By Zach Steinhorn
Saturday, March 9 - 2:24 PM
What was once 750 is now 114. You know what I'm talking about. It's the amount of picks remaining in my 15-team, 50-round NFBC Draft Champions league draft. There was a point, I think somewhere in the 30th round, where my focus became less on addressing the various categories and more on simply filling positions with as many at-bats or innings as possible. Let's be honest. I'm ready for this draft to end. I mean, enough is enough! But at the same time, I'm trying to use the second half of this draft as a learning experience. What's better than being able to do research in between picks that could pay off in upcoming drafts, when time pressure becomes a factor?
Listen, I prepare thoroughly for all of my drafts, but here are ten nuggets of info that would have likely slipped through the cracks had I not participated in this NFBC marathon:
1. James McDonald's second-half stat line from last year: 3-5, 7.52 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 14 HR allowed in 61 IP
I knew that McDonald faded late in the season following an All-Star caliber first half, but these numbers are horrendous. I'm a forgiving guy though, so I opted to draft him anyway. 26th round as my #7 SP? What do I have to lose?
2. Meet Welington Castillo, the Chicago Cubs' starting catcher.
Castillo was grabbed in the 20th round, but it took me until Round 29, when I was looking for a backstop who can fill in for Yasmani Grandal while he serves his 50-game suspension (I settled on Derek Norris), to realize that Castillo sat atop the Cubs depth chart. Although his minor league numbers aren't all that inspiring, he did launch five homers in 170 at-bats for the Cubbies last season. Not a bad #2 catcher in deeper mixed leagues.
3. Heath Bell might be fantasy-relevant.
After drafting David Hernandez at 20.5, I was convinced that I had secured one of the more valuable setup men, as he would be the no-brainer choice to close should the oft-injured J.J. Putz miss any time. Then Heath Bell went off the board at 30.14, and I'm a tad nervous. I know how much managers value experience, and Bell certainly has ninth-inning experience. I really shouldn't be worried about this. Bell was a disaster last season while Hernandez was nearly automatic. There's no way Kirk Gibson chooses Bell, even if he gets off to a solid start. At least I hope not.
4. Jose Molina is the Tampa Bay Rays' #1 backstop.
And the scary thing is that I was seriously considering taking him at 37.11 before remembering that CS% isn't a category in this league. I went with Jacob Turner instead. Molina was scooped up two picks later.
5. Placido Polanco is the Miami Marlins' starting third baseman.
Still, why would anyone want him? He's old, already banged up and offers next to nothing from a fantasy perspective outside of a decent batting average. Did I mention that he's old? But when my turn came in the 39th round, I couldn't resist. He's my third-string third baseman, and at-bats do have value, though counting on Polanco to give me at-bats probably isn't a great idea.
6. Stephen Pryor is a relief pitcher who plays for the Seattle Mariners.
Pryor was also my 41st-round selection. Being that I'm a Tom Wilhelmsen owner, the pick makes a whole lot of sense. But then there's Carter Capps, who was drafted ten rounds earlier. From what I'm reading, he could also factor into the ninth inning mix in the event of a Wilhelmsen injury or trade. Carter Capps. Is he related to Matt Capps?
7. Wesley Wright, the saves sleeper?
Jose Veras is set to open the season as Houston's closer, but I have a feeling that his sky-high walk rate will eventually cost him the ninth-inning job. I had to dig up the Astros' roster to figure this one out, but Wright seems like the logical replacement. He's coming off a stellar 2012 campaign in which he pitched to a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while whiffing more than a batter per inning. Right now, he's at the top of my queue as my Round 43 pick nears. Shhh.
8. The Pittsburgh Pirates' starting shortstop is ... Clint Barmes.
The last time I even thought about Barmes was a few years ago, when he got injured carrying luggage up a flight of stairs. And it looks like I haven't been missing much, as he's struggled mightily over the past few seasons. But he does have some pop along with a guarantee of 450-plus at-bats, as long as he sticks to elevators, or even escalators.
9. Kyle Blanks is tearing it up.
Injuries combined with a penchant for striking out way too much have derailed the once promising career of this former top prospect. But check out what he's doing this spring: 12-for-28 (.429 AVG) with two homers and seven RBIs through 13 games. We know Blanks has power, so if he can hit his way onto the Padres' opening day roster, there's at least a tiny bit of value to be had here. And guess who is right below Wesley Wright on my queue.
10. Freddy Garcia signed with the San Diego Padres?
Talk about an under-the-radar off-season move. I totally missed this one. My first reaction was to add Garcia to my queue. After all, if you're a pitcher looking to bounce back from a terrible season, San Diego is the place to be! My second reaction was to head over to the Padres' official website and scan the starting rotation depth chart. No Freddy Garcia. My third reaction was to look at Garcia's stat line through three starts this spring: 13.50 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, .375 BAA.
My fourth reaction? Remove him from my queue.
I told you this was a learning experience.