The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational League Draft (or TGFBI) has begun. It consists of about 380 participants in 26 15-team, NFBC-style, mixed leagues. This is my third season of participation and after doing reasonably well my first go around, it’s time to bounce back from my disappointing 2019 TGFBI finish.
Given the popularity of this style of the league, we will be providing daily updates on the progress of this draft and analysis of our picks. And I do mean “we” and “ours” in more than the “royal we” way as Kevin Daly will be joining me. Kevin’s been writing fantasy baseball for over twenty years for a variety of sites in a freelance capacity and was part of my team in the late nineteen nineties/early 2000s before there was such a thing as apps, the NFBC, and smartphones.
I am participating in TGFBI League 16 and Kevin is in League 26 as seen below with our draft slots.
The two of us have very similar picks at the 14:2 slot and 13:3 slots respectively so it will be interesting to see contrast and compare how we handle our draft positions.
Rob’s Day One Picks
My league went pretty much as expected until pick eleven where I was not expecting any of those first ten players to fall to the fourteenth pick. After many pre-draft mocks, I envisioned scenarios where Nolan Arenado, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Jose Ramirez would all be available. After drafting Ramirez in the first round last year, even though I strongly believe all the skills and talent are there for a strong rebound, it would have been difficult for me to pass on him. That decision was taken out of my hands as Arenado, who had valued a tad higher regardless fell and made my choice simple.
Pick 1:14 – 3B Nolan
Arenado – COL
Despite the rumors, Arenado is remaining in Colorado at least for now and is signed through 2026 with an out-clause after next season. This and my second pick were based on laying a solid foundation for my team. So no shock, no surprises. Arenado has received close to 700 plate appearances four-seasons running with a homerun production track-record in the high-thirties ot low-forties over that time. The righty is a highly-disciplined hitter with a quick bat and line-drive/fly-ball skills that remain consistent. A dip in fly-ball percentage in 2018 gave a minor scare, but now stands out as an outlier in the context of his career. If a deal does happen this year, there are some career home/road splits that creep up, but only do so in the batting average department though not in his righty/lefty split.
Pick 2:17 SP Justin Verlander – HOU
I was rather tempted here to go with a two-hitter starting to my draft, particularly Starling Marte for his broad base of power/speed/batting average. Other considerations were Freddy Freeman and J.D. Martinez. However, after not locking down an ace early on last season and seeing Verlander slip out of the first round and was the highest value player on my board at the time, I decided to set my pitching foundation. The biggest concern here is age as Verlander will be playing at age 37, albeit a year removed from a three-hundred strikeout performance and it has now been five seasons since Verlander’s 2014 season when we thought the end was at hand. Verlander has now raised his game to not just have above average, but elite control with sub 2.0 BB/9 the past two seasons. While I am not expecting another .218 his 2019 16% HR/FB was also an outlier to a skill set that does not point to his imminent decline. I’m banking on at least one more year in the sun.
Kevin’s Day One Picks
Pick 1.13 – SP Max Scherzer – WAS
Trout, Acuna, Yelich, Bellinger, Betts, Lindor, Cole
One by one, the usual suspects went off our TGFBI draft board in the first round as though we as a league had practiced such. The top 5 position players all in a row to start us off, followed by arguably the best pitcher in Cole. Like clockwork, leaving me waiting patiently for my pick number 13 overall.
Then selections of deGrom, Turner, Story, Soto, Verlander. Our first round was rather textbook, which was expected given the talented TGFBI owners in the draft room. No stunners, no reaches, no drama.
With my two picks (1.13 and 2.18) upcoming in the next six slots, I had a few different routes on where I could go with them. I had been waiting on Verlander to drop to me at pick 13 but he got selected one pick before me. Scherzer and Buehler were on the board still, as were Bregman, Arenado, Freeman and Tatis Jr. Realizing I would have a better bet to get one of the hitters in the second round, I went with Scherzer. Glad I did, as Buehler and Flaherty both got picked before the draft circled back to me. Pitchers were going early.
With Scherzer, I know what I am getting, albeit with some injury risk with him being 36 years old. He missed some starts due to injury in 2019 leading to his lowest IP total (172.1) since 2010 but did have a career-high 12.1 K/9 and his usual top tier ERA and WHIP.
I am a firm believer in having an ace on my staff and I now have one of the most consistent. Even with the dip in some of his numbers last season, I’m confident Mad max builds for me a solid foundation on which to build out my pitching staff. On to round two.
Pick 2.18 – 1B
Freddie Freeman ATL
When I got to my second pick, there were some great hitters still available. Bregman and Arenado went in the picks before mine, thus eliminating my hopes for an early draft steal at 2.18. But there was still plenty of value to pluck from.
With Scherzer in my pocket, drafting another pitcher here at 2.18 was never once considered. Grabbing a bat here would mean that I would be heading towards the third and fourth rounds with several options on which way to go. Having a solid pitcher-hitter start to the draft was important to me, given the league competition.
I had narrowed it down to J.D. Martinez or Freeman. Tatis Jr was on the board but I was looking for a proven veteran bat. That may make me look foolish at the end of the season but adding a young guy on top of an old guy just didn’t calculate for me. Jose Ramirez was also still available but, again, I wanted minimum risk here.
With J.D. Martinez hitting behind Benny, Devers, and Bogaerts this season, he has the opportunity to move back towards his numbers from the World Series run in 2018. I couldn’t go wrong taking Martinez here.
But I went with Freeman because I love his consistency (not that J.D. isn’t consistent). Drop him in the lineup and watch him go. Since 2016, Freeman has averaged .303-31-95, rock-solid numbers in fantasy. Also, last season, he had a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBI. Although I do expect the HRs to come back to reality some, his solid numbers provide me with a great hitter to start my journey with. He also is a top performer at a scarce position, whereas JD qualifies in the outfield. The ability for me to find some power elsewhere in the outfield in the later rounds sealed the decision for me.
Accuse me of playing it safe so far – I’m guilty as charged. I’ve come a long way from trying to be the owner who drafts the “next big thing” simply for bragging rights and bypassing solid veterans while doing so. When I get to my next pick (3.43), I will simply look at who’s left and go from there. I may be showing my age but nothing fancy. Safe and steady.
Kevin and I both played it rather safe on day one selecting established veteran ace pitchers and consistent hitters still in their respective primes. We’ll see if day two brings more risk-taking and daring-do. As we know, establishing a foundation gets you 2/3 of the way towards a winning team, but it is the players who breakout that take you the rest of the way home. Look for our day two analysis tomorrow morning.