Continuing our series of quick chats with our favourite characters in the baseball broadcasting and fantasy baseball world, we were very pleased to get the opportunity of a few minutes with CBS Sports’ Senior Fantasy Writer, Scott White.
My love of baseball increased exponentially when I discovered fantasy baseball, and Scott’s articles, insights and his Fantasy Baseball Today podcast were my go-to source for information. I dread to think how many hours I have wasted looking at spreadsheets of pitching statistics and trawling through batted-ball data. I could have mastered another language or at the very least spent more time talking to my wife. Scott has a lot to answer for, although obviously, I didn’t mention it.
A Braves fan living in Florida, Scott pumps out a ludicrous amount of content at this time of the year to help with fantasy baseball draft preparations. So whether you are in your very first 5×5 roto league or a veteran of dynasty formats, Scott has articles for you.
Although he produces top-300 rankings, Scott is a proponent of drafting by tiers. This method groups together players with similar expected production, so that you can see where there is a significant drop-off, and a new tier starts. It creates a more focused approach to drafting than just going off rankings or ADP (average draft position) and gives you more chance of getting the best value for your picks.
So without further ado, Mr Scott White, thank you very much for letting us intrude into your hectic schedule.
Do you enjoy this time of the year or is there just too much content to produce in such a limited time?
It’s hard not to be invigorated by the start of a new season, where so much is different and there are new theories and possibilities to discuss. And from a fantasy baseball perspective, every team is a clean slate just waiting to be filled, which is great. Don’t get me wrong: I’m also happy when it’s over and have chance to exhale, but you don’t get into this business if you don’t find some enjoyment in obsessing over these things.
As you know, Bat Flips and Nerds is a UK website offering a British take on all aspects of baseball. It is still a minority sport over. We all grew up playing football, cricket and rugby, but we intend to make it mainstream.
What are your experiences of the UK?
I’m not the most well-travelled person, so I have to admit I’ve never been to the UK. It’s kind of the motherland, though, given that most of my ancestry is from there
Obviously, it dominates pop culture. For my money, Christian Bale is the finest actor in Hollywood, and as a fan of The Walking Dead, I have a great appreciation of Andrew Lincoln. Kind of hate how his family loves it so much there that he can’t be on the show anymore.
In normal course of events, I would put my lack of knowledge about TV/movies down to the fact that I spend too long looking at BABIP and SwStr%, but I can’t use that excuse with Scott. It was too embarrassing to tell him that I didn’t realise (1) Christian Bale was British, (2) Andrew Lincoln was in The Walking Dead or (3) that he has quit the show to live in the UK with his young family.
Now back to the interview …
It is impossible to put into words how incredibly excited we are about the forthcoming London Series. Many of us MLB fans in the UK were raised on one televised game per week … and that was broadcast after midnight.
Being an MLB fan in Europe takes a level of commitment that is absent from most casual fans, so although our numbers are small in comparison to other sports, the popularity of baseball is set to explode, and we have created a solid foundation of hardcore support on which to build.
I still have to pinch myself to believe we are going to have a regular season game between the two biggest teams in the world in London in just a few months.
What is your take on the London Series?
I think it’s great the way the game is expanding internationally. It underscores how enduring it is at a time when Americans are most obsessed with American football. The matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees couldn’t be more perfect either, not only because there’s so much history between the two teams but also because both are absolutely loaded with talent right now. It should be an entertaining couple days.
Switching to fantasy baseball. To the non-converted, it’s a geeky activity. It’s tough enough being a baseball fan in the UK, hearing boring repetitions of “you mean rounders? That’s a girls’ game” whenever MLB is mentioned. I don’t think I could honestly admit my fantasy baseball addiction in public.
Presumably the pastime is viewed differently in the States. How do you introduce yourself at parties?
In the beginning, I would introduce myself by my actual title — fantasy writer — but quickly learned that most mistake it for wizards, elves and the like or perhaps even erotica.
Now, I just say “I write about baseball for CBS” and see where the conversation takes me. Most people Generation X and younger have at least some experience with fantasy football, so fantasy baseball isn’t a lost concept to them and isn’t dismissed as geeky.
The biggest difference, I tell them, between a fantasy baseball writer and a general baseball writer is that fantasy writers are hyper-focused on individual performance and less so on team performance. So if anything, it makes me a walking player database, which is pretty fun to show off when the occasion presents itself.
As mentioned in the introduction, you have a huge amount of content up on the CBS Sports website which we urge our readers to check out. Among these are your excellent articles on Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts.
Who is the sleeper you want to draft more than any other this season?
If the Yankees honestly go with Luke Voit as their regular first baseman, I think he could hit .290 with 35 homers playing in that ballpark. It’s perfectly attuned for him, and the upside I think is legitimate. It’s a big “if” knowing the other directions they could go with that first base spot, but he’s my favourite sleeper right now.
Which established player will have the biggest breakout?
For breakout, again, there’s a playing time concern here, but I think Jesse Winker is a miniature version of Joey Votto, flashing some power last year to go with an unbelievable hit tool. If the Reds see what I see, he shouldn’t have much trouble forcing his way into the lineup on an everyday basis.
And which bust-candidate are you avoiding no matter what?
As for my bust pick, sadly, I think the best pitcher of his generation, Clayton Kershaw, is showing tell-tale signs of decline, and I don’t want to be holding the bag when the numbers bottom out completely.
Dynasty Leagues are growing in popularity; we all want to be GMs. Constructing a top-100 list of dynasty rankings looks like a thankless task. I don’t know how you go about determining Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz’s long-term value in comparison to Royals’ shortstop Adalberto Mondesi.
Can you give us a couple of players outside of the top-50 names that you would like to acquire in a dynasty league, and what intrigues you about them?
With the way the game has evolved, the ace pitcher who dominates deep into games is an endangered species, and predicting which young pitchers might be able to pick up that mantle is becoming harder than ever to do. But Jack Flaherty of the Cardinals seems like a good bet, having already demonstrated he can miss bats at an elite rate and last into the sixth and seventh inning when walks don’t accelerate his pitch count.
Outfielder David Dahl of the Rockies has had his share of injuries to begin his career, deflating his value in long-term leagues, but he’s still only 24 and has the kind of skill set that will have a hard time missing in the thin air of Colorado. As good as Charlie Blackmon has been for the Rockies — and he has been first round-calibre in fantasy baseball at times — Dahl could develop into something similar.
Whether used as currency in trade negotiations or as midseason impact additions to a roster, Minor League prospects are the lifeblood of many fantasy baseball leagues. One of your many hats is to collate and update the top-100 prospect rankings. Vlad Guerrero is the clear number one, and I guess every baseball fan is excited for his debut this season.
If Guerrero, Eloy Jimenez and Fernando Tatis jr all lose Rookie eligibility this season, who do you see taking over the top spot in 2020?
I think Wander Franco of the Rays has the kind of upside that could get people talking the way they do about Guerrero. He’s only a teenager and needs to show he can handle full-season ball after dominating the lowest, lowest levels of the minors last year, but he’s already in most publications’ top 10. Other candidates include both Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis of the Twins as well as Jo Adell of the Angels. Big bats, all of them.
Finally, some people must think that you have a dream job. You are one of a very small group to make a living from analysing, presenting and writing about baseball.
What one piece of advice you would pass on to any British youngsters keen to get into get involved in the industry?
It’s so much harder now than when I was breaking in 11 years ago. There are so many more choices for content than something as broad as CBS and so many more people willing to generate that content in exchange for little pay. Freelancers have flooded the marketplace, so if you’re looking to make a career of it, you’re probably going to have to cobble together a few different gigs. But really, that’s true throughout media and not just fantasy sports. If I was just getting started now, I probably wouldn’t last long because, personally, I need the security something like my job provides. That’s just the way I’m wired. But if you love it and you find yourself a platform to make yourself visible and learn to market yourself on social media and say yes to every opportunity that puts you in touch with one of the bigger names in the industry, you’ll have a chance of getting noticed and maybe landing something more sustainable.
FINAL QUICK PITCHES
Roto, points, categories or DFS? Points, specifically Head-to-Head. It’s fairer in its evaluation of players, I think, and the Head-to-Head aspect keeps things interesting all season long.
How many fantasy baseball leagues are you in? Usually about a dozen. I don’t know the full count for this year yet.
Favourite players: Past: John Smoltz. His intensity was palpable. Present: Freddie Freeman, probably.
Favourite sports writer: Jayson Stark, formerly of ESPN but now with The Athletic, was a big influence of mine early on. His style is captivating.
Baseball rule you would like to change: I know the intellectuals hate it, but I’d like a rule requiring two infielders to be positioned on each side of second base, curtailing the use of infield shifts. Anything to get more runners on base because that’s when things are the most tense.
Where will Bryce Harper sign? This may look stupid by the time it’s published, but I’ll say the Phillies.
Who will win the 2019 World Series? I’ll say the Yankees pull through this time.
Will you be coming to London in June? I wish.
Best Twitter account to follow? I like to think I do a good job of mixing information and nonsense, but I’ll say @KleinschmidtJD. She has a great enthusiasm for the game and is generally pretty entertaining. If you’re more the analytical sort, try @enosarris.
Favourite baseball website with a British take? What’s the name of yours again?
Scott, thank you so much for your time. We urge all of our readers with interest in fantasy baseball to check out the goldmine of information produced by Scott on CBSsports.com and make sure you follow him on Twitter @CBSScottWhite.
While you’re at it, make sure you catch Scott on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast from CBS Sports – available on iTunes, Stitcher and wherever you get your podcasts.