Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anatamoy of a Draft – War Room, Part II

Here’s a look at the same draft from another perspective…..mine. Based on random order selection, I was given the first overall pick. I tend to favor having the first or last pick in a snake draft. It allows me to avoid guessing what will happen between my picks and just go for what I really want because my next pick is so far away.

Going in, I had some very basic and loose strategies. I typically don’t like to obsess on a particular strategy because you can easily lose sight of putting together the best team by ignoring what’s taken place and adamantly adhering to your pre-draft strategies. You can mock all you want, but you’ll never be able to predict exactly what’s going to happen. If you don’t adjust, you are susceptible to making some mistakes. That being said, I knew that I wanted to load up on closers and, wherever possible, give slightly more value to players with multiple position eligibility. I learned the hard way last year that in a daily transactions league like this, you need at least 3 closers (and that’s probably still on the low side). So there you have it, my 2 basic goals in this draft – closers and position flexibility.

Round 1 – Alex Rodriguez
It’s hard to imagine A-Rod having a better season than last year, but even his down years are worthy of a #1 overall pick. While some might disagree, I think last year was the perfect storm (in a good way) for him. The potential opt-out fueled his entire season. It was a win-win situation for him regardless of how well he performed. Have a down year & you still have the remainder of the richest contract in baseball history. Have a tremendous year & negotiate a new, record setting deal. That, combined with his ridiculously hot start, made for a dream season. Another quick start will be key to putting up monster numbers again. At least he won’t have to deal with fickle Yankee fans booing him every time he doesn’t go yard. He gets a free pass for at least a month.

Rounds 2 & 3 – Jake Peavy & Carl Crawford
The draft pretty much went as expected for the remainder of the first 2 rounds. The only mild surprises could be Pujols going #6 overall (which is pretty early given the concern about his elbow) and Ryan Braun going 12th overall in a non-keeper league.
I had 2 pitchers worthy of being selected with my 2/3 pick – Santana & Peavy. If both were gone, I would have passed on pitching altogether. Santana went 14th overall, so I was holding out hope that people wouldn’t panic on the pitching front and grab Peavy in the next 5 picks. Peavy led the league in ERA (2.54) & strikeouts last year (240). He’s a legitimate triple-crown threat. With him, I am setting a good base for W, K, ERA & WHIP.
I thought I’d be able to get BJ Upton with my 2/3 pick. Guess I wasn’t the only one intrigued by his eligibility at second base. That left me with a choice between Beltran, Crawford & Carlos Lee. I like the idea of getting a top SB guy without sacrificing every other category. I’m going to take a hit in the power department with this pick, but between A-rod’s 15-20 SBs & Crawford’s 50, I don’t have to worry about the category and waste a pick on a “cheap” steals guy who gives you nothing else.

Rounds 4 & 5 – Brian Roberts & Carlos Guillen
Now I definitely don’t have to worry about steals. Roberts is another guy who gives you tremendous help in that category while still being productive in AVG, R & TB. The Orioles lineup scares me, but the prospect of seeing him in a Cubs lineup (which sounds almost like a given, at this point) was too much to pass on. The disparity between 1st & 2nd tier 2nd baseman is pretty vast, and that second tier starts after Cano. In hindsight, I probably could have waited and grabbed Cano with my 6/7 since I already have a nice advantage in steals. I didn’t think he’d last, but he did. While this pick definitely sets me up in steals, I am taking a hit in the power departments. Cano could have provided some help there.
Guillen might have been a slight reach here. Again, I was right at the cusp of falling into the next tier at SS. Reyes, Hanley Ramirez & Rollins are in a tier all their own. After that, you’re looking at Jeter, Tulowitzki, Guillen & Young. Jeter was gone, & because I needed power, it was between Tulowizki & Guillen. The dual position eligibility for Guillen and a potent Detroit lineup gave him an edge. Plus, Tulo might have more of an upside, but there is more risk in assuming his production off of only one full year. Guillen’s .300, 20, 90, 10 is a nice supplement to my lineup so far.

Rounds 6 & 7 – JJ Putz & Francisco Rodriguez
The psychology of a draft – it’s a beautiful thing. I don’t fancy myself as some kind of genius, so I knew that I wasn’t alone in my strategy to load up on closers. 59 picks in and no closers had been taken. My objective here was two-fold – get 2 elite closers and start a run on the position. Believe it or not, it actually worked. 3 of the next 6 picks were closers. Putz & K-Rod top my list of closers. I was happy to get them here knowing that there would be some kind of closer run, whether or not it was started by me, in the 7th & 8th rounds.

Rounds 8 & 9 – Chris Young & Chris Young!!
How often do you get to draft the same name with back-to-back picks? I’ve always been a fan of (the pitcher) Chris Young’s potential since his days in Texas. Combine that with San Diego’s spacious Petco Park and it was a match made in fantasy heaven for me. Our friends at Greener on the Other Side have a nice piece about this being a break out season for him. I won’t repeat the numbers, but a healthy Chris Young can produce at a level worthy being called a top tier pitcher. It’s a big if, but I’m drinking the Kool-Aid and in the 8th/9th round, I’m more than willing to take the risk.
I still need power. Looking at who was still available, I couldn’t pass up on Chris Young (the outfielder) here. His rookie season produced 32 HRs and 27 SBs, but a mind-numbingly low .237 average & only 68 RBIs. It’s hard for me to compute how someone with 32 HRs can only drive in 68 RBIs, but it happened. As his contact rate increases in his second full year, he should produce similar power #s and a slightly better average. I’m sacrificing AVG quite a bit here, but I really was targeting HRs. And, to repeat an already recurring theme, I do not have to even consider SBs any more.

Rounds 10 & 11 – James Loney & Felix Hernandez
The only position I did not have anyone yet was 1B. I really wanted Swisher here because of his dual position eligibility, but he was taken right before I was up. Loney was next up on my list of first basemen. Once a regular in L.A., he put up a line of .331, 15, 67, and a 919 OPS. He’s produced at every level along his trip to the majors (although his mysterious lack of HRs in Triple-A last year are a bit concerning), so expecting him to improve on last year’s fine numbers aren’t much of a reach.
I’m pretty much in best player available mode from here on out. And there, staring me right in the face, was King Felix. With 2+ years of MLB experience underneath him, the 21 year old is facing a season where his production must finally catch up to the hype. The Wins, Ks and ERA will be there, but the WHIP could be a problem. It would be more of a problem if I took him earlier than the 11th round though. Hernandez and his potential here were just too much to pass up.

Rounds 12 & 13 Javier Vazquez & Manny Corpas
Vazquez quietly put together one of the best seasons of his career last year, leading his team in Wins & Ks. I don’t expect much more than what he did in 2007, but in this spot, I’ll gladly take his 2007 numbers.
Closers, closers, closers. Corpas was the best closer available at this point. The job is his and he’s done it before. A lot of my closer decisions are based on job security, past performance & injury history. The position is so fickle that it doesn’t take much to cause a team to switch closers midway through the season. Typically, I prefer to take closers with less variables than someone with better potential.

Rounds 14 & 15 Howie Kendrick & Johnny Damon
Adding to my stable of young players, I went after Kendrick. He’s not going to help where I need it the most in HRs & RBIs, but his production this late in the draft was hard to pass up. With the exception of Chris Young (the outfielder), I have players who should give me a clear edge in average every week. This pick definitely adds to it.
I wouldn’t call this much of a strategy, but I came into the draft wanting to make sure that I had all of the infield positions filled with at least 1 player by the 10th round. I felt that there were plenty of mid-tier outfielders that would be available late and the disparity between the top and the bottom of this tier isn’t as noticeable as it is for all of the other positions. I stuck to that, but now I had to start filling my outfield slots. Damon’s past performance and the fact that he is in one of the league’s best lineups probably skew his value a bit the wrong way. The fact is, he’s been a pretty monumental failure since arriving in New York. Surprisingly, he’s been able to fly under the radar. I don’t think playing time will be an issue, so it’s safe to say that he will score close to 100 runs. Looking back, Josh Hamilton would have been the better pick for me here given my needs for a power hitting outfielder.

Rounds 16 & 17 – Kosuke Fukudome & Raul Ibanez
Filling my outfield need was a priority with these 2 picks. At the time of the draft, Fukudome looked like he had the 2nd spot in a nice Cubs lineup locked up. However, since then it has been revealed that he will bat fifth to break up the righties in the lineup. While his overall production might have been better in the 2 spot, this could turn out to be a blessing for me since I need RBIs. Plus, he’s got a pretty sweet name.
Ibanez quietly & consistently produces seasons that hover around 285, 20, 85. That’s exactly what I needed at this point in the draft.

Rounds 18 & 19 – Edwin Encarnacion & Phil Hughes
Any owner of Encarnacion the past 2 years can tell you how frustrating of a player he is to own. His streakiness combined with management’s apparent lack of patience with him makes it hard to tolerate him being on your roster. But, it’s also hard to ignore his production after being recalled from the minors in the middle of last year. He put up a line of .309, 10, 40 after the lesson. I’m hoping the new regime in Cincinnati shows a bit more patience and he provides me some much needed power numbers.
Having watched pretty much all of Phil Hughes’ major league starts last year, it was clear that he was not the same pitcher after he came back from his hamstring & ankle injury. The arm strength and control were just not there. Still, opponents hit just .232 against him. He came on strong toward the end of last year as he got closer to full strength and even pitched well in a relief role in the playoffs. Completely healthy this year, Hughes will make big steps toward becoming the future ace that the franchise is banking on.

Rounds 20 & 21 – Stephen Drew & Kevin Gregg
What good is position flexibility if you don’t have any other alternatives at the position? I drafted Guillen as a SS & 1B, but without a quality SS behind him, I would be eliminating the possibility of using him at first. Drew’s terrible 2007 average of .238 is a huge turnoff, but his potential combined with his strong post-season showing made him worthy of a pick here. I would have preferred Yuniel Escobar, but he was taken a few picks earlier.
Back to closers. I was deciding between Kerry Wood & Kevin Gregg here. As mentioned earlier, I prefer closers with few variables. Gregg is productive and isn’t facing any job security issues. The biggest question is whether he’ll be dealt to a contender later in the year. I’ll take the trade risk and ride him for 4 months over Wood getting injured yet again. Plus, as I was making this pick, the Duke/Belmot game was in the final seconds & admittedly, it was hard for me to concentrate. I couldn’t get Wood’s injury history out of my head as Duke held on to win.

Rounds 22 & 23 – Ubaldo Jimenez & Hiroki Kuroda
Two potential picks here…..sort of. Kuroda projects to be a middle of the rotation starter in L.A. His groundball tendencies fit well with Dodger Stadium, & I’m a big believer in established Japanese pitchers coming here and performing over their true potential because they are unknown. The league eventually catches up, but I’m expecting some early success.

Rounds 24 & 25 – Jon Lester & Andre Ethier
Lester provides potential to give me some cheap wins. He isn’t as highly regarded as some of the other young arms in the AL East, but the fact is, he is on a winning team that will score a lot of runs behind him.
Ethier’s biggest problems is a crowded Dodger outfield. Couple that with Joe Torre’s love of veteran players (Juan Pierre) and he is forced to take a backseat to Matt Kemp to start. I’m hoping that the Dodgers either trade Pierre or that his lack of production outshines his contract and Ethier gets a chance to play.

Rounds 26, 27 & 28 – Ty Wigginton, Bengie Molina & Aaron Cook

After all is said and done, I will be running the following team out there:

1B – Loney
2B – Roberts
3B – Alex Rodriguez
SS – Carlos Guillen
CI – Edwin Encarnacion
MI – Howie Kendrick
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – Chris Young
RF – Fukudome
OF – Damon
OF – Ibanez
UT – Stephen Drew/Wigginton/Ethier

SP – Peavy
SP – Chris Yong
SP – Felix Hernandez
SP – Javier Vazquez
SP – Phil Hughes
RP – Putz
RP – Felix Rodriguez
RP – Manny Corpas
2 Pitching Spots – Kevin Gregg, Kuroda, Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jon Lester

Overall, while I’m lacking a bit in HRs, most of my offensive players are not one dimensional and should provide me with a balanced attack. I really like how my pitching staff came together. I have nice flexibility with 4 closers and a lot of strike out potential. Let me know how you think I did. Complete draft results can be found in the following post.

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