I am a runner. I am an addict.
Five kilometre Park Runs made way for 10K races which in turn were replaced by half marathons. And then came the full 42-kilometre marathon distance. I have now completed 30-40 of them, including one in fancy dress for which I broke the Guinness World Record … but that’s another story.
But then you find that marathons don’t scratch the itch, so you search for another, stronger hit. Two marathons in one weekend. Overnight marathons carrying your camping gear. Ultra-marathons.
I am a fantasy baseball player. I am an addict.
You start in 10-team, 5×5 roto leagues and eventually progress into ludicrous 16-team, 640-player pool, Draft & Hold leagues. And so we created the …
Bat Flips & Nerds Fantasy Baseball Invitational 2021
None of us needed another fantasy baseball league, but there was something compelling about the “Draft & Hold” format. No need to worry about scouring waivers for the next closer, or fending off offers of their Teoscar Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez for my Mookie Betts.
Also, with weekly lineups, you only need to give your team a cursory glance on a Sunday evening and Robert is your mum’s brother.
We were overwhelmed by potential entrants, and I apologise to those who we were unable to offer a place. As well as some of the best-known baseball/fantasy names in the UK, we were very lucky to have an array of truly globe-spanning talent from New York to Los Angeles to Seoul to Orkney.
And, to maintain the Bat Flips & Nerds “with a British twist” we needed to stamp our own identity on the event, so the 30-second pick clock was introduced. I don’t know of another high profile league with these settings.
Meet the teams
Pick 1: Greenwich Parks
Russell Eassom @REassom
Last year, Russell presented a paper at the SABR conference in Arizona analysing WAR based on the strength of players faced. You can still listen to it online. This year, Russ developed two new statistics: xRuns and RL (run luck). How many statistics have you introduced to the sabermetric world? Also, with a field of 435 entrants in TGFBI, Russell’s team is projected 26th. He’s good!
Someone with Russell’s analytical capacity did not need the extra advantage of first pick. I haven’t forgiven him for nabbing two pitchers on my wish list.
Pick 2: Fly Ball to the Moon
Matt Robinson & Ash Day @Flyball2TheMoon
Amazingly, this podcast from two baseball fans from Britain was only launched at the start of March, yet has already developed a loyal following. Matt, a Brewers fan, was a contributor to Bat Flips & Nerds last year. Maybe we will get some more hot takes from him this season. Giants fan, Ash, is undoubtedly one of the best writers we have contributing at Bat Flips & Nerds. As the editor, I love receiving Ash’s submissions – entertaining and perfectly written.
The guys recorded the first few rounds for their latest podcast. It’s well worth a listen.
This was their opinion of the draft: “With the second overall pick we chose Mike Trout to be the leader of our Flyball To The Moon squad and we couldn’t be happier. When you’ve got the best player on the planet on your roster, you’re off to a good start. We have high hopes for the likes of Tyler Glasnow, Jose Urquidy and DJ LeMahieu, who could carry us to glory. Zac Gallen is dealing with a hairline fracture in his pitching arm but we’re optimistic he’ll only miss weeks, not months, and return to bolster our rotation. We’re confident Flyball To The Moon will be a contender for the #BFNFBI crown.”
Pick 3: Los Angeles Green Sox
David Greenman @greenestman
I compete against David in the Scott White Dynasty League where he consistently refuses to trade with me, despite my offers to take Christian Yelich off of his hands. In the pre-competition publicity, David was described as “Hollywood screenwriter, fantasy moonlighter.” I’m not sure how many others in the league have their own IMDb page.
David’s take was … “I got this!” I pulled NFBC ADPs. Studying up, I realized finding bats with a job later in the draft was harder than arms, so I identified endgame pitching. I had at least three players to target at each pick, even had a version of my plan where I took FIVE bats before going pitching. I printed out my ADP charts to track with AND added all my targets to ESPN. And then I kinda blew it..?
Thirty-second picks meant the “long” layoff between my picks from the three-hole weren’t quite as long as I expected and my rather expensive high-speed internet started lagging, making my queue harder to reorganize. Acuna-Castillo-Vlad was a great 1-2-3 and I already knew from co-managing another team with Reds-loving commissioner Gavin that my Eugenio Suarez #4 target pick wasn’t going to make it back, but I love Javy Baez in a standard 5×5 and the most pleasant surprise was Corbin Burnes making it back to me at #5. One Lance McCullers and a handful of lovable bats later, I deviated from the plan at my 11th pick and took Jarred Kelenic then, since RP’s were disappearing like the end of Avengers Infinity War, I snapped up Tanner Scott and Rafael Montero quickly. And then I became the king of upside… my offensive projections are low, but I like Willi Castro, Jonathan India, Michael Taylor, and Joshes Naylor and Rojas providing hidden value and I have plenty of position coverage.
My pitching fell apart after my #4 SP Jordan Montgomery and I don’t have another truly reliable SP in the bunch… so praying for some luck from Alzolay, Garcia, Howard, and even my 2021 boyfriend Garrett Whitlock who I boldly think will be in the Red Sox rotation by year-end. Currently projected for 16th place, the way forward is up!
Pick 4: Fake Tatis
Adam Gruttadaro & Jesse Clark: @SharpMoneyCo
True fantasy experts. Based in New York City, the guys have been writing regular articles for Bat Flips & Nerds’ new #FantasyBaseballFriday feature and they offer tailored expert advice.
Their take was: I’m happy with my performance, but mostly just my performance in keeping up with my picks. 16 teams, 40 rounds, and 30 seconds per pick but it seemed like everyone was taking no longer than 10 seconds – my eyes were racing back and forth between screens trying to keep up on my spreadsheet. I can happily report that I didn’t auto pick once or end up with Eloy Jimenez in the sixth or Masahiro Tanaka in the 35th.
Looking at my team I like my pitching but my hitting feels a little thin. My starting pitching is basically the nursing home all-stars, with my top six guys’ average age being 33.8. In that group is also a cancer survivor, a PED user, and a guy who missed out on a World Series run because he was afraid of getting COVID, so at least there’s some character diversity. I’m going to be relying on a couple of prospects to be contributors on the hitting side in Alex Kirilloff and Daulton Varsho. If neither of those guys has any 2021 impacts then I’ll be in a suboptimal position with my hitting lineup.
In a league this deep and being draft and hold, I feel like it’s mostly going to come down to who can best avoid injuries and busts, so let’s hope Scherzer and Kershaw have been doing extra yoga this offseason to avoid back injuries.
Pick 5: Drunc Orks
David Runciman @druncfb
Based in Orkney, David is one of the best fantasy baseball players I know. His ability to get above-average production from boring players he has plucked off waivers always impresses me. For 12 years we have competed against each other in the same roto league, which David has amazingly won six times. He is so good that I recruited him to co-manage my team in the famous Scott White Dynasty League, which we have won and finished as runner up.
David said he tried to prioritise multi-position bats where possible to have flexibility but then didn’t draft a deep enough hitter bench. Replacing a couple of pitchers with run-of-the-mill bats in the 300s may have worked out better.
Mookie Betts falling to him in fifth was a nice start. It will be interesting to see how David fairs in this Draft & Hold format.
Pick 6: Dugout Classics
It’s possible that Bubba is the hardest working guy in baseball. Dugout Classics is the largest collection of vintage and throwback baseball uniforms for sale this side of the Atlantic. Bubba is also part of the Ballcaps & Bagpipes podcast and Tea & Topps baseball card podcast. Plus he is the brains behind the Seattle Mariners UK account.
Pick 7: British Baseball Podcast
Matt Mutton @britbaseballpod
Seeing a void in the market, Matt introduced his excellent podcast dedicated to the world of British Baseball. With participation in the sport growing in the UK, we sorely needed this.
In fantasy baseball, when those around zig, you zag. Matt filled his five-man outfield in his first six picks. Love it!
Pick 8: Roto Brits
Ryan Owen & Peter Pratt @RotoBrits
Thoroughly entertaining fantasy baseball podcast from two charismatic Brits. Peter, the UK’s biggest Marlins fan, is an excellent host, and with a 32nd overall finish in TGFBI, Ryan is as shrewd as he is knowledgeable.
Considering that I struggled to keep my spreadsheet updated, you should check out the podcast that the guys recorded while drafting. Really impressive.
Pick 9: BB Jimbo
Jamie Steed @Baseball_Jimbo
The first thing to say is that Jamie is NOT a retired pitcher as I mentioned in my pre-competition tweets. He is a pitcher who has not yet announced his retirement. There is a difference. He is also an excellent fantasy baseball writer for RotoBaller.
Here is his take on the draft: I wanted to get a top-tier closer but they went earlier than I wanted so I held off. The reasoning is I wanted to handcuff at least two of them so should one or two of them get injured, with only three RP spots and it being a draft and hold league, I wouldn’t be taking a zero on saves. I got Kenley Jansen at a decent pick (120) given the guys going earlier and Greg Holland (201) at a slight overspend but I managed to get their backups in Blake Treinen and Scott Barlow much later. Lucas Sims should also get the bulk of saves for the Reds and he fell to me at pick 344 which was a surprise given a lot of non-closer RPs went before him.
I opened with back-to-back shortstops (Trea Turner at 9 and Corey Seager at 24). Not something I intended to do but that allowed me to completely ignore the position until late and let me not overpay for the mid-tier shortstops later on.
Getting Turner and his speed early let me focus on power/speed combo guys throughout the draft like Carlson, Senzel, Wil Myers and not having to overspend on speculative steals.
Given the depth of roster, I didn’t focus on one thing and just spent the first part of the draft taking value picks. Then I focused on ensuring I had enough backups and bench for injuries to avoid having an empty lineup spot as much as possible.
I deliberately waited on catcher. There was a couple I wanted like Mitch Garver and Sean Murphy but they went a bit earlier than I was prepared to draft them. I took both Texas catchers along with Alfaro as the reality is the difference between catchers in the 12-20 round range offers very little difference to those in the 21-30 range. So even if I miss out on around 20-25 games at the catcher position, it won’t make much difference to my numbers and allowed me to focus on hitters and pitchers that offer better cumulative numbers throughout a full season.
Pick 10: BP Wales
Darius Austin @DariusA64
I could probably fill a whole page with Darius’s credits, but briefly, he is one of the founding four of Bat Flips & Nerds, respected writer for Baseball Prospectus, contributor to Banished to the Pen, Giants fan, and commissioner of the Webb-Albers Championship (a bizarre fantasy league which rewards games finished and penalises saves – they are the only scoring categories – so you need to draft low-leverage relievers. I said it was bizarre).
Despite only 30 seconds per pick, Darius was live-tweeting during the draft for Bat Flips & Nerds. Is there no end to his talents?
Pick 11: MLB UK Community
Nick, George & Jack @MLBUKCommunity
The trio run their own accounts for the Angels, Astros and Yankees respectively, but together they are part of the dynamic British fan movement organising live baseball events for fans across the UK. It is difficult to keep up with all of their content, but check out the hugely popular Podcast to be named later.
It is interesting that the trio failed to take anyone from the Yankees, Angels or Astros in their first six rounds. Maybe that says something.
Pick 12: St Albans Wasps
Adam Nicholson @AMN74
Former champion of a previous Bat Flips & Nerds tournament, Adam is also in the UK Invitational League. Although a Rays fan, he drafted six Marlins. SIX!
Here is Adam’s take: I know from past experience that a 30 second draft clock is too short for me to use the draft software that I normally use, so the longest part of my preparation was to modify the top 750 players in the ESPN draft rankings to use my rankings. This was a long, slow task but one I was very glad to have done as the draft progressed, however, while I had completed a couple of 400+ pick drafts I did find that some of the rankings near the bottom needed further refining. Additionally prior to the draft I had determined I wanted a 20 hitter / 20 pitcher split and at least 3 players eligible at each infield position, 8 outfielders, 14 SP and 6 RP and had a piece of paper next to me so I could mark off the positions as they went.
I had intended to start with 2 bats, unless either deGrom or Cole slid to 12 and got Story and Machado. I was surprised Kyle Tucker fell to me in the 3rd, but the side effect of this pick was that by the time I went to pick in the 4th all of the top SP I wanted had gone and so I picked up another bat in Starling Marte. I then followed up with SP in rounds 5 & 6 to get my basic starting roster construction under way. From then on I was generally happy with how my draft went, I left 2B a little later than ideal and ended up with a combination of Jurickson Profar and Jazz Chisholm.
The biggest comment on my team was the number of Marlins I drafted (6), including 3 in a row at one point, much to the annoyance of Pete Pratt, however, this was something that was entirely unintentional and was just how my needs lined up with the draft board.
Overall, I think this is a team that should end up with a solid finish overall, but I’m not sure it has the upside of some of the other teams, and it may prove to be a little too safe. My biggest criticism of the team is that I didn’t spot until too late that I only have 4 OFs at the start of the season.
Favourite picks: Kyle Tucker @ 44 (my 16th ranked player) should help across all 5 categories. Ian Kennedy @ 364 I expect him to close for the Rangers the majority of the year. Kyle Gibson @ 501 Opening Day starter in what appears to be a good pitching park, 180 solid innings.
Least favourite picks: Carter Kieboom @ 332, the players I was wanting at this spot all went and I didn’t pivot quickly enough – I expect he will be up and playing for most of the season, but this was a bit early. Edward Olivares @ 588, I needed an OF who was playing at the start of the season in this slot.
Pick 13: Watch Caps Off
Ben Riegel @BenRiegel
ESPN producer and all-round nice guy, Ben is engine behind Caps Off, the UK’s MLB show on BT Sport.
Despite drafting a starter with a suspect back with his sixth pick, Watch Caps Off were the highest projected team after the draft. Although, to be honest, that is based on ESPN projections.
Pick 14: Baseball Brit
Joey Mellows @BaseballBrit
The UK’s most famous baseball fan quit his teaching job in 2019 to travel the breadth of the USA visiting all 30 MLB venues and catching a staggering 147 games. He is truly one of the world’s nicest guys, and went above and beyond to participate in this league … as his local time in Korea was around 3:00am.
Pick 15: Behind Home Plate Podcast
James Holden and Jonny Gould @bhppod
A new fantasy baseball podcast for the UK. Jonny Gould is synonymous with baseball in Britain, and James is a fantasy baseball expert. Between them, they offer advice for all levels of players from beginners to advanced.
Here is James’s take on the draft: Was lots of fun and a very different sort of league to add to the fantasy portfolio! Jonny and I get on well and we worked well as a pair, it was great to have a sounding board and someone to look up all those “is he even in the starting line up” type questions from pick 400 on… plus Jonny is much more decisive which is always helpful as the clock ticks down!
We had a plan for the first 10 rounds and roughly executed it although we were expecting a 1B rather than Whit Merrifield to be available at pick 50. So we are probably ok for speed but low on HR as a result.
Fave picks: Pretty happy with our pitching overall. Two decent closers at very reasonable prices too. And Austin Meadows available at pick 114 was dreamy.
Disappointments: The two times our indecision resulted in an autopick (Cal Quantrill and Nick Goodrum). Forgetting to back up RP Will Smith with Chris Martin was not cool… Oh and only two Atlanta Braves in our likely starting line up made us sad.
Pick 16: Bat Flips & Nerds
And finally me @GavTramps
I proved my wife’s assertion correct that men cannot multi-task. I managed to host the Zoom chat – it was great to put faces to names. I updated my spreadsheet (colour-coded with the rounds in which to target certain players) and I picked within 30 seconds. However, I struggled to do more than one at a time.
My team was well constructed until Round 25 and then it went off the rails. With 10 seconds before my pick, I had already entered Robbie Grossman on the spreadsheet, but when I went to hit the draft button he wasn’t there. You guessed it. Sniped. Losing Grossman wasn’t a big deal, but with the final few seconds of my 30 running out, I panicked. And, as you do when you panic, I drafted Daniel Ponce de Leon.
But with Grossman still on my spreadsheet, I continued the draft thinking I had filled outfield. That doesn’t sound a big deal, but when I should have been adding solid bench pieces in the later rounds, I instead gambled on Kyle Isbel and Eloy Jimenez.
I’m a sucker for deep league catchers, so excitedly took my two top targets (Tyler Stephenson and Dom Nunez) to back up James McCann. However, I couldn’t resist Willians Astudillo, so I am now in the situation that if George Springer starts on the IL, I will have as many catchers as I do healthy outfielders.
Eugenio Suarez will soon be my everyday shortstop, and despite drafting multi-position eligible Tommy La Stella, David Bote and David Fletcher, I somehow didn’t have middle infield filled when my last pick arrived. ESPN forced my hand and trust me, the choice of shortstop/second base options for the 624th pick with 10 seconds remaining is slim. I am now a big Jordy Mercer fan.
Photo By Matt Stone/ MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
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Are you a serious baseball fan? If so, you need to check out the latest podcast from Bat Flips & Nerds with John chatting to journalist, author and storyteller-extraordinaire Ben Reiter