Welcome to 2023.
Yeah, we're a few weeks into it, but with NFL season intruding more and more on the winter lull, it's possible you haven't mentally transitioned to Fantasy Baseball yet, even with our full rankings coming out earlier in the week. Our latest 12-team 5x5 Rotisserie mock, then, might be your first look at how the player pool and our collective approach to it has changed.
If I could sum it up with one observation, it's this: only one starting pitcher (Corbin Burnes) was selected in the first 23 picks. It took until the final pick of Round 2 for the second (Gerrit Cole) to go off the board, with a third (Sandy Alcantara) immediately following. The wait would be even longer if I had my say.
That's because the changing offensive environment, which became most pronounced in 2022 with the increased use of deadened baseballs and humidors, has realigned scarcities such that quality pitchers are now more plentiful than quality hitters -- and certainly more volatile, as has always been true of pitchers.
The hitters scarcities are all the more apparent at particular positions, which should make position scarcity a bigger factor in drafts than it's been in years. It would seem this savvy group of drafters got the memo:
1) Jake Wiener, Prospects1500 (@GatorSosa)
2) Raymond Atherton (@RaymondAtherton)
3) Brant Chesser, Baseball HQ (@BrantChesser)
4) Zach Steinhorn, Creativesports (@zachsteinhorn)
5) Doug Kirchhofer, lucky reader who got to join in
6) Doug Roe, defending Podcast League champ
7) Phil Ponebshek, Patton & Company
8) Kayla Walz, former Podcast League participant
9) Chris Towers, CBS Sports (@CTowersCBS)
10) Scott White, CBS Sports (@CBSScottWhite)
11) Nathan Judah, Express & Star (@NathanJudah)
12) Corey Pieper, The Heater Podcast (@copieps)
For instance, third base may seem plentiful at the top with names like Jose Ramirez, Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, Austin Riley and Bobby Witt (as ordered by my rankings), but all five were gone 18 picks into the draft. My selection of Rafael Devers at 15 kicked off a run of four straight, which is not something that typically happens so early in the draft, when most people are simply looking to get the best player they can. But we all knew that none of that group would make it back to us in Round 3, and in fact, neither did my fallback option, Nolan Arenado, who was picked 27th overall. The next third baseman to go off the board was Alex Bregman a full four rounds later.
If you listen to the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, you know that my top priority this year is to draft one of Jose Altuve and Marcus Semien, with Ozzie Albies as a failsafe. But that's easier said than done, particular among drafters who recognize how few sure things second base has to offer. Pulling the trigger in Round 2 would be a reach, given the quality of bats still available at other positions, but waiting until Round 4 isn't giving second base the priority I say it deserves. Turns out that in this draft, none of the three in question made it even to 10th pick in Round 3, forcing me to settle for Andres Gimenez as my second baseman in Round 8. It could work out fine if he picks up where he left off last year, but I have doubts.
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Then there's the outfield, where the drop-off after 30 players or so is particularly steep. It's an especially big problem in a five-outfielder league like this one, and my failure to address it early tied my hands in Rounds 11 and 12, forcing me to take Hunter Renfroe and Mitch Haniger when I liked the values at first base and pitcher more.
In particular, I would have liked to draft a second reliever there. That's the fourth position where new scarcities are driving up the cost, specifically in a scoring format that puts saves in high demand. The top two closers, Edwin Diaz and Emmanuel Clase, at least lasted until Round 4. In 15-team Rotisserie leagues, they're more like second-rounders. I prefer to grab a reliever from the second tier, meaning some of the last who seem positioned to get every one of their team's saves. It includes names like Raisel Iglesias, Jordan Romano, Ryan Pressly, Kenley Jansen and the one who I actually drafted in Round 7, Felix Bautista.