Hey guys, Drew back here! I had been anticipating my fantasy drafts for weeks now, and with the blink of an eye they have all come to a close. Luckily, the conclusion of drafts mean it's just about time for the 2015 season to begin! In the past, I've reviewed some of my teams from the league I run with 7 of my close high school friends. This year, however; I chose to instead review my choices in the draft my friend William (of foul bunt fame) conducted last Sunday!
I have participated in William's hobby friend league for the past 5 years, and I wanted to review this league instead because it takes much more of a strategy to draft in a 12 team league rather than a 8 team league. I've been spending a lot of time reading draft strategies and listening to fantasy podcasts recently, and on Monday I had the opportunity to draft in a mock draft with ESPN's very own Tristan Cockcroft and Eric Karabell and was mentioned in their daily "Fantasy Focus" podcast! It was a lot of fun to draft with two well known fantasy experts who have taught me a lot about the art of the game.
Without further ado, let's take a look with who I came home with in the Card Shop/Blog League! William's league is on ESPN.com and is a H2H 5x5 Category league, and if you're unaware of what that is, it's a league that has teams play each other each week, and you compete to win each of these stat categories: Runs, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Steals, Batting Average, Strikeouts (Pitching), Wins, Saves, ERA, and WHIP. The goal is to win the most categories over the course of a season, and in order to do so it is important to balance your roster with players who can fulfill each of those particular needs.
I was randomly assigned the 4th of 12 picks, which I was extremely happy with. I made a bit of a jump on my first pick, but I couldn't go against the man who has made me very successful in recent history.
Round 1, Pick 4: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers
Trout, McCutchen, and Stanton were the league's first three picks, and many who play fantasy know that guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Clayton Kershaw should be next on the radar. Instead, I went with the former Triple Crown winner; which shouldn't be as big of a stretch as ESPN may say. He appears to look healthy on offense and defense, and the Tigers are being careful this Spring to ease him back into the lineup. They're handling him really well, and it appears that he will be closer to 100% healthy than he was throughout the entire 2014 season. 2014 was unkind to Cabrera, and he still had a year warranting a top 10 selection. With doubts in Goldschmidt's health and not wanting to take a pitcher in the first round, I went with a familiar name who should provide excellent numbers across each offensive category with the exception of steals.
Round 2, Pick 21: Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals
Rendon was a silent killer in fantasy baseball last year, producing fantastic peripherals in each category. This pick may not look as good now as he is expected to begin the year on the DL with knee soreness, but I still feel confident that he can return to form relatively quickly. The Nationals primary third baseman scored 111 runs in 2014, and with these first two choices I was able to compile about 50 total home runs, 200 runs, and a great batting average.
Round 3, Pick 28: David Price, SP, Detroit Tigers
I had a choice here of choosing either Price, Johnny Cueto, or Corey Kluber as my team's ace. In a 12 team league, it's helpful to have a reliable pitcher capable of leading your staff. Each of these three options were promising, but in the end I chose the always consistent Price. Cueto has had several injury plagued seasons, and even coming off a tremendous 2014, I preferred the Tigers ace. I may regret not choosing Kluber, but Price came up 29 strikeouts shy of putting together a 300 strikeout season. In a contract year, David Price is going to dominate the AL Central.
According to projections, this looks like a steal on paper. Springer had a promising rookie season, but did struggle with a quadricep injury. He looks like a future star, but who knows how he'll really produce this year. I needed to establish my best outfielder early, and taking Springer made me regret my Rendon choice slightly when I had a shot at Michael Brantley. I went with the upside, and even if he strikes out 200 times and doesn't bat for a high average, he complimented the high batting average I was already projected to have and added some needed power to the table.
At this point of the draft, I was texted by my girlfriend out of the blue, who said she was going to come over to my house soon. She's more than okay with me drafting while she's there, which makes her awesome, but I didn't want to look bad and smell bad on top of that. As I made this
pick, along with the next few, I was taking a shower. Let me give one piece of advice: when you have a draft coming up, always be prepared in advance for situations such as this. I learned my lesson there.
Round 5, Pick 52: Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
I chose Hamels around his average draft position, but this was a pitcher heavy draft. It's difficult to prepare for a league whose owners are constantly in flux (most leagues), because it's tricky to figure out who you expect others to take until you play with them for a few years. With that said, Hamels was the last of those close to top tier starters (Zimmermann, Greinke, Lester) remaining on the board, and my goal is to try to have one of those players to compliment my ace. This may be more important to make sure of in smaller leagues, and I probably would've been okay going with Victor Martinez or Prince Fielder in this spot; but Hamels was far too good of an option to resist. He was on one of my teams in 2014, and even though he didn't win 10 games he was excellent in every other regard. Hopefully he doesn't get traded to an American League team, otherwise this pick won't look nearly as valuable as it does now.
Round 6, Pick 69: Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians
Kipnis was the complete opposite of the lethal weapon I described Anthony Rendon as. He was one of the highest ranked second basemen in 2014, and people were talking him up to have an incredible year. But last year, he suffered oblique and finger injuries that limited him to 129 total games in which he wasn't playing at his best ability. I'm not a major believer in Kipnis, but I liked his upside with stolen bases and runs for this upcoming year. If I were to do this draft again, I may not have chosen him here, but that's what happens when you're hands are covered with shampoo (sorry for the disturbing image, but it is indeed part of the story)!
Round 7, Pick 76: Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
"The ToddFather" came calling in the 7th round, as my outfield continued to be ignored. My usual strategy is to strive for a strong outfield, but in this draft I focused specifically on the numbers, and continued to build on balancing that out. After taking a player in Kipnis who most likely will not hit over 20 home runs, I next chose someone very capable of hitting 20 with the possibility of even 30 homers. Frazier even stole 20 bases last season, and with this choice my stolen bases were solidified after only 7 rounds, between Rendon, Springer, Kipnis, and Frazier.
Also, I have a lot of position eligibility with the hitters I chose thus far. Two players are currently eligible of playing 1st, two of 2nd, and 2 of 3rd. If any of these players suffer injuries (Rendon for example), I most likely won't suffer too much in my starting infield all year.
Round 8, Pick 93: Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres
I know, you think I'm crazy for only taking one outfielder into the 8th round. But I must say, it wasn't intentional. In this vicinity, players like Kole Calhoun, Jason Heyward, and Matt Holliday are being taken, who don't particularly impress me as far as upside goes. Heyward is the best candidate to outperform his projections as he is with a new team and still just 25 years old, and he is a slightly intriguing pick. By pick 93, he was long gone, and I planned to choose Masahiro Tanaka in this spot. He was taken with pick 92, which hurt me significantly, but instead I went with a much less risky pick in Tyson Ross. Ross is kind of a boring name as far as fantasy goes, but he's on an improved team and should receive more run support next year.
Round 9, Pick 100: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox
Round 10, Pick 117: Cody Allen, RP, Cleveland Indians
I'm not the type of fantasy player that normally likes to take one of the elite closers such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Greg Holland. Rather than taking those guys, I prefer to bolster my offense, and then I make sure to swing back later to grab one of the guys from the next tier or two. Most of those pitchers were off the board by pick #117, but I did have a choice between Allen, Dellin Betances, and Koji Uehara. I took both of the latter closers in other drafts this year, but Cody Allen is the safest choice going into this year. Betances is the best reliever here, but he isn't having a good spring. I'm not worried about Betances struggling deep into the season, but I am worried about the effects of his struggles playing into his fantasy value. The more runs he allows, the better the chance he and Andrew Miller split save opportunities, which absolutely decimates his average draft position. As hard as it is not to pick a guy I love to watch and am a fan of, I didn't want to take that big of a chance on a closer in the 10th round. If I'm going to take a closer this early, I need to know that they'll produce close to expectations or better, and Allen has a good chance of doing that.
With closers, along with starting pitchers, first basemen, and outfielders; I like to have one proven option. I regret not taking a top outfielder in this draft, but I was able to take Miguel Cabrera and David Price, along with one of the better young closers on a potentially good Indians team in Allen.
Round 11, Pick 124: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/OF, Washington Nationals
Round 12, Pick 141: Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians
Round 13, Pick 148: Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Round 14, Pick 165: Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox
Round 15, Pick 172: Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
My next five picks were meant to primarily improve my suffering outfield, and I believe I did a fair job at filling it out. I plan to use Zimmerman as an outfielder, granted he stays healthy, which has always been a problem of his. Soler will fall under the radar all year thanks to Kris Bryant, but should be a good power option. I'm very confident that Yan Gomes will have a nice season, and I'm happy with the value I got him for. Catcher isn't as big of a concern to me as it is to others, but I didn't want to have someone that would make my team worse, and I think I succeeded in that by taking the most underrated backstop in baseball.
Round 16, Pick 189: Michael Pineda, SP, New York Yankees
Round 17, Pick 196: Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Round 18, Pick 213: Luke Gregerson, RP, Houston Astros
Round 19, Pick 220: Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Round 20, Pick 237: Addison Reed, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The last crop of picks were all spent on hitters, while this group instead focused on pitching. There are some undervalued pitchers deep on ESPN's draft board, and I used my prior knowledge to my advantage here. Granted Drew Smyly stays healthy, he could be a huge value in the 20th round, or a bust. This late in the draft, I know that most of these players won't be on my team by the end of the year, but I don't throw in the towel. For every gamble I take, I know that a few of them are bound to pay off, or else the odds really are not in my favor. Pineda was one of my favorite picks of the draft, because he looks filthy this spring for the Yankees. He has the opportunity to pitch at the level of an ace, and no other pitcher left on the board could really say that for now.
Round 21, Pick 244: Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals
Round 22, Pick 261: Michael Cuddyer, OF, New York Mets
Round 23, Pick 268: Brandon McCarthy, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Round 24, Pick 285: Jonathan Niese, SP, New York Mets
Round 25, Pick 292: Brett Cecil, RP, Toronto Blue Jays
I like to load up my pitching staff at the end of all of my drafts if you couldn't tell, and even if three of those four pitchers don't work out; the one who does produce for me will be worth all four picks, as I'll have other good options to trade for or add from free agency over the course of the season. A lot can change, and usually looking back on my drafts at the end of a season can even make me laugh.
Here's how my roster shaped up overall, position by position:
C - Yan Gomes
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Jason Kipnis
SS - Jhonny Peralta
3B - Anthony Rendon
2B/SS - Neil Walker
1B/3B - Todd Frazier
OF - George Springer
OF - Mookie Betts
OF - Ryan Zimmerman
OF - Jorge Soler
OF - Melky Cabrera
UTIL - Michael Cuddyer
P - David Price
P - Cole Hamels
P - Tyson Ross
P - Michael Pineda
P - Drew Smyly
P - Danny Duffy
P - Brandon McCarthy
P - Jonathan Niese
RP - Cody Allen
RP - Luke Gregerson
RP - Addison Reed
RP - Brett Cecil
There you have it! I wasn't overly happy with how this team came out, but I know that I'll find ways to make it work over the course of the 6 month season. Hot hitters and pitchers will come and go, and it's great to pick those guys up in favor of others who don't appear to have any long term value for the season. But, being active in a league is important, because when those hot players slow down, you have to look elsewhere and find replacements before they start to negatively impact your team.
If you're looking into getting involved in fantasy baseball, I'd be more than happy to give some pointers. I don't know who will or won't do well, but I've got a pretty good idea of which picks I think I'll be proud of a few months down the road. I'm not sure if I'll show my other two teams yet or not, but for now I'll leave you with this!
Any thoughts or opinions? Please feel free to share them in the comments below!