Since all of us will now be forced to monitor the minor league talent to a small degree, we should approach our 2017 Shocker season and draft grades through the eyes of a scout. Scouts generally use a tried and true 20-80 scale to grade their prospects and give ownership a quick summary of what to expect. Scouts segment these evaluations into subgroups for each player; grading their speed, power, instincts, and potential and that’s how we’ll look at the twelve Shocker teams as we grade our chances for success in 2017. Men that have been in the game a long time can often use the “eye test” to evaluate players at first sight so hopefully this shortsighted look at players and teams doesn’t yield this snap judgement from you when you look at your new players walk into the locker room.
Our King of Spring game is one that shouldn’t really be taken seriously but if there was ever a year to give a crap, this was the year. The reason is that the crowned king would not only get to secure Mike Trout for the 2017 season but would likely be able to have the undisputed best player in the game for an additional two seasons as a keeper, all while Trout enters the prime of his career. Downs was the lucky winner and will get to hear the sounds of slot machines going off whenever Trout spits out ridiculous stat lines on a nightly basis. Downs doesn’t have a lot of uber talented batters but he does have a lot of steady ballplayers that possess the skill to hit the ball hard into the gaps. Downs might not win a lot of head-to-head home run victories but he’s going to rack up some Runs, RBI, and OPS victories instead. Carpenter, Murphy, Lamb, and Melky should be big reasons, too. The starting staff is Kluber and a bunch of #3’s but the bullpen is impressive, led by Britton, who is coming off a sensational 2017 season. Britton should be well rested since Showalter didn’t put him in the wild card game even though he had about 29 different chances to do so, too.
This team has a lot of power on the mound but hardly any at the plate. That’s not necessarily a recipe for failure but Castillo will need Arenado to continue to be awesome and hope that Abreu, Tulo, CarGo, and Moreland find their power stroke or else this team might be weak with the bats and the overall wins this year. It’s really hard to know if David Price will be healthy and effective at any point this year but he could be a steal in the 16th round even if Yo gets him for only 15-20 starts this year. Price won’t be the only player Castillo will have to monitor as Carrasco, Archer, Richards, and Osuna are all coming off seasons where their health or ability to throw strikes are major questions. Just like David Price, this team could be really good or utterly useless and frustrating all year.
Peppel is still trying to get the hang of this fantasy baseball thing but if last year taught us anything, it’s that he pays attention to his pitching staff like Wesley Snipes pays attention to tax laws. This negligence probably should’ve prompted Pep to load up on talented pitching early so he can just ignore them and hope they are good enough for minimal tinkering but everyone besides Chris Sale will require Pep to stay on top of this team in order to avoid another embarrassing season. I’m lumping the defending AL Cy Young into this group, too as I know Porcello was awesome last year but I’m still unsure he can repeat anything close to his 2016 numbers again. Jon Gray’s talent flows like his blonde hair but he’s prone to way too many implosion innings and that gets magnified when half of his starts take place at 20th and Blake. Altuve, Votto, Lucroy, and Turner were smart picks but once again Pep made everyone turn their head sideways when he picked Brandon Guyer in the 14th round. Guyer is a decent hitter but only against lefties, which can be optimized if Peppel is willing to play the platoon matchups. I don’t think that’s the case, which is why Pep once again wins the Dustin Ackley Award for the most head scratching draft pick of the night.
Zach and I were the only two jamokes on the couch for most of the night and our proximity to each other seemed to rub off on how our talent acquisition went during the draft. As the draft tracker got closer to our selections, we would both get silent for a couple of minutes, hoping that “Our guy” wouldn’t get scooped up before we had a chance to grab him. Ultimately, a pick or two before it was our turn, we would each let out a soft “fuck me” from the sides of our mouth as that guy was taken and we were forced to regroup quickly and go with option B or C. Suer did better at adjusting than his couchmate did and I think he’ll ultimately like playing with Maikel Franco, Wil Myers, Robertson, and LeMehieu even if they weren’t his first option.
Ice Hockey on Nintendo allows players to custom pick the body type and skill set that they would like to incorporate on their teams. You can pick skinny, average, or fat fucks as any one of your skaters and Kevin would generally go with power over speed when it came to grabbing the controller and picking his fantasy baseball team on draft night. Whether it was a desire to mix it up or a conscience shift in strategy, Petty picked a lot of pencil thin people this year and will have to see if that equates to a diet in fantasy losses this year. Segura, Peraza, Nunez, Hamilton, and Jose Ramirez should give Petty a weekly SB win but Petty will have to rely on a small handful of boppers to boost his HR’s, RBI’s and OPS. Arrieta and Maeda are the studs of the staff and as always, Petty will use trial and error with the rest of this staff and hope his steady bullpen is able to temper the ERA and WHIP.
Arch is about a sure of a thing as you can get in fantasy baseball and his batting lineup is the model of consistency this year. He doesn’t have many high variance players that dominate one particular stat but what he does have is a nice group of steady hitters that can contribute to most every category we play with. Goldschmidt, Cano, Odor, Freeman, and Beltre will be easy players for Arch to manage all year. Pollock, Brantley, and Broxton represent the high upside that can push him to another title if they are healthy. I’m used to Arch having great pitching but I don’t love this staff much at all. Carlos Martinez is really good but the rest of the starters on this team like Gausman, Harvey, and Wainright all have huge question marks attached to them. Arch has earned the benefit of the doubt thanks to his annual success so even though I wouldn’t blindly pick this roster to win it all, I know the man driving the bus usually is smart enough to set the Waze app destination to “Championship” and then take the most efficient route until he arrives at this destination before the rest of us.
Jonathan Villar has always teased fantasy owners with his incredible speed but he was quietly an incredible fantasy asset last year, thanks mostly to his 62 stolen bases and ability to hit the ball with some power. Base stealers are about as rare in baseball as decent officials are in college basketball, which means that Jeff Petty might have one of the very few players who is a real threat to steal a base whenever they are on them. Petty will need Villar to run like Forrest Gump all season long because the rest of his roster will abide by the “Thall Shall Not Steal” commandment all year. Bryce Harper’s rough 2016 wasn’t enough to deter Jeff from picking him again and the Harper-Giancarlo outfield is without question the biggest risk/reward duo we have in the league. Greg Bird’s huge spring training was enough for me to prepare to take him way earlier than needed but I never expected Jeff to grab him in the 9th round, which is way too early even for prospect craved Yankee fans like myself. The pitching staff is not nearly as exciting as the batters and the lack of upside could also start Jeff off on a snail’s pace as he plods around the bottom all year long.
We are relying on computers to control our every move more now than ever and even though Meyer was bummed that he couldn’t draft most of his team by himself, he should be pretty happy that he had a smart CPU grab enough good baseball players to turn this team into a contender. Mookie Betts and Scherzer were really close to being the best batter and pitcher last year and they will be very real contenders for the top spots once again this year. Both of these guys opened a lot of eyes last year but you could make the argument that Francisco Lindor turned the most heads last year and his nonstop energy will put a smile on Granger’s face and have us applauding his, I mean, the computer's selection this year.
We found out on draft night that the Perez family is a perfect mix of new school draft strategy and old school analysis. I’ve never seen a three-man team of consultants in the war room but we saw Perez to the power of three making decisions with two or all three of them not being on the same page at the same time. They had no choice but to be on the same page on their actual fantasy baseball magazine, which is a publication that I thought went the way of the Rocky Mountain News. They have the Mike Trout of pitchers in Kershaw, who will twist up batters at the same laughable rate as he always does. One batter who never looks foolish is Miguel Cabrera, who is first round talent that the Perez’s got in round 2. You can quibble about a few reaches with Gary Sanchez and McCullers and the Perez’s did pick quite a few Houston Astros but the Astros should be fun as hell this year, so why not? Picking the hyped-up home team players is fun unless that player falls on their face and now that the Astros are legit contenders for an MLB title, we’ll see if the Perez Boyz can parlay that into an unexpected Shocker title.
The draft does seem to flow with a good pace when you are surrounded by good friends, domestic beer, and college basketball but there is one thing that can slow the momentum and that is an owner that takes the full 60 seconds to make every pick. That doofus was me this year as every single time I was up on the clock, I basically had zero idea in the direction I wanted to go. The guy I highlighted seemed to get picked right before it was my turn, which forced me to scramble and scroll all over the board for an alternative. The end result was a sloppy team that isn’t really good at anything. I have too many players that have flashed brilliance over their short career but have also proved that they cannot sustain this for longer than a couple of weeks at a time. I’m already skeptical that my first and second round picks, Bryant and Turner can duplicate their blistering 2016 pace, which is not a feeling you should have for your first two picks. I felt the same way about my team last year and it forced me to make way too many roster moves and never really be taken seriously and I’m thinking 2017 will be just like the Yankees, a team full of imperfect players that can be great but probably won’t be this year.
Colin Runge and Jon Luciano have had a tortured existence in this league but I can tell by their draft picks that their paltry winning percentage isn’t due to lack of fantasy baseball research. If you look at a list of ESPN sleepers, you’ll see a decent amount on this roster, which makes me believe that Runge and Luciano did a little homework in order to finally participate in the playoffs. This doesn’t always work out as fantasy experts can be as wrong as anyone else but sleepers like Bregman, Grandal, Paxton, and Bundy offer high upside while Kyle Seager, Quintana, and Tanaka offer steady production . This could be the year that Colin and Jon themselves become Shocker Sleepers and outperform the general perception of this futile fantasy franchise.
Matt Suer’s face should be on cans of Sherwin Williams paint at this point but I’ll be honest, if I saw him mixing the colors for a Shocker fantasy team, I would probably walk across the street to Home Depot. Matt is too extreme with certain colors and totally neglects other complimentary colors but when you spread the paint on the wall, goddamn is it beautiful. Harry Doyle once again is poised to win at least seven or eight categories each week and will likely punt at least two in the process. We know that this strategy is viable one, though because Matty has taken an extreme approach to roster building every year and the result is usually all of us giving him money when it’s all over. Team Xtreme is going to bludgeon baseballs but is also going to strikeout more than everyone else this year. The pitchers will strikeout a lot of batters and should be dominant and we’ll see if Matty’s buy-low RP strategy pays off. Every single batter on Team Xtreme is projected to club double digit homers this year, led by a powerful outfield that are all suited better as Designated Hitters. All this extreme mixing puts Matty in great position to paint “2017 Shocker Baseball Champion” in the trophy room of whatever house he’s flipping next.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone again for making our draft a fun one, as always. I am fully aware that I like to add a lot of side dishes on the fantasy plate in regards to new rules and ideas but you all are very willing to give them a try and I think that helps keep this league fresh. They might not all work out and I bet there will be some growing pains with the MiLB position but at the very least, we’ll give it a try and hope it makes our time playing this game a little better than the last season. House parties are about as rare as left handed shortstops nowadays so anytime I can lean against a kitchen counter and bullshit with a circle of friends for most of the night, it’s considered a great night. I know it’s becoming increasingly harder to drink for five hours with friends, so hopefully the rest of you can have the planets align next year and have a drink with the draft crew next year.
As always, we like to raise the stakes when it comes to gambling with friends, which means we have a little more cash to throw around this year, which I think is appropriate for the time and effort we put into this league and all that it takes to win a fantasy baseball championship. We also added a new trophy this season that the winner can take home under two conditions; 1) they do not use it to teach their son how to go the opposite way in the backyard and 2) they do use it to bludgeon an intruder’s skull if needed. We’ll pass this around and use it as one more example as to why you play in the best fantasy baseball league with the 13 best friends that anyone could have. Best of luck this season and I’ll look forward to talking baseball with you guys online and offline this year.