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 about 30 championships in 80 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.
> And this year’s favorite, “Get One Of The Big Four”…meaning Kershaw, Scherzer, Sale or Kluber.
In order to avoid having my brain explode, I’ve used none of those strategies and still managed a championship, one 2nd place finish and one 3rd place finish in the seven year history of the league. In 2017, the Ducks finished a disappointing 9th and injuries could be blamed to some extent with 1st round pick Bryce Harper going down and Dustin Pedroira being hobbled. In addition, Jonathan Villar became a shell of his 2016 self, so solid seasons from Eric Hosmer, Ryon Healy & Jose Ramirez couldn’t make up the difference while pitching choices like Johnny Cueto, Tanner Roark & Jameson Taillon delivered mediocre results.
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. I also pay little or no attention to ADP (Average Draft Position) because I’m more concerned about my opinion of players than that of the “crowd”. This will be quite obvious when you see how many of my choices seem to be a “reach” compared to ADP. 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. On the day of the Draft, I sat at a Spring Training game and told my seat-mate that for 2018, the worst spot in a snake would be 3rd because Mike Trout & Jose Altuve would go first and then it would be a crapshoot. A spot near the end of the 1st round would be more advantageous, as there wee 23 players worth over $30 in this format and you would be guaranteed to roster two of them. Naturally, the random order one hour prior to the Draft gave the Ducks the 3rd pick, which is why I didn’t buy a lottery ticket on the way home from the ballpark. As we work our way through the results, you’ll see the ADP for each player as a point of reference. The ADP rankings are as of the date of the Draft (3/18).
Fantasy players are always interested in the first round, so here’s how this league shook out…1) Mike Trout…2) Nolan Arenado…3) Jose Altuve…4) Mookie Betts…5) Trea Turner…6) Bryce Harper…7) Charlie Blackmon…8) Paul Goldschmidt…9) Carlos Correa…10) Manny Machado…11) Giancarlo Stanton…12) Gary Sanchez…13) Clayton Kershaw…14) Max Scherzer…15) Chris Sale
Here’s the Ducks roster for 2018…
Round 1, Pick 3 – Jose Altuve, 2B (ADP 2)
I had already queued up Trea Turner’s name when the team ahead of me chose Arenado, so Jose became the choice. Arenado is a great player but Altuve’s projected value is higher.
Round 2, Pick 28 – Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF (ADP 25)
Power was the priority here and all the other “boppers’ were taken earlier in the round…including Aaron Judge right
in front of me at #27.
Round 3, Pick 33 – Jacob deGrom, P (ADP 35)
As expected, the SP run started early…Kershaw, Scherzer & Sale in Round1 – James Paxton, Kluber & Stephen Strasburg in Round 2. In Round 3, when Noah Syndergaard went two spots ahead of me at #31, I couldn’t wait any longer for an ace. Carlos Carrasco & Justin Verlander were gone in the next eight picks.
Round 4, Pick 58 – Willson Contreras, C (ADP 51)
Sanchez went in Round 1 and this was the next best Catcher on the board, just ahead of Buster Posey (who went in Round 5).
Round 5, Pick 63 – Kris Davis, OF (ADP 68)
My first OF, he’s a 40 HR player.
Round 6, Pick 88 – Ender Inciarte, OF (ADP121)
The team’s first significant “reach” compared to ADP, but a top-of-the- lineup guy with speed was a good fit.
Round 7, Pick 93 – Brad Hand, P (ADP 108)
The Closer run had begun early with Kenley Jansen & Craig Kimbrel going in Round 3, then Aroldis Chapman in Round 5. At the start of Round 6, Roberto Osuna, Corey Knebel & Felipe Rivero went back-to-back-to-back. Hand has the job and a contract, so we’ll root for lots of close games at Petco Park.
Round 8, Pick 118 – Kyle Hendricks, P (ADP 116)
Another SP was added in this spot. He had a good second half in ’17 and the Cubs will lend lots of offense support.
Round 9, Pick 123 – Kyle Seager, 3B (ADP 140)
The hot corner was the next priority and I liked Seager better than Beltre, Lamb, Healy or Longoria.
Round 10, Pick 148 – Addison Russell, SS (ADP 264)
An over-the-top reach but he’s only 24 and the potential is still there. Another factor was the timing, as we needed a SS and Didi Gregorious & Tim Beckham went in Round 9, while Jose Peraza, Marwin Gonzalez & Javier Baez went earlier in Round 10.
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 153 – Ronald Acuna, OF (ADP 112)
I saw this kid play in the Arizona Fall League and he was spectacular. Even if the Braves send him down for a few weeks to delay the arbitration clock, he’ll be the LF soon.
Round 12, Pick 178 – Taijuan Walker, P (ADP 206)
Has a great arm and a first NL season under his belt.
Round 13, Pick 183 – Hector Neris, P (ADP 143)
A second Closer at a good value.
Round 14, Pick 208 – Cesar Hernandez, 2B (ADP 259)
Drafters must be scared of Scott Kingery in the wings, but this guy will have a regular job somewhere.
Round 15, Pick 213 – Brandon Belt (ADP 303)
If healthy, he’ll be in the middle of a much-improved line-up.
Round 16, Pick 238 – Randall Grichuk, OF (ADP 291)
A hunch that he’ll like Toronto.
Round 17, Pick 243 – Patrick Corbin, P (ADP 231)
Two D’Back SP’s…I’m going to add a humidor to my house.
Round 18, Pick 268 – Dustin Fowler, OF (ADP 365)
Told you that I didn’t look at ADP’s.
Round 19, Pick 273 – Tyler Chatwood, P (ADP 263)
5th Starters are what you get at this point.
Round 20, Pick 298 – Ivan Nova, P (ADP 350)
Innings and some Wins
Round 21, Pick 303 – Lewis Brinson, OF (ADP 296)
The Marlins have nothing to lose by putting him in the line-up
Round 22, Pick 328 – Chad Kuhl, P (ADP 389)
Another Pirate SP…better find out what Ray Searage drinks.
Round 23, Pick 333 – Russell Martin, C (ADP 315)
The first of three reserve spots, it’s good to have an everyday Catcher on your bench.
Round 24, Pick 358 – Jack Flaherty (ADP 358)
That’s not a typo, as almost every year I manage to pick a player at the exact spot determined by thousands of other leagues…the crowd bows down to the Duck.
Round 25, Pick 363 – Nick Senzel, 3B (ADP 352)
Playing SS in the Spring and Suarez just got an extension…maybe he’s in Cincinnati by May 1st.
Starting next week, our squads get to play on the field instead of on paper. The really good news is that I don’t have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your Draft.