By using the free Draft Wizards’ mock draft tool, we can run different Fantasy Baseball experiments, like figuring out what happens if an owner decides to draft Clayton Kershaw with the first pick, instead of consensus No. 1 player, Mike Trout?
Fantasy Baseball Conventional Wisdom (2015 Edition) tells us that Mike Trout is the undisputed No. 1 overall pick in Fantasy drafts, and adds that there is a glut of quality starting pitchers out there. Burning an early draft pick on an SP is unnecessary, supposedly, since you can load up on mid-range talent once you have a strong stockpile of hitters on your roster.
While there’s plenty of validity in both of those statements, there’s a certain restless spirit within me that demands that such widely (often blindly) accepted notions be put to the test. What if I was to draft Clayton Kershaw with the first pick?
How would the draft shake out — once my league-mates had recovered from the shock, of course? The owner with the No. 2 pick would likely spend all but five seconds of his/her allotted time scouring the Internet to find reassurance that Trout was indeed healthy?
Would the space-time continuum suffer irreparable damage if I took a pitcher with the top pick? Perhaps worse, would my selection of available hitters in the later rounds be reminiscent of one of those all-night diners: not somewhere you go, but somewhere you end up.
Scary thoughts indeed, but they only heightened my motivation to unveil a strategy I have coined:
“The Kershaw Gambit” — When You Draft Clayton Kershaw with the First Pick
Basically, the “Gambit” consists of taking the Dodgers’ ace lefty with the first overall pick, following my normal strategy through the balance of the draft, and then analyzing my results against the rest of the league.
Fortunately, FantasyPros has a nifty mock draft tool that allows you to draft “solo” against computer opponents that make their picks based on the Expert Consensus Rankings. For my first go at painting this picture, I selected the broadest brush available: a “default” league and team setup at one of the largest Fantasy Baseball providers — in this case, CBSSports.com.
In the basic “Free” CBS Rotisserie format, leagues consist of 10 teams, with the following roster requirements: 2-C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, 5-OF, 2-U, 9-P, 2-Reserves.
Now if I remember my eighth-grade science lab notes correctly, experiments need something called a “control”, in which you do the experiment without the variable you’re assessing being in place. With this scientific principle in mind, the first thing I did was to run through a mock draft without taking Kershaw; rather, I went with the universally-accepted option of selecting Trout with the No. 1 overall pick.
Here’s a pick-by-pick breakdown of the first two rounds and a brief synopsis of my first seven picks. (Note: these mock drafts were conducted just before it was announced that Kenley Jansen would be out for 8-12 weeks. While I didn’t take Jansen, his presence influenced the other teams’ selections.) Man, dig those boffo team names, would you?
When You Draft Mike Trout with the First Pick
In order to fit the table, we made it vertical, rather than the usual horizontal format.
|Teams||Round 1||Round 2|
|Buck's SCFE Team||1.1 Mike Trout, OF, LAA||2.10 Chris Sale, SP, CHW|
|Crazy For Yu||1.2 Andre McCutchen, OF, PIT||2.9 Max Scherzer, SP, WAS|
|Stubb Hub||1.3 Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit||2.8 Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL|
|Streetcar Named Cuddyer||1.4 Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD||2.7 Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU|
|A Guy Walks Into Aybar||1.5 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona||2.6 Hanley Ramirez, SS, BOS|
|Grand Theft Votto||1.6 Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA||2.5 Michael Brantley, OF, CLE|
|Never Walk a Loney||1.7 Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL||2.4 Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA|
|Always Wright||1.8 Jose Abreu, 1B, CHW||2.3 Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC|
|Not Stanton For This||1.9 Jose Bautista, OF, TOR||2.2 Adam Jones, OF, BAL|
|Bourn Thugs 'n Parmelee||1.10 Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA||2.1 Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, TOR|
Picks 20/21: Well hello there, Mr. Chris Sale; the Chisox’s lights-out lefty fell to me at pick 20, and I gladly took advantage of my cyber opponents’ ineptitude. Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg were also on the board here, giving me a host of options as to who my staff ace would be. Some of the available position players included Adrian Beltre, Yasiel Puig, and — Anthony Rendon?! Seriously? Man, they told me I would be drafting against computers, but I didn’t know they would be VIC-20s and TRS-80s; nice cassette drive there, cyber-dude. You analog SweatHogs keep on drafting while I head over to the trophy shop to place an order. Sale and Rendon form a dynamic duo to add as a complement to the best player in baseball, and I’m feeling very good as I start planning my next two picks.
Picks 40/41: Some close calls here, but I went with Zack Greinke and Hunter Pence; the former since I felt there was a drop-off coming in starting pitching later this round, and the latter because he does a little bit of everything well, and he has played in at least 154 games each of the past seven seasons. Durability goes a long way with me.
Picks 60/61: Evan Longoria and Craig Kimbrel were both very pleasant surprises here, but these kinds of things sometimes happen in shallow-league mocks. Third base is a bit of a Fantasy wasteland once the top players leave the board, so I’m happy to have Longo in the fold. Rendon can also swing over to the hot corner if Longoria lands on the shelf at some point this season. Kimbrel is one of baseball’s top closers, and I’m a big fan of grabbing a bullpen anchor as the draft enters its middle rounds.
My final roster looked like this:
I had a good feeling when I looked over this team immediately post-draft, and the Draft Wizard Evaluator agreed with me. Projected point totals are shown for the top-five teams only:
My team may be projected for fifth in pitching, but I’m only three points away from second place. If some of my high-upside hurlers fulfill their potential, I just might win this league in a route.
“Big deal,” you might say. “Whoop-de-doo and good for you; you managed to win the mock after drafting the best player in baseball. Pick up your commemorative keychain/LED light combination tool on your way out the door.” Wow, that’s harsh — but point taken. Are batteries included with that parting gift?
When You Draft Clayton Kershaw with the First Pick
Let’s reset the board, and have another go — but this time, I’m going with “The Kershaw Gambit.” I hope that the cyber-player drafting second doesn’t blow a fuse or something. Here’s how the first two rounds shook out — hey, more witty and whimsical team names!
|Teams||Round 1||Round 2|
|Buck's SCFE Team||1.1 Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD||2.10 Max Scherzer, SP, WAS|
|Harts on Fiers||1.2 Mike Trout, OF, LAA||2.9 Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL|
|Grand Theft Votto||1.3 Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT||2.8 Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC|
|Gran Victorino||1.4 Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA||2.7 Adam Jones, OF, BAL|
|Too Lidge-it to Quit||1.5 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI||2.6 Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU|
|Pineiro Bread||1.6 Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET||2.5 Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, WAS|
|Dude Looks Like a Nady||1.7 Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL||2.4 Chris Sale, SP, CHW|
|McCutchen Sink||1.8 Jose Abreu, 1B, CHW||2.3 Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA|
|How the Greinke Stole Christmas||1.9 Jose Bautista, OF, TOR||2.2 Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD|
|Lemon Harang Pie||1.10 Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, TOR||2.1 Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA|
Pick 20-21: Well, well, what have we here? Messrs. Scherzer and Bumgarner made it through the first two rounds, while Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez and Ian Desmond are the best bats currently available. Hmmm… there’s no way I should take another starting pitcher here, right? Right? Aw, what the heck, we’re in full-scale rebellion mode here; it’s go big or go home — and I can’t find my keys, so we’re going big.
Welcome to the team, Max. I’ll pair him with Cleveland’s Michael Brantley, who I firmly believe will be a star again in 2015. I can almost hear my cyber-opponents’ resistors frying after those two picks. C’mon, Poindexters, I can hear the clock ticking … or is that your hard drive bidding us a fond farewell?
Picks 40-41: Well, that early run on bats allowed Justin Upton to slide to the end of Round 4, and I’m here to make sure he doesn’t fall any farther. I’ll pair him with Jose Reyes, who should help give me a leg up in the stolen bases category.
Picks 60-61: Longoria was on the board again, so I grabbed him and Matt Kemp to add some more pop to my lineup. I was hoping that Greg Holland would fall to me next round, so I passed on Kimbrel this time.
Picks 80-81: No dice on Holland, so I added Jason Heyward and Alex Cobb. At this point in the draft, I have arguably the league’s best starting pitchers, four dynamic outfielders and a slugging third baseman. I like where this is going, although I still need to find a closer before too much longer. Koji Uehara, Cody Allen and Huston Street are my “fallback” options as a No. 1 bullpen guy this season.
I liked the team I ended up with. My potent starting pitching allowed me to grab some undervalued bats in the late rounds and since this is such a shallow league, there should be plenty of sticks available on the waiver wire throughout the season. My final roster looked like this:
I’m not a huge Carlos Beltran fan, but he’ll be an obvious first cut if he starts slowly or suffers an injury. When healthy, he still has enough pop to be relevant in most leagues. In hindsight, I probably should have focused more on speed in the latter rounds.
Here’s how the Draft Analyzer saw it (point totals shown for the top five teams):
No surprise that my pitching carried my team’s overall score, and I am confident that a little waiver-wire wizardly will allow me to move up in some of the hitting categories.
The point here is that if I draft Kershaw with the first pick, it ends up being a perfectly viable strategy in a shallow-league format, such as CBS’ default setup. At no point in this draft did I feel like I was scrambling for talent, and there are several solid hitters that were not drafted.
From a purely subjective standpoint, I did feel I was drawn more toward hitters as a result of tabbing Kershaw with the No. 1 pick, but it’s important that you continue to shop for value. Again, in this shallow format, the waiver wire will play a prominent role in determining the final standings, so a few misplaced late-round fliers do not spell disaster.
After almost 90 NFBC pay drafts Mike Trout finally goes 2nd overall. Someone took Clayton Kershaw #1 on Friday. Someone had to do it, right?
— Greg Ambrosius (@GregAmbrosius) February 16, 2015
I hope this exercise has also illustrated that just because you take Kershaw in Round 1, you don’t have to shy away from capitalizing on a bargain should it fall your way at the 2/3 turn — even if that bargain involves a second starting pitcher.
Now, there are variables aplenty in this little exercise, and one can only glean so much real data from drafting against computers, but I believe that both of the teams I drafted would be competitive in the default CBS format. I much prefer the “Trout” roster over the “Kershaw” iteration, but I would gladly carry either team into competition.
Granted, this format has a deep talent pool, and it’s fairly easy to pull this off in a 10-team league, but how well would this strategy work with an NFBC 15-team league format, where the margin for error is much smaller? Good question — and there’s only a way you can find out — do your own mock draft for free! What’s cool about this tool is that it allows you to “revert” a pick if you decide you don’t like the results.
Please check back in a few days and see how The Kershaw Gambit II played out, as I look at what happens if you draft Clayton Kershaw with the first pick in a 15-team draft!
Clayton Kershaw Photo Credit: Dirk Hansen
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