With the slow draft starting on 30 January 2022, this was a very-early-preseason event for us all, and the first attempt at “Best Ball” for many of the participants.
16-team league with points structured to closely replicate roto, so you had to balance power and speed of the hitters, and maximise high-strikeout, low-ratio pitchers. We drafted 40 players each and these would be our roster for the entire season – no trades, no adds/drops, no replacing injured players.
The “Best Ball” aspect is produced by the computer system at Fantrax. It combines the scores of the players on your roster that had the best performance in each position that day. For instance, I had three first basemen on my roster: Brandon Belt, Miguel Sano, and Darin Ruf. If Belt scored three points, Sano one and Ruf didn’t play, my team would score three points at the first base slot.
The scoring slots were catcher, first, second, third, short, three outfielders, DH, five starters and two relief slots.
David Runciman (my TGFBI/SWDL partner) had the first pick and took Fernando Tatis Jr.. Two months later, in a different league where I compete against David, he took Tatis Jr. again… but with the 108th pick. The dangers of early-season drafting are clear.
My first two picks were Bryce Harper and Walker Buehler, and then, bucking the habit of a lifetime, I took the trendy pick of catcher Salvador Perez in the third round. If there is a bandwagon, I will jump on it.
The first six rounds (detailed below) are a good reminder of our mindset before fantasy baseball draft prep had really kicked in.
After drafting Juan Soto with his first pick, Nick (LA Angels) went with five elite starters. As Nick’s pitching finished seventh out of 15 teams, it’s safe to suggest that this strategy failed.
Despite taking only one starter in the first six rounds, the roster with the best pitching was Adam’s (St Albans Wasps). He constructed a decent rotation (Corbin Burnes, Frankie Montas, Pablo Lopez, Jose Urquidy, Joe Ryan, Carlos Carrasco, and Jameson Taillon) and backed them up with three elite relievers (Josh Hader, Jordan Romano, and Devin Williams). Adam, who is consistently one of the most successful players I compete against, finished in a very impressive third position overall.
My team’s hitters scored 6699 points – not bad, good enough for fourth position. Only one team broke the 7000-point mark, Stefan Bamos, who took Freddie Freeman and Yordan Alvarez on the turn with picks 15 and 16. His first pitcher was Max Fried, who went on to be the 2022 NL Cy Young runner-up, so it sounds like the basis of a championship-winning team. Unfortunately, the rest of his pitching failed to make the grade and dragged him down to seventh overall.
STOP PRESS: During the offseason, Stefan’s book about non-league football was published. Check it out.
Sixth overall was Aaron Ashby fanboy, Rob Noverraz. Rob took the hyped Brewers pitcher with his fifth pick; possibly the only surprise pick of the first 100. He was unlucky that first-round pick, Shohei Ohtani, only scored points with his bat as, according to Fantrax, Ohtani’s only eligible position was outfield!
It should be noted that the slow draft with a one-hour clock worked better for some than others. The Fantrax queue system threw up lots of problems over the 2022 draft season. It is possible that Rob did not intend to take Ashby ahead of his next two pitchers, Charlie Morton and Shane McClanahan.
My team finished fifth overall. Despite drafting three first basemen, it was a problem position all year for me. Remarkably, Miguel Sano finished on -24 points, MINUS 24. In fact, Albert Pujols, who wasn’t drafted in this league, scored more points than my three first basemen combined.
Just ahead of me was Alex (AlexW12) who started with the excellent quartet of Jose Ramirez, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Francisco Lindor. He might have done even better had he not lost John Means to injury after just two starts.
In round figures, players that scored more than 400 points were in the top 150. Despite 640 players being drafted, eight undrafted players broke into the top 150.
Players that failed to get into the Top 150 included Luis Robert, Whit Merrifield, and Jack Flaherty. I mention these three because the trio were taken in the first five picks by Ben Carter. It was difficult for Team Chaos to recover from this start.
As previously mentioned, Adam was third overall but there was clear daylight between him and the top two teams. James Holden (BHP Early Doors) won the 2021 Bat Flips & Nerds Invitational and would go on to win the UK Invitational 2022, so without doubt he knows what he is doing. He finished fourth in pitching and third in hitting, which usually would be sufficient for the overall victory, but he was beaten by the sabermetric spreadsheet superiority of Russell Eassom.
Or was it karma? Jeers reverberated around the chat room when James drafted the pantomime villain of pitching, Trevor Bauer.
Russell, however, constructed a solid if uninspiring roster – Tyler Anderson was his best pitcher and Steven Kwan was his fourth-best hitter. They say that the key to winning fantasy baseball is maximising at-bats, and Russell not only enjoyed the most ABs but he also had Aaron Judge who scored 280 points more than the next-best player.
2022 CHAMPION: RUSSELL EASSOM
OUTLOOK FOR 2023
It is not easy to work out what I should do differently in 2023. There is a lot of luck involved in drafting this early, but as Russell won, you have to assume that there was more skill than luck.
Reducing risk probably makes sense. I had 10 players who either failed to play or scored fewer than 100 points. That’s one-quarter of my roster. Maybe I should draft the “All-Boring Roster”
Feature image of Fernando Tatis Jr. by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images