Friday, March 21, 2008

Anatamoy of a Draft – War Room, Part I

Thursday March 20th was the annual War Room draft. This is a 10 team 7x7 H2H league held on Yahoo! with the following categories: (R, HR, RBI, SB, TB, AVG., OPS – W, L, K, SV, TBA, ERA, WHIP). Some other things to consider in this league are roster size/composition (28 spots, a DL spot, and specific OF spots), lineup change frequency (daily) and competition (above average to astute).

Heading into the draft I knew I had the 3rd pick overall. That knowledge didn’t really affect my strategy at all, but it is not an ideal place to be this year. In this league (and most others) A-Rod is the clear-cut top choice. After that any of seven players can go next. In that type of scenario I’d rather have a later pick, such as the 8th slot. But in the end it doesn’t matter – one should be able to construct a winning team regardless of draft position, especially in a 10 team league.

Rounds 1 and 2
With the 3rd overall pick I chose David Wright. I actually have him ranked #2 behind A-Rod so I was pleased that he fell to me. Wright provides me elite production across all 7 hitting categories. He also is an elite 3B, which is important because the position, although top-heavy, is not deep. Here is how the first 20 picks played out:

1) Team 1: Alex Rodriguez
2) Team 2: Hanley Ramirez
3) Chris' Team: David Wright
4) Team 4: Jose Reyes
5) Team 5: Jimmy Rollins
6) Team 6: Albert Pujols
7) Team 7: Matt Holliday
8) Team 8: Chase Utley
9) Team 9: Miguel Cabrera
10) Team 10: Alfonso Soriano
11) Team 10: Grady Sizemore
12) Team 9: Ryan Braun
13) Team 8: Ryan Howard
14) Team 7: Johan Santana
15) Team 6: Prince Fielder
16) Team 5: David Ortiz
17) Team 4: Vladimir Guerrero
18) Chris' Team: B.J. Upton
19) Team 2: Brandon Phillips
20) Team 1: Jake Peavy

I think that the first questionable pick is Pujols at #6 overall. His lingering injuries might limit his upside this season. The Cardinals also might opt to shut him down after the All-Star Break if they are clearly out of contention which would prohibit Pujols from providing anything close to first round value. Holliday, Utely and Cabrera are all great values at 7, 8 and 9. I personally have them ranked 4, 5 and 6.
David Ortiz at #16 is a tremendous value. With 1B eligibility he should provide top 10 value. There was absolutely no chance that he would get past me at #18, and Bones War knew it. My pick of B.J. Upton has to do with his ability to help me across all hitting categories and also because of his positional eligibility (2B and CF). Peavy at #20 is a great value as well. He could arguably finish as the #1 pitcher and should have probably went off the board about 5 picks earlier.

Rounds 3 and 4
I am still going best available player in these rounds. I have a list of my top 28 players and I work off of those rankings until they are cleared. Carlos Lee is a big stick and he plays the weakest OF position for fantasy purposes this year (LF). If Peavy was available I would have taken him but I was please to continue my strategy of grabbing the best available players regardless of position.

In round 4 I was able to grab Nick Markakis whom I expect to give me 30/20 line this year. With a 7x7 league it is important to grab as many stat fillers as possible. Through 4 rounds I have 4 players that will provide me with production in all 7 hitting categories.

21) Team 1: Carl Crawford
22) Team 2: Carlos Beltran
23) Chris' Team: Carlos Lee
24) Team 4: Magglio Ordonez
25) Team 5: Curtis Granderson
26) Team 6: Ichiro Suzuki
27) Team 7: Carlos Pena
28) Team 8: Brandon Webb
29) Team 9: Alex Rios
30) Team 10: Lance Berkman
31) Team 10: C.C. Sabathia
32) Team 9: Chone Figgins
33) Team 8 Victor Martinez
34) Team 7: Derek Jeter
35) Team 6: Mark Teixeira
36) Team 5: Aramis Ramirez
37) Team 4: Bobby Abreu
38) Chris' Team: Nick Markakis
39) Team 2: Derrek Lee
40) Team 1: Brian Roberts

Carlos Pena at #27 could either be proper value or a complete waste of a pick. He usually lasts another 30 picks so I think it was quite a reach to grab him in round 3. All the other picks seem fine, although I wouldn’t touch Ichiro or Granderson in round 3 in this league either.

Round 5
Corey Hart – Its 43 picks into the draft yet I was still able to pull someone off of my top 28 list. Hart is another 7 category filler and he also has CF eligibility. I actually had Adam Dunn rated one spot higher on my board but Hart’s CF eligibility was too good to pass up at that spot.

Round 6
Dunn did not make his way back to me – he went 2 picks before me. At this point my Top 28 list is now completely exhausted. Looking at my roster I have five 7 category studs at 2B, 3B, LF, CF and RF. My draft sheet says that my 2nd tier of 1B is running out so I grab Adrian Gonzalez. I know that Petco zaps some of his power but he still went 30-100 last year and I expect the same this year.

Round 7
I finally take my first pitcher – John Smoltz. I actually have him as my sixth most valuable SP. I was hoping that Cole Hamels would fall to me here but he was grabbed right after I took Gonzalez. Smoltz should provide me with double-digit wins and a healthy K rate and I am happy with him as my staff ace.

In this league the daily transactions allow an owner to stream pitchers – which is extremely effective in this format. With this knowledge my plan was to wait until at least the 7th round before grabbing a pitcher (unless Peavy fell to me in the 3rd). Also, I know that my SP rankings are much different than those of the other owners in this league. That gives me the ability to focus more on hitting and RPs early while still giving me the opportunity to grab pitchers in my top 25 in the middle rounds.

Round 8
Rafael Furcal – This is a slight reach but SS is very weak this year after the big 3 are off the board. I wanted to avoid missing out on the Tier 2 SS so I grabbed Furcal. He is off to a nice Spring and I expect him to reach the 35 SB plateau this year, provided he avoids the DL.

Round 9
Mariano Rivera – I finally take a closer. My plan was to wait for the Tier 1 closers to leave the board before I took one. Rivera was the 7th closer taken. In this league I generally carry 3-5 closers. This allows me to win the Save category in most weeks and it doesn’t prevent me from competing in the Wins and Ks categories either because of the daily lineup changes. I can keep up to five closers active (3 RP slots and 2 P slots) while sliding my starters in and out of the lineup (5 active SP slots) depending on when they pitch.

Round 10
Francisco Liriano – This was my first “reach” pick of the draft. There were six pitchers still on the board that I ranked higher than Liriano but I thought that at least 2 of them would still be on the board in the next few rounds (and luckily they were). This is a pure speculative pick. Regardless of how his ratios end up he should provide me with a high K rate. As you can tell, that is the one pitching attribute that I value the most as it is the best predictor of success.

Round 11
Yovani Gallardo – It may be aggressive, but I have Yovani as my 10th ranked SP in 2008. I am not worried about his knee and I am not a believer in the “sophomore slump” theory. Last year Gallardo was dominant, striking out 101 in 110.1 innings. I expect that healthy K rate to continue. Also, the Brewers are much better defensively this year with Cameron in CF and Braun no longer butchering the hot corner. Those two moves alone should directly help the Milwaukee pitchers keep their ERA’s down and their win totals up.

Round 12
Rickie Weeks – This pick was all about position scarcity. We start a 2B, SS and MI in this league and I didn’t want to reach into the Tier 3 SS to fill this position. Luckily there were still a few Tier 2 second basemen still on board and I found one that should provide me with a healthy dose of power and speed (15-25 as a baseline projection).

Round 13
Matt Capps – Time to grab my second closer. I do not factor the strength of a team when I create my closer rankings. The idea of a closer having more save opportunities if his team has a higher win total is simply incorrect. That knowledge alone draws me to take closers with good skills (read high k rate, low walk rate) versus closers with bad skills who play on good teams (Todd Jones anyone?). Capps fits the bill nicely (I could have easily gone with Soria as well here).

Round 14
Here is the second SP that I figured would still be on the board well after I took Liriano in round 10. The low win total scares people off and the presence of the sexy Tim Lincecum make people forget how good (and unlucky) Cain was last year. He had a solid 7.34 K/9 rate and component ERA of 3.26. I gladly add him as my #4 SP in any league.

Round 15
Closer #3, Brad Lidge. His K/9 rate last year was a healthy 11.82. His new ballpark probably won’t help keep his HR numbers low but I could have done worse for my third closer.

Round 16
Conor Jackson. It was time to fill in my CI slot and Jackson was a hitter that I was targeting heading into the draft. The threat of Tony Clark stealing playing time is no longer present. Jackson also seemingly has the 3rd spot in the batting order locked up to himself. I can see Jackson approaching 20 HRs this year. But if he struggles I would not hesitate to bench/drop him and move in another direction.

Round 17
Ted Lilly becomes the 5th SP that I have taken in the draft. He is my 24th ranked SP which means that we are 163 picks into the draft and I am still able to grab a top 25 pitcher. This confirms that I had a correct strategy heading into this draft: wait on SP as there will be plenty high-quality starters available in the middle rounds. Lilly had a K/9 rate last year of 7.57 and a component ERA of 3.16.

Round 18
Jeremy Hermida. Everyone’s favorite sleeper heading into the 2006 draft is finally being drafted at a reasonable price. I do not think that the speed potential is still there, but his second half batting average of .340 and OPS of .956 suggest that he might be putting it all together.

Round 19
Michael Bourn – This was purely a speed pick (stolen bases and runs). He is set to hit at the top of the Houston lineup. He had a 94.7% stolen base success rate last year in limited ABs.

Round 20
Kevin Kouzmanoff. It was a tale of two seasons for Kouz last year as he struggled mightily before the break but then went on a tear after the break. He hit .317 and bashed 11 HRs after the break.

Rounds 21 & 22
Kerry Wood and C.J. Wilson – both of these guys are supposed to close for their respective clubs. If it looks like either one or both of them will not be closing then I will release them. If they do close then they provide me with a massive edge in Saves on a weekly basis (I have 5 closers on my roster at this point).

Rounds 23 – 25
Manny Parra, Mark Prior and Edinson Volquez – Parra and Volquez are two young pitchers with great K rates. They also have a good chance to be in the rotation at the start of the season. At this point in the draft I am looking for high upside plays and these two fit the bill perfectly.

Mark Prior is also an interesting gamble at this point. No one questions his skills – health has always been the issue. He will start the season on the DL which will allow me to free up a roster spot. That is one strategy that I employ in leagues that allow a DL spot. It is practically incorrect to not draft a player who will be on the DL to start the season in these types of leagues. When Prior returns in mid-May I will simply drop my most undesirable pitcher. If Prior can stay healthy, that new park should do wonders for his peripherals.

Round 26
Going back to the well once again I grab Austin Kearns. He has been a staple (disappointment?) on many of my squads over the years. However, his power potential this late in the draft needed to be snatched up. If he starts out slow or loses the job then I will cut and run.

Round 27
This was a pick I didn’t want to make but was absolutely necessary. Brandon Lyon was still on the board. A closer should not be available this late in the draft. This makes 6 closers on my squad which is at least 1 too many. I will simply attempt to deal Lyon (either by himself or in a package) to try and upgrade elsewhere, ideally on offense. My target team will be the one that grabbed Tony Pena in round 22.

Round 28
My strategy going into the draft was to take my catcher in the last round. In a 10 team, 1 catcher league this strategy is quite effective. This year I am willing to speculate on Carlos Ruiz, Chris Snyder and Mike Napoli. In my two drafts this year I have been able to grab Ruiz in the last round. If he produces then I’m happy. If not I will drop him for either Snyder or Napoli (both undrafted as expected). I used this strategy in 2004 and grabbed Victor Martinez in the last round of all of my drafts. I am not expect that magnitude of success but I’m sure I can get top 10 catcher value while still waiting until the endgame to grab my starter.

Concluding Thoughts
So here is my final squad:

C: Carlos Ruiz
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: B.J. Upton
3B: David Wright
SS: Rafael Furcal
CI: Conor Jackson
MI: Rickie Weeks
LF: Carlos Lee
CF: Corey Hart
RF: Nick Markakis
OF: Jeremy Hermida
OF: Michael Bourn
Util: Kevin Kouzmanoff
BN: Austin Kearns

SP: John Smoltz
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Yovani Gallardo
SP: Matt Cain
SP: Ted Lilly
RP: Mariano Rivera
RP: Matt Capps
RP: Brad Lidge
P: Kerry Wood
P: C.J. Wilson
BN: Brandon Lyon
BN: Manny Parra
BN: Mark Prior
BN: Edinson Volquez

I should be fine with speed. My strategy for tackling speed in this format is to walk away with at least 100 projected SBs and to have them spread out as much as possible. My first 5 picks should provide me with roughly 45 SBs while the likes of Weeks, Furcal and Bourn should bring that total past 110. My power is solid but unspectacular. I have quite a few 30 HR guys (or potential 30 HR guys). OPS might be a slight problem but that was not a category that I focused on pre-draft.

On the pitching side I feel like I should dominate K, SV, ERA and WHIP. That alone should give me an edge on a weekly basis (4 out of 7 categories). All in all I am please with how this draft unfolded. Let me know your thoughts.

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