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Draft Strategy

The Greatest League draft

by D.J. Short
Updated On: May 13, 2020, 11:29 pm ET

Round 2:

2.21 Roger Clemens (1997) - SP
2.22 Hanley Ramirez (2007) - SS
2.23 Mookie Betts (2018) - OF
2.24 Curt Schilling (2002) - SP
2.25 Albert Belle (1994) - OF
2.26 Mike Schmidt (1981) - 3B
2.27 Ken Griffey Jr. (1994) - OF
2.28 Tony Gwynn (1987) - OF
2.29 Jason Giambi (2001) - 1B
2.30 Bryce Harper (2015) - OF
2.31 Albert Pujols (2009) - 1B
2.32 Greg Maddux (1995) - SP
2.33 Eric Davis (1987) - OF
2.34 Max Scherzer (2018) - SP
2.35 Ivan Rodriguez (1999) - C
2.36 Mike Scott (1986) - SP
2.37 Zack Greinke (2015) - SP
2.38 Miguel Cabrera (2013) - 3B
2.39 Ellis Burks (1996) - OF
2.40 Roy Halladay (2011) - SP

Round Analysis: It’s going to be tough to face all of the powerhouse lineups in this league, but Pouliot might be best-equipped to do so, adding Maddux to form a heck of a tandem with Clayton Kershaw. It doesn’t get much better than that. Gamble, who explained his strategy in the first round, also went pitcher with his first two picks in Pedro and Mike Scott. There’s naturally been a lot of focus on power so far, but it was still surprising to see Gwynn last this long in a year where he hit .370 and swiped 56 bases. Seeing Griffey go here was no surprise, but the only real question was which year to choose. His 1997 was unbelievable, but given the pace that he was on prior to the shutdown in 1994, Jesse probably made the right call here. Doran’s selection of Davis is a reminder of the Hall of Fame-caliber player he was during this time. It’s just a shame physical issues had to get in the way. Towers’ pick of Rodriguez might be the most sneaky-good selection of this entire draft so far, as the speed sets him apart from the remaining standout catcher seasons. This could give him a real leg-up moving forward.

Short’s Pick: After going with deGrom in the first round, I felt committed to going with a hitter here since it was going to be a long time before I’d pick again. Vladimir Guerrero was at the top of my virtual queue before Boyer’s pick, so I pivoted to Betts from there. Yes, I’m all about 2018 over here. Betts didn’t tally historic power or speed numbers in that particular year and there are dozens of players who posted higher single-season batting averages dating back to 1980, but he’s going to help me all over the place. His on-base ability is likely to land him in my leadoff spot for this sim, leading to plenty of runs scored.

Round 3

3.41 Chuck Knoblauch (1996) - 2B
3.42 Kevin Brown (1998) - SP
3.43 Jim Thome (2002) - 1B
3.44 Kevin Mitchell (1989) - OF
3.45 Jose Bautista (2011) - 3B
3.46 Matt Kemp (2011) - OF
3.47 Christian Yelich (2019) - OF
3.48 Steve Carlton (1980) - SP
3.49 John Olerud (1993) - 1B
3.50 Jimmy Rollins (2007) - SS
3.51 Joe Mauer (2009) - C
3.52 Gary Sheffield (1996) - OF
3.53 Chipper Jones (1999) - 3B
3.54 Jake Arrieta (2015) - SP
3.55 Kenny Lofton (1994) - OF
3.56 Wade Boggs (1987) - 3B
3.57 Buster Posey (2012) - C
3.58 Derrek Lee (2005) - 1B
3.59 Jose Canseco (1988) - OF
3.60 Chris Sale (2017) - SP

Round analysis: Three rounds in and four teams have yet to draft a starting pitcher. It’s fascinating seeing the different strategies at work here. Power/speed combos (Kemp, Yelich, Rollins, Canseco) were prioritized by some in this round while others chased after batting average dynamos like Olerud and Boggs. Only four pitchers came off the board this round, none of them surprising ones at this point in the draft. After going with Mike Schmidt (1981) in the second round, Grimm selected Kenny Lofton (1994) in the third round, his second straight pick from a strike-shortened season. There’s value in these types of selections, as those stats are going to be prorated for a 162-game schedule for the purposes of the sim. You don’t need a calculator to determine if that’s a good thing. It is.

Short’s Pick: I had Derrek Lee on my shortlist (pun intended) entering this round and figured I had a pretty good shot at getting him. I likely would have taken Mauer if he was still there, but it never seemed all that likely. Still, Lee was a great fallback, especially when you consider that Albert Pujols (2009) went in the second round. They had very comparable seasons, though Pujols delivered a slight edge in on-base percentage. The contributions with the bat were good enough on their own, but Lee also swiped 15 bases that year. Much like your standard fantasy league, I like getting steals from positions where you normally don’t find them. Little things like that could make the difference in this simulation.

Round 4

4.61 Tim Raines (1986) - OF
4.62 Alfonso Soriano (2002) - 2B
4.63 Paul Molitor (1987) - 3B
4.64 Jose Altuve (2017) - 2B
4.65 Robin Yount (1982) - SS
4.66 Craig Kimbrel (2012) - RP
4.67 Barry Larkin (1996) - SS
4.68 Luis Gonzalez (2001) - OF
4.69 Javy Lopez (2003) - C
4.70 Roberto Alomar (2001) - 2B
4.71 Jeff Kent (2000) - 2B
4.72 Cal Ripken Jr. (1991) - SS
4.73 Craig Biggio (1998) - 2B
4.74 Darin Erstad (2000) - OF
4.75 Corey Kluber (2017) - SP
4.76 Ryne Sandberg (1985) - 2B
4.77 Nolan Ryan (1981) - SP
4.78 Nomar Garciaparra (2000) - SS
4.79 Willie McGee (1985) - OF
4.80 Joey Votto (2010) 1B

Round analysis: It’s a middle infielder party and everyone’s invited. Well, mostly. Half of the picks in this round were either shortstops or second basemen. Shovein set the tone with his Soriano pick. Yes, Soriano played second base back then with the Bombers. Getting a .300 hitter with that sort of power and speed was quite the coup. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Sandberg while researching for this draft. He went 54-for-65 in stolen base attempts during the season in question. Doran waited out the wave of notable middle infielder seasons and still managed to get someone (Garciaparra) who hit .372 in 2000. Not bad at all. As noted in the intro, we adjusted plate appearance qualifications for catchers, which made Lopez’s 43-homer season eligible. Trachtman has been cleaning house in the power department and has yet to jump into the pitcher pool. Neither has McCullough or Doran. How long can they hold out?  

Short’s Pick: If I knew how many middle infielder-types would fall off the board in the fourth round, I might have made a different decision, but there’s still plenty of reasons to like Molitor. Not only did he hit .353 in 1987, but he got on base at a .438 clip while amassing 16 homers and 45 stolen bases. He qualifies at third base for the purposes of this sim, but his defensive ranking will almost certainly push him to the DH spot. And that’s fine. I envision him and Mookie Betts holding down the top of my lineup, setting the table for my big boppers.

Round 5

5.81 John Valentin (1995) - SS
5.82 Edgar Martinez (1995) - DH
5.83 Carlos Delgado (2000) - 1B
5.84 Bobby Grich (1981) - 2B
5.85 Paul Goldschmidt (2015) - 1B
5.86 Eric Gagne (2003) - RP
5.87 David Wright (2007) - 3B
5.88 Johan Santana (2004) - SP
5.89 Manny Ramirez (1999) - OF
5.90 Shawn Green (1999) - OF
5.91 David Ortiz (2007) - DH
5.92 Alex Bregman (2019) - SS
5.93 Don Mattingly (1986) - 1B
5.94 Ryan Braun (2011) - OF
5.95 Chris Hoiles (1993) - C
5.96 Mark Prior (2003) - SP
5.97 John Smoltz (1996) - SP
5.98 Adrian Beltre (2004) - 3B
5.99 Tim Lincecum (2009) - SP
5.100 Jose Fernandez (2016) - SP

Round analysis: Nobody is blinking among Doran, McCullough, and Trachtman, as they all went with hitters again this round. After I selected a probable DH in Paul Molitor in the last round, two clear-cut DHs came off the board in the fifth round with Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz. It’s appropriate they were chosen relatively close together, as they are neck-and-neck in the “best ever DH” conversation. I didn’t expect Valentin to be drafted this earlier, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers. Grich might stand out the most among this round’s picks, but he tied for the AL lead with 22 homers in 1981. That was a strike-shortened year, so if you prorate his stats for a 162-game season, we’re likely talking about a home run total in the mid-30s. The selection of Gagne’s Cy Young Award season makes him the second reliever to be drafted so far, following Grimm’s selection of Craig Kimbrel in the fourth round. This round also featured four pitchers who had unfortunate ends to their careers, most notably in the case of Fernandez and his tragic death.

Short’s pick: I double- and triple-checked the document to make sure that Beltre was actually still available at this point in the draft. It turns out he was and you’re darn right I took advantage of that. Yes, 2004 was Beltre’s best power season with a stunning 48 homers as a member of the Dodgers, but he also posted career-bests with a .334 batting average and a 1.017 OPS. Molitor doesn’t fit the typical mold of a DH from a power perspective, so I was happy to pick up a monster power season to fill out third base. And while it’s hard to quantify how this sim will handle defense, it certainly helps that Beltre is outstanding in that regard.

Round 6

6.101 Derek Jeter (1999) - SS
6.102 Gary Carter (1982) - C
6.103 Bret Saberhagen (1989) - SP
6.104 Ken Caminiti (1996) - 3B
6.105 Howard Johnson (1989) - 3B
6.106 Felix Hernandez (2014) - SP
6.107 Ben Sheets (2004) - SP
6.108 Cody Bellinger (2019) - OF
6.109 Pedro Guerrero (1985) - 3B
6.110 Blake Snell (2018) - SP
6.111 Yu Darvish (2013) - SP
6.112 Jim Edmonds (2004) - OF
6.113 Nolan Arenado (2017) - 3B
6.114 Trevor Bauer (2018) - SP
6.115 Cliff Lee (2011) - SP
6.116 Paul O’Neill (1994) - OF
6.117 Jack Clark (1987) - 1B
6.118 Brian Giles (2002) - OF
6.119 John Tudor (1985) - SP
6.120 Troy Glaus (2000) - 3B

Round analysis: Eight pitchers were selected this round, as teams begin to fill out their rotations a bit more. McCullough finally jumped into the pool with his choice of Darvish in this round. However, Doran and Trachtman are holding firm on their position player focus, with Giles going to the former and Guerrero to the latter. 1999 was the no-brainer season to take with Jeter. While there’s plenty of shortstop depth to go around, he legitimately had a top-10 fantasy season for the position during this 40-year span. As discussed on the Rotoworld Baseball Podcast this past week, there might be a subconscious aversion to taking players in more recent seasons, but names like Bellinger, Snell, Arenado, and Bauer never figured to last very much longer. O’Neill was having a great year prior to the 1994 strike, so he’s even more appealing knowing that his stats will be prorated in this sim.

Short’s pick: I knew I was going pitcher in this round, so the only question was which direction I’d ultimately go in. I was debating King Felix’s 2014 campaign before settling on Saberhagen. Truth be told, they were very similar years in terms of the rate stats. Hernandez had the big advantage in strikeout rate, but Saberhagen threw nearly 30 more innings. That was enough of a separator for me. He should be a great wingman with deGrom atop my starting rotation. My fellow competitors are pretty good at reading the tea leaves, which is why it wasn’t surprising to see King Felix scooped up just three picks after mine.

Round 7

7.121 Matt Harvey (2013) - SP
7.122 Alan Trammell (1987) - SS
7.123 Jorge Posada (2007) - C
7.124 Aaron Nola (2018) - SP
7.125 Fernando Valenzuela (1981) - SP
7.126 Jacoby Ellsbury (2011) - OF
7.127 Julio Franco (1991) - 2B
7.128 Ichiro Suzuki (2004) - OF
7.129 Scott Rolen (2004) - 3B
7.130 David Price (2014) - SP
7.131 Jason Schmidt (2003) - SP
7.132 Mario Soto (1982) - SP
7.133 Madison Bumgarner (2015) - SP
7.134 Jake Peavy (2007) - SP
7.135 Aaron Judge (2017) - OF
7.136 Grady Sizemore (2006) - OF
7.137 Will Clark (1989) - 1B
7.138 Andre Dawson (1981) - OF
7.139 Dennis Eckersley (1990) - RP
7.140 Ryan Howard (2006) - 1B

Round analysis: For the second straight round, eight starting pitchers were selected. Rudy Gamble added “Fernandomania” to his already outstanding rotation. Seth Trachtman finally picked up his first pitcher with Mario Soto’s outstanding 1982 season. Meanwhile, Nick Doran continues to pound away on the position player side, this time with Posada. It wasn’t lost on anyone how great Ichiro was, but the lack of power is what pushed him to the seventh round. Still, you can’t beat this value. This round also functioned as a reminder of how great Ellsbury and Sizemore were without the injuries.

Short’s pick: I was biding my time to take advantage of one of the strike-shortened seasons and finally found the right fit with Dawson and his 1981 campaign. It might seem weird on the surface to not take his MVP season from 1987 in which he put up 49 homers and 137 RBI, but ’81 was actually his most productive season. Prorating his stats to a full 162-game season puts him close to a 40/40 season, so the appeal is obvious in this sim. Dawson was never a big OBP guy, but this was also his best season in that regard. Put it altogether and he probably should have been picked a couple of rounds ago. I'm not complaining.

Round 8

8.141 Patrick Corbin (2018) - SP
8.142 Johnny Cueto (2014) - SP
8.143 Mike Napoli (2011) - C
8.144 Josh Hamilton (2010) - OF
8.145 Yadier Molina (2012) - C
8.146 Travis Hafner (2006) - DH
8.147 Jose Ramirez (2018) - 3B
8.148 Stephen Strasburg (2017) - SP
8.149 CC Sabathia (2008) - SP
8.150 Magglio Ordonez (2007) - OF
8.151 David Cone (1988) - SP
8.152 Darren Daulton (1992) - C
8.153 Dale Murphy (1983) - OF
8.154 Trevor Story (2018) - SS
8.155 Kerry Wood (2003) - SP
8.156 Brady Anderson (1996) - OF
8.157 Darryl Strawberry (1987) - OF
8.158 Lance Berkman (2001) - OF
8.159 Carlos Pena (2007) - 1B
8.160 Noah Syndergaard (2016) - SP

Round analysis: McCullough might have waited on pitching, but he’s built himself an excellent staff with Darvish, Price, and now Cone. This round was the closest thing we’ve had to a catcher run thus far. Molina’s 2012 season was a standout, posting career-bests with 22 home runs and 12 stolen bases. He’s also great behind the plate, which is no small thing in this sim. **That** Brady Anderson season finally found a home here in the eighth round. 50 homers, 21 steals. It’s sort of amazing he was still available. Despite waiting a while to address his outfield, Rudy has done well for himself. Rockies players aren’t penalized in this sim, so Story looks like a value from here. He’s added strong on-base skills to his exciting power/speed combo. I’m beginning to sense a drop-off at shortstop.

Short’s pick: The choice was down to either Molina or Napoli, but I went with the better offensive season instead, albeit in fewer games/plate appearances. We went with a qualifier of 400 plate appearances for catchers, which made Napoli’s outstanding 2011 eligible here. Only Javy Lopez (2003) and Mike Piazza (1997) posted a higher OPS among catchers during this 40-season span. He’s also very good defensively according to WhatIfSports’ metrics. I’ll probably need to lean on a second catcher over the course of a full season, but there’s still plenty of good options available.

Round 9

9.161 Bobby Abreu (2000) - OF
9.162 Hideo Nomo (1995) - SP
9.163 Chase Utley (2007) - 2B
9.164 Manny Machado (2018) - SS
9.165 Troy Tulowitzki (2010) - SS
9.166 Rich Aurilia (2001) - SS
9.167 Jason Kendall (1998) - C
9.168 Jose Reyes (2011) - SS
9.169 Josh Johnson (2010) - SP
9.170 J.T. Realmuto (2019) - C
9.171 Kyle Hendricks (2016) - SP
9.172 Daniel Murphy (2016) - 2B
9.173 Bret Boone (2001) - 2B
9.174 Jose Rijo (1993) - SP
9.175 Chris Davis (2013) - 1B
9.176 Kevin Appier (1993) - SP
9.177 Moises Alou (2000) - OF
9.178 Robinson Cano (2012) - 2B
9.179 Jack Flaherty (2019) SP
9.180 J.D. Martinez (2018) - OF

Round analysis: Another round where nearly half of the competition were focused on middle infield options. It was very interesting to see Aurilia drafted in the same area as Machado, Tulo, and Reyes, but it’s justified. While it was out of character from the rest of his career, Aurilia amassed 37 homers with a .324/.369/.572 batting line in 2001. Nomo’s strikeout rate has been blown out of the water over the past 25 years, but his rookie season stands the test of time as a dominant one. Jesse Roche deserves a shutout for still drafting with us in the midst of some significant real-life decisions. Rijo had a handful of excellent seasons, but it looks like Roche picked the right one. The speed element is part of what helps set Kendall and Realmuto apart from the other catchers.

Short’s pick: Cano delivered a handful of seasons worthy of consideration here, but 2012 holds a slim advantage in terms of overall production. While he hit more homers in 2016 with the Mariners, 2012 was just one of two seasons where he posted an OPS north of .900, with 2010 being the other. Speed isn’t part of his game, but I’ve built a bit of a cushion with my other picks. Cano also provides a strong defensive rating for this particular season, helping his overall appeal.

Round 10

10.181 Anthony Rendon (2019) - 3B
10.182 Rafael Palmeiro (1999) - 1B
10.183 Adam Wainwright (2010) - SP
10.184 Andy Pettitte (1997) - SP
10.185 Dwight Evans (1981) - OF
10.186 Javier Vazquez (2009) - SP
10.187 Ketel Marte (2019) - 2B
10.188 Xander Bogaerts (2019) - SS
10.189 Nelson Cruz (2019) - DH
10.190 Willie Wilson (1980) - OF
10.191 Dante Bichette (1996) - OF
10.192 Wade Davis (2014) - RP
10.193 Brad Lidge (2004) - RP
10.194 Carlos Gonzalez (2010) - OF
10.195 Phil Nevin (2001) - 3B
10.196 Bernie Williams (1998) - OF
10.197 Andrew McCutchen (2012) - OF
10.198 Kevin Millwood (1999) - SP
10.199 Edgardo Alfonzo (2000) - 2B
10.200 Andruw Jones (2000) - OF

Round analysis: Brad Johnson gave himself a nice head-start with his outfield by selecting Barry Bonds first overall, but he’s completed his group with the additions of Bobby Abreu and Andruw Jones in the last two rounds. With Jones, he picked his best batting average season, not the 51-homer campaign. But that’s not a big deal since he still collected 36 homers and 21 steals that year. Interestingly, we saw four 2019 seasons come off the board this round, including one from 38-year-old Nelson Cruz. Aging gracefully, even if he doesn't provide any versatility behind the DH spot. Brent Hershey was all set on power but generally lacking in speed, so Willie Wilson and his 79-steal season fits a clear need. McCullough and Towers did very well to get a pair of standout Coors Field-aided seasons this late.

Short’s pick: It was time to grab my third starting pitcher and I landed on Wainwright after considering multiple options. His 2010 season was the best combination of a variety of factors, including ERA (2.42 ERA), workload (230 1/3 innings), WHIP (1.05) and his career-best 23.4 percent strikeout rate. His 2.86 FIP largely backed up everything he did that year. 2009 Jacob deGrom, 1989 Bret Saberghagen, and Wainwright make for quite the impressive trio.

Round 11

11.201 Kenley Jansen (2017) - RP
11.202 Zack Britton (2016) - RP
11.203 Koji Uehara (2013) - RP
11.204 Chris Carpenter (2009) - SP
11.205 Carlos Beltran (2003) - OF
11.206 Giancarlo Stanton (2017) - OF
11.207 Mike Norris (1980) - SP
11.208 Orel Hershisher (1985) - SP
11.209 DJ LeMahieu (2016) - 2B
11.210 Kirby Puckett (1986) - OF
11.211 Hyun-Jin Ryu (2019) - SP
11.212 Mike Mussina (2001) - SP
11.212 Edwin Diaz (2018) - RP
11.213 Richard Hidalgo (2000) - OF
11.214 Luis Severino (2017) - SP
11.215 Teddy Higuera (1988) - SP
11.216 Zack Cozart (2017) - SS
11.217 Kirby Yates (2017) - RP
11.218 Josh Donaldson (2015) - 3B
11.219 Charlie Blackmon (2017) - OF

Round analysis: Pitching dominated this round, including the closest thing we’ve seen to a closer run with five of them being selected. It’s easy to forget how insane Uehara’s 2013 was for the Red Sox. No pitcher in this 40-year span beat out his 0.57 WHIP. Getting Stanton’s 59-homer MVP season feels like a tremendous win at this stage of the draft. It was interesting to see Matthew Pouliot go with LeMahieu’s 2016 season opposed to his 2019, but remember that he hit .348 with a .416 on-base percentage with the Rockies that year. We gave RotoPat a bit of a hard time in our chat room with the selection of Cozart, perhaps unfairly. He put up 24 homers with a .933 OPS in the year in question. He’ll be fine.

Short’s pick: Yes, I hopped aboard the reliever train with the selection of Yates. He met the exact minimum criteria for relief appearances (60) in this league. I’m not getting a huge workload here, the numbers were so darn good that I couldn’t let him slide. 1.18 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 strikeouts and just 13 walks. It’s probably going to be a little while before I pick a reliever again, but at least I won’t have to worry about the ninth inning.