Lessons from Fantasy Baseball experts draft: Steals and reaches

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Is <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9691/" data-ylk="slk:Robbie Ray">Robbie Ray</a> firmly in the circle of trust for good? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Is Robbie Ray firmly in the circle of trust for good? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

We’re up to 15 teams in the Yahoo Friends & Family League this year, adding rookies Michael Lazarus (Yahoo DFS maestro) and Scott Jenstad (Rotowire stalwart). Dalton Del Don is back to defend his title, something no one expects to happen.

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The draft went down Thursday afternoon, a 390-pick meandering. We’ll let the combatants retell the story in their own words. Everyone started with a graph or two in any direction they chose, then we specifically inquired about steals and reaches.

As you consider the results, keep these specs in mind:

— standard 5×5 format

— transactions capped at 125

— only one catcher and four outfielders required; two utility players

— 1400 innings-pitched maximum; no minimum

— trading allowed, with a deadline of Aug. 12

— maximum of two DL spots; one NA slot (new this year)

Let’s get to it, if you have an hour to kill and want to improve your winning chances this year. (If not: too long, didn’t read.)

Michael Salfino – Wall Street Journal/Yahoo – @michaelsalfino

Previous F&F Finishes: 5th, 10th, 8th, 12th, 13th, 2nd, 7th, 11th, 12th

1. (1) Mike Trout (LAA – OF)

2. (30) Jacob deGrom (NYM – SP)

3. (31) Carlos Carrasco (Cle – SP)

4. (60) Khris Davis (Oak – OF)

5. (61) A.J. Pollock (Ari – OF)

6. (90) Daniel Murphy (Was – 2B)

7. (91) Yoenis Cespedes (NYM – OF)

8. (120) Archie Bradley (Ari – RP)

9. (121) Blake Parker (LAA – RP)

10. (150) DJ LeMahieu (Col – 2B)

11. (151) Didi Gregorius (NYY – SS)

12. (180) Evan Longoria (SF – 3B)

13. (181) Justin Bour (Mia – 1B)

14. (210) Amed Rosario (NYM – SS)

15. (211) Dellin Betances (NYY – RP)

16. (240) Sean Manaea (Oak – SP)

17. (241) Danny Salazar (Cle – SP)

18. (270) Yonder Alonso (Cle – 1B)

19. (271) Matt Chapman (Oak – 3B)

20. (300) Randal Grichuk (Tor – OF)

21. (301) Robinson Chirinos (Tex – C)

22. (330) Matt Harvey (NYM – SP)

23. (331) Austin Hedges (SD – C)

24. (360) Kirby Yates (SD – RP)

25. (361) Colin Moran (Pit – CI)

26. (390) Vince Velasquez (Phi – SP)

Mike’s Take: This went pretty much to plan. Based on my draft slot, I wanted Trout, two pitchers (figured it would be deGrom and Carrasco actually), two second-tier closers double-tap in rounds 8 and 9, and then the best hitters I could scramble to find (mixed in with some K/9 middle relievers and cuttable starters). I’m disappointed that I didn’t land 20 more steals. 

Steal: This should be Round 10-plus to qualify. Ryan Zimmerman has been good and was great last year and bats cleanup in a great lineup. His stats last year were no fluke given his sterling well-hit rate, according to Inside Edge. And he goes pick 161. I understand first-base is easy and I had my sites set on Alonso or Bour way later (got them both), but still. Zimmerman is better. 

Reach: A reach should be top 60 picks. So that’s four rounds. Andy Behrens is a great player and often right, but I don’t like paying a top 50 price for a player who only has about that many games. So Rhys Hoskins, who was a meh prospect in dynasty, at 45 overall.

Fred Zinkie – MLB.com – @fredzinkieMLB

Previous F&F Finish: 4th

1. (8) Corey Kluber (Cle – SP)

2. (23) Aaron Judge (NYY – OF)

3. (38) Kenley Jansen (LAD – RP)

4. (53) Justin Upton (LAA – OF)

5. (68) Tommy Pham (StL – OF)

6. (83) Lorenzo Cain (Mil – OF)

7. (98) Rougned Odor (Tex – 2B)

8. (113) Ian Desmond (Col – 1B,OF)

9. (128) Kyle Seager (Sea – 3B)

10. (143) Jeff Samardzija (SF – SP)

11. (158) J.T. Realmuto (Mia – C,1B)

12. (173) Ian Kinsler (LAA – 2B)

13. (188) Kenta Maeda (LAD – SP)

14. (203) Zack Cozart (LAA – SS)

15. (218) Adam Duvall (Cin – OF)

16. (233) Addison Reed (Min – RP)

17. (248) Carl Edwards Jr. (ChC – RP)

18. (263) Kole Calhoun (LAA – OF)

19. (278) David Robertson (NYY – RP)

20. (293) J.A. Happ (Tor – SP)

21. (308) Ryon Healy (Sea – 1B,3B)

22. (323) Pat Neshek (Phi – RP)

23. (338) Marco Estrada (Tor – SP)

24. (353) Gerardo Parra (Col – OF)

25. (368) Dominic Leone (StL – RP)

26. (383) Drew Steckenrider (Mia – RP)

Fred’s Take: Overall, I’m very happy with the results of the draft. I was able to execute my plan of getting one of the Big 4 starters (Corey Kluber), an elite closer (Kenley Jansen) and a deep group of hitters. With Aaron Judge, Rougned Odor and Adam Duvall in my lineup, winning the batting average category seems like a longshot. However, finishing high in the four counting-stat hitting categories seems attainable. And with a year of experience in this format, I dramatically changed my pitching strategy. After nabbing three starters I believe in (Kluber, Jeff Samardzija, Kenta Maeda), I loaded up on skilled setup men such as David Robertson, Carl Edwards Jr., Addison Reed and Pat Neshek. I’m hoping my approach will lead to outstanding results in strikeouts and the ratio categories.

Steal: Dee Gordon (Dalton Del Don, pick 36): Sure, Gordon is changing leagues and positions. But with all due respect to Billy Hamilton and Trea Turner, the veteran remains the safest steals source. And with the ability to hit .300 and score 100 runs, Gordon is much more than a one-category contributor.

Reach: Anthony Rizzo (Andy Behrens, pick 16): I understand the lure of Rizzo. He’s safe, and safety has value. But I don’t believe that his 2B eligibility gives him a big boost in value (position scarcity is largely a myth and multi-position options are plentiful in the Yahoo format), and at that point in the draft there were at least seven hitters on the board that I would have preferred over Rizzo.

Jason Klabacha – Yahoo – @YahooFantasy

Previous F&F Finish: 12th

1. (14) Kris Bryant (ChC – 3B,OF)

2. (17) Carlos Correa (Hou – SS)

3. (44) Corey Seager (LAD – SS)

4. (47) Anthony Rendon (Was – 3B)

5. (74) Domingo Santana (Mil – OF)

6. (77) Jonathan Schoop (Bal – 2B)

7. (104) Wade Davis (Col – RP)

8. (107) Matt Carpenter (StL – 1B,2B,3B)

9. (134) Jake Arrieta (ChC – SP)

10. (137) Alex Wood (LAD – SP)

11. (164) Adam Jones (Bal – OF)

12. (167) Salvador Perez (KC – C)

13. (194) Odubel Herrera (Phi – OF)

14. (197) Taijuan Walker (Ari – SP)

15. (224) Mike Clevinger (Cle – SP,RP)

16. (227) Aaron Hicks (NYY – OF)

17. (254) Marcus Stroman (Tor – SP)

18. (257) Andrelton Simmons (LAA – SS)

19. (284) AJ Ramos (NYM – RP)

20. (287) Tyler Chatwood (ChC – SP,RP)

21. (314) Jarrod Dyson (Ari – OF)

22. (317) Michael Kopech (CWS – SP)

23. (344) Matt Shoemaker (LAA – SP)

24. (347) Steven Matz (NYM – SP)

25. (374) Adalberto Mondesi (KC – 2B)

26. (377) A.J. Minter (Atl – RP)

Jason’s Take: Pitching went heavy early and pushed some big bats later than you would expect. Liked the value of Machado, Judge, Lindor and Martinez in what would be late second or early third round of most drafts because of that. 

Steal: It’s not an exciting pick but Edwin Encarnacion going at pick 70 is pretty good value for a guy that consistently puts up 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI without crushing you on average. 

Reach: Everyone in this room knows more than I do when it comes to drafting, including the Hall of Famer Brandon Funston, but I was surprised Robbie Ray went 33rd. He put up great numbers last year and should be a solid starter again but felt a little early on him. Believe in the humidor. 

What can Hoskins do for an encore? (AP/Lynne Sladky)
What can Hoskins do for an encore? (AP/Lynne Sladky)

Andy Behrens – Yahoo – @andybehrens

Previous F&F Finishes: 8th, 3rd, 10th, 14th, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 7th, 1st

1. (15) Joey Votto (Cin – 1B)

2. (16) Anthony Rizzo (ChC – 1B,2B)

3. (45) Rhys Hoskins (Phi – 1B,OF)

4. (46) Yu Darvish (ChC – SP)

5. (75) Justin Turner (LAD – 3B)

6. (76) Rafael Devers (Bos – 3B)

7. (105) Matt Olson (Oak – 1B,OF)

8. (106) Masahiro Tanaka (NYY – SP)

9. (135) Yoan Moncada (CWS – 2B)

10. (136) Kelvin Herrera (KC – RP)

11. (165) Orlando Arcia (Mil – SS)

12. (166) Brett Gardner (NYY – OF)

13. (195) Delino DeShields (Tex – OF)

14. (196) Jameson Taillon (Pit – SP)

15. (225) Brad Ziegler (Mia – RP)

16. (226) Chad Green (NYY – RP)

17. (255) Jake Odorizzi (Min – SP)

18. (256) Brian McCann (Hou – C)

19. (285) Corey Dickerson (Pit – OF)

20. (286) Joakim Soria (CWS – RP)

21. (315) Carlos Gonzalez (Col – OF)

22. (316) Derek Fisher (Hou – OF)

23. (345) Eloy Jimenez (CWS – OF)

24. (346) Mychal Givens (Bal – RP)

25. (375) Jed Lowrie (Oak – 2B)

26. (376) Shohei Ohtani (Batter) (LAA – Util)

Andy’s Iliad: As the architect of perhaps the most successful and groundbreaking fantasy baseball draft method yet devised, I do feel a certain pressure to execute it flawlessly in every league. But there’s no better spot from which to employ TOTAL CORNER CONTROL™ principles than the fifteenth pick in a 15-team league. If you’re going to hand me the keys to the turn, TCC is definitely happening. Thus, six of my first seven selections in the Friends & Family draft were corner infielders: Joey Votto (15), Anthony Rizzo (16), Rhys Hoskins (45), Justin Turner (75), Rafael Devers (76) and Matt Olson (105). 

It was a near-flawless TCC performance, basically. My only great regret was missing Alex Bregman, a third baseman with shortstop eligibility, who was selected early in Round 3. Otherwise, it was a master class in TCC team-building. Rizzo at second? Yes, please. The draft room was shattered. Beaten men, all of them. Salfino wept like a child. Liss retired from the industry. Grey Albright begged me to take him on as an apprentice (not for the first time), but I rejected him. 

When you compulsively collect corner infielders, your rosters are generally solid in the power categories. I won’t hurt for home runs or RBIs, in all likelihood. Hopefully the presence of Votto, Turner and Devers is enough to guarantee that my team batting average remains competitive. I managed to draft a few sources for steals who should produce in multiple categories (Gardner, Arcia, Moncada), but couldn’t avoid adding a speed specialist (DeShields). These things happen when you’re picking fifteenth, and therefore have no shot at guys like Jose Altuve and Trea Turner. 

My starting rotation is led by a pair of high-strikeout pitchers in winning environments, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka. Here’s hoping we get the second-half version of Tanaka (1.06 WHIP, 10.7 K/9) and not the guy who was torched in the early months of 2017. We use a relatively easy-to-reach innings max in the F&F league, so I’m not yet concerned about having only four starters. As in prior years, I’m using a few high-K middle relievers (Chad Green, Mychal Givens, Carson Smith) to control my pitching ratios. My closers are a sketchy group, but at least I have two (Herrera, Ziegler), and possibly a third (Soria). 

All things considered, it was another triumph of a TCC draft. Fear me, friends and family. 

Steal:  It will not surprise you to learn that I thought Kyle Schwarber in the eleventh round was a filthy steal. You can read this year’s Schwarber propaganda right here. I also loved Manuel Margot in the tenth, and Miguel Andujar in the 20th. 

Reach: I’ve already explained my position on Shohei Ohtani’s pitching outlook. He’s a fun story for sure, but I’m concerned that his innings won’t be there, limiting his impact. Someone always gets him a full round ahead of where I’d consider him. I’ll take Lance McCullers, Gerrit Cole and various other Astros ahead of Ohtani. 

Jeff Erickson – Rotowire – @Jeff_Erickson

Previous F&F Finishes: 10th, 8th, 12th, 7th, 4th, 4th, 1st, 13th, 11th, 12th, 8th, 10th

1. (11) Max Scherzer (Was – SP)

2. (20) Madison Bumgarner (SF – SP)

3. (41) Justin Verlander (Hou – SP)

4. (50) Starling Marte (Pit – OF)

5. (71) Wil Myers (SD – 1B)

6. (80) Robinson Cano (Sea – 2B)

7. (101) Sean Doolittle (Was – RP)

8. (110) Hector Neris (Phi – RP)

9. (131) Jay Bruce (NYM – 1B,OF)

10. (140) Rich Hill (LAD – SP)

11. (161) Ryan Zimmerman (Was – 1B)

12. (170) Eugenio Suarez (Cin – 3B)

13. (191) Jorge Polanco (Min – SS)

14. (200) Mike Zunino (Sea – C)

15. (221) Jason Kipnis (Cle – 2B,OF)

16. (230) Kendrys Morales (Tor – 1B)

17. (251) Brad Peacock (Hou – SP,RP)

18. (260) Mark Trumbo (Bal – OF)

19. (281) Yangervis Solarte (Tor – 2B,3B,SS)

20. (290) Kevin Pillar (Tor – OF)

21. (311) Josh Reddick (Hou – OF)

22. (320) Ryan Madson (Was – RP)

23. (341) Melky Cabrera (KC – OF)

24. (350) Freddy Galvis (SD – SS)

25. (371) Kolten Wong (StL – 2B)

26. (380) Trevor Hildenberger (Min – RP)

Jeff’s Take: The critical decision in my draft was my second-round pick of Madison Bumgarner. Because of the nature of this league – daily moves albeit with a high-innings cap – and the current run climate, I want to avoid most of the shakier starting pitching tiers, and instead get most of my innings from either aces or relievers. Once I took Bumgarner, I also committed to getting a third ace in the third round, with the notion that I could try to catch up in the hitting counting stats with volume in the subsequent rounds. That comes with a cost – it’s almost impossible to compete in batting average if you miss out on the first three rounds of hitters, especially if you want to get saves later in the draft, too. So instead I tried to embrace punting average – the Mark Trumbo types are more than welcomed here.

Steal: Marwin Gonzalez, 11.9 – D.J. Short. 

Reach: Lance McCullers, 6.9 – Grey Albright.

Ryan Boyer – Rotoworld – @RyanPBoyer

Previous F&F Finishes: 11th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th

1. (2) Jose Altuve (Hou – 2B)

2. (29) Gary Sanchez (NYY – C)

3. (32) Josh Donaldson (Tor – 3B)

4. (59) James Paxton (Sea – SP)

5. (62) Corey Knebel (Mil – RP)

6. (89) Billy Hamilton (Cin – OF)

7. (92) Raisel Iglesias (Cin – RP)

8. (119) Zack Godley (Ari – SP)

9. (122) Ryan Braun (Mil – OF)

10. (149) Adam Eaton (Was – OF)

11. (152) Kyle Schwarber (ChC – OF)

12. (179) Greg Holland (Col – RP)

13. (182) Josh Bell (Pit – 1B)

14. (209) Addison Russell (ChC – SS)

15. (212) Blake Snell (TB – SP)

16. (239) Gio Gonzalez (Was – SP)

17. (242) Hanley Ramirez (Bos – 1B)

18. (269) Gleyber Torres (NYY – SS)

19. (272) Max Kepler (Min – OF)

20. (299) Devon Travis (Tor – 2B)

21. (302) Jordan Montgomery (NYY – SP)

22. (329) Jesse Winker (Cin – OF)

23. (332) Alex Cobb (TB – SP)

24. (359) Andrew Heaney (LAA – SP)

25. (362) Austin Barnes (LAD – C,2B)

26. (389) Adrian Gonzalez (NYM – 1B)

Ryan’s Take: As much as I enjoy starting my team out with Jose Altuve, being toward the end of a snake draft in a 15-teamer can be really rough because you just go so long in between picks. In general I’m happy with a Gary Sanchez/Josh Donaldson swing at 2/3, but it meant I was going to miss out on a lot of upper echelon starters and also that I’d have to grab a closer a little earlier than I’d like or risk really falling behind there. I also thought it was interesting how far the unsigned guys fell. Jake Arrieta at the end of Round 9. Greg Holland at the end of Round 12 (in a league where relievers are massively important). Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn in Round 23. I know it’s been a unique offseason, but these guys will find jobs. I think.

Steal: I get that there some concerns with Aaron Judge, but him falling to the 23rd pick looks like a win for Zinkie after he got his ace in Corey Kluber in Round 1. I have a feeling Rudy nabbing Ronald Acuna at pick No. 116 will wind up paying big dividends.

Reach: Giancarlo Stanton with the fifth overall pick is aggressive with the other options available there. Liss was willing to bet on a Miguel Cabrera bounce-back earlier that I would’ve been.

Lots of positions, homers, strikeouts (AP/Carlos Osorio)
Lots of positions, homers, strikeouts (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Grey Albright – Razzball – @razzball

Previous F&F Finishes: 9th, 5th, 4th, 12th, 12th, 10th, 10th, 3rd

1. (7) Mookie Betts (Bos – OF)

2. (24) Francisco Lindor (Cle – SS)

3. (37) Jose Abreu (CWS – 1B)

4. (54) Carlos Martinez (StL – SP)

5. (67) Whit Merrifield (KC – 2B,OF)

6. (84) Lance McCullers Jr. (Hou – SP)

7. (97) Joey Gallo (Tex – 1B,3B,OF)

8. (114) Arodys Vizcaino (Atl – RP)

9. (127) Eddie Rosario (Min – OF)

10. (144) Justin Smoak (Tor – 1B)

11. (157) Shane Greene (Det – RP)

12. (174) Sonny Gray (NYY – SP)

13. (187) Trey Mancini (Bal – 1B,OF)

14. (204) Ketel Marte (Ari – SS)

15. (217) Patrick Corbin (Ari – SP)

16. (234) Chase Anderson (Mil – SP)

17. (247) Alex Claudio (Tex – RP)

18. (264) Alex Reyes (StL – SP)

19. (277) David Peralta (Ari – OF)

20. (294) Miguel Andujar (NYY – 3B)

21. (307) Jackie Bradley Jr. (Bos – OF)

22. (324) Juan Minaya (CWS – RP)

23. (337) Matt Kemp (LAD – OF)

24. (354) Chris Iannetta (Col – C)

25. (367) Trevor Williams (Pit – SP,RP)

26. (384) Jimmy Nelson (Mil – SP)

Grey’s Take: I was drafting two 15-team leagues at the same time —  so, technically, I was drafting one 30-team league, right? No? Well, it felt like that with how the pitching was being drafted.  I’ve heard people talk about how one should draft less pitching this year, because, after the top 5-7 starters, the rest is all treyf (Word of the Day!). That “Don’t bother drafting starters high” memo, yeah, that didn’t make it to this group of drafters. One drafter, let’s call him, Rotowire Erickson, because that’s his team name, drafted three starters with his 1st three picks. You’d think after taking Scherzer with the first pick it would be a solid foundation for pitching. But no!  Or maybe Madison Bumgarner with the 2nd pick would’ve been enough. Nuh-uh.  He followed Scherzer and Bumgarner with Justin Verlander.  Oh…  *climbs Mt. Everest* … Kay. (Editor’s note: we don’t edit Grey. Nor do we edit his annual finish.)  

Steal: Ryan Braun in the 9th round. I know he’s as brittle as an 18-inch fingernail of a calcium deficient person, but at pick 122 overall, I would’ve taken him too.

Reach: Willson Contreras in the 5th round.  In a one-catcher league, even one as deep as this, you should be punting catchers like you’re The Ghost of Reggie Roby.

Dalton Del Don – Yahoo – @daltondeldon

Previous F&F Finishes: 1st, 7th, 5th, 5th, 6th, 5th, 5th, 2nd

1. (6) Clayton Kershaw (LAD – SP)

2. (25) J.D. Martinez (Bos – OF)

3. (36) Dee Gordon (Sea – 2B)

4. (55) Jose Quintana (ChC – SP)

5. (66) Roberto Osuna (Tor – RP)

6. (85) Luis Castillo (Cin – SP)

7. (96) Trevor Story (Col – SS)

8. (115) Mark Melancon (SF – RP)

9. (126) Greg Bird (NYY – 1B)

10. (145) Manuel Margot (SD – OF)

11. (156) Ender Inciarte (Atl – OF)

12. (175) Garrett Richards (LAA – SP)

13. (186) Jose Peraza (Cin – 2B,SS)

14. (205) Wilson Ramos (TB – C)

15. (216) Scooter Gennett (Cin – 2B,3B,OF)

16. (235) Danny Duffy (KC – SP)

17. (246) Michael A. Taylor (Was – OF)

18. (265) Cole Hamels (Tex – SP)

19. (276) Mallex Smith (TB – OF)

20. (295) Scott Schebler (Cin – OF)

21. (306) Nick Williams (Phi – OF)

22. (325) Jeimer Candelario (Det – 3B)

23. (336) Lucas Giolito (CWS – SP)

24. (355) Joc Pederson (LAD – OF)

25. (366) Teoscar Hernandez (Tor – OF)

26. (385) Matt Bush (Tex – RP)

Dalton’s Take: I’m typically more aggressive drafting starting pitchers earlier than most and even more so in a format like this, so I knew I’d get one of the “big four” with my first pick and was pleased to have Kershaw fall. After that, it was mostly a “best player available” approach, albeit realizing this league drafts closers sooner than usual. The 15-team format this year added a new depth, as reaching the 1,400-inning limit will be tougher, but K/9 should still remain plenty important. I was happy with my draft overall, although I’m woefully thin at CI, but there’s trading allowed here.

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Steal: Chris Davis averaged 42.5 homers, 99.5 runs scored and 100.5 RBI from 2015-2016 and still hits in an extreme hitters’ park, so he was a bargain at the end of the 13th round in a 15-team league.

Reach: Given his extensive injury history and the introduction of the humidor in Chase Field, I wouldn’t have taken A.J. Pollock at the 4/5 turn, as I far preferred Byron Buxton’s upside there (he went three picks later).

Scott Pianowski – Yahoo – @scott_pianowski

Previous F&F Finishes: 3rd, 4th, 6th, 1st, 2nd, 11th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 2nd

1. (4) Nolan Arenado (Col – 3B)

2. (27) George Springer (Hou – OF)

3. (34) Brian Dozier (Min – 2B)

4. (57) Xander Bogaerts (Bos – SS)

5. (64) Byron Buxton (Min – OF)

6. (87) Cody Allen (Cle – RP)

7. (94) Kyle Hendricks (ChC – SP)

8. (117) Jose Berrios (Min – SP)

9. (124) Gregory Polanco (Pit – OF)

10. (147) Carlos Santana (Phi – 1B,OF)

11. (154) Blake Treinen (Oak – RP)

12. (177) Tim Anderson (CWS – SS)

13. (184) Maikel Franco (Phi – 3B)

14. (207) Dinelson Lamet (SD – SP)

15. (214) Aaron Altherr (Phi – OF)

16. (237) Dexter Fowler (StL – OF)

17. (244) Yadier Molina (StL – C)

18. (267) Jedd Gyorko (StL – 1B,2B,3B)

19. (274) Cameron Maybin (Mia – OF)

20. (297) Shin-soo Choo (Tex – OF)

21. (304) Julio Teheran (Atl – SP)

22. (327) Tommy Kahnle (NYY – RP)

23. (334) Lance Lynn (StL – SP)

24. (357) Dustin Pedroia (Bos – 2B)

25. (364) Brandon Drury (NYY – 2B)

26. (387) Steve Cishek (ChC – RP)

Scott’s Take: I agree with many of the competitors, this was a hard draft. The addition of a team forces us to have less depth than usual, and I didn’t see anyone who was shanking the draft — everyone was present for the full three hours, no one was bumped offline.

It’s no fun to draft pitching. I didn’t ignore it, but I guess I semi-punted it. I really need my two closers to be solid, or I’ll have to outduel 14 other guys for the fresh saves (cheap saves is a lovely idea in shallow leagues or less-competitive ones, but it’s a tricky needle to thread in a scrum like this). I went for a core of highly-projectable players (the base), then shifted mostly to upside in the middle rounds. A lot of players in that pocket will be dropped, anyway.

[2018 Fantasy Baseball rankings: Overall | H | P | C | 1B | 2B | 3B |SS | OF | SP | RP]

I was hoping to get more position-flexible guys, but given this league uses two utility spots and just four outfielders, that might not matter much. Outfield is so deep, I don’t think it needs to be prioritized in a mixer, even a 15-teamer. Primarily, just get the best offensive players, work the positions later. Yahoo’s game has very low qualification hurdles, which I’m in favor of.

As usual, a bunch of boring, solid veterans are on my team. Some things never change. Altherr might be a screw-up, since his gig isn’t guaranteed, but it’s late enough that I’ll get over it.

Steal: Batting average is the least sexy of the 5×5 categories. D.J. LeMahieu offers a very high floor there, and will do some other things. He also seems like a lock to slot No. 2 in Colorado. Sounds good at Pick 150. Other reasonable values: Justin Smoak at 144, Mike Moustakas at 161, Taijuan Walker at 197 (under ADP, but I thought he’d go earlier in this room), Avisail Garcia at 193 (he can regress a bunch and still make a profit, as can Smoak and Moose).

Reach: Given that Stephen Strasburg is a virtual lock for DL time, I would not take him in the second round. And given that Aroldis Chapman is not a big-inning reliever — he’s made it to 70 innings just once — I wouldn’t take him in the Top 50.

Marwin Gonzalez, defensive chameleon (AP/Jeff Roberson)
Marwin Gonzalez, defensive chameleon (AP/Jeff Roberson)

D.J. Short – Rotoworld – @djshort

Previous F&F Finishes: 6th, 6th, 1st, 10th, 1st

1. (9) Chris Sale (Bos – SP)

2. (22) Manny Machado (Bal – 3B)

3. (39) Christian Yelich (Mil – OF)

4. (52) Aaron Nola (Phi – SP)

5. (69) Buster Posey (SF – C,1B)

6. (82) Edwin Diaz (Sea – RP)

7. (99) Eric Hosmer (SD – 1B)

8. (112) Andrew McCutchen (SF – OF)

9. (129) Travis Shaw (Mil – 3B)

10. (142) Trevor Bauer (Cle – SP)

11. (159) Marwin Gonzalez (Hou – 1B,2B,3B,SS,OF, PG, TE)

12. (172) Steven Souza Jr. (Ari – OF)

13. (189) Todd Frazier (NYM – 3B)

14. (202) Cesar Hernandez (Phi – 2B)

15. (219) Kevin Gausman (Bal – SP)

16. (232) Nate Jones (CWS – RP)

17. (249) Jake Faria (TB – SP)

18. (262) Hunter Renfroe (SD – OF)

19. (279) Kyle Barraclough (Mia – RP)

20. (292) Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM – 2B,3B,SS)

21. (309) Dustin Fowler (Oak – OF)

22. (322) Zach Britton (Bal – RP)

23. (339) Joe Musgrove (Pit – SP,RP)

24. (352) Yasmani Grandal (LAD – C)

25. (369) Yoshihisa Hirano (Ari – RP)

26. (382) Jorge Soler (KC – OF)

D.J.’s Take: Expanding to 15 teams definitely made this a challenging exercise. This was one of those drafts where I found myself consistently being sniped. I suppose that’s to be expected with this level of competition in the same (virtual) room. You aren’t sneaking up on anyone here. I was happy to begin my draft with one of the big four starting pitchers (Chris Sale) before landing Manny Machado (and his pending shortstop eligibility), but the rest of the draft wasn’t about specific players as much as plugging spots. I ended up taking a couple of players I probably would avoid in more shallow leagues (Eric Hosmer and Andrew McCutchen, for example), but I could live with it under these circumstances.

Steal: J.T. Realmuto at 158. I really liked this pick, mostly because it made me feel dumb for taking Buster Posey a lot earlier. I see them as fairly comparable at this point, even though Realmuto will have to deal with a diminished supporting cast if he stays in Miami. I know this is a one-catcher league, but there’s something to be said for having one of the better ones in a 15-team set-up. The quality at the position drops off fast. Taking into account my selection of Posey, Zinkie got a great value. 

Reach: Domingo Santana at 74. On talent alone, you could say it’s deserved, but playing time could be a challenge for him in Milwaukee following the offseason additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Even if Ryan Braun gets comfortable at first base, the best-case scenario is that Santana gets part-time at-bats. That’s not going to justify this price. Maybe a trade can save him?

Chris Liss – Rotowire – @chris_liss

Previous F&F Finishes: 7th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 3rd, 2nd, 9th, 1st, 6th, 3rd, 1st, 9th

1. (12) Bryce Harper (Was – OF)

2. (19) Noah Syndergaard (NYM – SP)

3. (42) Luis Severino (NYY – SP)

4. (49) Aroldis Chapman (NYY – RP)

5. (72) Miguel Cabrera (Det – 1B)

6. (79) Yasiel Puig (LAD – OF)

7. (102) Brandon Morrow (ChC – RP)

8. (109) Javier Baez (ChC – 2B,SS,CI)

9. (132) Ian Happ (ChC – 2B,OF)

10. (139) Jonathan Villar (Mil – 2B,OF)

11. (162) Mike Moustakas (KC – 3B)

12. (169) Chris Devenski (Hou – RP)

13. (192) Chris Davis (Bal – 1B)

14. (199) Michael Wacha (StL – SP)

15. (222) Michael Brantley (Cle – OF)

16. (229) Keone Kela (Tex – RP)

17. (252) Tim Beckham (Bal – 2B,SS)

18. (259) Carlos Gomez (TB – OF)

19. (282) Victor Robles (Was – OF)

20. (289) Yuli Gurriel (Hou – 1B)

21. (312) Emilio Pagan (Oak – RP)

22. (319) Felix Hernandez (Sea – SP)

23. (342) Rick Porcello (Bos – SP)

24. (349) Tyler Glasnow (Pit – SP)

25. (372) Jose Reyes (NYM – 2B,3B,SS)

26. (379) Tim Lincecum (LAA – SP)

Chris’s Take: That was a tough draft. I like the 12 spot in the 12-team, but in 15, I think you’re a little light by the time Round 3 gets to you. I was hoping to get Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel there, but both were gone, and I settled for Luis Severino instead. I might have the riskiest team I’ve ever drafted. Every single pick from Bryce Harper to Syndergaard to Miguel Cabrera to Brandon Morrow on down is fraught with risk. I don’t mind that, but it’s worth noting there’s collapse potential here. The only pick I seriously regret was Chris Devenski in the 12th. Ace relievers are gold in this format, but it was too early. I should have picked Sonny Gray instead. 

[Chris Liss’s extended F&F review]

Steal: Jake Arrieta at 9.14. I almost pulled the trigger on him, but my team needed offense. I still probably should have taken him instead of Ian Happ. There’s big upside if Arrieta signs in the right place. 

Reach: Robbie Ray at 3.3 seems early to me. He’s a good K source, and the humidor should help, but he’s not a real ace given his command issues. 

Rudy Gamble – Razzball – @rudygamble

Previous F&F Finishes: 2nd, 10th, 9th, 6th

1. (5) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY – OF)

2. (26) Jose Ramirez (Cle – 2B,3B)

3. (35) Alex Bregman (Hou – 3B,SS)

4. (56) Marcell Ozuna (StL – OF)

5. (65) Shohei Ohtani (Pitcher) (LAA – SP)

6. (86) Felipe Rivero (Pit – RP)

7. (95) Ozzie Albies (Atl – 2B)

8. (116) Ronald Acuña (Atl – OF)

9. (125) Jon Lester (ChC – SP)

10. (146) Alex Colome (TB – RP)

11. (155) Jon Gray (Col – SP)

12. (176) Paul DeJong (StL – 2B,SS)

13. (185) Charlie Morton (Hou – SP)

14. (206) Willie Calhoun (Tex – OF)

15. (215) Logan Morrison (Min – 1B)

16. (236) Marcus Semien (Oak – SS)

17. (245) Cam Bedrosian (LAA – RP)

18. (266) Josh Harrison (Pit – 2B,3B,OF)

19. (275) Brad Boxberger (Ari – RP)

20. (296) Lucas Duda (KC – 1B)

21. (305) Tanner Roark (Was – SP)

22. (326) Nicky Delmonico (CWS – OF)

23. (335) Chris Stratton (SF – SP)

24. (356) Leonys Martin (Det – OF)

25. (365) Tyler Flowers (Atl – C)

26. (386) Sam Dyson (SF – RP)

Rudy’s Take: I love this league as it is the closest expert league to the format most fantasy baseball players play. No slow drafting. Daily transactions. Just the change-up that it is 15 teams vs 10/12 team which helps facilitate delicious “I hate this guy’s team” takes in the comments of this post. That said, this draft (60 seconds/pick) is like getting a Thor fastball after the Jamie Moyer-like pace of slow drafts.

As always, a couple folks (Erickson, Liss, DDD) go heavy on starting pitchers in the first 3 rounds which forces the rest of us to either pay up for guys we like, draft the guys in our rankings that we typically shy away from, or some combination. Yada yada, I tried not to pay up and my first 3 SPs are Ohtani/Lester/Jon Gray. Yay?! On the bright side, when a couple teams heavily invest in SPs, the rest of the teams have diluted staffs so there are more points to gain by having an average pitching staff.

[Batter up: Join a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for free today]

The biggest change from previous years is this draft moved up several weeks which changed my end game strategy. I took 3 closer lottery tickets (Bedrosian, Boxberger, Dyson) as the value of a Closer in this format is so huge (given I have 0.001% chance of beating anyone to waiver wire for a new closer). After repeating my Acuna/Calhoun rookie nookie picks from mixed LABR, I avoided any prospecting in late rounds in favor of a few OFs (Delmonico, Leonys) that might default their ways into nice batting order spots in early April. I also have a slew of multi-position hitters (not hard in Yahoo, amiright?) which should come in handy for maximizing ABs without using all my bench spots on hitters.

Steal: Manny Machado at pick #22 to DJ Short is a gift. Granted, the bats in the 2nd round are uniformly great (I got Jose Ramirez at pick #26?!) but I think Machado is more valuable than the 6 other hitters taken after Bryce Harper and he will have nice SS/3B eligibility.  

Reach: While I am not a fan of closers in the 3rd round, the biggest reach for me was Domingo Santana at 5.14. The talent is there but there is still too much uncertainty on his playing time and I cannot see him hitting any higher than 5th in this lineup.   

Josh Hader pitches with his hair on fire (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Josh Hader pitches with his hair on fire (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brandon Funston – Fantasy Record – @brandonfunston

Previous F&F Finishes: 14th, 9th, 11th, 9th, 13th, 13th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 9th, 7th, 9th, 1st

1. (3) Trea Turner (Was – SS)

2. (28) Cody Bellinger (LAD – 1B,OF)

3. (33) Robbie Ray (Ari – SP)

4. (58) Chris Archer (TB – SP)

5. (63) Willson Contreras (ChC – C)

6. (88) Ken Giles (Hou – RP)

7. (93) Miguel Sano (Min – 1B,3B)

8. (118) Jeurys Familia (NYM – RP)

9. (123) Adrian Beltre (Tex – 3B)

10. (148) Eduardo Nunez (Bos – 2B,3B,SS,OF)

11. (153) Johnny Cueto (SF – SP)

12. (178) Bradley Zimmer (Cle – OF)

13. (183) Jake Lamb (Ari – 3B)

14. (208) Mitch Haniger (Sea – OF)

15. (213) David Dahl (Col – OF)

16. (238) Josh Hader (Mil – RP)

17. (243) Michael Conforto (NYM – OF)

18. (268) Luiz Gohara (Atl – SP)

19. (273) Jose Martinez (StL – 1B,OF)

20. (298) Miles Mikolas (StL – SP)

21. (303) Starlin Castro (Mia – 2B)

22. (328) Juan Nicasio (Sea – RP)

23. (333) Will Harris (Hou – RP)

24. (358) Hunter Pence (SF – OF)

25. (363) Francisco Mejia (Cle – Util)

26. (388) Hernan Perez (Mil – 2B,3B,SS,OF)

Brandon’s Take: This was actually my first baseball draft of ’18, so I went in to this with my top priority being to not embarrass myself — I may not have been successful in that endeavor. With the No. 3 overall pick, I figured I would take who was left from Mike Trout, Jose Altuve or Trea Turner. I was fine with Turner falling to me because he’s capable of stealing 50-60 bags which, given how little players are running these days (just 29 players stole 20+ bases in ’17), should keep me very competitive in that category. He also should fatten my bottom line in batting average and runs, as well. I went looking for a couple aces to anchor my staff in the next few rounds. I was dreaming of a Jacob deGrom, Carlos Martinez 1-2 punch in Rounds 3-4, but both pitchers went just a couple picks ahead of my draft spot in each of those rounds, so I settled for Robbie Ray and Chris Archer. They combined for nearly 450 Ks last season, which well play well in an IP capped league such as this, but they lack the sleep-well-at-night track record that deGrom/Martinez would have provided. 

[Salfino and Pianow break down the F&F Draft]

Steal: I thought Jean Segura (pick No. 100, Rotowire-Jenstad) was a sweet deal. He missed 37 games last season, but still stole 22 bases and scored 80 runs while hitting .300. He’s in the catbird seat in the M’s lineup this season hitting between Dee Gordon and Robinson Cano. A shortstop that should push 15/25 with plus tallies in Runs and BA should have gone about 20 picks sooner, in my opinion.

Reach: I’m not interested in Joey Gallo at the price he went for (No. 97 overall, 40 spots ahead of his Yahoo ADP). The power is definitely elite, but it comes at the price of a Mendoza neighborhood batting average. Power is just not that hard to find. I’d prefer to take mine without the need for a ladder to climb out of the huge hole that Gallo leaves in your team’s batting average category.

Michael Lazarus – Yahoo – @mroblaz

First year in F&F

1. (13) Paul Goldschmidt (Ari – 1B)

2. (18) Freddie Freeman (Atl – 1B,3B)

3. (43) Zack Greinke (Ari – SP)

4. (48) Nelson Cruz (Sea – OF)

5. (73) Elvis Andrus (Tex – SS)

6. (78) Dallas Keuchel (Hou – SP)

7. (103) Brad Hand (SD – RP)

8. (108) Chris Taylor (LAD – 2B,SS,OF)

9. (133) Brad Brach (Bal – RP)

10. (138) Aaron Sanchez (Tor – SP)

11. (163) Nomar Mazara (Tex – OF)

12. (168) Fernando Rodney (Min – RP)

13. (193) Avisail Garcia (CWS – OF)

14. (198) Drew Pomeranz (Bos – SP)

15. (223) Ryan McMahon (Col – CI)

16. (228) Welington Castillo (CWS – C)

17. (253) Michael Fulmer (Det – SP)

18. (258) Lewis Brinson (Mia – OF)

19. (283) Stephen Piscotty (Oak – OF)

20. (288) J.P. Crawford (Phi – 3B,SS)

21. (313) Dansby Swanson (Atl – SS)

22. (318) German Marquez (Col – SP)

23. (343) Bud Norris (StL – SP,RP)

24. (348) Wilmer Flores (NYM – 1B,2B,3B)

25. (373) Zach Davies (Mil – SP)

26. (378) Ben Gamel (Sea – OF)

Laz’s Take: First time I’ve drafted this early into spring training. About 6 rounds in realized that my team was on the safe side (high floor, maybe low ceiling). Was very happy with a Goldschmidt/Freeman corner combination but found myself reaching for relief pitching too early for my taste because of the 15-team league. The last time I punted saves it did not go well. So now I need my Hand, Barch, Rodney combo to hold up.

Steal: Heading into round 10 I have Yoan Moncada and Alex Wood lined up and both were taken in the three picks before. I had to panic a bit and hope that Aaron Sanchez’ blister problems are behind him, really felt Wood was good value where he went. There was also a lot of batting value in round 13 with Justin Bour, Jake Lamb, Todd Frazier and a bunch of outfielders.

Reach: There were definitely some in the third round. While I like Robbie Ray, I was surprised he went before Zach Greinke. I’ve never been a Dee Gordon fan and Alex Bregman felt like a reach midway through Round 3.

Scott Jenstad – Rotowire – @scottjenstad

First Year in F&F

1. (10) Charlie Blackmon (Col – OF)

2. (21) Stephen Strasburg (Was – SP)

3. (40) Craig Kimbrel (Bos – RP)

4. (51) Andrew Benintendi (Bos – OF)

5. (70) Edwin Encarnacion (Cle – 1B)

6. (81) Gerrit Cole (Hou – SP)

7. (100) Jean Segura (Sea – SS)

8. (111) Nicholas Castellanos (Det – 3B,OF)

9. (130) Luke Weaver (StL – SP)

10. (141) David Price (Bos – SP,RP)

11. (160) Andrew Miller (Cle – RP)

12. (171) Kevin Kiermaier (TB – OF)

13. (190) Evan Gattis (Hou – C)

14. (201) Luke Gregerson (StL – RP)

15. (220) Eric Thames (Mil – 1B,OF)

16. (231) Chris Owings (Ari – 2B,SS,OF)

17. (250) Brandon Belt (SF – 1B,OF)

18. (261) Dylan Bundy (Bal – SP)

19. (280) Albert Pujols (LAA – 1B)

20. (291) C.J. Cron (TB – 1B)

21. (310) Brandon Crawford (SF – SS)

22. (321) Eduardo Rodriguez (Bos – SP)

23. (340) Neil Walker (Mil – 1B,2B)

24. (351) Mikie Mahtook (Det – OF)

25. (370) Collin McHugh (Hou – SP)

26. (381) Jonathan Lucroy (Col – C)

Scott’s Take: With the depth of a 15 teamer, I went into the draft wanting to make sure to get four starting pitchers I really liked as I think the pitching really drops off rapidly in the middle rounds (and while I am comfortable finding hitters in the middle and back of the draft that I like, I am wary of most of them arms in that range). I was able to get one ace and three other starters I like as a solid base, and can now mix and match the back end with strong core plus Kimbrel.

[2018 Fantasy Baseball rankings: Overall | H | P | C | 1B | 2B | 3B |SS | OF | SP | RP]

With daily pickups in this league, I wanted to get one strong closer, but then not worry as much after that as I figured I will be able to grab some speculative guys during the season and hit on some saves. The closers came off the table earlier than ADP and I went elsewhere in those rounds to try and build the rest of my team with players I liked more than some mid-ranger and risky closers. Hopefully it works!

Steal: I loved where Salfino got Yoenis Cespedes in the 7th round at pick 91. I almost took him in the 6th and 7th round with my picks and think he has significant upside at that price.

Reach: I didn’t like Robbie Ray early in round 3. I know the humidor is a factor and K’s are big in this league with the innings limit, but I think the next 4-5 starters would have been my choice over Ray. 

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