Draft Pontifications: The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational Edition Part Three


Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for sticking around for Part Three of my running commentary/internal monologue on my draft picks in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. If you’re just tuning in, Part One covered my first ten picks in the draft, and Part Two covered picks 11-20.

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational has 21 leagues with 15 teams per league. All of the 30-round drafts began on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. EST. The draft in my league finished on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 12:08 p.m. EST. I know because I had the last pick. That’s 11 days, 23 hours, and 8 minutes. I’m pretty sure there have been tv shows with shorter runs.

At least the draft finished before Daylight Savings Time kicked in. That could’ve been confusing. I don’t know about you, but I always try to stay up and watch a clock skip forward or back when the time changes. Watching the clock on the screen go from 1:59 to 3:00 may not seem like a big deal, but it’s as close as I’ll ever get to time travel. You really have to enjoy the little things in life.

Getting back to the draft, here are my first 20 picks as more fully covered in Part One and Part Two:

● 1st Pick – Round 1, Pick 1 (#1 Overall): Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

● 2nd Pick – Round 2, Pick 15 (#30 Overall): Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

● 3rd Pick – Round 3, Pick 1 (#31 Overall): Walker Buehler, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

● 4th Pick – Round 4, Pick 15 (#60 Overall): Jean Segura, SS, Philadelphia Phillies

● 5th Pick – Round 5, Pick 1 (#61 Overall): Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins

● 6th Pick – Round 6, Pick 15 (#90 Overall): Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers

● 7th Pick – Round 7, Pick 1 (#91 Overall): Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets

● 8th Pick – Round 8, Pick 15 (#120 Overall): Kirby Yates, RP, San Diego Padres

● 9th Pick – Round 9, Pick 1 (#121 Overall): Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals

● 10th Pick – Round 10, Pick 15 (#150 Overall): Eric Hosmer, 1B, San Diego Padres

● 11th Pick – Round 11, Pick 1 (#151 Overall): Andrew McCutchen, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

● 12th Pick – Round 12, Pick 15 (#180 Overall): Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels

● 13th Pick – Round 13, Pick 1 (#181 Overall): Seranthony Dominguez, RP, Philadelphia Phillies

● 14th Pick – Round 14, Pick 15 (#210 Overall): Ketel Marte, 2B/SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

● 15th Pick – Round 15, Pick 1 (#211 Overall): Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies

● 16th Pick – Round 16, Pick 15 (#240 Overall): Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres

● 17th Pick – Round 17, Pick 1 (#241 Overall): Alex Colome, RP, Chicago White Sox 

● 18th Pick – Round 18, Pick 15 (#270 Overall): Yan Gomes, C, Washington Nationals

● 19th Pick – Round 19, Pick 1 (#271 Overall): Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays

● 20th Pick – Round 20, Pick 15 (#300 Overall): Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants 

As far as my first 20 picks went, I’m pretty happy except for losing my 9th-round pick for the season. That’s especially disturbing considering my 9th-round pick was a catcher in a 2-catcher league. It’s not Robocop Colonel Sanders-level disturbing, but still pretty bad. Seriously, what’s the idea behind that? It just creeps me out.

Anyway, I’ll have to adjust my strategy during these last ten picks due to my unfortunate need to draft a third C. I think there’s still value out there, as well as some flyers that could pay off big time.

We’re 300 picks in, and it’s time for the home stretch. See you at the finish line.

● 21st Pick – Round 21, Pick 1 (#301 Overall): Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves 

Total upside pick here. Touki Toussaint has loads of potential and ability; he just needs to avoid turning into a modern-day version of Nuke LaLoosh. Maybe he should work on breathing through his eyelids.

After being drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, Touki Toussaint racked up the Ks in the minors. Along with the Ks, however, he also showed the same level of control as Nuke during that first start with the Durham Bulls. This exchange between Joe Reardon and Larry from Bull Durham pretty much summed it up: “He walked 18. New league record! Struck out 18. Another new league record! In addition, he hit the sportswriter, the public address announcer, the bull mascot twice. Also new league records! But, Joe, this guy’s got some serious shit.”

In 2018, Touki Toussaint finally flashed some control to go along with his serious shit and posted a 9-6/2.38 ERA/1.13 WHIP/163 K minor league stat line in 136.1 IP between AA and AAA. Although his control went bye-bye when he was called up in September (a truly frightening 6.5 BB/9), hitters still couldn’t touch him and he finished his MLB cup of coffee with a 2-1/4.03 ERA/1.34 WHIP/32 K line in 29 MLB IP.

Touki Toussaint entered spring training in a battle for the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation, but injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Mike Soroka have moved him up the ladder. Even if the Braves rotate fifth starters after Foltynewicz and Soroka get healthy, Touki Toussaint should have opportunities this season.

He’s only 22 years old, and has consistently increased his IP every season (165.1 total in 2018). Touki Toussaint has a clean health history and looks ready to handle an MLB SP workload. He could be in line for more innings than the average rookie. A rookie SP available during the Fantasy Baseball playoffs? That would be something.

● 22nd Pick – Round 22, Pick 15 (#330 Overall): Kevin Kiermaier, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Like Brandon Belt in Part Two, Kevin Kiermaier is another player where you have to begin and end any discussion with “if he can just stay healthy.” In five MLB seasons, he’s reached 500 ABs only once, and has been below 400 ABs the last three seasons in a row. I think you can call that injury prone.

In 2016, it was a fractured hand. In 2017, it was a fractured hip. Both were freak injuries (the fractured hand was from a diving catch and the fractured hip was from a feet-first slide into first base). Guess what happened in 2018? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count. That’s right; more freak injuries. In April, Kevin Kiermaier landed on the DL for two months after tearing a thumb ligament sliding into second base. In September, he broke his foot when he was hit by a pitch. Wow. Maybe one of Kevin Kiermaier’s ancient ancestors insulted the village witch or something.

So why draft Kevin Kiermaier? Because in his one healthy season, he was a Platinum Glove winner. In 2015, Kevin Kiermaier played in 151 games and finished the season with a .263 AVG/62 R/10 HR/40 RBI/18 SB stat line. There’s 20 HR/20 SB talent here, and he only turns 29 in April.

Of course, there’s the obvious injury risk, but none of his injuries the last three seasons are really structural. Kevin Kiermaier has just been spectacularly unlucky when it comes to getting hurt. Any maybe he should slide a little less. Just saying.

This is a risk I’m comfortable taking for my fifth OF. If Kevin Kiermaier is healthy, he should lead off for the Rays (at least against RHPs) and his defense should keep him on the field. If he’s healthy. For once. Maybe I should shop talking about this to avoid a jinx. Or maybe talking about it will reverse the jinx. Discuss.

● 23rd Pick – Round 23, Pick 1 (#331 Overall): Vince Velasquez, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Here’s another “nut up or shut up” guy (see Manuel Margot in Part Two). Vince Velasquez has the skills to be a dominant SP, but he’s running out of chances to prove it. The Phillies’ recent acquisitions demonstrate they are dead serious about being contenders, so it’s time for Vince Velasquez to step up and start killing some zombies.

The career 4.60 ERA and 1.36 WHIP are ugly, but the 439 Ks in 405.1 IP shows the potential. The 9.9 K/9 rate Vince Velasquez posted last season is fully supported by a 12% swinging strike rate. If he can keep the BBs and the HRs down, he can take advantage of a Phillies offense that should score loads of runs for him.

There’s no question that the 4.85 ERA last season is scary, but Vince Velasquez also had a 3.75 FIP last year. This suggests Vince Velasquez should be in for some positive regression this year with a little better luck. For my sixth SP, why not take a chance?

I figure my pitching staff should rack up the Ks, but the ERA and WHIP could get torched from time to time. Like comparing Will Smith’s and Margot Robbie’s performance in Suicide Squad with everything else that happened in the movie, you have to take the good with the bad.

● 24th Pick – Round 24, Pick 15 (#360 Overall): Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

It’s time to start drafting bench guys, so let’s take some flyers! I figure if you’re going to take flyers, you might as well take them on guys with some serious ability.

After cruising through the Astros’ farm system, Teoscar Hernandez was traded to the Blue Jays at the 2017 deadline. He spent pretty much all of 2018 in MLB, and finished with a .239 AVG/67 R/22 HR/57 RBI/5 SB stat line in 134 games. There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his game (69% contact rate), but the power is legit. He also doesn’t turn 27 until October.

In addition to the power, there’s some serious speed potential. From 2014-2016, Teoscar Hernandez posted three consecutive 30+ SB seasons. He may strike out a bunch, but who doesn’t these days? In 2018, there were more Ks than hits in MLB. Don’t worry; he fits right in.

I’m probably not going to find more upside in a backup OF. Works for me.

● 25th Pick – Round 25, Pick 1 (#361 Overall): Brent Honeywell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Here’s another flyer with serious ability. You may remember Brent Honeywell as 2018’s first prospect casualty. It’s almost become a spring training ritual: Pitchers and catchers report, rookies get hazed, and a top prospect on everyone’s draft radar goes down with an injury. Kind of a bummer.

Heading into 2018, Brent Honeywell was at or near the top of every list of top pitching prospects. Five legit pitches featuring a screwball, advanced command, and video game numbers in the minors had the prospect hounds salivating. The only real concern was whether the Rays would take their usual glacier-like approach to promoting pitching prospects and leave him in the minors for most of the season.

None of that ultimately mattered, however. On February 22, 2018, Brent Honeywell left a bullpen session with “discomfort” and had Tommy John surgery within a week. He never even pitched in a spring training game. So much for that.

Heading into this season, Brent Honeywell is throwing again and he could be in the Rays’ rotation by June or July. I might only get half a season out of Brent Honeywell, but it could be huge. Did I mention five legit pitches? That’s a flyer worth taking.

● 26th Pick – Round 26, Pick 15 (#390 Overall): Diego Castillo, RP, Tampa Bay Rays

Anything could happen with Diego Castillo this season. He might win 15 games as an “opener,” he could wind up with 25 SVs, or he could turn into Josh Hader 2.0. The Rays are basically a mad science lab when it comes to pitching.

If I told you at the beginning of 2018 that Black Panther would be nominated for Best Picture and Ryan Yarbrough would win 16 games for the Rays, which would you have said was less likely? Actually, you probably would’ve slowly backed away thinking I’d gone completely insane. Anything is possible here.

Whatever role(s) Diego Castillo winds up with, give me the 100 MPH fastball and 14% swinging strike rate. That’s some nasty stuff.

● 27th Pick – Round 27, Pick 1 (#391 Overall): Starlin Castro, 2B, Miami Marlins

I remember Starlin Castro as a Cubs prospect. In his first MLB game in 2010, he had 6 RBI and an HR in his first big league AB. For several seasons, he was the only bright spot in a dismal organization. And then after enduring all the losing and rebuilding, he gets traded in the offseason before the Cubs win the World Series. It would be kind of like if Andy Dufresne had finished crawling through that sewer in The Shawshank Redemption, and then got run over by a bus. You have to feel for the guy. And now he’s playing for the Marlins. You have to really feel for the guy.

I figured after taking some flyers, I should look for some stability to round out my bench. Starlin Castro may not be an exciting pick, but he’s healthy and provides a solid floor of stats. He’s had at least 500 PAs and double-digit HRs in eight out of nine MLB seasons, he has a .281 career AVG, and he might even throw in a few SBs.

Even though it seems like Starlin Castro has been around forever, he only turns 29 this month. Most importantly, he’s an MLB-caliber player on the Miami Marlins, which means he should be in the lineup every day. This is a perfectly acceptable bench player on a Fantasy Baseball roster. And there was much rejoicing. Yay. If you don’t get that reference, you need to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail right now. I can wait.

● 28th Pick – Round 28, Pick 15 (#420 Overall): Anthony DeSclafani, SP, Cincinnati Reds

It’s pick #420 (I’m not even going to bother with a joke; it’s just too easy), and I’m basically throwing darts here. I was looking for a backup SP, and Anthony DeSclafani has had his moments. That’s enough.

Sure, he missed all of 2017 with an elbow injury and wasn’t exactly spectacular last season. In 2016, however, he finished with a 9-5/3.28 ERA/1.22 WHIP/105 K stat line in 123.1 IP. Like I said, he’s had his moments.

Anthony DeSclafani should have a spot in the rotation, and the Reds have what could be a solid lineup. It’s the 28th round. Why not?

● 29th Pick – Round 29, Pick 1 (#421 Overall): Kevan Smith, C, Los Angeles Angels

For my penultimate pick (alliteration aside), I drafted a third C. Actually, it’s going to be my second C since my 9th-round pick will be missing the season. I can safely say that wasn’t the plan. I’m still working on the not being bitter thing.

Kevan Smith has a .281 career MLB AVG, so he shouldn’t kill me there. He also might hit an HR every now and then. And that’s about it.  

Yes, Kevan Smith is the Angels’ backup C, and drafting a backup may seem counterintuitive. To use corporate-speak, however, I’m minimizing my risk profile. If he craters this season, he won’t play enough to hurt me that bad. So that’s something. Yeesh. Of all the positions, why are we using 2 Cs again?

● 30th Pick – Round 30, Pick 15 (#450 Overall): Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

It’s the last pick in the draft; we made it. Congratulations, everybody. In the NFL, the last pick of the draft is called “Mr. Irrelevant.” I’m thinking maybe not with this guy.

You want to know how someone can be a top-ten overall prospect and be virtually anonymous? Just ask Bo Bichette. If it wasn’t for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grabbing the spotlight and then stomping up and down on it, everyone would be talking about Bo Bichette as the Blue Jays’ top prospect.

At AA last season, Bo Bichette posted a .286 AVG/95 R/11 HR/74 RBI/32 SB stat line in 131 games. He just turned 21 and likely will spend some time at AAA to start the season, but the 83% contact rate last season and his ability to spray hits everywhere suggests Bo Bichette should be knocking on MLB’s door pretty quickly.

Keep in mind that Bo Bichette may spend all of 2018 in the minors (cough, service time, cough). Sorry, I had something in my throat there. If I’m going to take a prospect flyer with my last pick in the draft, however, I may as well select someone I can get excited about.

 

There you have it; those are my picks in the 2019 Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational draft. Here’s my roster to start the season:

C          Yan Gomes

C          Kevan Smith

1B        Eric Hosmer

2B        Ketel Marte

SS        Jean Segura

3B        Kris Bryant

CI         Brandon Belt

MI        Andrelton Simmons

OF        Mike Trout

OF        Nicholas Castellanos

OF        Andrew McCutchen

OF        Manuel Margot

OF        Kevin Kiermaier

UTIL     Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

P          Walker Buehler

P          Jose Berrios

P          Zack Wheeler

P          Kirby Yates

P          Seranthony Dominguez

P          Jon Gray

P          Alex Colome

P          Touki Toussaint

P          Vince Velasquez

BN       Teoscar Hernandez

BN       Brent Honeywell

BN       Diego Castillo

BN       Starlin Castro

BN       Anthony DeSclafani

BN       Bo Bichette

BN       Salvador Perez

Wow. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel spent after that. It’s almost like college and I just got done with finals. Now I need to decompress. With copious amounts of alcohol and total disregard for the consequences. I miss college.

This was my first real draft this year, and I hoped it would help get me ready for my other drafts. I’d say I’m adequately prepared now. Having a player get injured in the middle of a draft gives you a valuable lesson in dealing with the unexpected. So that’s something. How can I best sum up my experience at the 2019 Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational draft? Every other draft I have this year is going to be a cakewalk compared to this one. And I like that.

As for my overall roster, I found myself drafting guys early on who I thought could give me solid numbers in multiple categories. As the draft moved on, I felt more comfortable taking risks because I thought I’d built myself a stable floor. I think my team has the potential for big numbers in AVG, R, and SB, and my pitching should generate bunches of Ks if nothing else. I’ll see how it goes once the season starts and everything gets real.

I hope everyone enjoyed my debut with Fighting Chance Fantasy. I also hope I’ve given everyone some useful information or ideas for your own drafts. I think examining my own thought process during the draft is going to help me in my other drafts. I suppose I’ll find out.

Once the regular season starts, check out my weekly Fantasy Baseball Persons of Interest column along with all the other fine content here on the site. I hope everyone has fun at their drafts. That’s why we do this.

Until next time, it’s all in the reflexes.


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