When news came down Monday afternoon about Gerrit Cole having an MRI taken on his elbow, I wasn't at all sure how to react. My initial reaction was to drop him a couple of rounds in my rankings, but still keep him around the top 10 at SP – in the same range as Kevin Gausman as he deals with shoulder fatigue this spring.

But that was a very loosely held opinion, and I wanted to test it in an actual draft before I committed to it. Luckily, I had my FSGA Experts league draft Monday night to look forward to, so I resolved to let the draft play out before I put my Cole ranking in stone. And what i realize is, I wasn't actually willing to take him in the Gausman range. 

I had a chance, as I had back-to-back picks in the third and fourth round, 42nd and 43rd overall, where Cole was the highest ranked player on the board for me … and I passed on him twice, for Pablo Lopez and Tarik Skubal. So yeah, I had to move Cole down.

The problem is, we don't know the extent of the injury at this point. We know he's going to have an MRI taken on the elbow, but that's pretty much all we know right now. It could be nothing, or Cole could need season-ending surgery, or basically any outcome in between could be in play. I wasn't comfortable taking him in the third or fourth round, but I would have considered it at 68th and 69th overall if he made it there. 

Spoiler alert: He didn't. In today's newsletter, I walked Fantasy managers through my draft from that league last night, because I think there are some interesting insights to be gleaned from it. 

I've got a round-by-round walkthrough of my thought process for every pick I made, plus one interesting pick from each of the first 15 rounds. Your drafts won't all be the same as this – for one thing, this was a 14-team Roto league, while most of you probably play in 12-team leagues, and many in H2H points leagues, too. 

But I hope you'll learn something from the process of walking through the draft with me. I don't think it was a perfect draft, by any stretch of the imagination, and I'll talk through where I think things went wrong, and what I might need to do in-season to overcome it. Here's what that draft looked like, and you can see the full results here.

Before we get to it, this is a 14-team, traditional 5x5 draft, with a 23-round draft plus six reserve rounds. I was picking 14th, so I had the turn each round. Here's what my team looks like:

1st Round – 1.14: Jose Ramirez, 3B, Guardians

With Cole off the board, I was definitely going with a hitter here, and Ramirez is my No. 14 hitter thanks to his five-category dominance. I really don't need to explain this one, right? I'm expecting some improvement on the 167 runs-plus-RBI Ramirez contributed last season – he averaged 214 in 2021 and 2022. If he gets back to that, he's going to outproduce even this first-round price. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 1.12: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees – I thought I was going to have to be the one to take Judge, a scary proposition given that he's already requiring some time off this spring. I think he has top-three upside, but I'm scared off right now. 

2nd Round – 2.1: Matt Olson, 1B, Braves 

Technically, I have Yordan Alvarez one spot higher than Olson, and snagging 50-homer upside from an outfield spot is hard to turn down. But he has enough health question marks that I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger picking from the end. It helps that Olson's four-category dominance isn't far from what Alvarez's upside is. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 2.14: Michael Harris, OF, Braves – We've seen Harris start to get pushed up draft boards more lately now that his batting order spot in the Braves lineup looks like it'll be sixth rather than ninth. It's a bit higher than where I'm willing to take him, but it's justifiable – Harris might be a top-20 pick if he hit in the top two spots of the order. 

3rd Round – 3.14: Pablo Lopez, SP, Twins

I want to snag a couple of aces to anchor my staff, and while I technically ranked Cole ahead of Lopez, once I saw him tumbling down the board, I decided I didn't want to be the one to take the plunge. Lopez pitched like an ace last season, and if his 3.00 xERA is any indication, he still has room to grow. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 3.9: Cody Bellinger, OF, Cubs – I'm going to write about my Bust picks tomorrow, and Bellinger will still be on it, so this is definitely too rich for my blood. But it's interesting to see how others value him coming off his bounceback season. 

4th Round – 4.1: Tarik Skubal, SP, Tigers

And here's my second ace. Skubal is an injury risk after throwing just 80.1 innings coming off elbow surgery last season, but he was also arguably the best pitcher in baseball on a per-inning basis. He's throwing even harder this spring, which brings some injury risk along with it, but the upside is he's a top-five pitcher even if he only gives us 160 innings. He could be that good. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 4.10: Edwin Diaz, RP, Mets – Diaz made his spring debut and more or less looked like himself. He struck out the side against the Marlins, and though his velocity was down a tick from 2022, he also got seven swings and misses on 14 pitches, so I have no concerns. He should be the first closer off the board in every draft – though he wasn't in this one, interestingly. 

5th Round – 5.14: Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers

Taking Olson and two starting pitchers means I needed to chase speed a bit here, and Yelich provides that, with 28 steals on 31 attempts last season. He'll also chip in 20 or so homers and a ton of runs, but he's kind of an oatmeal pick at 70th overall – he's probably good for you, but you're not excited about taking him. Bryan Reynolds went just five picks later, which made me feel a bit better about it, given how similar they are; I would've kicked myself if Reynolds somehow made it back to me. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 5.11: Devin Williams, RP, Brewers – Williams is seeing a back specialist to get to the bottom of lingering soreness, and it has his Opening Day status in jeopardy. If healthy, he could be the best closer in Fantasy, but it's risky without much of a discount. 

6th Round – 6.1: Kyle Schwarber, OF, Phillies

Did I need more power here? Schwarber might lead the majors in homers, but taking him commits you to a specific team build where you have to be very intentional about your future picks to make up for the batting average deficit he puts you in. I probably feel a little better about this team if I took Zach Eflin here instead of Schwarber and found another cheap source of power elsewhere, to be honest. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 6.11: Seiya Suzuki, OF, Cubs – I like Suzuki, but this is about two rounds ahead of his ADP. I think Riley Greene produces similarly across the board and he went five rounds later. 

7th Round – 7.14: Ketel Marte, 2B, Diamondbacks 

Here's part of my attempt to make up for Schwarber's average. I expected even better from Marte after he hit .276 last season, and he should be a good source of homers, runs, and RBI as well. If he wanted to steal more bases after swiping eight last season, I think he probably could, but I'm not expecting it. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 7.9: Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros – Even though I already had Ramirez, I was absolutely willing to take Bregman at the end of the seventh if he made it there. He's no longer much help in batting average despite his elite strikeout rate, but there isn't a cheaper source of 200 combined runs-plus-RBI to be found right now. 

8th Round – 8.1: Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers

With just two real stolen base threats through seven rounds, I decided to snag Chourio, who is penciled into the center field spot for the Brewers and just turned 20 yesterday. There's also risk when picking a player at his age and lack of experience, but Chourio should also be a strong source of speed after stealing 44 bases in 128 games last season, and he really doesn't have as much swing-and-miss in his game as you might think – he cut his strikeout rate to 13.4% in the second half of the season after the Southern League switched away from the pre-tacked baseballs. There's a chance we're talking about Chourio as a second-round pick this time next year, and I got him after Wyatt Langford went off the board. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 8.9: Esteury Ruiz, OF, Athletics – Part of why I'm glad I took Chourio there is because I was considering going with someone like Yandy Diaz for a bit more power and batting average help and targeting Ruiz when it came back to me in the 10th round. He didn't even come close to getting back to me. 

9th Round – 9.14: David Bednar, RP, Pirates

That's 126th overall for last year's NL saves leader, which is a steal if he's healthy. Bednar was shut down from throwing last week with a lat injury, but he played catch on consecutive days without issue this weekend, so the hope is he'll be back relatively soon – even if I'm not counting on Opening Day at this point. It's a risky pick, but one I felt I had to make after missing out on the first run of closers. He would've gone five rounds earlier a week ago. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 9.7: Chris Sale, SP, Braves – I want to draft Sale more than I have this season, and maybe I need to move him up in my rankings to make it happen. I would have taken him at 9.14, but there's no way I could have justified it at 8.1 – so I just wasn't drafting him here. I may regret it, given how the rest of my staff looks. 

10th Round – 10.1: Nick Castellanos, OF, Phillies

I find myself drafting Castellanos a lot this season. He's never going to be a sexy pick because he's 32 and doesn't really contribute much in steals. However, he did swipe 11 bags last season and seven the year before, so he's not a zero there. Getting him this late in any draft is a great outcome. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 10.7: Jackson Holliday, SS, Orioles – I think Holliday is going to end up pushed into the top 100 of most drafts whenever it becomes clear he's going to be on the Orioles Opening Day roster. It's asking a lot of a 20-year-old to step in immediately as an impact player. He might not have enough current game power to do it, but the upside is clearly sky high given how he dominated every level of the minors last season. 

11th Round – 11.14 Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox

I'm reaching the point where I'm running the risk of being overexposed to Duran, who is on pretty much every team I've drafted to play out this season. I need to diversify to avoid concentrating too much risk, but I also think Duran might just be a top-50 player in Fantasy this season if he can stay healthy as the Red Sox leadoff hitter. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 11.6: Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers – Another player I'm at risk of drafting too often, Jung just didn't fit my build this time, since I was looking for a bit more speed and already had 3B locked up with Ramirez. If he was fully healthy, he'd be going 30-40 picks higher, but it still sounds like he has a chance to be ready for Opening Day. 

12th Round – 12.1: Luis Arraez, 2B, Marlins

Alright, here's the pick I can't decide if I like or not. Arraez won't hit .354 again, but he's the best bet for batting average in the sport … and that's it. Even while hitting .354 last season, he had just 69 RBI and 71 runs, while hitting 10 homers and three steals, which is another way of saying he's a replacement-level hitter in four of five categories. There was a bit more power to be found toward the end of last season that makes me think he could get to 15 homers, but this is specifically a "I need batting average pick," and honestly … I'm not sure I needed batting average badly enough to justify this. Schwarber is obviously a drag, and Chourio carries some risk, but I may have gone too far in looking for insurance when I needed pitching. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 12.12: Shota Imanaga, SP, Cubs – I probably should've taken Imanaga. I have some questions about the ERA because of how many homers he's going to give up, but Imanaga should be a good source of strikeouts and WHIP, and given how long I waited for my SP3, I would've felt better with Imanaga. I got greedy and thought I could wait. 

13th Round – 13.14: Jordan Montgomery, SP, FA

Which is why I had to settle for Montgomery. Which should be fine if he signs relatively soon. Montgomery doesn't have a ton of upside, but he should be a solid source of ERA and WHIP, and hopefully wins if he lands in the right spot. But with Bednar already in doubt for the start of the season, that means two of my first four pitchers picked might be zeros in Week 1. That's rough.

Most interesting pick of the round: 13.6: Byron Buxton, U, Twins – Here's another one I got greedy trying to sneak through another round. Buxton would probably have been kind of redundant on this specific build, given that power shouldn't be an issue. But I just want Buxton on as many of my teams as I can manage given his depressed price. 

14th Round – 14.1: Mitch Garver, C, Mariners

If I'm waiting for a catcher, I'm probably waiting for Garver. He's had a ton of trouble staying healthy over the years, but he's hitting .251/.346/.508 with a 37-homer-per-162-game pace over the past five seasons. If he can stay healthy for even 120 games as the Mariners primary DH, he'll be a top-10 catcher, and possibly top-five. 

Most interesting pick of the round: 14.9: Henry Davis, OF, Pirates – And the other part of my catcher strategy is to take Davis as an OF and wait for him to get C eligibility. That didn't happen here, obviously, so I pivoted to my super-late alternative. 

15th Round – 15.14: Trevor Story, SS, Red Sox

Story hasn't had a normal offseason in about four years, and I'm hoping being healthy this spring will lead to a bounce back. I'm expecting a low batting average, but that was easier to stomach after the Arraez pick, and he's still provided 19 homers and 23 steals in 137 games since joining the Red Sox, despite dealing with injuries. He's a favorite target in this range.

Most interesting pick of the round: 15.12: Eloy Jimenez, U, White Sox – If I have an open utility/DH spot at this point in the draft, I like looking at Jimenez, who is by far the cheapest he's ever been. He's having a tremendous spring, and I still think we'll see a .290-30-100 season from him.

16th Round – 16.1: Carlos Estevez, RP, Angels

Estevez is his team's closer to open the season. Whether he can hang on to the job for the long run is a bigger question, but there's been no ambiguity about his role this spring. You can't say that about many closers at this point in the draft. 

17th Round – 17.14: Gavin Williams, SP, Guardians
18th Round – 18.1: Kodai Senga, SP, Mets

Okay, here's where things kind of went sideways on me, and it's my fault. I was doing a phone hit with Sirius XM Fantasy radio to talk about the first half of my draft, and it happened to coincide with this pick. I had set up my queue ahead of time with a bunch of my favorite pitcher targets, and then my mind just kind of went blank and I double-tapped two currently-injured pitchers. Both could be back relatively quickly – Senga by early May, while Williams' timetable is much more wide open after he was scratched from a start this weekend with elbow soreness. 

I don't mind either pitcher at this price, but the combination of both when I already had Bednar and Montgomery potentially facing delayed starts meant that I needed to draft four pitchers in the reserve rounds just to have a full lineup for Week 1. It's not the end of the world, but it's less than ideal, and a reminder that you need to be paying attention when you're on the turns, because you've got so little time to actually make those two decisions in a row. I'd feel better about this team with Kyle Harrison, Reid Detmers, or even Nick Lodolo instead of Williams here.

19th Round – 19.14: Luis Severino, SP, Mets

This begins the run of upside pitchers, and I do like betting on Severino to turn things around. His velocity was mostly fine last season, so I'm open to the idea that the main difference between 2022 (when he had a 3.18 ERA and 1.000 WHIP) and 2023 (6.65 and 1.646) is that he was tipping his pitches. Severino's solid start to spring (five shutout innings, five strikeouts, no walks) helps a little.

20th Round – 20.1: Erick Fedde, SP, White Sox

Fedde is Scott White's guy, so you should really read his Sleepers 2.0 column to get the low down on why you should like Fedde. Long story short, he reworked his arsenal and spent a season dominating in Korea before signing with the White Sox this offseason. He's a long shot, but one I like to bet on. 

21st Round – 21.14: Gavin Stone, SP, Dodgers

I wrote about Stone in yesterday's newsletter as one of my 10 deep sleepers, and it sure looks like he's got the inside track to a rotation spot for the Dodgers. Win opportunities should be incredibly plentiful for him, and if he can solve the pitch-tipping issues that led to his struggles in both the majors and minors, I think there's significant upside here – Stone has a career 33% strikeout rate in the minors.  

22nd Round – 22.1: Joe Boyle, SP, Athletics

Boyle is another deep sleeper I like outside of the top 300, though there are definitely some red flags reappearing in his spring profile – after walking nobody in his first 5.1 innings, Boyle has walked eight over the past six innings. That was always the issue in the minors, but he showed signs of solving it after getting traded to the A's last season. This recent regression isn't what I wanted to see. 

23rd Round – 23.14: Brett Baty, 3B, Mets

Because I had to hammer pitcher so hard, I was left with the dregs of the corner infield position to choose from. I opted for some upside with Baty, who has huge raw power but hasn't figured out how to optimize his swing to take advantage of it. I wish he was having a more promising spring, but I'm willing to bet on Baty when he keeps going this cheap – though preferably as a bench option. 

Reserve Rounds 

A few more pitcher dart throws, but the key here is the combo of d'Arnaud and Soderstrom. I'm hoping Soderstrom gets catcher eligibility relatively early on, so I'll ride with d'Arnaud as my No. 2 catcher until he does. That's pretty much my plan for my No. 2 catcher if I don't get Henry Davis. Soderstrom has hit .271/.334/.523 in the minors and has legitimate 30-homer upside, especially if he's a part-time catcher who plays first base and DH when he isn't catching. And if he falls on his face like he did last season … well, C2 is going to be a problem for me in a lot of leagues, I guess.