The first experts draft of the offseason took place over the weekend at First Pitch Arizona, a weekend of fantasy baseball talk hosted every year by the good folks at BaseballHQ. In addition to lots of fantasy baseball talk, taking in a few Arizona Fall League games, as well as the AFL All Star game, the fantasy baseball experts hold an NFBC style 50 round draft. If I am not mistaken, this type of league does not allow any waiver wire pick ups or trades, so the roster you drafted in early November 2015 is the roster you have in late September 2016.
The participants include Paul Sporer, Ron Shandler, Jason Collette, Doug Dennis and others. I have already ranked my top 50 overall rankings earlier this offseason, so I like to look at the early experts drafts to see if I can glean something from the results of the draft.
Let's take a look at the first round:
First Pitch Arizona Draft Results: Round 1
1. Mike Trout, Angels
2, Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
3. Bryce Harper, Nationals
4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
5. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
6. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
7. Zack Greinke, free agent
8. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
9. Dee Gordon, Marlins
10. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
11. Manny Machado, Orioles
12. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks
13. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
14. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
15. Joey Votto, Reds
- Not a surprise to see Mike Trout taken at #1 once again. One cannot go wrong drafting the best player in the game there, but my early preference is Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, as he is a five tool hitter, who will steal double digit bags, and was one of the few 20-20 hitters in the game in 2015.
- Clayton Kershaw at #4 makes sense as he is the most dependable starting pitcher in the game, and one of the most consistent players in the game that fantasy owners can count on to produce elite stats across the board. He struck out 300 batters this season with an ERA in the low 2s, and could win his third straight National League Cy Young award, and his fourth in the last five seasons.
- Surprise #1: Zack Greinke picked at #7 overall. Wow. But, you know what? He was so consistent this season. Without checking, I bet he had just one or two disaster starts this season. That's huge in any fantasy league. I like the aggressive draft pick here. You need an ace to anchor your staff to win.
- Surprise #2: Dee Gordon taken at #9 overall seems early for my liking. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying this pick is horrible or anything, as I do not know the strategy of the owner who made the pick. Having a consistent 50+ base stealer who can hit .280-.300 is valuable. I just prefer to draft the big power hitter or power/speed hitter, someone who can hit 20+ home runs and possibly steal 20+ bases.
- I ranked Orioles third baseman Manny Machado as my #1 fantasy third baseman a few weeks ago, but I cannot gripe about someone drafting Josh Donaldson or Nolan Arenado ahead of him. Both had huge power breakout seasons in 2015, and hit in two of the best hitters parks in the game. I just prefer the guy who can hit for power and steal bases.
- Miguel Cabrera at #10 could look like a steal come this time next season, or we could all look back and say that his draft position was a huge red flag for the rest of the industry, as nine other owners passed on probably the best hitter we have seen in years. I hope he bounces back from the worst year of his career, but there are signs that injuries and age may be catching up to him.
- Drafting A.J. Pollock in the first round says that his owner must truly believe the power production in 2015 is repeatable in 2016. His HR/FB% jumped from 9.5% in 2014 to 13.5% in 2015, but his hard hit % increased as well. I am just not sure if I am ready to call him a top 15 overall pick. I actually prefer Astros outfielder George Springer over Pollock in the first round.
- Surprise #3: I am not sure what to think about McCutchen dropping to #13 overall. I get that the stolen base totals have dropped in each of the last two seasons (27-18-11), but the same can be said of Mike Trout. While the stolen bases have dropped, the runs scored and RBI have increased, and he is still young enough to approach the 20 stolen base level once again.
- If you want a top tier first baseman or third baseman in 2016, you are going to have to draft them in the first round. There were three third baseman and four first baseman drafted in the first round of this draft.
I will review rounds 2 and 3 within the next day or two.