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Drafting Clayton Kershaw in the First Round

During my trip to First Pitch Arizona, I participated in the second NFBC draft at the conference. The 15-team league features a 50-player lineup that started with 23 rounds on Friday night. All teams throw their names in a hat, and Greg Ambrosius pulls the names. As he pulls the names, each owner can select his draft position.

Unfortunately, I did not end up with one of the top five picks. I noticed that the top 4-5 picks are in a class by themselves when I observed the NFBC draft on Thursday night. As we moved outside of the top eight, I even pondered taking the 15th pick. Greg pulled my name at #11, and I decided to keep the eleventh pick of the draft. I knew that the 11th pick would give me a shot at Harper, Scherzer, or Kershaw if the players fell in a similar order to the previous NFBC draft. Today's article will explore the first 11 picks for team 11.

The First Four Rounds

NFBC Fantasy Baseball Draft Recap As I waited on my pick, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant all went to teams with top-five selections. I honed in on Clayton Kershaw and Anthony Rizzo for the first selection. Instead of waiting until the fifth round to draft my first starter, I selected Clayton Kershaw in the first round. Drafting Kershaw gave team 11 the freedom to build on an ace that will help with four categories in the 5x5 league. Kershaw's low ERA and WHIP should help my team stay in the top five in both categories if I continued to select the right pitchers.

Looking back on a few days ago, Freddie Freeman went 18th on Thursday night, and I probably should have drafted his ability to hit for average (.300) and power (25+ homers). Instead of selecting a first baseman, Corey Seager joined the team at SS because I wanted a top-six SS. Team 15 selected Francisco Lindor, fresh off his postseason push, at the turn (#16). Even though Seager's .355 BABIP may drop in 2017, he could still hit close to .290 with 23 homers and 80 RBI's.

Villar, Bogaerts, and Correa went after Seager in the second round. As team 10 selected Joey Votto in the third, I switched my strategy. George Springer and Trevor Story were both selected in the third round of the first NFBC draft, and I decided to take a risk on Story at the MI position. With Story's 27 homers in 372 AB, I took a chance on him bouncing back from thumb surgery. Story's ability to play 81 games at Coors Field, which elevates RHB HR by 21%, should continue to help his power numbers. Story's fly ball tilt (47% FB%) and his ability to rank first in MLB in fly ball distance, 327 feet per fly ball, should elevate his power numbers.

After Story, I turned the focus to OF. Yoenis Cespedes' ability to hit .280 with 25 homers and 90 RBI should help my five OF slots. His power numbers could vary in 2017, if he signs in a more friendly hitting environment than Citi Field. Cespedes drew more walks in 2016, and he had a .1081 OPS versus LHP in 85 AB. Cespedes' hard contact rate, 39.3% Hard%, provided convincing evidence to select him in the fourth. Hopefully, he will stay healthy.

Rounds 5-8

As more pitching left in the board in rounds 4 and 5, I tried to find a stolen base source. With all of the power from the last three picks, I selected Billy Hamilton to help with steals. He drew more walks (10% BB%) in the second half of the season, which helped his .352 OBP in the second half. He also kept more balls on the ground (48% GB%) last year.

I may have made a mistake in selecting Matt Kemp in the sixth round because I selected Kemp over Alex Bregman's power at 3B. Kemp's nine homers in September lured me in, but then I noticed that his hard contact, 35.9% hard%, dropped by 5.7% in 2016. Kemp hit more fly balls (40% FB%) in 2016, and he ranked 92nd in fly ball distance (290.65 feet). Let's hope that Kemp's tendency to pull (44.5 Pull%) the ball helps with Atlanta's new left-field walls (335 feet) next year.

After filling three OF slots, I turned the attention to a closer and a second SP. Craig Kimbrel saved 31 games in 2016, and he posted a 14.1 k/9. Even though his bb/9 jumped to 5.09, he found the plate with early strikes. Unfortunately, his hard contact rate jumped from 25.6% in 2015 to 33% in 2016., which could be cause for some concern if it continues to rise in 2017.

Danny Duffy's 9.4 k/9 would work as a second starter, especially if he can lower his 1.35 hr/9 in 2017. He struggled versus RHB, as he allowed 26 homers to RHB. RHB also owned a .760 OPS against Duffy in 616 PA. Although he had a 3.51 ERA, his 3.79 xFIP was not too high, and Duffy offered four pitches that had at least a 10% SwSt% in 2016.

Rounds 9-11

With three rounds to go before the break, team 11 needed another SP and a 1B. Michael Fulmer's strong rookie year was aided by a .268 BABIP. His ability to keep the ball on the ground (49% GB%) should help in 2017, but he needs to find a way to lower his 5.03 ERA when he faces lineups during the third time through the order.

Adrian Gonzalez hit twelve homers in the second half of 2016, but he hit fewer fly balls (27% FB%) last year. Looking back, I should have selected Albert Pujols' power (296.98 feet/fly ball) in the tenth round. Hopefully, Gonzalez can return to 20-homer power with a .270 BA.

Jonathan Schoop filled the 2B slot in round eleven as I waited on a C. In retrospect, Jacob Realmuto would have been another nice selection in round 11. Schoop hit 20 of his 25 homers off RHP, and he posted a .772 OPS versus RHP. Although he hit 13 homers at Camden Yards, he still hit 12 homers on the road. Even though Steamer projects Schoop to hit 23 homers in 2017, his drop in hard contact, from 35.8% in 2015 to 26.6% in 2016, could hurt his power numbers.

At the Break

Looking back, drafting Kershaw in the first and Billy Hamilton in the fourth limited team 11's power numbers. Even though several owners liked my Hamilton pick, I should have found smaller speed sources in the first 11 rounds. While Kershaw, Duffy, Fulmer, and Kimbrel will not provide the best staff, the four placed team 11 at 7th (out of 15) in pitching with projected stats.