It’s that time of the year

It’s that time of the year again. There’s a hint of warmer days ahead, and spring training is underway. If you love baseball, you know that. If you love fantasy baseball, you are already thinking about who you will draft in your public, or private league. You reading reports from spring training camps on the progress of different players. You’re keeping up with breaking news. You know that Framber Valdez fractured his left ring finger, which happens to be his throwing hand. The best case is that he has a delayed start to his season, and worst case is he’s lost for all of 2021.   

I have already drafted two teams – one in a Yahoo league and one in an ESPN league. Both are in Rotisserie (Roto) leagues. I like Roto is better than H2H because you are playing against every member of your league the entire year. There’s more skill involved because you’re competing in 10 categories. There are no weekly matchups. You earn points by the stats that your players accumulate. For example, if you are in a 12-team league, you get 12 points if your team has the most home runs, 11 points if you are in second and so on for every statistical category.

How you build you team is up to you. In Yahoo leagues, you have 23 roster spots to fill. In ESPN leagues, you must fill 26 spots. In Roto, you are looking for as much balance as possible. You need runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and a relatively high batting average from your position players. You need wins, strikeouts, saves and relatively low ERA and WHIP from your pitchers. While your goal is balance, no team is truly balanced. You’re going to be better in some areas and worse in others. The key is to not be terrible in any category. If you are, it had better be only one.

I drafted from the fifth spot in the Yahoo draft and took Jacob deGrom in the first round. It’s worth noting that I passed on drafting Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole. DeGrom followed up his second consecutive National League Cy Young award season by posting another gem in 2020. Despite the truncated season, deGrom remained a consistent fantasy asset who provided elite strikeout totals and ratios. He finished the shortened season with a 4-2 record, a 2.38 ERA, a 0.956 WHIP, and a 104:18 K:BB in 68 innings pitched. DeGrom remains a lockdown, matchup proof fantasy ace.

The decision to take DeGrom instead of Cole was not an easy one. It was like trying to pick between LeBron James and Michael Jordan in their prime. Both of them have a track record to look at, which is important when you are drafting in the first round. Cole has been a starter for eight MLB seasons, while DeGrom has been around for seven. Cole has more wins because he’s been on better teams, but DeGrom has a lower ERA and WHIP. He also averages slightly more strikeouts per nine innings and less walks, hits and home run. But it was a close call because Cole has more run support.

DeGrom has another advantage that was the tiebreaker for me in deciding between him and Cole. The advantage is Citi Field. This is the best pitching park in the major league. While Citi Field is only average in home runs allowed, no park has decreased run-scoring and batting average more. Given that the Mets also play in the NL, with no DH, and now have Francisco Lindor at shortstop, advantage DeGrom. The Mets also have a better lineup than they’ve had in recent memory, which might mean more wins for DeGrom. I predict he’ll top the 15 games he won in 2017.    

NEXT: Starting pitchers to consider in the later rounds.

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