Fantasy baseball is not easy in the best of times. We make educated guesses about a given group of players’ expected performance based on the often incomplete information we have. Teams – and individual players – are constantly making adjustments that can impact the validity of that information. Add to that the challenging and unusual circumstances of the abbreviated 2020 season, and one could hardly be blamed for misreading the data and making some poor picks for a 2021 redraft squad. Hopefully, in the interest of making some folks feel better about these misfires (and morbid curiosity), here’s a hypothetical 25-man roster for a 15-team 5×5 Roto league. It assumes AVG & QS, not OBP or W, and a weekly innings minimum that discourages the “Marmol strategy” of ignoring SPs. Further, it assumes no wild reaches for players, so that guys are falling reasonably close to their actual 2021 ADP per Fantrax. This list will not include hypothetical bench players, as they are often mere dart throws in leagues of this type. Again, this is not supposed to represent an actual drafted squad, but the ADP suggests a plausible outcome with which someone could land.
It’s important to note that this is not intended as dunking on any players, either the baseball players or the fantasy players who select them. Everyone swings and misses sometimes. Some of these players deal with injuries and personal issues nobody could foresee, and others are riding the pine for reasons out of their control. The odds are that most of us have at least one of these guys on at least one of our rosters, and more of us than that had guys listed herein all queued up before someone else sniped the pick. These players could still go on hot streaks to make their final season numbers look reasonable. They are just not so great right now. Consider this whole thing an exercise in gallows humor. Stats were up to date as of the morning of 6/5.
Our hapless hypothetical drafter starts with the 13th overall pick, selecting Christian Yelich to anchor the outfield. This player is not far removed from being among the most valuable fantasy baseball assets, so having him fall to 13th seems lucky, right? Um. He’s missed about half of the games this season, and his .253/2/8/4 counting stats with 19 runs is not what is sought from a 1st round pick. Lots can still change in the draft, though.
The draft continues, and with the 18th overall pick, Francisco Lindor looks like a bargain at shortstop. He has been a steady 5-category contributor in each full season to date, with borderline prodigious power for a middle infielder. So far, though, he does not seem to love New York, with .217/4/12/4/27 counting stats. His HH% and strikeout rate are both essentially unchanged from his peak, so this could be bad luck and the shift, but that doesn’t ease the pain of having those numbers for your 18th pick overall in June.
At this point, the fantasy owner believes that it would be dangerous to skip any more starting pitcher arms if the team is to have any hope of acquiring a viable ace. With the 3rd round pick, 43rd overall, this gets addressed with Blake Snell. Snell was lights out over 180 innings in 2018, and in theory, the short 2020 season minimized wear and tear. Add to that the fact that he went to pitch for a stacked San Diego offense, and hey, looks good, right? Only 2 QS in 12 outings, with an ERA of nearly 4.90 and a WHIP north of 1.4 will not get it done for a fantasy SP1. His strikeouts have been helpful but not helpful enough for where he went in the draft.
To keep the pitching solid (in theory), our fantasy owner doubles up on starting pitching in the 4th round, selecting Kenta Maeda 48th overall. Many folks liked the Twins offense for which Maeda pitches going into the season, and he looked like a solid ratios guy ready to take another step forward with MIN after a great showing in 2020. Yeah… about that. Only 1 QS in 9 starts, with an ERA over 5 and under a strikeout per inning, will not get it done. His BAA is a career-worst .299, pointing to some combination of bad luck and bad defense, but yikes.
Having, in theory, addressed the front end of the rotation, our luckless fantasy owner goes back to hitters in the 5th round, selecting Keston Hiura at 73rd overall to be the 2B for the squad. Hiura looked like a star in the making in his 2019 debut, batting over .300 with 19 dingers and 9 larcenies in half a season, so it was easy to toss out 2020’s numbers as being the result of 2020 being generally awful. Except, Hiura has struggled so much at the plate that he was temporarily demoted to AAA, and has barely made contact since being recalled. An average under .130 with a single HR and a solitary stolen base will not cut it, especially in the 5th round.
Continuing to fill in the offense in the 6th round, our hypothetical owner addresses the need for a 1B here by taking Paul Goldschmidt with the 78th overall pick. Goldy was one of the premier fantasy 1b for years with the Diamondbacks, so this looks safe enough. To be fair, Goldy hasn’t been bad in 2021 so far, either. That said, his .242 AVG is nearly fifty points below his career average, and his 7 HR are respectable, but off the pace one hopes for from a 1B with four seasons of more than 30 dingers.
With most of the infield positions filled, 3B gets addressed in the 7th round. Our unlucky owner selects Alec Bohm as the 103rd player overall. Now, Bohm is practically a rookie, having debuted during 2020’s chaos, so this was admittedly a roll of the dice, but Bohm had some hype behind him, vaulting up the Phillies’ minor league system in 2019. The league appears to have developed a book on him, though, as he has struggled to a .215 AVG with 4 HR and 3 SB in 2021. In a dynasty format, this might be okay if one holds him long-term, but in redraft, it hurts, particularly with the squad as it looks.
On the subject of 2020 rookies with the hype behind them, the 108th overall player selected by our poor fantasy owner in the 8th round is another SP, Sixto Sanchez. With a fairly impressive 2020 debut, Sanchez looked like he was poised to solidify an excellent young rotation in Miami. Of course, his 2021 stats are… nonexistent to this point, with his throwing program paused at the start of June due to continuing shoulder discomfort. On the bright side, he hasn’t hurt this fantasy squad’s ratios or ERA any.
In the 9th round, this fantasy owner tries to make the clever play by grabbing one of the last theoretically good catchers still available at pick 133, with Yasmani Grandal. Grandal is the primary catcher for a loaded ChiSox offense, had four straight seasons surpassing 20 HR going into 2020, and even carried 1B eligibility in many formats, after all. However, his 2021 has been just plain wacky. He has 9 HR, 26 runs scored, and an OBP of .400. That’s good, right? He also has a .154 AVG. Not ideal, especially with the way the rest of this team has shaped up.
The OF gets some much-needed attention with pick 138, as our hypothetical owner picks up Kyle Lewis in the 1oth round. Lewis had a cup o’ coffee with the Mariners in 2019, then performed perfectly adequately in 2020, looking like a solid OF in the making. Unfortunately, his 2021 season is in jeopardy, as he tore his meniscus and might be out until mid-to-late August at best.
From here, the picks are not getting any better. Max Kepler and Triston McKenzie have ADPs that make them reasonable choices for the 11th and 12th rounds and fill holes in this team as constructed, but Kepler is limping along with a .212 AVG and will likely limp for much of June, as he just went down with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, McKenzie has not been fooling many batters in 2021, with an ERA above 6. His demotion to AAA might fix the issue but is not helping this squad at the moment.
Addressing further needs in this team’s starting lineup, Jarred Kelenic and Christian Walker slot in as the OF4 and CI for this team from the 13th and 14th rounds. After a promising debut on May 15 (ignoring his 5/14 0-4), Kelenic has looked lost at the plate, with an AVG barely over .100 and only 8 BB in 21 games. He appears to be adjusting a bit, but this is a
work in progress at best. Meanwhile, Walker has played in less than half the Diamondbacks games as a CI with only 1 dinger and an AVG below .200.
At this point, our fantasy owner finally starts to address the bullpen in the 15th and 16th rounds. Last season made it extremely difficult to suss out how teams might deploy their bullpens in 2021, outside of a few sure things, so this is not outlandish. Unfortunately, neither Drew Pomeranz nor Devin Williams has been ideal for anchoring a bullpen, fantasy or otherwise, in 2021. Pomeranz has provided decent ERA and WHIP, but limited innings and no Saves minimize that benefit, as does his recent lat injury. Meanwhile, Williams has a few more Ks per outing than Pomeranz, but no saves, either, and a much less desirable ERA over 4.00.
Our hard-luck fantasy owner continues to fill out the pitching staff in rounds 17 and 18, with Drew Smyly and Greg Holland, respectively. Smyly has 4 QS and nearly a strikeout per inning, so that it would be theoretically serviceable as the SP5 he was drafted as… were it not for his 5.98 ERA and the performance to date of the rest of the staff. Similarly, Holland has 3 Saves and more K than IP, but his 3.66 ERA is barely adequate on a standard staff, and his 1.66 WHIP is painful. His HH% and EV have both spiked since 2019, so he might be on fumes or might need to figure out a new trick as an old reliever.
In the 19th round, our ill-fated owner fills in the MI slot with Tommy La Stella, then returns to the bullpen in the 20th with Archie Bradley. A reunion of La Stella with his old Cubs manager had some folks excited, but this has not been a good year for either, La Stella had only 1 dinger and a .235 AVG before going down with a hamstring injury in early May. Those; La 8 Runs and 5 RBI are not much of a boost to his value, even if his manager loves playing him when he’s healthy. In the meantime, Bradley has pitched less than 10 innings, has only 6 Ks, no Saves, and a WHIP dangerously close to 2.00.
Moving on, the owner continues to address holes in the team in the 21st and 22nd rounds, adding Adam Eaton to round out the OF and Stefan Crichton to the bullpen. Eaton’s 5 HR and 2 SB aren’t terrible for a 5th OF in 15-team format, but his .196 AVG would drain a team with ordinary luck, let alone this one. As for Crichton, he has 4 SV but an ERA over 5 with a WHIP above 1.6. His over 70% sinker repertoire is getting no favors from the Diamondbacks defense behind him.
Filling in the last starting spots on the squad, our owner selects Carter Kieboom in the 23rd, Alec Mills in the 24th, and Adley Rutschman in the 25th, with Mills slotting into the last pitching spot and Kieboom and Rutschman as UT players. Kieboom has had a single AB thus far in 2021, which is one more than Rutschman has had. Mills has been hurt since mid-May, has only one SV, and a WHIP over 1.4. His 12.7% K rate is nearly six points below his previous career-worst and almost nine points below his career average.
There, now don’t you feel better about how your team is doing?