Monday, February 16, 2009

A Closer Look: My First Draft of 2009, Rounds 1-10

When I started this blog two years ago I had the intention of using it to discuss fantasy baseball. It hasn't really happened, so I figured with my dad off today I'd use a blog post to dissect my first (real) draft of this year. Yesterday afternoon I took part in a Yahoo Public league draft and I believe I came out of it with an excellent team. I'd done three complete drafts for this style of 5x5, 12-team league over at Mock Draft Central, and I felt pretty prepared going in.

I purchased the Rotoworld Draft Guide for the third straight year, and my membership at MDC allowed me to look over their Average Draft Position (ADP) data. Basically, they take all the qualifying drafts and average where players are being taken. I use that to gauge what kind of value I can get by taking certain players at certain positions. As for the Draft Guide, they do a bang-up job with projections and the comments they've generated for each player are very helpful while drafting. Those are the two points of reference I use for these Yahoo drafts.

I'll run through the roster requirements for Yahoo Public leagues: C 1B 2B 3B SS OF OF OF Util SP SP RP RP P P P BN BN BN BN BN. I typically like to draft three relievers, use a bench spot each for an outfielder, a middle infielder and a corner infielder, and use the last two bench spots for starting pitchers. It's a formula that's won be championships every year I've played in Yahoo leagues.

I've honed my philosophy in drafts through the years, and I find my strategies to be pretty solid. I strive for balanced offense in my position players, guys who will contribute in all five categories (AVE, HR, RBI, R, SB). You won't see guys like Adam Dunn or Juan Pierre on my team. I try not to look too heavily on last year's performance; I want to know what they'll do this year. That means drafting for upside, especially late in drafts. I also try hard not to draft guys out of positional necessity (like taking a guy a couple rounds too early just because you need someone at that position), but that's easier said than done, as you'll see.

Drafting pitchers early is overrated. I'm not averse to taking a starter with my first six picks, but I won't take more than two in my first ten. And I never, ever take a closer in my first ten picks. Paying for saves is the biggest mistake fantasy players make. You can pick up saves off the waiver wire no sweat when the season begins. I say take those first ten picks to address your offense, which is much harder to come by during the season.

Anyway, let's hop into it. I was awarded the 2nd pick in the draft, which I hate because it means you have to wait forever for your next pick (the 23rd). I will bold the players I take because I don't feel like writing out the names of the other owners.

Round 1
1. Albert Pujols
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. David Wright
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Jose Reyes
6. Grady Sizemore
7. Ryan Braun
8. Josh Hamilton
9. Miguel Cabrera
10. Mark Teixeira
11. Ryan Howard
12. Jimmy Rollins

Hanley's been going #1 in most drafts, and picking #2, I thought I'd be "stuck" with A-Rod. I only say it that way because who knows what kind of effect all the steroids crap will have on him. So to my surprise, Pujols went #1, and I snatched up Hanley at what I think is a fantastic spot. It will be interesting to see how hitting 3rd in the Marlins' order effects his SB production, but it should help Hanley in all the other categories, especially RBI. He's the ultimate five-category contributor. And to think just four years ago I saw him play in Portland. Elsewhere in this round, the guy who ended up with Miguel Cabrera at #9 was pretty lucky. I think one can make a legitimate argument he should go as high as #6.

Round 2
13. Tim Lincecum
14. Ian Kinsler
15. Evan Longoria
16. B.J. Upton
17. Chase Utley
18. Johan Santana
19. Dustin Pedroia
20. Alfonso Soriano
21. Brian Roberts
22. Lance Berkman
23. Carlos Beltran
24. Manny Ramirez

Before I get to my pick, I have to say taking Lincecum that high is a mistake. I understand that guy wouldn't pick again until #36 but that's still a total reach. Also, way too high on Roberts. Anyway, I don't love taking outfielders so early, but Beltran is a perfect example of my love for five-category contributors. He's one of the most solid performers every year and he's shown no signs of slowing down. There's chance I would have taken Berkman at that spot, however.

Round 3
25. Jason Bay
26. Brandon Phillips
27. Brandon Webb
28. Carlos Lee
29. Carlos Quentin
30. Prince Fielder
31. Matt Holliday
32. Justin Morneau
33. CC Sabathia
34. Ichiro Suzuki
35. Carl Crawford
36. Roy Halladay

I really struggled with this pick. I was hoping for Pedroia, but he was gone before I had the chance to take Beltran. It was basically between the balance guy in Phillips and the power guys in Fielder and Morneau. In the end I went with the balance guy. If I wind up losing the power categories by slim margains, I'll look back at this pick and grimace. Hopefully Phillips will keep up his production from the last two years and not hurt me too badly with his mediocre batting average. Also, notice the guy who took Lincecum also took Halladay. Go figure.

Round 4
37. Aramis Ramirez
38. Vladimir Guerrero
39. Cole Hamels
40. David Ortiz
41. Matt Kemp
42. Brian McCann
43. Dan Haren
44. Jake Peavy
45. Daisuke Matsuzaka
46. Joe Mauer
47. Nick Markakis
48. Jonathan Papelbon

I was really hoping to take a pitcher here. I'd have been satisified with Hamels, Haren or Peavy, especially Haren because he's so rock solid. But all those guys went, and after the guy in front of me took Mauer, there sat Markakis. According to Rotoworld, he's the 8th-best outfielder for '09 (projection: .308-26-100-106-12), just below Beltran, and his ADP is 34.37. Even though I could have waited for another outfielder, I couldn't pass up Markakis at that spot with that kind of value. I would have been an idiot to reach for someone like Beckett or Lackey instead. At this point, I'm more than happy about all my picks.

Round 5
49. Alexei Ramirez
50. Kevin Youkilis
51. Jermaine Dye
52. Adrian Gonzalez
53. Russell Martin
54. Joe Nathan
55. Alex Rios
56. Garrett Atkins
57. Curtis Granderson
58. Nate McClouth
59. Shane Victorino
60. Geovany Soto

Here's where things get a little tricky. It definitely wasn't a reach for me to take Youkilis here (ADP: 38.03), but Rotoworld isn't terribly high on him (.288-21-99-97-3) and he doesn't steal much. What made him more attractive to me is his 3B eligibility, and that, for whatever reason, is a pretty weak position this year. I'm hoping his numbers wind up somewhere closer his output from last season, but he is a bit more of a risk than Gonzalez. Again, this is not a reach as far as value, but perhaps I did draft him a bit out of position necessity. I'll be fine with that as long as he produces.

Round 6
61. Chris Davis
62. Jacoby Ellsbury
63. Francisco Liriano
64. Corey Hart
65. John Lackey
66. Josh Beckett
67. Magglio Ordonez
68. Victor Martinez
69. Ryan Doumit
70. Jon Lester
71. Chad Billingsley
72. Mariano Rivera

The top-tier starters were going fast, and I decided I needed to do something. I may have taken Lester had he been available, but I feel pretty confident about Billingsley's ability to grow into a #1 starter. He's coming off a bizarre winter broken leg, but by all accounts he's fine and will be ready to go from Opening Day. Rotoworld expects about a strikeout per inning, which is really what you want from a top fantasy starter. It may have been a reach (ADP: 89.16) but I could take the chance given the strength of my top five picks. And as you'll see starting with my next pick, I won't be making anymore reaches for a while.

Round 7
73. A.J. Burnett
74. Chipper Jones
75. Dan Uggla
76. Brad Lidge
77. Roy Oswalt
78. Francisco Rodriguez
79. Felix Hernandez
80. Michael Young
81. Rafael Furcal
82. Jay Bruce
83. Troy Tulowitzki
84. Robinson Cano

This was by far my least favorite pick in this draft. As I mentioned above, third base is a very weak spot this year. Once you get past Aramis Ramirez, it's a steep drop-off to the next group, which includes Jones. I would have really liked to take Chris Davis here, but the lid has been completely blown off his sleeper-ness and he went early in the sixth round. Also, my computer decided to start sucking and slow way down (it also inexplicably closed all the tabs I had open with Rotoworld and MDC information), and I had to make a snap decision. Rotoworld is only projecting 434 ABs for Jones this year, and odds are he'll get hurt again. This was an excellent value pick (ADP: 51.28) but I'd just like to have certainty about what I'll get out of a player at such a key position. At this point I knew I had to ensure the rest of my CI picks would be solid ones.

Round 8
85. Ryan Ludwick
86. Ryan Zimmermann
87. J.J. Hardy
88. Adam Dunn
89. James Shields
90. Derek Jeter
91. Stephen Drew
92. Chone Figgins
93. Yunel Escobar
94. Jose Valverde
95. Ervin Santana
96. Carlos Zambrano

I've now filled my quota for pitchers in the first ten rounds. I believe Santana provides excellent value here (ADP: 78.43) and the best may be yet to come from him after a spectacular 2008. With my top two pitchers, I've taken two one K per inning young guys with low ratios with upside to improve, and they'll also be playing for winning teams. While Lackey might get more of the hype, Santana has really emerged as the Angels' ace and I'm excited to see what he'll do for my team this year.

Round 9
97. Cliff Lee
98. Carlos Pena
99. Jhonny Peralta
100. Scott Kazmir
101. Rich Harden
102. Edinson Volquez
103. Joey Votto
104. Yovani Gallardo
105. Howie Kendrick
106. Jose Lopez
107. Joakim Soria
108. Vernon Wells

I know what you're thinking: how could I have taken a guy who won't give me much in AVE and SB in my first ten picks? Well, grabbing Pena here (ADP: 67.88) made a lot of sense for me in part to make up for the lost power from the Phillips pick and to give me excellent insurance should Jones miss a prolonged period of time. For now, Pena will take up residence as my Util but he gives me flexibility to move other people around as well. And just maybe he'll outperform the .252 Rotoworld has him slated to hit this year.

Round 10
109. Javier Vazquez
110. Joba Chamberlain
111. Bengie Molina
112. Matt Wieters
113. Bobby Abreu
114. Carlos Marmol
115. Pablo Sandoval
116. Derek Lee
117. Johnny Damon
118. Bobby Jenks
119. Hunter Pence
120. Mike Aviles

I could have waited to take my 3rd outfielder. I needed a catcher in this round much worse, but several of them went off the board before I had the chance to make this pick. Pence was very frustrating to own for most of last year, but he's still very young and just need to cut down on his K's to be one of the top fantasy OFs and a five-category contributor. But most of all, this guy was just sitting out there to be taken when he should have been gone three rounds earlier. It's that kind of value I just couldn't pass up. I mean, really, .280-28-99-81-14 in the 10th round? Where do I sign up? Now that my top 10 picks were over, I could begin to concentrate on finding the best guys for my pitching staff. All the top closers are off the board at this point, but I'm not remotely worried. I begin to address the saves issue at pick #122, which I'll discuss next time.

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