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 2016, the Ducks managed a 3rd place finish despite Dee Gordon being our 1st Round pick and then getting busted for PED’s. Solid seasons from Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Correa & Matt Kemp helped the power categories while Zach Britton, A.J. Ramos & Alex Colome slammed the door on 124 Saves.
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 10th pick, which didn’t seem great at first, but a close analysis of the top 15-20 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 17 players on my list that projected to be worth $30 or more, so I was guaranteed to acquire one of those guys in Round 1…and possibly another in Round 2. 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 (3/19).
Fantasy players are always interested in the first round, so here’s how this league shook out…1) Mike Trout…2) Jose Altuve…3) Mookie Betts…4) Nolan Arenado…5) Kris Bryant…6) Paul Goldschmidt…7) Manny Machado…8) Clayton Kershaw…9) Josh Donaldson.
It didn’t take me long to deviate from the original plan as I passed on a few $30 players to take one projected slightly lower…
Round 1, Pick 10 – Bryce Harper, OF (ADP 10)
Even though Miguel Cabrera, Charlie Blackmon and a few others had higher projections, you’d like to think a 24 year-old still has another possible MVP season in his sights.
Round 2, Pick 21 – Jonathan Villar, SS (ADP 24)
All the usual suspects were taken between 11-20, but he’s still a $30 projected player with 50+ SB capability.
Round 3, Pick 40 – Johnny Cueto (ADP 42)
As expected, the SP run started early…Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner & Max Scherzer in Round1 – Corey Kluber, Chris Sale & Noah Syndergaard in Round 2. In Round 3, Justin Verlander and Jake Arrietta went early and when Jon Lester was taken right in front of me at #39, I couldn’t wait any longer for an ace. Chris Archer was gone two spots after this pick and Darvish went at the beginning of Round 4 and would have been gone before my next pick.
Round 4, Pick 51 – Eric Hosmer, 1B (ADP 105)
This seems like a horrible pick in comparison to the ADP but every snake draft has unpredictable moments. I viewed 1B as having a shallow pool of top-notch choices and Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Cabrera, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Wil Myers and Jose Abreu were all gone in the first 49 picks. Hosmer was in a tier with Hanley Ramirez, Eric Thames and Matt Carpenter, so I went with age (27) and durability.
Round 5, Pick 70 – Dustin Pedroia, 2B (ADP 138)
Going against the tide again but I needed to fill a relatively scarce position and the other choices were DJ LeMahieu and Jean Segura, who both went in Round 6.
Round 6, Pick 81 – Roberto Osuna, RP (ADP 88)
By this point, the run on Closers had begun and the Ducks couldn’t wait another 18 picks to make this decision. I had him projected as the 6th best Closer overall.
Round 7, Pick 100 – Jose Ramirez, 3B/OF (ADP 104)
I’m a believer in this guy after he helped me win my AL-only league in 2016…and the position flexibility is a bonus.
Round 8, Pick 111 – Willson Contreras, C (ADP 94)
In a one-Catcher league, get someone good…there are not 15 good ones in the draft.
Round 9, Pick 130 – Kenta Maeda, P (ADP 104)
The team’s 2nd SP…not an ace but solid.
Round 10, Pick 141 – Dexter Fowler, OF (ADP 178)
The Cardinals gave him too many years, but we only need him this year.
At this point, the original strategy was in place…the Ducks had a 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, C, 2 OF, 2 SP & 1 Closer.
Round 11, Pick 160 – Randal Grichuk, OF (ADP 218)
Another reach compared to ADP, but the basic squad was short on power.
Round 12, Pick 171 – Jameson Taillon, SP (ADP 152)
If two SP’s look the same, take the Pirate.
Round 13, Pick 190 – Eric Thames, OF (ADP 194)
The Fantasy community is conflicted on this player, but you don’t win leagues without some upside components…will also be 1B eligible.
Round 14, Pick 201 – Sam Dyson, RP (ADP 154)
In this format, you need a 2nd Closer.
Round 15, Pick 220 – Lance Lynn, SP (ADP 284)
Looks healthy in March…at this point in the draft, pitching is a crapshoot.
Round 16, Pick 231 – Ryon Healy, 3B (ADP 202)
Investing in a lottery ticket, looking for HR’s.
Round 17, Pick 250 – Julio Urias, P (ADP 163)
Only went this low because he’ll probably start the year at AAA…the Ducks will settle for 25 starts.
Round 18, Pick 261 – Yangervis Solarte, 3B (ADP 277)
Sorry, but this seems like a steal at this point in the proceedings…the Padres will be lousy but he could be the clean-up hitter.
Round 19, Pick 280 – Michael Wacha, P (ADP 332)
Let’s hope the Cardinals training staff is better than their IT department.
Round 20, Pick 291 – Hernan Perez, 3B/OF (ADP 211)
Doesn’t have a starting job yet, but emerging skills (13 HR’s & 34 SB’s) could force his way into the line-up.
Round 21, Pick 310 – Kolten Wong, 2B (ADP 326)
Round 22, Pick 321 – Jamie Garcia, SP (ADP 350+)
I’d love to tell you that the new Atlanta facility will be a Picher’s park, but I’m not that smart.
Round 23, Pick 340 – Devin Mesaraco (ADP 292)
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 351 – Matt Adams, (ADP 350+)
Searching for HR’s.
Round 25, Pick 370 – Wei-Yin Chen, SP (ADP 350+)
A replacement for Urias.
The Ducks projected stats have the team in the middle of the pack with too-few HR’s & RBI’s and an over-abundance of SB’s. Of course, last year the squad was projected to be in 14th place with 63 points and finished 3rd with 101…despite losing Gordon. In this column a year ago, I predicted 95-100 points…maybe the Old Duck isn’t as dumb as he looks.
The really good news is that I don’t have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your Draft.