16 Teams Later: My Fantasy Baseball League Preview

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One of the true signs that baseball season is rolling around is when friend groups scramble to figure out a time and date for their fantasy baseball draft. Fantasy sports are one of the great joys of baseball season. Every fan wants success from their favorite team, but a new layer of excitement is added when, say a New York Yankee fan has Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants on their fantasy team. The desire for victory will cause some closed-minded fans to watch more games.

Constructing a fantasy baseball team revolves around many factors; draft position, knowledge of lesser known players and favorite types of players. I am in 16 team league comprised of members of a Facebook group for baseball fans. There are 40 roster spots; starters, 17 bench spots, 6 starting pitchers, 4 relievers and three bench pitchers.

This is a chronicle of my team’s creation and hopeful success. Before the draft on March 25, I need to develop a game plan. Because the draft order is randomized, I will not know my positioning until draft time.

Having done fantasy drafts in other sports, I know the type of team I like. Some people prefer taking risks on players who have low expectations. Some players I will avoid are Jason Kipnis, who missed 72 games in 2017, or Madison Bumgarner, who only started 17 games last season. Of course, at their peaks, these are two of the top players at their position. However, I avoid putting the comeback on my team at all costs. There are limited exceptions, which are involved in my plan.

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So, I have eliminated a wide range of players by being tentative and saying I do not put high-risk, high-reward players on my team. Let’s take a look at players at multiple positions that I will have on my radar screen, and could very well end up on my team.

In my infield, I have one major priority; third base. Fantasy baseball is for the stat sheet stuffers. Assuming Nolan Arenado is available at my currently unknown first pick, he will find his way onto my team. In 2017, he hit .309 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs. On top of being one of the leagues best hitters, Arenado plays 81 games a year at Coors Field, where offense is heavily inflated.

In an unfavorable world, I find myself in the bottom half of first round picks. Assuming the worst, a 16th pick, I have my eyes on Freddie Freeman.  Freeman is an All-Star caliber player who will have a rough go-around in the winning department this season. The Atlanta Braves are far from contenders, meaning Freeman will watch his usual strong season go to waste. In 2017, he hit .307 with 28 home runs and 71 RBIs. As a team, Atlanta was 72-90, good for 25 games out of first place in the National League East last season.

Two players that are criminally underrated in fantasy baseball are Byron Buxton and Adam Eaton. Buxton is on a seemingly never-ending ascent to the top of baseball’s outfield rankings. In 2017, his age 23 season, Buxton hit .253 with 51 RBIs, 16 home runs, and 38 stolen bases. While not elite, these were drastic improvements over 2016. Buxton is still young, with plenty of room for improvement this season. For a middle round pick, you could do a lot worse than Buxton.

Last season, Eaton tore his left ACL just 107 at-bats into his Washington Nationals career. Before his injury, Eaton was a coveted player throughout the major leagues. Barring a setback, expect hearing Eaton’s name when Comeback Player of the Year talk begins.

Obviously, I would love to have Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer on my team. That will, despite my best efforts, probably not happen in such a large league. There are two pitchers that I have a high priority on should the draft not leave many big-name starters. First, Marcus Stroman.

The Blue Jays ace is an adrenaline machine who pumps out power fastballs at a consistent rate. His solid 2017 included 201 innings pitched with a 3.09 ERA and two complete games. He also totaled 164 strikeouts. Right now, Stroman is dealing with minor shoulder inflammation that could cause him to drop slightly. Should Stroman be available late in my draft, he will find his way on my roster.

I will not bore you with my big list of players that go far deeper than the select names I listed here. Remember, this is a 16 team league with 40 rounds of drafting. Anything can happen and this plan could be totally aborted. The thought process that is involved both before and during the draft is what will make-or-break my chances in this league.

The draft is on Opening Day, March 29, at 10 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, look for a draft recap, including where I went right, wrong and everywhere in between coming soon after.

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