TGFBI, part one

Three weeks ago, I told you about my dream of competing and winning a major fantasy baseball tournament. I took my first step on Monday when I made my first-round pick in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. I joined 465 other fantasy baseball analysts who also made their first selection that day. Picking from the 13th spot, I took third baseman Rafael Devers.

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 by someone behind the curtain at TGFBI. We’ll call him (or her) the Wizard of Ahhhs  (as in Ahhh shucks, I didn’t get the draft position I wanted).

The first team selected in the league gets their highest priority in the draft order. The second team gets their highest priority (if it’s not the same as the first team). Again, this is the way that I understand it. I don’t know where I was selected in the KDS sweepstakes, but suffice it to say that I didn’t get the spot I had been hoping for. My priority had been for the No. 4 spot.

The bad news about picking from the No. 13 spot in a 15-team league is that a dozen other managers get to pick ahead of you. That means that a dozen elite major league baseball players will be taken before you get your crack. The good news, however, is that I would also have the 18th pick in the snake draft. This was important to me as I crafted my draft strategy. 

Everyone enters TGFBI with a different draft strategy, and I will describe my thought process with each pick in the first half of the draft. There are 30 rounds in TGFI drafts, so 450 players will be selected before this draft is over. This is the deepest draft I have done, and it will prove to be a comprehensive test of my knowledge of the player pool for the 2022 season.   

I’m not arrogant enough to claim that my draft strategy is the best. But it’s my strategy based on knowledge I have acquired the past few years. If you steal an idea, that’s plagiarism, but if you steal a lot of ideas, that’s research. So, I’m going to share my strategy with you as I take you through 15 rounds. Hopefully, this will be helpful when it’s time for your draft(s).  

One of the reasons why I was looking forward to TGFBI was because I knew I would be competing against the best fantasy baseball managers. Only analysts who work in the industry are on the guest list. The format is 5X5 roto. Therefore, I am not only competing against the other 14 managers in my league but also against the other 464 in the tournament. 

I’m eager to test my skills against this group, but I don’t want you to think that I had delusions of grandeur going into the tournament. I am a goal setter, so my goal is to win my league. If I could achieve that goal, I could only hope to finish in the top 50 in the overall. This would be a great outcome in my first try. But it all starts with the draft, so let’s jump into it.


I had the weekend to consider who I might take from this spot. Mike Trout’s ADP was 13 at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) site, but I had already decided I wouldn’t take him because of the injury risk. Devers was on my short list of players, but I was surprised to see Corbin Burns still on the board after 11 picks. Oh, baby, one more pass…

Of course, Burnes was taken by the manager ahead of me, so that left me with a choice between Devers, Ozzie Albies, or a starting pitcher (either Walker Buehler, or Max Scherzer). Albies was appealing because he steals bases, but the 20 he stole last year was a career high. I desperately wanted an elite starting pitcher in the first two rounds. But I took Devers.

The Boston Red Sox third baseman had 38 bombs last season, along with 101 runs and 113 RBI.  Devers doesn’t run enough to be a five-category contributor,    but he checks all the other boxes. Those boxes are durability (he’s missed only 15 games in the past three seasons), playing in a great home park, batting in a solid lineup and being young enough to improve.


As previously stated, I wanted one of the elite pitchers in the first two rounds. With Gerrit Cole and Burns off the board, my third choice was Scherzer. I had a slight preference for him over Buehler because of the track record. I seriously considered taking Mad Max with my first-round pick. So, imagine my sheer delight when he was still there for me in the 2nd round.


I had a long wait before I could make my third-round pick. In the TFGBI slow-draft format, it was late in the day on Monday when I took Sandy Alcantara. I missed out on a few of players that I wanted but was satisfied to get the Miami ace. He has at least three effective pitches, and I felt I could count on him for a low ERA and WHIP, along with a lot of innings).


I’ve heard all of the arguments against taking a closer early in the draft, and the fourth round is insanely early. But my research indicates there are only six elite closers this year. Four of them were gone when it was my turn to draft. Edwin Diaz and Pressly were the last two, and I swallowed hard and took Pressly. I want to be competitive in this category.


It was midway Tuesday before I was up again, and I took Jose Altuve in the fifth round. I might be accused of buying high on the Astros second baseman, but he benefits from hitting at the top of a great lineup and also playing half of his games at Minute Maid Park. He had a career-high 31 home runs last year, along with 117 runs and a solid .278 batting average.


Expecting a huge run on starting pitchers, I was surprised to find Berrios still on the board when I made my sixth-round selection. Berrios seems to be getting better in his late 20’s. He had 12 wins, a 3.52 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 204 strikeouts, while amassing 192 innings, tied for sixth most in MLB last season. I am pleased to have him rostered as my SP3.  


If I was surprised to find Berrios available in the sixth round, I was flabbergasted to see Charlie Morton still on the board late in the 7th round. He won 13 games, had a 3.34 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and 216 strikeouts over 185.2 IP last year. The delayed start to the 2022 season gives him more time to heal from the unfortunate broken leg suffered in the World Series.


While I’m looking for value in a draft, I did reach a bit for shortstop Dansby Swanson. Like Altuve, he benefits from hitting in a solid lineup (probably further up in the lineup in 2022). Also, like Altuve, he had a career-high number of home runs in 2021 (27). Swanson is projected for double-digit steals, although his batting average could be a bit of a drag.   


My key infield positions were almost full, and I was looking for a first baseman at the end of the 9th round. Again, I had a pleasant surprise as I found Jared Walsh undrafted. His NFBC ADP is currently 120. The Angels first baseman, who had nine homers in 32 games in 2020, had 29 last season, along with 98 RBI and a very respectable batting average of .277.


My original plan was to draft one of the top six catchers, but they had eluded me as I loaded up on starting pitchers and infielders in the first nine rounds. Stephenson hit .286, with 10 homers, 45 RBI and 56 runs in 402 plate appearances in 2021. With Tucker Barnhart gone, he is expected to be a full-time starter with the Reds. He’s also eligible to play first base.


I was keenly aware that I had drafted no outfielders through the first 10 rounds. I took Eddie Rosario at the end of the 11th round. Rosario caught fire after being traded to the Braves at the trade deadline. He had a .274/.333/.579 line. Rosario took it to another level in the playoffs, slashing .383/.456 /.617 in 16 games. He also tied his career high with 11 steals in 2021.


With all of the elite closers long gone, it was time to throw a dart at a relief pitcher with upside. Consider Blake Treinen. He led the majors last year with 32 holds, while posting his best line since 2018. Treinen went 6-5 as the Dodgers setup man, with a 1.99 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and seven saves. With Kenley Jansen unsigned, I’m hoping Treinen becomes their closer.


This is the point in the draft where I’m taking risks, and I’m swinging for the fences with Marcell Ozuna. We all know that Ozuna was suspended last fall after a domestic violence charge was filed. He’s served his time, and I expect Ozuna will be back in Atlanta in 2022. If I’m right – especially with the coming of the universal DH, Ozuna could return real value.


Speaking of swinging for the fences, I drafted Oneil Cruz at the end of the 14th round. If you want to know more about the rookie Pittsburgh shortstop, read my column, Minting the Late Round Gold, posted on February 14th. Suffice it to say that Cruz has massive upside. There aren’t many players who can give you 20 home runs and 15 steals this late in the draft.


There are plenty of Hyun Jin Ryu detractors heading into 2022, and that’s why his value has slipped. In spite of that, I didn’t expect him to still be on the board at the end of the 15th round. Ryu’s had an ERA of 2.32 over the previous three seasons before imploding last year. His ERA slipped to 4.37, but he still won 14 games for the Blue Jays. I expect him to rebound.

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

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