If you’re even an occasional reader of this column, you know that the Old Duck is a 30+ year veteran of Rotisserie Style Auction Keeper Leagues. With over 25 championships in about 70 Drafts, it is what I relish and look forward to each year. However, once a year, the dreaded Snake Draft enters my life for one very good reason. The young man who hosts the league (on ESPN.com) is like a son to me and if he asked me to join a Camel Race Fantasy League hosted by Al Jazeera, I’d probably say yes.
Even though I know a beautiful girl who once had a pet Boa Constrictor named “Julius Squeezer”, I hate snakes…both in person and of the Fantasy variety. To me, having 10 or 15 or 20 players go off the board without the opportunity to bid, just penalizes me for doing solid research. And, if one of the Roto combatants forgets to show up on-line, you can bet the “auto-draft” spot will be right in front of me.
This time of year, if you follow Fantasy Baseball at all, it is impossible to avoid Snake Draft advice. It comes at you from everywhere…newspapers, websites, magazines, Satellite Radio and friends. The number of strategies are mind-boggling and include…
> Memorizing the average draft position (ADP) of every player in the universe.
> The “Don’t take Pitchers early” philosophy.
> The “Take Clayton Kershaw now” philosophy.
> The “Don’t take Closers until later” philosophy.
> Prioritizing position scarcity
> Getting 50 HR’s & 50 SB’s from your first two picks (50/50 Plan).
> Getting 75 HR’s & 75 SB’s from your first three picks (75/75 Plan).
> Picking two stud starting pitchers early, also known as the “Dual Aces” plan.
> Drafting players for their future instead of their past, also known as the “Upside” plan.
In order to avoid having my brain explode, I’ve used none of those strategies and still managed a championship and two 2nd place finishes in the short history of the league. In 2015, the Ducks 9th place finish was assured early when we chose Ian Desmond in Round 2 (choked in his walk year), George Springer in Round 3 (injured) and James Shields in Round 4 (gave up HR’s in Petco?). Then there were the injuries to Yadier Molina & Josh Harrison…well, you get the idea.
Part of my occasional past success is from a fairly good knowledge of the player pool, as I’m boning up for NL & AL only Drafts that take place in late March and early April. Logically, however, it seems that the overall approach of the last 30 years still works and it is a mind-set of “balance”. So, while the Long Island Ducks (we all incorporate the name of a minor league team) do have a tendency to wait on pitching, it is more about balancing the roster to leave flexibility as the Draft progresses. Ideally, after ten rounds, the roster should include at least one player at each position (C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, OF, SP & Closer) along with a 2nd OF & 2nd SP. After that foundation is established, looking for value is the priority. If you’ve already read columns from multiple sources about the players they drafted, this might be a cure for insomnia. With that disclaimer, my hope is that the strategies and player choices will be of value to you in your upcoming draft.
This is a 15-team mixed league with 22-man rosters (1 Catcher) and three reserve picks. The random order one hour prior to the Draft gave the Ducks the 12th pick, which didn’t seem great at first, but a close analysis of the top 15 players made me feel better. Even though this a Snake Draft, my logic is to use dollar projections as if it were an Auction Draft. What I found is that there were 14 players on my list that projected to be worth $30 or more…so I was guaranteed to acquire one of those guys. As we work our way through the results, you’ll see the ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player as a point of reference. The ADP rankings are as of the date of the Draft (3/13).
Fantasy players are always interested in the first round, so here’s how this league shook out…1) Mike Trout…2) Paul Goldschmidt…3) Clayton Kershaw…4) Josh Donaldson…5) Bryce Harper…6) Jose Altuve…7) Andrew McCutchen…8) Giancarlo Stanton…9) Nolan Arenado…10) Anthony Rizzo…11) Manny Machado.
At this point, five of my $30+ projected players were still on the board and considering that my team had another pick coming six spots later, there was an outside chance the Ducks might get two of them.
Round1, Pick 12 – Dee Gordon (ADP 20)
I liked him better than ADP because of the SB category and the middle infield scarcity. There was going to be power available in Round 2 and I had his value at $37
Round 2, Pick 19 – Carlos Correa, SS (ADP 8)
Miguel Cabrera was in the queue for this pick, but was taken right in front of me. It was Correa or Mookie Betts in this spot and I opted for the SS.
Round 3, Pick 42 – Jose Fernandez (ADP 37)
As expected, the SP run started early…Scherzer, Arrieta, Sale & Bumgarner all went in Round 2 while Harvey & G.Cole went ahead of me in Round 3. I had Fernandez rated ahead of three of those guys and couldn’t really wait any longer. deGrom & Keuchel went at the end of this Round.
Round 4, Pick 49 – Yoenis Cespedes, OF (ADP 42)
Had to have a power hitter in this spot and was looking at J. Upton when he went two spots earlier. Then CarGo was taken, leaving Cespedes for the rest of us.
Round 5, Pick 72 – Eric Hosmer, 1B (ADP 76)
Nine 1B has been taken by this time and he was far and away the best one left on the board.
Round 6, Pick 79 – Zach Britton, RP (ADP 96)
By this point, a run on Closers had begun and the Ducks couldn’t wait another 22 picks to make this decision. I had him projected as the 6th best Closer overall.
Round 7, Pick 102 – Matt Kemp, OF (ADP 82)
I’m not a fan of this player due to his inconsistency and injury history. He’s also a failure in the eyes of Fantasy players because he’s never duplicated that $50 Roto season of 2011. With that being said, if you didn’t know the name of the player and I told you that a 31 year-old OF had averaged 152 Games, 24 HR’s, 95 RBI’s, 10 SB’s and a .276 BA over the last two seasons, you’d probably take him with pick #102.
Round 8, Pick 109 – Danny Salazar, SP (ADP 82)
The Ducks second SP, he’s just emerging as a potential star.
Round 9, Pick 132 – Josh Harrison, 2B/3B/OF (ADP 242)
This looks like a real blunder compared to his ADP, but I have him projected as a $17 player and he qualifies at three positions. People forget that he was an All-Star in 2014 and he plays this year at age 27.
Round 10, Pick 139 – A.J. Ramos (ADP 151)
Hesitated taking another Closer this early, but the “pickens” were getting slim. With the injury to Capps, he should gather lots of Saves
At this point, the original strategy was almost in place…the Ducks had a 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, 2 OF, 2 SP & 2 Closers but no Catcher.
Round 11, Pick 162 – J.T. Realmuto, C (ADP 242)
Another reach compared to ADP, but I wanted to fill the Catcher spot on the roster. On my sheet, he’s the 7th best Fantasy backstop and could provide double digit HR’s & SB’s. With no position holes on the squad, it was now about value and reading the nuances of a particular draft.
Round 12, Pick 169 – Wei-Yin Chen, SP (ADP 200)
Not an ace, but should provide decent numbers moving to the NL and a Pitcher’s park
Round 13, Pick 192 – Alex Gordon, OF (ADP 192)
Isn’t it weird when your pick aligns exactly with the rest of America?
Round 14, Pick 199 – Jonathan Schoop (ADP 249)
HR potential at middle infield isn’t a bad thing.
Round 15, Pick 222 – Carlos Rodon, SP (ADP 169)
A little surprising to find him available at this spot. Just touching the surface of his enormous potential, he has #1 stuff.
Round 16, Pick 229 – Dexter Fowler, OF (ADP 189)
As the lead-off hitter for the Cubs, doesn’t he seem destined to score a “ship load” of Runs?
Round 17, Pick 252 – Jason Hammel (ADP 231)
A “Rodney Dangerfield” type pitcher because he gets no respect. All people remember is that he didn’t pitch well in the post-season, but he had 172 K’s in 170 IP in ’15.
Round 18, Pick 259 – Joe Mauer, 1B (ADP 282)
Probably not a good pick, but would you rather have David Wright or Luis Valbuena instead?
Round 19, Pick 282 – Yasmany Tomas (ADP 305)
A real crap shoot here, but you have to think the D’Backs financial commitment to him equals a long leash.
Round 20, Pick 289 – Robbie Ray, SP (ADP 366)
#5 starters aren’t a good idea, but there wasn’t much quality left.
Round 21, Pick 312 – Hector Olivera, 3B/OF (ADP 335)
Another Cuban with a big contract, the Braves need to see what they have moving toward 2017.
Round 22, Pick 319 – Ervin Santana, SP (ADP 266)
Pitched effectively in the 2nd half of ’15…just throwing stuff on the wall at this point
Round 23, Pick 342 – Francisco Cervelli (ADP 239)
The first of 3 reserve spots, this guarantees not having to find a Catcher on the free agent list in case of injury.
Round 24, Pick 349 – Jerad Eickhoff, SP (ADP 311)
Will be a #4 or #5 starter on a bad team…this is definitely an end-game selection for depth
Round 25, Pick 372 – Max Kepler, OF (ADP 440)
Probably won’t make the opening day roster, so he might be the first player cut. (Note – two days after writing this, I replaced him with Alex Colome, who might get some Saves in Tampa Bay due to Boxberger’s injury)
At the conclusion of the draft, you can click on a link that shows predicted standings based on ESPN projections. The Ducks are shown in 14th place with 63 points. Did I mention that I hate Snake Drafts? So, is there a light at the end of the tunnel or is it a locomotive? My dollar projections say that the 22 active players have a value of $295 in a theoretical $260 league…that doesn’t seem like a 14th place team. When the stats are run for the 22 Ducks and compared to last year’s standings in the same league, it seems more like 95-100 points rather than 63. Who is correct? As always, only time will tell.
The really good news is that I don’t have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your Draft.