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MLB Remix League Update: Introducing the NL Central

Heath introduces the new and improved NL Central.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t much happening in the fantasy baseball world at the moment. So why not read about someone else’s fantasy team? I can give you a good reason, I promise.

The MLB Remix League isn’t your typical fantasy baseball draft. We have 34 fantasy baseball pundits engaging in a three-year simulation using the Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) platform. Each owner (or pair of owners) gets to redraft their particular franchise, and we’ll simulate three MLB seasons to see which team fares the best. Not only do we get to find out about our GM chops, but we also get to actually play this thing out using OOTP, which is new to me but a product I’m very excited to use.

Everything matters, as we are drafting for real life. You can’t just blindly grab stats without considering age, versatility, splits, and a host of other factors. Your home ball park matters, for instance. Have you ever wanted to see German Marquez outside of Coors Field? Now you’ll get your chance, as Marquez is the new No. 2 hurler in Detroit behind Jacob deGrom. The new Tigers GM is taking a different route than the real life Tigers—a route you’d expect from one Mike Simione (aka SP Streamer). Doesn’t this sound more fun than real life already? It has to in my opinion, since there’s currently no baseball in real life!

One wrinkle I should mention is that injuries and other happenings will be current—i.e. Noah Syndergaard is out for the entirety of 2020, for example. Michael Pineda will be available after his suspension, and yada yada yada.

The draft has been a blast through 19 rounds and I can’t wait to play it out using the OOTP platform. Be sure to check out the league’s Twitter handle, @MLBRemix, for draft updates.

Now for the unveiling of the remade NL Central, where I find myself as the new GM of the Reds. Hear each GM’s thoughts below, then scope out our rosters at the end to see how the division currently stacks up. Cast your vote for the current frontrunner, so at least one person has some early bragging rights!

Cincinnati Reds (@HeathCapps)

I spent some time getting to know the Great American Ball Park a little better, and there were no surprises. If you’re curious, here’s an in-depth look at the small park. I knew GABP was a great place to hit, but it was nice to sharpen that background knowledge with more specificity. After researching, I felt I had the full freedom to draft any sort of hitter I wanted, without worries about handedness. The small park is easily a top 10 hitter’s venue, at least with regard to home runs. And as for handedness, GABP was top five for both lefty and righty pulled fly balls, based on the barrels work I studied via Pitcher List. Lastly, GABP ranked 6th in the MLB with regard to that same research to straightaway center field. So as long as I was drafting a good hitter, the handedness wasn’t going to factor in—except as a tiebreaker perhaps, so my lineup wouldn’t be skewed too much towards lefties or righties. My current projected lineup against righty pitching alternates righties and lefties, so I’m pretty happy with the balance. That wasn’t a goal heading in, but I’m happy with the way things fell.

As for pitchers, my hope was ground ball heavy guys. I’ve been trying to lean towards pitchers who generate soft contact and/or don’t allow a lot of barrels (one of the stickier measures year to year). Other measures like K-BB% and Z-Contact% factor in, too. And for relievers especially, I wanted to shy away from guys with extreme splits given the new rule change. I normally tend to be a little light on pitching in any sort of draft, and I assumed (correctly) that I wouldn’t get a chance at an elite hurler picking out of the 21st slot. I figured my goal would be beefing up my bullpen and drafting pitchers who can log plenty of innings. Luckily, veterans who can eat innings aren’t at a premium in this draft, so I have plenty of those guys left to consider. By draft’s end, I hope my bullpen is an area of strength from the jump. I’ll need to shorten the game for my starting rotation, and so far I’m happy with the bullpen I’ve assembled.

In general, I wanted to lean towards good-all-around players and the best available. That may sound simplistic, but players who are liabilities in the field weren’t on my draft board. Eduardo Escobar is probably the worst defender on my team, given that he was -2 OAA at the keystone last year. But he also slugged 35 home runs and was plenty valuable (3.7 WAR). Hunter Dozier, too, didn’t grade out overly well, but he’s graded out far better as an outfielder than as a third baseman. I’ll hide him in right field where his 80th percentile sprint speed can aid him. And go figure—this is the position Dozier seemed ticketed for in 2020 based on Spring Training usage.

Lastly, I wanted guys who are ready right now. Remember, this is a three-year window of contention. I was hoping to draft a veteran-heavy squad, one that wouldn’t need a ton of impact from rookies within the next couple of years. Prospects aren’t my strength, so instead I’ve tried to cater to defense and to be strong up the middle—that is, get a quality center fielder and middle infield pairing. You all can be the judge of how that’s going so far, but overall I am pretty happy with the offense and defense on my squad. Now it’s time to mine for pitching, per my usual...

Milwaukee Brewers (@cory5ott)

Having been a life-long Brewers fan from the suburbs of Milwaukee, it has become very clear over time that this team has always lacked two things; 1) a pair of elite aces with high strikeout rates + ground ball rates, and 2) players with substantial power upside but also have the ability to play well above-average defense. We all know how difficult it is to find advanced multi-tool players who excel on both offense and defense, so filling a lineup with players who possess a healthy combination of above-average power/contact skills and above-average defense was most important to me when drafting for the Brewers.

Given that Miller Park is Top 6 in the league for HR/FB and tied for first for overall fly-ball rate, the plan that I developed was very simple and was molded to succeed in this ballpark. You guessed it, it is to draft pitchers who yield a ton of ground balls and hitters who have a high fly-ball rate but also have been hitting the ball hard, while also mixing in a few utility high-contact players. To mitigate these park factors, I started out the draft by poaching a division rival’s ace in Luis Castillo (elite ground ball rate, premium strikeout upside), and followed up that pick by “controversially” selecting Rhys Hoskins’ power upside and premium defense to man first base. Hoskins is a Top 4 defensive first baseman by OAA, and could provide the power upside of 40+ home runs if he were to swing at better pitches and more often. In the third and fourth rounds I added another talented young pitcher proven to have ace potential in Julio Urias, and an elite defensive shortstop with 30+ home run upside in Paul DeJong. I then followed up with adding OF Kyle Tucker (30/20 potential, average or better defense), Ryan Yarbrough (elite weak contact enforcer, crafty and has developing changeup), OF Avisail Garcia (above average defense/sprint speed, high average and power hitter), 3B/UT David Fletcher (contact and defensive utility specialist), and 2B Rougned Odor (power upside and above average defense).

My team started to take shape, as I added a closer in Emmanuel Clase, underappreciated utility OF Mike Tauchman, up and coming young starter Tony Gonsolin, flame throwing setup man/closer Hunter Harvey, and another utility pitcher in Daniel Ponce de Leon. I then added a good defensive switch-hitting catching prospect who I believe is MLB ready in Keibert Ruiz and another good bullpen arm in RP Randy Dobnak (ground ball specialist). Since I essentially had a full lineup to put on an MLB diamond by this point, I decided to dip into the prospect pool with my next two #MLBRemixLeague picks by selecting the immense power upside and surprising athletic ability of SS Oneil Cruz, and the raw but somewhat rounded out talent of highly touted prospect SP Josiah Gray. For this draft I developed a very specific plan and have been able to implement it thus far, as it should be a very intriguing three seasons competing in the NL Central along with Heath Capps, Nate Grimm, Michael Waterloo, and Dave Swan!

St. Louis Cardinals (@Nate_Grimm)

With the uncertainty surrounding the baseball season — it seems like if, not when, is the correct question at this point — it seems futile to continue drafting fantasy squads.The MLB Remix League draft, then, has been the perfect distraction. Instead of picking some variation of the same teams that may never see the light of day, the MLB Remix League ensures that we’re both exercising our minds to think about baseball in a new way and also that we’ll see it played out via simulation. With winning games being the only consideration, not even having to worry about contracts or appeasing a fan base, my focus was solely on putting the best real-life roster together. That meant I’ve put less weight on homers, runs, RBI, steals — the things we care a lot about for fantasy, but that are just part of the equation in real life — and more weight on WAR, defense and offensive categories like wOBA and wRC+. Even for pitching, where we know categories like strikeouts correlate positively with overall performance, I felt less pressure to secure an ace if I had a strong defense behind a weak contact-oriented pitcher. That was the impetus for my early picks: strong all-around players. Getting Trevor Story at 19, even outside of Coors Field, was a nice start, a middle-of-the-order hitter who’s a plus defender at an up-the-middle position. I stayed up the middle with my next pick, Victor Robles, one of the game’s best defensive outfielders who has room to grow offensively. Max Kepler and Jo Adell kept with the well-rounded theme.

The other thing I wanted to try was to secure some of the game’s better platoon bats for positions that I didn’t attack early. I won’t claim victory yet, but I was able to execute the plan without much deviance, and without giving up too much value. The Cron-Choi pairing at first base is my ideal, and the Alberto-La Stella pairing at second was only slightly off from the Alberto-Adam Frazier pairing I’d hoped for. The wRC+ platoon splits for the quartet in 2019: Cron 160 vs. L, 78 vs. R; Choi 75 vs. L, 132 vs. R; Alberto 151 vs. L, 57 vs. R; and La Stella 91 vs. L, 134 vs. R.If there’s a fantasy takeaway, for me it’s that — in leagues where daily moves can be made, players with extremely favorable platoon splits can be an asset. If you can get Cron and Alberto in the lineup against every lefty, and La Stella and Choi against every righty, you’ve suddenly got two very good hitters: in 430 at-bats last year, a La Stella/Alberto combo would have hit .353 with 18 homers last year; in 458 at-bats, the Cron/Choi duo would have hit .288 with 28 homers. We’ll see how all my strategies work out. It’s been a lot of fun to put the team together, if nothing else.

Chicago Cubs (@davithius)

Here are my pre-draft thoughts:

1. Offenses will have higher BAs & HR totals than we are used to due to lack of financial constraints

2. SP rotation- focus on players that own the zone & have higher K/9 to limit men on base

3. Bullpen- focus K/9 & good stuff/arsenal

4. Intangibles- Put emphasis on defense (especially range in OF) & the park is fairly neutral for LHB/RHB so don’t overthink & grab players based off that

In-draft strategy (that I can say):

1. Start with core 4 (2 OF, 1 SS & 1 hitting C), having hitting catcher is advantage

2. Grab 5 SP by round 10 that fit criteria ( low in-zone contact, high K/9 & 3 good pitches)...pray walks don’t haunt

3. Grab any full-time position players that can stick at IF spot (example: Starlin Castro), then fill with platoons (especially in LF)

4. Grab some youth later as my weakness is prospects & this is only 3 years long

Happiest about my team: The rotation has lots of pre-draft targets & hitters should make it difficult on opposing pitchers.

Possible regret: Not grabbing a true ace & passing on Kris Bryant for Carlos Correa.

Pittsburgh Pirates (@MichaelWaterloo)

My strategy when I saw my draft spot was grab either Juan Soto or Ronald Acuna, assuming they fell. In all, I wanted to go best player available in the first three rounds and then figure out what my draft strategy was from there. After I landed Soto, Gallo and JD with my first few picks, I knew that I needed to lean into outscoring everyone and not worry about defense as much. The plan was to have Gallo at third, J.D. at first, Soto in left, Soler in right and Christian Pache in center to make up the difference, but he went a pick ahead of me. Tsutsugo can be an average 3B, and JD can be an average 1B. Gallo is an above average CF.

Look, this team isn’t winning any Gold Gloves. It’ll be around 20th-25th in overall defense. I’m OK with that because I built an offense that I feel can carry me to victory. I wanted to target pitchers who could give me fine volume with good floors (Archer, Keuchel, Teheran) and grab a few upside pieces that could click (James, Gilbert, Skubal, though Skubal is going to be my Josh Hader). The plan for the back end of the pen was to grab some players who I felt would excel due to their dominant stuff playing up more in the late innings with Touki and Rasmussen. Grabbing Profar and Luplow gives me added flexibility to play matchups as needed with Gallo playing third and Luplow playing CF against lefties. I don’t know if the plan will work, but I love the team that I’ve put together.

I’d like to thank all of my “rival” GMs for sharing their thought processes while we are still drafting! I asked them to contribute what they felt they could without giving away any future picks. As you can tell, the Central is full of sharp minds. I have my work cut out for me!

Now feast your eyes upon our rosters as they stand currently, and vote for who you think the frontrunner is! Remember, every manager has full control. Some of the prospects you’ll see on rosters currently may be sent down to the farm in favor of boring veterans who haven’t yet been drafted—or, they may not. We’ll just have to wait and see. And note, we are currently in the 20th round, where the Brewers and Reds have already picked—but the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs haven’t made their Round 20 selections. So they are currently one player behind.

NL Central

POSITION CIN (@HeathCapps) MLW (@cory5ott) STL (@Nate_Grimm) CHC (@davithius) PIT (@MichaelWaterloo)
POSITION CIN (@HeathCapps) MLW (@cory5ott) STL (@Nate_Grimm) CHC (@davithius) PIT (@MichaelWaterloo)
C Danny Jansen Keibert Ruiz Tom Murphy Willson Contreras Adley Rutschman
1B Matt Olson Rhys Hoskins CJ Cron Garrett Cooper JD Martinez
2B Eduardo Escobar Rougned Odor Hanser Alberto Starlin Castro Cavan Biggio
SS Trea Turner Paul DeJong Trevor Story Carlos Correa Nico Hoerner
3B Tommy Edman David Fletcher Ke'Bryan Hayes Johan Camargo Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
OF Mike Yastrzemski Avisail Garcia Jo Adell Mookie Betts Juan Soto
OF Oscar Mercado Kyle Tucker Victor Robles George Springer Joey Gallo
OF Hunter Dozier Mike Tauchman Max Kepler Tyler O'Neill Jorge Soler
SP Eduardo Rodriguez Luis Castillo Robbie Ray Kenta Maeda Chris Archer
SP Dinelson Lamet Julio Urias Joe Musgrove Andrew Heaney Dallas Keuchel
SP Spencer Howard Ryan Yarbrough Aaron Civale Caleb Smith Josh James
SP Spencer Turnbull Tony Gonsolin Austin Voth Dylan Bundy Logan Gilbert
SP John Gant Daniel Ponce de Leon Brent Honeywell Patrick Sandoval Julio Teheran
RP Archie Bradley Emmanuel Clase Edwin Diaz Ryan Pressly Touki Toussaint
RP Amir Garrett Hunter Harvey Colin Poche Darwinzon Hernandez Drew Rasmussen
RP Joe Kelly Randy Dobnak Jose Castillo Robert Stephenson Tarik Skubal
RP Tanner Rainey Josiah Gray Edward Cabrera
RP Alex Faedo
RP
RP
RP
B Sam Hilliard (OF) Oneil Cruz (SS) Tommy La Stella (INF) Will Craig (1B) Jordan Luplow (OF)
B Kike Hernandez (INF/OF) Monte Harrison (OF) Ji-Man Choi (1B) Lewis Brinson (OF) Jurickson Profar (UT/3B)
B Wil Myers (1B/OF) Triston McKenzie (SP) Jazz Chisholm (SS)
B
B

Pretty tight-looking race, in my opinion. Can’t wait to play this thing out!

Poll

Who is leading the NL Central?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Pirates (Michael Waterloo)
    (2 votes)
  • 22%
    Cubs (Dave Swan)
    (2 votes)
  • 11%
    Cardinals (Nate Grimm)
    (1 vote)
  • 22%
    Reds (Heath Capps)
    (2 votes)
  • 22%
    Brewers (Cory Ott)
    (2 votes)
9 votes total Vote Now