It is very easy to discuss what should be done during a draft. It’s often a little more difficult to implement said strategies in real time. The only real way to analyze the drafting process is to participate in it. With that in mind, I am taking part in a TRAX Best Score league to see where my pre-draft ideas of how one should draft a TRAX Best Score team and my actual drafting of such a team come together and where they do not. I will discuss some of the thoughts behind the picks I made and see how much I can stick to my pre-draft principles.
Round 1, Pick 2 – My pick: Chris Sale, SP
With Mike Trout off the board, I knew I was not going to take Jose Altuve. For me, the decision came down to Chris Sale versus Giancarlo Stanton. I went with Sale because I view the difference between Sale and a replacement-level pitcher as greater than the difference between Stanton and a replacement-level outfielder. Sale averaged a ridiculous 9.63 strikeouts per start in 2017, which equates to over 14 points per game before anything else is factored in. Sale has 40+ point potential in two-start weeks, and I could not pass that up.
Round 2, Pick 23 – My pick: J.D. Martinez, OF
I was very happy to get Martinez with this pick. Last season, Martinez finished second in points per plate appearance in this format among players with at least 300 plate appearances. As the newest member of a potent Boston lineup, Martinez should have another monster (pun intended) year. I am very happy with having arguably the top pitcher and a potentially top-five hitter through two rounds.
Round 3, Pick 26 – My pick: Cody Bellinger, 1B
I was trying to decide between Bellinger, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Ramirez. This is the order I have them ranked based on the TRAX Best Score scoring system. If this were Roto, I probably would have ranked them in the reverse order. But Bellinger had a combined 49 home runs and stolen bases in just 480 at-bats last year. I do think there is a possibility of regression in 2018, but I could not ignore that upside.
Round 4, Pick 47 – My pick: Dee Gordon, 2B (autodrafted)
I was very frustrated when I got home from a very long day at work to see that I had missed my pick. However, there are worse players to have (particularly in this format) than Dee Gordon. As I mentioned in my TRAX Best Score preview, Dee Gordon finished 17th among hitters in this format in 2017 and is a tremendous value based on his ability to steal bases. Gordon has averaged 3.58 points per game in TRAX Best Score scoring since 2014. I anticipate another 500+ point season out of Gordon in 2018.
Round 5, Pick 50 – My pick: Zack Greinke, SP
Greinke bounced back from a subpar 2016 to post an excellent 16.2 points per start last season. He has eclipsed 400 combined innings pitched and strikeouts in three of the last four seasons. Considering each inning and strikeout is worth 1.5 points, I felt having a workhorse like Greinke as my SP2 was very important. I am also hoping the installation of a humidor at Chase Field helps Greinke both physically and mentally.
Round 6, Pick 71 – My pick: Travis Shaw, 3B
Perhaps I could have waited three picks, but I figured Travis Shaw would not be available at the end of Round 8, so I decided to pull the trigger here. I really like Shaw this season. There were six third basemen selected in the first three rounds of this draft. Travis Shaw is going to have a better season than at least one of them. He showed he can be an upper-echelon fantasy third baseman last season, and I expect him to do even more in 2018 batting behind new additions Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain.
Round 7, Pick 74 – My pick: Ryan Braun, OF
I know, I know. Braun is past his prime, and he’s a jerk in real life. He is injury prone and a defensive liability. But it’s TRAX Best Score. I don’t have to get 600 plate appearances from him, though that would be ideal. I just need him to help carry the load in certain weeks. If he gets hurt, I will have players behind him to step in and contribute. Braun at his peak is way better than the 74th-best fantasy player, so I’ll take him here and cross my fingers.
Round 8, Pick 95 – My pick: Masahiro Tanaka, SP
Tanaka had the worst season of his MLB career in 2017, but he improved in the second half behind an increased usage of his slider and splitter. I am hopeful that Tanaka can be a little more consistent, though his wild splits may prove beneficial in a format such as this. Either way, I am willing to take a chance on his top-20 upside.
Round 9, Pick 98 – My pick: Joey Gallo, 3B
Joey Gallo is my poster child for why you should ignore ADP depending on the circumstances. Gallo’s ADP is currently 161 and was even lower at the time of this draft. And with good reason. His batting average is a sinkhole. But batting average is much less a concern in TRAX Best Score. Gallo finished 15th in points per plate appearance among hitters with at least 400 at-bats in 2017. Of the 14 players ahead of Gallo in that category, only Tommy Pham (selected 61st) went outside the top-50 in this draft. Gallo is the quintessential fit for this format and has enormous upside, despite the appearance of being a reach.
Round 10, Pick 119 – Miguel Sano, 3B
I know, I know… THREE third basemen in the first 10 rounds? Yes. As a matter of fact, I would have taken a fourth a few rounds later, but it didn’t work out. Anyway, back to Sano. With this being a best ball format, I do not need to worry about a potential suspension or cold spell. Sano scored 402 points in this format a season ago in just 114 games. You also play three utility hitters in this format, so Sano should make the “starting lineup” quite a bit provided he is available to play.
Round 11, Pick 122 – Brad Hand, RP
Once Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel were gone, I knew I was not going to go out of my way to draft a reliever. But I decided I would take Hand here because he has an insane K/9 rate (31.9% over the last two seasons) and has held opponents to a .192 average over that same timeframe. The only concern for me is the possibility that San Diego falls out of the race and trades Hand to a team that ends up utilizing him as a setup man. But I am hopeful Hand can remain a closer all season long and provide consistent double-digit weekly numbers.
Round 12, Pick 143 -Marwin Gonzalez, OF
I prefer Marwin Gonzalez in standard roto leagues where his tremendous versatility can be better utilized, but he is still a solid player. Gonzalez scored 437 points last season in just 504 plate appearances last season and figures to be a fixture in the Houston Astros’ lineup this season as well. I expect another 3+ points per game out of Gonzalez in 2018, making him a solid pick as my OF3.
Round 13, Pick 146 – Justin Smoak, 1B
Justin Smoak was a highly touted prospect who had failed to live up to expectations throughout his career. He had never scored more than 335 points in any season before finally putting it together last season at the age of 30. His 513 points were eighth among first basemen in 2018, so I was pleased to get him in Round 13. I expect him to be a solid if not spectacular contributor who is a weekly candidate for a utility spot.
Round 14, Pick 167 – Rich Hill, SP
Rich Hill is no spring chicken, and durability is never a given. But he has maintained good per start totals over the last two seasons. He has a strikeout rate of nearly 30 percent and has held hitters below .200 over that span. Hill is on a great team and should be in line for plenty of wins with good peripheral stats if he can remain healthy. Hopefully he can get me 25-30 starts and make the most of them.
Round 15, Pick 170 – Paul DeJong, SS
I must admit that I did not love making this pick. I had not taken a shortstop yet at this point in the draft. And though that is not a reason to take one just because, shortstop is not the deepest or most promising position. My options were somewhat limited, and DeJong showed enough last season to prove that he can be solid. DeJong signing a six-year contract this week makes me feel a little better about this pick, but not much. I will look to add more shortstop depth later in the draft.
Round 16, Pick 191 – Delino DeShields, OF
DeShields averaged just under three points per game last season despite a 24.8 percent strikeout rate. If he can improve on that, I think DeShields can finish 2018 as a top-30 outfielder. Playing in Texas and hitting in that lineup certainly do not hurt. DeShields has tremendous speed and patience at the plate, two skills that make him a very intriguing mid-round option in this format.
Round 17, Pick 194 – Mike Zunino, C
To me, catcher is sort of like shortstop in that there are a lot of JAGs (Just A Guy) after the first few players. I have Zunino as a notch above those, so I wanted to snag him here. Zunino is another player who is a likely drain on average but is valued significantly higher in points formats such as TRAX Best Score. I will need to pair him with at least one more catcher, but I am ok with Zunino as my C1 in 2018.
Round 18, Pick 215 – Cole Hamels, SP
From 2010-2016, Cole Hamels had at least 400 combined innings and strikeouts every single year, as well as a minimum of 470 fantasy points. He also never had an ERA over 3.65 in any of those seasons. The wheels fell off in 2017, and Hamels may never reach his prior status again. But he is a crafty veteran who will be looking for one last payday as he heads into free agency at the end of 2018. In my opinion, Hamels is worth a roster spot as a league-average starter at worst and someone who can hopefully make adjustments and return some value this season.
Round 19, Pick 218 – Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF
After a breakout 2016 campaign, the JBJ bandwagon was standing room only at this time a year ago. However, Bradley struggled to build upon that success and regressed by virtually every measure. Still, his 2.7 points per game aren’t completely awful, and I’ll gladly take that if that is his floor. He has been given the green light to try to steal more bases, and I believe he can approach the 498 points he tallied back in 2016.
Round 20, Pick 239 – Cesar Hernandez, 2B
Cesar Hernandez has scored exactly 402 points in each of the last two seasons, and he did so in 27 fewer games last season. He is hitting atop a much-improved Philadelphia Phillies’ lineup and should continue to produce. I am a bit worried about the inevitable promotion of top prospect Scott Kingery, but I think Hernandez will still see 400-500 at-bats which is enough for him to contribute.
At this point in the draft, I am relatively pleased with my team. I love my corner infielders and I think I have some potentially elite options in the outfield. Still, I need to add some more depth there. I definitely need to improve shortstop and hopefully catcher as well. I can probably ignore closers at this point. The top of my starting rotation is set, and I will use the back end of the draft to compile starters who will be useful in two-start weeks.
Check out Part 2 of my TRAX Best Score Draft Recap next week!