This is my first year in the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The thing to remember about this league is that in the last four years Rudy Gamble has finished first twice and second twice, Adam Ronis has finished first twice and second once, and so since the 2015 season only one other player has finished first or second: Scott White, in 2017.
In the offseason Rudy suggested that he and Ronis had an advantage because of Tout’s rules allowing the top finishers first choices in picking draft position the following year. But a little research with NFBC leagues doesn’t show any advantage to earlier picks in a draft. Last year teams picking in the ninth, 10th and 11th slots has slightly better results than others.
There is talk about changing this rule, but I would like to see some solid evidence that having the first pick consistently helps team finish higher in the standings. For that we need to look at more years.
In last night’s Mixed Draft, I chose to pick in the No. 10 slot. This was based on the aforesaid research, thin as it was, but also on my observation that if you didn’t get one of the first two picks this year you were basically playing a jump ball for the next eight or nine players. Earlier in the week, in the National Fantasy Baseball Invitational, I lucked into the 11th pick (it was random), and scored Alex Bregman.
With the 10th pick in a league that uses On Base Percentage instead of Batting Average, I hoped I might get a shot at JD Martinez or Christian Yelich or some other of that 2-10 group of hitters, and I did. Only the guy who fell to me was unexpectedly Nolan Arenado, since Jose Ramirez didn’t drop as he might have. I did not debate this pick.
Here are some comments on the successive picks:
ROUND 2: Freddie Freeman. The alternative option was Rhys Hoskins. I like Freddie.
ROUND 3: Charlie Blackmon. Two of the Rockies big producers for my Colorado based team. I’m looking forward to seeing them on April 9th against the Braves. Yes, I’m a homer.
ROUND 4: Corey Seager. This was perhaps the most challenging pick. The question: Do I go Correa, who suffered with back injuries last year but says he’s healthy, or Seager, who missed almost the whole year with hip and elbow surgeries, but is expected to be healthy by opening day? When healthy they’re pretty similar. I picked Seager as much on a hunch as on a fear of back spasms.
ROUND 5: Clayton Kershaw. I would usually have taken one of the ace pitchers in the third round, but the only one left was Luis Severino, who earlier in the day was shut down with arm discomfort. In the fourth, as the only team without a pitcher and the second wave of starters just starting to go, I chose an offensive piece, figuring I could get someone comparable in the fifth. In this context, I’ll take Kershaw. He can’t be expected to throw 200 innings, he may not strike out an elite number, but he’s shown that he can get guys out anyway. If I get 150 innings like last year I’ll be very happy with this.
ROUND 6: Michael Brantley. Frankly, he showed up at the top of my queue based on my rankings in this format. Other guys in this area, like David Dahl and Michael Conforto, were tempting. I went with the queue.
ROUND 7: Dee Gordon. This round was very meh. I wasn’t thrilled with the hitters, didn’t feel like the pitchers were worth reaching for, but did have a need at that point for steals. Dee Gordon was a category play. It meant I didn’t need to worry about steals again. On the radio later, Glenn Colton asked me if I was concerned about Gordon hitting down in the order. I would be concerned if I needed 60 steals from him, but I’ll be quite happy with 25-30 and a not totally destructive OBP.
ROUND 8: Josh Hader. It was time for a closer. Instead I took an innings eating setup guy who strikes out a starter’s worth of hitters. He could get saves if things break right, but without an ace on board I decided to cobble a high skills pitching staff together out of injury concerns and question marks. I could have taken someone like LeClerc, who will likely get more saves than Hader, but he might not and he won’t be as decisively dominant. That was my thinking, at any rate.
ROUND 9: Michael Foltynewicz. Surely Folty fell this far because of concerns about his elbow, which has slowed his spring training. The reports sound okay at this point, he may miss an early start (or he could implode) but if he turns out to be okay he’s a big plus.
ROUND 10: Wade Davis. Here come some saves, I figure.
ROUND 11: Tim Anderson. A 20-20 shortstop who is just maturing into his prime is gold, especially since he’s shown some a smidge of progress on the walk-taking side of things. It does mean I need to find ways to shore up my OBP.
ROUND 12: Ender Inciarte. I should have taken Kepler here, but I had Inciarte ranked higher. I’m one who has been holding his breath for the Kepler breakout for some time now. Inciarte makes enough contact and runs enough that I might be able to use him or Gordon to make a trade later.
ROUND 13: Josh James. Like Folty, he’s hurt during spring training, and that seems to be enough to knock the youngster out of the rotation to start the season. Like Folty, he can strike out a lot of guys. Many of my targets for this round, Ryu, Maeda, and Peacock, were snatched up just before my pick. Maybe I could have waited til the 14th, but there wasn’t anyone coming up that one I fancied more.
ROUND 14: Sean Newcomb. He ran out of gas last season, his first, but he’s a bonafide strikeout guy who could quickly become a No. 2 with just a bit better control. And he’s not hurt.
ROUND 15: Josh Bell. This guy can hit. He can also walk. He’s constantly criticized for not hitting for big power as a first baseman, but he was exactly the sort of OBP sink that I needed. The funny thing is that I debated whether to go for Bell or Brian Anderson with this pick. They’re both essentially the same player, and both perfect for late in the day OBP leagues. I chose Bell because it feels like more power could come to him sooner. I’m not counting on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
ROUND 16: Jorge Alfaro. Catching was getting very thin and I liked Alfaro a lot last year. There is less to like this year, at least for now, but the AB should be there in Miami and there is some chance that as he settles into the job he’ll blossom as I expected him to last year.
ROUND 17: Jimmy Nelson. Did not pitch last year. Was very good the year before that. I’m wary of shoulder rehabs, but the reward potential here is high. The pitcher taken before him was Carlos Martinez, no prize, and the next after was Jake Junis, who I would have liked to have. Love those AL Central pitchers.
ROUND 18: Gregory Polanco. More risk here, but we’re in the endgame and this is a mixed league. Not totally shallow, but there will be players to sub in for Polanco until he returns. The bigger question is how much he’ll run when he comes back, and how much the injury will sap his power.
ROUND 19: Reynaldo Lopez. He struck out more and walked fewer in the second half than in the first. For a young pitcher, one for whom I would excuse a fatigue-induced second-half melt down, that seems like a good sign. He also has the advantage of pitching a lot of games against the Royals and Tigers.
ROUND 20: Vince Velasquez. He’s not going to throw a lot of innings, he gets pulled after two times through the lineup, but he throws strikeouts and kept the ball in the park last year. No chance he becomes the ace he once looked like he’d grow into, but if properly managed he could be a very sneaky fantasy asset.
ROUND 21: Brian Anderson. Look what I found. Another corner with a nice stroke, excellent on base skills and not a ton of power. Anderson also has the virtue of qualifying in the outfield.
ROUND 22: Freddy Peralta. The theme develops. Peralta, like Josh James, could end up in the bullpen, where his strikeouts will soar as his innings drop. The big question is just how soaring the bases on balls remain, and whether he can continue to throw fly balls that don’t get out of the park. With young pitchers of talent, there is always a chance.
ROUND 23: Austin Hedges. Needed another catcher. Liked Hedges before he demonstrated just how hard it is for him to make contact with bat on ball. He has some power and a bit of pedigree, and he’s turning 27, which isn’t magic but gets him past the early struggles of a young catcher.
RESERVE ROUNDS: There are six reserve rounds in Tout Mixed Draft. Your roster doesn’t have to be complete after 23 rounds, but does need to be after 29. I took Kevin Pillar (useful power speed outfield backup, will play while Polanco is out), Brent Honeywell (staying on message), Framber Valdez (not in the rotation yet, but effective in there last year), Mark Melancon (could he close in SF? Closer monkey says so), Joe Jimenez (could he close in Detroit? Closer monkey says not yet, but he’s behind Shane Greene, who could be traded), and Yonny Chirinos (more in the Franber mode than the Honeywell, he looked promising last year).
In summary, I like my team. It could be really good if things work out, and could be awful if things don’t. The biggest issue will likely be that this staff of talented but risky arms will not run up the innings and will end up struggling in Wins and Strikeouts, even if it pitches well. It’s harder to pull this off in 5×5 than it is in 4×4. But it won’t take a lot of good luck to land in the hunt, which at this point, three weeks before the start of the season, is all you can hope for.