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Stephen Strasburg

When the Plan Changes

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational is off and running. Currently League Four is leading the race is terms of quickest draft. As I type this entry, we’re about to make the turn at round nine. I figured now would be a good time to catch up the readers on what has gone down thus far.

As I mentioned in my primer piece for TGFBI, I was planning on opening this draft with a hitter and a pitcher. As my selection approached at the 15/16 turn, names such as Clayton Kershaw (pick 12), Carlos Correa (Pick 13) & Chris Sale (Pick 14) all went right before me. I would have been happy with any of these three as a potential starting point. It’s worth noting that Max Scherzer was selected 6th overall by Andrew Dewhirst & Tony Cincotta auto-selected Corey Kluber.

With the “big four” starters off the board, I now had a decision to make. A part of me wanted to fall back into a normal approach where I fade pitching and instead select two prime bats at the turn. This approach has worked for me over the years, but admittedly has begun to be more difficult with the state of “free” pitching available in season over the previous two campaigns.

Because I weigh the two positional player pools (hitters & pitchers) evenly, but separate, names such as Stephen Strasburg, Luis Severino and Jacob deGrom were all in play for me at this point.

This tournament is not only about winning your league, but competing against 134 other managers in an overall competition. With this in mind, I went with two high-upside starting pitchers in Stephen Strasburg and Luis Severino.

Using some of the principles of the S.M.A.R.T. System from Colton & the Wolfman, I decided that not only would these two selections fill the scarcity requirement, but also the AnchorTeam requirement. Both of these starting pitchers also throw gas, which is one of their rules of engagement. Of course Strasburg’s injury history is in play against him, but when attempting to win an overall prize, I’m willing to hope we receive 165+ elite innings from him in 2018.

With two elite starting pitchers in fold, I decided to do something I couldn’t imagine doing outside of an overall prize league:

I selected two more pitchers at the 3/4 turn, in Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. That’s right, my first four selections in this draft were pitchers. All four of these pitchers have strong strike out ability, elite ratios, but all also play for good teams. This is important in my opinion. The fact that my starters play for teams who are expected to perform well, should translate to more wins. With both of my Closers playing for strong teams, it helps to alleviate any concern that they lose their role and could also help in the overall number of saves they earn in 2018.

With four pitchers rostered to begin this draft, I knew I’d be turning my attention towards the hitter pool for the foreseeable future. My plan for acquiring hitters beginning in the fifth round was to protect batting average as much as possible early on. This allows for darts to be thrown later in the draft towards players who will contribute needed counting statistics.

With my next selections, Willson Contreras was available. With TGFBI being a single catcher league I had passed on Gary Sanchez at the 1/2 turn on purpose. Had it been a two catcher league, Sanchez would have been rostered without thinking twice. Once I had passed on Sanchez, I figured I’d end up rostering some mediocre catcher towards the back-end of the draft. But then Contreras continued to sit out there. It appears everyone else had a similar plan in attacking the catcher position. Considering the fact that I am attempting to protect batting average and also need as many advantages on the hitting side as possible, Willson Contreras quickly became a no-brainer type of selection.

I paired Xander Bogaerts with Contreras at this 5/6 turn. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Bogaerts in a typical context, however, again looking to protect batting average, while also adding counting statistics, Bogaerts made quite a bit of sense for this team. Even in a somewhat disappointing season for Bogaerts in 2017, he still managed to hit 10 home runs, steal 15 bases and score over 90 runs. With an improved Red Sox lineup this season and some potential upside, Bogaerts felt like a solid addition in an overall competition type of league.

This brings us to the 7/8 turn and two more hitters rostered for team Scoby Snacks. The first hitter is one of my personal favorites for 2018, despite the fact that he plays for a poor team. I am referring to 3b/OF Nick Castellanos. I honestly believe a 30+ home run, .280+ batting average season could happen this season. If Castellanos reaches those levels this year, not only does this pick become a steal, but it also continues to help protect my batting average, while making up for the loss of power early with all my pitchers rostered.

My 8th round pick is boring as hell, but completely necessary for what I’m planning on doing at the 9/10 turn (knock on wood). With this selection I choose DJ LeMahieu, the former NL batting champion. Yes, LeMahieu might only go 10/10 in terms of home runs and stolen bases, but a .300 batting average is well within reach and he should continue scoring a ton of runs hitting not only towards the top of the Colorado lineup, but by playing half of his games in Coors Field.

At this point, I’m still somewhat making up counting statistics on the hitting side of things. As I write this post I’m two picks away from selecting at the 9/10 turn and have at least one name I’m praying reaches me.

Checking in on the projected standings at this point in the draft, my team comes in 4th with 89 rotisserie points. For context, RotoWire’s James Anderson is currently projected first with 98.5 points. Of course my strong standings is built nearly entirely by being top-3 in all the pitching categories at the moment. On the hitting side of things I currently have the best projected batting average, but am struggling in the counting statistics (to be expected). As I add hitters to help in that area, I expect the batting average to fall some, but it should all even out and hopefully slightly gain in my favor.

I’ll be back to fill everyone in on my next handful of selections soon.

 Photo Credit: Scott Ableman