Tip Drill: Scenes from an "expert" draft

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Don't you hate it when some guy starts into a never-ending dissertation of his fantasy draft, completely unsolicited? Me too. So … let's talk about how I did in Thursday night's Friends & Family Draft, the top priority on my 2009 dance card.

Before the Draft: Did the usual stuff, had a good lunch, stocked up on caffeinated beverages, did one last scroll on the newswire, fed the pets, bunkered down in the office. Charged up the iPod, of course. About 15 minutes before kickoff I rebooted the computer, an underrated part of pre-draft checklist. Okay, time to get in character, let's do this thing.

The Field: Most of the usual suspects, with four notable additions: Gordon Edes (Yahoo! Sports), Mike Salfino (SNY.tv), Paul Singman (Hardball Times) and Doug Anderson (Roto Experts). No doubt the deepest pool we've ever had. (The entire group will respond to questions on their drafts early next week; check back for that.)

From Seat 10, here's what went down.

Ian Kinsler (Pick 10): I figured on the eve of the draft that I'd probably get one of Kinsler or Jimmy Rollins, and as it turned out Rollins (my slight preference) fell right in front of me. Kinsler has the potential to fill all five categories, he's one of the few elite options at second base, and it gives me an in with the inevitable 14-11 games that fall at Arlington during the summer. I'm not ready to accept that his injury problems are going to be yearly occurrences, and remember he was a Top 5 player in just about any format before he went down last August. Hop on board, No. 5.

Carlos Beltran (Pick 19): The type of player I like to grab in the early stages, a legitimate 4-5 category contributor with very little downside. I viewed the outfield as fairly deep this year and didn't want to attack that position with too many early picks (also note we shifted to four outfield slots and two utility spots this year, instead of 5-1), but there's something to be said for having an anchor.

Nick Markakis (Pick 38): Perennially one of "my guys" and one of the few players I drafted and held for the entire season last year. It's hard to say how much longer Markakis will be interested on the bases, but he's a very safe play elsewhere – and his 48 doubles suggest we might eventually get 30 homers a season to go with all the other goodies.

Jake Peavy (Pick 47): First pick I felt some ambivalence on; I had Brandon Webb slotted for this position, a handy staff anchor with a high innings threshold and the NL environment, but he fell to Jeff Erickson two picks earlier. I didn't want to go back to the outfield, too much depth there. A shortstop would make sense but I didn't feel anyone justified this price. Catcher and closer were the two positions I would never consider this early, they didn't even enter the argument. Eventually I swung back to starting pitching, opting for Peavy's San Diego backdrop over Cole Hamels (261 innings) and CC Sabathia (AL East beats you up). We all have some players we can't help but love even as they often let us down, and Peavy is on my list.

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Rafael Furcal (Pick 66): In a perfect world someone like Troy Tulowitzki would have lasted to this pick, saving me from stepping onto thin ice with Furcal. Can he stay in one piece for a full season? Is he still interested in being a dynamic base stealer? I got a lot of positive room reaction from this pick, but that doesn't mean I was fully sold on it.

Javier Vazquez (Pick 75): I'm not a big fan of making slow picks but I'm pretty sure I took the full 90 seconds in this slot. Considered Garrett Atkins here but figured the universal hate (which I don't understand) would push him for another round (guessed wrong, he fell at the turn). Too early for a closer, didn't see any dynamic offensive guys I had to have. At the end of the day I see Vazquez as a very safe pull, a 200-strikeout guy headed to a bigger park and a less-threatening league. On a more aggressive pitching roster he's a nice No. 3, but I can live with him as my second guy.

Aubrey Huff (Pick 94): Things are drying up pretty quickly at the corner spots and while Huff can't be expected to duplicate the surprising career numbers he posted in 2008, I expect him to keep most of the haul. The double-position grab (first and third) comes in handy since I hadn't filled either spot with my first six selections.

Lastings Milledge (Pick 103): Generally I'm looking to mine for value, take what the draft allows, but sometimes you have to shift gears and attack a player you want, ADP/value be damned. That's my angle here with Milledge, who won me over with his power-and-speed display over the final two months of 2008. The screen of Washington makes him a sneaky value in a lot of leagues, but I know there are a handful of Milledge Sympathizers in this group – I doubt he would have lasted until my ninth pick.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (Pick 122): I've spent a few months bashing Dice-K and urging others not to draft him, but hey, there are no bad players, really, only bad prices. I fully accept that his 2008 ERA was a mirage and isn't supported by the peripherals at all, but the room took that into account and let him slide far enough. Maybe picking Matsuzaka over Jon Lester wasn't the right play, but I thought there was a reasonable chance I could grab Lester nine picks later (I missed by one slot).

Jose Valverde (Pick 131): I wanted at least three full closing shares by the end of the draft, so taking stopper No. 1 in the tenth round seems about right. I was hoping Brian Fuentes (perfect setup in Anaheim) would get to me in the next round, but he got snapped up at 135.

Bobby Jenks (Pick 150): In retrospect I probably should have taken a fourth starting pitcher here, trusting that I could find saves later in the draft or during the season (being the regular on Closing Time has its advantages). That said, I also felt it was ridiculous Jenks was still on the board this late (Y! ADP: 95), and I guess I couldn't help myself from price enforcing, not wanting to let someone else get such a tasty bargain.

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Jorge Cantu (Pick 159): Because I enter every draft trying to avoid the slow-pitch softball type of player (power, average risk, no speed), I have to double-check midway through the proceedings to make sure I'm not getting too casual with homers and RBIs. I don't think anyone expects Cantu to replicate his .277-92-29-95 line, but this late in the dance, I'll at least take a chance that he could keep a healthy share of it.

Mark DeRosa (Pick 178): Here's a candidate for the Ibanez All-Stars – recheck his numbers the last three seasons, they're better than you think. DeRosa also qualifies at three different positions, a nice selling point if you need something to break the tie. I'd like him a lot more if he were still hitting in Wrigley or Arlington, of course.

Adam Jones (Pick 187): I was a little surprised to see him last this long, I know he's somewhat of a trendy sleeper in the industry. A significant stolen-base spike would not surprise me at all.

Brandon Lyon (Pick 206): Gotta love a slumdog closer, and Lyon basically is Todd Jones 2.0. Jim Leyland will appreciate him, even if most fantasy owners won't. Lyon has a good shot at 30 saves, honest.

Felipe Lopez (Pick 215): I keep passing on that fourth starting pitcher for some reason, and at times I wonder why I keep ranking Lopez higher than everyone else. Then again, he's slated to hit leadoff in Arizona, he's not that far removed from being a 3-4 category grab, and I'm willing to blame the bad times in Washington on – well, the Nationals.

Bengie Molina (Pick 234): Last year I had a revolving door at catcher and never got attached to anyone, but I'll give Molina a chance to keep the gig this year. He's collected 176 RBIs the last two years but don't give that too much credit – he gives some of the value back with his sluggish ways on the bases (just 84 runs).

Adam LaRoche (Pick 243): We know what he is at this point in is career: .270-25-85. That has value in a 14-team mixed league. Once again, I ignore the fourth starting pitcher that my team desperately needs.

Kevin Gregg (Pick 262): Yes, Carlos Marmol is the best reliever on Waveland Avenue, but that doesn't mean Lou Piniella will close with him. If Gregg has even a 30-40 percent chance to be the team's clear go-to guy at this point, he's worth a flier in this spot.

Jeff Francoeur (Pick 271): I've been a critic for a while, but geesh, we're almost 300 picks in. He's got an upside, a 90-25-100 year wouldn't shock anyone.

Mark Buehrle (Pick 290): Honestly, I've never bought in on this guy. I can't remember ever drafting him. But he's managed to work 200 innings or more for eight straight seasons, and he's got a 3.80 ERA and 1.27 WHIP for his career. That's more than acceptable now. (I kept waiting on Mike Pelfrey, but by this point, he was gone.)

David DeJesus (Pick 299): Maybe DeJesus is the answer, but don't ask me what the question is. I'd much rather have Coco Crisp but he went eight rounds earlier.

Bronson Arroyo (Pick 318): Brandon Funston chided me mid-draft for my Arroyo Apologist ways, so at this point it was time to give the people what they want. Arroyo's still a fly-ball pitcher in a tiny park, but maybe Cincinnati's improved outfield defense will give him a better chance this time around (at least I'm assuming the defense will be better now that the statuesque Dunn and Griffey are gone).

Joe Crede (Pick 327): A power hitter with a chronic back problem, doesn't sound too good, but it's pick 327, cut me some slack.

Randy Wolf (Pick 346): Just looking for a pitcher with a little upside. That might not be Wolf, but he struck out 162 guys last year and Chavez Ravine will cover up some of his mistakes, I suppose.

Final Roster

Catcher: Bengie Molina

Corners: Aubrey Huff, Jorge Cantu, Adam LaRoche, Joe Crede, Mark DeRosa

Middles: Ian Kinsler, Rafael Furcal, Felipe Lopez

Outfielders: Carlos Beltran, Nick Markakis, Lastings Milledge, Adam Jones, Jeff Francoeur, David DeJesus

Starting Pitchers: Jake Peavy, Javier Vazquez, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mark Buehrle, Bronson Arroyo, Randy Wolf

Relief Pitchers: Jose Valverde, Bobby Jenks, Brandon Lyon, Kevin Gregg

Strengths: Overall balance, should be strong in runs scored, steals, competitive in average. Good foundation for saves without paying too much.

Weaknesses: Sketchy depth in starting rotation, could be short in power categories.

What I learned: The middle infield pool is a little deeper than I thought. The corner pool is even weaker than I thought, and I didn't like it to begin with.

Plan of Attack: Be ready to pick up guys, especially starting pitchers. Keep churning the final few roster spots, give yourself a chance to be lucky. Read Closing Time six days a week. Go to bed.


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