Oakland, I’ve got two chances to pick up another save anytime soon – slim and none.

APRIL 18, 2022

The third FAAB run occurred last night, and I failed to land the crown jewel – MacKenzie Gore. I put in a $50 bid and he went for $253! The second-place bid was $175. Gore made his first appearance with the Padres on Friday night, and he wasn’t that great (in my opinion). Two earned runs allowed on three hits, two walks and only three strikeouts. I really don’t get it.

APRIL 19, 2022

My TGFBI team is falling apart. Injuries and COVID has hit hard. Tyler Naquin was scratched yesterday and is on the COVID list. Jose Altuve was injured Monday and is DTD. Blake Treinen has an arm injury and is also DTD. All of this happened on Monday after lineup lock. I won’t be able to move them to the bench until Friday. Not being able to set lineups daily is a real drag.  

APRIL 20, 2022

Things continue to spiral downward. After another awful start this week against the lowly A’s, Hyun Jin Ryu was put on the 10-day IL with forearm inflammation. Drafting him was a big mistake. I was hoping he would bounce back, but he picked up right where he left off in 2021. He has a 13.50 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. There’s no IL spot in this league, so I’m going to drop him. 

APRIL 21, 2022

I can’t believe how fast things change on the scoreboard. Five days ago, I was 149th overall with 85.5 points in TGFBI. Yesterday, I was 286th overall. Today, I’m back up to 164th. All it took was good outings from Sandy Alcantara and Jose Berrios. After giving up a thousand runs in his first start, Berrios went 6.0 IP, giving up only 1 ER and 1 BB in Boston. That’s more like it.

APRIL 24, 2022

It’s time to clean house! I’m dropping Hyun Jin Ryu, Anthony DeSclafani and Blake Treinen, who are all on the IL. The hardest one to let go is DeSclafani, who was good last year but seems to have regressed. His career ERA is 4.00, and only time will tell if he can bounce back, but I’m betting against it. Now, he’s looking at a stint on the IL, and I don’t want to carry him for weeks.  

APRIL 28, 2022

One glance at the standings this morning sent me looking for a bottle of sleeping pills or a rusty razorblade to put myself out of my misery. My team has slipped to 408th overall. My pitching has been awful, and I’m changing my strategy to employ more relief pitchers with strikeout potential – even if they don’t seem likely to be many saves. The main thing is to improve my ratios.

MAY 5, 2022

A week ago, I thought things couldn’t get much worse. I was wrong. This team has turned into a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Currently I’m 423rd overall, which means that there are only 42 teams in the field that are worse than Doubting Thomas. What a humbling experience to compete in this event. I’ve had my share of bad luck, but there’s no one else to blame but myself.  

MAY 12, 2022

I love fantasy baseball! One week ago, I was in the doldrums, languishing near the bottom of the standings with 47 ½ total points. Today, I’ve gained 21 points in the standings and am currently back to 336th overall. It’s nothing to brag about, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction. My pitching still stinks, but the hitting is now 4th best in my league. Life is worth living again.

MAY 16, 2022

I still don’t understand these astronomical bids on untried pitchers. You’d think George Kirby is the second coming. I bid $257 of FAAB last night and didn’t even finish in the top two bidders. He went for $306, in spite of a lackluster start Saturday night in New York. I did pick up Chase Silseth of the Angels, who pitched six scoreless innings in his MLB debut. Let’s roll, baby!

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

A new strategy emerges

Thousands of fantasy managers were rushing to add Reid Detmers to their team after the rookie fired the league’s first solo no-hitter of the season Tuesday night, but you might want to tap the brakes. I don’t want to throw too much shade on the accomplishment. After all, there have only been 274 no-hitters recognized by Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.

Let me explain why I wasn’t rushing to the waiver wire to get Detmers after he tossed a no-no in only his 11th career start. Only a walk to Taylor Walls to lead off the sixth inning prevented the 22-year-old southpaw from pitching a perfect game. And there have been only 23 of those gems. But Detmers, who is widely available, had only two strikeouts and 10 swinging strikes.   

Detmers, 2-1 for the upstart Angels, lowered his ERA to 3.77 after the no-no, and he sports a fine 0.84 WHIP. But he only has 20 strikeouts across 31 innings – an unimpressive 5.8 K/9. He also has a Statcast page that reveals plenty of hard contact allowed. This is a player who pitches to contact. On Tuesday night, the contact was mostly weak, but that’s won’t always be the case.

In case you’re still not convinced, also consider that Detmers had a 4.47 xFIP, 1.72 HR/9, 45.1% fly-ball rate, and 32.0% hard-contact rate entering that game. THE BAT, a sabermetrics program that incorporates information like park factors and platoon splits, air density and umpires, projected Detmers to post a 4.76 ERA rest of the season. In short, Detmers has been lucky.

But I want to use two of these statistics as a springboard into what I really want to write about in this column – the 32.0% hard contact and the 45.1% fly-ball rate. Those statistics alone would be enough to get me off of a pitcher on any other year, but maybe not this year. Things are different. Readers, there is something that I have noticed and plan to capitalize on this year.

In last week’s column, I wrote about Marcus Semien and eight other hitters off to a slow start in the 2022 season. Meanwhile, a number of starting pitchers are putting up impressive numbers. You might be only mildly surprised that Michael Kopech of the White Sox leads the league with a 0.93 ERA. But you have to be shocked that Merrill Kelly is No. 3 with a 1.22.  

Kelly, pitching for the Diamondbacks, has a career ERA of 4.00. His ADP at NFBC was 529 before the season started. He wasn’t being drafted in even the deepest leagues. Before you conclude that Kelly is a statistical outlier, consider Miles Mikolas (ADP 400), Paul Blackburn (ADP 560), Brad Keller (ADP 640) and Chad Kuhl (ADP 885) all have ERAs under 2.00.

All of these pitchers have at least five starts and a minimum of 30 innings pitched, except Kuhl. He’s pitched 29.2 innings, and two of his five starts were at Coors Field. Kuhl is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Kuhl, who has a lifetime ERA of 4.28, was released by the Pirates and was not even expected to secure a rotation spot with Colorado when he signed a one-year deal.

Do you smell what you’re stepping in, fantasy manager? Something may be rotten in Denmark, but something is even more rotten here in Mudville. Consider this scene, repeated too many times already in major league parks around the nation. A slugger lays into a pitch, and the ball jumps off his bat at more than 100 mph. It sails toward the outfield wall and then…is caught.

It’s the ball, dummy. Barrels aren’t what they used to be. Batters are hitting ball after ball and are convinced that they’re gone because the last few seasons have conditioned them to expect a ball hit squarely on the bat will carry over the wall for a home runs. The ball changed after the home-run happy 2019 season, and it’s clear to even the casual observer that it’s changed again.

Home runs are down early in 2022 and not by a tiny little bit either. Teams are averaging 0.90 homers per game, down from 1.22 last year and 1.39 in 2019 – the year MLB shattered a record with 6776 home runs. The previous league record was 6105. I’m not advocating that we return to the “fun ball” of 2019, but the “dead ball” of 2022 is a real drag (pun intended). But I digress. 

It’s unlikely that this column will change the minds of the MLB powers that be. Therefore, the task at hand is to devise a strategy to take advantage of this trend – at least for as long as it continues. I suggest that the savvy manager stream starting pitchers that benefit from this dead-ball environment. But be advised that a new ball could be introduced before the season is over.  

I did want to add a caveat. Be sure to do your homework before you start a streamer because a bad outing can destroy your ratios. One key thing you should look at is matchups. You don’t start a pitcher against the Dodgers or Yankees unless it’s a pitcher you have confidence in. And it’s unlikely you’ll be that much confidence in  confident someone you found on the waiver wire.

There are other considerations, in addition to matchups. How deep is the league you play in? The deeper the league, the lower quality of pitchers you will find. The strategy I am recommending works best in 10-team leagues and works fine in 12-team leagues. In 15-team leagues, I would be more cautious. With that said, here are five that are rostered in less than 50 percent of leagues.

BRAD KELLER, SP, KANSAS CITY

The 26-year-old Keller wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen this season after staggering to a 5.39 ERA in 26 starts in 2021. Lacking overpowering stuff, Keller relies on being a groundball pitcher, and he saw that percentage drop below 50 percent for the first time in his career. Enter the dead ball, and Keller, 1-2, has lowered his ERA to 1.74 and WHIP to 0.84 in 31 innings.

TYLER ANDERSON, SP, LA DODGERS

Another beneficiary of the dead ball, Anderson has been hanging by a thread in major league baseball for years. He has a lifetime ERA of 4.55 and 1.30 WHIP. He had a 4.53 ERA with Pittsburgh and Seattle in 2021, but the Dodgers needed a lefthander and signed him to a one-year contract before the season started. In five starts, he’s 3-0, with a 2.78 ERA and 0.97 WHIP.

JAMESON TAILLON, SP, NY YANKEES

Taillon’s normal 50% groundball rate dropped to 33% last year when he returned to baseball after a two-year absence. This led to a career worst 1.50 HR/9 in his first year with the Yankees. He managed to struggle to an 8-6 record, but his ERA was 4.30 in 144 innings. He had offseason surgery and no one expected him to start the season 2-1, with a 2.84 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.    

JOSH WINDER, SP, MINNESOTA

Get ‘em while they’re hot because Winder is lined up to start Thursday’s game against the Astros. If you think this isn’t an ideal matchup, you’re right. But I’ll have Winder in my starting lineup on at least one team after the Twins’ top prospect beat the Rays and the Athletics in his first two starts. He has a 2-0 record, 1.61 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 20 strikeouts across 22.1 innings.

BRUCE ZIMMERMANN, SP, BALTIMORE

Okay, swallow hard. I’m recommending a Baltimore pitcher to stream in Saturday’s game at Detroit. Zimmermann is coming off his second win of the year against the Royals and has six starts with a 2.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 30 strikeouts across the 30.1 innings. He being stretched out as he tossed a season-high 85 pitches in his last game, and a 2.79 FIP supports his ERA.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Life below Mendoza Line

Mario Mendoza first caught the eye of a Pittsburgh Pirates scout while playing for the Mexico City Red Devils (Diablos Rojos) of the Mexican League in 1970. His defensive prowess, not his bat, prompted the Pirates to offer him a contract. Mendoza, who played for three franchises during his Major League career, batted less than .200 in three of his first four seasons.

As Mondoza’s struggles continued, his teammates began to make fun of him indirectly by warning anyone on the team hitting below .200 that he had strayed below the Mendoza Line. Later, the Mendoza Line terminology caught on in the MLB and became the gold standard for the absolute minimum threshold for competence at the Major League level.

Flash forward to the present and consider the strange case of Marcus Semien. He signed a 7-year, $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers before the lockout last December. No one was overly concerned when Semien went 7 for 34 (.206) in spring training. He was coming off his best season, having swatted 45 home runs, scoring 115 runs and driving in 102. What could go wrong?

Plenty, as evidenced by his struggles in April. As of this writing, Semien is hitting .184, with a slugging percentage of .243. Those kind of numbers make Mendoza look like an All-Star infielder in comparison.   Semien, who has the fifth-worst OPS of any qualified player, is still looking for his first home run. He is the only player with a bottom-10 average who was a top-50 fantasy pick.

Semien had an ADP of 36 in all of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) drafts before the season started. Remember that these are the best fantasy players in the world who are competing with their own money on the line in high-stakes events. An ADP of 36 was just too rich for my blood, so I don’t have Semien on any of my teams, but that’s about to change. 

I traded for the 31-year-old Rangers infielder last week in one of my public leagues. While I wasn’t about to pay full price for Semien in March, I’m glad to get him at a discount because I’m a believer in regression – both positive and negative. In simple terms regression means going back to what was done in the past. In other words, I think Semien is going to improve.

But you might wonder who I traded for the struggling slugger. None other than Jesus Luzardo, the Miami pitcher who’s created quite a buzz in fantasy and reality circles. The buzz started back in spring training when Luzardo’s fastball was clocked at 98-99 mph. It’s carried over into the regular season, as is now 2-2, with a 3.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 35 strikeouts across 20.1 innings.

I had offered the Semien manager another player when I made an attempt to buy low. But the rival manager countered with Luzardo and I accepted the counter offer. It would be rare for me to turn down an offer where I’m trading a waiver wire pickup early in the season for a proven a top-50 player. The trade could backfire on me if Luzardo has a Cy Young season, but I’ll take my chances.

The 24-year-old Luzardo has already had his share of injuries. He underwent Tommy John surgery before he was drafted, and his 2019 was limited to 12.0 innings. He’s never reached 100 innings in any major league season, and he was 6-9, with a 6.61 ERA and 1.62 WHIP across 25 starts last year. Perhaps, Luzardo really has found lightning in a bottle down in Florida, but I doubt it.

On the other side of the ledger, Semien has hade a slugging percentage above .500 in his last two full seasons. I am fully aware that those were the only two seasons that the infielder slugged above .500 and that he has batted over .265 only once his career. That’s why I felt so strongly that Semien was overvalued in 2022 drafts coming off a career season, but the upside is undeniable.    

Fantasy managers should actively look for someone in their league who is willing to sell low on Semien.  But don’t offer the farm. For those who have Semien rostered, be open to accepting an offer if you can get reasonable value. If someone offers you Teoscar Hernandez, take that offer. The Blue Jays outfielder is on the IL but should return soon. If you can get an ace like Sandy Alcantara, go for it.

In the meantime, Semien managers should consider benching him until he shows signs of life. Don’t drop him in any leagues. Even in the shallowest formats, his upside is simply too great – especially in a year when many hitters are off to disappointing starts. There are eight other players drafted in the top 100 at NFBC that are hiding below the Mendoza Line. There are two other top 50 players.

One of the top 50 players, Whit Merrifield, was dropped in one of the leagues I’m playing in, and I scooped him up off of waivers a couple of weeks ago. Merrifield, who’s only hitting two points above Semien, had an ADP of 30 at NFBC. I would have been willing to pay that price for him but wound up finding better values in my three leagues. I was amazed to get him off of waivers.

I have another claim in for the other top-50 NFBC player who’s hitting below .200. It’s Tyler O’Neill, who was a 5-star stud in 2021. The 27-year-old Cardinals outfielder had 34 home runs, 89 runs scored, 80 RBI and 15 stolen bases last season but is hitting only .171 this year. He only has one home run, but his other counting stats are still decent, with 11 runs, 13 RBI and three stolen bases.

The other six players that were in the NFBC top 100 but are languishing below the Mendoza Line are Jose Altuve, Ketel Marte, Jorge Polanco, Brandon Lowe, Yasmani Grandal and Adalberto Mondesi. The only one of those players I wouldn’t recommend buying low on is Mondesi. He was hitting only .140 when he hit the IL, and he is simply too much of an injury risk to buy at any price.        

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

It’s a brave new world

Let’s take a break from baseball with the 2022 NFL Draft beginning tonight. When the draft rolls around every April, the pundits tell us how it’s going to unfold. And they’re usually wrong – just like the ones who proudly display their NCAA basketball brackets. Then there all those busted brackets from amateurs like me who took their recommendations.  

In reality, the NFL draft has always been difficult to predict, but this year is it’s even more unpredictable because it will unfold in an unsettled world where more than a dozen established fantasy football studs will start the season on new teams. There is no consensus No. 1 overall player, and there is no star quarterback whom teams will be vying for in the top 10.

The 2022 class is dominated by pass-rushers, offensive tackles and some wide receivers. The latter will be the ones fantasy players will be interested in. Garrett Wilson of Ohio State is expected to be the first wideout off the board. With blazing speed and highlight reels full of full-extension grabs, he could make a difference wherever he lands. Atlanta is a likely destination.

But wait. What if either Green Bay or Kansas City trades up to grab Wilson, or Jameson Williams from Alabama? Both of them traded away their alpha dog receivers. if the Packers are infatuated with Williams or the Chiefs see Wilson as a high target wideout in their offense, these rookies have a much higher upside than if they wind up in New York, or Atlanta.

I’m not predicting that either team will trade up, but both clubs have the ammunition to significantly rise on draft night to nab one of the consensus top receivers in this class, which could disrupt other clubs’ plans to get a big-time pass catcher at some point in the first round or early second.  A Packers or Chiefs trade up could trigger a feeding frenzy on at that position.

Just in case you’ve been asleep for several weeks, or focused on baseball, let’s review how the NFL and its parallel fantasy universe got unsettled. The unprecedented player movement in the spring of 2022 can be viewed holistically as a game of dominoes, with one move leading to another, to another and another. There were the moves and countermoves.

Looking back, I think the Packers trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas, which came with a new contract, was the lynchpin because it reset the bar for receivers. That move directly led to the Chiefs trading star receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. Hill’s agent said in an interview that Kansas City was close to a new deal with Hill but the Adams trade ended negotiations.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall when Hill’s agent told his client that Adams got a record-setting contract. Can’t you hear Hill’s response? “I’m worth just as much as Adams.” Based on their first-round fantasy draft positions last year, that’s not far from the truth. I’m sure Hill’s agent reported back to the Chiefs and that was all she wrote for Hill in Kansas City.

Then all hell broke loose. Suffice it to say, March Madness didn’t just apply to basketball as a series of league-altering trades, signings and drama followed. Aaron Rodgers ended up staying put, but Russell Wilson went east to the Mile High City. Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson from Houston, and Indianapolis Colts traded Carson Wentz to Washington.

Not to be outdone, Tom Brady retired and unretired five minutes later. That was nothing more than a moment of comic relief from the future Hall of Fame quarterback who will play one…or two….or five more seasons in Tampa. Then he’ll retire and sign with the Raiders so that he can break George Blanda’s record. Blanda was 48 when he played for the Raiders in the 1970’s.

And that’s not all, folks. There were others players on the move. Dallas traded Amari Cooper to the Browns for not much, and Cooper will likely become Watson’s favorite target in Cleveland. While the Adams and Hill trades did nothing to boost their fantasy value, the change of scenery for Cooper could be a boon since he was becoming a lost soul in the Cowboys offense.

Speaking of lost souls, Allen Robinson went from a third-round pick to irrelevant in fantasy football last year in Chicago, but he can find new life with the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. Robinson joins Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and possibly Odell Beckham, Jr. But he won’t be joining Robert Woods, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans. That looks like a downgrade.

Woods will come in as the No. 2 guy on a run-first offense. But he won’t be competing with Julio Jones for targets. The Titans cut Jones after one dismal season, and rumor has Jones back in Atlanta in 2022. That rumor surfaced after Calvin Ridley was suspended through at least 2022 season for betting on NFL games during his sabbatical from the Falcons during the 2021 season.

There were other trades and signings that were football relevant but not really fantasy relevant:

• The Buffalo Bills signed Von Miller to six-year, $120 million contract.

•  The Chicago Bears trade Khalil Mack to Los Angeles Chargers.

•  The Las Vegas Raiders signed Chandler Jones to three-year deal.

•  The Los Angeles Chargers sign J.C. Jackson to 5-year, $82.5 million deal.

Bookmark this column and be sure to revisit it in three or four months from now as you prepare for your fantasy football drafts. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably forget which players are on which team between now and then. Of course, there should be plenty of those pundits coming out of the woodwork in the dog days of summer to remind you.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, runs his own blog at http://www.doubtingthomassports.com. Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Breaking up is hard to do

Last week, I wrote about nine players who appeared to be breaking out in the first month of the season. The problem is that if you want to add a player, you must drop a player from your roster. If you’ve built your team properly, this is not easy. Cutting a player you drafted and had high hopes for is like breaking up with that girlfriend – it’s hard to do.

It’s actually a bit easier because you don’t have to worry about hurting that player’s feelings. You probably don’t have a personal relationship with any of your players. Granted, it may feel like you do because they can make you feel so good, or so bad, based on their performance each day. But at the end of that day, they don’t know you from Adam.

This reminds me of a funny story. I was watching a game recently, and I was yelling at a player on the field because of a poor play. My wife, who was sitting in the room looked at me with disgust. “Do you know how sick you are? You are emotionally invested in these relationships with your players and they don’t even know who you are.”

My wife had a point. Perhaps, I need professional help. Perhaps, every baseball fan needs help because we take this game too seriously. There should be a sports psychologist for fans. There are plenty of sports psychologists for players, but there are more fans than players. Keep in mind that fan is short for fanatic. Fanatics, by definition, need help.   

But I digress. Below, I have identified nine players who are rostered in more than 50 percent of either ESPN or Yahoo leagues that you need to consider dropping. One of these players, John Means, was drafted and dropped by Yours Truly a week ago. Two others, Hyun Jin Ryu and Blake Treinen, will be dropped this week in my TGFBI league.

There is one caveat I must mention in my decision to drop Ryu and Treinen. There is no IL spot to hold a player in TGFBI. There are seven bench spots, and my bench is already filling up fast with Ryan Pressly and Jose Altuve on the 10-day IL. Lou Trivino and Tyler Naquin are on the COVID IL, and Tyler Stephenson is on the 7-day IL with a concussion.

JESSE WINKER, OF, SEATTLE (ESPN 95%/Yahoo 88%)

Winker is not sitting on very many waiver wires based on the roster percentages at ESPN and Yahoo. But he should be. Winkler can’t hit lefties, and he’s not doing great against any pitcher this year. He’s batting .158. He will not produce the necessary volume of counting stats to help your team. If you drafted him at his ADP, you made a mistake.

JOEY GALLO, OF, NY YANKEES (75%/72%)

If you drafted Gallo, you are counting on 30-40 home runs from the Yankees slugger. He may deliver that and destroy your batting average. Gallo, who has a career batting average of .205, is the worst example of a player who sells out for power. He’s currently hitting .121, with a slugging percentage of .121. He has no runs, home runs, or RBI.

GLEYBER TORRES, 2B/SS NY YANKEES (73%/69%)

Torres is hitting 20 points above Gallo, and he doesn’t even have the power potential. Torres has just 12 homers 67 RBIs and 67 runs scored in 169 games across the 2020-21 seasons. He’s in a crowded Yankees infield that includes Josh Donaldson, DJ LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Anthony Rizzo. Torres is going to find himself on the bench a lot.

HYUN JIN RYU, SP, TORONTO (72%/53%)

I drafted Ryu in my only 15-team league with hopes that he might return to previous form after a bad 2021 season. He hasn’t. He’s never been a strikeout pitcher, and his signature changeup has lost its effectiveness. His first two starts in 2022 hinted that he’s an aging player in decline. Now, he’s on the 10-day IL and will miss two or three times through the rotation.

BLAKE TREINEN, RP, LA DODGERS (51%/66%)

When I selected Treinen in the 12th round of the TGFBI draft, I had high hopes. He was coming off a season where he led the majors with 32 holds. He went 6-5, with a 1.99 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and seven saves. As the Dodgers’ closer, he was projected to pick up 35 saves. That was before the Dodgers traded for Craig Kimbel. Now Treinen is hurt, and I’m cutting bait.   

GARY SANCHEZ, C, MINNESOTA (55%/60%)

Sanchez is the catcher version of Gallo with less homer upside. He also frequently strays south of the Mendoza Line. He’s currently hitting .216, with a home run and eight RBI. His strikeout rate is 32.5 percent. I’d hang on to Sanchez in a deeper league because of the home runs and RBI, but I’d drop him in shallower leagues because of the low batting average.    

STEPHEN STRASBURG, SP, WASHINGTON (43%/69%)

Strasburg is on the IL, and I can understand holding him if you have an IL spot open. But the time may come when you need to drop him to free up that spot. Don’t hesitate to send him to waivers as injuries pile up and those spots become precious. Strasburg has pitched just 26.2 innings since the outset of the 2020 season. How optimistic can you be?

JOHN MEANS, SP, BALTIMORE (55%/55%)

When he’s healthy, John Means business. But the Baltimore ace is out of business currently, on the 60-day IL. Again, if you have an open IL spot, you may hang on to him because you remember how he started last season. Through 71 innings, Means posted a 2.28 ERA with a 0.85 WHIP, and a strikeout per inning. But then he got hurt, and he’s hurt again.

EUGENIO SUAREZ, 3B/SS, SEATTLE (38%/65%)

If Sanchez is the catcher version of Gallo, Suarez is the infield version. The Seattle infielder can get you a lot of home runs and kill your batting average. It was just three years ago that Suarez had 49 bombs and 103 RBI. He hit .271 that year, but his average is below .200 since then. And Suarez’s new home park is less favorable than his old one. You can move on.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Get ’em while they’re hot

I’ve got to hand it to Cory Ott. Ott, one of the 15 managers in my TGFBI league, pulled out all of the stops in the first week of the fantasy baseball season. He acquired three players – Hunter Greene ($185), Nick Lodolo ($175) and Steven Kwan ($165). Keep in mind that most MLB teams had played only three games when Ott put in his FAAB bids. But appears this manager knew what he was doing – at least on Greene and Kwan.

So, how good is Steven Kwan? The accolades just keep rolling in. The Guardians rookie is hitting .526 in the first six games. He came back to earth a bit on Wednesday, going 0 for 4 and striking out for the first time since Sept. 26, 2021, although he did add another RBI. In reaching base three more times Tuesday, Kwan had reached base 18 times in his first five games, surpassing the old record of 17 by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce in 2008.

Sabermetric Statistical analysis indicates Kwan won’t end the season with the highest batting average in baseball. Nor, does the 24-year-old bring a lot of power or speed to the table. But he’s a must-add player in all leagues, based on this start and the fact that he had hit .328/.407/.527 in 77 games between Double-A and Triple-A. with 12 homers and six steals.

So, I must give credit where credit is due. When Ott picked him up on April 3rd, Kwan was still nothing more than an intriguing bench option in deeper leagues. Now, he’s someone who needs to be rostered in even the shallowest leagues (and probably will be soon). But Kwan is not the only player breaking out. Let’s take a look at eight more that are widely available.

CONNER JOE, 1B/OF, COLORADO (43% YAHOO/23% ESPN)

Drafted in 2015, Joe had only had 16 plate appearances in the majors before being called up to play 63 games last year. He hit .285, scored 23 runs and drove in 35. But his ADP was 300 plus heading into 2022, and he was only drafted in the deeper leagues. After five games, he’s hitting .316, with 7 runs, 2 home runs, 3 RB1 and a stolen base. Get him while you can.

JEREMY PENA, SS, HOUSTON (42% YAHOO/30% ESPN)

Pena wasn’t even drafted in my 15-team TGFBI league in March. But then Carlos Correa signed with the Twins, and Pena earned the starting shortstop gig in Houston. Pena hit .287/.346/.598 with 10 home runs and five steals (on six attempts) in only 30 games at Triple-A. He hit a home run in his second game and has a .stellar 550 slugging percentage.

ANDREW VAUGHN, 1B/OF, CHICAGO WHITE SOX (57% YAHOO/40% ESPN)

There was plenty of hype when Vaughn got called up last year by the White Sox, but he failed to impress with his .235 batting average and .396 slugging percentage. He went undrafted in most leagues but his .400 average and 1.000 slugging percentage in the first three games does impress.  Vaughn won’t be available in the deeper leagues, but check your waiver wire.

GAVIN LUX, SS/2B/OF, LA DODGERS (62% YAHOO/41% ESPN)

Speaking of a failure to impress, Lux has been a bust since he was called up by the Dodgers in 2019. Batting .235, with a 368 slugging percentage didn’t turn many heads in the fantasy world. But hitting .352 and slugging .500 in his first six games of 2022 makes me think he’s figured things out. Eligible in the infield and outfield, he’s finally getting regular playing time. 

JESUS LUZARDO, SP, MIAMI (52% YAHOO/32% ESPN)

The southpaw proved spring training was no fluke, striking out 12 batters in five innings, while allowing one earned run and two hits in five innings Tuesday against the Angels. The Marlins pitcher mixed throws his fastball close to 100 mph and mixes in a nasty curve, sinker and changeup. If the Marlins pitcher is on your waiver wire, you need to get him.  

KYLE WRIGHT, SP, MIAMI (54% YAHOO/34% ESPN)

Wright nailed down a spot in the Braves starting rotation with his impressive debut last Saturday. He picked up a win against Cincinnati, pitching six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. He also struck out six. He fired 56 of 76 strikes and didn’t allow a baserunner to get into scoring position. He generated 12 swinging strikes. Pick him up if he’s available.

MICHAEL LORENZEN, SP, LA ANGELS (8% YAHOO/7% ESPN)

If you can’t get Luzardo or Wright, you should be able to find Lorenzen in all but the deepest leagues. He’s surely worth adding after an impressive performance on Monday against Miami. He allowed just two hits one earned run over six innings, and he struck out seven without issuing a walk. He made just one mistake – giving up a solo home run in the fourth inning.

NICK MARTINEZ, SP, SAN DIEGO (7% YAHOO/2% ESPN)

Another good pitcher for deeper leagues, Martinez also had an impressive start on Monday in San Francisco. He struggled with traffic on the bases in the first three innings but only permitted a single run and retired eight of the final nine batters he faced. Martinez allowed five hits, struck out six and walked a batter. He has another tough matchup Saturday against Atlanta. 

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Let the chase begin

The 2022 Major League Baseball season is underway, which means a significant number of fantasy baseball managers are now chasing closers. I am playing in three leagues, and I find myself scouring the waiver wire in all three. Opening day yielded two finds – David Robertson of the Cubs and Tony Santillan of the Reds.

It’s a safe bet that no one is going to drop Josh Hader or Liam Hendricks for one of these guys, but they’re both interesting. I claimed both in one of my public leagues and added Santillan in the other public league (only because Robertson was taken about five minutes after the Cubs game ended on Thursday afternoon). 

Robertson, 36, was one of the top closers in the game several years ago. He earned 110 saves over three seasons for the Yankees and White Sox from 2014-2016. But he missed almost all of the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to undergoing Tommy John surgery. He joined the Rays for the final month of the 2021 campaign, making 12 appearances.

Robertson was competing for the job when he arrived in Chicago, but Cubs manager David Ross wasn’t tipping his hand on who would be closing in the Windy City until Robertson took the field in the ninth on Thursday afternoon. Rowan Wick was given the edge by most analysts, but there was some buzz about Robertson because of his experience.

Santillan was a complete surprise when he appeared in the ninth inning in Atlanta to earn his first save for the rebuilding Reds. Santillan, a native Texan, was selected by the Reds in the second round of the 2015 draft and made his MLB debut last year at 24-years-old as a starter. He pitched 43.1 innings in 2021, struck out 56 batters and had a 2.91 ERA.  

Manager David Bell said as recently as two weeks ago that the right-hander was still being considered for a spot in the starting rotation. He wasn’t listed on any bullpen depth chart that I saw before the season began. Will Santillan be handed full-time closer duties? Why not after he threw 11 of 15 pitches for strikes and retired the Braves in order.

Summoned from the bullpen to guard a three-run cushion, Santillan made it look easy as he struck out Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson to end the contest. In between those two at bats, Guillermo Heredia managed only a weak ground ball. Imagine taking the field in the ninth and earning your first save against the world champions?

Frankly, this is the kind of stuff that makes baseball fun. I read a cautionary note on one of the websites, advising managers to reign in expectations for Santillan. That certainly makes sense since Bell used 10 different relievers in the ninth inning last year. If the Reds manager sticks with a committee, no one is going to have double-digit saves for the Reds.

But this didn’t stop me from putting down a substantial FAAB bid in my deep TGFBI league this weekend. Let me explain why. Bell told reporters a few days ago that he envisioned Santillan filling the same high-leverage role for the Reds in 2022 that Tejay Antone filled during the 2021 season before he underwent Tommy John surgery in late August.

I was happy to have rostered Antone last year in spite of erarning only three saves. He struck out 42 batters across 33.2 innings and posted a 2.14 ERA and 0.891 WHIP.  You should be looking for more than just saves from your relief pitchers. You want pitchers who can eat some innings, add strikeouts, and not hurt your ratios.

The savvy fantasy manager knows that saves is only one of ten categories 5×5 rotisserie leagues. Amateurs playing this game put an inordinate amount of value on relief pitchers who can put up a significant number of saves. They are drafting closers like Hader and Hendricks in the second or third round and rostering a few more in the early rounds.

Every year, I watch managers squander early round picks for a player who is going to get his or her team one stat – a save. When said managers gets one, he’s taking a victory lap around his house. Bully for you for increasing one stat column. But if your guy blows a save, he blows up your ERA and WHIP. How does that make sense in any economy?

Top fantasy managers like Todd Zola of CreativeSports and Mastersball use early round picks on starting pitchers and position players. They then draft a few speculative relief pitchers who might get ninth-inning work late in their draft and then join the chase for closers emerging during the regular season on the waiver wire. You are advised to do the same thing.

I haven’t been playing fantasy baseball that long, but it’s long enough to see star closers gets injured and young studs or a journeyman come in and saves 30 games. This was the path to closer success for both Hader and Hendricks. I was able to pick up both guys off the waiver wire in the past, but I refuse to pay up for them at their current price.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Four draft principles

With the major league baseball season starting next Thursday, there will be thousands of fantasy baseball drafts in the next several days. I’m going to share four draft strategy principles I apply to each draft. My draft strategy is based on knowledge I have acquired. If you steal an idea, that’s plagiarism. But if you steal a lot of ideas, that’s research.

I do believe that if you follow these basic principles in your draft, you will give yourself a real chance to win your league. However, the caveat is that you will also need some luck on the injury front to win. You can identify injury tendencies before you draft. But you can’t predict injuries like the one that ended Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season last June.

PRINCIPLE 1: BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY EARLY ON

There is a time to take risks in your fantasy draft, but it’s not in the first two rounds. That’s why I passed on Mike Trout in the first round in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational draft last month. Trout’s ADP then at NFBC was 13, and I had the 13th pick. But I took Rafael Devers instead. In a vacuum, I would take Trout over Devers, but we don’t live in a vacuum.

Trout has been the best player in baseball the past decade. He’s been consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts during several of those years and was always a top-five pick until this year. He slid to late Round 1, or early Round 2 for a reason. The reason, of course, is injury risk. Trout hasn’t had a full allotment of at-bats since 2016, and he had only 117 last year.

Those who take the risk and draft him in the first round will point out that he hadn’t missed significant time until last year when he strained his calf in May. But no one expected that injury to end his season. Trout gives 100 percent when he’s on the field, but his gung-ho style of play has led to a series of nagging injuries that are taking a toll on this superstar. 

Another player I recommend fading is Jacob deGrom, who’s ADP is currently 14. Last year, he was the first pitcher taken in most drafts and was frequently a top-five pick. The 33-year-old deGrom was on pace for one of the best pitching seasons in MLB history before he was shut down in early June. No one doubts deGrom’s ability, only his durability.

Not surprisingly, deGrom’s ADP has improved from 24 a month ago to 14 after he took the mound and threw 30 pitches in a spring training game last Tuesday, striking out five batters over two innings. He gave up only one hit without walking a batter, and his fastball touched 99 mph. This was just what the fantasy baseball community wanted to see.

But 30 pitches in a spring training game doesn’t change my mind about deGrom. He was shut down for a reason a month before the All-Star break due in 2021. It was due to injury issues that included a lat strain and partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. The bottom line is deGrom won’t help your fantasy team if he spends a significant amount of time on the IL.  

PRINCIPLE 2: CONSIDER POSITION SCARCITY

Position scarcity is a real issue. You can ignore it, but it’ll come back to bite you. Analysts agree third base is a thin position this year. What this means is that if you wait to fill that roster spot, you may wind up with regrets. This is one of the reasons why I took Devers. Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer were still on the board when I took my first pick.

Another thin position is catcher. In a 15-team mock draft, I waited on catcher and wound up with Joey Bart and Eric Haase. I like both of these guys but not as my only catchers in a two-catcher league. In TGFBI, I missed out on Salvador Perez, J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith but did manage to snag Tyler Stephenson in the 10th round. Stephenson is also eligible at first base.   

Some would suggest that closers are also a thin position in 2022, but this is misleading. First, closer is not a position – it’s a subset of relief pitcher. Second, there are just as many saves being earned across baseball. What has changed over the last few seasons is who gets them and when. Relief pitchers who can be counted on to earn 25 or more saves are scarce.

The scarcity of closers has resulted in the top six being drafted insanely early. Ryan Pressly was the fifth relief pitcher taken in my TGFBI draft, and I had to spend the 48th overall pick to acquire him. Josh Hader, the first closer off the board, was taken with the 25th overall pick. He went ahead of Starling Marte and Jacob deGrom. That’s totally insane.   

In discussing the subject of position scarcity, I want to differentiate between 12- and 15-team leagues. Most managers are playing in home league with 10 or 12 teamers, but many NFBC leagues (like TGFBI) are 15. In a shallow league, the waiver wire can bail you out. But in a deep league, it’s less likely. To make matters worse, there is no trading in TGFBI.

PRINCIPLE 3: RESPECT AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION

Average Draft Position (ADP) is a list of players ordered by their average position taken in fantasy drafts. The average value of their draft position is calculated over a range of many drafts. The Computer selections are filtered out, and only human selections are considered. A player’s ADP is a significant number, and I will explain it using a stock price analogy.

As a financial advisor, I subscribed to the Efficient Market theory on the pricing of stocks. This theory holds that market prices reflect all available, relevant information. If markets are efficient, then all information is already incorporated into prices, and so there is no way to “beat” the market because there are no undervalued or overvalued securities available.

I believe the Efficient Market Theory can be applied to the “pricing” of players in an ADP list. For example, Aaron Nola’s ADP is currently ranked 39 on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) site. At first blush, this looks insane to me. Nola, 9-9, had a 4.63 ERA last year (his worst in five years). Why would anyone take him this early?

The best fantasy baseball players in the world are taking him at this ADP because they are looking at advanced metrics, with FIP, xFIP, xERA and SIERA all placing him between 3.26 and 3.39 ERA in 2021. He combined a career-best 5.2 BB% with a 29.8 K%, with his K-BB% ranking fifth among qualified starters. The metrics say he was unlucky.

I had a chance to take Nola with my third-round pick in TGFBI, and I came close to pushing the draft button on my phone. This was the 43rd pick overall, so that indicated I was even getting a slight value. But my I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I had to trust my gut, and I went instead with Sandy Alcantara (ADP 40). We’ll see if the experts are right about him.     

PRINCIPLE 4: DON’T DRAFT PROSPECTS EARLY

There are a lot of analysts who will disagree with me, but I wasn’t going to use an early-round pick on a player who has never delivered or seen a pitch in the majors. Let’s consider Bobby Witt Jr. This 21-year-old sensation from Colleyville, Texas, displayed an extraordinary combination of power and speed at Double-A and Triple-A (33 HR, 29 SB in 123 games).

Witt’s current NFBC ADP is 82, and he’s usually taken inside the top 100. The problem is that we don’t know when he will make his MLB debut. It’s doubtful that we will see him on opening day. And depending on what kind collective bargaining agreement is reached, we may see him in May, or June, or July. We waited last year until May 21st for Wander Franco.

It even took a while for Franco to find his footing in the big leagues. He finished the season with 53 runs scored, 7 home runs, 39 RBI and 2 stolen bases in 308 plate appearances. I let you decide if he was worth drafting and holding for almost two months. There were worse busts.  

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

The Tatis Conundrum

Fernando Tatis, Jr. entered fantasy baseball draft prep season as the No. 1 player on many draft boards despite injury concerns stemming from multiple IL trips in 2021 due to a shoulder injury. This time, it’s a fractured wrist that will keep Tatis out for approximately half of the 2022 season. That was bad news for anyone (like me) who drafted him before the injury was disclosed.  

Players competing in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship leagues have been drafting him at an average value of 54 since the injury announcement last Monday. But if you’re drafting right now, you probably wouldn’t take Tatis with one of the top 100 picks. His consensus ranking at Yahoo is currently 101 overall, FantasyPros is 103 and Razaball has him at 155.

I took a chance and took Tatis second overall in a pre-injury draft because I believe he’s the best player in fantasy on a per-game basis. If he returns healthy on June 15th, as projected, he’s going to be the best player in my lineup. But that’s if. He could have a setback and not be return until July, or August. Or, the Padres might shut him down if they are out of contention.

If you have an IL spot, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Tatis in the 10th round of a 12-team league draft. You can stash him until he returns. It’s not like you get a zero in your lineup when Tatis is out. Rotowire still projects him for 68 runs, 25 home runs, 63 RBI, 16 steals and a .284 average over 100 games. Why not use a late draft pick and take Gio Urshela as a replacement?

If you project 100 game for Tatis and combine that with 60 for Urshela, you get 89 runs, 31 home runs, 87 RBI 16 steals (I’m projecting zero for Urshela) and a .285 average. That’s a pretty good player. That’s assuming that Tatis does return on June 15th and is healthy. That’s a big if in my book and that’s why I spent most of last week shopping him (to no avail).

I made four trade offers to three different managers in the league where I had drafted Tatis. Initially, I asked for Kris Bryant who has a current ADP of 80 at NFBC. Declined. Then, I offered Tatis for Tyler O’Neill, who has an ADP of 45 at NFBC but was drafted 108 in this ESPN league. Declined. Tatis for Josh Bell, ADP 123, was also declined.

The fourth trade floated was a multi-player offer made to the Bryant team manager since because I really wanted Bryant. Our draft had occurred before the latter had signed his deal with the Rockies. The thin air in Colorado was alluring, and I was willing to even give up Ryan Pressly to get him. But my offer of Tatis and Pressly for Bryant and O’Neill was also turned down.   

I also turned down other lowball offers not mentioned, and they aren’t worth discussing. Suffice it to say, that I didn’t find a lot of interest in Tatis. Based on the offers that I made that were not accepted, I would conclude that Razzball’s ADP of 155 is closer to the right price for an elite player who will miss three months of the season. But I’m happy to hang on to Tatis.

It was also interesting to see where Tatis was being traded in another league. Yahoo tracks this and reported that on March 20, someone traded Tatis and Rafael Devers for Max Scherzer and Juan Soto. That former Tatis manager had to be happy with that deal. Another Tatis manager traded him and Freddie Freeman for Nolan Arenado and Matt Olson. That wasn’t so good.

On March 19, someone was willing to give up Bo Bichette for Tatis. That was really puzzling since Bichette is considered by many to be in the top 5 overall. Another Tatis manager traded him for Charlie Morton. On March 17th, someone traded Tatis for Michael Brantley, C.J. Cron, A.J. Pollock, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Melancon. On March 16th, someone traded Tatis for Julio Urias and Javier Baez. Someone else traded him for George Springer.

On March 15th, someone traded Tatis for Giancarlo Stanton and Brandon Crawford. Someone else traded Tatis for Wander Franco, Gary Sanchez and Eugenio Suarez. Tatis’ manager got Ian Anderson and Bobby Witt, Jr. There were numerous other multi-player deals made involving Tatis, but you get the idea. He can be moved if you find the right deal to make.

But where should you take Tatis in a draft today? As previously stated, you can take Tatis as early as the 10th round in a 12-team league and hope to still get value from him in a 162-game season. The caveat is that you need to have an IL spot. Without an IL spot, he becomes dead weight. And if someone takes him before the 10th round, don’t lose sleep over it.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

TGFBI, part two

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational drafts have wrapped up, with 465 fantasy baseball analysts in 31 leagues with 15 teams drafting 30 players each. At 66 years old, I’m no spring chicken, but I felt like a kid in TGFBI draft. I am pleased to report that my draft grade was A+ (97), according to the software at FantasyPros. I am projected to win my league and finish 98th overall. 

As I shared last week, TGFBI assigns the draft order based on the Kentucky Derby System (KDS). Managers select their draft preferences in any order, prioritizing where they want to pick from in the first round. The teams are then drawn randomly. I wound up with the 13th pick. The good news is that I didn’t wind up with the second pick and take Fernando Tatis, Jr.  

Everyone came into TGFBI with a different draft strategy, and mine was simple. I would let the draft come to me and let players that I liked fall to me. Many hours were spend reviewing NFBC ADP for each player in the top 500. I am a respecter of ADP and wanted to recognize and take advantage of value in the draft. I didn’t find much early, but there was some available late.

Last week, I detailed the first half of the draft. The biggest surprise was my ability to snag five starting pitchers that I liked in the first 15 rounds. Four of the five were taken in the first seven rounds – Max Scherzer (2nd), Sandy Alcantara (3rd), Jose Berrios (6th) and Charlie Morton (7th). Morton was the icing on the cake when he fell to me with the 103rd overall pick in the draft.

ANTHONY DESCLAFANI, SP, SAN FRANCISCO (16/228)

You didn’t really think I was done acquiring starting pitchers, did you? DeSclafani, 31, had the best year of his career with the Giants in 2021, posting a 3.17 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 13 wins and 152 strikeouts in 167 2/3 innings across 31 starts. During the offseason, he inked a three-year deal with the Giants and also enjoys a favorable pitching park. What’s not to like about this guy?

LOU TRIVINO, RP, OAKLAND (17/253)

Trivino was my third relief pitcher drafted, and he wasn’t on my draft board. However, this value was too good to pass up. Trivino started 2021 sharing the closer role with Jake Diekman but took over later in the season as the ninth-inning pitcher on his way to 22 saves (a career high). He seems to have a strong grip on the closer job with Jake Diekman about to sign with the Red Sox.

RAIMEL TAPIA, OF, COLORADO (18/258)

At this point in the draft, I knew my team lacked speed. Tapia was a no-brainer since he had a track record for 20 plus steals. Lacking power, has lowered his strikeout percentage, scores runs and hits at the top of the Rockies lineup. He also hits for a relatively high average (.280 lifetime). Last season, he had just a .699 OPS, but half his games in Colorado, where everyone hits better.

ROWDY TELLEZ, 1B, MILWAUKEE (19/283)

There’s nothing quite like finding someone you can get excited about at the end of the 19th round. Tellez, found new life in Milwaukee after being traded from Torondo in early July. He hit .209/.272/.338 in 50 games with Toronto, but with Milwaukee he slashed .272/.333/.481 with seven home runs. He’s been in the 94th percentile in exit velocity in each of the past three years.

YADIER MOLINA, C, ST. LOUIS (20/288)

As a lifelong Cardinals fan, this pick smacks of hometown sentiment. But Molina, who will turn 40 years old in July, still gets in his time behind the dish. In 2021, he had 473 plate appearances. He’s not the same player that drove in 82 runs in 2017, but he still had 66 RBI. A plus defender, hitting in the middle of a solid Cardinals lineup, I believe he will return value as my second catcher.

MANUEL MARGOT, OF, TAMPA BAY (21/313)

Margot was another no-brainer for me with my 21st round pick. Not only is he an outfielder (there are five of them needed), but he has produced double-digit steals in each of the last five years. He had 20 bags in 2019. Margot is not known for his power, but he has flashed signs of it, including last year’s playoffs. I’m counting on him for double-digit home runs and steals.

TYLER NAQUIN, OF, CINCINNATI (22/318)

Speaking of outfielders, it did not escape my attention that Naquin had 19 home runs and 70 RBI last season for the Reds. That came in spite of getting only 454 PA. With Nick Castellanos likely to sign elsewhere, I’m hoping Naquin will get more playing time and be a cheap source of hitting in the heart of a good Reds lineup. 

J.P. CRAWFORD, SS, SEATTLE (23/343)

The Mariners have already announced that Crawford will be the team’s starting shortstop in 2022. He had a career-high 687 PA last year, demonstrating strong contact skills, with a strikeout rate below 20% on his way to a career-high 89 runs scored and .273 BA. Crawford is no power hitter, but if he can maintain the leadoff role, he should be a strong source of runs for my team.   

ADAM FRAZIER, 2B, SEATTLE (24/348)

How about two Mariners in a row? I felt like I was buying low on Frazier, selecting him in the 24th round. He has a career .281 batting average and has scored more than 80 runs in his last two full seasons (2019 and 2021). I’m also counting on him to swipe double-digit bases. Another player with limited power, he should get a lot of playing time in the infield alongside Crawford.  

JOSH LOWE, OF, TAMPA BAY (25/373)

Lowe’s MLB batting average was 1.000 last year, with two plate appearances, one hit and one walk. The 24-year-old minor league sensation also stole a base, so it’s fun to project what that would look like in a full season. He could easily go 20/20 with over 500 plate appearances. But the reason his ADP is outside the top 350 is the challenge of finding a clear path to playing time.

JORGE ALFARO, C/OF, SAN DIEGO (26/378)

I was surprised to find Alfaro still on the board this late in my draft because Alfaro should also see plenty of playing time with the Padres this season. Neither Austin Nola, nor Victor Caratina ran away with the backstop job last year in San Diego. Alfaro, who only appeared in 92 games in 2021 with Miami, is also eligible in the outfield which is why I drafted him as my third catcher.  

MICHAEL PINEDA, SP, FREE AGENT (27/403)

One of the mysteries heading into the season is why no one is interested in Pineda. I found nothing on the internet as to where the free agent might wind up. Pineda began the 2021 season as the Twins third starter, but three IL stints limited him to 21 starts. When he was on the mound, he earned nine wins and a 3.62 ERA. Injuries are an issue, but I’ll take a chance at this price.

ADRIAN HOUSER, SP, MILWAUKEE (28/408)

Speaking of cheap, I took Houser as my eighth starting pitcher in TGFBI. He may be the forgotten man in the Brewers rotation but I didn’t forget that he posted 10 wins and a 3.28 ERA in 2021. His 1.31 WHIP gave me pause, and his K-BB% declined for the second straight season (17.3% to 9.3% to 6.8%). But he had a career-high 142.1 IP and a groundball rate of 59.0 GB%.

BRYAN DE LA CRUZ, OF, MIAMI (29/433)

I don’t normally get excited about someone outside the top 400, but I like De La Cruz. He was called up by the Marlins last summer and made a strong first impression with his defensive abilities and contact skills. He started at each of the outfield spots, while hitting .296 in 219 PA. He’ll get off of my bench is if he is able to get off the Marlins bench in 2022 and get his at bats.  

CODI HEUER, RP, CHICAGO CUBS (30/438)

Hours after I completed the TGFBI draft, I found out that my final draft pick was undergoing Tommy John surgery after feeling discomfort in his throwing arm in January. So much for Heuer having a shot at becoming the Cubs closer in 2022. This is the risk of drafting early when MLB news is in a blackout period. I’m glad the first casualty of my 2022 team was a 30th round pick.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.