A piece of writing generally turns out better when there's emotion behind it, and in years past, I've gotten pretty emotional about the Tout Wars team I just drafted.
It's a big contest, after all -- maybe the most esteemed in all of Fantasy Baseball. I've won it once, and I'd like to win it again. So I tend to have big feelings, whether positive or negative, once the dust from the draft has settled.
But this time? Big shrug emoji.
It's not that I don't like my team. I do. I think it has the potential to win it all. A lot needs to go right, as is always the case in a league of this size (15 teams) and with this caliber of competition, but I can see a path to victory. The pieces are in place.
I'm just surprised by how unaffected I am by it. Maybe it's a sign of maturity -- like, maybe I've learned restraint after my past endeavors fell short of my expectations. More likely, though, I think it reflects my unfamiliarity with the team I put together. My first five picks were all players who I hadn't had occasion to draft yet this year -- not outside of a mock, anyway. So my team doesn't look like my team, if you catch my drift.
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But that's what happens when you're picking 15th (or first, I would imagine) and have to wait 28 picks for your next pair of picks. You can't time it up perfectly to collect all your favorites, anticipating what will be there the next time around. You just have to take the best of what's available and hope it all fits together in the end.
It's foreign to me because it more or less forces me to abandon the approach I've staked my reputation to over the past 15 years. Positional tiers are practically meaningless when you have to wait so long in between picks. A point of pride for me in this draft, then, is that I didn't reach for a player out of fear of what wouldn't make it back to me. In fact, I think most of my picks were relative values. Still, the end result feels a little off simply because it's not the team I'm used to.
But enough throat clearing. Time to share the fruits of my labor.
My team is shown below. You can find the full draft results here (though, unfortunately, you have to scroll left to right). Note that Janson Junk, selected by Ryan Bloomfield in Round 4, is just a placeholder for the pitcher version of Shohei Ohtani, who Tout Wars splits into two players.
Startling lineup (round number in parentheses):
C - Salvador Perez, KC (7)
C - Joey Bart, SF (29)
1B - Miguel Vargas, LAD (14)
2B - Ozzie Albies, ATL (3)
3B - Manny Machado, SD (2)
SS - Carlos Correa, MIN (8)
CI - Anthony Rendon, LAA (18)
MI - Ketel Marte, ARI (15)
OF - Fernando Tatis, SD (1)
OF - Luis Robert, CHW (5)
OF - Hunter Renfroe, LAA (11)
OF - Trey Mancini, CHC (19)
OF - Alex Kirilloff, MIN (21)
U - Ezequiel Tovar, COL (16)
P - Shane McClanahan, TB (4)
P - Raisel Iglesias, ATL (6)
P - Nestor Cortes, NYY (9)
P - Chris Sale, BOS (10)
P - Daniel Bard, COL (12)
P - Tony Gonsolin, LAD (13)
P - Miles Mikolas, STL (17)
P - Craig Kimbrel, PHI (20)
P - Lance McCullers, HOU (22)
SP - MacKenzie Gore, WAS (23)
U - Mitch Garver, TEX (24)
SP - Drey Jameson, ARI (25)
CI - Christian Encarnacion-Strand, CIN (26)
SP - Andrew Painter, PHI (27)
2B - Trevor Story, BOS (28)
I'll reiterate, for those who haven't picked up on it yet, that this is a 15-team Rotisserie league that uses on-base percentage instead of batting average. That category change is critical. It makes the Ozzie Albies and Luis Robert picks not quite as good (though still pretty good at 45th and 75th overall). It also helps to justify riskier selections like Carlos Correa and Anthony Rendon (not that either was a reach at 106th and 256th).
I should also point out that I'm the one who made it so I picked 15th. As the eighth-place finisher last year, I had the choice of picking anywhere from eighth through 15th. So why did I choose 15th, knowing it would take a wrecking ball to my usual approach? Because I thought it was my best chance at securing a stud third baseman in Round 2. And as I've written in several places, getting one of those third basemen is my top priority in drafts this year, because absent one, the third base situation is dire.
If I had gone the more conventional route of picking eighth, I now know that none of Manny Machado, Rafael Devers, Austin Riley and Bobby Witt would have made it back to me, and I probably wouldn't have been able to justify the reach for Nolan Arenado in Round 2 (turns out someone else, Anthony Aniano, did). There are a couple of fallback options beyond Arenado, but they get dragged up in an OBP league. I didn't want to be the guy stretching for Alex Bregman in Round 3 or Max Muncy in Round 6, both of which actually happened.
Turns out I had my choice of Machado, Devers or Riley at the Round 1-2 turn. Normally, I'd go with Devers, but because Machado walks a little more, the slight advantage Devers figures to have in batting average is neutralized in an OBP league. Meanwhile, Machado has the better lineup and the better chance of making a small contribution in stolen bases. Plus, I have a couple shares of Devers already, and it's good to diversify when the margin is razor thin anyway.
The one giveaway that it's a Scott White team, despite my claims of not recognizing it, are that my first three picks were outfield, third base, second base. The outfielder, Fernando Tatis, isn't one of the usuals. In fact, in CBS Sports leagues, he isn't outfield-eligible to begin the year (though he figures to pick it up in short order). There is the not-so-small matter of him being unavailable to me for the first three weeks of the season due to a PED suspension, but he's one of only two players (Ronald Acuna being the other) with a realistic shot at 40-plus homers and 30-plus steals (and that may be true even factoring in the suspension).
So with all the other first-round outfield targets gone (even Mike Trout, because of OBP), I'm happy to trust in the likelihood Tatis makes up for the lost three weeks. Here's the problem: I still need someone to cover outfield in the meantime. And outfield, as you probably know, is stretched thin this year. It's true in every league, but especially a 15-team league in which everyone starts five.
That's the downside to taking whatever falls to you. It doesn't always meet your positional goals. I didn't actually want a second baseman in Round 3 this time. I had hoped to get Kyle Schwarber instead. But since he was gone, I got what I got, and that was the story of my outfield in this one. So often, I'd queue up two that I wanted, willing to take them back to back, and they'd last and last and last until it was almost my turn ... and then they'd be gone. The most clear-cut examples were Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker in Round 11 and Jake Fraley and Garrett Mitchell in Round 19.
Thank God I didn't pass up Luis Robert in Round 5. Thank God I subjected myself to the boredom of taking Hunter Renfroe in Round 11. Without them, my outfield would be in as dire of a position as I was hoping to avoid at third base. As it is, I don't have a replacement for Tatis on my roster, and if Alex Kirilloff's wrist isn't ready for opening day, I'll have two outfield openings to fill off the waiver wire. There are options, meaning players who will at least get at-bats, but it's the most anxiety-inducing aspect of my roster for sure.
If I had taken Corbin Carroll over Shane McClanahan at the start of Round 4, as I briefly considered, it wouldn't be such an issue, but that's exactly the sort of reach I was hoping to avoid, not wanting to force what was given to me into a prescribed plan. Besides, in that alternate scenario it's my pitching staff that would be lacking.
Some other insights into the team I constructed:
- For once, I wasn't having to play catch-up in stolen bases, having secured a quality number with my first (Tatis), third (Albies) and fifth (Robert) picks. Eventually, I added rookies Miguel Vargas (Round 14) and Ezequiel Tovar (Round 16), who should also be of real help in the category, but I never felt urgency to add more, which helped with my take-what-you're-given approach.
- Same is true for saves. As much as I hate drafting a closer in Round 5, I recognized the necessity of taking Raisel Iglesias there, and then watched as Ryan Pressly, Ryan Helsley, Felix Bautista, Clay Holmes and Camilo Doval all came off the board before my next pick. It made it so I didn't have to stretch for another closer, content to grab Daniel Bard in Round 12 and, just for good measure, Craig Kimbrel in Round 20. I don't have supreme confidence in Kimbrel at this point, but if the Phillies were to settle on any one choice for saves, it would most likely to be him. I'm not sure Seranthony Dominguez should be going three rounds earlier.
- My favorite pick, probably, was Tony Gonsolin at 195th overall, 65 spots later than usual due to a twisted ankle that should only cost him a short amount of time. Thanks to everyone for that gift. In fact, every one of my picks from Round 13 through 17 (Gonsolin, Miguel Vargas, Ketel Marte, Tovar and Miles Mikolas) was better value than I could have hoped for.
- The plan is for Mitch Garver to take over as my second catcher once he gains eligibility there, which I'm hoping will be by Week 3. He's expected to split time between catcher and DH for the Rangers this year, which hopefully gives him a nice at-bat advantage.
- I sold out hard for upside in the late rounds, targeting IL stashes like Lance McCullers and Trevor Story and surging rookies like Drey Jameson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. The Andrew Painter pick stands out the most, though. If his elbow injury is as minor as rumored, then his big-league debut may be delayed by only a few weeks. Just a week ago, he would have gone 10 rounds earlier.