2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: A look at Scott White’s Tout Wars team

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Particularly in a deeper league, when you’re all but guaranteed to be boxed out of something critical, it’s normal to come out of the draft feeling uneasy.

Maybe you want to like your team. Maybe you even have a sense it’ll turn out OK. But you don’t know. You obsess over what you could have done differently. You wonder if you’ll be able address Issue X, whatever it may be. Even when you like it in a general sense, the aftermath is bittersweet.

It was certainly true for me during my first two years taking part in the Tout Wars draft, where I more or less liked what I did in the draft but came out of it with concerns and regrets.

It’s why I’m having trouble coming down from this high I’m on now, having just drafted the team that I think will win the league.

That sort of optimism won’t go over well, I know. It’ll invite even more second-guessing, of which there should already be plenty knowing that we all have slightly different impressions of what a player can be and vastly different impressions of how to approach a 15-team Rotisserie draft. It also might come across as dismissive of my competition, which would be foolhardy given that these guys are the best of the best. Shoot, Rudy Gamble of Razzball has won the league two years running (I finished second and third, respectively), so clearly he knows what he’s doing.

And of course, there’s the capriciousness of this game that we play. Enough injuries, enough unexpected calamities, and there isn’t much of a waiver wire to fall back on in a league of this size. I was in a 15-team league last year where I took Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant with my first two picks, so I get it. Stuff happens. And I’m no longer naive enough to think I can trade my way out of any problem — not in a league full of experts.

But if part of my skill set as a Fantasy Baseball analyst involves sizing up a team and determining if it has what it takes to win it all, I look at mine and think, “by jove, I’ve done it.”

Time will tell, right?

So let’s look under the hood. See exactly how much hot air I’m spouting. Keep in mind — and this distinction is a critical one — that this league uses on-base percentage instead of batting average. It’s standard 5×5 otherwise, but OBP instead of BA.

Got it? Go!

Startling lineup (round number in parentheses): 
C – Wilson Ramos, NYM (11)
C – Austin Barnes, LAD (22)
1B – Anthony Rizzo, CHC (3)
2B – Scooter Gennett, CIN (7)
3B – Jose Ramirez, CLE (1)
SS – Andrelton Simmons, LAA (19)
CI – Max Muncy, LAD (9)
MI – Robinson Cano, SEA (8)
OF – George Springer, HOU (4)
OF – Jesse Winker, CIN (10)
OF – Billy Hamilton, KC (13)
OF – Kyle Tucker, HOU (21)
OF – Lewis Brinson, MIA (24)
U – Pete Alonso, NYM (15)
P – Blake Snell, TB (2)
P – Zack Greinke, AZ (5)
P – Craig Kimbrel, FA (6)
P – Jon Gray, COL (12)
P – Jordan Hicks, STL (14)
P – Matt Barnes, BOS (16)
P – Carlos Martinez, STL (17)
P – Tyler Skaggs, LAA (18)
P – Wade Miley, HOU (26)

2B – Jeff McNeil, NYM (20)
SS – Didi Gregorius, NYY (23)
OF – Tyler O’Neill, STL (25)
OF – Clint Frazier, NYY (27)
2B – Brandon Lowe, TB (28)
P – Mike Soroka, ATL (29)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You mean this is the source of your bluster and braggadocio, this roster you say is so overwhelming that you can’t envision anything less than the ultimate success for it? Oh, the depths of your ignorance! Your pitching is lacking. There are too many Mets. Zack Greinke is an old man and Scooter Gennett a muppet. And that outfield! Egad, it’s like something out the Pacific Coast League. The only thing you’re winning is my scorn and condemnation for this self-congratulatory, incoherent mess of nincompoopery — good day!

But wait! Before you leave, I have something else to point out here in the full draft results. If you’d be so kind as to open them, you’ll see that I, owner of Team 3, had a chance to take Francisco Lindor late in the second round, Pick 28 overall, and chose not to.

Your presence in this league is an affront to all that is sacred and honorable. Your ancestors will rue the day you dared take up the “expert” mantle. Your father is a festering nematode and your mother a hobgoblin. Your life is but a vapor … blown from the damp hindquarters of diseased sow!

Fair! But I made this decision with sober mind and careful consideration of what lay ahead. Lindor could be great value there. He was the consensus No. 4 overall pick before suffering a calf injury with a 7-9 week timetable, after all. But for that particular injury at that level of severity, I’m not supremely confident it’ll only be 7-9 weeks. I saw the way Josh Donaldson‘s recovery from a calf strain went last year, and speed isn’t even an important part of his game. I’m not confident Lindor goes back to stealing bases, and I’m not confident he plays at all in April. Shoot, I’m not totally confident he plays in the first half. Sure, it’s probably not that bad, but I don’t dabble in probablies in the early rounds of a 15-team league, when the course of correction is narrow and the contingencies scarce.

Plus, I wanted an ace — one of those select few pitchers who you can trust to deliver premium ratios over a considerable number of innings. Noah Syndergaard, of course, has a tendency to fall well short with the innings, and Carlos Carrasco‘s ERA upside is a little less than I had hoped for. Luis Severino obviously wasn’t an option with his recent shoulder issues, so it came down to Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer. With two aceless owners also making selections between my second and third picks, I knew neither of those pitchers would make it back to me. So the choice became take one now or expose myself to a world of pitching hurt.

And for what? Again, I don’t know what Lindor is giving me. I do know what Anthony Rizzo, my third-round pick, is giving me, and it’s elite production at a thin position. Yes, he’s more valuable in leagues that reward on-base percentage rather than batting average, and yes, fallback options like Jose Abreu also happen to be less valuable. So I like the exchange of Lindor and Syndergaard for Snell and Rizzo. I do.

Really, I felt like I needed two aces to ensure I wouldn’t have to spend the middle portion of my draft hunting for the needle in a haystack that is a breakout pitcher in today’s pitch-counting, innings-limiting, no-third-time-through-the-order environment. That’s what pitching depth is in a league like this one: You’re buying extra lottery tickets in the hopes of striking it rich. And there are too many quality hitters available during that stretch of the draft for me to get sidetracked by that.

I knew I could count on Zack Greinke being the second of those aces since he’s the ace nobody seems to want, but in order to get that first one in a way that didn’t betray my own level of comfort, it had to be in Round 2. And seeing how it turned out, it’s a choice I’d make 10 times out of 10.

The other critical decision point came near the end of Round 6, Pick 88 overall, when I took Craig Kimbrel. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing. I was at a loss as to which way to go, to be honest. I figured I’d fill my second base hole in that round, but Scooter Gennett, Travis Shaw and Robinson Cano, who I like almost equally in an OBP format, were all still available. I could have gone with an outfielder like Mitch Haniger and Justin Upton and maybe should have, but here’s the thing: Filling that saves scarcity — a category where there’s sure to be a shortage in a 15-team league, particularly given the increasingly murky bullpen roles across the league — with one of the most reliable contributors of it also freed me from the uneasy pursuit of saves in the middle rounds, allowing me to focus even more on hitters.

So that’s what I did, bulking up my lineup with Gennett and Cano, followed by Max Muncy and Jesse Winker. Those last three would be fine picks in a standard league, but an OBP league raises their value a whole tier. There’s no way they should have been available to me where I took them, especially Cano and Muncy, but please, tell me more about your Eduardo Rodriguez and Shane Bieber picks.

I even had a chance to capitalize on the surprisingly late catcher run, nabbing Wilson Ramos between Willson Contreras and Buster Posey at Pick 153, so for once, catcher wasn’t a position where I felt like I had to compromise.

By that point, about the only thing I felt like I was lacking offensively was stolen bases. And that’s when Billy Hamilton, long despised by yours truly, called out to me in Round 13. His 50-plus steals (yes, he will get back to that level with the born-to-run Royals) weren’t worth the kind of production you’d be passing up in Round 4, where he used to go, but to lock up another scarcity (steals) at Pick 183, after having had the opportunity to build up a huge buffer in OBP? Yes, please.

From that point forward, my needs were met, and I could sell out for upside. Peter Alonso’s big power bat, complete with the expectation of Rhys Hoskins-like production whenever he gets the call — which should be on a similar timetable to Vladimir Guerrero and Eloy Jimenez, by the way — was too enticing to pass up in Round 15, and Carlos Martinez, in whatever role he fills, is basically no-risk in Round 17. Jordan Hicks and Matt Barnes, who are among the most promising and highest-upside of the closer hopefuls, were just gravy after grabbing Kimbrel, but I can’t complain about the price.

Really, though, it’s the outfield where I banked on finding upside, quite simply because a position with so many players to choose from allows you to cast a wider net. Jeff McNeil figures to be my fourth outfielder once he’s eligible there in Week 2, which means I only need one of Kyle Tucker, Lewis Brinson, Tyler O’Neill and Clint Frazier to emerge as a quality option (maybe also Brandon Lowe if he regains eligibility there), and I only need it to happen by, like, the end of May.

One thing to remember about Rotisserie leagues, particularly ones deep enough to leave every team with some hole or another, is that you don’t need to have steady production at every position from start to finish. It’s the end totals that matter, and a true breakout can still do plenty of damage over two-thirds of a season. So yes, I like the chances of one of my own lottery tickets paying out more than I do of finding a miracle ace in Round 11.

To recap, I have a probable surplus in the three scarcest categories (steals, saves and on-base percentage), a pitching nucleus that I can trust not to wreck my ratios and only one true hole that I suspect will be capably filled within a matter of weeks. That’s a much stronger position than where I found myself immediately after the draft the past two years, and again, those teams finished second and third.

So no, I won’t apologize for my sudden and uncharacteristic confidence. I’ll revel in my theoretical triumph and await with eager anticipation the glorious day when I wipe that smug smirk off Rudy Gamble’s losing face — good day!

So how do you crush your 2019 Fantasy baseball drafts? And which can’t-miss prospect needs to be on your roster? Visit SportsLine now to get the complete 2019 Fantasy baseball draft guide that includes rankings, auction values, tiers, prospects rankings and much more, all from a team of award-wining experts and a proven projection model.

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