Written by: Ray Butler
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If you participate or aspire to someday participate in Draft Championship or Best Ball fantasy baseball leagues, you’re well aware that your knowledge of the player pool shouldn’t simply expire once Average Draft Positions exceed 300.00. As a matter of fact, most league winners in these formats roster teams that boast high-impact players whose draft day ADP was north of 500.00.
In my opinion, that’s one of the biggest reasons why the popularity of DCs and Best Balls continues to grow within the redraft landscape. Everyone wants to prove their fantasy acumen, and an increasing number of people are distributing their bank roll to league formats that include the longest drafts and the largest roster sizes.
It’s the necessity of extensive player pool knowledge that recently led me to a thought. How viable of a fantasy team can someone draft… if they didn’t make a single selection until after pick 200? Paul Sporer recently published a similar exercise (he discussed building a team after pick-300) on FanGraphs, and that’s what I’m going to attempt to tackle in this article.
But first, we need to narrow the scope even more, because you’d be surprised how strong your fantasy team would appear if you simply gobbled-up all the best players at each position shortly after pick 200. To increase the validity of this process, I set parameters that I can only make two selections for every twenty spots of ADP post-pick 200. That means two players within an ADP of 201-220, another two players within an ADP of 221-240, so on and so forth.
As always, I used the NFBC’s format for this ‘draft’. If you don’t yet play on that website (you really should), their leagues consist of the following starting lineup slots: C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, UT—> P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P, P. I followed the same format as the extremely-popular TGFBI, which means the scoring format is 5×5 roto (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV) following a 30-round draft (in this format, waiver claims are processed weekly. That doesn’t play a role in this article, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless).
Of course, the optimal goal of this ‘draft’ is to win the league I’m playing in. However, since I don’t have league mates to complete against, I simply wanted to see how close my starting lineup would project to the 80th-percentile thresholds from TGFBI last season. In other words, I want to build a team that is as formidable as possible across all scoring categories. These thresholds aren’t religion, per se, but they can help a drafter remain on target with certain categories throughout their draft. Here are those 80th-percentile thresholds from last season:
With these wild parameters and restrictions, let’s construct the best (and smartest) team possible and see how our close our final product stacks-up against these thresholds.
Away we go…..
Note: The projections listed with each player are loosely based on THE BAT’s 2020 projections for a 162-game regular season. Some projections have been modified with proper playing time modifications or realistic alterations to reflect especially appetizing outlooks for the upcoming season.
Note: The ADP listed for each player is taken from NFBC beginning March 28th and ending April 10th.
C.J. Cron, 1B. ADP: 210.93
For starting after pick 200, Cron lays a nice foundation for our offensive counting stats—specifically home runs. And at this point of drafts, there aren’t many first basemen available who will provide 25+ home run pop without being a black hole for batting average, which we can’t afford to punt. 2020 Projection: .259 AVG, 70 R, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 1 SB
Andrew McCutchen, OF1. ADP: 215.91
McCutchen is one of my most rostered players this fantasy season, largely because I believe he’s one of the biggest run-scoring assets after pick 200 (projections have underrated the amount of times he’ll touch home plate this summer). I also don’t believe the market has fully corrected itself to reflect the fact McCutchen will now be ready for Opening Day once it finally arrives. 2020 Projection: .265 AVG, 103 R, 25 HR, 71 RBI, 6 SB
Mark Melancon, P1. ADP: 223.58
I don’t love the fact I’m grabbing a closer with my third pick of this ‘draft’, but Melancon is really the last closer remaining before we arrive at Wade Davis territory. I’m not completely buying the notion Will Smith will inevitably snatch this role away from Melancon at some point this season, and the latter will have plenty of opportunities to turn out the lights on opponents this summer. 2020 Projection: 65 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 63 K, 3 W, 28 SV
Mark Canha, OF2. ADP: 230.82
Canha was forty-six percent above average offensively last season. The fact he continues to basically fly completely under the radar is criminal. There’s positive runs batted in regression in the outfielder’s near future, and he’ll be one of the biggest offensive assets on this fantasy team. 2020 Projection: .264 AVG, 74 R, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 2 SB
Buster Posey, C1. ADP: 241.02
I have not yet mastered the notion of having the discipline to take catchers and closers when I should in redrafts. But with the restrictions of this draft, it’s important to remember how quickly the two catcher slots in NFBC leagues can become a batting average black hole. We avoid that here by selecting Posey, who appears to be healthier now than he’s been in the past couple of seasons. 2020 Projection: .275 AVG, 54 R, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 1 SB
Dansby Swanson, SS. ADP: 242.31
My guy. Swanson is my most-rostered player this season, and I’d project a 20+ HR/10 SB campaign if the regular season was 162 games. I’m terrified he’ll turn to mush since he’s become a trendy pick throughout the fantasy world, but Swanson’s seemingly-linear growth throughout his MLB career means big things could finally be in store this summer. 2020 Projection: .260 AVG, 81 R, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 10 SB
Austin Hays, OF3. ADP: 266.58
I went back-and-forth on grabbing a third outfielder so ‘early’ in this process, but I couldn’t move past the fact Hays should bat leadoff for an underrated Orioles lineup once the season finally starts. Pair that with the fact his profile carries some sneaky stolen base upside, and I couldn’t pass on Hays here. 2020 Projection: .261 AVG, 82 R, 20 HR, 59 RBI, 8 SB
Cesar Hernandez, 2B. ADP: 274.60
Hernandez is under-priced this draft season, and the market hasn’t changed despite the fact he was slotted at leadoff or second in a dangerous Indians lineup throughout Spring Training. There isn’t a gigantic amount of upside here, but double-digit home runs and stolen bases with a batting average over the percentile threshold means we cash at his draft day price tag. 2020 Projection: .277 AVG, 78 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 9 SB
Rich Hill, P2. ADP: 304.58
We didn’t grab any players within picks 281-300, which paves the pay for us to draft FOUR players within this ADP cluster. Hill’s stock is obviously pointing up since the season won’t begin until sometime this summer; he’s not a sure bet to remain healthy even once he finishes his elbow rehabilitation, but if you’re willing to absorb some risk, Hill could be one of the steals of draft season in 2020. 2020 Projection: 130 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 145 K, 10 W
Trent Grisham, OF4, ADP: 310.56
I can’t get enough of Grisham this preseason. The path has been cleared for the 23-year-old to be the Padres’ every day centerfielder, and he would have been an intriguing candidate to post a surprising 20 HR/10 SB campaign had the season been 162 games. Now, as Franchy Cordero continues to remain a trendy pick throughout the baseball world, we’ll continue gobbling-up as many shares of Grisham as we can. 2020 Projection: .253 AVG, 63 R, 21 HR, 64 RBI, 11 SB
Jordan Montgomery, P3. ADP: 316.40
Of course I don’t prefer Montgomery as an SP2 in normal leagues, but I love the outlook for the left-hander this summer. Now guaranteed a rotation spot for one of the best teams in baseball, Montgomery’s impending workload restriction should become an afterthought during a shortened regular season this summer. 2020 Projection: 113 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 106 K, 8 W
Cole Hamels, P4. ADP: 316.64
I was all over Hamels during the early stages of draft season, then I took the foot off the gas when it appeared the left-hander would begin the season on the injured list with a shoulder injury. Now, with the season delayed and Hamels receiving plenty of time to return to full-health before Opening Day this summer, the southpaw is sure to be an asset for his rosterers this season. 2020 Projection: 160 IP, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 158 K, 11 W
Brandon Kintzler, P5. ADP: 321.75
I won’t attempt to conjure up an argument that Kintzler possesses a crazy amount of upside that will come to fruition this season. I do think the Marlins will be slightly better than the public perception this summer, and Kintzler appears to have very little legitimate competition to assume the role of closer this season. 2020 Projection: 65 IP, 3.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3 W, 23 SV
Jason Castro, C2. ADP: 343.20
Is my hottest catcher take for the 2020 season the fact I think Mitch Garver will finish as C1, or the fact I think Jason Castro finishes the season as a top-12 fantasy catcher? He’s finally the primary catcher for a team, and he made his offensive strides last season. Castro will make his presence felt throughout the fantasy world this summer. 2020 Projection: .227 AVG, 50 R, 22 HR, 61 RBI, 0 SB
Travis Shaw, 3B. ADP: 353.55
He was horrendous last season. He hit .111 in 14 games this spring. Despite that, I deeply want to believe Shaw—with an assumed guaranteed spot in an underrated lineup—will provide his rosterers with a positive return on investment as it relates to draft day price tag. 2020 Projection: .241 AVG, 59 R, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 3 SB
Miguel Cabrera, 1B (CI). ADP: 354.22
Cabrera is not the pick here because of his stellar Spring Training last month (though his slimmed-down figure serves as affirmation). The first baseman becomes our corner infielder because of his batting average floor, and I personally believe—at some point—he’ll give the baseball world a “rebirth” season before he hangs up his cleats for good. 2020 Projection: .278 AVG, 64 R, 18 HR, 68 RBI, 0 SB
Freddy Peralta, P6. ADP: 370.22
I won’t lie: Peralta frustrated me during Spring Training, because his fantastic outings decreased the likelihood that Corbin Burnes broke camp in the Brewers’ starting rotation. Now, I’m drafting the right-hander and hoping he taps-in to his immense upside during the regular season this summer. 2020 Projection: 105 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 128 K, 7 W
Anthony Santander, OF5. ADP: 376.80
At his draft day price, it’s hard to poke holes in what Santander brings to the table from a fantasy standpoint. If you’re not in love with the ~.250 batting average, I urge you to find another 20+ home run outfielder at or after Santander’s ADP who will bat third in their respective lineup this summer. The power is there; the run producing ability is there. Santander will be a valuable fantasy player this season. 2020 Projection: .254 AVG, 64 R, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 3 SB
Corbin Burnes, P7. ADP: 383.85
I’m sure you’re well-aware of my ongoing love affair with Burnes. A condensed, sandwiched regular season this summer means the right-hander will almost certainly have a consistent role for the Brewers in 2020; there’s enough upside here that Burnes could carry across-the-board standard mixed league value before the end of the season. 2020 Projection: 105 IP, 3.94 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 121 K, 7 W
Justus Sheffield, P8. ADP: 403.53
It’s crazy how subtle changes to a pitcher’s arsenal can lead to huge gains both in real-life and in the fantasy world, but Sheffield adding a two-seam fastball to better mirror his changeup (while also acting as an opposing foe for his slider) adds to his intrigue heading into a shortened season. This alteration won’t make him a world beater, but it does make him a top option for rotation depth after you surpass the 400th pick of your deep league drafts. 2020 Projection: 140 IP, 4.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 148 K, 8 W
Kyle Gibson, P9. ADP: 418.27
In the same way the Rangers unlocked another level of performance for Lance Lynn last season by optimizing his attack plan with a fastball-heavy approach, I’m hopeful Gibson begins to lean more on his world-changing slider in 2020 and beyond. I assume a hypothetical increase in that usage will correlate with Gibson’s incredible value at the back-end of fantasy rotations this season. 2020 Projection: 177 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 172 K, 10 W
Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B (Bench). ADP: 445.15
I’m all about drafting as much positional versatility as is feasible every preseason. In this draft room, that starts with Kendrick becoming a staple on my bench. Not only does the infielder continue to age like fine wine, his fantasy value prospers because of the abundance of voids he can fill. 2020 Projection: .307 AVG, 58 R, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 2 SB
Nick Ahmed, SS (MI). ADP: 458.22
Boring ole Ahmed has actually increased his wRC+ in three consecutive seasons. If he accomplishes the feat again in 2020, it’ll mean he’s developed into a league average MLB hitter who posts a 20 HR/10 SB pace this summer. He’s a reliable contributor for our middle infield slot. 2020 Projection: .263 AVG, 73 R, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 9 SB
Hanser Alberto, 2B/3B (Bench). ADP: 464.24
Howie Kendrick (above) and Alberto help create a bench that’s chalked full of positional eligibility. The latter is a high-floor player you can plug at 2B, 3B, CI, MI and UT. The projection of a high batting average and double digit home runs simply serve as the cherry on top here. 2020 Projection: .292 AVG, 60 R, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB
Robinson Cano, 2B (UT). ADP: 475.76
Jarred Kelenic won’t be slowing down any time soon, but I do think both Cano and Edwin Diaz will change the perception of last offseason’s blockbuster trade between the Mets and Mariners in 2020. Assuming he remains in good health, Cano provides a comfortable floor extremely late in drafts—all while also carrying some sneaky counting stats upside too. 2020 Projection: .265 AVG, 68 R, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 0 SB
Homer Bailey, P (Bench). ADP: 488.55
The Twins are convinced Bailey will ascend to a new level in 2020, which we saw glimpses of down the homestretch of last season. There’s some hidden strikeout upside here, and pitching on the best team in the AL Central should mean Bailey has the chance to be a sneaky source of wins (yeah, I know, but you need them to win roto leagues) this summer. 2020 Projection: 160 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 152 K, 10 W
Danny Duffy, P (Bench). ADP: 585.53
The more I research Duffy, the more I like him in 2020. Armed with a re-tooled slider and an already solid changeup, I won’t have any issue throwing the southpaw into the backend of my fantasy rotations this season. 2020 Projection: 177 IP, 3.92 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 165 K, 9 W
Cameron Maybin, OF (Bench). ADP: 669.38
Had the season started on time, Maybin would have been the Tigers’ leadoff hitter. Assuming he holds onto the role once baseball returns—and assuming his power gains last season are mostly sustainable—Maybin will be a huge value play in 2020. His stolen base viability will be especially helpful on this team. 2020 Projection: .265 AVG, 72 R, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 14 SB
JaCoby Jones, OF (Bench). ADP: 673.78
This pick would likely be Mitch Haniger (current ADP: 517.77) if there was more clarity on his chances of being fully healthy by the summer (there’s currently very little information). Instead, I’ll wait it out and reach for one of my most-rostered players this season. 2020 Projection: .238 AVG, 65 R, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 11 SB
Jordan Hicks, P (Bench). ADP: 686.73
A little birdie recently told me Hicks—who’s currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last season—is hopeful he’ll be ready to rock-and-roll once Opening Day finally arrives. If this happens and he’s inserted into the closer’s role (it makes sense from a workload-management standpoint), Hicks will be on a lot of league-winning teams this season. If this pick misses and the right-hander doesn’t contribute this summer, we’ll weaponize this roster spot to our advantage once the waiver wire re-opens. 2020 Projection: 35 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 37 K, 3 W, 25 SV
All done. Using only my starting lineup, here’s how my team stacks up against the pesty 80th percentile thresholds from TGFBI last season. Offense first:
This was an extremely difficult exercise. Based on projections only, in a 15-team league, my team would likely be projected to finish anywhere from 8th to 12th. Certainly not the worst outcome for not making our first selection until after pick 200. And thankfully, while they’re certainly useful while in the draft room, projections have never won a single fantasy championship. If you’ve ever utilized projections while drafting, you definitely understand that pitcher wins and saves are especially noisy, and I’d like to think my team would play-up in both of these categories throughout the course of the regular season. I’ve never exited a draft room and felt discouraged about my pitching staff; even with the restrictions and parameters of this article, I feel good about the pitchers I drafted, both for my starting lineup and as rotational depth on the bench.
I also drafted enough upside—on both sides of the ball—that it’s possible this hypothetical team exceeds expectations and finishes in the top-half of its league. Cameron Maybin and Jordan Hicks are the first two players that come to mind, especially since stolen bases and saves are two of the weaknesses of this team.
If nothing else, this article opened my eyes to just how difficult it is to find adequate batting average and speed outside of the top-200 picks. And even if I would have taken a more speed-aware approach, it would have come at the expense of the home run and run scoring categories. Without committing to simply punting an entire category, I’m content with the team I put together, especially when you consider our extremely late start.
Do you like my team? What would you have done differently? Let me know by tweeting @Prospects365 or by commenting below!
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Bill Streicher and NBC Sports