Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

Drafting for 2017 Fantasy Football

Are you as ready for 2016 to be over as I am? I mentioned in my last post that this has been by far my worst season so far. And while some leagues are going strong into Week 17, both of my leagues have declared winners. In my 10-team NFL league, I placed 7th while my good friend and first time player based on my recommendation won the championship by less than 2 points. In my 12-team PPR Yahoo league, I finished 9th while it looked as though our eventual winner might not make the playoffs after the first several weeks, let alone draft day.

Speaking of draft day, there were so many players that I treated like safe bets and certainties moving into the year that turned out to be wrong that it seems pointless to say before the 2016 season is even over how next year is going to shake out.

I do know some things definitively, and I’ll share them with you now:

My 2017 Do Not Draft List Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Drafts

Fantasy Baseball – Looking ahead to 2017

You think it’s silly that I’m already looking ahead to the 2017 Fantasy Baseball draft? With how my Fantasy Football teams have been doing, I’m already looking ahead to THAT draft.

Okay, not really. But it’s easier to get excited for next year’s fantasy season when you know you have the second overall pick going into 2017, not to mention a few extra draft picks in the bank to work with.

What’s tricky about our league is that it’s a keeper league. A player can’t be frozen two years in a row, but are eligible to be frozen the following year, and each team can freeze up to three players in the position they were drafted in the previous year. What that means is that whereas most drafts and fantasy analysts will write about certain expected ADPs and outcomes for a draft, it’s nearly impossible to project through a mock what my draft will be like. Consider that in a 12-team league, 36 of the best players will theoretically all be gone before the first pick. It’s why in 2015 I took Jose Bautista with the second overall pick. And this being the fourth year of the league, many of the veterans and long standing studs that have been consistent for years, including guys like Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, Jose Altuve and more, are all eligible to be frozen and out of my reach.

I’m not quite interested in projecting what I hope my draft looks like next year, but this post will evaluate who I may want to keep and the pros and cons of each option. Granted, my team was terrible this year, so my options for worthy freeze targets are somewhat limited. That’s why this post will be so valuable to me.

Here’s my roster as it stands at the end of the 2016 season, along with their draft position from the start of the season. Not all of them can be frozen, either because they were frozen by me or a different team last year, or because I added them to my roster after the deadline, and I’ve listed them as N/A. Those players who were undrafted are marked with FA, or free agent, meaning I can claim them in the final round of next year’s draft.

Position Player Team 2016 Draft Position
C J.T. Realmuto Miami Marlins FA
1B Joey Votto Cincinatti Reds N/A
2B Logan Forsythe Tampa Bay Rays FA
3B Yasmany Tomas Arizona Diamondbacks N/A
SS Brad Miller Tampa Bay Rays N/A
OF Jose Bautista Toronto Blue Jays 3rd Round
OF Hunter Pence San Francisco Giants 7th Round
OF Matt Kemp Atlanta Braves 6th Round
U Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians 21st Round
SP1 Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers 1st Round
SP2 James Paxton Seattle Mariners N/A
SP3 Anthony DeSclafani Cincinatti Reds 18th Round
SP4 Jeremy Hellickson Philadelphia Phillies FA
SP5 Dylan Bundy Baltimore Orioles FA
SP6 Trevor Bauer Cleveland Indians 19th Round
RP1 Seung Hwan Oh St. Louis Cardinals FA
RP2 Dellin Betances New York Yankees 12th Round
SP/RP Michael Fulmer Detroit Tigers FA
Reserves Max Kepler Minnesota Twins N/A
Reserves Dee Gordon Miami Marlins N/A
Reserves Joe Musgrove Houston Astros FA
Reserves Yuliesky Gurriel Houston Astros FA
Reserves Matt Shoemaker Los Angeles Angels FA

Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Drafts, Season Diagnosis

Season Diagnosis: 2016 Fantasy Baseball Part 1: The Draft

There’s one thing that even the biggest fan of baseball or Fantasy Baseball can’t deny: the season is long. Very long.

If you’re a fan of a team, you have months of suffering every day until the point when all of your favorite players are traded away to contending teams. It’s brutal, and as a Cubs fan, I used to know that pain for a long time.

As a fantasy owner, it’s just as much of a slog. It’s not fun to be losing every single week, to feel helpless that you can’t do anything to improve your lineup when all of your best players are slumping or sitting in your DL slot. That’s because baseball, and fantasy by extension, are games of waiting, of patience. If it’s April or May, all the analysts are telling you to sit and wait, and when nothing improves, it feels even worse that you didn’t do anything sooner.

With this year’s regular season over and my team losing yet again in the final week, keeping me out of the playoffs and with a record of just 6-17, it’s hard to remember a time when I felt good about this team, and yet there was a point when it all started to go wrong. It’s a long time ago, but I needed to look back and figure out what was bad luck and what was bad judgment.

The Draft

Let’s start way at the beginning.

In fact, let’s start even before then. The first decision of the season came before the draft when I selected my three keepers. Among players who I had on my team at the end of 2015 and were eligible and worth being frozen, Dee Gordon in the 2nd Round, Sonny Gray in the 9th Round, Xander Bogaerts in the 15th Round, Jose Bautista in the 1st Round, Matt Kemp in the 5th Round, and Taijuan Walker or Aaron Nola both in the last rounds as 2015 waiver adds.

I chose Gordon, Gray and Bogaerts. Bogaerts would’ve been good value in the round I froze him even if he had finished as a Top 50 player. As closer to a Top 20 player this season, he was one of my team’s MVPs. No regrets.

Gray I froze without hesitation. He finished as a borderline ace in 2015, had one of the lowest ERAs and WHIPs in baseball, and I would’ve been more likely to get him in the 7th round had I let him go. But he had been a massive let down all of this season, unable to go deep into games or get the same number of ground balls he was producing the previous year. What I should’ve paid attention to was his strikeout rate, which in 2015 was by far the lowest among the Top 20 pitchers he was a part of. Then of course was the team he played for in Oakland. His 14 wins the previous season should’ve been a give away that he was overvalued, and Oakland’s defense and run support got even worse.

Last was Dee Gordon. No one could’ve predicted that he would be suspended for half the season for PED usage. Regardless, freezing him might’ve been wrong-headed. Gordon was the league’s batting average leader with a .333 BA in 2015 and 58 steals. Steals are wildly inflated in terms of value when the CBS algorithm determines a player’s rank, but Gordon swiped 58 bags in 2015 and was the sort of player that you draft because he wins you a category week to week. As a result though, I overlooked a second baseman like Jose Altuve, who fell to me by pick 8 of the first round. It’s possible that Gordon would’ve fallen to the 3rd round as well, or he could’ve been taken even earlier. Had either outcome happened, my team would’ve looked a lot different.

I didn’t like the idea of freezing Bautista in the first round because, although I knew he could be good again, his age was catching up to him, and I could get better value. In turn, I snagged Bautista in Round 3 and felt pretty good about myself. Nola wouldn’t have been doing anything for me in the tail half of this season, but he was looking like an ace for several months at the start of the season. All the early hype around him was that he would be a solid starting pitcher with a high floor and a low ceiling. He proved to have a much higher ceiling than anyone predicted, not to mention a much lower floor late in the season.

And instead of drafting him, I actually took Taijuan Walker in Round 8, ahead of pitchers like Jose Quintana or Hector Rondon the following round. I wrote about him in my pre-draft love/hate lists that he more than anyone was the best bet to breakout, but was still going through growing pains. The breakout never happened, despite some high upside performances whenever I benched him. He also nursed a foot injury all season and barely made it out of the first few innings in several starts. But regardless of what he ended up doing in 2016, if I liked him so much, why didn’t I just freeze him? Surely taking him in the last round would’ve been better value than Round 8!

But when I’m really looking at this year’s draft, what I want to identify are any deficiencies in my strategy. Was I valuing certain high upside players over consistent and proven production? Did I overlook a certain category in favor of another? Did I reach for a player?

Early Rounds

With Kershaw as my number one pick, I can’t complain. He was by far the league MVP and having an historic season before getting injured. And yet while a single batter who mashes multiple home runs in a week can make a difference for your team, a single pitcher can throw a no hitter and you can still end up losing ERA and WHIP if your staff doesn’t deliver on the whole. I consistently lost those categories even with Kershaw in my lineup.

Pick 3 I took Bautista, and Pick 4 I traded away the previous season. That obviously would’ve made a difference, but I can’t blame that alone as the reason for my failure. Pick 5 was Adrian Gonzalez. Now, he may just finish 2016 as a .290 hitter with 20 HRs. I drafted him as a 25 homer guy and a .272 hitter, so that isn’t far off. But ALL of that production showed up in the last month and a half of the season. He was a disaster this April through July, and all season I started him desperate for a better option and waiting for his production to come back. I traded him just before the Dodgers started going crazy.

But let’s pause for a moment and look at my team. I have the number one pitcher in the league, the number one batting average guy and steals producer, and two very solid home run hitters. The runs and RBIs would work themselves out, so in this sense I hadn’t overlooked a category. At the same time, I could’ve waited three rounds and snagged Eric Hosmer, who will finish above Gonzalez unless he continues to go on a tear in September. I could’ve picked another elite pitcher like Jon Lester or Danny Salazar over Bautista.

Middle Rounds

Moving on. Round 6, Matt Kemp. As currently the 17th best OF in our categories scoring, he’s give or take a few spots just about right at his 2016 draft value. But Kemp being healthy does not a team make, and he lost some of his value following his mid-season trade to the Braves.

Round 7: Hunter Pence. Another solid pick, and now I’ve shored up my outfield. Looking back, I don’t feel bad for having not taken a pitcher. Other Round 7 picks? Trevor Rosenthal, Tyson Ross, Patrick Corbin, Francisco Liriano. I dodged a bullet, even though I got unlucky with Pence hitting the DL for over half the season. Until that point, he was a Top 20 outfielder who I got in a solid spot.

Round 8: Walker. Should’ve never trusted him as my #3 pitcher, even if I did think he could breakout. #9 was Gray frozen. #10 was Yordano Ventura. All three at this point are mid-tier strikeout pitchers, but both Ventura and Walker finished 2015 with 4.00+ ERAs and a 1.3 and 1.2 WHIP respectively. Neither could be considered elite, and both are upside, breakout plays when I should’ve combined one upside play with a more consistent player. Now we’re starting to see some flaws.

Round 11 was Travis D’Arnaud, who not only was terrible in the few weeks before he went on the DL for much of the season, but who I likely still reached for at Round 11. He was projected as a power guy (12 HRs in a partial season in 2015) who could finish as a Top 5 catcher, IF he stayed healthy. And that was a big IF. Catcher was a mess this year, but I liked guys like J.T. Realmuto and Blake Swihart in the preseason too. Realmuto, who I own now, went undrafted, and Swihart went in Round 17.

Mid-to-late Flyers

Round 12: Drew Smyly. Yikes. Another high upside guy pegged as a breakout. The analysts were very cavalier in saying that they “expected him to have a high HR rate” when they drafted him, to which I say NO YOU DIDN’T!!! He’s turned his season around somewhat and had flashes of greatness in April, but brought me down miserably with his horrendous May.

Round 13: Jung Ho Kang. This I knew was a risk at the time, in that he started the season on the DL but was projected to have elite upside at either 3B or SS. But even once he got back, playing time was a major issue, and production became an issue much later. But because he was on the DL, I technically still did not have a third baseman even more than halfway through the draft, nor did I have a closer.

Finally I pulled the trigger on a closer in Round 14 with Santiago Casilla. I specifically remember during the draft wanting to take a closer far earlier, but once one went, the whole tier started to get depleted, and it forced me to wait several rounds later than I had intended. And yet Casilla was actually one of the few consistent closers this season. Following the trade deadline, only Casilla, Kenley Jansen and Zach Britton had remained the closer from the start of the season. And while Casilla didn’t have near their upside and had several of implosions, he got saves and stayed healthy. That’s all I could ask.

#15 was Bogie, and #16 was Jake McGee. Aaron Nola got taken one spot beforehand, and I might’ve pulled the trigger on Nola had he still been available. Instead I took Jake McGee, who likewise was consistent for the first half of the season before landing on the DL and losing his job.

Late Rounds

This late in the draft, they say there are no wrong picks. But it’s incredible the number of studs who came off the waivers and the number of total busts who got drafted this late in the draft. At #17 I took Yangervis Solarte, who ended up on the DL after just one week, and suddenly I needed yet another 3B fill-in. He ended up back on my team once he returned to the Padres lineup and started putting up major counting stats, but it ultimately wasn’t much of a pick.

I’ll quickly rattle off the rest: #18 Mike Fiers, #19 minor leaguer Tyler Glasnow, #20 Andrew Cashner, #21 Michael Conforto, #22 Jason Grilli and #23 Gerardo Parra. The quickest way to say it might be that all of these players, I ended up dropping and/or ended up on the DL. I’m done with Fiers. He doesn’t have near enough upside to be useful beyond maybe a two-start week. Glasnow I had high hopes for, but the most hyped minor league prospect didn’t get his start until much later in the season, and then he immediately landed on the DL once he did. Cashner had roughly one solid month as a Padre, and it came far too late for anyone to care. Conforto was incredible in April, terrible in May and June and found himself in the minors by July. Grilli it didn’t take long until it was clear he wasn’t going to be the Braves closer. And Parra was putting up numbers equivalent to Matt Kemp early in the season, but found himself on the DL and never regained his step.

Lessons Learned

2000 words later, I have a few takeaways from this experience:

Lesson #1: Don’t freeze a player who hasn’t gone up in value. I got burned with Dee Gordon and Sonny Gray and would’ve been better suited freezing in the late rounds.

Lesson #2: Don’t overdo it with upside plays, especially pitchers. If one busts, you can survive. If they all bust, you’re screwed. Mix it up with consistent players as well as breakout candidates.

Lesson #3: Pay attention to all the categories. By only looking at upside plays, I overlooked serious red flags in ERA and WHIP, and I didn’t have enough pitchers with high strikeout rates. And while my home run potential on paper looked promising, it helps to make sure the counting stats are there to back it up.

Lesson #4: Wait on catcher. Unless it’s Buster Posey, just don’t do it.

Lesson #5: Position players are deep this year, especially the infield. So while you could wait at a position like 3B like I did, what you risk is that everyone else in the league has an elite position player and by extension no good reason to trade.

Lesson #6: Don’t overvalue closers. It helps to have a good one, and you don’t want to get stuck without one, two or three to start the season, but there’s too much volatility at the position to pay too much.

Next week I’ll look at my regular season moves, including roster choices, add/drops and my mid-season trades. I’ll ask whether my problem was really bad luck, bad choices, or a combination of the two. I’ll finish up the regular season looking ahead to 2016 and what choices I should make with my players to freeze.

Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

Annenberg League – 12 Team Draft Recap

Surprise! The league that I joined last year with my grad school buddies, it’s gone up from a 10-team league to a 12-team league! Surprise! It’s still a PPR League. And surprise! I randomly picked last.

Actually, the 12th spot is perhaps exactly where I wanted to be. It’s where I had more or less assumed I would be drafting in other 12-team mock drafts, and in that spot, you have the luxury of two picks back to back, which gives you options in terms of what position you need to pick next and what position you can stock up on.

Except having 22 picks in between your next two is a lot more than having just 18 in between your next two picks. And I found that Wide Receiver, as deep as it is, was a lot more depleted by round 3 than it had been in my 10-team league. A deeper league meant a shallower field of starters but what I felt was a much higher upside field of bench players. Whereas I had to let certain high-caliber lottery tickets go in my previous draft, I found I was able to stock up in the late rounds without much competition. The overall draft grade from Yahoo, which has seriously bizarre rankings and ADPs, gave me a B, although the best team only mustered a B+, and the worst a C. Let’s see how I did: Continue reading

Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

League of Shadows Draft Recap


The League of Shadows. My first league, my longest league. Granted, I’ve only been playing for three years, but I’m glad my friends and I have managed to keep this league going even for that long.

It’s a corny name, I know. But my friend Sumith served as commissioner Year 1 and set it up, name and all. He even picked out that delightful photo above of the NFL Cheerleaders for our private Facebook group for trash talking. Lovely, isn’t it?

It’s a league made up of my high school buddies and my dad, since in our first year we couldn’t find an 8th person. We’ve since added Sarah, Sumith’s girlfriend and last year’s runner up (behind yours truly, naturally) and my new friend from LA Brian, who’s also doing this for the first year. We’re not exactly the type of league that is stacked with passionate, fantasy obsessives. We don’t play for money, we don’t get together every year to draft, and we don’t have any crazy traditions. But so far we’ve kept this league alive despite people who have otherwise lost touch and those like me who have moved away. In that sense, it’s special to me.

For these three years, we’ve been playing on 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 Flex, 6 bench spots, 10 teams for the second year in a row (we started with only 8), and perhaps the most peculiar thing is QBs get only 4 points for passing touchdowns. But this is standard for NFL anyway.

But I can say now this will be our last year with One of my friends, Angel, had a problem logging into his account prior to the draft. When he had set up his team, he had signed in using Facebook. That option disappeared upon the latest app update. So now whenever he requested a reset password email, the email went to the void, not to his personal email address. I sent him an option to use a new email as a “co-owner” of his existing team, but because I had done so after the draft room had already opened, he was locked out, as was I from making any changes. We started the draft late as I tried to get him involved, to little avail. His team ended up on auto draft. Two other members of the league also had problems with the app mid-draft, receiving the endlessly loading screen after getting booted from the draft room and trying to enter back in. Worse yet, it even assumed that they were live in the draft, and didn’t automatically auto draft them. Suffice it to say, it took quite a while today.

And at the end of the day I wish my team was better than it was. The draft grader gave my team, The Springfield Meltdowns (named for a team in a late season episode of The Simpsons) a B post mortem, saying I reached for players in the early rounds. That’s not entirely inaccurate, but let’s see how I really did (I picked 10th).  Continue reading

Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

10 Team Mock Draft #2 – A+?

An A+?

I learned last season not to get too excited about draft results. It’s very easy to see a grade from the computerized draft manager and start rosterbating (thanks “The League” for that delightfully smutty expression), but your team may look a lot different after Week One than it does before it.

Of course this is a mock, so I’ll let it say whatever it wants, but I honestly was more impressed with my previous mock draft than with this one, and look at the grade I got. This one was a 10-Team league on Yahoo with 3 WR and no Flex, and I picked 9th.


1. DeAndre Hopkins (Hou – WR)
2. Adrian Peterson (Min – RB)
3. Devonta Freeman (Atl – RB)
4. Demaryius Thomas (Den – WR)
5. Julian Edelman (NE – WR)
6. Carson Palmer (Ari – QB)
7. Denver (Den – DEF)
8. Jeremy Hill (Cin – RB)
9. Gary Barnidge (Cle – TE)
10. Blake Bortles (Jax – QB)
11. Kevin White (Chi – WR)
12. Zach Ertz (Phi – TE)
13. Jay Ajayi (Mia – RB)
14. Laquon Treadwell (Min – WR)
15. Robbie Gould (Chi – K)

I guess I have a thing for DeAndre Hopkins and Adrian Peterson, both of whom I think are reliable, veteran guys who maybe won’t always win your league week to week but certainly won’t help you lose it. I also like the combo of going WR and RB for the first two picks; it gives me a lot more freedom in the next few rounds to avoid thinking I MUST draft a WR or RB. It allows me to reach for a stud QB or maybe even a TE or defense later, as I did here by being the first person to take a defense Denver in the 7th round.

When to draft a defense is an interesting question. If you read any analysts, they’ll tell you don’t do it period until your 2nd to last round, and yet a lot of people often do reach. Because when the first one goes, they all tend to start flying off the board. And unlike a kicker, there is a big difference between the top 3 defenses and the ones you’ll find on waivers after the top 10. I only do it though if I don’t like any of the other options around me when it’s my turn to draft. In this case, I was still able to snag Jeremy Hill at the top of Round 8 (waayyy too late for a full time workhorse back with a lot of red zone carries and big bounce back potential), and my choices otherwise would’ve been reaching early on a 2nd QB or backup running back like Duke Johnson Jr. or DeAngelo Williams. And in fact Seattle, Carolina, Arizona and Houston all flew off the board during Round 8. When your next best option is Minnesota, I think you make that move.

It’s the middle rounds I’m not crazy about. Round 3 is about the right spot I think for Devonta Freeman, who could easily finish as one of the best running backs in the league again, or he could be a total bust and lose his job to Tevin Coleman. Maybe one week he goes off for 3 TDs, and another week he barely gets the ball and Julio Jones gets all the looks. I’ve seen him go at the tail end of Round 1, and I’d be pretty nervous if I had to settle for him as my #1 player or running back. Demariyus Thomas is another guy who, now without even a confirmed QB in Denver, could be real disappointing as a #2 WR. That’s not to belittle his talent, and even when he had Brock Osweiler as his QB for much of last season, he still finished within the Top 20.

I love Gary Barnidge (Barnkowski I mean) in the 9th. He looked good with RGIII in the recent preseason game, and that’s great value considering that Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker and Coby Fleener all went two rounds earlier. Blake Bortles also feels like good value. I maybe could’ve waited and grabbed Marcus Mariota or a different QB2, but seeing as some people have Bortles as their QB1, even in a 10 team league, snagging him in the 10th is pretty great.

The tail end of my draft, I like Kevin White a lot as a lottery ticket, post-hype guy who the Bears have been working with throughout a whole season but has never seen any playing time. Could he be injury prone? Maybe, but not more so than Alshon Jeffrey, right? Ertz could be a serviceable TE2 in a bye week, but he could also easily be waiver fodder. Laquon Treadwell could be interesting, but not more so than other rookie WRs like White, Sterling Shepard of New York or Tyler Boyd of Cincinatti, or for that matter Stefon Diggs, his teammate in Minnesota. And who knows what to think with Jay Ajayi? But at Round 13, I’m willing to think whatever you want.

How did I do? Let me know in the comments. 

Fantasy Drafts, Fantasy Football

The First Mock Draft

I did my first mock draft today, and look, I get it: It’s still really early. The season is a whole month away, preseason games haven’t started yet and players are only just showing up to training camp. In a few weeks, everything’s going to change as studs start to get injured or as rookies begin to emerge during the preseason. But hey, some leagues even hold their actual drafts this early and have to suffer the preseason consequences. And I wouldn’t be the first to start thinking about draft strategy and the regular season this early either. Rankings are already out, and people are generally getting antsy for some football.

I do mock drafts mainly because they’re a fun way to kill an hour while listening to some music, and they actually have some value in terms of giving you a sense of where players are being drafted, who seems to be going higher and lower than you would’ve expected, and perhaps a mentality about how to think going into draft day. If you’re like me and will end up having Pick 10 or 12, with back to back snake draft picks, depending on how those first nine picks shake out will really shape the remainder of your draft.

For instance, if I have Pick 10 and 11, and Gronk is still on the board by then, I’m taking him. Now I don’t have to worry about TE, but I certainly have to worry about prioritizing RB and WR for the next couple of picks. Suddenly I’m taking a QB later than I would expect, and I have to pick and choose between some of the middle of the pack position players. If Gronk does get taken, suddenly I’m left with whichever of the RBs or WRs in that first tier are left. Do I really want to settle for Lamar Miller as my #1 overall pick? Or Ezekiel Elliott and take that gamble on a rookie? Or on the injury risk of Jamaal Charles? By mocking, you eliminate some of that guess work when it comes to draft day.

On the other hand, mocks aren’t entirely predictive or useful. I haven’t been in a single draft where every player remains in the draft the whole time. Sometimes they claim a spot, then immediately change their mind and leave, and the spot never gets filled. Sometimes people bail after the first four picks or so, because who wants to wait around till Round 15 for something that doesn’t matter? But that honestly sucks if you do want to get a full sense of how a draft might go. Suddenly the computer’s auto draft is taking a kicker in the 9th round because that’s the slot a team needs. I may even not take the player I really want just to see how far said player might drop. It might be useful for anyone looking at snagging a suspended Le’Veon Bell. And finally, mocks can never completely emulate how your draft will behave. The people in my fantasy baseball draft took all Cubs early because we’re all from Chicago, whereas they never went that early in mocks. Your league may have unusual settings and rules that can’t be replicated, or maybe even keepers that will surely change your strategy on draft day.

But let’s take a look at how my first mock went. I drafted in a 10 team standard league on, which defaults to 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 QB, 1 TE and a Flex. I picked 10th, because that’s where I’ll be picking in this particular league this season.  Continue reading