Home > Uncategorized > Just When I Think I’m Out, Fantasy Baseball Pulls Me Back In

Just When I Think I’m Out, Fantasy Baseball Pulls Me Back In

Joe Mauer is clearly the best fantasy catcher, but he'll never be on any of my teams

I said I wouldn’t. I said that I had too many other priorities to take care of this summer. I said I couldn’t give the amount of time I needed to honestly compete.

But fantasy baseball is a drug and I’m hooked. As we’re now in March, I always know that I need a fix, so I’ve joined a league for my ninth year in this little “hobby”. I have yet to buy a fantasy magazine, which is quite a change for me. In other years, I’ve bought three or four draft guides before February ends. So at least that’s one thing I’m not wasting my time on.

But I guess I’ve spent that saved time competing in 10 or so mock drafts so far on Yahoo! and the best mock drafting Web site for any fantasy sport, mockdraftcentral.com. I use ESPN for content, but the mock drafts there are just horrible. Everyone basically checks out by round five.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that much space is taken up by my love of fantasy sports. That’s the main reason why I have refused activating the tag cloud widget for this thing. The word ‘fantasy’ towers over every other tag like Hasheem Thabeet at a kindergarten birthday party.

I would love to see a photo of exactly right now.

Anyway, from what I’ve seen in mocks through March 3, here is my position-by-position take on how I would approach a draft. And one note: Much of my opinions are based on drafting for a 12-team, 5-by-5, head-to-head league.

Catcher: More than any other hitting position, wait!

Joe Mauer is the undisputed No. 1 pick at the position, as he should be. In typical build-them-up-before-you-tear-them-down fashion, I’ve got to say Mauer is a special player. You can’t find a catcher with 30-100 production potential with a low projection of a .320 average and a few stolen bases. But he is being outrageously over-drafted, selected around the end of the first round recently on MDC. Mauer hit 28 home runs last season, but it was more than double his previous career high. Supporters are going to say his numbers would have been larger if he hadn’t miss all of April due to injury, and that’s valid. But what’s to say that he can’t go back down to 13-15 homers with a .330 average? That’s still fantastic, but not worth that high of pick for a very real possibility. At that point, you’re reaching for batting average and would be better served to pay attention to other positions, such as third base or outfield.

To me, the best route at catcher is to wait. You can get someone very useful such as Kurt Suzuki, Miguel Montero, Geovany Soto, Bengie Molina, etc. 10-12 rounds later. Remember, drafting is all about value. Mauer will always be the king of the position at batting average, but you can find suitable fill-ins who can give you plenty of home runs, RBIs and runs much later on.

First base: As always, very deep and talented

I haven’t be able to mock draft out of every position in a 12-teamer — yet. But I have been most pleased with my draft results when selecting out of the wrap-around spot at No. 12. One of the reasons why is because you can always take a stud first baseman with one of your back-to-back picks. Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, one of those guys is always there.

Carlos Pena is currently being under-drafted, but he won't hit .227 again

But if you are not picking late in the first round, it might be best to let first base slide for a bit. Yesterday, I chose the third pick in a 12-team mock. After taking Alex Rodriguez at No. 3, I selected Jacoby Ellsbury in the second round — a pick I later regretted because, as you’ll come to learn, you don’t need to buy into these speed guys early. There is a ocean-full of speed in the outfield this year. Four picks later, I took Jimmy Rollins in the third round. By doing this, I passed over guys such as Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto at first. But that’s because I think there is a clear drop from someone such as Cabrera. So why not wait? I did just that, found some good players at other thin positions and was still able to choose from Carlos Pena and Lance Berkman in round seven.

That’s a pretty good bargain considering that Pena isn’t going to hit .227 again. Granted, he doesn’t have the multiple position eligibility of player such as Youkilis. But of all players mentioned under this heading, Pena could very well lead the group in homers and RBIs while putting up a solid number of runs. And you should really expect his batting average to go up. His BABip from 2009 of .250  is bound to change.

Second base: Try to get into the top 5

I have a few players that, for one reason or another, I have selected in every mock draft. Mostly it’s because I just have a certain level of man-crush for the player. But the one that makes no sense to me is Brandon Phillips. I’ve never owned him in my eight previous years. He’s a fine player, but I don’t get caught daydreaming about him. And yet, I’ve picked him in every mock I’ve participated in this year. That’s pretty hard to do considering that if you are drafting realistically, it’s near impossible to land a certain player outside of the first round 10 times in a row.

But I also think there is a little method to my personal Phillips popularity. Chase Utley goes in the first round. Ian Kinsler goes in the second round. But after that, it’s kind of a mad dash for a second baseman. And really, there are four or five candidates that you could take, starting in the third round: Phillips, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Brian Roberts and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Hill or Ben Zobrist. Obviously, I like Phillips more than Pedroia or Cano, but you need to make sure that you get one of those top five because it gets ugly quick.

Roberts’ stolen base total is dropping. Do you really think Hill or Zobrist or Jose Lopez can do that again? Dan Uggla? Howie Kendrick? Again, it gets ugly quick, in my opinion. And there aren’t a lot of sleepers that I’m fascinated with at this position. Placido Polanco and the versatile Martin Prado are at the top of that short list.

Shortstop: There’s much to be had

Again, it’s about finding value, and there is plenty to be had at shortstop. Obviously, if you have the No. 2 pick, you are going with Hanley Ramirez. But I’m not a firm believer in the rest of the top shortstops. Which Troy Tulowitski will show up this year: The 2008 or 2009 version? Also, I think the middle  of the second round is just too early to take him. Jimmy Rollins has been a bit overrated in the past two years. If you are that desperate for 30-40 steals, pick up one of those little outfielders later on (which I’ll get to later on). Derek Jeter will turn 36 years old before the All-Star break, and this year’s No. 1 buzz player, Jose Reyes, is too much of a risk for me. If his stolen bases don’t come back after last year’s season-ending hamstring injury, he’ll be a huge disappointment. So why take that risk in the third round?

Don’t get me wrong; those are good players, but shortstop is deep this season.

In my 10 drafts, I’ve taken Ramirez once (because I had the No. 2 pick) and Rollins once. Other than that, I’ll take my shortstop in the middle rounds. There is still plenty of potential with the likes of Alexei Ramirez, Stephen Drew and Yunel Escobar. Plus, Miguel Tejada is very serviceable at his average 12th-round selection right now. And is there anyone who is more underrated than Orlando Cabrera? He’ll be playing for his fifth team in the past four seasons, but he is a lock for .280-290 average, 80 runs, 8-9 homers, 60-80 RBIs and 10-15 stolen bases. Yet, you can grab him in the last couple rounds of your draft.

Marco Scutaro won’t repeat his 2009 season, but he’s not too bad to own. I also like Erick Aybar, and Everth Cabrera is one of my favorite one-category speed picks at the end of a draft. There’s plenty to like about shortstop this year. Take advantage of it.

Third base: Get’em early!

So while you’re waiting on catchers and shortstops, you would be wise to take that time to grab a big-time third baseman. You’ve got A-Rod and Evan Longoria at the very top. Now, David Wright had a power outage last season, but I am not worried about him. He’s numbers will go up as the rest of the Mets’ stars stay healthy and he’s due to see a few more fly balls leave the park. Then you’ve got a couple of guys who are underrated in Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds.

Mark Reynolds is being under-drafted as well. Sure, he strikes out a lot. But how can you ignore a 40-20 season?

Reynolds is especially underrated. He’s falling in drafts and I just don’t get it. He went 40-20 last season! Yeah, maybe he won’t steal 24 bases again, but he’ll get 10-15. And we’ve always known that he’s had 40-HR potential. It wasn’t like that was a huge shock. He might hit .250, but he can be four-category guy. How people are finding 40 or 50 players “better” than Reynolds is mind-numbing. Or, on the bright side, it makes him quite a steal in almost every draft.

Pablo Sandoval is in there as well, but after those six guys, it’s a steep drop. Injury-prone Aramis Ramirez heads that next group. Michael Young is aging, but still getting it done. Chone Figgins will see a decline in runs now that he’s on that powerless Mariners team. Gordon Beckham and Ian Stewart are somewhat unproven and you can’t trust Adrian Beltre. There’s not even that many players to take a chance on at this position. I know people are getting giddy over Brandon Wood, but I remember the last time the Angels brought up a big power-hitting third base prospect and that didn’t work out.

The moral here is that you don’t want to be left to choose between Ramirez and hoping  he stays healthy, or Stewart and hoping he finally comes around. Don’t wait on third basemen. Reach if you have to. There is probably less talent here overall than at any other position.

Outfield: You’re going to have to take some risks

At a position where you may have to start five guys in many leagues, you can’t search for perfection. You have to be aggressive when it comes with outfielders for they aren’t an extremely deep group this year. You have your studs, but the questions begin just outside the top 5 with players such as Jason Bay (will Citi Field affect him?) and Grady Sizemore (With not much added to that lineup, was 2009 really a fluke?). I like to take an outfielder from that top group (Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday, Justin Upton, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury), but it’s not a must like it is at third base. I have no problem with Curtis Granderson as my No. 1 outfielder. I will just need to pay more attention to that position in the middle rounds. Luckily, there is a lot of talent — and a lot of mines — in the field.

Outfielders I love: Jason Werth — It’s taken him a while, but he’s growing into an absolute stud.

Alex Rios — There’s no hiding that he was really bad last year, but he’s close to being a 20-homer, 25-steal outfielder. And yet, you can get him past the 10th round.

Carlos Quentin — I’m not going to forget about that 2008 season yet.

The mid-round speedsters — I told you that there is a lot of speed out there this year. And you might be able to find them in consecutive picks during your middle rounds with the likes of Nyger Morgan, Rajai Davis and Julio Borbon. Of those three, I love Morgan the most. He was unbelievable in the second half of last season.

Garrett Jones — He may very well hit 30 home runs, post for a respectable average and steal 15 bases. He has multiple position eligibility and you can grab him in round 15. He is my favorite value in drafts so far.

Drew Stubbs — If you want a possible 15-15 player to snag in the last round, here you go.

Many of the outfielders whom I won’t touch are over the hill (Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Vlad Guerrero, even though he’s not really an outfielder any longer). But a couple of other guys I won’t draft are among the top 50 in many mocks: Ichiro Suzuki and Nick Markakis. Ichiro’s attempted steals are dropping — from 47 to 35 in the past two seasons — and his .385 BABip from last year won’t hold up. You basically need him to hit at least .350 to justify selecting him in the third or fourth round.

And just look at Markakis’ stats. What about his past two seasons say that he should be a top-15 outfielder? I say that Shin-Soo Choo and Andrew McCutchen are better fantasy commodities this year.

I guess that means I should add McCutchen to “love” list.

And now I need to figure out where to draft Jason Heyward because, holy God! That man is a baseball monster

You should all know I love me some Greinke. But it's difficult for me to use such a high pick on a pitcher

Starting pitching: Find a couple of anchors, then piece it together

Sorry, but I view Tim Lincecum like Mauer. He’s the best at his position, but he’s being taken way too early (13th on average in the past two weeks at MDC). But unlike the catcher position, I think you need to get a stud pitcher or two to anchor the staff. There are a lot of candidates, but that usually means two pitchers from this group: Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Johan Santana, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Tommy Hanson, Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy.

Yeah, I know I forgot a few of the usual members among the elite, but I’m not willing to put up with Dan Haren‘s second-half swoon, Chris Carpenter‘s injuries, Javier Vazquez’s increased ERA and WHIP, or Josh Beckett‘s … overratedness.

Past that: You’ve got to love someone such as Wandy Rodriguez or Ricky Nolasco as your No. 3. Nolasco’s overall numbers weren’t great, but do you remember how he started the year?? Yeeesh! And don’t forget about Brandon Webb. The early reports for a full return from him are encouraging.

Then, as you go, fill out your rotation with guys who have a lot of potential: Brett Anderson is the person that fits that bill the most to me. I’m forever enamored with Francisco Liriano. I can’t stop falling in love with him. He killed it in winter ball and I’ll never forget him out-dueling Roger Clemens in 2006. I love stealing him late, as well as Wade Davis and Erik Bedard, even if he does miss the season’s first two months.

If you come away from your drafting feeling as if you are a little weak on the mound, have no worries. Regardless the depth of your league, players always pop out of nowhere to give fantasy owners unexpected contributions. You’ve just to be quick to scoop them off your market. And that holds true no better than at the last position to worry about in fantasy baseball …

Relief pitching: Always go cheap

Last year, I drafted B.J. Ryan and Jason Motte as two of my three closers. I waited on them both and tried to get as late as possible. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for both of their teams to realize that something wasn’t right. So, they were demoted and as the teams made a change, I did the same. I picked up Motte’s replacement, Ryan Franklin, and then was able to add the Mariners’ David Aardsma in May.

In 2008, I took Mariano Rivera, but he was coming off a relatively sub-par 2007. I selected Matt Capps late and then picked up George Sherrill before the season began.

This all focuses on one point: Never pay for saves. Never. Ever. Forever never. Forever never?

Someone will always take a Jonathan Papelbon or Joe Nathan too early. They are great closers, but the positions presents so much turn-over every season that you can basically pick up all the saves you need in the last five rounds of your draft or on the waiver wire thanks to injury and the incumbent’s poor play. This year, the earliest I’ll take a closer is probably Ryan Franklin again, because he’s falling into the 15th-18th-round range. But I can’t tell you how much I love Brad Lidge this year. He’s going to rebound and people are disregarding him all over the place. Just make sure you insure him by owning Ryan Madson.

Speaking of which, while they may not look like the most valuable players on the surface, make sure you do your research on middle relievers. Many of them will be closing down games before you know it. I’ll probably take Neftali Feliz before I take a closer because he’s going to get plenty of appearances that will lower your overall team ERA and WHIP, and add a few wins to go along with a bunch of Ks. Just a couple other middle relievers to look at include the Padres’ Luke Gregerson (as soon as San Diego trades Heath Bell) and Boston fire-baller Daniel Bard.

Brad Lidge had a tough year, but he's still the closer in Philly and that means he is a great value pick in '10

Fickle things, such as draft rankings and my own opinion on players, will certainly change before the season begins in 32 days. But the most important thing I’ve learned about drafting is flexibility. Try different strategies. In mocks, go ahead and take Mauer in the second round or go ahead and be the first person to take a closer. See how things turn out. The more mocks you participate in, the more prepared you’ll be for the real thing and you’ll know what to do when that inevitable run on starting pitchers rises up.

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  1. Scott
    March 4, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Gotta do a mock together quack

  2. Scott
    March 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    CMON QUACK!

    • spokes310
      March 7, 2010 at 11:19 pm

      Let me know when and where and I’m there.

  3. Scott
    March 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    What if in the second half of the last game of the pac-10 tournament on thursday, oh my tom murphy walks by david courtney and says “you having a good time david?, you havin’ a good time?

  4. brianna
    July 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    go rays

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