When I started writing for CreativeSports a mere two years ago, my dream was to be recognized as the best fantasy sports analyst in the business. Note that I said that was my dream – not my goal. Joseph in the Bible had a dream. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. “I have a dream that… the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
That was MLK’s dream, but my dream is much less lofty. Still just as impossible because there are hundreds of fantasy analysts that are better than me. Maybe, thousands. That would be just as impossible as some kid from The Plains, Ohio, winning the Heisman Trophy and playing in the Super Bowl a few years after he graduated high school. Wait, that’s happening.
Okay, back to my dream. The first step for me on the road to my dream had to be competing and winning a major fantasy baseball tournament. When I asked Todd Zola two years ago if I could compete in such a tournament, he said: “Just wait, kid.” Wait? Did Todd know that I was already in my 60’s? It’s not like I have a real long runway left to land this plane, Todd. But I waited.
When I revisited the subject a few weeks ago, Todd sent me a link to The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Last Tuesday was a good day for me because my TGFBI invitation came in the mail. Email, that is. I’m joining an exclusive group, with an opportunity to test my skills against 465 fantasy baseball analysts who will be managing teams this season in the TGFBI (if there is a season).
There will be 31 leagues, but please note that all of the team managers will be competing for the honor of being overall champion. That takes us back to The Dream. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a kid from Morgantown, West Virginia, won the TGFBI in his first try? Okay, that’s beyond absurd. That’s insane. I can hear Andy Williams singing The Impossible Dream in my head right now.
Frankly, it would be truly amazing if I could win my 15-team league. My friend, Mike Richards, formerly of CreativeSports, didn’t win his league, but he did finish in the second quartile in his first attempt in the TGFBI last year. If I could even accomplish that feat, I’d be pleased. The truth be known, I’m just glad to be in field. I’m going to learn a lot and probably eat a large slice of humble pie.
In the last week, I have been attempting to develop a strategy as prepare. Rest assured that I will have a plan when the tournament starts three weeks from now. Everyone has a plan. When Mike Tyson was asked by a reporter whether he was worried about his opponent’s plan in his upcoming boxing match, he answered: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
I expect to be punched in the mouth. Repeatedly. Someone on Twitter suggested anyone new to the TGFBI read Mike Carter’s article: “Playing Fantasy Baseball at the Big Kid Table.” Carter said it was very important to fully understand your league rules before you start. What a concept. Now, I know why I couldn’t put a baby crib together when I was a new father. I didn’t read the instructions.
This is what I’ve learned so far. The TGFBI is a 15-team mixed format, 5×5 Roto. No trading. It’s a 23-man rosters, 7 bench spots and no IL. Weekly FAAB. Lineups are set Monday for pitchers and hitters and Friday for hitters only. This is a brave new world. I’ve never played in a league that had more than a dozen teams. I’m sure that when the draft is over, I’m going to look at my team and puke.
I have to admit that I was bummed to learn there was no trading. I love to trade players, and I’ve traded in every fantasy league I’ve ever played in. My understanding is that the trading prohibition is in place to avoid the possibility of collusion between managers. That makes sense, but I’ll miss trading. “Hey, Todd, I’ll trade you Jose Ramirez for Whit Merrifield and Ryan Pressley.” Oh, well.
No IL was noteworthy because I used the IL a lot in the Yahoo and ESPN leagues I competed in recently. Sometimes, I would even add an injured player I liked and stash him in the IL spot until he was activated. No IL means that injured players are going to take up the seven bench spots unless I drop them. No IL means that players like Mike Trout and Jacob deGrom are too risky to draft early.
But it’s not just the early-round picks that can come back to bite you. For instance, I love Josh Donaldson, who has elite power, ranking in the top 5 percent of all hitters in exit velocity and hard-hit rate. At his current NFBC ADP of 208, he looks like a great value. All he has to do is stay healthy, but that’s the problem. Donaldson has had a hard time staying on the field in recent years.
Maybe, Donaldson will exceed projections of less than 500 plate appearances in 2022. He did in two of the last three years. But at age 36, only the true optimist will expect him to play in 155 games like he did in 2019. Frankly, I’m not sure he can match the 135 games and 543 plate appearances from 2022. As a 13-round pick in a 30-round draft, I need production from him that might not be there.
The other problem with older, injury-prone players is that they get a lot of days off. If I draft Donaldson, I’m going to want him in my starting lineup. But what if I lock him in on Monday and then he misses three, or four games before I can bench him on Friday. The counting stats are zero that week. One week of that in a season won’t kill you, but a number of weeks will cripple your team.
There’s one difference in the TGFBI rules that will be challenging for me. I’ve played in leagues with FAAB before, but waivers run multiple times each week in those leagues. In the TGFBI, waivers run once a week on Sunday night. Therefore, the FAAB bids are a big deal. I can only imagine what the FAAB bids will look like in my league when the first big undrafted prospect is promoted.
There’s another difference in the TGFBI rules that I love. The draft, which is scheduled to begin on February 28th, is a slow draft. Each manager has four hours to make a pick. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than 90 seconds to make a pick in any of my fast drafts. This will give me time to study the draft board and be deliberate in making picks – especially in those crucial early rounds.
Okay, it’s time for me to go now. I’ve got to get back to my draft prep. I’ve got to study twenty more player profiles before this day ends. Andy Williams is no longer playing in my head. It’s Lose Yourself. I hear Eminem as clear as a bell. “Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip…”
Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.