The post somehow ballooned into a voluminous epic, so I will keep the introduction brief. Members of the VEB community joined us staff members to draft teams for our 2018 fantasy baseball league. In alphabetical order, here are the VEB users–along with their team names–who are participating in this standard, 5x5 rotisserie league:
Bustacard: Da Bustas
cards web: Wacha This Way
cullerz29: Abominable Bowman
G.M. Bowles: Howl’s Owls
John J. Fleming: The Nye Mets
Josey Curtis: Josey’s Team
jpb3215: Hakuna Moncada
lil_scooter93: the lil scooters
Salti Cracker: Rolen Dirty
stlcardsfan4: Bob LOB Law
Tyler Kinzy: Big City Bat Flips
What follows is a Q and A with eight of these team owners who were gracious enough to give their time to talk about the draft and their team. You can view the draft results for yourself by clicking here.
What was your strategy going into the draft?
John J. Fleming: Drafting players who are not yet ready to play but who I believe will eventually be valuable. I drafted three players not currently on active rosters--Ronald Acuna Jr., Greg Holland, and Alex Cobb.
G.M. Bowles: I wanted to try drafting on my smartphone over a few drafts...and to draft every player I wanted.
Bustacard: I had pick #1. Trout, then fill in. I went with impact bats early (first 4-5 picks), top end closer, couple of 2nd tier SPs, then filling in the rest with value picks and potentially underrated rookies (Kingery, Brinson).
Salti Cracker: My strategy going into the draft was to load up on power bats and to grab some guys who could potentially be 20/20 hitters. My assumption coming into the draft was that this was going to be a mixed bag of people who were savvy fantasy players, die-hard Cardinal fans, and novices who did not understand all of the nuances of fantasy baseball. I went with the bat heavy approach because I think it is easier to find useful pitching on free agency than it is to find 40 homer potential. Plus there is an innings limit so there is more of an emphasis on quality innings versus quantity in a league like this. That meant that I could focus on obtaining 4-5 solid starters and fill the rest with closers and streamers if necessary to supplement any needs in ratios or counting numbers.
cullerz29: I wanted Stanton, Thor, and Molina. After that, I just picked the best players that were available, or the ones who I like the best.
lil_scooter93: i have no idea what i am doing, so i let autodraft do it.
stlcardsfan4: I didn’t have any strategy other than “get the best players.” I have already prepared for two drafts this year, though both leagues used different stats than this one. I didn’t really have the time necessary to plan out the draft as I sometimes do, so I more or less just hoped for the best.
Tyler Kinzy: Barring a surprise selection from Bustacard, all I had to do at second overall was pick whichever of Trout and Altuve was still on the board. I knew that in this snake draft format I wasn’t going to land any of the top-tier starters (Kershaw, Kluber, Sale, or Scherzer) so I targeted at least one of the second-tier Strasburgs or Syndergaards of the world. I tried to prioritize upside over high floor players, especially as we worked deeper into the draft. Holistically, my main goal was to construct a balanced team that can accrue competitive point totals across a variety of categories. The growing trend away from 200-inning starting pitchers and the redistribution of home runs with the juiced ball were also factors I considered when drafting.
How did you feel about your draft overall?
John J. Fleming: Anthony Rizzo was, in my opinion, a steal in the second round. Because of bizarre Yahoo positional rules, Rizzo can be played both at first base and second base, despite only having played the former in the Major Leagues. And by drafting two Cubs in the first two rounds (Kris Bryant was the other) and later a third Cub (Ian Happ), a PED-tainted division rival (Starling Marte), a postseason nemesis (Buster Posey), and cuddly former division rival Johnny Cueto, I am gunning for the league’s most popular team.
G.M. Bowles: I drafted most of the players I wanted...which also happened to often be Cardinals or ex-Cards players.
Bustacard: It was okay. I love Trout but don’t like drafting 1st in a snake format.
Salti Cracker: Overall I liked my draft. I was not a huge fan of drafting in the 4th spot. I spent the first 30 minutes before the draft trying to play out various scenarios of how to use the 4th pick. None of them involved drafting Nolan Arenado which is what I winded up doing. I thought for sure that I would be able to get one of the big 4 SP with my 2nd pick and they were all gone by the time my pick came back. It really made me regret not going after Kershaw at #4, When all of the top SP were gone I panicked (if there is such a thing this early) and grabbed Carlos Correa due to positional scarcity more than anything. Looking back I would have felt better with a Syndergaard/Strasburg selection and following that up with Corey Seager or Dozier (who I grabbed in the 3rd round). I can’t say that I am thrilled with Zack Greinke as my #1 SP.
Without going pick-by-pick I do think that my team is pretty strong overall. I have plenty of power bats and no one that I think is going to be a huge drag on my batting average. I am lacking speed a bit so that is something I am probably going to have to address via trade if anyone is interested. My pitching is deep and relatively stable if unspectacular. Tony LaRussa would be proud of my team filled with boring vets that have their best days behind them, but not many younger players that could realistically provide higher value than their draft positions. I also have a team built around relatively high floors which would make Mozeliak happy as well.
cullerz29: Pretty good. I got some great players and some players I hope will be great. By the end though, I was just pulling up from 40.
lil_scooter93: i did not draft aroldis chapman, so i feel pretty good about it.
stlcardsfan4: I got Joey Votto and Jose Martinez, two definitely equivalent fantasy players, so I am pretty happy about my draft.
Tyler Kinzy: I didn’t love my draft, particularly the lack of upside I acquired in the middle rounds. One of the drawbacks to picking second overall was that I had to wait 21 picks between rounds, so if a bunch of starting pitchers suddenly started flying off the board there wasn’t much I could do to buoy my own staff in the meantime. Being on the clock twice in four turns can be a stressful experience as well, especially when the people picking right before you snag the players you would have taken, leaving you with a matter of seconds to regroup. If you look at the draft results, this exact situation hurt me in the sixth and eighth rounds specifically.
Who do you think were your best and worst picks?
John J. Fleming: Aside from Rizzo, for the aforementioned reasons, Ronald Acuna Jr. has superstar potential--he has never played in the majors but has invited sincere Mike Trout comparisons, and once his service time is properly manipulated, a call-up to the Atlanta Braves is inevitable. My worst pick was Jason Kipnis, whom I’m never going to play at second base because I already have Rizzo and whom I only drafted to troll Heather for her inability to remember his name on a recent VEB podcast.
G.M. Bowles: Best: Machado; worst: Brett Cecil since he is on the DL.
Bustacard: Best pick? Either Kyle Seager at 96 or Carlos Gonzalez at 241. I like them both to outperform projections. Worst? Wacha at 145. I tapped draft accidentally. Prove me wrong, Michael!
Salti Cracker: Best pick: David Price - Potentially I think Price could be my best pick. It is certainly not without risk, but there is not this type of potential payoff in an early round pick either. Assuming he is healthy (which admittedly is a huge assumption) he could produce as a top 5-6 pitcher in the league. With Bumgarner’s injury included, there just is not a ton of frontline SP’s in the game anymore that have the potential David Price offers. At 93 overall (8, 9) I think he could wind up being my best pitcher and a top 25 value by the end of the year
* Honorable mention: Kyle Schwarber - Don’t laugh, but if he hits 40+ HR he is going to look like a steal at 165 overall (14, 9). I did not draft him as a need so anything he gives me is pretty much a bonus.
Worst pick: Zack Greinke - Greinke and I have a complicated past. He ruined many of my teams in 2016 with his crappy pitching, and then made me regret not giving him a second chance last year. His struggles with velocity and injury throughout spring training are not encouraging. Drafting him as my de facto ace was not my intention heading into the draft. I hate depending on a guy like him with such a crucial draft slot at 52 overall (5, 5). Not only could this pick hurt me from his production standpoint, but it affected the rest of my draft because I felt the need to supplement this pick with more stable pitchers like Dallas Keuchel when I could have went for another bat.
* Honorable mention: Not picking any Cardinals in a league like this, especially Miles Mikolas who I have grabbed at the end of almost every draft I have done so far this year.
cullerz29: Best: Glorious Didi Gregorius or Edwin Diaz. Worst: Aaron Nola. I was trying to draft Luke Weaver, accidentally spelled his name “Duke Qeazer.” I ran out of time and the draft automatically picked Nola. I’m still salty.
lil_scooter93: i honestly do not know who is on my team. i think i have christian yelich. that seems like a good pick. somehow i ended up drafting a lot of bench players i really did not need, so probably one of those. i think i drafted a lot of phillies. that might hurt me or maybe it will be good. i have no idea what i am doing.
stlcardsfan4: My worst pick was Trea Turner because technically I didn’t draft him. I was five minutes late to the draft and autodraft got him. My best pick was Jose Martinez.
Tyler Kinzy: If Rhys Hoskins is indeed for real, he could easily produce more value than many of the 46 players chosen before him. He is out with a hand injury right now, but Delino DeShields as my third-to-last pick was a low-risk move that could yield good stolen base returns later in the season.
As far as my worst picks, I absolutely reached on Randal Grichuk purely for the sake of rooting for him to hit dingers with the Toronto Cardinals (see: Grichuk, Garcia, Diaz, Oh, Axford). I apologize for drafting a Cubs player–at least I’m not John, whose 1st, 2nd, and 12th round picks were all Cubs–but seven starting pitchers were taken between my seventh and eighth round choices so I decided to grab Jon Lester at 95th overall. Fortunately for me, I don’t think Yahoo penalizes pitchers for throwing errors.
What are your team’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
John J. Fleming: My versatility is my biggest strength. I have eight position players capable of playing multiple positions (including Asdrubal Cabrera, who can play three), so if I find lightning in a bottle in a promising third baseman, Kris Bryant can go to the outfield lickety split! My biggest weakness is my pitching--I can’t pretend I love having Fernando Rodney or Cam Bedrosian as part of my starting lineup.
G.M. Bowles: Strengths: I have possibly a great outfield in Ozuna, Pham, Puig, and Piscotty, great starting pitching with Scherzer, Ohtani, and deGrom, and three shortstop options in Machado, Story, and DeJong. Weaknesses: I probably have too many starting pitchers for this league, DeJong, Story, and Pham could be question marks...and I have Ohtani as both a batter and a pitcher which is odd...how will that work out?
Bustacard: The offense should be a strength. Average floor, significant ceiling. Starting pitching and SS are the biggest potential weaknesses.
Salti Cracker: Strength: I have ample power on this team especially at premium positions at MI with Dozier/Correa. I also have a strong group of closers that should allow me to finish 1st or 2nd in saves. I have 4 closers right now and could see me adding another one or two by the end of the year. It was statistical category that went largely ignored compared to most drafts and an area where my surplus could help address needs in other areas like SB.
Weakness: My SP’s are all pretty high risk/reward type players. That may have been too much risk to take on in hindsight. Greinke, Price, and Bauer all have huge upside, but could also torpedo my staff. I did not do a great job of surrounding them with more stable, risk-averse pitchers. Even Kuechel is not a guarantee to be trusted completely. This is something I will have to monitor closely throughout the year. Also, I am lacking speed on the offensive side.
cullerz29: Strength: The offense and starting pitching should be pretty high class. Weakness: Me. I have no idea what I’m doing.
lil_scooter93: the lil scooters greatest strength is that they are led by me, a charismatic and charming young woman who just wants her players to go out and try their best and have fun; the little scooters greatest weakness is that they are led by me, notorious idiot and famed mistake-maker who will undoubtedly lead her team astray in hilarious, but devastating fashion.
stlcardsfan4: I like my infield a lot (Contreras, Votto, LeMahieu,Turner, and Donaldson) and my pitching, but my outfield is a definite weakness. And it looks like Wil Myers already went on the DL before he could gain OF eligibility.
Tyler Kinzy: I like the balance throughout my lineup that should play well in a 5x5 roto league. Regarding batting average, home runs, RBI, runs scored, and stolen bases, there isn’t a category that I envision being a major hole on my roster.
That said, I’m not as confident in my pitching. I didn’t plan on heavily investing in my bullpen during the draft due to the volatility of relievers and their relative lack of contributions other than saves, so I should be busy working the waiver wire throughout the season. I could also improve upon my starting rotation, which currently features a top four of Strasburg, Lester, James Paxton, and Jon Gray.
Of the 12 teams, where do you predict your team will rank in the final standings?
John J. Fleming: I will rank in third place. I mean, maybe? I have no idea, sure. This seems like a good place to rank myself that doesn’t sound too arrogant but comes across as confident, even if dumbly so.
G.M. Bowles: Right now I’m at #6 so let’s go with that.
Salti Cracker: I have been doing fantasy long enough to know that I cannot assume I will win the league, but I certainly like my chances. Anything less than a top 3 finish will be an utter disappointment from my standpoint. I am going with the Cardinal Way of being in the running until the end and hope that some things break my way to enable a championship!
culler29: 1st! or maybe 6th?
lil_scooter93: i have no idea how to play fantasy baseball so i am going to err on the side of caution and say first, for sure.
stlcardsfan4: 1st of course.
Tyler Kinzy: Given my lack of fantasy baseball experience, I would be pleased with a top three finish at the end of the year. Now, do I think that will happen? No! I am inevitably going to screw something up, so you can book a fifth place ranking for yours truly.
I leave you with Yahoo’s projections, which actually predict me to win the championship. What this means is that I’ve basically clinched the title already and I have no idea why anybody else in this league even bothers to play anymore.
As the old proverb goes: Never question the projections, for it is the projections that never lie.