Draft Pontifications: The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational Edition Part Two


Welcome back for Part Two of my running commentary/introspection on my draft picks in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. In Part One, I covered my first ten picks in this 15-team 30-round draft. The first ten rounds were interesting, in the sense that “may you live in interesting times” is allegedly an ancient curse.

As I discussed in Part One, when it comes to draft strategies, I’m with Mike Tyson. He once said “everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” Guess what? I drafted Salvador Perez in the ninth round before he got injured and lost for the season. I just got punched in the face. And it also feels like my ear got bit. Was that too soon?

I was waiting to make my sixteenth-round pick when I found about the Salvador Perez injury at approximately 3:00 p.m. on March 1. On March 5, he got the Second Opinion of Doom and had successful Tommy John surgery on March 6. See you in 2020, Salvador Perez. We hardly knew ye in 2019.

So that means I get to start off the regular season by dumping my ninth-round pick. Hooray for me. Did I mention he’s also at the thinnest position in Fantasy Baseball? Did mention I don’t like drafting this early in this season? I think I did. To borrow from Futurama: “Are we boned? Yup, we’re boned.”

So, what now? I can either try to recover, or maybe I’ll just fade into Bolivian. That’s another gem from Mike Tyson. There are still 20 picks left, and the season hasn’t even started yet. Just like my first 40 years as a Cubs fan, I remind myself everyone starts out 0-0, and anything can happen. I’m working on the positivity thing.

To recap, here are my first ten picks in the draft:

● 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

Since I snapped up four Ps in the first ten rounds, I decided to focus a little more on hitting with these next ten picks. I also had to keep the Salvador Perez debacle in mind. And away we go.

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

Andrew McCutchen may not be an exciting pick anymore, but he still generates the counting stats. He’s had at least 20 HRs in eight straight seasons, he’s been good for at least 80 Rs in nine straight seasons, and he’s stolen double-digit bases in nine out of his ten MLB seasons. Andrew McCutchen is kind of like Harrison Ford in The Force Awakens. He’s older and not the star anymore, but he still delivers a solid performance.

The power has declined as he’s gotten older, but Andrew McCutchen has moved to maybe the most-hitter friendly ballpark of his career, and he’s going to have protection in that Phillies Lineup. With his OBP skills (14% BB rate in 2018), he might even wind up leading off. The AVG might not be elite anymore, but a career .287 AVG suggest a rebound from last season’s .255.

I’m liking the 3 OFs I’ve drafted so far.

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

In an in-person draft, this pick would undoubtedly result in the sound of crickets. This might be the most boring pick of the draft. Because of his four Gold Gloves and lack of big-time power, you might think of Andrelton Simmons as a “better in real life than Fantasy” guy. Looking beneath the surface, however, there’s a solid Fantasy Baseball contributor there.

Maybe it’s the lack of flashy stats, but did you know that Andrelton Simmons is one of only five SS to have double-digit HRs and SBs the last two seasons? I sure didn’t. He also had the best contact rate (92%) in MLB last season, and his .292 AVG was supported by his skills. At 29, a power surge is unlikely without arousing suspicion. You have no chance at an HR, however, when you can’t put the bat on the ball.

Andrelton Simmons should contribute in all the offensive categories, even if none of the contributions are major ones. I want players with steady floors for when I take more chances later in the draft. Mission accomplished.

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

In baseball, like other industries, success breeds imitation. Like movies taking the last book in a series and turning it into at least two films. I’m still pissed off about the Hobbit “trilogy.” At least with Mockingjay and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there is some justification. Both of those were long books with a natural break point in the middle, and really told two almost separate stories. With The Hobbit, however, it was nothing more than a money grab. The book is shorter than any of The Lord of The Rings books, and they make three movies out of it? There was more artificial filler in those movies than most fast food. I was seriously expecting Grumpy to show up as an additional dwarf.

At any rate, I’m guessing every MLB team outside of Milwaukee is looking for a potential Josh Hader this season. Since all the really established closers are gone at this point in the draft, I figured I go with some serious upside rather than someone with questionable skills who just happens to have a closer job right now. Enter Seranthony Dominguez.

With a 98 MPH fastball, three legit pitches, and a badass 16% swinging strike rate, Seranthony Dominguez has all the upside you could want. He’s a former SP, so he looks like a natural fit in a Hader-type role.

The Phillies did sign David Robertson in the offseason, but Gabe Kapler treated closers last season like Bill Belichick treats running backs. You’re never really sure who’s got the gig. Gabe Kapler used more closers in 2018 than James McAvoy had personalities in Split. While this can potentially cause bouts of anxiety, nausea, and head-banging among Fantasy owners, I’m looking for skills here.

Double-digit SVs are a legitimate possibility, and the Phillies lineup should produce significant SV opportunities. The control can be a little iffy, but that’s to be expected from someone who basically skipped AA and AAA. The skills should produce solid ERA/WHIP/K numbers, and I’m good with that.

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

Have I mentioned I’m looking at skills when making these picks? There’s a reason the Diamondbacks gave Ketel Marte a five-year, $24 million extension last year even though he’s never generated big numbers.

Ketel Mare posted an 85% contact rate last season, a decent 9% walk rate, reached double-digit HRs for the first time in his career, and he doesn’t turn 26 until October. He already has dual eligibility at 2B and SS, and will be playing in the OF this season. I’m liking the roster flexibility.

He also has real speed, but only had 6 SBs in 2018. Of course, he only had 7 attempts. Maybe the Diamondbacks decided as an organization they were morally opposed to all forms of theft. It’s not like they’re playing for anything this year (sorry Diamondbacks fans, but they raised the white flag with the Paul Goldschmidt trade), so maybe they let Ketel Marte run wild. Ketel Marte’s a peacock, you gotta let him fly! If you’ve never seen The Other Guys, you’re missing out.

Ketel Marte should lead off for the Diamondbacks and score some runs. Somebody has to. A decent AVG along with 15 HRs/20 SBs in 2019 is within the realm of possibility. I think there’s a significant profit opportunity here.

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

To borrow from Summer School, enough with safe and sane. It’s time for dumb and dangerous. That’s another movie you need to see at least once. There’s no middle ground with picking Jon Gray. This is either going to be a complete steal or a total disaster.

You see, Jon Gray is a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma (Joe Pesci in JFK, everybody). He has ace-level stuff that can even dominate in Coors Field, and also has decent control. For some reason, however, he goes through cringe-worthy stretches where you dread even looking at the box score.

So, what gives? How can a pitcher who can reel off consecutive 10/9/12 K starts wind up demoted like Jon Gray did in 2018? Well, the 5.12 ERA is the obvious reason. But here’s the thing – Jon Gray had a 3.68 FIP last season (consistent with his 3.67 ERA in 2017), which suggests he was unlucky. His .410 BABIP in the first half proves it. Forget unlucky; that’s time to call an exorcist because you unknowingly built your house on an ancient burial ground.

Despite the awful ERA, John Gray still had 183 Ks in 172.1 IP last season and posted the best swinging strike rate of his career (13%). He can get guys out, and maybe with better luck he can minimize the blow-ups that burned him last season. It’s getting to the point in the draft where risks need to be taken, and I figure I might as well take a risk on a player with a top-level skill set.

Jon Gray was the third overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. The Cubs had the second pick, and I wanted them to select Jon Gray because I thought they needed pitching. The Cubs took that Bryant guy I drafted earlier instead. Guess I missed that one. His stuff and potential have never been in doubt, and there are tantalizing stretches where you can see why he was a top-three draft pick. He’s still just 27, and a potential ace if he can ever put it all together. Whether he will or not is anyone’s guess, and I have no idea. As Curtis Armstrong so aptly put in in Risky Business: “Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the Fuck,’ make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying ‘What the Fuck’ brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.” When in doubt, go with Booger.

I now have 4 SPs with solid K potential. Unlike Crash Davis, I find strikeouts to be neither boring nor fascist. ERA and WHIP can be subject to factors outside a pitcher’s control, but a pitcher with good stuff will always bring the whiffs. I also disagree with Crash Davis that Oswald acted alone. JFK shot first.

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

Like Jon Gray, Manuel Margot (don’t you know) is a gamble. He’s got speed and flashes power, and was a popular breakout candidate heading into 2018. Unfortunately, he was more of a breakdown than breakout.

After a .263 AVG/53 R/13 HR/39 RBI/17 SB rookie campaign in 2017, Manuel Margot was expected to justify his top prospect status. Unfortunately, his 2018 season was a bad sequel like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. His final stat line for 2018: .245 AVG/50 R/8 HR/51 RBI/11 SB. Ouch.

At this point, Manuel Margot is almost what I like to call a “nut up or shut up” guy. This is a quote from Woody Harrelson’s character in Zombieland, which features in Bill Murray in one of the best celebrity movie cameos ever. The best is Bob Hope in Spies Like Us. “Doctor. Doctor. Glad I’m not sick.” That gets me every time. Anyway, I use the term “nut up or shut up” guy to describe a player who needs to live up to his potential and/or contract this season.

Although he doesn’t turn 25 until September and this is only his third MLB season, the Padres are clearly preparing for their competitive window to open. If Manuel Margot can’t get the job done in 2019, the Padres are probably going another direction at CF.

I’m hoping that 2018 was just a sophomore slump, and that Manuel Margot’s numbers are a reflection on the Padres lineup last season. His 82% contact rate last season is perfectly acceptable, and the speed is legit. His defense should keep him in the lineup initially, and then he just needs to work things out with the stick.

Manuel Margot has post-hype sleeper potential, and he’ll have the opportunity to move up in what should be an improved lineup. Anyone else remember when there weren’t different kinds of sleepers?

Jon Gray and Manuel Margot might backfire on me, but I’m counting on their skills to front-fire. That’s from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. How can you not love that show? You’d think Fox would’ve learned their lesson after cancelling Family Guy. Of course, Fox cancelled Family Guy twice so maybe not.

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

I like the four SPs I’ve drafted so far, so I figured I go with a third RP here. You want an example of how being a baseball player is a “what have you done for me lately” gig? In 2017, Alex Colome led MLB in SVs. In 2018, he was traded twice.

After beginning 2018 as the Rays’ closer, Alex Colome was traded to Seattle and stuck in a setup role behind Edwin Diaz. He was then traded to the White Sox in the offseason. That’s gotta be rough on the moving expenses.

Looking at the numbers, Alex Colome has closer stuff. His 14% swinging strike rate and 2.8 BB/9 last season support the 3.04 ERA/1.18 WHIP/72 Ks in 68.0 IP he posted. He’s currently in a competition for the White Sox closer job with Kelvin Herrera, but Alex Colome looks like the favorite.

There’s a risk he could get traded at the deadline if the White Sox are headed for another lousy season, but it’s unlikely that the White Sox would trade Omar Narvaez (a popular sleeper at C this year) just to flip the player they got.

Even if Alex Colome doesn’t win the closer job in spring training, he’ll be lurking if Kelvin Herrera stumbles. Did I mention Kelvin Herrera is coming off an injury? If the White Sox surprise this season, or even if it’s just someone getting SVs on a bad team, Alex Colome should have opportunities.

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

I was planning on taking my second C here, and congratulating myself on having two solid Cs out of the Fantasy Baseball dumpster fire that is the C position this year. Oh well. I’m not bitter or anything. Really, I’m not.

For me, the C position this year is like new tv shows. As long as it doesn’t actively make me want to change the channel, I’ll give a new show I’m interested in at least a few episodes. In looking at catchers, I’m willing to draft a player as long I don’t think they’re going to kill my stats.

Yan Gomes has averaged 15 HRs the past two seasons, which is good enough for 12th at C during that time. His career .248 AVG might seem low, but that was the overall AVG in MLB last season. Even without Bryce Harper, the Nationals should still have a productive lineup, so there should be RBI opportunities.

Although Yan Gomes will basically be in a timeshare with Kurt Suzuki, that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it should preserve Yan Gomes’ health. There’s enough there that says he’s not going to kill me. That’s good enough.

This is what the C position has become in Fantasy Baseball. Yikes. Who’s for replacing the second C with a second UTIL instead? Anyone? Let’s think about this for next season.

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

This pick is a gamble on potential, and there’s a lot here. Lourdes Gurriel might have been an MLB rookie last season, but he started playing professional baseball in Cuba at age 16. Although he’s only 25, he basically has eight years of pro experience.

After being promoted last year in April, Lourdes Gurriel posted a .281 AVG/30 R/11 HR/35 RBI/1 SB MLB stat line in only 249 ABs. Despite missing time with a concussion, hamstring, and ankle injuries, he had an 11-game multi-hit streak in July (the longest such streak ever for an MLB rookie) and was named AL Rookie of the Month.

He doesn’t walk much, but he flashed a 90% contact rate in Cuba, so the AVG should be solid. The power is developing, and he projected for 27 HRs if he would have played a full season in 2018. I’ll take that for my MI.

Lourdes Gurriel should hit for a good AVG, which is rare in the back half of drafts. He’s also got legit power and some sneaky speed. Did I mention the dual 2B/SS eligibility? That seals the deal for me.

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

I’m pretty sure his name has been legally changed to Brandon “if he can just stay healthy” Belt. He has the skills for a big year, it’s just never happened. Brandon Belt just seems to be a magnet for injuries.

In 2018, it was an appendectomy in June, a hyperextended knee in August, and knee surgery which ended his season in September. In seven full major league seasons, he’s only played 150 games twice. If this was 40 years ago, I’d say Brandon Belt could guest star on M*A*S*H. I really don’t want to know how many people won’t get that because it will just make me feel old and pathetic.

Although you know you’re getting health issues when you draft Brandon Belt, you also know you’re getting decent contact, a solid walk rate, some power, and maybe even a little speed. Although he’s never hit 20 HR, he did have 18, 17, and 18 in consecutive seasons from 2015-2017.

Brandon Belt seems perpetually on the verge of a breakout season, but then another injury pops up and hopes are dashed once again. Maybe this is the year he stays healthy and has that big season. Considering he’s the 300th player drafted, that’s a fair risk for a CI.  

 

There you have my draft picks for rounds 11-20 of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. The rush on pitching early in the draft seemed to slow down in the middle rounds, so I picked up some more offense while still adding to my pitching staff when the opportunity arose.

The Salvador Perez catastrophe was a lousy way to start the Fantasy Baseball season, but I’d like to think I didn’t panic. Although I basically had to draft a C in the middle rounds, I felt like I got a solid pick in Yan Gomes at 270 overall, which was appropriate for his ADP (284). Yes, I got punched in the metaphorical face, but I feel like I’ve recovered at this point.

Tune in next time for Part Three of this trilogy where I cover picks 21-30 and complete this epic journey. Kind of like Return of the King. Except without 15 different endings.

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


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