After a long winter where most of the population stayed indoors, those dark, cold nights gave way to early sunrises and fresh-cut grass at spring training facilities across the south. The fans were able to return to the ball diamond to have a cold beverage, hot dog, and snack on some seeds while listening to the ball hit the mitt or meet its demise off the barrel of the bat. Major League Baseball is back, and with a full 162 games on the schedule, it means many stressful nights of fantasy between now and October.
This upcoming 2021 season will mark the fifth time we have played in the One Less Curse fantasy league, and since we have had zero success so far, we rebranded the franchise yet again. Originally named Ondskans Imperium (Evil Empire in Swedish), we decided after back-to-back seventh-place finishes, it was time to get serious, and we turned into fucking savages during the 2019 season. After finishing in the last place, we decided to change things up again and became BD4 for the shortened 2020 season.
For the last eight years that we have managed fantasy baseball teams, our selections tend to be based on favouritism, whether it was a player or an entire team (i.e. New York Yankees). For the first time in recent memory, we entered into our draft and decided against selecting a single Yankee, something new for the franchise. It was finally time to stop throwing our money away every summer and put forth an effort to win. The strategy seemed to have worked in fantasy football since we were recently crowned champions without any New England Patriots in our lineup. No one ever said breaking up is easy; however, with no Yankees in the lineup, we can sit back and enjoy their games without stressing over everyone’s production night in and night out.
Mock Draft Recaps
When the league manager rolled out this season’s draft order, we did two things. First, we went to the local bookstore to acquire a fantasy baseball guidebook. After reading several in-depth articles, we participated in our first mock draft on March 18. With little to no plan, except our first pick, we finished that draft with a B+ grade and a rating of 87. This initial draft was the only time we selected Mookie Betts (Los Angeles) with the fourth overall selection. According to the report card, our only strength was stolen bases, and our weaknesses were home runs and RBIs.
The very next day, March 19, we returned to the mock draft world and secured one of the most fantastic drafts ever recorded by our franchise. In that draft, we selected Juan Soto (Washington) with our first pick en route to an A grade and score of 95. That team’s strengths were runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases. The weaknesses included batting average, saves, ERA, and WHIP.
After a few days, we participated in another mock draft on March 26, scoring a B grade and an 86 rating. It was the second straight draft we grabbed Soto with our top pick, and the second time we grabbed Manny Machado (San Diego) with our second pick. The strengths for that team were just batting average and saves and come up short in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.
Panic and uncertainty began to creep in the night before the big draft, so we jumped into two mock drafts on March 28, just hours before we went live. In the first draft, which resulted in a B+ and 88 scores, we selected Soto again with our top pick and followed Trevor Bauer in the two spots. It was the second time we pulled that move off in a mock draft. Collectively the team was going to be good at runs, RBIs, stolen bases, and saves. Weaknesses included just wins, strikeouts, and WHIP.
Then four hours before our actual draft, we did one more draft with a strategy in mind. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a brilliant plan, as we only managed a 79 rating and a C+ grade. That team was so bad that the batting average was the only strength; however, the significant weaknesses were just home runs and WHIP. In that final rehearsal, we selected Soto and Machado back to back to build our foundation.
Draft Preview & Selections
In 2020 we secured the ninth overall pick in the draft. This year we got bumped five spots and held the fourth selection. With a boatload of talent in the top ten spots, it is fair to say that those players were all worthy of being cornerstones for their fantasy franchises, no matter who went in the opening round.
Our selections in the snake draft were in the following slots: 4, 17, 24, 37, 44, 57, 64, 77, 84, 97, 104, 117, 124, 137, 144, 157, 164, 177, 184, 197, 204, 217, and 224. The picks were spaced out by seven and thirteen, which meant we had a chance to grab guys we liked in short succession, but when the picks were separated by 13, we ran the risk of losing out on others as the line kept moving through prospects. We didn’t write down how many times a rival team took a player we had queued up, it just happened way too often, and this team ended up drastically different than originally planned.
The opening round of the 2021 draft went just as many would have predicted. Mookie Betts (Los Angeles) went first overall, followed by Roland Acuna Jr. (Atlanta). Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego) was quickly taken off the board by the league manager, while we took Juan Soto (Washington) as planned. Gerrit Cole (New York) was the first pitcher taken off the board while Mike Trout (Los Angeles) went to the defending champions Screw the ‘Stros with the sixth pick. Two elite pitchers went with the following selections, Jacob deGrom (New York) seventh overall, while Shane Bieber (Cleveland) went eighth. The round came to a close, with Christian Yelich (Milwaukee) going right before Trea Turner (Washington), who was the final selection.
The first round witnessed five outfielders, three starting pitchers, and two shortstops getting selected. After seeing a first and third baseman selected in the second round, we snagged San Diego multi-positional infielder Manny Machado with the 17th overall selection.
In the third round, we grabbed our first starting pitcher, Aaron Nola (Philadelphia), who turned out to be the eighth pitcher taken at this point, just 24 picks into the draft. By the time this particular round ended, ten pitchers and nine shortstops were already off the board.
We then selected Marcell Ozuna (Atlanta) with our fourth pick (5th round 37th overall). He joins Soto as the only outfielder eligible players in the lineup. In the fifth round, we grabbed another utility player, Whit Merrifield (Kansas City), with the 44th overall pick. (Just a heads up as you continue to read through this draft review, be prepared to see a lot of players who play multiple positions since that turned out to be our unintentional draft strategy.)
With no grand plan on what the true identity of this team was going to be, we grabbed the saves king, Josh Hader (Milwaukee), with our sixth pick, 57th overall. As players came off the board, we decided to make a swift move and grab another lights-out reliever, who should lead the American League in saves, James Karinchak from Cleveland (64th). We knew nothing about him, except every article said he’s ready to be the game’s best closer in a market that will struggle for wins.
Since we now employed two elite closers, we felt like it was enough to focus our attention on other positions. After losing out on a chance to draft Max Muncy (Los Angeles) in the seventh round, we decided to take a flyer on Ketel Marte (Arizona), 77th overall, listed as a second baseman, shortstop, and outfielder. That move cost us a chance at Brandon Lowe (Tampa Bay), who went with the first pick in the ninth round. We think that our recovery pick, Charlie Blackmon (Colorado), 84th overall, solidified our outfield, even though he is one position player. Shortly after that pick, Julio Urias (Los Angeles) went off the board. We liked him because of his starter and reliever availability.
The next player in our queue was Mike Moustakas (Cincinnati), who can play three infield positions. He was gone with the second pick of the 10th round. That left us scrambling again, so we grabbed San Francisco Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman, who can start or relieve, depending on the day or situation.
In the 11th round, we had a handful of decisions to make since three multi-positional players were available. With the 104th pick in the draft, we grabbed Alec Bohm from Philadelphia. He can play first and third, giving us options on the corners.
We were content with the way our team was taking shape after 11 rounds. We grabbed our first catcher, Yasmani Grandal (Chicago), 117th overall, who also moonlights as a first baseman on occasion to keep the ball rolling. Another guy who covers the plate and the bag down the line is Travis d’Arnaud (Atlanta), our next pick, 124th. The pair’s selection gives us flexibility by employing two catchers and a substitute at first base if everyone else has a night off.
Since we had a strategy regarding our catchers, we missed out on two key players we were interested in, Jeff McNeil (New York) and Chris Taylor (Los Angeles). Both players went early in the 12th round, forcing our hand in the 14th round. After losing out on a chance to select Elieser Hernandez (Miami), we decided to pounce on Dylan Moore (Seattle) with our next pick. The only position Moore doesn’t play is catcher, first base, and pitcher, which means this 137th pick can play anytime, anywhere.
When the draft board flipped to the 15th round, we were drooling at the possibility of drafting St. Louis Cardinal Tommy Edman, who is the National League version of Moore. The pair can cover up to six positions on any given night, which is a great asset to have on the bench.
In the 16th round, we finally dipped our feet back into the pitcher well, securing the services of Sandy Alcantara (Miami). He is only the third pitcher on the roster, joining Nola and Gausman in the rotation. The trio was shortly joined by German Marquez (Colorado) with our next pick in the 17th round, 164th. In that round, we lost two more players we were interested in, Ian Happ (Chicago) and Freddy Peralta (Milwaukee), who we thought was rated deep enough that he would still be available in the next round.
Armed with a few more pitchers, we went back to building up our bench in the 18th round, where we selected Ryan Mountcastle with the 177th pick. His selection cost us the chance to grab Ryan Yarbrough (Tampa Bay), who was selected one pick before we drafted in the 19th round. With our next prospect off the board, we turned to the next guy in line, Jean Segura (Philadelphia), who plays all infield positions except first base.
When the draft entered into the 20th round, we decided to grab another pitcher, which resulted in another missed opportunity just three picks later. Since we needed a few more pitchers to round out the roster, we selected Aaron Civale (Cleveland) with the 197th pick. Then, as we analyzed his numbers and fit with the team, we witnessed Jake Cronenworth (San Diego) go to a rival team to close out the round.
It was heartbreaking to see so many of our hidden gems, guys we hoped no one would notice were getting swept off the board. In an attempt to grab at least one or more of the guys we coveted, we made our move in the 21st round, selecting David Fletcher from Los Angeles. Not only is he projected to bat over 0.300, but he also plays four positions and will be a great bench player.
We only had two picks left by this time, so we grabbed Donovan Solano (San Francisco) with the 217th selection in the draft. He was not on our radar through three of our mock drafts, but a player who bats over 0.300, steals bases, and plays many infield positions would hard to pass up.
As the draft came to a close in the 23rd round, we filled out the minimum eight pitcher positions by selecting Drew Smyly from the Atlanta Braves. We had no players left in our queue by this time, although the only player we had some interest in was Austin Nola (San Diego), who went two rounds before. Although on a side note, there was one pick that we were curious about, and that was Isiah Kiner-Falefa (Texas). He’s a catcher who can play third or shortstop, yet seems to be a backup because we never heard of it. Isiah could be someone we keep an eye out for in the future.
As you can see, we will have plenty of options to fill out a full starting lineup on a nightly basis.
Our fantasy draft lasted almost two hours. When it was all said and down, we waited patiently for Yahoo to send us a draft recap, which should have included a grade and overall rating. That didn’t happen, so we had no official rankings to base this team on.
As the draft progressed, the only word that popped in our minds was “disappointment.” Murderer’s Row may have some great opportunities with hitters, but all those selections cost us in the pitching department, which may be the one aspect that prevents us from contending for a fifth straight season.
In several of the mock drafts, we were all over the map regarding how we would have finished in those fictional leagues. In One Less Curse, we are on pace to be the 7th or 8th best team, a handful of spots out of a playoff spot. Of course, these numbers are strictly based on overall projections and not what a particular player can achieve on any given week. That’s how you win matchups, so even if a hitter is hot or cold and a pitcher can’t find the zone, they have an opportunity every Monday to change their past and future.
We hope to score more than 51 points in the 2021 season; however, if we don’t, we have to roll with the minor successes that come with getting out of the basement for the first time in a long time.
Here’s the breakdown of our projected statistics according to the computers at Yahoo sports:
As you can see and read, Murderer’s Row will only contend if the offence clicks and the pitchers somehow overcome their low projections.
We did not crunch the numbers of the other pitchers; however, based on our numbers, we will employ the worse collection of pitchers in today’s game. The projected ERA and win totals are on pace for worse in the league, while our strikeout total wouldn’t scare anyone away from the batter’s box. Our WHIP won’t be stellar, which means many people can expect to get on base with our staff on the mound. The only saving grace would be our saves, but even with two of the games best coming out of the pen, we are only on pace for the sixth-most saves.
The roster didn’t have any structure, and we never sought out any particular category to dominate, yet when it was all said and done, we should have the league’s best batting average. We should collect the league’s third-best runs, RBIs, and stolen base numbers with all those guys getting hits. The only aspect of the offence that may suffer is our home run total, slated to be the second worse in the league.
Spring will turn to summer and eventually turn into fall. The games will take place in beautiful weather and then under the lights on the brisk cool nights of October. It will be extremely tough for us to carry over the success of our football season (league champions) and hockey (one of the top teams), so here’s hoping a season without any of our favourite players in the lineup can result in a successful campaign.
Follow Murderer’s Row all season long @keepingthestats or facebook.com/keepingthestats.