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There are only three dates that matter to anyone remotely affiliated with baseball prior to Opening Day:  1) The day that pitchers & catchers report, 2) The day that hitters report, and 3) The day of your first fantasy draft (I did say remotely affiliated).

Now usually I pull a Manny Ramirez and wait until mid-March before getting things started but an opportunity arose to enter the Fantasy Baseball Writers League and I jumped at the chance to earn some bragging rights. Chalk it up to Rudy being Rudy.

Below are the members of our league, their draft order, and their first post after the draft (some have done multiple posts).

  1. Eric Hinz, FakeTeams – www.faketeams.com
  2. Zach Piso, Rotonomics – www.rotonomics.com
  3. Knox Bardeen, Crooked Pitch – www.crookedpitch.com
  4. David Chase, Brock For Broglio – www.brockforbroglio.com
  5. Rudy Gamble, Razzball
  6. Tim Dierkes, Roto Authority – www.rotoauthority.com
  7. Kelly Pfleiger, Fantasy Gameday – www.fantasygameday.net
  8. Bob Taylor, Fantasy Hurler  – www.fantasyhurler.blogspot.com
  9. Tim McLeod, RotoRob – www.rotorob.com
  10. Tony Bartlett, Fantasy Baseball Mafia – http://www.fantasybaseballmafia.com
  11. Derek Nelson, Seamless Baseball – http://mvn.com/mlb-fantasy
  12. Edwin Van Bibber-Orr, Seamless Baseball

Here’s how my draft turned out. I’m pretty happy with it.  I feel the Razzball.com team is more well-balanced than most (check their posts to see their rosters) with a very strong pitching staff from 1 through 11.  I’m obviously not thrilled about my 2B/MI spots but it’s a minor handicap that could be corrected by a breakthrough FA or perhaps good fortune (Nix is in line to be 2B in COL – has10 HR/20 SB potential).  I’ll take that over having subpar 1B (3 teams), reaches/question marks in the OF (5 teams), or iffy starting or closing pitching (several).

Round    Pick         Name                       Pos
7               (77)      Jorge Posada               C
24            (284)   Mike Napoli                 C
2              (20)      Mark Teixeira             1B
22           (260)    Freddy Sánchez         2B
14            (164)    Khalil Greene             SS
4              (44)     Garrett Atkins            3B (1B eligible)
17            (197)    Kevin Kouzmanoff    CI (3B)
26           (308)    Jayson Nix                 MI (2B)
3              (29)      Adam Dunn                OF
8              (92)      Jeff Francoeur           OF
9             (101)    Juan Pierre                 OF
12           (140)    Johnny Damon          OF
21           (245)    Melky Cabrera           OF
18           (212)    Kevin Youkilis           UTIL (1B, 3B)
1               (5)       Johan Santana            P
5             (53)      Dan Haren                   P
11           (125)     A.J. Burnett                 P
15          (173)     Adam Wainwright      P
16          (188)    Phil Hughes                 P
6            (68)     Joe Nathan                   P
10          (116)    Francisco Cordero      P
13          (149)    Chad Cordero              P
19          (221)    Heath Bell                    P
20         (236)    Andy Pettitte               P
23         (269)    Joaquín Benoit           P
25         (293)    Austin Kearns            OF

Since my fellow league members have taken care of the play-by-play for the top rounds, I’m going to focus the rest of this post on adding some color to the draft and providing some broader insights that might help you in your upcoming drafts.

Round 1:  The two biggest wildcards in the 1st round seem to be if/when Johan will be picked and who’ll bite on Pujols and his balky ‘Latin 28’ elbow.  (For those unfamiliar with Latin culture, their year has 400 days based on the wishes of an Incan god/aspiring baseball agent.  Cuba added an extra 2 weeks under Castro.)  In this draft, it was #5 for Santana (by yours truly) and #12 for Pujols.  I drew the 2nd pick in the draft but swapped with #5 knowing I could get Santana and avoid being in ‘wheel’ position.  As for Pujols, he’s a bargain if his elbow holds up and an anchor if he goes down.

Round 2 & 3:  These are the easiest or toughest rounds depending on who is left on the board.  Prince Fielder at #15 and Ryan Braun at #18 were easy picks.  In mock drafts, I had no problem snagging Carlos Lee at #20 but RotoAuthority took him at #19 and I was caught off-guard and went with Mark Teixiera.  In retrospect, I’m okay with this pick given there weren’t many 1B left on the board and one player had already doubled up on 1B with Howard and Fielder – setting an unofficial record for most pounds drafted in the first two rounds.  I was rooting for him to take Sabathia in the 3rd round but no luck.  The 3rd round saw great value in Peavy (1st pick in 3rd round) and Webb (2nd to last pick).  If you want V-Mart or Russell Martin in a 12-team, 2C league, be prepared to take them in the 3rd round.  I was lost on my 3rd round.  I had two clear favorites in Peavy and Berkman go off the board a few before me and reached on Dunn as a power OF over Ordonez and Markakis.  If I could do it again, I’d probably have taken Holliday at #1, Peavy #2, and Aramis Ramirez, Justin Morneau or Brandon Webb at #3.

Additional Observation on Rounds 2 & 3:  Here are three common picks in rounds 2-3 that I’m just not a fan of:  Ichiro (2nd round/10th pick), BJ Upton (2nd round/12th pick, Curtis Granderson 3rd round/4th pick).  Why?  Because at these levels, it presumes higher SB totals than what should be expected.  With his below average HR/RBI, Ichiro needs to steal 40 SB (and hit .340+) to warrant the high pick.  If he hits his more likely SB total of 30 (and .315), this is a bad value pick.  Upton is my favorite of the three because I THINK he’s a potental Soriano 30/40 guy.  But the more likely scenario is a 20/20 guy this year with a .270 average.  Unless he blows up, you’ve got yourself a darker Ian Kinsler in the 2nd round.  And Granderson?  What…are triples a category?  A 20/20 OF with 70 RBIs just doesn’t impress me that much.

Rounds 4-6: A lot of middle infield (8) and starting pitching (9) picks.  The value varies for the middle infielders.  Roberts and Figgins (eligible at 2B in Y! leagues) went off the board #1 and #2 in the 4th round.  A little early for me.  I think Figgins is the safer bet as he’s been the more consistent SB guy the past couple of years.  Roberts is less of a sure thing – as likely to get 30 SB as he is 50 SB.  He could live up to early 4th round value but odds are he doesn’t.  I like Carlos Guillen for the mix of HR/RBI/SB if you can get him in Rounds 5 or 6.  I could’ve had him Round 5 but went with Haren instead (over Hamels and Verlander – another ‘gut’ pick based on Haren being in the comfy NL West (vs. Verlander’s AL Central) and being a better bet for 200 IP than Hamels.  Given that Harang and Kazmir lasted until my #6 pick, it might’ve paid to pick Guillen instead.  Jeter went in the 4th round – too high for a guy who is lucky to crack 20 HRs or SBs.  As for pitching, starters move fast.  The top two tiers of starting pitchers near exhaustion by end of Round #6.  For relievers, our league started slow (no Putz or Papelbon until Round #5) but Nathan and K-Rod were snapped up by the end of the 6th.

Rounds 7-9: This is a transition segment when people start factoring ‘need’ into the general ‘value’ equation.  The values in this segment include SPs like F-Her/Dice-K/Vazquez, RPs like Saito/Rivera and OFs like Torii/Hawpe/Delmon Young/Vernon Wells (I just missed out on Torii in the 7th round as Brock for Broglio – whose draft was on autopick for 8 rounds – chose him as his 5th OF at the time.  It was like drafting with Jim Bowden when he GM’d the Reds and would stockpile OFs like they were firewood).  Speed guys jumped into this segment starting with Victorino (7th), Pierre (9th) and Ellsbury (9th).  I don’t love my pick of Pierre here but he’s the only one of the three that wasn’t picked 2+ rounds earlier than projected so there’s some value there.  Be warned if you don’t draft speed in the first 6 rounds – you may need to reach.  While I don’t love the middle IF value, Tejada (7th), Weeks (8th), and Kendrick (9th) all went according to ADP projections.  Hardy in the 8th round was a big reach – especially given that Khalil and Peralta lasted 6 more rounds.  The good thing, though, is Hardy is well-experienced in solving such mysteries.

Rounds 10-12:  Round #10 was a magical round in my league last year with Beckett, Haren, Ordonez, and Hunter all picked.  The only potential money pick in this draft is Liriano who is a worthwhile gamble as a 3rd starter that could end up being your ace.  RPs were still going cheap in the first two rounds – Wagner and F. Cordero in the 10th round, Jenks and Soriano in the 11th – only to become exhausted in the 12th when Hoffman, Streeet, Soria, Lidge, and Capps all came off.  My favorite of that 12th round bunch is Capps.  Street is too injury prone.  Lidge is injured.  Soria’s ok.  Some awful MI picks in my opinion w/ Renteria and Cabrera in the 10th and 11th.  They could earn these spots but projections have them much later.  The ‘speed reach’ continued in this round as Taveras and Bourn went in the 12th round.  On the SP front, if you’re like me and draft two starters in the top 5, these are the rounds you target #3.  I was happy with Burnett at #11.  I liked Pedro and Maine as well but couldn’t stand to root for a 2nd Met starter after drafting Johan.

Rounds 13-15:  You’ve got to consider needs at this point – both fulfilling yours and anticipating those of the other teams.  I was hoping for a bargain price on Kelly Johnson, Polanco, or Aaron Hill only to find them picked close to their value during this segment.  I was very happy to get Khalil in the 14th round to fill my SS spot – I think he’s the best value play at the position given he’s expected to be top 3 in HR/RBI.  There are still some closers to be had around now – I liked Corpas, Chad Cordero, and Izzy in the 13th round.  This is when, ideally, you’re looking for a 4th starter.  If you only have two, I’d draft two in this segment.  Nice mix of value bets (Pedro, Bonderman, Buchholz) and solid pitchers in Billingsley, McGowan, Hudson, Lilly, Penny, Snell, and Wainwright.

Rounds 16-18: Drafts aren’t made in this segment but the better teams will see 2 or all 3 of their picks on their roster (or at least a roster) by end of year.  I was hoping for old reliable D-Lowe in the 16th and had to settle on less reliable, more exciting Philip Hughes.  Love the value on Kouzmanoff in #17 and Youkilis in #18.  Filled my CI and UTIL before the pickings got slimmer.  The ugly and speculative closers starting coming off the board in Todd Jones in #17 and Borowski and CJ Wilson in #18.

Rounds 19-26: It’s just a bargain bin at this point.  I like to get a couple of middle relievers in these rounds and was happy with Heath Bell and Benoit.  You shouldn’t be filling any major positions in these rounds.  I was stuck on 2B and rode it out to take a dirty pick in Freddie Sanchez.  Ugly but do you think his stats will be different than Orlando Cabrera’s other than 10-15 SB?  You do NOT want to go into this round with 3 or less OFs…just saying.  A lot of OF prospects taken – hard to say if any will pan out.  Jay Bruce in round #19.  Cameron Maybin in round #20 (loved him in The Practice), Justin Upton (who actually went in round #17).  I’m quite happy to snag Melky Cabrera in #21 for a potential 15/20 year with decent R/RBI/AVG.  Pettitte provides 15 win potential at a cheap price – cheap enough that I could bench him against Boston and Detroit w/ no hesitations.  A few players took a 4th MI in these rounds – that’s dumb if you ask me.  Stock up on pitchers (I ended up with 11) and make sure you’ve got a 6th OF either in UTIL or the Bench.  I went with Austin Kearns hoping that the new park is the opposite of its predecessor.  Because of the dumb 4th MI picks, I had to reach all the way down for Jayson Nix on COL.  Hoping to catch lightning in the bottle – more likely to catch Barmes.

Summary:
Don’t fall under the misconception that starting pitching is undervalued in 12-team mixed leagues.  It’s only the top 3-5 that are.  I think Santana, Peavy, and Webb all offer 1st round value given their past performance, health, and divisions.  If you want a top 20 starter, you’re going to have to take one in the first 7 rounds.  If you’re banking on 5 starters, you should have it sewn up by round 16 or 17.

The #1 most speculated thing in drafts is speed.  Draft based on realistic expectations.  Reyes getting 55 SB, Hanley getting 40 SB, Sizemore getting 30 SB, etc.  If a guy isn’t a sure bet for 30 SB, watch out.  20-25 SB turns into 10 SB pretty quick – just takes a tender hamstring.  SBs are important but it’s just one category.  Just b/c a guy is 20/20 doesn’t mean you’re not sacrificing R/RBI/AVG by taking them.

1B and OF go fast.  Try and get the best value you can.  Don’t wait too long or you put your team at a big disadvantage.

Middle infield is almost all overvalued after the 1st round.  If you can find good value, invest a top 10 round pick on it.  Otherwise, look for value plays like Khalil, Peralta, Kelly Johnson, etc.  You can do worse than to pick Johnson and Greene at #13 and #14.  And never draft a 4th middle infielder unless you plan on trading one with significant trade value.

No need to rush on closers.  It’s probably best to let Putz and Papelbon get picked if only to ensure you don’t overestimate your league’s appetite for relievers.  Once they are off, I’d target K-Rod or Nathan.  If you can get a 2nd top 10 reliever in the 9th or 10th round, go for it.  If you can get a solid reliever in the 13th or later round, do it.  Relievers are the opposite of new cars – they get more value once you drive them off the lot.

While free agency can help fill in deep slots like 4th and 5th OF, UTIL, etc., you can’t bank on this in a 12 team league.  Going with prospects here isn’t bad but 1st year OFs have spotty track records at best (espec. w/ AVG).  I think I found very good value for these slots with Damon, Cabrera, and Youkilis.

Lastly, go through several simulations and mock drafts before your actual draft.  Determine several scenarios for rounds 1-5 and look for value over assumed need.  Know the slots where you’ll find value in later rounds so you’re not hunting for exhausted positions like 1B and OFs when the pickings are slim.  And, while it’s cliché, try to stay just ahead of the curve and anticipate runs at a certain position.  Hopefully the above info helps in that regard.

Please feel free to post feedback on my team, my advice, or ask general draft questions…

From Around The Web

  1. Eric says:
    (link)

    Dunn and Pierre picks notwithstanding, you’ve got a very balanced team. I have little confidence in Jayson Nix, but upgrading a MM from the free agent pool in a mixed league won’t be difficult at all.

    You may have some issues at AVG with Dunn, Napoli and Greene. Especially if Damon doesn’t return to the .290s and Posada slips back under 300.

  2. After looking this over your pitching should help carry you to a decent size pitching lead by the mid-way point. After that it looks like you’ll need to wheel and deal some of your starters for a few stronger bats. What’s your strategy with the offense? It looks like you have enough balance to score points across the board, yet not enough to be in the top three of any one offensive category.

    BTW nice looking update to the site.

  3. Pingback: Top Fantasy Baseball Outfielders for 2008, 21-40

  4. Eric says:
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    This content will be going up at Fake teams later today inre: Jayson Nix:

    Rocky Mountain News reports converting-to-2B Jeff Baker has already emerged as the main competition for Jayson Nix at 2B. I can’t help thinking this was the Rockies’ hope all along. How can Baker have already surpassed Marcus Giles and Ian Stewart if the organization wasn’t already predisposed to having Baker win the job?

    Recall Jeff Baker was a SS at Clemson University before mocing over the 3B for Khalil Greene. I wonder if he wouldn’t alreayd be the Rox’ 2B if there wasn’t such an ingrained progression for power bats to move to the outfield or 1B when they find themselves blocked at a position?

  5. Grey

    Grey says:
    (link)

    Baker’s getting stale and they probably figure they have to give him at least one legit chance to produce in the majors, while Stewart’s still got a year til he completely forces the Rockies hand. At the risk of wasting Baker, they might be wasting Nix. Obviously, whoever gets the job will have value, definitely something to watch. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. eric and mopupduty –
    thanks for the feedback on the team. i do see my team as strong pitching, balanced hitting. on hitting, just tried to get the best value each pick. i think my offense is stronger on runs/rbis (which get undervalued) than HR/SB (which get overvalued). AVG isn’t great due to those three guys you mention (hoping Dunn’s BB and Napoli’s playing time limit their BA impact).

    will be considering trades and FA pickups throughout the year for upgrades…

    thanks for the info on Jayson Nix. at least a 50% chance he’s not on my roster for opening day. i’m just hoping the Rockies resolve the situation before the season starts…or someone drops a solid MI :)

    rudygamble’s last blog post..Top Fantasy Baseball Outfielders for 2008, 21-40

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