Draft preparation is in full swing, but why act like it has to be a chore? The assignment was to draft “naked”, so besides the full glass of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout next to me there were no notes or cheat sheets. Practicing like this puts a premium on player knowledge and quick thinking, as you can only search the pool so much in the 45 seconds before a pick is due.
Most importantly I wanted a full draft room, so I grabbed one of the last three spots in a 12 team league that started one catcher, three outfielders, two utility players, and included five bench spaces. Right away that dictated strategy. Solidify the infield first, as player quality drops off faster there than in the outfield. Second, the large bench allows one to gamble more on high upside players that could also bust. Draft Grady Sizemore in the 23rd round? Why not, he can ride the pine while he attempts to reestablish his value. The full results are here.
Drawing the eighth pick, I selected Robinson Cano over Justin Upton or a SP. I felt that one of the Adrian Gonzalez-Prince Fielder-Evan Longoria group would reach me at Pick 17, and Detroit’s new $214 million man did. Still focused on acquiring a strong infield, rounds three and four yielded Adrian Beltre (over David Wright) and Starlin Castro, respectively. Matt Wieters (9,8) rounds the group out, although had Matt Moore lasted five additional picks I would have preferred him and Miguel Montero instead of Wieters and Brandon Beachy.
I am rarely one to pull a total LIMA Plan on pitching, and generally target an “ace” starter near the fifth or sixth rounds. When R5,8 occurred twelve starters were off the board and I elected to make Stephen Strasburg the thirteenth, bypassing options like Jon Lester, Dan Haren, and Yovani Gallardo. As risky as it is to pin hopes on a pitcher so soon after TJS, all my other starters came later: Brandon Beachy (10,5), Brandon Morrow (14,5), Jhoulys Chacin (15,8), Bud Norris (full explanation here) (19,8), Dan Bard (22,5), and Mike Minor (25,8). This group has solid skills and none carried inflated price tags due to fortuitous results in 2011.
I filled my starting OF spots in rounds 6-8 with Shin-Soo Choo, Drew Stubbs, and Jason Heyward, counting on 2012 being better than 2011 for Choo and Heyward. If not, hopefully Grady Sizemore, Delmon Young, or Yoenis Cespedes will step up. I have no inside knowledge on the Cuban, but the talented 20/20 threat seemed like a solid option at (18,5), about three rounds after he was taken in a recent experts draft.
Backup hitters include J.J Hardy, Ryan Roberts (2B, 3B), and Lucas Duda (OF, 1B). Positional flexibility never hurts, even with large benches. The bullpen was not built on the cheap, but Heath Bell and Ryan Madson were there in the eleventh and twelfth rounds. By round 17 most of the named closers were taken, but Rafael Betancourt was still available. His K/BB was over 9.00 in 2010 and 2011, if his ADP holds I am all over it. In twelve team leagues leaving the draft with three closers and a flyer puts a team in good shape. Addison Reed (21,8) is more than welcome for his chance at closing and his strikeout potential.
This exercise left me with two conclusions. First, this year like every other year has good pitching available late. Taking fewer than ten hitters in the first fifteen rounds is aggressively spending on hurlers. Second, third base is not as shallow as it was last year. Aramis Ramirez was the tenth 3B taken, from there the quality dips to fringe starters like Mark Reynolds and David Freese.
As for my team, the projections say my starters will place fifth in points, my bench second. I am comfortable with this because (1) projections don’t know anything and (2) players like Strasburg, Choo, Heyward, Cespedes, Sizemore, Morrow, and Bard have every chance to be better than any number crunching will give them credit for.
What do you think, keeping in mind the format did I hit the right mix between foundation players and higher risk options?
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