Archive for the ‘Moonshiners’ Category

2023 Season Preview: Part IV

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

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It is now time for the final installment of the 2023 DTBL season preview series.  If you thought we’d seen the last of projected ties after the last section where three teams were slotted to finish tied for fourth place, you’d be wrong.  There are two more teams with exactly four more projected standings points than that trio, which puts them in a tie for second place in these standings.  Then, in a bit of a departure from the norm, the projected champion has a fairly decent lead over all challengers according to these numbers.  That is particularly surprising since that team is expected to have a below average offense.

Based strictly on 2022 results, the presense of two of these teams in the final preview section is quite surprising.  But then if you look at the rosters and examine the reasons for the disappointing seasons a year ago, it starts to make sense.  All three of these squads have the goods to win the DTBL in 2023.  Here are the projected top three teams in the league heading into the 2023 season.


Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 8th (10th)
  • Home Runs – 3rd (5th)
  • Runs Batted In – 5th (5th)
  • Runs Scored – 7th (9th)
  • Stolen Bases - 2nd (4th)
  • Earned Run Average - 4th (6th)
  • WHIP Ratio - 1st (1st)
  • Wins – 9th (8th-T)
  • Saves – 8th (9th)
  • Strike Outs - 3rd (5th)
  • Total Batting Points – 4th (7th-T)
  • Total Pitching Points - 3rd (5th)
  • Total Points - 2nd-T (7th)


Impressively, the Jackalope are expected to finish at or above their point total from last year in all 10 categories.  That’s how you go about turning a disappointing finish one season into championship contention the next, by improving across the board.  While I mentioned the Kings being one of the most balanced teams in the league, the Jackalope probably deserve the title in that regard.  They are projected to finish in the top four in both batting and pitching points.  No other team can claim that.  Having said that, the pitching projections mainly expected full healthy seasons from the Jackalope hurlers, and the season is off to a bad start in that regard.  With Tyler Glasnow, Luis Severino and Triston McKenzie all starting the season on the I.L., they are down three projected rotation pieces.  That still leaves them with two of the best pitchers in the game though in Gerrit Cole and Luis Castillo.  They also have Lance Lynn returning to anchor a spot.  The newcomers who will need to pick up the slack early are Brady Singer and Andrew Heaney.  The bullpen is also banged up heading into the season, most notably without top closer Raisel Iglesias.  Alex Lange, Giovanny Gallegos and Jason Adam give them some other interesting options in relief.  The good news is, they should get all of those ailing pitchers back at some point.  Perhaps the offense will need to carry the load early on though.  Fortunately, they are equipped to do just that.  Ronald Acuna is back to full health and could be a legit 40/40 candidate this year.  His Braves teammate Michael Harris joins him in the Jackalope outfield as well.  Like Acuna, the first round pick Harris figures to be an elite power and speed guy.  And then there is Adolis Garcia, giving the Jackalope three outfielders with at least 20/20 HR/SB projections.  If Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, this should be the best outfield in the league outside of the Mavericks.  On the infield, Paul Goldschmidt is the main returning cog.  There are several new additions here, including Jeremy Pena and Josh Jung, with Cal Raleigh behind the plate.  The infield is unproven compared to the outfield, but there are a bunch of young guys with breakout potential.  It has been a couple disappointing seasons in a row for the Jackalope.  These numbers point to a big turnaround in 2023 though.


Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 1st (2nd)
  • Home Runs – 5th (4th)
  • Runs Batted In – 4th (3rd)
  • Runs Scored – 3rd (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 5th (1st)
  • Earned Run Average – 8th (4th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 3rd (5th)
  • Wins – 8th (1st)
  • Saves – 7th (7th-T)
  • Strike Outs – 6th (4th)
  • Total Batting Points – 2nd (2nd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 7th (4th)
  • Total Points – 2nd-T (1st)


The Moonshiners finally won their first DTBL championship in 2022 thanks to solid contributions throughout the roster.  On the offensive side of things, they didn’t have any single player with eye-popping numbers.  Kyle Tucker was the only Moonshiner in the top 15 of Batting PAR.  But they got very good seasons out of pretty much everybody.  So they will attempt to defend the title with another strong, deep roster that actually has room for improvement on offense.  The infield is particularly deep with Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Rafael Devers and Tim Anderson leading the way.  Amed Rosario and Ryan Mountcastle return after being two key breakout performers from a year ago.  They lost the benefit of Daulton Varsho occupying a catching slot while spending most of his time in the outfield, but replaced him in that spot with MJ Melendez who will likely do the same thing:  play most days in the outfield while holding down a catching spot.  Varsho will still be a valuable contributor for the Moonshiners as well, but will have to do it as an outfielder.  He’s joining an outfield that already has two of the most dynamic players in the game in Shohei Ohtani and Kyle Tucker.  After a couple straight seasons of excellent work as both a hitter and a pitcher, the Moonshiners had a more complicated decision to make this winter on Ohtani’s position status for ’23.  Ultimately, they opted to leave him in the outfield where he’s been excellent the past three years.  Meanwhile, Tucker is one of only three players (Acuna, Judge) with a 7+ Batting PAR projection for this season.  Part of the reason why the Moonshiners elected to keep Ohtani in the outfield is because they already have arguably the best starting rotation in the league.  Justin Verlander, Alek Manoah and Yu Darvish were three of the top five finishers in Pitching PAR last year, with Verlander taking home the Cy Young award.  Unfortunately, he’ll start this season on the I.L.  Dustin May, Reid Detmers and Jeffrey Springs were all added to the roster in the draft, giving the Moonshiners incredible depth in the rotation.  The bullpen suffered a crushing blow with Edwin Diaz tearing his ACL during a WBC postgame celebration.  This seventh place saves projection was pre-Diaz injury, so they will be hard pressed to not finish near the bottom of the league in saves.  Clay Holmes is probably their best bet to rack up saves.  But Diaz is irreplaceable across all of his numbers.  The Moonshiners certainly have the talent to defend their title.  It just might come in a different manner this time around.


David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2022 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 9th (3rd)
  • Home Runs – 8th (9th)
  • Runs Batted In – 8th (9th)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (5th)
  • Stolen Bases - 3rd (2nd)
  • Earned Run Average – 1st (10th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 2nd (10th)
  • Wins – 2nd (7th)
  • Saves – 2nd (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 1st (8th)
  • Total Batting Points – 8th (4th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 1st (8th)
  • Total Points – 1st (8th)


When I first saw these projections, I thought maybe I made a mistake.  How could a team that was among the worst in the league in pitching points last year be far and away the best pitching staff on paper heading into this season?  Well, there are actually a couple credible explanations for this.  First, Jacob deGrom is projected to throw 175 innings this season according to FanGraphs Depth Charts.  That would be 175 more innings than the Darkhorses got from him a year ago.  And on a per inning basis, there is no better starting pitcher in baseball than deGrom.  Of course, you could argue that 175 innings from him is pretty unrealistic since he hasn’t reached that number since 2019.  The other big change is the addition of Spencer Strider to the rotation.  Strider was far and away the best pitcher available in this year’s draft.  So with those two guys in the fold, it is close to a lock the Darkhorses will have a much improved staff.  47 pitching points may be a tad optimistic though.  Strider isn’t the only fireballer joining the rotation.  Hunter Greene was added to the mix as well.  Logan Webb is the key returning rotation piece.  The bullpen being projected to finish second in saves is a product of a lot of unsettled closer situations across the league.  The Darkhorses only have two sure things for saves themselves in Kenley Jansen and Felix Bautista.  Andres Munoz should be a positive contributor out of the pen regardless of how many save opportunities he gets.  Four of the Darkhorses first five draft picks were pitchers.  Combine that with the return of deGrom and the optimistic outlook for the pitching staff starts to make sense.  It is also interesting that a team expected to take a big step back in batting points would still come out on top of the projected standings, but here we are.  Part of that is because of Bryce Harper’s elbow injury recovery, which is baked into these numbers perhaps more pessimistically than recent news would suggest is warranted.  He could be back sooner than later.  And they could use him because no individual hitter has a Batting PAR projection over 4.  Believe it or not, Tommy Edman is the top guy on that list.  He along with Xander Bogaerts, Andres Gimenez and Brandon Lowe make up a solid middle infield.  The Darkhorses could use a return to old form from at least one of their third base pair of Alex Bregman and Matt Chapman.  J.T. Realmuto remains one of the best catchers in the game.  Christian Yelich is another guy from whom they could use a bounce back season.  George Springer is the most reliable producer in the outfield.  All in all, this is a very talented roster and a championship would not be terribly surprising.  I would not blame you if you question them being the preseason favorites though.


So there you have it.  We’ve previewed the 2023 season for all 10 teams.  Here are the full projected standings and team point totals for the ten categories:


With all the rule changes, it is hard to know exactly what to expect during this 2023 baseball season.  I do expect it to be a lot of fun though.  Good luck to all!

Back To Basics

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

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After having written a grand total of just four blog posts in the past eight months, I am aiming to do four or five this week alone.  Most of them will make up our annual DTBL season preview series.  However, before I get to that, I want to do a quick review of the recently completed draft.  The 2022 draft was rather unusual with a majority of the first round picks being pitchers.  This year, things were back to normal.  The first round was comprised of mostly young hitters.  While the beginning of the 2023 DTBL draft was rather predictable, it was also quite interesting.

The draft kicked off with the Diamond Dogs making the first  pick for the second consecutive season.  Last year, they went a bit off the board in selecting pitcher Shane Baz, a move which backfired quickly as he hurt his elbow soon after the draft and eventually had Tommy John surgery.  This year, the Dogs played it more conventionally, selecting the clear best available player in the draft in outfielder Julio Rodriguez.  Not only was Rodriguez the consensus best available player in this draft, I’ve seen dynasty rankings that have him #1 among *all* MLB players heading into this season.  He broke into the big leagues with a 28 home run and 25 stolen base season, earning him AL Rookie of the Year honors.  It has been quite some time since a player had such a dominant rookie season in both of those categories.  He has true five category star potential and should be a cornerstone for the Diamond Dogs franchise for years to come.

Speaking of guys with elite power and speed talent, the Mavericks selected shortstop Bobby Witt Jr with the second pick.  Witt also joined the rookie 20/20 fraternity with 20 home runs and 30 steals.  The stolen base aspect of his game will give the Mavericks the only thing they were missing from their extremely potent offense.  Witt is of course the son of former MLB pitcher Bobby Witt, who had a one season stint in the DTBL with the Metros in 1997.

The first pitcher selected was Spencer Strider by the Darkhorses at #3.  Strider was an under the radar prospect who made his presence felt immediately at the big league level.  He struck out 202 hitters in just 131 innings pitched, while posting a 2.67 ERA and a sub 1.0 WHIP.  Like Rodriguez being the first hitter taken, there was little doubt that Strider would be the first pitcher off the board.

Strider’s Braves teammate, outfielder Michael Harris II was the fourth pick, taken by the Jackalope.  Harris is yet another huge power and speed contributor.  He hit 19 home runs with 20 steals while posting a .297 average.  In almost any other year, he would have been the best five category player available.  Perhaps playing in a loaded Braves lineup does give him the best immediate outlook among these top hitters though.

The first non-DTBL rookie selected was outfielder Bryan Reynolds.  The Cougars picked him up in the fifth slot.  Reynolds was a surprising drop by the Komodos this winter, but the Cougars were happy to add him to their roster.  He could be an especially nice addition if the Pirates were to trade him to a team that would offer more lineup protection.

It is almost hard to believe, but prior to this year there had not been a catcher selected in the first round of the draft since 2017 (Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras).  The Choppers ended that drought by choosing Adley Rutschman at #6.  Rutschman had been the #1 prospect in baseball heading into last season according to many publications, and one of the most highly touted catching prospects in modern history.  He had a very good rookie campaign and should give the Choppers a leg up on most of the league at an extremely shallow position.

The second and final pitcher of the first round was Cristian Javier, selected by the Komodos with the seventh pick.  Javier had a decent stint with the Jackalope back in 2021, but fell off the league roster last year as the Astros kept shuffling him between the rotation and bullpen.  He established himself as an extremely valuable starter last season though, highlighted by his dominant performance in the Astros combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.

The next two picks are the consensus top two prospects in baseball heading into this season, as the others drafted ahead of them have already exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility.  The Demigods took speedy outfielder Corbin Carroll with the eighth pick.  Carroll stole 33 bases across three levels last season.  Oh, he also has pop.  He hit 28 home runs in his ’22 minor and major league season.

Third baseman Gunnar Henderson went to the Kings in the ninth slot.  Corner infield wasn’t exactly a position of need for the Kings going into the draft, but they are certainly happy to have Henderson now with Rhys Hoskins out for the year.  Henderson doesn’t have quite the same speed as the other hitters picked ahead of him, but he can run a bit and certainly has big league raw power.

Finally, the defending champion Moonshiners selected catcher MJ Melendez with the last pick of the first round.  Melendez filled in admirably behind the plate for the Royals when Salvador Perez got hurt last summer.  This year, he will likely spend most of his time in the outfield, but should catch often enough to maintain catcher eligibility.  His bat should make him an extremely valuable commodity as long as that remains the case.

To pull back the curtain a bit on my own draft process, this wound up being as predictable of a first round as I can recall.  Since I had the ninth pick, I had exactly nine guys who I had settled on as potential selections.  As it turns out, only Henderson remained from that list when my pick came up, which made my decision pretty easy.  While I didn’t map out exactly which team I expected to take which player, not one of the first round selections was even remotely surprising to me.

Now it is time to dive into the season preview.  I’m actually hoping to get the first part out later tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.  So be on the lookout for that!

Verlander Completes Comeback

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

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When Justin Verlander underwent Tommy John surgery after just one start in 2020, it felt like it could be the end of the road for one of this generation’s greatest pitchers.  While many pitchers have successfully returned from UCL surgery, most weren’t 37+ years old at the time.  After missing almost all of the 2020 season and all of 2021, Verlander returned this season as a slightly different pitcher, but as good as ever.  He helped lead a rejuvenated Moonshiners pitching staff to their first ever DTBL Championship.  In a year of countless great pitching performances, Verlander was quite clearly the best.  In a unanimous decision, Justin Verlander is the 2022 DTBL Cy Young award winner, earning the award for the third time in his career.

Verlander’s comeback season was quite magical.  The 39 year old defied odds to put up one of the best seasons of his career, which is saying something since he had already authored some of the best seasons in league history.  His ERA and WHIP tell most of the story.  His 1.75 ERA ranks sixth all time while his 0.83 WHIP is the fourth lowest single season mark in DTBL history.  Both marks easily led the league this season and were personal bests as well.  His 18 wins also led the league this year, but doesn’t quite stack up with historical records due to the modern suppressed pitcher win environment.  185 strikeouts is an impressive number, but was not near the league leaders and highlights a changed approach for Verlander in which he no longer dominates simply by not allowing hitters to put the ball in play.  Verlander’s 14.8 Pitching PAR led the league by over 2 points and is the eighth highest mark since 2005.  He now holds three of the top 8 figures in that stat’s single season leaderboard.

The Moonshiners are the third DTBL team for which Verlander has starred.  Originally drafted in the second round by the Demigods way back in 2007, he spent a dozen spectacular seasons with the Kings with whom he won four DTBL Championships and a pair of Cy Young awards.  Those two Cy Young campaigns (2011 and 2019) are on the short list of the greatest pitching seasons in league history.  He won 24 games while striking out 250 in 2011.  In 2019, he had a 0.80 WHIP with 300 strikeouts and a record Pitching PAR of 17.5.  Tommy John surgery ultimately ended his run with the Kings as he was dropped from the league roster while recovering from surgery in 2021.  The Moonshiners made him a second round selection for the second time in his career when they picked him with the 17th overall pick in this season’s draft.  That proved to be quite the steal for the Moonshiners.  Verlander joined Alek Manoah and Yu Darvish to make up the league’s best starting pitching trio.  Their championship gives Verlander a smooth five DTBL rings to go along with three Cy Young awards.  This is the second straight season in which a pitcher has won his third Cy Young, following Verlander’s former Tigers and Kings teammate Max Scherzer turning that trick last year.

Verlander’s gaudy numbers made him the obvious choice for this award.  He received all nine first place votes to become the unanimous choice for this award, totaling 90 points.  That is definitely not to say there weren’t other great pitchers this season though.  In one of the most under-the-radar dominant seasons in recent memory, Diamond Dogs righty Sandy Alcantara put himself into the company of the league’s elite pitchers.  Perhaps most impressive was his 228.2 innings pitched, which was 26 more than any other pitcher.  Oh, and he also struck out 207 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.  Alcantara was the only pitcher besides Verlander to appear on every ballot.  He received three second place votes and a total of 41 points.  Next comes what might be the most anticipated aspect of this vote:  where will Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah rank following their narrow Rookie of the Year competition?  Well, turns out they flipped for this award.  Rookie of the Year runner-up, Moonshiners young hurler Manoah finishes third for the Cy Young in his debut season.  His 2.24 ERA and 0.99 WHIP were incredible for such a young pitcher.  He received a pair of second place votes and a total of 31 points.  Right behind him is Rookie of the Year winner, Choppers fireballer Cease.  Cease received three second place votes, but was left off three ballots, which ultimately caused him to fall three points behind Manoah with 28.  For the record, nobody swapped the order between Manoah and Cease on their Rookie of the Year and Cy Young ballots.  It was just a matter of how those points were distributed.  One other pitcher received a second place vote, that being Cougars ace Corbin Burnes.  Burnes finished second in the league with 243 strikeouts.  He is the only pitcher to rack up 200+ strikeouts with a sub 3.00 ERA each of the past two seasons.  Burnes finished in fifth place in the vote with 13 points.  A total of 10 different pitchers received Cy Young votes.

Click here to view the full voting results.

It’s looking like I won’t get around to announcing the 2022 DTBL Most Valuable Player until early next week. There probably isn’t too much suspense surrounding who will win that award anyway though.

Moonshiners Break Through

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

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Almost right from the start, the 2022 DTBL season had a different feel to it.  The traditional powers were struggling while the top half of the standings was filled with teams who had either never won a championship or were experiencing decades long droughts.  While the defending champion Kings did make a late push into contention, it remained a year for the upstarts.  What also looked different about this season compared to most in the recent past is that it appeared a bunch of teams would be in contention until the very end.  Ultimately, that didn’t prove to be the case though.  The Moonshiners stood head and shoulders above the rest, besting the rest of the league by 9 1/2 points.  A franchise perhaps most commonly known for never being terrible, but also never being great, has written a new story.  For the first time in franchise history, Mike’s Moonshiners are the DTBL Champions.

For the past couple years, the Moonshiners built a solid roster that could compete in the upper echelon of the league, but couldn’t quite put it all together.  In the pandemic shortened 2020 season, they finished in third place thanks to one of the league’s best pitching staffs, but a middling offense kept them from being a serious contender.  Then in 2021, it was exactly the opposite as they had the best offense in the league, but an incredibly disappointing pitching staff dropped them to a fourth place finish.  This year, they were able to keep that elite offense in tact while drastically improving the pitching staff, finishing second and fourth respectively in batting and pitching points.

Reigning DTBL MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr had another fantastic season in ’22.  However, it was two other teammates who led the way for the Moonshiners offense.  Outfielders Shohei Ohtani and Kyle Tucker were two of the most well-rounded players in the league.  Ohtani hit 34 homers with 95 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.  Meanwhile, Tucker hit 30 home runs while driving in 107 with 25 steals.  He was the only player in the league to reach the 30 HR and 25 SB milestones.  In a world in which Aaron Judge didn’t exist, he and Ohtani would probably both be MVP candidates.  Another key contributor in the power and speed categories was catcher Daulton Varsho.  Getting a 27 HR and 16 SB campaign from a backstop is a huge bonus.  Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the Moonshiners lineup was shortstop Amed Rosario who started to live up to some of his early career hype with easily the best year of his career.  What is interesting about all of the players mentioned here is that they were all holdovers from last year’s squad.  They were able to keep it together without any major contributions from newcomers.

The pitching staff was a much different story.  They doubled their pitching point total from a year ago, thanks in large part to a pair of newcomers.  As expected, the 2022 DTBL Draft class proved to be very strong on pitching.  Most of the 10 starting pitchers drafted in the first two rounds lived up to or exceeded expectations.  But the Moonshiners may have gotten both of the top two achievers with their first two picks.  First round pick, seventh overall, Alek Manoah will be one of the top contenders for Rookie of the Year.  He won 16 games with a 2.24 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 180 strikeouts.  Those are numbers of an ace, yet he wasn’t the top dog on this staff.  That was second round pick, 39 year old veteran Justin Verlander.  After missing almost all of the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, he returned in a slightly different form, but arguably better than ever.  His 1.75 ERA is the sixth best single season mark in league history and the lowest since Jacob deGrom in 2018.  His 0.829 WHIP ranks fourth all-time, but one of the three marks ahead of him is his own ’19 campaign with the Kings when he posted a 0.803 WHIP.  Additionally, Verlander won 18 games with 185 strikeouts.  He has an excellent chance of winning his third Cy Young award.  While newcomers Manoah and Verlander gave the Moonshiners exactly what they needed, one holdover was right up there with them as well.  Yu Darvish had maybe his best season since his rookie year, with 16 wins, a team high 197 strikeouts and a sub 1.00 WHIP.  No team in the league could come close to matching that trio at the top of the rotation.  Finally, while the bullpen as a whole was not a strength, Edwin Diaz was a huge boon to the staff in not only saves (32), but also ERA (1.31), WHIP (0.84) and a ridiculous 118 strikeouts in just 62 innings.

The Moonshiners appeared to be one of the top contenders for the title right from the start of the season.  By mid-June they had moved into the top three and would never fall lower than that.  For a couple months in the summer, a handful of teams were swapping spots at the top of the standings on a nearly daily basis.  But by the end of July, the Moonshiners had taken over first place for good.  In the end, it didn’t wind up being particularly close.  A late summer run by the Kings bumped them into second place, but they were never a serious threat in September.  What was mostly a positive season for the Demigods, Komodos and Choppers saw each of them fall double digits behind the Moonshiners when it was all said and done.

2022 was the Moonshiners 24th season as a member of the DTBL.  Prior to this year, they had finished somewhere between second and seventh place in all 23 seasons.  They had not finished higher than third since 2008.  And only once had they ever finished within single digits of the champion, in the crazy 2012 season which saw them finish fourth despite only being 1 1/2 points out.  So the ease by which they won the title this year means the Moonshiners have still really only been part of that one competitive championship race.  But I think they will settle for an easy victory.  Congrats to Mike and the Moonshiners!

2022 Season Preview: Part I

Monday, April 4th, 2022

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As we enter the DTBL’s 30th season, it is once again time to launch the season preview series.  Instead of me putting myself on the line predicting the league’s final standings, I’m using stat projections to do that for me.  This is the tenth consecutive season that I’ve been doing this.  But I would be remiss not to mention every so often that Marc was the initial creator of this idea with his preview series back in 2012.

Here’s a quick refresher on how these projections are created.  Just prior to the draft, I compiled the complete set of FanGraphs’ 2020 Depth Chart player projections.  FanGraphs combines two projections systems, ZiPS and Steamer, and then scales them based on estimated playing time distribution for each MLB team.  One small drawback to using the Depth Charts numbers this year is that spring training had barely even started when I pulled the data and many of the players had yet to even sign with new clubs post lockout.  No doubt I would have been better off waiting until this week to pull that data.  However, the process of compiling everything into my spreadsheets that spit out the final numbers is rather time consuming.  I’m constantly updating my data as the draft progresses, so that the work is essentially done when the draft ends.  Just something to keep in mind, especially if you have a bunch of players whose season outlook may have changed dramatically in recent weeks.  If you want to see the up-to-date Depth Charts projections, check them out here.

I hate to dismiss the worthiness of these projections right from the start.  However, I’m just going to go ahead and say you should ignore the predicted order of finish this year, because it is going to be impossible to handicap this season.  Not one team enters this season without some significant question marks.  If Vegas were setting title odds for our league, the favorite might be something like +500, which is kind of ridiculous in a 10 team league.  Minor spoiler alert:  the projected gap between first and ninth place is 12 points.  In the decade of doing this, the lowest projected first place point total has been 69.  This year:  only 63!  It is not a stretch to say that virtually any team could win the league in 2022.  If these projections are correct, this is going to be by far the most competitive season in league history.

So let’s get to it.  Tonight, I’ll start off slow with a pair of teams.  One is brand new to the league and is somewhat in rebuild mode.  The other is most definitely not, and is probably just as likely to win the league as finish in ninth place.  But in these crazy projections, some team had to be near the bottom of a league full of contenders.  Here are the teams that came out in the last two spots of these projections.


Dan’s Diamond Dogs

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 5th (7th)
  • Home Runs – 9th (10th)
  • Runs Batted In – 7th (9th)
  • Runs Scored – 9th (9th)
  • Stolen Bases - 6th (4th)
  • Earned Run Average – 9th (8th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 8th (8th)
  • Wins – 10th (8th-T)
  • Saves - 2nd (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 10th (7th)
  • Total Batting Points – 8th (9th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 9th (8th)
  • Total Points – 10th (10th)


The Diamond Dogs will enter their inaugural DTBL campaign inheriting a Beanballers’ roster that was largely a stars and scrubs outfit.  They finished last in the league despite having two of the league’s best offensive players and a great bullpen.  The Diamond Dogs decided to go super young in the draft with MLB rookie eligible players Shane Baz and Oneil Cruz in the first two rounds.  So there is enormous upside despite less than stellar projections for the upcoming season.  Baz will miss the first several weeks of the season recovering from an elbow procedure while Cruz is sadly being forced to begin the season in AAA.  When he does return to the big leagues, he’ll join Trea Turner and Bo Bichette to give the Dogs an embarrassment of riches at the shortstop position.  Nolan Arenado completes the best left side of the infield in the league.  They are probably below average at all other offensive positions, however.  Outfielders Teoscar Hernandez and Marcell Ozuna are the only other hitters with a projected PAR above 2.  The starting rotation is lacking a bona fide ace.  However, they have a bunch of guys who are reliably good with maybe even some untapped potential.  Sandy Alcantara could be an ace-in-making.  Chris Bassitt and Hyun-Jin Ryu are solid veterans.  John Means would immediately become a valuable piece should the Orioles decide to trade him.  Noah Syndergaard is the huge wild card as he should finally be able to pitch regularly for the first time in three years.  Finally, there is the unlimited potential of Baz.  The Dogs could have a very good starting staff in the very near future.  Meanwhile, the bullpen still looks very good.  Perhaps you should be a bit skeptical of their chances of finishing second in saves though because these numbers were compiled before Kenley Jansen took Will Smith’s job as the Braves closer.  Josh Hader remains one of the game’s best relievers.  Garrett Whitlock could be a very valuable asset as well, particularly if he joins the Red Sox rotation at some point.  It should be fun to watch the Diamond Dogs develop during their maiden voyage in the DTBL.


Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2021 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 1st (2nd)
  • Home Runs – 4th (2nd)
  • Runs Batted In – 5th (2nd)
  • Runs Scored – 4th (2nd)
  • Stolen Bases - 3rd (6th)
  • Earned Run Average - 10th (9th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 9th (9th)
  • Wins – 8th (6th-T)
  • Saves – 6th (6th)
  • Strike Outs - 9th (8th)
  • Total Batting Points - 2nd (1st)
  • Total Pitching Points – 10th (9th)
  • Total Points – 9th (4th)


Needless to say, a team that led the league in batting points and finished fourth overall would be pretty disappointed to slip all the way to ninth.  As implied up top though, a ninth place projection actually keeps them in title contention this year.  In fact, they are projected to finish much closer to first place than last (by points) in the standings.  The offense is still one of the league’s best.  It will be difficult to match last year’s 41 batting points, but it can’t be ruled out.  Defending MVP Vladimir Guerrero Jr leads a loaded corner infield mix that also includes Rafael Devers, Ryan Mountcastle and Max Muncy.  In Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Tucker and Tim Anderson, the Moonshiners have three hitters with 20/20 potential, and that’s selling the power short for Ohtani and Tucker who both could be MVP candidates.  Daulton Varsho and Kiebert Ruiz may not be household names yet, but they could be a dangerous catching duo as well.  There isn’t much to criticize on the offensive side for the Moonshiners.  The pitching staff really held them back a year ago.  Charlie Morton was easily their best starter.  Yu Darvish could be a good bounce-back candidate.  Joining those two are a couple very interesting pitchers at the opposite ends of their careers:  first round pick Alek Manoah and second round pick Justin Verlander.  Verlander actually has the highest projected PAR of any pitcher who was selected in this year’s draft.  So the data suggests he will return to elite form after missing almost all of the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery.  If that happens, the Moonshiners will have a good shot of moving up the pitching point standings.  The bullpen is a bit shaky outside of Edwin Diaz.  He is the only reliever expected to post a sub 4.00 ERA, which doesn’t help the team total as much as you would like.  These numbers show a small step in the wrong direction for both Moonshiners’ hitters and pitchers.  If instead, they improve by a handful of points, particularly on the pitching side, they will be right in the championship mix and their fourth straight top half finish.

A Pitcher Takeover

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

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We are in the midst of the 30th annual DTBL Draft.  With almost three decades of history to draw from, there is a pretty typical pattern in how the first round of the draft plays out.  Normally, a majority of those early picks are young players who made their MLB debut the previous season.  And among those players, the first round tends to skew towards hitters.  Young hitters are generally more projectable than pitchers.  TINSTAAPP (There is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect) is a common refrain in baseball for a reason.  Well, you can throw all of that out when analyzing the 2022 DTBL Draft.

For the first time since 2003, a majority of the first round picks were pitchers.  The six starting pitchers taken in the first round was a league record, blowing past the previous high of four.  While these pitchers did skew young, they are not all DTBL rookies and even fewer were MLB rookies last year.  This was truly a first round group of ten that did not resemble any previous year’s new crop.  Perhaps this is a product of the pandemic shortened 2020 season that saw some position players pushed to the majors due to not having minor league opportunities for development, while pitchers were kept on a more conservative path that led to guys who may have otherwise debuted in ’20 being pushed to ’21.  But with many of the pitchers drafted in this first round not actually being MLB rookies, who knows?  Probably just a one year oddity.

The draft started with the Diamond Dogs making their first ever selection after taking over the Beanballers roster.  They chose young right handed starting pitcher Shane Baz.  This was a bit of a surprise, but not because of Baz’s pedigree.  Most MLB prospect rankings that have been released this winter have Baz among the top 15 prospects in the game.  And in most cases, he is the top ranked prospect who has already made his MLB debut.  The Rays hurler, stolen from the Pirates as the third piece of the Chris Archer trade, made his debut in late September.  His three regular season starts were impressive enough to earn him a start in the ALDS as well.  The future is bright for Baz.  Unfortunately for the Diamond Dogs, Baz underwent elbow surgery just days after this selection.  The good news is it wasn’t a career altering elbow surgery like Tommy John, but rather a cleanup procedure that should just keep him out a few weeks.  He will begin his DTBL career on the injured list though.

With the second pick, the Komodos took the guy who most people probably expected to go #1, Baz’s Rays teammate Wander Franco.  The phenom shortstop had been the #1 ranked prospect for several years before making his much anticipated MLB debut in June.  He proceeded to have a very solid season, hitting .288 with seven home runs, earning him a third place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year vote.  While he only stole a couple bases in the big leagues last year, speed is certainly part of his game as well.  He has been touted as a true five tool player.  Having just turned 21 earlier this month, he figures to be a fixture in the Komodos infield for a very long time.

While Franco was the most highly touted hitter to debut last year, second baseman Jonathan India was the most productive.  The Jackalope selected him with the third pick.  The Reds infielder hit .269 with 21 homers, 69 RBI, 98 runs scored and 12 stolen bases, earning him the National League Rookie of the Year honor.  This marks the fourth straight year that the Jackalope have used a first round pick on an infielder.  This pick feels quite a bit safer than their last similar pick of second baseman Keston Hiura with the fourth pick in 2020.  India should be able to hold down that spot for the foreseeable future.

The Cougars followed with the breakout star of 2021, making outfielder Cedric Mullins the fourth overall pick.  Mullins still has DTBL rookie eligibility, however, this is not his first time on the league roster.  He was added in 2019, but went undrafted and then unsigned in a very forgettable season.  2021, on the other hand, was rather memorable for Mullins.  He became the latest addition to the 30/30 Club, slugging exactly 30 home runs and stealing exactly 30 bases.  The latter wasn’t a huge surprise, but the power seemingly came from nowhere.  He had seven career home runs before last season.  Even if he can’t repeat that feat, he still has enormous fantasy potential because of the power and speed combo that so few possess.

The pitching run began in earnest with the fifth pick that the Demigods used on lefty Robbie Ray.  Ray had a solid run with the Moonshiners from 2017-2019.  But a brutal 2020 knocked him completely out of the league last season.  All he did while away was win the AL Cy Young with a league leading 2.84 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 284 strikeouts.  Good call by me removing him from the league roster.  He’s back now and should provide an immediate boost to the Demigods pitching staff.

The Darkhorses selected the pitching breakout star of the year at #6.  Giants righty Logan Webb started his career with a couple mediocre seasons that did not provide much of a hint that he would become the staff ace of one of the best teams in baseball in 2021.  Webb won 11 games with a 3.03 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched for the Giants last year before becoming a postseason horse with a pair of dominant starts against the Dodgers in the NLDS.  He will play a major role in the Darkhorses retooled rotation that only has two holdovers (Jacob deGrom and Jose Berrios).

The Moonshiners were just a respectable pitching staff away from being a serious championship contender last year.  They attempted to fix that glaring weakness by selecting young Blue Jays hurler Alek Manoah at pick number seven.  Another highly touted prospect, Manoah did not disappoint in his first big league season.  He had a very respectable 3.22 ERA and 1.05 WHIP along with nine wins and 127 strikeouts.  Given the Blue Jays offensive firepower, he figures to be a solid candidate to win double digit games along with strong numbers in the other three categories.

We got a brief break from all those pitchers with the Mavericks selecting second baseman Jazz Chisholm with the eighth pick.  Chisholm struggled in his 2020 debut, leaving questions about his ability to hit big league pitching.  Those questions were answered in 2021.  He hit 18 home runs while stealing 23 bases.  Again, that combination of power and speed makes him an exciting fantasy prospect.  Add to that the serious lack of depth at second base right now and you have a player who should be among the league’s best at his position.  The Mavericks had to have been thrilled to add a player like him this late in the first round.

Back to starting pitchers with pick number nine.  The Choppers reacquired a player they had picked up on a whim late in 2020, White Sox righty Dylan Cease.  Cease technically still has DTBL rookie status since he was never placed on the Choppers active roster in 2020.  He was subsequently dropped from the league last year due to his erratic performance in ’20.  He finally harnessed his stuff last year though, with an extremely impressive 226 strikeouts in 165 innings, along with a 3.91 ERA and 13 wins.  Still just 23 years old, Cease has the potential to be one of the league’s premier strikeout pitchers.

Rounding out the first round was yet another pitcher who had a great 2021 campaign.  Marlins southpaw Trevor Rogers was never a particularly highly touted prospect.  So his rookie campaign went largely under the radar.  He posted a 2.64 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP and 157 strikeouts in 133 innings.  That earned him a spot on the NL All-Star roster and a runner-up finish in the NL Rookie of the Year vote.  Rogers joins a Kings staff that led the league in pitching points last year, but was looking for another consistent presence behind Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler.  They now have three of the NL East’s best pitchers.

The run on starting pitchers didn’t end in the first round.  Four more were selected in round two and exactly half of the first 22 picks were starting pitchers.  It seems unlikely we will see anything like this in the near future.

Guerrero Named MVP

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

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On an individual player level, 2021 will be remembered as the year of Shohei Ohtani.  The two-way player did what had previously been thought to be impossible:  dominated the league as both a hitter and a pitcher.  He was unanimously selected as the American League Most Valuable Player.  However, in this league, he was not able to accumulate stats for the Moonshiners as both a hitter and a pitcher, making his MVP case not nearly as clear cut, yet still very much in the discussion.  In the end though, he was edged out by his Moonshiners teammate.  After a somewhat disappointing DTBL rookie campaign, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lived up to the hype and then some this year.  He is the 2021 DTBL Most Valuable Player.  Amazingly, this is now consecutive seasons in which the award has been won by the son of a former DTBL star.  Last year, Fernando Tatis Jr. shared the award with Jose Abreu.  Maybe Bo Bichette or Cavan Biggio will make it three in a row in 2022.

In last year’s abbreviated season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit nine homers with a .262 average.  Not a terrible season, but not what the Moonshiners were hoping for when they drafted him sixth overall in the loaded 2020 draft.  This season, he put it all together and became the best hitter in the league.  He hit 48 home runs, tied with Salvador Perez for most in the DTBL.  He also led the league in run scored (123), finished third in batting average (.311) and fourth in runs batted in (111).  His 9.50 batting PAR also topped all hitters.  The Moonshiners have been looking for a star hitter to lead their offense for a while.  Now it seems they have at least three such players, with Ohtani and Rafael Devers joining Guerrero.  The Moonshiners easily led the league in batting points thanks to those three.

When sitting down to write this article, the first thing that popped into my mind was whether or not Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Jr. have become the first father and son to win DTBL MVP awards.  Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this right now because I only have complete awards results since 2005.  Senior’s best seasons were before that.  While he had many MVP caliber seasons, I am quite certain he was edged out by others in most of those campaigns, which came during the height of the steroid era.  If we were to retroactively vote on who should have won the award each of those years, I suspect he would fare much better now.  The one year when I think he *might* have won DTBL MVP was 2004.  In the near future, I will try to dig through some data on old computers and hard drives that I still have in my possession to see if I can figure this out.  I may come back and edit this article if I find this information.  In the meantime, while I’m not certain if Vlad Sr. ever won a MVP in this league, I think it is safe to say the Guerreros now have the best peak seasons of any father and son duo in DTBL history.

Not surprisingly, the vote was very close.  Guerrero received six of the nine first place votes and a pair of seconds.  Mysteriously, he was left entirely off one ballot.  Perhaps it was an oversight.  It did not wind up costing him though as he finished with 74 points.  His Moonshiners teammate Shohei Ohtani was the runner-up.  Ohtani had a remarkable season, even when you exclude his pitching prowess.  The Moonshiners made a tough, but ultimately wise decision to use him as a hitter this year.  All he did was slug 46 homers and steal 26 bases, with a 8.9 PAR that only trailed Guerrero by a little more than a half point.  Clearly he would have won the MVP in this league as well if his pitching numbers counted.  He received two first place votes along with five second place tallies.  He was the only player to appear on every MVP ballot, garnering 65 points.  Finishing third was last year’s co-MVP Fernando Tatis Jr.  The Demigods shortstop had another incredible season with 41 home runs and 25 stolen bases.  Injuries were the only thing that prevented him from keeping up with Guerrero and Ohtani.  He received one second and four third place votes for 34 total points.  Not far behind him was Beanballers shortstop Trea Turner.  One of the most underrated players in the game, Turner blew away his career high in homers with 28 and also stole 32 bases.  This is his second straight top 4 MVP finish and he is yet to have a non-elite season in the DTBL.  He received the lone first place vote that didn’t go to Guerrero or Ohtani and finished with 27 points.  Rounding out the top five is yet another son of a former DTBL star and another Beanballers shortstop.  Bo Bichette had nearly identical numbers as Turner, with a few more RBI and runs and a lower batting average.  He finished just two points behind Turner in this vote, with 25.  So that makes three sons of former DTBL sluggers in the top five of this year’s MVP vote.  Tatis, Guerrero and Bichette were drafted first, sixth and eighth respectively in the 2020 Draft, which is already looking like one for the ages.  That first round also featured Lucas Giolito, Pete Alonso and Yordan Alvarez.

Click here to view the full voting results.

That wraps up our 2021 DTBL awards announcements.  Since I was extremely lazy with the blogging this year, I do intend to play some catch-up this winter with some items I neglected to cover earlier in the year, including a season recap detailing the Kings ninth championship campaign.  In the meantime, thank you to everyone for another fun season.  I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

2021 Season Preview: Part II

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

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I’m not going to post the full projected standings until all ten teams have been revealed, but here is a spoiler alert:  there is a pretty wide point gap between the top and bottom half of the standings.  Usually, I like to bucket the teams with similar point projections into the same preview article.  But the three way tie for seventh place made that a little tough to do.  The first team that will be covered in this piece is only one point ahead of those teams.  Meanwhile, this article will cover yet another projected tie, with a pair of teams picked to finish in fourth place.  Those teams are a full 16 points clear of sixth place.  The three teams covered here feature a little more roster balance than those slated to finish below them.  However, they are not fully loaded teams on paper.  One of these squads had a very disappointing 2020 season, another had promise but faded to the bottom half, while the third would like to build on the momentum built in the shortened campaign.  Here are the teams projected to finish in fourth through sixth places.


Kevin’s Kings

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (10th)
  • Home Runs – 2nd (9th)
  • Runs Batted In – 2nd (10th)
  • Runs Scored – 4th (10th)
  • Stolen Bases - 10th (2nd)
  • Earned Run Average – 8th (8th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 10th (9th)
  • Wins – 6th (8th)
  • Saves – 6th (8th)
  • Strike Outs – 7th (6th)
  • Total Batting Points – 6th (10th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 8th (9th)
  • Total Points – 6th (9th)


Last year’s Kings title defense was one of the worst this league has ever seen, perhaps only challenged by the 2017 Kings who also finished in ninth place the year after winning the title.  But in 2020, the Kings were a two-time defending champ that stumbled to its fewest standings points since 2009 and second worst total since the league expanded to six teams.  The total collapse of the offense was especially shocking.  But these projections show some major improvements there, particularly in the power department.  First round pick Randy Arozarena will try to give Mookie Betts some help in a depleted outfield.  Betts has been carrying this offense for years and remains one of the best players in the league.  Besides Betts and Arozarena though, the only other hitter with a 4+ PAR projection is first baseman Matt Olson, who can’t possibly hit below the Mendoza line again, can he?  The Kings could really use more from infielders Carlos Correa, Rhys Hoskins and Mike Moustakas as well.  A bunch of old friends are back in the fold for the Kings as they used draft picks to reacquire outfielder A.J. Pollock, second baseman Ryan McMahon and pitcher Marcus Stroman.  Late bloomer Mike Yastrzemski and bright newcomer Dylan Carlson were also nice additions to the outfield.  The pitching staff looks nothing like the group that helped win three of the past five titles.  The reliable veteran duo of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander is now just Scherzer.  Frankie Montas, Lance McCullers, Zack Wheeler and Ian Anderson all have intriguing upside, but also very large shoes to fill.  One of those four will need to ascend to elite status for the Kings pitching staff to return to respectability.  Stroman is another steady veteran presence for the rotation, but he hasn’t pitched in a real game since 2019.  The bullpen is almost entirely new, but lacking certainty in closer roles.  Richard Rodriguez, Matt Barnes and Amir Garrett all offer potential in that category though.  The Kings will have a lot to overcome to prove that last season was a fluke.  But their recent track record of yo-yoing between the top and bottom of the standings could bode well for them.


Dom’s Demigods

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 2nd (4th)
  • Home Runs - 3rd (10th)
  • Runs Batted In - 3rd (5th)
  • Runs Scored – 3rd (3rd)
  • Stolen Bases – 5th (6th)
  • Earned Run Average – 7th (5th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 6th (4th)
  • Wins – 4th (2nd-T)
  • Saves – 10th (10th)
  • Strike Outs - 6th (4th)
  • Total Batting Points – 2nd (5th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 7th (4th-T)
  • Total Points – 4th-T (7th)


The Demigods were much better than their seventh place finish might have indicated a year ago.  They were an above average team in almost all facets and finished with a point total that would have put them in the top half of the standings virtually any other season.  So 2020 was definitely a step in the right direction after a dreadful 2019.  And these numbers show a glimmer of hope for further improvement.  Most notably, their third place projection in home runs would be welcomed after finishing dead last in ’20.  It is not really any new additions that are causing that though, but rather an anticipated return to form for players like J.D. Martinez, who they cut in February and then redrafted this month.  Six hitters are projected for at least 30 home runs:  Martinez, reigning co-MVP Fernando Tatis Jr., Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor, Byron Buxton and C.J. Cron.  Tatis is clearly the headliner and a likely MVP candidate again this season.  Josh Bell, Jose Altuve and Austin Meadows are bounceback candidates.  Wil Myers quietly returned to solid contributor status last season.  The Demigods probably have one of the best catching tandems with Travis d’Arnaud joining Willson Contreras.  This is a very strong group of hitters, from top to bottom.  The second place batting projection makes sense.  Where they will need to exceed expectations is on the pitching side.  Aaron Nola remains the staff ace and a safe bet to put up very strong numbers again this season.  Zac Gallen’s health is an immediate concern, although the worst case scenario seems to have been avoided for now.  If healthy, he has star potential as well.  A return to health for Corey Kluber would be a major blessing for the Demigods who haven’t been the same without him for most of the past couple seasons.  Veteran Kenta Maeda was a legit Cy Young contender a year ago.  Max Fried is the one youngster in the rotation with untapped potential.  It appears the Demigods will once again punt the saves category.  Last year, they recorded just six of them all season.  Some combination of Rafael Montero, Chris Martin and Matt Wisler should put them ahead of that mark this year, but still likely to finish at or near the bottom.  Freddy Peralta starting the season in the Brewers rotation gives them a potential wild card though.  This is a very solid Demigods squad.  It would not be surprising to see them contend this season.


Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2020 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 6th (7th)
  • Home Runs – 5th (8th)
  • Runs Batted In – 5th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 4th (8th-T)
  • Earned Run Average – 4th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 3rd (5th)
  • Wins – 7th (2nd-T)
  • Saves - 1st (2nd)
  • Strike Outs - 8th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 5th (7th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 4th-T (2nd)
  • Total Points – 4th-T (3rd)


Besides the champion Darkhorses, perhaps no team had a more positive 2020 season than the Moonshiners who posted their highest finish since 2011.  That was mostly accomplished on the strength of their pitching staff.  While the pitchers are probably still ahead of the hitters, this does appear to be a more balanced squad this season.  I doubt many people would be able to correctly guess who is the Moonshiners projected batting PAR leader for this season.  If you guessed outfielder Kyle Tucker, congratulations!  Tucker is a very strong candidate for breakout star of 2021.  He has immense power and speed projectability.  Most of the other stars of the Moonshiners offense are hulking sluggers, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Miguel Sano, Max Muncy and Rafael Devers.  But Tucker isn’t the only strong hitter and runner.  Shortstop Tim Anderson can also contribute in all five categories.  Michael Conforto shouldn’t be overlooked either.  Newcomer Ryan Mountcastle should give a boost to the Moonshiners outfield, as should Shohei Ohtani who is returning to the offensive side of things after a disappointing and injury riddled 2020 on the mound.  Part of the reason why the Moonshiners were able to shift Ohtani back to the outfield is because of the extensive depth of their starting rotation.  Yu Darvish returned to form as one of the best pitchers in baseball last year and figures to continue that form in San Diego this year.  Veterans Zack Greinke, Charlie Morton and Kyle Hendricks aren’t overwhelming at this stage of their careers, but they are still very productive and reliable pitchers.  The potential breakout star on the pitching side for the Moonshiners is Jesus Luzardo.  The first place saves projection is perhaps a tad optimistic as it includes a full season’s worth of saves out of Kirby Yates who won’t pitch this year.  But they still ought to be in decent shape with Edwin Diaz, Trevor Rosenthal and Jake McGee as either certain or very likely closers.  While the fourth place projection in pitching points isn’t particularly impressive, I’m not sure any other team can match the Moonshiners pitching depth, so there is upside here.  Combine that with what appears to be an improved offense and you should have the makings of a contending ballclub.


Predictably Unpredictable

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

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There is no blueprint for how to approach a fantasy baseball draft following a 60 game, pandemic affected season.  How much weight do you put in players’ performances in such a short sample size?  Is it safe to ignore the poor numbers of a veteran player with a long track record of success?  How do you judge a rookie who made his MLB debut after not being able to play in real minor league games for almost a full year?  Can the breakout stars of 2020 be trusted to repeat their performances over the long haul of a full season?  And finally, how do you judge the players who actually contracted and recovered from COVID-19?  Nobody knows the right answers to any of these questions.  And based on the results of the first round of the 2021 DTBL Draft, it would seem there were many different answers among the league’s members.

Going into this draft, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Unlike most years, there were hardly any sure-fire first round selections.  Partly because I was the owner of the second pick, I didn’t even bother trying to compile a top ten list like I normally do.  But if I had, I think I can safely say I would have been wrong on close to half of the names.  And outside of the first two picks, I’m not sure I would have correctly pegged any other players with the teams that selected them.  Besides the general unpredictability, the other abnormal theme of the first round was the number of non-DTBL rookies selected.  Four players were chosen who have previous experience on DTBL rosters.  I have complete draft records dating back to 2005.  In the previous 16 years, no more than three non-rookies were selected in any year.  While unusual, this was not terribly surprising since there just wasn’t a lot of time for newcomers to make their mark during the 2020 MLB season.

The one pick in this draft that was definitely not surprising was the first one.  The Komodos selected White Sox young star outfielder Luis Robert.  The five tool phenom hit the ground running with an incredible first month of his big league career, during which he wasn’t only one of the best rookies in the game, but one of the top players as well.  But even Robert comes with some question marks as he really struggled down the stretch, seeing his batting average fall to .233.  He was still just one steal away from a double/double HR/SB season, which would have been more like 25/25 stretched out to a full campaign.  With his power and speed, Robert is a legitimate 40/40 candidate down the road.  HR and SB were already two of the Komodos better categories, so he could help boost them among the top teams in the league in those areas.

The second pick is another player with well above average power and decent speed as well.  The Kings boosted their extremely disappointing offense from a year ago with the selection of outfielder Randy Arozarena.  Arozerana became a breakout star in October, almost singlehandedly leading the Rays offense on the way to the World Series.  While he did seemingly come out of nowhere, he actually started mashing soon after being activated from the COVID-19 list in late August.  He slugged seven homers in September before adding  an incredible 10 more in the Postseason.  Even though he made his MLB debut in 2019, Arozarena actually remains MLB rookie eligible this year since he missed so much time in 2020 recovering from the virus.  For the Kings sake, hopefully he kept up his now famous pushup regimen this offseason.  If so, he could help the Kings rebound from a shockingly disappointing 2020.

With the third pick in the draft, we had a quick throwback to last year’s draft that featured four sons of former DTBL players selected in the first 15 picks.  The Choppers selected third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, 28 years after his father Brian, also a third baseman, played for the Choppers in the inaugural season of the DTBL of 1993.  The elder Hayes played four seasons in this league.  Ke’Bryan figures to stick around much longer.  Known mostly for his slick fielding as a prospect, Hayes burst onto the scene with a .376 average and five home runs in 85 big league at bats.  He has an advanced bat and runs well too, so there is serious five category potential here.  This marks the fourth straight year that the Choppers have selected an infielder with their first pick.  Hayes will join last year’s pick of Pete Alonso to form a strong corner duo for years to come.

So after three picks, this first round didn’t look too dissimilar from previous years.  But things started to change at four.  The Demigods selected veteran outfielder J.D. Martinez, who they had just cut from their roster last month.  I suppose this could be chalked up as a case of seller’s remorse.  Martinez struggled badly a year ago, but this came on the heels of three straight seasons of hitting at least .300 with 35+ home runs and 100+ RBI.  While he’s no youngster at 33, it seems likely that his ’20 campaign was an outlier and a product of a weird season.  Had the Demigods not picked him, some other team surely would have done so relatively early.  The surprise here is that it was the team that just cut him that made the pick.  If you ignore that fact though, Martinez makes all the sense in the world for a Demigods squad that has more than enough talent to contend and could really use his proven bat in the lineup.

The Cougars followed by selecting another non-DTBL rookie.  But this one was more of a technicality as starting pitcher Corbin Burnes is at a completely different place now than he was when the Choppers took a late flier on him as a relief pitcher in 2019.  Burnes fell out of the league last year, but now returns as a starter with huge upside.  He started nine of the 12 games he appeared in last season and put up some impressive numbers.  He had a 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 60 innings.  This is the second straight year the Cougars have used the fifth overall pick on a starting pitcher who had fallen off the league roster the previous year.  Worked out pretty well with Lucas Giolito.  Those two should help the Cougars improve upon a rotation which somewhat held them back from being contenders a year ago.

Jo Adell entered 2020 as one of the top prospects in baseball, but probably not quite ready for the majors.  The lack of a minor league season probably prevented him from that last bit of development time he could have used before making his debut.  Instead, he was thrown into the fire with the Angels for a bulk of the season.  It did not go well.  He hit just .161 and struck out in over 40% of his plate appearances.  He is flying under the radar this spring, in large part because he lost rookie eligibility and is thus not being discussed in prospect rankings.  But he is still very much a coveted prospect with great power and speed tools.  If he can improve the hit tool, he has a chance to be a star.  He will likely start this season in the minors though.  But that did not prevent the Mavericks from selecting him with the sixth pick.  This is a luxury the Mavericks could afford with their absolutely loaded roster, particularly in the outfield.  They don’t really need anything from Adell to be a contender this season.  But the enormous upside was too much to pass up.

The next pick was another player with an uncertain role this season.  The Beanballers selected Dodgers pitcher Dustin May with the sixth pick.  May is also not a DTBL rookie.  He was picked in the sixth round by the Mavericks last year.  But not having a firm grasp on a rotation spot heading into the season made him expendable.  The Beanballers were willing to gamble on the talent.  Even if he isn’t able to crack the Dodgers rotation to start the season, it would be surprising if he didn’t get plenty of opportunities sooner than later.  May did start 10 games a year ago and had an excellent 2.57 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.  If he can improve on his strikeout rate, he has top of the rotation potential.  The Beanballers could definitely use a big season from him this year as they bide their time before Noah Syndergaard returns from Tommy John surgery.

With the eighth pick, the Moonshiners went a more traditional route, taking a rookie who made a strong impression in his debut.  Orioles outfielder Ryan Mountcastle put up numbers very similar to Hayes.  He hit .333 with five home runs in 140 plate appearances.  Mountcastle was a consistently strong hitter in the Orioles farm system for five full years before he finally got his opportunity in the big leagues last season.  He was the fifth outfielder selected in the first round.  Mountcastle should help shore up a Moonshiners offense that was below average a year ago and an outfield that should be much improved with Kyle Tucker quietly becoming a fantasy star and Shohei Ohtani returning to the offensive side of things this year.

Next, the Jackalope selected shortstop Dansby Swanson, who has had a very interesting four year DTBL career.  This is the fourth time he has been drafted, by four different teams.  He has never spent consecutive seasons on the same roster.  Originally a second round pick of the Naturals in 2017, this was his first time as a first rounder.  Swanson is coming off a career year in which he hit 10 homers with 35 RBI in a shortened season.  He was a solid contributor to the championship winning Darkhorses, but was squeezed out with their deep roster.  The Jackalope were happy to add him to their infield, which was mildly disappointing a year ago.  Their offense will feature six of their former first round picks this season.  Even a minor improvement to that offense should put them in strong contention for a title.

Finally, the defending champion Darkhorses closed out the first round by selecting another young slugger who made the most of the shortened season, but also enters 2021 with a somewhat unsettled role.  First baseman Dominic Smith was the final pick of the first round.  Smith made his MLB debut in 2017, but is still just 25 years old.  Last season, he hit .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI.  With Pete Alonso firmly entrenched at first base for the Mets and the designated hitter not being in play in the NL this year, Smith figures to see a bulk of his time in the outfield.  If he gets semi regular playing time, he could be a monster offensive force for a team that is already the best team in the league with the bats.  Immediately following the selection of Smith, eight of the Darkhorses ten hitters were players who hit double digit home runs a year ago.  And that doesn’t even include Alex Bregman, who is only a year removed from hitting 40.  This is a truly scary offense.

Half of the first round picks were outfielders and another could move there a year from now.  Meanwhile, only two pitchers were selected in the first ten picks.  This was despite much more league roster shuffling among hurlers than hitters.  It will be interesting to see which strategies pay off following a very unusual 2020.

2020 Season Preview: Part III

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

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None of the remaining five teams, projected to finish in the top half of the standings, are huge surprises.  The three teams that will be covered in this installment of the 2020 DTBL season preview all finished in the top half of the standings last year as well.  Perhaps you will be a little surprised to see a couple of the teams below today rather than in tomorrow’s article covering the projected top two teams.  Regardless, we are now getting to teams that are a little more balanced than those covered previously, and might have more margin for error if they lose some players for extended periods of time this season.  The projected gap between these three teams is just four points in the standings, so the order in which they appear isn’t particularly meaningful.  These are teams that should have championship aspirations.  Here are the teams projected to finish third through fifth this season.

Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 8th (9th)
  • Home Runs – 4th (6th)
  • Runs Batted In – 4th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 9th (5th)
  • Stolen Bases - 10th (8th)
  • Earned Run Average – 3rd (4th)
  • WHIP Ratio - 1st (3rd)
  • Wins - 1st (3rd)
  • Saves – 5th (6th)
  • Strike Outs – 6th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 9th (8th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 2nd (4th)
  • Total Points – 5th (5th)


No team’s 2019 results and 2020 projections are a closer match than the Moonshiners.  Their pitching staff flew somewhat under the radar a year ago as a very solid group and could be even better this year.  Meanwhile, their offense still appears to be below average, but should be a little more powerful than the 2019 edition.  That power surge could come in the form of first round pick Vladimir Guerroro Jr, for whom these projections point towards a big second MLB season.  He joins an infield full of mashers, whose lack of defensive prowess is obviously a non-factor for the Moonshiners:  Miguel Sano, Rafael Devers, Max Muncy and Tim Anderson.  Devers could be a legitimate MVP candidate in a shortened season.  He and Guerrero give the Moonshiners elite potential that they have been lacking offensively in recent years.  The outfield is not so deep though.  Michael Conforto and Khris Davis lead that group.  The Moonshiners pitching staff is full of veterans with surprisingly high upside considering their age and experience.  Charlie Morton has been one of the most underrated pitchers in the league for several years now.  Yu Darvish seemed to return to his old, dominating self down the stretch last year.  Zack Greinke and Kyle Hendricks are steady and reliable as well.  But the huge wild card for the Moonshiners in 2020 is Shohei Ohtani, who will return to the mound for the first time since 2018 and the first time ever in this league.  The fact that he will only pitch once a week shouldn’t hurt his value too much as he figures to start just a couple fewer games than other starters who pitch all season.  It is hard to predict what the Moonshiners will get from their bullpen.  Edwin Diaz was brutal a year ago, but was the best reliever in baseball before that.  Roberto Osuna might not be ready to go on Opening Day, but figures to return soon after.  Jesus Luzardo is returning from COVID-19 and is an exciting possibility should he be part of the A’s rotation, as expected.  The Moonshiners are still looking for their first DTBL title and haven’t really been involved in a pennant race since 2012.  That could definitely change this year.

Kevin’s Kings

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (8th)
  • Home Runs – 6th (3rd)
  • Runs Batted In – 8th (2nd)
  • Runs Scored – 3rd (2nd)
  • Stolen Bases - 4th (5th)
  • Earned Run Average – 5th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 4th (1st)
  • Wins – 2nd (1st)
  • Saves – 6th (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 2nd (1st)
  • Total Batting Points – 7th (3rd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 4th (1st)
  • Total Points – 4th (1st)


Perhaps it is a bit surprising to see the two-time defending champions projected to drop down to fourth place.  But there are a number of reasons to expect a decline from the Kings this year, some of which aren’t even totally reflected in these numbers.  The Kings have won those recent titles despite not having a very deep roster.  The triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Mookie Betts have been largely responsible for the Kings recent success.  Scherzer and Verlander aren’t getting any younger and it is fair to wonder if their performance might start dropping off soon.  If so, it remains to be seen if they have others capable of picking up the slack.  Besides Betts, Marcus Semien was their next most important hitter a year ago.  He will be out to prove that wasn’t a fluke.  Matt Olson, Mike Moustakas, Rhys Hoskins and Jonathan Villar give the Kings a steady, if not exciting infield.  One player who the Kings could really use a big season from is Carlos Correa who has been nagged by injuries for a couple years now.  The outfield also contains some solid players with somewhat limited upside in David Dahl, Max Kepler and Oscar Mercado.  The catching duo of Will Smith and Sean Murphy is inexperienced, but quite interesting.  As usual, the Kings ability to remain a championship contender will depend on their veteran superstar pitchers.  They will hope Frankie Montas steps up to be the heir apparent to either Scherzer or Verlander.  Reacquiring Lance McCullers, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, could pay off as well.  And Zack Wheeler is still around, but there are questions regarding his availability this season with his wife due any day now.  The bullpen got quite a makeover despite leading the league in saves last year.  Hector Neris and Archie Bradley are the incumbents, and also the only safe bets to keep their closer jobs.  The Kings have enough pieces here to remain one of the better pitching teams in the league.  Expecting them to repeat last year’s 49 pitching point performance is probably unrealistic though.  And they might not have the bats needed to pick up the slack.  Defending a championship is never easy and the Kings will have an especially hard time doing so this year.

Marc’s Mavericks

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 1st (3rd)
  • Home Runs - 2nd (4th)
  • Runs Batted In - 3rd (5th)
  • Runs Scored - 2nd (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 9th (10th)
  • Earned Run Average - 2nd (1st)
  • WHIP Ratio – 5th (2nd)
  • Wins – 8th (5th-T)
  • Saves – 7th (2nd-T)
  • Strike Outs – 8th (6th)
  • Total Batting Points – 1st (4th-T)
  • Total Pitching Points – 6th (3rd)
  • Total Points - 3rd (4th)


Even though the Mavericks are projected to finish a spot higher than they did a year ago, this still feels like a fairly pessimistic outlook.  It is hard to imagine a pitching staff that features Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw finishing in the bottom half of the league in pitching points.  The batting projections should be worrisome to the rest of the league.  An offense that was already loaded with talent might be even better now.  It seems like most of the teams I have covered to this point have had pretty mediocre, or worse, outfield situations.  That could be because the Mavericks have been hoarding all of the superstar outfielders.  No team can match the Mavericks’ top three outfielders of Mike Trout, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.  Nick Castellanos is pretty good too.  And now they are joined by first round pick Eloy Jimenez.  This truly feels like an embarrassment of riches.  The infield isn’t too shabby either with Manny Machado, Ozzie Albies and Javy Baez.  Perhaps the only concern the Mavericks have at the moment is a hole at catcher with Buster Posey opting out of the season.  But that should be pretty easy to fill.  As mentioned, their starting pitching is elite.  Flaherty was probably the best pitcher in baseball in the second half of 2019.  Strasburg was untouchable in October.  Kershaw still seems to have plenty in the tank too.  Then there are promising youngsters Mike Soroka and Dustin May, along with Julio Urias who should get a full season’s worth of starts for the first time in his career.  Their rotation depth did take a bit of a hit with Michael Kopech opting out.  The Mavericks don’t appear to have a great bullpen.  Kenley Jansen and Jose Leclerc are solid though.  And A.J. Puk could be a weapon, if his recent shoulder injury doesn’t wind up being too serious.  After a couple slightly disappointing seasons for the Mavericks, it would not be surprising to see these perennial contenders atop the standings again.