The Grand Experiment: Drafting a 32-team fantasy baseball league

I have a love/hate relationship with fantasy baseball. Anyone who has played for a few years knows it’s more of a chore than fantasy football. It requires attention every single day, and that grind gets old for some by mid-July. When the postseason rolls around in early September, any league is lucky to have half of the teams participating.

When you have a good roster and make the postseason, it just makes the grind more satisfying. I feel a greater sense of accomplishment winning a baseball championship than any other fantasy league.

Back when the world was “normal,” I felt pretty prepared for this upcoming 2020 season. I purchased the Fantasy Baseball Black Book by Joe Pisapia that has excellent insight from many of the top fantasy experts. I pulled in projections from ZiPS, PECOTA, and The Bat to curate my draft board.

Then I had a crazy idea.

Instead of joining a 12-team league, I wanted to run an experiment. With MLB contemplating expansion in the next CBA, I’ve been wondering if the current talent pool is deep enough to merit 32 teams. How deep down the barrel would teams have to scrap to fill rosters?

Thankfully, we have a large number of Sox Machine Patreon supporters who were willing to participate. With Coronavirus delaying the start of 2020, we waited until July 18 to have our draft. With just a 60-game season, we had to change the format from H2H to points-based using a DFS model familiar with DraftKings or FanDuel.

With a daily roster consisting of 11 players (two pitchers, nine hitters) and a six-player bench, in total, 544 players were selected. That’s 60.4% of the Opening Day rosters. Before the draft, it was intimidating knowing how far down the well all teams would need to go in completing a roster. After Round 10, I was grasping straws in trying to find players who had a chance to play daily. Thankfully, team beat reporters on MLB.com posted projected Opening Day rosters. Without these projected lineups, I would have been lost.

There were a few draft strategies owners were following. Some teams went heavy on hitters early and did not select a starting pitcher until the eighth round. I opted to take starting pitchers with my first two picks, thinking there would be quality hitters available later. This line of thinking works in a 12-team league, but not in a 32-team league. A harsh lesson learned, because Chris Davis is my primary first baseman, and the Cincinnati Reds duo Tucker Barnhart/Curt Casali are my catchers. Fingers crossed they outperform their projections.

Josh’s Team: Lincoln Square Corgis

RoundPosPlayerTeamFantasy Team
1PWalker BuehlerLADLincoln Square Corgis
2PJose BerriosMINLincoln Square Corgis
33BEugenio SuarezCINLincoln Square Corgis
4SSPaul DeJongSTLLincoln Square Corgis
52BRougned OdorTEXLincoln Square Corgis
6OFHunter RenfroeTBLincoln Square Corgis
7OFJoc PedersonLADLincoln Square Corgis
8OFTeoscar HernandezTORLincoln Square Corgis
9PJosh JamesHOULincoln Square Corgis
10CTucker BarnhartCINLincoln Square Corgis
111BChris DavisBALLincoln Square Corgis
12PAnthony DeSclafaniCINLincoln Square Corgis
13PGriffin CanningLAALincoln Square Corgis
14PJohn MeansBALLincoln Square Corgis
15UTRyan McBroomKCLincoln Square Corgis
16OFDJ StewartBALLincoln Square Corgis
17CCurt CasaliCINLincoln Square Corgis

Owners were eager to draft White Sox players. Lucas Giolito went in the first round. Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada being selected in the second round wasn’t surprising, but Team Yermin Vermin taking Luis Robert with pick 47 was shocking. I hope that risk pays off.

Of course, how could you call your team Yermin Vermin without having Yermín Mercedes on the roster? He was taken in the seventh round ahead of Nick Madrigal and Reynaldo Lopez.

Chicago White Sox Players Selected

RoundPosPlayerTeamFantasy Team
1PLucas GiolitoCHWWimpy, Minnie and Hurt
2OFLuis RobertCHWYermin’s Vermin
2OFEloy JimenezCHWWimpy, Minnie and Hurt
23BYoan MoncadaCHWKyle’s Trashbangers
3CYasmani GrandalCHWTeam Retlon
31BJose AbreuCHWSpringfield Isotopes
41BEdwin EncarnacionCHWYermin’s Vermin
4SSTim AndersonCHWBulging Zisks
5OFNomar MazaraCHWKarlsruhe Weisse Socken
5PDallas KeuchelCHWGarRidge Pride
6PAaron BummerCHWJohn’s Sandy Socks
72BNick MadrigalCHWKyle’s Trashbangers
7CYermin MercedesCHWYermin’s Vermin
7PDylan CeaseCHWVegasViaChitown
8PReynaldo LopezCHWFrench Lick Beavers
10CJames McCannCHWTop 100 Prospectors List
11PAlex ColomeCHWJohn’s Sandy Socks
13PMichael KopechCHWKing Rat
14PCarlos RodonCHWTottenham Hot Sox
15OFLeury GarciaCHWHookahHitters
16UTDanny MendickCHWTeam Arude8
16PGio GonzalezCHWKarlsruhe Weisse Socken
17OFAdam EngelCHWKarlsruhe Weisse Socken
17UTZack CollinsCHWJohn’s Sandy Socks

The number of teams participating throws everything you know about drafting in a fantasy baseball league out the window. Yet, the most challenging task was not knowing if a player would recover from COVID-19 in time for the regular season or if they would opt out before Opening Day. I passed on Freddie Freeman and Yoan Moncada for that very reason.

With the draft completed at a Mark Buehrle-like pace (2 hours and 20 minutes), the 32-team league moves on to the next stage, getting lineups ready for Opening Day. It’s not an easy task with 30-man rosters still in flux, and the Blue Jays now without a home. The 2020 season is already the craziest in my lifetime. But the show must go on, and I find myself eager to see how our grand experiment plays out amidst the chaos.

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tommytwonines

It looks like Moncada is healthy and ready for the first week of the season. Did some other drafters have a strategy somewhat opposite to yours? Specifically, draft the early Covid players now, since they (presumably) won’t be missing games later because of the virus.

Chris

In my draft list I highlighted players in green that were in camp after having Covid-19 or were known to have had it earlier with the thought that they might be immune. However, the combination of the pace of the draft (super fast) and my positional needs made my Covid-19 speculation never actually come into play.