Rob DiPietro (@deadpullhitter) and 14 more meatballs (his words, not ours) including a few Touts, drafted the first six rounds of an actual NFBC draft to be played out in 2024. This is a 15-team Draft Championship leagues (50-man rosters with no in-season pickups)
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The Touts were asked, What is the biggest surprise from the first 2024 NFBC draft? Please share any other observations.
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo/Rotowire, @FredZinkieMLB): Eight closers in the first four rounds. I guess the early closer trend is gaining steam. I may choose to zig while others zag next year.
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): After pick 34, the floodgates opened on buying pitching in general. Two closers in the *second* round even before that. 49 of the 105 picks were pitchers. I like what Bubba (yay-Bubba–congrats champ!) did with bats in rounds 1-2-3 and then pitchers in 4-5-6, based on selections in this draft. It feels like a team can grab a real counting stats advantage in this draft without even really giving anything up on the pitching side in this way. Finally, my thought on closers is recent memory: Edwin Diaz, Liam Hendriks, now Felix Bautista. Fluke? I sure don’t think so.
Alex Chamberlain (FanGraphs, @DolphHauldhagen): For the sheer number of high-quality rookie arms that debuted this year (like, a historic number of them) I’m surprised that I see virtually none of them in the top-100 picks. It seems to me SP will be similarly loaded like last year (and certainly drafters will get burned badly in some spots), and if it’s running as deep as it appears—while old guys (Scherzer, Verlander) and disappointments (Nola, Urías) get the benefit of the doubt—then I imagine I will find myself waiting awhile for some of the arms after the Sporer-anointed Blob.
Rick Graham (Pitcher List, @IAmRickGraham): To me, it’s the amount of pitching off the board early, specifically closers as 16 of them went in the first 99 picks here. I believe there were on average 8 closers going in to the top 100 picks in most 2023 NFBC drafts, so to see that number double is definitely a surprise. Given the circumstances, I think waiting until that 6th/7th round to take your first closer makes sense as those 16 closers are not too different from each other.
Jeff Erickson (Rotowire, @Jeff_Erickson): I think the starting pitching run begins later in the draft, the earlier that the pool is drafting. By the time we get to March, that “yellow brick road” (H/T DVR) starts up in earnest in the second round. There were only four SPs taken in the first two rounds, and I suspect that number will climb later on.
Jeff Barton (Scoresheet Baseball, @JeffScoresheet): I wonder is the likely Tommy John surgery for Ohtani will sap his power at least somewhat in 2024? Seems like a risky pick for the 2nd pick overall. And I know I will be quite happy next year if I can get Soto in round 4.
Garion Thorne (DraftKings, @GarionThorne): I’m a little shocked to see Elly De La Cruz slip just outside the first round. Obviously there are flaws in De La Cruz’s profile, but his wOBA and OBP are incredibly similar to the numbers produced by Bobby Witt Jr. in 2022 — not to mention his prorated counting stats in home runs and stolen bases. Despite those underwhelming ratios in his rookie campaign, Witt was a consensus first round pick in 2023. De La Cruz has a similar pedigree and arguably a better supporting cast in Cincinnati. I think that ADP rises by February.
Nick Pollack (Pitcher List, @PitcherList): Max Fried is going far too late. The injury risk is pushing him down, though we see injuries from a vast number of pitchers each year, regardless of history. His stability prior to this season shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with other aces with more damaging histories are going earlier. Throw in the massive Win chance and phenomenal ratios, and Fried should be going in the 4th or 5th. I’d be shocked if we saw a September that brought more haze than clarity.
Sky Dombroske (Fantistics Insider Baseball, @SkyDombroske): Probably Vlad remaining a 2nd-round pick despite barely being a top-15 1B this season. Christian Walker has been almost exactly as valuable over the past two years, yet he went almost 4 rounds later….not sure the 8 years of age difference is quite worth that. Also, as others have stated, 5 more closers going in the top 105 picks than last year’s ADP appears to point to the trend now.
D.J. Short (NBC Sports, @djshort): The pressure to draft a closer en masse is beginning earlier than ever. And if this is where Edwin Díaz is going in the spring, I’m all in. I suspect he will only move up, especially if he makes an appearance or two in September.
Ryan Bloomfield (BaseballHQ, @RyanBHQ): As someone who was in this draft (and in the Zoom room), the SP “push down” was more a collective reluctance to take a starter with six weeks left of the season. I agree with Jeff E. that starters will go earlier come March. Since there’s some Edwin Diaz chatter, here’s a fun tidbit from the draft: John Fish said “Diaz” for his 4th round pick; the room replied “which one?”; brother Edwin was taken with the next pick.
Greg Jewett (The Athletic, @gjewett9): This format always pushes up closers because there’s no in-season pick-ups, but seeing Edwin Díaz being the eighth reliever taken will not happen once the new year hits. Especially if he makes a return this season. For perspective, in March 2023, nine relievers were taken in the first 100 picks in the Draft Champions format, so this followed suit. With Félix Bautista injured, expect Díaz being the first or second reliever off the board once these go live in November and Devin Williams will also rise, especially with a strong postseason.
Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): I always love an early draft board. The first thing I see is that a ton of pitching went in the first seven rounds relative to position player talent and that is really interesting. It’s like all of us have been fighting over pitching on the waiver wire for the last few months and just never want to do that again. I’d be curious to compare it to a March draft to see just the sheer amount of pitching that went off the boards in the first seven rounds v. drafts close to opening day this year. Similarly, it’s interesting to see the priority on catchers pushed down to the fifth round before that mini-run. Will be interesting to see if that persists.
Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @Scott_Pianowski): Early drafts are lovely, when there’s no real ADP yet and you can just let it fly. I’m not sure Jose Ramirez currently belongs in the Top 10. Early picks should include team buoyancy, and Cleveland can’t check that box. Maybe I’d make an excuse for someone like Aaron Judge, who can be a monster on his own. Ramirez needs some help. Draft into offenses that excite you, at least with those lottery picks.
Jason Collette (Rotowire, @jasoncollette): That people are doing a baseball draft in August. Sickos! In all seriousness, seeing 16 closers going in the first 7 rounds after the ROI on closers this year has been rather terrible is surprising.
Eric Cross (FTNFantasy, @EricCross04): This draft looks to be extremely pitcher-heavy, even more than we usually see, and especially with relievers. Only one team had less than three pitchers through the first several rounds. I thought this season would cause 2024 drafts to go the other direction, but I guess not. Also, I was surprised to see Tucker and Soto fall as far as they did and Albies and Turner go as high as they did.
Shelly Verougstraete (NBC Sports EDGE Baseball, @ShellyV_643): I know this format pushes up closers but wowza! I was not expecting to see so many go in the first seven rounds. Harper as the 24th overall selected player seems like a steal knowing that he should have 1B eligibility next season. I wonder if he would have been pushed up any if the draft was held now, as he is white-hot at the plate right now.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, @jeffwzimmerman): I’m ignoring the reliever ADP since it’s a draft-and-hold league. These managers can’t add anyone during the season so I understand getting an anchor. I feel any of the first-round hitters from picks 4 to 11 are interchangeable so the key might be figuring out the second and third round targets if a team’s pick can be chosen.
Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): How early SP was handled is what stands out. I thought that the gap between the established top SP group and the rest of the SP pool, along with the uptick in offense in MLB generally, would force top tier SP selections higher. IE – Offensive stat pool is deeper, so can ‘afford’ to wait on bats a bit. In short, surprised that there weren’t more drafters following the DuPonte blueprint here (Freeman/Castillo/Gallen/Glasnow). Will be fascinating to watch once these 2024 drafts get cranked up.
Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): It’s going to be fun to see where the ADP for the quartet of shortstops at the start of the second round (Trea Turner, Bo Bichette, Elly Da La Cruz and Corey Seager) ends up settling. They offer very different skillsets and different blends of floor and ceiling, yet they were viewed almost identically overall in this draft. All four could affect their draft stock significantly in September, particularly Turner if he has another month of vintage production and De La Cruz as he establishes just how severe his contact concerns will be moving forward.
Joe Sheehan (Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, @joe_sheehan): Anybody willing to draft in August for the next season gets my respect, so consider the following in that context. Trea Turner, even conceding the draft was a week ago, is going far too low. His off year is going to end pretty valuable, and I expect he’ll return top-10 value in 2024. I’d take him over Alvarez, Albies, and Carroll (the shoulder scares me) at least.
Andy Andres (BaseballHQ, @sabermetrics101): Seems like a lot of pitching drafted, 13 of 15 teams took at least 3 pitchers (lots of yellow on the image!). I also thought Elly, Kim and McLain were drafted a bit high, would prefer less risk with the 18th, 50th, and 52nd pick. But what a great exercise, thanks Rob and others for doing this!
Adam Ronis (Fantasy Alarm, @AdamRonis): I was surprised to see Mike Trout go 6.1. It’s the right area but I thought he would go in the first four rounds. Interested to see if he rises in early drafts next season.
Michael A. Stein (Fantasy Judgment, @FantasyJudgment): I understand why it’s done, but I was really surprised to see so many closers go so early. They are all generally volatile (with few exceptions) so it was shocking to see such an emphasis on them in the first few rounds. Pitching in general was really prioritized more so than I have seen in other drafts and formats. It also fascinates me to see how certain players move down draft boards over the years as they age and makes me wonder how long before this next crop of young stars get relegated to the 5th or 6th round.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): MACRO: 47/105 pitchers. MICRO: I’d be scared to take Elly 2R because of contact issue. And I was surprised to any closer go before Gausman.
Scott Chu (Pitcher List, @ifthechufits): Matt McLain’s second half had too many red flags for me to consider him in the first five rounds. First, the strikeout rate continued to push above 30% while his walk rate remained barely above average. Second, his high line drive rate in the second half (north of 25%) is not something we can expect for long, especially considering that he was closer to a 15% line drive hitter in the minors. These two issues almost certainly mean we should expect significant regression in his ratios (something more like a .235-.245 hitter with an average OBP). The home runs may not suffer too much, as his minor league profile suggests those line drives will turn into fly balls, but that will also crush McLain’s ratios. I’m not saying he’s bad, of course – but considering him when Glasnow, Woodruff, and the top-tier catchers are still on the board is not something I could do, especially knowing that Hoerner, Stott, Muncy, Paredes, K. Marte, Arraez, and Gleyber are all on the board and don’t need to be picked for a few more rounds.
Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): I’m shocked to see 2 closers selected in the second round, with the first taken 20th overall. That’s a lot of offensive value being given up in the hopes the closer’s team provides enough save opportunities to earn second round value. I would never pass up a top 20 hitter for a closer, or even a top starting pitcher, and I don’t draft starting pitchers in round 2 normally!
Tim McLeod (PattonandCo, @RunTMcP361): We have relative stability in the bullpen component of our game this year and I’m not surprised to see closers moving up the draft board. Remember when the future of our game was a bullpen-by committee? Even the Rays have avoided that scenario. The million-dollar question is do we see more of the same in 2024 or revert to the spinning “Closer Carousel” and huge turnover. I’m sure not waiting until Round #15 next year to find out, nor will I (hopefully) be armed with a fistful of cash on a Sunday evening in mid-July chasing the JoJo Romero, Carlos Hernandez, and/or Gregory Santos types.
Michael Govier (FTN Fantasy, @mjgovier): My tout team is fading, so I don’t know how much credibility I have right now. Still, I was surprised by JoRam falling to 9. That seems like an overreaction to a horrendous offensive season in Cleveland. In addition, Trea Turner not being a first rounder now is a reaction to his difficulties this year, but with steals being more available, maybe his speed attribute doesn’t make his as desirable anymore? I disagree with that because he is still a player who should hit .300 with 30 homer potential in Philly.
Chris Clegg (Pitcher List, @RotoClegg): Like most have said the way closers continue to be pushed up higher and higher each year is wild. I understand in a DC format that having safe closers is important but with 16 going in the top 100 is just crazy to see. Its a volatile position and a lot of these guys may not even have jobs to start the 2024 season. The hitter talent in the top 100 is too good to be taking that many closers, especially in the early rounds.
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Pitching, pitching, pitching, whether closer or starter just flying off the board!!!
Carlos Marcano (Triple Play Fantasy, @camarcano): Pablo Lopez’s rank. I think he could be a round 3-4 value and he was picked in round 5 which is interesting.
Jeff Boggis (Fantasy Football Empire, @JeffBoggis): Never pay for saves. This draft is heavily skewed towards closers being draft too early. And too many closers being drafted overall.
Brian Entrekin (Fantasy Pros, BaseballHQ, @bdentrek): As someone that participated in the draft I was a bit surprised at the major SP runs waiting till Round 3. In DC formats pitching is gold and usually goes earlier. Says a lot about the glob forming at SP. Also, to the “don’t draft saves” crowd, this is a DC so they always get pushed up and for very good reason.
Joe Gallina (Fantasy Alarm, @joegallina): Maybe I’m a little biased being a Yankee fan and all but I’m surprised Aaron Judge almost made it to the second round. His overall stats are lower than we expected due to the time he missed nursing his toe back to health, but based on his current stats if he played a full season he’d be on pace for another 60 HR season. Juan Soto falling to the third round based on his two-year slump seems right, but Tatis, Jr., who isn’t hitting HRs the way he used too (likely a residual effect from his two wrist surgeries) being drafted ahead of Judge does not.