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Our intrepid reporter is still flush from his triumphant performance whilst employing the unorthodox draft strategy of drafting Clayton Kershaw first overall, which he coined “The Kershaw Gambit” in the CBS 10-team league format

Now, he dives headlong into the arduous test of Fantasy baseball acumen known as the National Fantasy Baseball Challenge (NFBC) league format. Can The Kershaw Gambit again twirl a wicked Uncle Charlie past the flailing bats of conventional wisdom? 

While it was great to show that one could cobble together a strong Fantasy roster without selecting Mike Trout with the No. 1 overall pick, I can certainly understand the argument that a 10-team league features star-studded rosters and a deep waiver wire, which creates a rather large margin for error. With that in mind, I decided to have a go at a significantly tougher test: the 15-team NFBC league format.

C
2
1B
1
2B
1
SS
1
3B
1
CI
1
MI
1
OF
5
U
1
P
9
BN
7

The “Diamond” NFBC League format consists of 15 teams, each having the roster configuration at the right. Obviously, this league format — with a roster pool of 450 players — requires a fairly extensive knowledge base if you plan to field a competitive team. This configuration should provide a much sterner test for The Kershaw Gambit than the 10-team CBS format.

As before, I am using FantasyPros’ Mock Draft Simulator to pit my wits against the bytes and bits of a host of computerized opponents. Once the draft is complete, I run the Simulator’s Draft Evaluator to determine where my team would be predicted to finish.

One quick note: Just to satisfy my curiosity, I ran the mock draft on auto-pick a few times — with my only interaction being the selection of Trout or Kershaw at No. 1 — and my resulting team was ranked anywhere from first to somewhere in the middle of the pack by the “Evaluator,” so I’m fairly confident that my ranking was as objective as the software could make it.

Drafting Clayton Kershaw First Overall

Let us know in the comments below what you think about this plan. To the draft room we go! 

Step 1: The “Control”

To review, this step involves taking Trout with the first overall pick, and then playing out the draft and allowing the Draft Simulator’s evaluation tool to score my effort. This is done to give a truer evaluation of the “variable”: drafting Clayton Kershaw first overall. Here’s how the first two rounds played out:

Team Round 1 Round 2
Buck’s SCFE Team Mike Trout David Price
Catalanatto Wine Mixers Andrew McCutchen Stephen Strasburg
Chris Getz Grounders Clayton Kershaw Josh Donaldson
Highway to Hellickson Miguel Cabrera Michael Brantley
Grand Theft Votto Paul Goldschmidt Freddie Freeman
Those Medlen-ing Kids Giancarlo Stanton Buster Posey
You Have Lefebvre Jose Abreu Yasiel Puig
Gone with the Lind Carlos Gomez Jacoby Ellsbury
Smell Nice with Bartolo Cologne Adam Jones Ian Desmond
Happy Halladays Felix Hernandez Jose Altuve
Wieters Digest Jose Bautista Adrian Beltre
Riding Lawn Mauer Edwin Encarnacion Anthony Rendon
Kevin You-Kill-Us Chris Sale Madison Bumgarner
Tiers for Fiers Robinson Cano Max Scherzer
The Wright Thing Troy Tulowitzki Anthony Rizzo

Picks 30-31: There was still a good selection of players available of course, with David Price and Corey Kluber the top pitchers, and Hanley Ramirez, Justin Upton and Ryan Braun headlining the hitters. I went with Price and Ramirez; Han-Ram will man shortstop for now, but he should gain outfield eligibility very early in the season.

Picks 60-61: The best starting pitchers still available were Cole Hamels and Julio Teheran, with closer Aroldis Chapman also in the mix. Among hitters, Alex Gordon, Evan Longoria and Billy Hamilton topped the list. I’ve already shared my feelings about Hamilton’s 2015 prospects and with the scarcity of talent at third base, Longo was an easy pick. I thought Hamels represented a nice value here, and this pick will look even better should he indeed be traded to a contending team.

Picks 90-91: Well, the pickings are still pretty good. The top starting pitchers on the board included Alex Cobb, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Shields, with Mark Melancon topping the list of available closers. Among hitters, Jay Bruce, Christian Yelich and David Wright topped my selections. I thought long and hard about these two picks, but finally decided on Bruce and Yelich, as I reckoned the outfielder talent pool would be pretty thin by the time the draft came around to me again.

When the dust had finally settled, here’s what my roster looked like:

C McCann Montero
1B Duda
2B Walker
SS H. Ramirez
3B Longoria
CI Plouffe
MI Owings
OF Trout Yelich Bruce Betts Byrd
U De Aza
SP Price Hamels Stroman Keuchel Holland Dickey
RP Uehara Feliz A.Miller
BN Cingrani J. Nelson Loney LeMahieu Vargas Qualls M.Moore

In deep formats, you’re bound to have a few roster holes and dice rolls, but I was overall pretty happy with my team. Let’s see what the Draft Analyzer had to say:

Overall
Hitting
Pitching
Pts
Team
Pts
Team
Pts
Team
121
Buck’s SCFE Team
70
Buck’s SCFE Team
70
Catalanatto Wine Mixer
111
Wieters Digest
65
Wieters Digest
68
Happy Halladays
103
Chris Getz Grounders
60
Highway to Hellickson
58
Chris Getz Grounders
100
Happy Halladays
56
Grand Theft Votto
52
The Wright Thing
98
Highway to Hellickson
53
Smell Nice With Bartolo Cologne
51
Tears for Fiers
6
Tears for Fiers
6
Gone with the Lind
Those Medlen-ing Kids
7
Those Medlen-ing Kids
7
Those Medlen-ing Kids
Yu Have Lefebvre
8
Catalanatto Wine Mixer
8
Tears for Fiers
49
Buck’s SCFE Team
9
The Wright Thing
9
Chris Getz Grounders
9
Kevin, You-Kill-Us
10
Kevin, You-Kill-Us
10
Kevin, You-Kill-Us
10
Wieters Digest
11
Grand Theft Votto
11
The Wright Thing
11
Highway to Hellickson
12
Gone with the Lind
12
Riding Lawn Mauer
12
Riding Lawn Mauer
13
Yu Have Lefebvre
13
Yu Have Lefebvre
13
Gone with the Lind
14
Smell Nice With Bartolo Cologne
14
Happy Halladays
14
Grand Theft Votto
15
Riding Lawn Mauer
15
Catalanatto Wine Mixer
15
Smell Nice With Bartolo Cologne

Well, this doesn’t look bad at all; the ugly pitching numbers are something of a byproduct of my selection of Matt Moore, who is targeting a June return from Tommy John surgery. I tried to play this draft just like I would in real life, and Moore fell far enough to where I felt he was worth drafting and stashing on the DL for a couple months. This is not a strategy I would have employed in most leagues, but if Moore gives me a strong second half it could really make a difference in a 15-team format.

Step 2: The Kershaw Draft Strategy

On we go to The Kershaw Gambit, in which we test what drafting Clayton Kershaw first overall does for a lineup. We’ll play out the draft as before, and let the Evaluator tell us how crazy this strategy really was. The first two rounds looked like this:

Team Round 1 Round 2
Buck’s SCFE Team Clayton Kershaw Hanley Ramirez
Catalanatto Wine Mixers Mike Trout Ryan Braun
Chris Getz Grounders Miguel Cabrera Victor Martinez
Highway to Hellickson Andrew McCutchen Ian Desmond
Grand Theft Votto Paul Goldschmidt Freddie Freeman
Those Medlen-ing Kids Giancarlo Stanton Justin Upton
You Have Lefebvre Jose Abreu Michael Brantley
Gone with the Lind Carlos Gomez Yasiel Puig
Smell Nice with Bartolo Cologne Jose Bautista Josh Donaldson
Happy Halladays Adam Jones Adrian Beltre
Wieters Digest Felix Hernandez Madison Bumgarner
Riding Lawn Mauer Edwin Encarnacion Anthony Rendon
Kevin You-Kill-Us Robinson Cano Chris Sale
Tiers for Fiers Anthony Rizzo Max Scherzer
The Wright Thing Jose Altuve Troy Tulowitzki

Picks 30-31: When things came back around to me, I saw a familiar name in David Price, and something of a surprise in Stephen Strasburg. Given that I had taken Kershaw in the first round, though, I felt it prudent to grab a couple of hitters here. Jacoby Ellsbury, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and George Springer led the list of offensive threats, and I felt that Ellsbury and Han-Ram gave the kind of across-the-board production I was looking for. I made my picks and thanked my lucky stars that this draft wasn’t unfolding in real time, as it was only a few seconds before it was my turn again.

Picks 60-61: Jordan Zimmermann and Julio Teheran were the top starting pitchers available, with fireballing closer Craig Kimbrel also in the mix. Among hitters, Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, Yoenis Cespedes, Kyle Seager and Ian Kinsler were the best available options. I’m a big believer in a bounceback from Fielder in 2015, so his was an easy name to add to my roster. Ortiz is only eligible at Utility in this format; please be sure to check that before setting your draft rankings. Zimmermann flies a bit under the radar in Washington’s rotation, and now that Scherzer is on board, I like Zimmermann even more. Why? Because he’ll be pitching a notch lower in the rotation, which is one of the signs I look for in identifying potentially undervalued pitchers. I also saw Zimmermann as the last pitcher on his tier, with a fairly significant drop-off to the next group. Even in view of drafting Clayton Kershaw first overall, the first pick of Round 5 (pick 61 overall) is absolutely not too early to add your second starting pitcher.

Picks 90-91: After passing on Kimbrel in Round 5, I had my eyes on nabbing a closer here, but the top available names: Robertson and Melancon, didn’t motivate me to go in that direction. Instead, I added some speed in Christian Yelich and a reliable – if fading a bit – bat at second base in Dustin Pedroia. I took a while deciding between Pedroia, David Wright and Jay Bruce, who were the other top options on the offensive side. I would have loved to have seen Jason Heyward’s name on the board here, but one of my digital opponents cyber-sniped me just two picks earlier.

Just as in the “Trout first” draft, I played things pretty much as I would have during a real draft – including again tabbing Matt Moore with a late-round selection. I also selected Francisco Lindor late in the draft, and his projected stats probably won’t provide much aid to my immediate cause. My final roster looked like this:

C McCann Iannetta
1B Fielder
2B Pedroia
SS H. Ramirez
3B Sandoval
CI Ar. Ramirez
MI Utley
OF Ellsbury Yelich Betts Eaton De Aza
U B. Phillips
SP Kershaw Zimmermann Ventura Salazar Hahn J. Nelson
RP Papelbon Feliz Gregerson
BN Semien Qualls Aoki Victorino Morrison Lindor M.Moore

To be quite candid, I wasn’t quite as happy with my squad’s pitching this time around, but overall it looked like a decent team. Let’s see what the Draft Evaluator had to say:

Overall
Hitting
Pitching
Pts
Team
Pts
Team
Pts
Team
119
Buck’s SCFE Team
66
Gone with the Lind
70
Choo and a Half Men
102
All Hanson Deck!
65
Buck’s SCFE Team
67
Ethier Said Than Dunn
102
Motte-Lee Cruz
59
Happy Halladays
59
Ruth is the Truth
100
Braun for Men
57
Raisin Braun
56
All Hanson Deck!
99
Raisin Braun
56
Swing Tabatabata Swing!
55
Super Mauerio
6
Swing Tabatabata Swing!
6
Braun for Men
49
Motte-Lee Cruz
7
Happy Halladays
7
Of Bryce and Men
45
Swing Tabatabata Swing!
8
Choo and a Half Men
8
Motte-Lee Cruz
44
Happy Halladays
9
Ethier Said Than Dunn
9
Downs Goes Frasor!
44
Braun for Men
10
Super Mauerio
10
All Hanson Deck!
43
Buck’s SCFE Team
11
Gone with the Lind
11
How the Greinke Stole Christmas
11
Raisin Braun
12
How the Greinke Stole Christmas
12
Ruth is the Truth
12
How the Greinke Stole Christmas
13
Ruth is the Truth
13
Ethier Said Than Dunn
13
Of Bryce and Men
14
Of Bryce and Men
14
Super Mauerio
14
Gone with the Lind
15
Downs Goes Fraso
15
Choo and a Half Men
15
Downs Goes Frasor!

Hmmm … looks like our intrepid reporter may have overcompensated a bit for drafting a pitcher with his top pick. It’s easy enough to do, and I didn’t re-roll this mock draft to produce a more palatable and balanced outcome.

There’s a lesson here, folks: balance, balance, balance. No matter how fast or powerful your first few picks may be, don’t go to sleep on their categories. I drafted a stud pitcher in Round 1, followed with a top-flight No. 2 a few rounds later, and then probably ignored my hurlers a bit too long. I also should have added another starting pitcher to account for Moore’s absence.

While my stable of arms isn’t horrible by any means, I’ll probably be in constant “hands-on” mode early in the season trying to play some favorable matchups among the available waiver-wire talent. On the bright side, the Draft Evaluator makes me a clear favorite to bring home the gold, so The Kershaw Gambit paid dividends in the big picture.

The End of the Experiment

Time to put a bow on this “little” 4,000-plus word exercise, and I’ll preface my closing comments by stating that Mike Trout is still clearly, indisputably, absolutely the top Fantasy Baseball player out there, and he should go No. 1 in every draft format I can think of.

However, I believe that a case could be made for drafting Kershaw with the second overall pick, and if an injury was to befall Trout, Kershaw could be considered a legitimate candidate to be the new No. 1 player.

Drafting Clayton Kershaw first overall does require you to re-think some of your draft strategies, but as this exercise has shown, a very competitive team can still be assembled with Kershaw as your top guy. How will your team look if you pick him with the first pick?

Clayton Kershaw Photo Credit: Ron Reiring

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