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.

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.

ROUND 1 – RAFAEL DEVERS (13TH OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 2 – MAX SCHERZER (18th OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 3 – SANDY ALCANTARA (43RD OVERALL)

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).

ROUND 4 – RYAN PRESSLY (48TH OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 5 – JOSE ALTUVE (73RD OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 6 – JOSE BERRIOS (78TH OVERALL)

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.  

ROUND 7 – CHARLIE MORTON (103RD OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 8 – DANSBY SWANSON (108TH OVERALL)

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.   

ROUND 9 – JARED WALSH (133RD OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 10 – TYLER STEPHENSON (138TH OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 11 – EDDIE ROSARIO (163RD OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 12 – BLAKE TREINEN (168TH OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 13 – MARCELL OZUNA (193RD OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 14 – ONEIL CRUZ (198TH OVERALL)

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.

ROUND 15 – HYUN JIN RYU (223RD OVERALL)

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.

Elephant in the room

I should have spent the weekend getting updates Major League Baseball training sites as I prepare for my draft next week in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Instead, the players remained locked out in Major League Baseball and we now get reports on fifteen-minute meeting between the Player’s Association and the owners.

So, instead of writing a column this week about outfielders with an ADP above 200, I am going to shift gears from fantasy to reality. I’m going to write about the elephant in the room. Let’s pull our heads out of our a—-, I mean sand, and face reality. Unless things change quickly and dramatically, the 2022 MLB regular season will be delayed.

As labor negotiations resume this week between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), both parties know they have a deadline. A new collective bargaining agreement must be ratified by February 28th for the regular season to start on time. I  hope it happens, but you can color me skeptical.

As everyone who cares about professional baseball knows, the collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the MLB expired twelve weeks ago. It is the sport’s first work stoppage since the infamous players’ strike that began on August 12, 1994 and resulted in the remainder of that seasoned being cancelled.

As I read my Twitter feed each day, looking for nuggets of information relevant to fantasy baseball, I read snippets of commentary from analysts and pundits about the lockout, and it seems as though there is widespread support for the players against these rich owners who run sweatshops exploiting their overworked, underpaid employees.

Without taking sides, let me offers the contrarian view which you probably haven’t heard. The average salary of an MLB player today is $4.7 million. The minimum salary being proposed by the owners is $630,000 for the 2022 season, and clubs would be allowed to give raises until players become eligible for salary arbitration. Let that sink in.

In the United States of America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, a family must earn $597,815 to be in the top 1% of earners, according to a study by Smart Asset published last month in USA Today. That means every single major league baseball player is in the top 1% of earners. Mike Trout, #37.12 million is in the top 1% of that 1%.

Let’s put this MLB labor dispute in perspective. People have lost their jobs, their businesses and the lives of loved ones in the ongoing COVID pandemic, while receiving updates on a disagreement between millionaires and billionaires. Contrary to what Gordon Gekko says, greed is not good. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the seven deadly sins. 

The players feel that they are not getting enough money. Yes, a group of ballplayers who average over $4 million a year are underpaid. But the minimum MLB salary in 1995, when the last work stoppage was resolved, was $109,000. If you factor in inflation, that’s $212,000. In other words, the minimum salary has almost tripled in the last 27 years.

Now let’s consider the words of Blake Snell. Back in 2020, when Americans were locked in their homes by decree as COVID spread across the land, Snell, who was in the middle of a five-year, $50 million contract, balked at the idea of accepting a prorated reduction of his $7 million salary.  “For me to take a pay cut is not happening,” Snell said to a reporter.

“I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, Okay? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher, and the amount of money I’m making is way lower, why would I think about doing that? Like you know, I’m just, I’m sorry, but a pay cut is not happening. No way.”

When I read this quote, I thought about a similar response from Mary Antoinette. “Let them eat cake,” was the famous quote attributed to the queen of France back in 1789 when she was told that her starving peasant subjects were protesting because they had no bread. A few days later, the revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, and Proud Mary lost her head.

Once the most popular sport in the country, America’s pastime is dying. In a high-speed era where immediate gratification is expected, fewer and fewer people are willing to invest three hours to watch a baseball game. My wife loves me, but she will not sit down and watch more than an inning of a baseball game with me. It’s a crying shame.

As TV ratings continue to decline and less people fill the stands, fewer youngsters are playing little league. When I was a kid, no one played soccer but everyone played baseball. Now, there’s more youth soccer participants than baseball players. And the current generation of greedy players is only helping the sport die faster with their attitudes.

But what about those greedy owners? Those fat-cat billionaires that rake in all this money, and they simply don’t want to share the wealth with the players? I’ve heard this repeatedly, and frankly it’s a broken record.  Commissioner Rob Manfred reported an operational loss of between $2.8 billion and $3 billion in the shortened 2020 season.

And, yes, that figure included the reduced salaries that players were paid. Keep in mind that neither the players nor owners went hungry that year, but the reality is that people in business can’t stay in business if they are bleeding red ink. Too many people forget that it was our economic system called capitalism that made this country what it is.

But even in the days before the pandemic, most MLB owners didn’t make money on their clubs.
“Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, take out expenses and give all the money that’s left to their GM to spend,” Chicago Cubs owner told ESPN two years ago.

So, as the deadline looms, the lockout continues. Spring Training is already definitely delayed.

A week from now, if no deal is in place (and we should not expect one), MLB will almost certainly be looking at missed regular season games. Opening Day is scheduled for March 31st. The optimist in me wants to believe that there will be a solution found this week.

“Come now and let us reason together,” says the Lord to his backsliding people a few thousand years ago. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” After quoting the Bible, let me add this: For the love of God (and baseball), let’s end this and have a regular season. We all need it. 

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

Minting fantasy gold

Some fantasy baseball managers spend all their time and energy preparing their draft board for the first 15 rounds of the draft and then just throw darts in the last several rounds. “I’ve heard of this guy, I’ll draft him. This guy plays outfield. I still need an outfielder…” If this describes you, my admonition is to stop being lazy. Late-round picks can help you win a league championship.

Consider the case of Oneil Cruz, the 23-year-old shortstop who crept onto the major league baseball stage late last season. You might have missed it. He played only two games in the bigs, homered once, drove in three runs, and scored two more. He was playing for those Pittsburgh Pirates, who had been eliminated from playoff contention about six months earlier in 2021.

As I write this column, Cruz had an NFBC ADP of 219, which means you could get him in the 18th round in a 12-team league. And he could change your season. Cruz started out with a strong run at Double-A last season, hitting .292/.346/.536 with 12 home runs, 18 steals, a 23.4 K% and 7.3 BB% in 62 games. If that carried over into the majors, this could be a 20/20 player.

After raising eyebrows in Double-A, Cruz was rewarded with a six-game run at Triple-A followed by two games in the majors. He hit .466 with six home runs, nine strikeouts and eight walks in those eight games and suddenly appeared on the radar screen of fantasy analyst. Cruz has been climbing up draft boards since the end of last year, but he’s still outside the top 200.

Cruz, tall and lanky, can run. But his most bankable fantasy-relevant tool is his power, and he utilizes it to all fields. Cruz’s 6-foot-7 frame enables him to leverage the ball in a manner matched by few sluggers. His long levers lead to strikeouts, but he has the flexibility to golf out balls below his knees for home runs. He did just that in his only MLB homer late last season.

Pittsburgh figures to give him the keys at shortstop early this season and while his plus-plus raw power and plus speed give him a very high power/speed ceiling, his batting average as a rookie could be anywhere from the .181 Jarred Kelenic logged to something above .250. But my question is why wouldn’t you swing for the fences with Cruz in a late round of your draft?

Keep in mind that Cruz is just one of several players that will be available to draft after the 200th pick has been made in your fantasy draft. Here are 10 other players to consider with an ADP between 200 and 300. Note that their ADP comes from the most recent ADP at NFBC. They may go earlier or later in your draft.

JOSH DONALDSON, 3B, MINNESOTA, ADP 209

Donaldson still displayed elite power with a 94.1 mph exit velocity and 48.4 hard-hit percentage in 2021, which both ranked in the top 5% of hitters. He was also a steady glove at third base though his metrics were not elite. He drew walks at a good clip and even reduced his strikeouts. He still profiles as a top power option at third base, but at age 36 his injury risk is considerable.

MARCELL OZUNA, OF, ATLANTA, ADP 210

MLB suspended Ozuna in November related to a domestic violence charge, retroactive to Sept. 10, meaning he’s already served the ban while he was on administrative leave. The Braves have hinted that Ozuna will be back playing baseball in Atlanta in 2022. If Ozuna meets projections of .264, with 26 home runs, 67 runs and 85 RBI, he would be a steal at his current ADP of 210.

AUSTIN HAYS, OF, BALTIMORE, ADP 213

On June 22, Hays was slashing .219/.286/.394. His season had been interrupted by two IL stints costing him a month. From that point, Hays slashed .274/.319/.494. His plate skills and batted ball profile were similar the whole time, but his BABIP went from .250 to .303. Collecting at bats in the middle of an improving lineup, with half his games at Camden Yards, is alluring.

ENRIQUE HERNANDEZ, 2B/OF, ADP 214

Batting leadoff in 118 of 134 starts in Boston enabled Hernandez to post a career high with 84 runs. His defensive skills should keep him in the lineup daily. Hernandez’s 14 defensive runs saved was the third highest total for a centerfielder while his eight assists tied for second most.
Eligible in multiple positions, he should again compile bountiful counting stats, especially runs.

SEIYA SUZUKI, OF, FREE AGENT, ADP 217

Is it worth taking a chance with a late-round pick on a Japanese outfielder who CBS Sports ranked as the 15th best free agent of 2022? Suzuki, 27, is a career .309/.402/.541 hitter who has launched 189 home runs and has swiped 102 bases in his career. Japanese players have not made it in the MLB lately, Many analysts think Suzuki’s swing and overall game are likely to translate.

JESUS SANCHEZ, OF, MIAMI, ADP 232

Sanchez saw his strikeout rate shoot up from 18.7% at Triple-A to 31.1% in the majors, but he was able to make his connections count with a 12.7 Barrel% and .465 xwOBA on contact. Sanchez has good speed for 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, though he has not used it much on the bases. The swing-and-miss, lack of stolen-base speed and uncertainty of playing time are red flags.

JO ADELL, OF, LOS ANGELES ANGELS, ADP 236

A highly-regarded prospect and still highly regarded, Adell was rushed up to the majors and flopped badly in 2020. He was better in 2021. He hit .289/.342/.592 in Triple-A, then came up and hit .246/.295/.408 in the major leagues. This was in 441 total ABs (130 in the majors). His final 17 games in the majors: 3/1 and .302/.343/.524 when he hit in 14 of the final 17 games.

CHARLIE BLACKMON, OF, COLORADO, ADP 237

A steep decline in the last few years has caused him to fall far in the rankings at 35. He’s had only stolen seven combined bases over the past three season and just hit 13 homers last season, mainly because his groundball rate jumped to a career-high 47.2%. He did improve in the second half with his OPS jumping from .722 to .809, with most of the change being power driven.

LANE THOMAS, OF, WASHINGTON, ADP 256

There were signs of life for Thomas at the end of last season. Over 41 contests since being acquired from the Cardinals in late July, Thomas slashed .281/.376/.512 with seven home runs, four stolen bases, 31 runs and 25 RBI. If he can keep that momentum going into the 2022 season, the 26-year-old will be a name to keep in mind if he’s available in the 22nd round in the draft.

JOEY BART, C, SAN FRANCISCO, ADP 271

With Buster Posey retiring, Bart’s path to big-league at-bats has never been clearer. However, he has a 31.6 K% and 6.1 BB% in 396 plate appearances between Triple-A and the majors. Bart projects as a batting average drain in the short term. He has plus raw power and hit 10 home runs in 67 games at Triple-A last year. Take a flyer on Bart with your final pick in your draft.

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

TGFBI and the dream

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.