NFBC Main Event Draft Review
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating once again in the NFBC Main Event. If you're not familiar, it's the premiere event in the high stakes fantasy baseball industry and the one overall title that many fantasy managers dream of one day achieving. This year, there are 750 teams competing for the $200,000 grand prize – broken out into 50 15-team leagues. Each league has prizes for the top-three finishers, then there is an overall prize pool as well where all 750 teams are competing against one another. The format is standard 5x5 roto and the league utilizes a 30-man roster with 23 active players (2 C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, UTIL, 5 OF and 9 P).
I was fortunate enough to draw my top draft preference for this draft – the second pick. To me, there's a very clear-cut top-five overall players heading into the 2023 season but within that group, two players stand out above the rest to me – Ronald Acuña Jr. and Trea Turner. I have Turner ahead of Acuna Jr. in my rankings, but looking at the ADP from the first week of Main Event drafts, it was clear that the Braves' outfielder was the consensus top overall choice. By getting the second pick, I thought it was highly likely that I'd wind up with Turner to start – giving me a strong five-category base to build the rest of my offense around.
Before every draft, I like to come up with an extensive and detailed plan on what I believe my options will be at every pick and where I want to go. It's no secret that I like to trim the player pool before the draft – usually cutting more than half the players off the board entirely before things even begin. Sure, there's always a chance that things don't go according to plan and I wind up having to take players that weren't on my board or part of the initial plan, but I like to keep those instances to the absolute minimum. The more that I can stay on plan and get my preferred targets, the better the results have been for me historically.
I went into this draft with 112 players on my draft board – in a league in which 450 players will get drafted. Of that 112, there were 16 that were highlighted for me – indicating preferred targets that I'd like to jump up the draft board – usually higher than their previous min picks. Here's the targets that I had heading into this draft:
Round 1 (2) - Trea Turner
Round 2 (29) - Max Scherzer
Round 4 (59) - Yu Darvish
Round 6 (89) - Andres Gimenez
Round 10 (149) - Esteury Ruiz
Round 11 (152) - Javier Baez
Round 12 (179) - Joey Meneses
Round 14 (209) - Hayden Wesneski
Round 16 (239) - Austin Meadows
Round 17 (242) - Elvis Andrus
Round 18 (269) - Oscar Colas
Round 19 (272) - Matthew Boyd
Round 20 (299) - Michael Massey
Round 21 (302) - Graham Ashcraft
Round 26 (389) - Germán Márquez
Round 29 (422) - Jace Peterson
If you're familiar with any of my work or have followed along in this space throughout the offseason, then none of these names should be a surprise as they've all been known targets of mine. It's also not a secret that I'm not afraid to jump any of these players well above their ADP in order to secure them, as I still believe that they'll deliver ample profit from those spots and I'm not concerned with playing a game of chicken and trying to get the most “value” possible, I simply want to be able to get my guys where I think they'll have a positive return for me.
With that being said, let's take a look at how the draft played out.
Round 1 (2) - Trea Turner - SS
Just as I had suspected – and hoped – Ronald Acuña Jr. went with the top overall selection in this draft, leaving me to start my squad with the Phillies' five-category superstar. Fresh off of clobbering baseballs for his country in the World Baseball Classic, we're expecting big big things from Turner in his age-27 season. So far, so good.
Round 2 (29) - Emmanuel Clase - RP
Heading into this draft, my dream scenario was for two of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Emmanuel Clase to fall to me at the 2/3 turn. All three of their ADP's were higher than pick 29, so I knew that I'd be fortunate if any of them actually slid to me. Verlander wound up going off the board at pick 25, but I was delighted to see both Scherzer and Clase still there when it got to me at pick 29. My thinking with choosing Clase first, was that there's only one truly elite closer on the board now that Edwin Diaz has been lost for the season, while there are plenty of other viable arms that could be considered SP1's – Brandon Woodruff and Shane McClanahan come to mind – that Team 1 could have preferred over Scherzer if he was looking to take a starting pitcher there. I was absolutely thrilled to land Clase here.
Round 3 (32) - Max Scherzer - SP
Sometimes, things just work out how you want them to. The manager drafting from the 1st spot did select a starting pitcher with pick 31 – but he went with Cristian Javier and was nice enough to leave Scherzer on the board for me. Through three picks, things couldn't have gone beter for me and my plan and we're off and running with a five-category superstar, the top closer in baseball and a strong SP1. At the 4/5 turn we'd be looking to lock in Yu Darvish as our SP2 and to find another strong power/speed bat.
Round 4 (59) - Adolís Garcia - OF
For a brief moment, it looked like something completely unexpected could happen as Daulton Varsho was sliding down the draft board, but he was finally scooped up at pick 55. When it got to me at 59, the only bat that fit the mold of what I was looking for was Garcia who went 27/25 for the Rangers in 2022 and proved that his dynamic rookie campaign was no fluke. I did give consideration to Salvador Perez in this spot, as typically I prefer to leave a draft with two strong catchers, but I ultimately felt Garcia was the better fit.
Round 5 (62) - Yu Darvish - SP
Entering the draft, Darvish was the preferred target in round four, but really each pair of picks can be viewed in tandem. Knowing that Team 1 already had a starting pitcher and didn't have an outfielder made me feel like there was a decent chance Darvish could sneak through. If not, I also liked Robbie Ray as a fallback option. Well, the team at the turn did take a starting pitcher – he is the one who snagged Ray, which left Darvish to function as my SP2 as planned. Looking ahead to the 6/7 turn, we're now hoping to grab Andres Gimenez as our second baseman and then the next best power/speed bat or an elite catcher.
Round 6 (89) - Tyler O'Neill - OF
Gimenez was always going to be one of the trickiest targets for me to land, as I wasn't willing to jump him all the way up to pick 62, but he usually went in the mid 80's, so there was a decent chance he wouldn't be there. He wound up going off the board at pick 75. Not to fear, as one of my favorite power/speed outfielders happened to hang around to pick 89 and was an easy choice for me.
Round 7 (92) - Jose Abreu - 1B
Another long-time favorite of mine that I was happy to lock in here. First base is a bit more shallow of a position than most realize this season and he's one of the few names in the first 7-8 rounds that really stood out as a target to me. If I missed on Abreu, the fallback would have been Christian Walker or Nathaniel Lowe a couple of rounds later. I also considered snatching MJ Melendez here, but thought that Abreu stood out a bit more above his peers. I'd be looking to grab a catcher – or maybe even two with the next pair of picks.
Round 8 (119) - Chris Sale - SP
A catcher run happened in between my two picks, with Melendez, Sean Murphy and Willson Contreras all pulled off the board. That left Tyler Stephenson and William Contreras as the next best options on the board. Both were players that I liked, but that also meant that at least one of them should make it back to me through the turn. I then turned my attention to SP3 where I debated long and hard between Sale and Logan Webb. Ultimately, in an overall competition like this, I generally lean towards upside as a tiebreaker and I think it's clear that Sale's overall ceiling – especially in strikeouts – is higher than Webb's. Plus, there's always a chance Webb could make it back to the next pair of picks as the market has been down on him recently.
Round 9 (122) - Tyler Stephenson - C
Of the two catchers that I was hoping would make it back to me, Stephenson was the preferred target, so I was happy to see that Team 1 went with Contreras when he also went to the catcher position. Stephenson should provide a strong batting average base for a catcher – and the time that he sees at designated hitter or first base should give him a very high floor for playing time relative to most options at the position.
Round 10 (149) - Javier Baez - SS
In the predraft targets, the plan actually called for Esteury Ruiz to go first, and then to grab Baez on the way back. Given how far I was pushing Ruiz up the board though, I felt that there was a very good chance he'd slide through. I did give some thought to snagging Anthony Volpe, but ultimately stuck to my guns and locked in Baez.
Round 11 (152) - Esteury Ruiz - OF
Of all my targets coming into the draft, Ruiz was the one that I wanted to make sure that I got – hence how aggressively I pushed him up the board. In the 13 Main Event drafts that happened prior to Saturday, the highest that Ruiz had gone in any draft was pick 158 overall. Now, with 32 drafts in the book, he has actually gone as high as pick 139, so given how badly I wanted to roster him I was actually a bit fortunate to see this one through. So far, through 11 rounds I absolutely love where the team is at. I've got three strong SP, an elite closer, an upper-echelon catcher, three outfielders, a first baseman and two shortstops. The two shortstops are a bit tricky, as I also love Elvis Andrus and want to make it out of the draft with him as well. The silver lining there is that he'll gain 2B eligibility a couple of weeks into the season which still makes him plausible.
Round 12 (179) - David Robertson - RP
The pre-draft target of Joey Meneses wound up getting snaked right in front of me at pick 178 here. Ouch. You can't get caught up in the things that don't go your way though, you have to move on and make the best possible picks that you can. Instead, I grabbed what I felt was the best remaining closer on the board (or at least presumed closer) in Robertson. If he were named as the closer for the Mets I feel he would have gone off the board 3-4 rounds higher than this. Taking him also meant that I was locking myself into a likely Adam Ottavino handcuff later just to make sure I was covering my bases there.
Round 13 (182) - Gabriel Moreno - C
In most of my drafts, I usually have my second catcher spot locked up even before this, but that doesn't change the fact that I was still looking to walk away with two of the top guys. Moreno has long been a favorite of mine and with the news that Carson Kelly was going to miss 8-10 weeks with a fractured forearm, the door was wide open for him to take on an even larger share of the workload to start the season. He also represented the last really viable catcher option for me before the position group fell off a cliff, so I was thrilled that this wound up working out.
Round 14 (209) - Hayden Wesneski -SP
Holding true to the pre-draft plan once again, I nab my preferred SP4 target in Wesneski. Prior to this draft, the highest that he had gone in any Main Event draft was pick 213, now the new max is 183 – so I wasn't the only manager jumping up to get him. I feel really good with where my SP group is at as of now.
Round 15 (212) - Bryce Harper - UTIL
Now this one can be considered a bit of a controversial pick for some, I just couldn't pass on Harper again. I considered him at pick 182 before I grabbed Moreno and told myself that if he made it back around to the next pair that I'd strongly consider it. The news that he wasn't going to be placed on the 60-day IL and was ahead of schedule in his recovery pushed it over the top for me. Yes, it's extremely inconvenient to carry a dead roster spot for 2+ months – especially with such a short bench – but I think that Harper can return a profit from this draft spot pretty easily in only half a season, especially once the replacement-level cost is factored in for the first half.
Round 16 (239) - Josh Jung - 3B
Third base has been a very difficult position for me to fill throughout this draft season, as there aren't many players that I love and I usually wind up just taking someone that falls a bit further than I expected them to. That's exactly what happened here with Jung. We're 16 rounds into the draft and this is the first player that I've taken that's not included in the 112 players that were on my draft board. That's only because I never thought that he'd be there at pick 239 though – in the Main Event drafts prior to this the latest he had gone was pick 229. I'll gladly take this kind of upside at a discount – especially at a tough position to fill.
Round 17 (242) - Wil Myers - 1B/OF
I missed out on my top 1B/OF target a few rounds earlier in Meneses, but was able to land Myers here as a consolation prize. If he's able to stay healthy, I believe that he could be a monster in the middle of the Reds lineup and should deliver ample profit from this spot. I also really liked the flexibility he provided, as I still needed to fill my corner infield spot and a couple of outfield spots at this time, and this would give me more options to choose from as the draft progressed. Austin Meadows had been the preferred target for me with this pair of picks, but I decided to gamble that he'd make it back next time since his ADP was in the 275 range.
Round 18 (269) - Austin Meadows - OF
Whew. This is one of those scenarios where I was really sweating it out as the snake was coming back around, just praying that my guy would make it back to me. What's interesting, is that my actual target for this pick (Oscar Colas) was on the board as well and I was forced to choose between the two. Ultimately, I felt like I had Meadows ranked and targeted higher for a reason, so I went with my gut and locked him in as my OF4.
Round 19 (272) - Matthew Boyd - SP
All along, the plan was to pull Boyd up as my SP5 here, and everything worked out exactly as I hoped that it would. The earliest he had gone in any Main Event prior was 271, so I felt good that he would be there at this pick and love the strikeout upside that he provides late in the draft.
Round 20 (299) - Oscar Colas - OF
In a repeat of what happened with Meadows the prior turn, Colas fell all the way back around to me at pick 299 and made it incredibly difficult for me to pass on him. Michael Massey had been the preferred target in this spot – and my team was without a second baseman at this point in the draft – but looking at the team on the turn he already had two 2B eligible players in Josh Rojas and Brendan Donovan – plus another that would earn 2B early in the season in Miguel Vargas – so I was pretty confident Massey would make it back to me. I did also consider Spencer Torkelson in this spot, as he was my preferred late CI option, but I decided to take the good fortune and falling value with my previous target in Colas.
Round 21 (302) - Spencer Torkelson - 1B
Welp. Sometimes the best laid plans simply don't work out. I'll be honest, I was shocked that Massey was selected at the turn here and it threw me off my game a little bit, as I was sure that he was making it back to me. Since I had already been considering Torkelson with the previous pick, I decided to snag him here and then reassess how I wanted to attack what was left of the player pool at second base.
Round 22 (329) - Graham Ashcraft - SP
Graham Ashcraft had actually been the target for me on the prior set of picks, but after Massey-gate he kind of slipped my mind and I wound up overlooking him. Was thankful to see him fall back to me here as my SP6. He also begins the season with a beautiful matchup against the Pirates on Sunday.
Round 23 (332) - Vaughn Grissom - 2B
So now, I'm into round 23 without a second baseman and I decide that the best thing to do is to draft one that I know is going to be in the minor leagues to start the season – even though I'm also already carrying Bryce Harper as a zero on my bench. Here's the thing. Prior to Grissom being demoted, he had been a top-200 pick and had gone as high as pick 152 in an early Main Event draft. His upside – at least compared to the other 2B options available – was still unmatched. I'm hopeful that he's only going to be at Triple-A for a couple of weeks to work on his defense before the Braves bring him back up, in which case he'll be a major difference-maker for me at an extremely affordable cost. It's not ideal to have to carry two zeros to start the season, but we're swinging for the fences here. This means I still need another viable early-season second baseman in the next seven rounds.
Round 24 (359) - Adam Ottavino - RP
When I drafted Robertson in round 12, I knew that I would try to snag Ottavino around here just to make sure that I had a good shot at getting the save chances for one of the best teams in the National League. Hopefully there's some clarity before the season – or at least in the first week or so, and I can wind up sticking with one guy and dumping the other to free up a roster spot.
Round 25 (362) - Yusei Kikuchi - SP
At this point, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do for another second baseman, and felt that all of the bad options remaining were pretty similar overall – so there was no real risk in waiting another round to pull someone from that group. Instead, I went with the strikeout upside – and potential WHIPping that Kikuchi should provide.
Round 26 (389) - Avisail Garcia - OF
Germán Márquez had been my preferred target here, but he went earlier in the 26th round. I really liked the way his early-season schedule lined up, with five of his first six starts looking like they'll be away from Coors Field. Anyway, I wanted a sixth outfielder that was locked into everyday at-bats to start the season and Garcia fits the bill. The Marlins have paid him too much to simply cut bait, so he'll at least get a chance early in the year to see if he can figure things out.
Round 27 (392) - Tony Kemp - 2B/OF
Yuck. The best among the bad options at second base. At least he's going to hit leadoff and play everyday for the Athletics, which should be enough to hold the fort down until Grissom is recalled – or I can find a better option. Christian Arroyo and Jonathan Schoop were the other options still on the board. Kemp was the second player I drafted that wasn't a part of my 112 on the board.
Round 28 (419) - David Hensley - UTIL
Continuing to be confounded by the second base dilemma, I decided to take another stab at the position. David Hensley is going to settle in as the Astros' regular second baseman for a couple of months while Jose Altuve (thumb) is on the injured list, and I really like his skill set and the power/speed he may be able to provide me. The only issue here, is that he's UTIL only to start the season, so it'll take a week or two before he qualifies at second base. Once that happens, I'm hoping that I can drop Kemp to free up that roster spot and ride Hensley until Grissom is recalled.
Round 29 (422) - Jace Peterson - 3B
On-base Jace continues to be a favorite of mine even though he goes overlooked by many in the fantasy community. Once again, over the past two years with the Brewers he hit .241 with 80 runs, 14 homers, 65 RBI and 22 swipes in 630 plate appearances – so basically a full season's worth of work. If he finds himself in the A's lineup on a regular basis – as he should – he's a viable power/speed threat that can be had for next-to-nothing at the end of drafts.
Round 30 (449) - Joe Jimenez - RP
With the first week of the season only being four days long, there's a good chance that I won't have enough starting pitchers throwing to field a full active lineup – especially since I know that Darvish won't make his first start during that period. I wanted to grab an extra reliever just to make sure I can throw out 9 pitchers that are actually going to pitch in that first week. Jimenez also has the potential to factor into the saves mix with Raisel Iglesias heading to the IL, so there's at least a possibility this could develop into something bigger. Most likely he's a drop after the first week though.
Alright, so overall let's take a look at how the roster turned out:
C: Tyler Stephenson, Gabriel Moreno
1B - Jose Abreu
2B - Tony Kemp
3B - Josh Jung
SS - Trea Turner
MI - Javier Baez
CI - Wil Myers
OF - Adolís Garcia, Tyler O'Neill, Esteury Ruiz, Austin Meadows, Oscar Colas
UTIL - Spencer Torkelson
Bench - Bryce Harper, Vaughn Grissom, Avisail Garcia, David Hensley, Jace Peterson
SP - Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale, Hayden Wesneski, Matthew Boyd, Graham Ashcraft, Yusei Kikuchi
RP - Emmanuel Clase, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Joe Jimenez
Overall, of the 16 players that I actively targeted heading into the draft, I came away with 11 of them – losing out on Gimenez, Meneses, Andrus, Massey and Marquez. Only two of the 30 players that I drafted (Jung and Kemp) weren't on my initial draft board.
In every 15-team draft – and especially in every Main Event draft – every team comes out of the draft with some sort of weakness or deficiency. The glaring hole at second base is the obvious one for me, but I really believe that the combination of Grissom and Hensley (with the Tony Kemp Band-Aid to start the season) may wind up working out in my favor. If not, I'll just have to grind FAAB until a viable solution emerges. The other major weakness could be batting average. While I have Turner as a strong anchor up top there – plus two catchers who should be major pluses comparatively to the rest of the position – I know there are plenty of potential average drains on the roster as well. Just going to have to hope to come out on the right side of variance here and end up in the middle of the pack in that category.
If you stuck around this long, thanks for taking the time to read and listen through my thought process as I assembled this squad. Now, all that's left to do is to go out and bring home the title.
MLB Quick Hits: The Yankees gave the world the announcement that everyone was waiting for on Sunday when they announced that 21-year-old phenom Anthony Volpe had made the Opening Day roster and would be the team's starting shortstop… The Yankees optioned Oswald Peraza to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre… The Rays received “favorable” results on the MRI exam on star shortstop Wander Franco (quad) and they're optimistic that he'll be able to play on Opening Day on Thursday… The Padres returned Rule 5 pick Jose Lopez to the Rays… The Pirates reassigned Miguel Andújar to minor league camp… Yoan Moncada was pulled from Sunday's Cactus League contest due to lower back stiffness. He's considered day-to-day… Triston McKenzie was lifted from Sunday's Cactus League start after only one inning due to arm tightness. The Guardians are calling his exit precautionary, but it's still a situation worth monitoring… The White Sox released veteran right-hander Bryan Shaw… Leury Garcia is not expected to make the White Sox' Opening Day roster… The Athletics signed right-hander Jeurys Familia to a one-year deal… Phillies' manager Rob Thomson announced Sunday that Matt Strahm will open the season as the club's fifth starter… Oscar Colas was informed Sunday that he officially made the White Sox' Opening Day roster… Austin Slater (hamstring) and Mitch Haniger (oblique) will begin the regular season on the injured list… Christian Encarnacion-Strand (back) and Elly De La Cruz (hamstring) will open the season on the injured list at Triple-A Louisville… Enrique Hernandez was pulled from Sunday's Grapefruit League game after suffering a right wrist contusion… Austin Nola (nose) is expected to return to Cactus League action on Monday… Juan Soto (oblique) is scheduled to take at-bats in a minor league game on Monday… Yuli Gurriel cracked the Marlins' Opening Day roster, while Jose Iglesias did not – though the shortstop will remain with the organization… Drey Jameson will begin the season in the bullpen for the Diamondbacks while Ryne Nelson claims the fifth spot in their starting rotation… Drew Rucinski (hamstring) will open the season on the injured list… J.P. Crawford (foot) is expected to be ready for Opening Day… James McCann's availability for Opening Day is in question as he's battling side discomfort… Tyler Glasnow (oblique) has started his throwing program – throwing off flat ground at a distance of 75 feet… Kole Calhoun opted out of his minor league deal with the Mariners and is now a free agent… Hunter Brown (back) threw a successful 25-pitch bullpen session on Sunday… Jazz Chisholm Jr. missed his second straight game on Sunday due to cramping in his right arm. He's considered day-to-day… Josh Fleming beat out Luis Patiño and Yonny Chirinos to become the Rays' fifth starter to begin the season… Both Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd made the Braves' Opening Day rotation with Kyle Wright not being ready for the start of the regular season… The Orioles optioned DL Hall to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday.