*All 2020 victory flags feature a prominent asterisk
This is a story about Tout Wars Draft and Hold. I'll spoil the ending now - I won.
It all began in mid-February with a15-team slow draft featuring many of the most prominent names in the industry. For those not familiar with the format, we snake through 50 rounds and play out the season with no further roster moves. Trades and waivers are off the table. Scoring is standard 5x5 categories using OBP instead of AVG.
The format is a testament to initial roster design, but it's also a game of attrition. If your ace ruptures an elbow or your primary slugger misses most of the season, tough. COVID added a new wrinkle. Our draft occurred with looming specter. By the end, what initially seemed unlikely but possible had become all but certain - a league shutdown.
The shortened season was a double-edged sword. Even small injuries forced players to miss huge chunks of the season. Some players opted out - most notably David Price and Lorenzo Cain. COVID outbreaks led to chunky schedules. Anyone overinvested in the Marlins or Cardinals surely suffered in this no-waivers league.
From March until late July, my team lay forgotten. By sheer fortune, I avoided serious injuries (one exception), opt outs, and COVID exposures. Fortune played a large role in my victory. The simple serendipity of consistently filling out full lineups goes a long way in this sort of league. Still, I was scraping the barrel by the end. At times, Michael-es Stein and Florio were within one good day of defeating me.
My offense was running on fumes. That final week, I played Roman Quinn, benched Mike Tauchman, and basically absent J.P. Crawford as I limped to the finish line. Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Eaton, Yordan Alvarez, Carter Kieboom, and Josh Rojas were done. Alvarez never really showed up. I was over-reliant on him for HR and RBI output - it shows clearly in the standings above.
After a semi-successful debut in 2019, I identified pitching as an area where I needed to devote more resources. I consistently reached for pitchers and settled for value hitters. Some of my most productive values included DJ LeMahieu, Nick Castellanos, Paul Goldschmidt, Alex Verdugo, and Will Smith. I did reach for Peripheral Prospect Cavan Biggio.
On the pitching side, I selected Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber in first two rounds before burning my third rounder on Alvarez. The Cole-Bieber tandem looks prescient in hindsight (if I recall, deGrom was selected before Cole in this league).
This really could not have worked out better. Well, I did narrowly miss landing my favorite draft-time closer, Liam Hendriks. That would have netted out an additional 5.5-7.5 points. In general, my reliever crew was serviceable but imperfect.
Zac Gallen and Hyun-Jin Ryu provided predictable mid-rotation output to compliment Cole and Bieber. The truly heroic picks were Brad Keller, Randy Dobnak, 44th round Framber Valdez, 47th round Brady Singer, and 49th round Rafael Dolis.
Valdez offers an interesting lesson. I've continued to target him over the years simply because his stuff is disgusting. Even prior to 2020, Mike Trout referred to Valdez as the toughest pitcher he's faced. Walks and inefficiency always prevented him from getting anywhere. I did not predict his sudden leap from over 5.00 BB/9 to 2.04 BB/9. I did have him as a someone who projects for a strikeout per inning and 60 percent ground balls. His track record in the minors wasn't of a typical no-control guy either. Sometimes, rarely, it pays to take a shot on these types of talents.
Singer represents an alternative lesson. His Spring Training performance was putting him in the conversation to join the Royals Opening Day rotation. Any sort of warm body with a gig is worth a dart throw at that stage of the draft. Because my pitching staff was so loaded, I didn't even get to use Singer. He made two starts with a 5.40 ERA for my roster.
Extrapolating to a 162-game season, it's clear my starting pitching would have probably left me in the conversation for first place. Likewise, my dwindling offense might have opened the door for others. The emergence of Dolis as a quality closer might have staved off an incipient collapse in saves. Lot of maybes.
My #1 takeaway from this win: it's good to be lucky.