It. Is. Time! Time to finally let go of football, and immerse yourselves into Fantasy Baseball mode! Yes, the Super Bowl is still a couple more days away. However, the proverbial Super Bowl of Fantasy Baseball drafts hit the ground running back on January 22nd.
Of course, I am talking about the Fantasy Sports Trade Association's (FSTA) 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft, hosted by SiriusXM. For those of you unaware, this yearly draft is the "official" start to the Fantasy Baseball season. It gives fantasy baseball fans all over the world an inside look at how the game is approached by the industry's leading experts.
Every year, the biggest and best in the business come together at the annual FSTA Conference, which was held in Tampa, Florida this year. At the conference, 14 teams of experts hammered out the first ten rounds of the draft for this basic 5x5 Rotisserie-style league. The remaining 19 additional rounds of the draft are currently being completed in a slow-draft format.
Without further ado, let's introduce the 2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball Draft's panel of expert participants in their draft order:
- Jeff Erickson, RotoWire
- Steve Gardner & Howard Kamen, USA TODAY Sports
- Glenn & Rick & Stacie, Colton & The Wolfman
- Dr. Roto, Scout Fantasy
- Brent Hershey & Ray Murphy, Baseball HQ
- Greg Ambrosius & Tom Kessenich, NFBC
- Charlie Wiegert & Vlad Sedler, CDM Sports
- Howard Bender, Fantasy Alarm
- Ray Flowers, SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio
- Jeff Mans & Ted Schuster, Guru Elite
- Real Talk Raph, RotoBaller
- Ron Shandler, RonShandler.com
- Jim Bowden, SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio
- Anthony Perri, Fantistics
It is always fun to follow along in real-time, and analyze the different trends, the surprise picks, and the various strategies deployed throughout each round. And, that is exactly what I plan to do in a two-part series of articles. This article will focus on Rounds 1-15 of the 2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball draft. My next article, which will focus on Rounds 16-29, will come out after the draft is officially complete.
For now, let's go ahead and delve into the analysis of the first half of the draft!
2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball Draft
For those of you looking to keep track of the picks, here's the link for the 2019 FSTA Draft Board. Also, when you see a number in parentheses listed directly after a given player, that number represents that player's draft round and pick number. For instance, Ronald Acuna Jr. (1.06) would indicate he was taken in the first round at pick number six.
Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
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Starting pitchers flew off the board early, often, and in "odd" fashion. By "odd", I merely mean that an odd number of pitchers were taken in each of the first six rounds, and in nine of the first fifteen rounds. Not surprisingly, Max Scherzer (1.05), 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom (1.12) and Chris Sale (1.13) went in the first round.
The second and third rounds followed suit with another five and seven pitchers selected, respectively. With both starters and relievers being drafted at this pace, almost every team took two or more pitchers every few rounds. Only three teams drafted a single starting pitcher through Round 6.
Clayton Kershaw (3.03), a perennial first-rounder for his entire career prior to this year, fell to the team from Colton & The Wolfman, after they took Corey Kluber (2.12). If Kershaw can finally stay healthy, he could be a major bargain as a third rounder. Of course, that is a big "if" for Kershaw. It looks like the crew from Colton & The Wolfman are banking on a bounce-back, healthy year from Kershaw since they did not take their next pitcher(s) until cluster-drafting Cody Allen (10.12), Ken Giles (11.3), and Kevin Gausman (12.12).
Bottom line, pitching is deep...even in a 14-team Roto league!
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Just like the pitching picks, the outfielders flew off the board at a similar pace! This is not necessarily surprising, though, as the 2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball League is based on starting five outfielders. In the first three rounds, the experts drafted 13 outfielders compared to 14 pitchers (all starters). However, only two outfielders were taken in three of the next four rounds, so there was a bit of a drop-off after the initial rush.
Steve and Howard from USA TODAY Sports "stole" Charlie Blackmon (3.02), a guy who stole a hefty 43 bags back in 2015 himself. Unfortunately, Blackmon only managed to swipe 12 bags last season, his lowest total since becoming an everyday player in 2014. To me, the draft slot is warranted, but I still like Blackmon to bounce back this year after his down 2018 campaign. Great pick, guys!
The Power-Speed Combo is Alive and Well
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One of the main strategies of fantasy baseball, creating a well-balanced team, has become harder and harder to accomplish in recent years. The good ol' days of building a team chock-full of 5-tool players have seemingly disappeared. There are still a handful of guys that can help your team in all five of the offensive categories. However, focusing on guys who will provide bigger numbers in 2-3 categories is a more-realistic approach nowadays. The 2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball Draft promotes this strategy as the new norm with the heavy run on guys with a strong Power-Speed combination.
Anyone keeping track of the draft can barely go more than a few picks at a time without seeing another Power-Speed guy drafted! For a few years, it was very easy to just punt steals. Now, with the influx of young players who can literally hit and run with ease, the Power-Speed combo has new life.
We knew the power was there with Story, but his high whiff rate created the image of an all-or-nothing potential bust. Then came 2018, when Story racked up 27 stolen bases along with 34 home runs, while earning his lowest K% (25.6%) of his 3-years in the MLB.
Merrifield is a few years older than Story, however, both players got the call-up back in 2016. After only playing in 81 games that year, Merrifield has dominated the base paths to the tune of 79 steals, while smacking 31 total homers.
Lastly, Javier Baez's 2018 numbers (34 HR, 21 SB) rival his combined totals from 2016 and 2017 (37 HR, 22 SB).
Eye-Catching Draft Picks
In this section, I want to highlight an eye-catching pick for each of the first 15 rounds of the draft. The picks will be broken down in three groups, Rounds 1-5, Rounds 6-10 and Rounds 11-15, with my analysis following the pick lists.
We are now into February, and both Machado and Harper remained unsigned. No need to dwell on that too much, as I expect both guys to have a new jersey sooner rather than later. But, I love the boldness to take both unsigned studs on the turn by Anthony Perri from Fantistics! Hopefully, they reward your loyalty.
Juan Soto at the first pick of the third round is a superb get, too! All this guy did last year in 116 games in the majors was mash, mash, and mash some more. Hopefully, he continues that torrid pace for Jeff Erickson's team in 2019.
Jean Segura is a very intriguing pick to me for a few reasons. First, I'm a born-and-raised Phillies fan, so I love seeing them get more productive players on the roster. Secondly, Segura is the second-to-last "safe" shortstop pick in the draft, in my opinion. He was the seventh shortstop off the board, and I can definitely see a boost in power numbers in Philly this year.
Puig rounds out my eye-catchers for the first five rounds. He was part of the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and the Reds, but I really love this move for Puig. It gives him the chance to reinvent himself in a new locale with a new, suddenly competitive, team. I smell a breakout!
- Jonathan Villar (6.09)
- Mallex Smith (7.12)
- Edwin Encarnacion (8.10)
- Michael Brantley (9.04)
- Miles Mikolas (10.6)
Villar is a solid pick for the NFBC team and could prove to be a medium-risk, high-reward player. I do not necessarily envision Villar ever duplicating his 2016 breakout stat line, but he did accumulate 21 of his 35 stolen bases in 2018 with Baltimore. He should get plenty of playing time on a team in complete rebuild mode.
Mallex Smith is not a guy you can count on for homers, especially with the move to Seattle. But, he is a monster on the base paths and should continue his production in the Runs/Steals categories. Helping Smith get across home plate will be one of Edwin Encarnacion's new assignments for the Mariners. E5 is another year older, but can still belt 30 home runs. You have to respect that production.
Michael Brantley finally stayed on the field for the majority of 2018, and he was back to his productive ways pre-injuries. I love Brantley going to Houston this year, and being able to team up with George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. He should fit in there very easily.
Miles Mikolas had an incredible 2018 campaign with the Cardinals, going 18-4 in 32 games started. He was a true innings-eater, notching 200.2 IP, and he baffled the majority of the hitters he faced, leading to his 2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. I would like to see an uptick in his K/9 (only 6.55 in 2018), but you cannot deny that line in the tenth round! That was a great pick by Ray Flowers from SiriusXM.
- Eloy Jimenez (11.10)
- Kyle Freeland (12.02)
- David Robertson (13.07)
- Dallas Keuchel (14.01)
- Yusei Kikuchi (15.08)
Eloy Jimenez is one of the top prospects in baseball, and he has fantasy owners salivating for his call-up to the show. The White Sox could still end up with either Harper or Machado, giving Jimenez a great role model to learn from once he gets the call.
The Kyle Freeland pick by Jim Bowden of SiriusXM is a very similar pick to the last pitcher I mentioned, Miles Mikolas. Freeland had very similar stats to Mikolas, all while pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. The main difference I am seeing here, though, is getting that quality nearly a full two rounds later! Nice pick, Jim!
David Robertson has been one of the most reliable relief pitchers in the game over the past few years. Bouncing between the Closer role and the Set-Up role has not had too much of a negative effect on D-Rob. Now, he heads to Philly to add much-needed experience to a fairly deep, but young, bullpen. He should get plenty of chances to strut his stuff in his new home!
Speaking of Philly...again...will we also see Dallas Keuchel donning red pinstripes in 2019? Anthony from Fantistics followed suit from his first two rounds of taking unsigned free agents by nabbing Keuchel in the 14th, which is an absolute steal!
Last, but certainly not least, we have Yusei Kikuchi. Seattle paid to get the Japanese pitcher into the MLB. It will be interesting to see how his success in Japan translates to the States. His ceiling is high, and well worth the cost of a 15th Round pick. Kudos to Howard Bender of Fantasy Alarm for taking the chance on Kikuchi!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 of my analysis of the 2019 FSTA Fantasy Baseball Draft. In the meantime, check out all of the other fantasy sports articles here on Fantasy Six Pack, and be sure to send me comments/questions on Twitter to @AppleGarthAlgar.
Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.