The buzz around baseball (besides Opening Day of course) is fantasy. The game we all love and participate in has come back for more with an even more intense playing field now that some young stars have stepped it up all over the diamond. Last Saturday I had a six team fantasy draft with a few of my close friends and I though I’d give out my results. I was fortunate enough to have the second pick in the draft which enabled me to bring in some real talent early. I am a firm believer in starting by adding strong offensive bats to my infield and then hitting the starters around the fifth round. With only six teams in my draft, I had a better chance of getting some guys I really wanted.
1) My first pick was of course Albert Pujols. The pick needed no thought and no regret. As long as he is healthy, he will hit. Pujols has power that rivals that of A-Rod and has the ability to just go off on a team and tear through any opposing pitching staff. This was a no brainer for me mostly because Hanley Ramirez was gone and I wanted the next best thing.
2) My second pick was out of pure appreciation. A big Dustin Pedroia fan myself, I watched Ian Kinsler play at ASU during the Pedroia era in Arizona. The kid has a good bat that when healthy, should really be considered one of the top in the game. Granted he has limited power but he is well above average for second basemen in home runs, RBI’s, runs, batting average, and stolen bases. I like a guy who can hit 15-20 homers and swipe 30 or so bags. He also hits for a high average and that translates into scoring a lot of runs in that powerful Ranger’s lineup.
3) Having seen Jimmy Rollins put on a show in the WBC, I instantly snatched him up when I had the chance as late as the third round. I was amazed to be able to pick up a top three shortstop that late in the first part of the draft and I was happy to do so. Talented all around, Rollins is often passed up because he doesn’t hit a lot of round-trippers, doesn’t drive in an excess of runs, and doesn’t hit for insanely high average. All the same, I think this is his year and that this guy can steal (47 a year ago).
4) Pitchers were going early in my draft and I wanted to cash in before all the really strong talent was gone. I picked up Brandon Webb with my fourth pick and slotted him as the ace of my rotation. I see Webb play a lot our here in Phoenix and I like his stuff. Obviously he has the sinkerball working well for him but he also has an underrated two seam fastball and a nasty curveball. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys but he also has a lot of control and therefore little walks. His sinkerball keeps the ball on the ground and limits runs, allowing him to keep the ERA down. He gets good run support which should translate into wins.
5) I’m a Boston fan and while I try desperately not to draft all Sox, with Kevin Youkilis still on the table, I snatched him up quickly. He was eligible for third base in my league and I think he is one of the top five first basemen in the league this year. Already having Pujols, I think it was a steal to get two top ten first basemen (though I think top five) in the first five rounds. Kevin has solid power, draws a lot of walks, drives in runs, and hits for a high average consistently. He will have a bigger role in the Boston offense this year and I think having a combination of Youk, Pujols, Kinsler, and Rollins in the infield was a major bargain.
6) There remains a position scarsity in the league right now for catcher. I wanted to get the best quality I could and there were certaintly some quality out there. Joe Mauer and Geovany Soto were both on the board along with my eventual pick Brian McCann. I haven’t seen McCann play that much and was unsure as to his ability as a fantasy player. He was the number one catcher in the draft with Soto and Mauer behind him. I would have drafted Mauer but he is hurt now and I’m not sure when he will be back at one hundred percent. I knew going a month or so without a top catcher would hurt me. I had Geovany Soto last year on a few of my teams and he played very well but I think the pitching in the Central has improved and he might hit that unfortunate sophmore wall. Therefore, I picked McCann based on a weak pitching division toward the back end of the rotations for all teams and solid 2008 numbers,
7) Picking McCann was hard, picking Nick Markakis as my number one outfielder in the seventh round was not. I like what I see from Nick. He now has the motivation of a lucrative contract and I think he will continue to play at a top level. He actually had a down year in 08 from a splendid 07 campaign and still posted solid numbers. He can certaintly hit the ball but he also has a gun from right field and I really think he will become a top putfielder comprable to maybe Carlos Beltran in his prime.
8) I grabbed K-Rod with my eight pick because of two reasons. Jonathon Papelbon had been picked four people ahead of me and I was nervous that the closers might be leaving soon. I also liked the way my offense was shaping up so I took a risk and drafted an elite closer in the 8th round. A lot of people don’t like where K-Rod’s strikeout, hits, and walk numbers are going and his ERA has gone up in the past but he has introduced a powerful changeup that will help him become a more finess closer this year. He won’t have to play against as tough of offenses as in the AL now and should probably get somewhere around 50 saves.
9) Keeping pitching in mind, I hit the market for another starter and was happy to find Roy Halladay. Granted he plays in a tough division but he still puts up the solid numbers that can be valuble and with his expensive contract weighing thr Blue Jay’s rebulding process down, he could be traded to a conteder at mid-season and have a CC Sabathia type second half if sent to the NL.
10) Just about halfway through my draft I was fortunate enough to find a player I had my sights on, Matt Holliday. Knowing he would be shunned because of his less than solid away numbers, I waited as long as I could to add this power bat to my lineup. He goes to a weak pitching division and will play with more quality team mates around him than in Colorado. Tutoring from Jason Giambi in hitting as well as club house and leadership mentality will make Matt a top player once again.
11) Looking for another closer, I passed on San Fran’s Brian Wilson for strike out master Carlos Marmol. I knew he wouldn’t have the closer job but his ERA remains low, his walks infrequent and his strikeouts very high. Those three numbers made it very easy to pick up Marmol over some other less than elite closers who will get 25-30 saves but have a 4+ ERA.
12) In the twelth round I kept my run of draftign pitchers alive by adding lefty Jon Lester. This is a guy who deserves to be in the talks of the best pitchers in the league and I think he will break out even more this year with John Smotlz there to teach the young guys of the art of pitching. I think Lester can be penciled in for over 15 wins with a solid ERA and good strikeout numbers.
13) And so the pitching high ends as I add my last outfilder to the starting slots with Nate McLouth. I felt lucky to pick him up this late in the draft and was fortunate tpo be adding a solid bat to my already stacked lineup. Nate hits in the 25 home run range and steals and equal amount. He drove in 93 runs in a horrid Pirates offense and also scored over one hundred runs, making him a great grab this late in the draft.
14) Still in need of a utility guy for my final starting slot, I grabbed Cub’s third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Not a guy to hit for a great average, he does hit toward the 30 home run mark with over 100 RBI’s and even in the fifth slot in that Cubs order, can score upwards of 80-90 runs. I was glad to add a solid power bat to play my utility role. Being a 3rd baseman allows me to have some flexibility if Pujols and Youkilis gets hurt.
15) With my lineup pretty much se
t and my pitching staff strong, I went hunting for some guys that would improve my depth and trade-ability later on. Matt Wieters was a shock for me to be around this late but I gladly picked him up knowing I could trade either him or McCann later for any needs I mgith have.
16) I like what I see with Ricky Nolasco and decided to pick him up in the 16th to add depth and talent to my pitching. Ricky has a solid offense behind him with Hanley, Uggla, and Maybin and has above average stuff that, with some run support, could net him a high numbers of wins.
17) Edwin Encarnacion is a guy I have watched for the last few years. His RBI and home run numbers continue to go up at a steady rate and his average is god as well. he plays good D and has good potential to be a top third baseman in the NL in a few seasons. His power and run producing abilites made him a nice luxury to have in the draft. I may not need him with two third baseman already but he might be a guy that I can try and trade later on.
18) Here in the 18th I decided to adress my outfield depth and add Jay Bruce. He is a guy with a dangerous bat who can make an impact on a lineup. If Markakis or Holliday don’t perform, I would not hesitate to throw Bruce in there until they get hot again.
19) With two rounds to go, I wanted to see to my middle infield depth and added Miguel Tejada. He brings a power bat to the plate with an ability to produce runs and thrive with a elite middle of the order around him. I can only hope his legal troubles do not effect his playing ability.
20) I added Derek Lowe as my last pitcher because he is having a good spring and should do well in the weaker bottom feeder offenses in his new division (Washington and Florida). Lowe played well in Boston and is a great quality kind of guy who can get the job done in place of a fallen Webb or Halliday.
21) My last pick in the draft was Robinson Cano. I brought him on board because I think Mark “Tex” can help him fine tune his bat like he did with the Angels. Cano could be a good backup second baseman who could be able to fill in possibly at SS is Tejada went down in legal flames.