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Draft Strategy

Live Draft Grades

by Nathan Grimm
Updated On: March 11, 2020, 2:49 pm ET

After doing live fantasy baseball mock drafts with Rotoworld Draft Guide readers each of the past two years, the crew decided to raise the stakes this year.

No more mocks. This one is for keeps.

Live on Twitch Tuesday afternoon, our own D.J. Short and Drew Silva, and Yahoo Sports’ Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski, took on each other and eight Rotoworld Draft Guide subscribers to see who could build the best team. And unlike in past years, this year they'll play out the league to find out if a "pro" or a "Joe" has what it takes to win the crown.

Editor's Note: You can watch the full replay here! 

I was asked to blindly hand out individual roster grades afterward, choosing one overall winner from the 12 teams. I didn’t stream the draft as it happened and was simply sent the results via email on Tuesday afternoon. The names of the owners were only given to me once I was ready to publish this write-up, so no bias was at play.

After the round, the overall selection number is in parentheses next to the player’s name -- (1) is the first overall pick, (24) is the No. 24 pick in the draft, etc. That helps provide some context when comparing a player’s value here as compared to his average draft position (ADP).

This is all based on standard 5x5 fantasy scoring with the following roster setup: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, UTIL, UTIL, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, RP, P, P, BN, BN.

Team 1 (Drew Silva)

1. (1) Mike Trout (LAA - OF)
2. (24) Starling Marte (Ari - OF)
3. (25) Shane Bieber (Cle - SP)
4. (48) Bo Bichette (Tor - SS)
5. (49) Tyler Glasnow (TB - SP)
6. (72) Roberto Osuna (Hou - RP)
7. (73) Liam Hendriks (Oak - RP)
8. (96) Mike Soroka (Atl - SP)
9. (97) DJ LeMahieu (NYY - 1B,2B,3B)
10. (120) Josh Donaldson (Min - 3B)
11. (121) Rhys Hoskins (Phi - 1B)
12. (144) Danny Santana (Tex - 1B,2B,3B,SS,OF)
13. (145) Lance McCullers Jr. (Hou - SP)
14. (168) Will Smith (Atl - RP)
15. (169) Willson Contreras (ChC - C)
16. (192) Justin Upton (LAA - OF)
17. (193) Michael Kopech (CWS - SP)
18. (216) MacKenzie Gore (SD - SP)
19. (217) Ian Happ (ChC - 2B,3B,OF)
20. (240) Chris Bassitt (Oak - SP)

Team overview: Having any of the top three picks this year is a major win, and picking at the turn might be the best spot. There you can secure one of the clear-cut top three outfield bats, get another good hitter on the way back -- in this case, five-category filler Starling Marte -- and if you're lucky, get your ace, too. This team's owner took full advantage, securing the certainty of Trout, Marte and Bieber before going upside with Bichette and Glasnow at the following turn. As the draft went on they balanced ceiling with floor, ending up with a well-balanced club that's devoid of any clear holes.

Favorite pick: LeMahieu. Even if you're not expecting a full repeat of the infielder's monster 2019 season, there's a floor there -- of playing time, of batting average, of counting stats in a good Yankees lineup -- that beneficial if you're going to take on some risks like Bichette, Hoskins and Donaldson. That multi-position eligibility is huge, too. And that's not even considering that he might just go and repeat that huge 2019 season, a coup in the ninth round near pick 100.

Least-favorite pick: Upton. There's certainly an upshot with Upton -- if he gets a full slate of at-bats he's a pretty good bet to get back to 30 homers -- so there's nothing wrong with the pick in a vacuum. When you consider that it was in the 16th round, before pick 200, it becomes a little tougher to stomach, and when you see the players that other managers were able to get around that pick or even later -- the list includes Byron Buxton, Oscar Mercado and Lorenzo Cain -- the pick loses a lot of its upside. In context, I didn't love it.

Grade: A-

Team 2 (Aaron Klump)

1. (2) Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atl - OF)
2. (23) Gleyber Torres (NYY - 2B,SS)
3. (26) Stephen Strasburg (Was - SP)
4. (47) Lucas Giolito (CWS - SP)
5. (50) Yoán Moncada (CWS - 3B)
6. (71) Matt Olson (Oak - 1B)
7. (74) Brandon Woodruff (Mil - SP)
8. (95) Ramón Laureano (Oak - OF)
9. (98) Marcus Semien (Oak - SS)
10. (119) Craig Kimbrel (ChC - RP)
11. (122) Brandon Workman (Bos - RP)
12. (143) Jorge Polanco (Min - SS)
13. (146) Jake Odorizzi (Min - SP)
14. (167) Scott Kingery (Phi - 2B,3B,SS,OF)
15. (170) Caleb Smith (Mia - SP)
16. (191) Luke Weaver (Ari - SP)
17. (194) Will Smith (LAD - C)
18. (215) Byron Buxton (Min - OF)
19. (218) Nick Senzel (Cin - OF)
20. (239) Yonny Chirinos (TB - SP,RP)

Team overview: As described with Team 1, the formula this year is simple: if you're picking in the top three, you should be aiming to leave the first three rounds with one of the premium outfielders, another top-tier bat and a rotation anchor. This manager's preferred trio was Acuña, Torres and Strasburg, a group that I love less than Team 1's but one that will still play just fine. There's a lot of volatility with the group of hitters, and the floor could easily drop out of the team's batting average, but if things go right they could go really right. The range of outcomes feels pretty wide with this club.

Favorite pick: Weaver. The right-hander's stock is depressed this spring after he made just 12 starts in 2019, but those 12 starts were [fire emoji]. Sure, it was a UCL sprain that cost him all that time, which isn't an ideal injury to endure. And the Diamondbacks are going to be "cognizant" of his workload this year, per general manager Mike Hazen. But there's virtually no risk associated with taking the 26-year-old past pick 200, and the upside is the 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 26.5 percent strikeout percentage he exhibited last year. I'll take that upside.

Least-favorite pick: Odorizzi. The 29-year-old was great in 2019, but that feels like the ceiling. The reason he was able to be effective was because the Twins, recognizing he couldn't get through the lineup a third time, managed his outings. To that end, he only got through six innings in 10 of his 30 starts, and finished with just 159 innings. With some regression factored in, Odorizzi becomes a lot less interesting, especially at pick 146. There were options I liked more at that spot.

Grade: B+


Team 3 (Dan Lombardi)

1. (3) Christian Yelich (Mil - OF)
2. (22) J.D. Martinez (Bos - OF)
3. (27) Mike Clevinger (Cle - SP)
4. (46) Patrick Corbin (Was - SP)
5. (51) Noah Syndergaard (NYM - SP)
6. (70) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Tor - 3B)
7. (75) Anthony Rizzo (ChC - 1B)
8. (94) Carlos Correa (Hou - SS)
9. (99) Zac Gallen (Ari - SP)
10. (118) Archie Bradley (Ari - RP)
11. (123) Jorge Soler (KC - OF)
12. (142) Cavan Biggio (Tor - 2B,OF)
13. (147) Miguel Sanó (Min - 1B,3B)
14. (166) Madison Bumgarner (Ari - SP)
15. (171) Josh James (Hou - RP)
16. (190) Corey Seager (LAD - SS)
17. (195) Mitch Keller (Pit - SP)
18. (214) Hunter Harvey (Bal - RP)
19. (219) Jon Berti (Mia - 3B,SS,OF)
20. (238) Yadier Molina (StL - C)

Team overview: The benefit of having the third pick is that you get one of the elite outfield bats and you also get first pick of the talent on the way back to the turn. That allowed this owner to snatch Martinez, who's available at pick 22 only for the sheer fact that there's so much talent to be had at the top of the draft that a 35-homer, 100-RBI, 100-run, .300-average hitter can't sneak any higher than the end of the second round. It allowed the manager to set a good batting average base -- Yelich, Martinez, Guerrero Jr., Rizzo and Correa are all plus batting average contributors -- so that he or she could take some big swings with Soler, Biggio and Sanó in the later rounds. Saves and speed will be an issue for the team to address during the season.

Favorite pick: Seager. 190?! Shortstop is crazy deep this year, and Seager is regularly the one pushed down the draft board as a result, but 190 is a steal even with that context. Even if he repeats his 2019 output -- .272/.335/.483 with 19 homers, 87 RBI and 82 runs scored -- that's beautiful production to find this late, and there's a good chance he takes another step forward as he gets further removed from Tommy John surgery. Terrific value.

Least-favorite pick: James. I see the thinking, and I get it -- SPARPs have value if you're punting saves, or if saves punt you. I just wonder if James could have been had a few rounds later than the 171st pick. It's a little nitpicky, as none of the selections stand out as disasters, but there it is.

Grade: A


Team 4 (Scott Pianowski)

1. (4) Jacob deGrom (NYM - SP)
2. (21) Rafael Devers (Bos - 3B)
3. (28) Clayton Kershaw (LAD - SP)
4. (45) Keston Hiura (Mil - 2B)
5. (52) Jonathan Villar (Mia - 2B,SS)
6. (69) José Berríos (Min - SP)
7. (76) Paul Goldschmidt (StL - 1B)
8. (93) Nelson Cruz (Min - Util)
9. (100) Héctor Neris (Phi - RP)
10. (117) Marcell Ozuna (Atl - OF)
11. (124) Alex Colomé (CWS - RP)
12. (141) Robbie Ray (Ari - SP)
13. (148) Michael Brantley (Hou - OF)
14. (165) Garrett Hampson (Col - 2B,SS,OF)
15. (172) Mike Foltynewicz (Atl - SP)
16. (189) Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (Tor - 2B,OF)
17. (196) Ryan McMahon (Col - 1B,2B,3B)
18. (213) Joey Lucchesi (SD - SP)
19. (220) Jorge Alfaro (Mia - C)
20. (237) Michael Conforto (NYM - OF)

Team overview: After the first three picks the fantasy player drafting out of the four spot has a decision to make: go with a stud bat like Cody Bellinger or Mookie Betts, or pivot to one of the top two pitchers in Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole? This player chose to secure the arm, a decision that's hard to argue as upper-echelon pitchers drop like flies this spring. You have to then be skilled and lucky enough to make up for eschewing that five-category bat in the first round by securing those categories later, something this team did with varying levels of success. A solid effort overall.

Favorite pick: Ozuna. I also really like getting Nelson Cruz at 93, but I see a scenario where Father Time, as of yet undefeated, comes for the ageless wonder, even if he's showed no signs of slowing to this point. Ozuna, meanwhile, deserved better luck than he had in 2019 and now moves to a fantastic situation batting behind Acuña, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman in Atlanta. I'm all-in, and I think he's a top-20 outfielder this year.

Least-favorite pick: Hampson. I love the idea of Hampson, but it's as a golden ticket wrapped around a chocolate bar, not a 14th-round pick you're counting on to contribute this year. There's a path to a very nice season in 2020, something like 15 homers and 35 steals, but it's far from written in stone. The Conforto snare in the last round could ease some of the pain if Hampson is buried on the Rockies' depth chart, but it's a tightrope act.

Grade: B


Team 5 (Giovanni)

1. (5) Francisco Lindor (Cle - SS)
2. (20) Anthony Rendon (LAA - 3B)
3. (29) Chris Paddack (SD - SP)
4. (44) Charlie Morton (TB - SP)
5. (53) Charlie Blackmon (Col - OF)
6. (68) Trevor Bauer (Cin - SP)
7. (77) Eddie Rosario (Min - OF)
8. (92) Taylor Rogers (Min - RP)
9. (101) Eduardo Rodriguez (Bos - SP)
10. (116) Lance Lynn (Tex - SP)
11. (125) Carlos Santana (Cle - 1B)
12. (140) Gavin Lux (LAD - 2B)
13. (149) J.D. Davis (NYM - 3B,OF)
14. (164) Mark Melancon (Atl - RP)
15. (173) Mitch Garver (Min - C)
16. (188) Khris Davis (Oak - Util)
17. (197) Oscar Mercado (Cle - OF)
18. (212) Jean Segura (Phi - SS)
19. (221) Andrew Heaney (LAA - SP)
20. (236) Dustin May (LAD - SP,RP)

Team overview: Lindor ahead of the aforementioned Bellinger, Betts, Cole and others is a heck of a power move, and it will be interesting to see if it pays off. If the goal was to secure early speed in hopes of gaining an advantage, the move might have actually been a hindrance overall -- aside from Lindor and the late Mercado bargain, there's just not a lot of speed to be seen on this roster. Starting pitching, injuries, playing time battles -- this team is going to need a lot to go right to really have a shot at the title in 2020.

Favorite pick: Mercado. The news about Mercado's wrist sprain being labeled "mild" and the outfielder being day to day was known by Tuesday's draft, so there's no excuse for the room pushing him down toward pick 200. This is a guy who hit 15 homers and stole 15 bases with a .268 average in 115 games last year, and he should hit in the top half of an Indians lineup that is pretty good (at least the top half is). So long as the wrist isn't a lingering issue, he should return plenty of value from this spot.

Least-favorite pick: Lux. I don't love where Rosario is going this year, so he was in the conversation, but I don't think that pick was too out of line with his ADP. Lux, on the other hand, is probably going to be a platoon player at best and doesn't have a clear path to at-bats in the top half of the Dodgers lineup. Even if we concede that he's a very good hitter this year -- which isn't a given -- a very good hitter who's only getting 400 at-bats that could be coming from the 8 spot in the lineup might not even be rosterable in this format, let alone worth a 12th-round pick.

Grade: B-


Team 6 (John Patterson)

1. (6) Cody Bellinger (LAD - 1B,OF)
2. (19) Alex Bregman (Hou - 3B,SS)
3. (30) Bryce Harper (Phi - OF)
4. (43) Ozzie Albies (Atl - 2B)
5. (54) J.T. Realmuto (Phi - C)
6. (67) Manny Machado (SD - 3B,SS)
7. (78) Tim Anderson (CWS - SS)
8. (91) José Abreu (CWS - 1B)
9. (102) Hyun-Jin Ryu (Tor - SP)
10. (115) Chris Sale (Bos - SP)
11. (126) Giancarlo Stanton (NYY - OF)
12. (139) Giovanny Gallegos (StL - RP)
13. (150) Hansel Robles (LAA - RP)
14. (163) Keone Kela (Pit - RP)
15. (174) Trey Mancini (Bal - 1B,OF)
16. (187) Wade Davis (Col - RP)
17. (198) Aaron Civale (Cle - SP)
18. (211) Chris Archer (Pit - SP)
19. (222) Hunter Dozier (KC - 1B,3B,OF)
20. (235) Lorenzo Cain (Mil - OF)

Team overview: One team's trash is another team's treasure, and Team 6 got a gift in the form of Bellinger falling into its lap. Whether that changed the owner's strategy or they had one in mind from the jump, there's a clear agenda here -- the first eight picks were hitters, and eight of the next 10 were pitchers. That strong hitting foundation also allowed the manager to take some injury risks in Stanton and Mancini at value spots. So much of this team's final outcome hinges on hitting on the right mid-round pitchers, or finding them on the wire, but it's a fascinating tack.

Favorite pick: Stanton. As noted, setting that foundation allowed the owner to take the shot on Stanton's upside without a huge risk if the hulking outfielder busts this year. And if he just misses a few weeks and still plays 140 games for the Yankees, this should return huge value in the 11th round. The Mancini pick is along the same lines, but there's an unknown factor there that makes him very hard to value at this point. With Stanton, at least we know what we're looking at.

Least-favorite pick: Gallegos. If this was a stab at landing the Cardinals' closer, it's speculative at best and ill-informed at worst. If it was a play to pocket some ratio stabilization, there were almost certainly better relief options available -- I mean, Will Smith went 30 picks later -- that could be had. There's a very good chance this pick returns no value, and Gallegos is on the waiver wire by mid-April.

Grade: B+