On March 29th, Christmas came again for me and my 11 friends. “The League,” perhaps the greatest most competitive better-than-your-league fantasy baseball league drafted. 12 teams. 29 players. 5 outfield spots. 1 catcher. Only 50 waiver movements allowed a season, so make every pick count! I had a quick cheat-sheet of rules I swore by:
1. Rounds 1-10 draft only the best player available. Screw positional scarcity.
2. DON’T PAY FOR CATCHERS.
3. DON”T PAY FOR SAVES. Wait until after the 11th round to draft a closer. Draft two closers and pick guys up off waivers as the season goes.
4. One starter in the first nine rounds. None in the first three rounds.
5. Last but not least, DON’T DRAFT FOR WINS. Terrible idea. Win is a team stat, so if anything target starters on great teams (Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox) who have a better chance. Assume nothing.
I was isolated in Chicago, so with the help of Skype, my friend’s girlfriend’s computer, and a projector, I was drafting with four buddies in Brooklyn NY, home of the single greatest movement of gentrification in the history of ripped tight jeans, designer sneakers and American Apparel hoodies.
Anyways, I opened up my Live Draft and saw myself in the 10th position. Great. Anything out of the top 5 was a wash of “Goddamn it I didn’t get Hanley/Pujols/Wright/Reyes/Cabrera.” Also, i have Mattraw before me and Cockcroft behind me in the draft, guaranteeing I’m going to get jonesed for picks throughout the proceedings. I have five minutes to make sure I have at least three back-up options a round ahead for the whole draft. And it begins.
Round 1. I set my sites on Jimmy Rollins, hoping the last of the great shortstops would fall to me. Alas, Mattraw took him one pick ahead of me! Great! Fantastic! I decide to gamble and grab Chase Utley 10th. I love him this season, even hampered with injuries. He’s a lock for 25 homers and 100 ribbies with a .300 avg out of my 2B slot, and frankly I was surprised he was still there. He probably will come close to double-digit steals with 100+ runs. A stud. Some think I should’ve taken Ryan Howard. I’m happy, whatevs.
Round 2. I blindly hoped Big Tex would come back to me on the wrap-around pick, but Howard, Tex, Longoria and Kinsler went off the board with quick succession. Knowing this was a 5 OF league and needing a 5 tool star, I made a play for Carlos Beltran, knowing full well that he’d be gone in the next 5 picks. I passed up Lance Berkman to do it, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I see big things for Carlos this season.
Round 3. After a typically long wait, my pick was coming up. A-Rod was still available, so I targeted him. And BOOM Mattraw grabs him right before my pick. Damn. With only a few elite OF’s left on the board, I grabbed Nick Markakis. I like him a lot better this year than Quentin or McLouth, two guys who went after him. A .300 avg, 100 runs, 25 homers with ribbies? Yum. I’m not paying for saves yet, dammit.
4. At this point, the pick is wrapping back around and I see Roy Halladay. I want. So badly. And then I scream out loud when Cockcroft takes him the pick before me. I’m reeling, but grab Jake Peavy quickly. My plan is to take one elite pitcher, and then fill up my rotation with late value of which there was plenty in this draft. Still, jonesed SO HARD on Halladay.
5. Another long wait, where I watch people take catchers. Fools. Later in the season, they will regret spending for catchers so early. Most of my top tier CI’s are gone, so again I’m relegated to OF’s. Slanch grabs Granderson. JONES. Corey Hart, my scruffy sweetheart is available and I grab him. Although he was horrible in the endgame last season, he’s a lock for 20/20 with ample RBI opportunities. Again, I’m not going to overpay for steals, so no Victorino on my team this year.
6. Wrap-around pick, I want Adam Dunn’s 40 homers. Dibbes grabs him. I see an aging slugger who has one more 25 HR/100 RBI/.290 season left in the tank and grab Magglio Ordonez. At this point I own four top OF, three of whom are five-tool stars (Beltran/Markakis/Hart) and Mags. I like this a lot. One would think I would panic and start to try and fill holes in my line-up. Instead, I took a deep breath and kept looking for value.
7. With Chris Davis and Garrett Atkins gone, 2nd/3rd tier corner infield options were scarce. Then there’s this guy who I had ranked above both Davis and Atkins. Carlos Pena was kicking it when my turn came and I grabbed him. I see a typical 30/100/.250 season from Pena, with his BA hopefully off-set by other hitters. This was a nice combo of value (I had Pena going a round earlier) and positional scarcity.
8. With Tulowitski, Mike Young and Tejada being taken in quick succession, I decide early on in my pick I’m going to have to draft my least favorite player in fantasy baseball. Sure, he’ll be great, but drafting Derek Jeter as your shortstop is akin to lighting your hair on fire; even if it doesn’t burn you, it’s going to suck. I needed 100 runs out of my SS, and the .300 avg props up my Pena pick. Things are starting to shape up nicely for Team Me.
9. And that’s when my over-confidence gets the best of me. I pass up Zach Grienke, AJ Burnett, Yovanni Gallardo and Matt Cain and draft Joba Chamberlain as my 2nd starter. Woof. Look, his ratios will be great, his K-rate will decrease but will still be dope, and he’ll give me 12 wins hopefully. I still don’t like this pick. At least there’s no way he’s as bad as my Phil Hughes pick last year (SHUDDER).
10. Round 10 was important, as it marked the official end of my “Draft the Best Player Available” approach. I saw Raul Ibanez, and his wonderful 20 HR/100 RBI/.300 consistency moving to the Phillies bandbox, and grabbed him. My outfield is officially scary-good, and I can now work on piecing together my infield and rotation with value picks. Hopefully this works out…
11. I targeted a few guys at this point, guys who I had either matching last years stats or improving on them. Grabbing Adrian Beltre for my 3B slot was one of these picks. Always under-appreciated, a guy who won’t kill you in average, will hit 25 homers and drive in anywhere from 75-100 runs. I need him to duplicate his season from last year and I’ll be happy. Anything more is butter, and considering it’s a contract season for Beltre, I expect a lot of butter.
12. I finally buckle and grab Brian Fuentes. Closers are always risky picks, but I love Fuentes’ low ratios and high K rate. A closer with a ton of K’s is a friend indeed. I didn’t have to reach, and the Angels will play in a lot of close games. Hopefully that translates into a ton of saves.
13. Feeling rather guilty about my Joba pick, I decide to start wishing that no one takes Scott Baker. I see him winning 13 games, with 3.50/1.20 ratios and 160 K’s. Great third starter material. Finally, the player I hoped to nab lasted until my pick (no doubt helped by his horrible spring). Really, it was between Baker and Ryan Doumit, and I knew whoever I didn’t grab Cockcroft would take. Baker it was. Editor’s Note: Baker just hit the DL and will hopefully miss one start. Hopefully. Sigh.
14. Cockcroft nabs Heath Bell, which is early. Damn it. I love Heath. I grab Jose Lopez, yet another Seattle Mariner whom I project to have a similar season to the last. He’s only 25, so there may even be room for improvement. Fun. Nothing like getting a 85/18/80/.290 line out of my MI slot. I mean, steals would be great, but who cares? Not me, apparently.
15. I watch Pablo Sandoval go and curse to myself. Really forgot about him. Curses! It comes around, and I see another under-valued fogey who still has some life. Randy Johnson moves to a cavernous park in the weak-hitting National League West, and I love a pitcher who’ll give me tiny ratios with a good K rate. Could work as a 3rd/4th starter, and I love the value here.
16. Another under-appreciated 3rd/4th starter Ted Lilly is presented to me and I take him. He’s a classic risk/reward pick. Perhaps this is the year Wrigley’s homer-friendly yard destroys Teddy’s ERA. Who cares? I drafted him for his tiny WHIP and K rate. Thanks to SKYPE, I got to hear a couple people curse me out live! Thanks internets!
17. If you know anything about this blog, you know I hate Paul Konerko for what he did to my team last year. And then I up and drafted him again. How could resist the sweet allure of a potential 30/100/.265 coming from my CI slot? I couldn’t. Sweet Pauly, please deliver the goods!
18. It’s the 18th round and I buckle. The only catcher left that I desired was Ramon Hernandez, a great hitting catcher with pop moving to Cincinatti’s bandbox. I see 20 homers, 85 ribbies and a .270 average coming from my catcher slot. Hey, at least he isn’t Carlos Ruiz…
19. A closer run is going down, and I spy super-tiny-WHIP artist Mike Gonzalez available. For this price, I’m willing to take a chance on the injury-riddled closer. When he’s on, he’s an incredible asset in ERA, WHIP, K’s per inning and the occasional save. At his very best, I see him saving 36 games. A more realistic prognostication of 25 saves will do me just fine.
20. I look down my queue and seeing how it’s the 20th round I’m already looking for high-upside hitters and solid 3rd/4th pitchers for my rotation. Suddenly a name jumps out at me. What if I told you he was an outfielder who went 25/25 last season while missing the first 30 games? And Mike Cameron, the human BA killer, joins my team at an EXCELLENT price. Seriously. Guy’s a 30/30 threat in a full season, but I expect him to hit something like .058 for the season. Which will hurt. 20th ROUND THOUGH! Woo hoo!
21. Hmmm…still looking for another solid 3 starter and nab Jair Jurrjens which is a fantastic get! While his WHIP is a little high for my liking, he’s a young horse and now has Javy Vazquez and Derek Lowe to protect his fragile psyche. I see a nice season of 12 W/145 K/3.40 ERA/1.34 WHIP. Not so bad for my SIXTH starter. My plan is working perfectly so far.
22. This kills me. As soon as I draft Jurrjens, I see that Adam Laroche is still around. And then Cockcroft takes him right before me! CURSES, foiled again! I was pretty upset about this. So upset that I screwed up and ran out of time. Luckily, I grabbed Paul Maholm, another possible number 3 starter who was remarkably solid last season for the Bucs. Even if he fails, he’s a late gamble, and my SEVENTH STARTER.
23. Again, I’m hoping to add Ian Stewart and Mattraw snipes him away. I see Jered Weaver and his excellent WHIP, increasing K rate and hilarious pedigree and go for it. EIGHT STARTERS, when will the madness end?! But seriously, I have to have the deepest SP staff in recent memory. Don’t worry, I’ll add to it again soon.
24. The draft turns back to me, and I grab RP Jose Arredondo, a perfect handcuff for Brian Fuentes and a great pitcher period. Fantastic K rate, over-powering stuff, he’s got the goods. My ratios are going to be SWEET this year.
25. Hmm…upside? Sleeper bust from last year? World, meet Adam Lind. He’ll be DH/OF for the Blue Jays this season, and I was startled to see him last this long. Another .290 hitter added to my team, with a potential for 20 homers and a glut of runs and ribbies. His upside is incredible. Awesome. This draft is humming to a close now.
26. Hmm…upside? Sleeper bust from last year? Sound familiar? Meet Chase Headley, OF for the Padres who qualifies at 3B as well. Has 20 homer potential but plays in cavernous Petco. Does my team depend on his production? No. Great value/risk pick at the end game? Yes.
27. Just when you thought I couldn’t draft another starter, I grab Andy Sonnanstine, who everyone apparently hates. I kept waiting for others to grab him, only to watch him fall into my lap in the 3rd to last round. Great WHIP, a mediocre ERA and an incredible K/BB rate, although he doesn’t last long in games. Doesn’t matter. I have NINE STARTERS, almost all of whom have quality written all over their pitcher faces. YES.
28. Late flier on Emmanuel Burriss, a great back-up for Jeter. He runs forever and as I predicted got the starting 2B gig for the Giants a couple days after the draft. Some SB’s would help my team at this point, and I think I did myself a solid here. If he sticks, I could see 95 R/35 SB. So far I don’t have to waste a single waiver claim. Nice!
29. Last pick, who knows what happens with Andy Laroche? He’s been hitting the cover off the ball this spring, but so has Chris Shelton. Only time will tell.
As you can see, I’m pretty please about this draft. I took risks where I needed to but wasn’t too conservative. I need stolen bases, but perhaps my sick pitching staff and solid core of hitters will make up for it.
I’ll put the team page up in a couple of moments, but yeah. Four hours on skype is a LOT of skype.