TGFBI: Gav’s 2022 Review – Top 20, Baby

First, the good news. We can’t possibly have as bad a start to the season as we did in 2021 when eight of our first 11 picks were out injured.

And secondly, some more good news is that we are in League 26 with an array of excellent fantasy baseball players. The Under the Radarrrrr podcast with Derek Van Riper, Nando di Fino, and Ian Kahn is the only cannot-miss pod in my listening stream, so to pit ourselves against Derek was a privilege.

David Runciman and I knew we needed to up our game, and we were ready.

League 26NameSiteTwitter
27Derek VanRiperThe Athletic@DerekVanRiper
39Brian EntrekinBenched with Bubba@bdentrek
101Michael FlorioNFL, RotoBaller@MichaelFFlorio
113Ryan RufeRotoWire@RyanRufe
181Chris BlessingBaseball HQ@C_Blessing
195Derek FavretFWFB & 5ToolMooks@Derek_Favret
280Paul MamminoRotoFanatic@pmamminofantasy
303Bruce Cagle JrFWFB@BCJRFantasy
402Tramps RuncimanBat Flips and Nerds@GavTramps
418ButtersRazzball@deltaxi1842
571Matthew WienerFantasySixPack@mattydubbz13
Justin Chernow3 Guys 1 Couch podcast, Fangraphs.@JustinChernow
Asher DratelPitcherList@low_rax

We didn’t overthink KDS but we preferred an early draft slot. Our top options were Trea Turner, Jose Ramirez, and Juan Soto. Third pick and Jose Ramirez was a perfect start.

You never know if someone unexpected will fall, but our list of nine “probably not there” hitters of Kyle Tucker, Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Luis Robert, Manny Machado, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Rafael Devers weren’t there for our second pick.

And then came the discussion that determined our season.

In a Boldish Prediction article for Bat Flips & Nerds, I was bullish about Aaron Judge’s 2022 potential.

With 400+ more-knowledgable competitors, it feels uncomfortable to buck the trend and set a new min pick in round two when Judge was falling to pick 43.

David and I had conducted several mock drafts independently to get a feel of different strategies and where players would fall. I was aboard the fantasy baseball hype train that loved taking Josh Hader/Liam Hendriks in round two and Sal Perez in round three. I asked David to talk me out of Sal Perez as our third pick. He did. He came back with “Old. Just had a career year. Catchers get injured.” That was good enough for me.

Although Teoscar Hernandez was still available, we opted for Marcus Semien’s multi-infield-eligibility. Semien’s start to the 2022 season was terrible – sub .200 AVG with just one home run over the first two months – but it was a sound pick.

Closers cause us continual problems in this format. We find it so difficult to pass up reliable, elite hitters to take a guy with the least job security in baseball.

Hader and Hendriks went in the third round immediately after our Semien pick. David suggested Ryan Pressly or Emmanuel Clase in round four or five, but they had gone before our next pick, along with Edwin Diaz and Raisel Iglesias.

Although Aroldis Chapman was top of our list, we didn’t really want him, but we were in the middle of a closer run and couldn’t risk leaving it another round. Kenley Jansen was unsigned, Craig Kimbrel wasn’t the White Sox closer, and Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen and Will Smith all had big question marks. I hate closers.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to take Bryon Buxton with our fifth pick. Ramirez and Semien felt like very safe selections so we could afford a little high-risk/high-reward gamble. The Twins outfielder went on to slug .729 in April and .713 in June, but Buxton had another injury-impacted season, missing 70 games.

Our strategy had been to wait on starting pitcher, but with 24 starters now off the board, our list was reduced to Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, or Charlie Morton as the ace of our staff. Montas got the gig in round six.

I loved the following pick – Corey Seager in round seven. I wanted Seager so much in 2022, I might have taken him in the third round. Preseason, in the aforementioned Bat Flips & Nerds article, I had tipped Seager to finish second to Judge in MVP voting.

Although Seager didn’t hit the heights that I hoped, his 33 HR, 91 R, 83 RBI, 3 SB, .245 AVG season was perfectly fine for round seven. I still think he has MVP potential and will target him again this season.

People stateside do not appreciate the issues for us drafting from Europe. The end of the night at 11:30pm here is the start of the evening (6:30pm) for those on ET. It feels disrespectful to our fellow drafters for us to use the four-hour pick window with the hope that it will be our turn in the morning. So, every night we set a queue.

As we still only had one starter, our autodraft list was crammed with pitchers. Incredibly, nine starters went overnight, literally decimating our queue, and the unsigned Carlos Rodon became our second starting pitcher. It’s funny how things work out.

Rhys Hoskins’ power to fill first base was a convenient pick in the ninth round, and then Blake Snell as our third starter wrapped up the first 10 rounds.

We were short of speed, but that was as good an opening 10 rounds as we could have wished. Everything is easy with the benefit of hindsight, but in February 2022, these were 10 excellent picks.

We needed speed so set a new min pick for Adolis Garcia. I certainly didn’t expect a 25/25 season with 100+ RBI, but maybe David did.

We obviously needed to keep adding pitchers, and Logan Gilbert as our number four must surely have brought the quality of our rotation up to the level of the rest of the league, despite having waited so long to take our first starter.

I got buyer’s remorse after we set another min pick to get 2B/3B-eligible Eduardo Escobar. It is amazing that players like Escobar were getting picked and we were still in the first half of the draft.

For some reason, I sensed Derek van Riper would snipe us with the next pick, but he took Gavin Lux leaving Oneil Cruz to fall our way. During the draft, it looked like Cruz would break camp and Lux didn’t have a starting position, but on Opening Day, Cruz was in Triple-A and Lux was a Dodger regular. In the end, Cruz had the better year, but he didn’t debut until June, and it’s so tough to stash prospects in this format.

This is a two-catcher league, and having passed up on the elite six catchers in the earlier rounds, we had to target a couple of the mid-range players. Elias Diaz, our top choice, fell to us as the 11th catcher off the board and then seven rounds later, we took Carson Kelly. In retrospect, neither was a great choice. Catchers and closers continue to be our Achilles heel in this format.

There is a lot of hit-or-miss in this part of the draft. We missed with three consecutive starters: Aaron Civale, Adbert Alzolay, and Roansy Contreras. It could have been so different had we opted for Nestor Cortes or even Drew Rasmussen.

I don’t recall the discussion over Brandon Nimmo, so I have to presume that was David’s choice, but I know for sure that Jo Adell was mine. I had Adell everywhere in 2022.

Another player that I was very enthusiastic about was the Red Sox pitcher Garrett Whitlock. Whether he was the closer or a starter, his value seemed undeniable. As it transpired, he was a below-average starter and a below-average reliever, but he secured six saves and could have been so much better had there been less confusion over his usage and had he not missed five or six weeks in the summer.

The final rounds are lottery picks. Hunter Dozier was our attempt to get plate appearances. Josh Harrison was another multi-position infielder who had been signed to the thin White Sox roster. Brandon Marsh offered stolen base potential. James Karinchak might get the closer’s role back if Emmanuel Clase picked up a spring training injury. Matt Manning and Kyle Gibson were speculative picks to get useful innings.

The final pick was all mine. I contemplated my man-crush Jorge Mateo. I don’t want to reference my Boldish prediction article again, but…

I also looked at potential closers-in-waiting as we really only had Chapman for saves. The final-round picks by the teams ahead of us were uninspiring: Wade Miley, Austin Gomber, Didi Gregorius.

In the end, I took a flyer on a minor leaguer who had yet to debut; sometimes dart throws hit the bullseye.

THE RESULT

Division win and 19th overall (out of 465). Unlike 2021, the season started well, and we were in the Top 10 after the first few weeks

And we kept it up all season. When I say “we”, the in-season management is 90% David and 10% me.

It was a season-long battle with Ryan Rufe. Although we eventually nudged him out of first place in the division, he fully deserved his 25th position overall for, if for nothing else, exceptional draft etiquette.

All that was left was to congratulate my co-manager.

Fingers crossed we will be back in 2023

Featured image of Aaron Judge by Christian Petersen//Getty Images

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