Friends and Family: Post-draft Q&A

The sixth annual Yahoo! Friends and Family League fantasy baseball draft took place this past week. The owners will be looking to knock off Chris Liss, who garnered 133 of a possible 140 points to run away with the ’09 F&F league title.

If you want to learn all about the tactical nuances that led to Liss’ dominating championship run, just ask him. Recent history suggests that he’ll be more than happy to explain it to you in great detail. And as the rest of us can only roll ours eyes (and try to suppress the gag reflex), there is no denying that every other returning member of the league is eager to put ’09 as far behind him as possible. So, with that said, let’s meet the group that will be gunning for Liss’ crown.

This year’s participants include a Yahoo! contingent of myself, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans, Matt Romig, Scott Pianowski and Matt Buser; Yahoo! “Average Joe” Michael Gehlken; RotoWire’s Liss, Jeff Erickson and Dalton Del Don; RotoExperts’ Chris Ryan (newcomer); Comcast SportsNet’s Michael Salfino; The Hardball Times’ Paul Singman and Razzball’s Grey Albright (newcomer).

Here’s a complete list of the Y! Friends and Family League draft results.

After the draft, I asked each participant two hard-hitting questions about their draft and also which pick(s) was the biggest reach and steal of the draft. And, not to be left out, I had colleague Andy Behrens fire a couple questions my way. Here’s a look at what each league member had to say:


Yahoo! – Brandon Funston (Previous F&F finishes: 5th, 9th, 7th, 9th, 1st)

Q: The world knows how much you like Clayton Kershaw(notes). It’s well-documented. But you selected him while Gallardo, Hamels, Beckett, Cain, Nolasco, Vazquez, Billingsley, Jimenez and many useful closers were still on the board. I think you owe us all a Kershaw projection. What made him a sixth rounder in your mind?

Kershaw fanned 185 batters in 2009.
Jeff Gross /Getty Images

A: With all those other guys you mentioned, I feel like I know pretty well the upper limits of what they are capable of. With Kershaw, we’re talking about someone who was one of the most unhittable pitchers in the league at age 21. Among starters last season, he was seventh in K/9 (9.74), first in BAA (.198) and second in HR/9 (0.37). Did I mention he was just 21 years old last season? I think there’s Lincecum-type upside with Kershaw and I was willing to pay for that potential. I see 14-15 Wins, 200-plus K, and an ERA somewhere between 2.80-3.20 as a reasonable projection but, again, I think his upside leaves room for more.

Q: Last month in Spin Doctors, you offered a compelling argument that Aaron Hill(notes) won’t repeat the 2009 power outburst. Nonetheless, you grabbed him in Round 4, when a few of your pet players – Lind, Beckham, Dunn – were still on the board. Please discuss the thinking behind that pick. I’m assuming it was a depth-at-second issue, as well as a fear-of-Brian Roberts(notes) issue. It’s also worth noting that you grabbed Jose Lopez(notes) much later in the draft (R10). What are the odds that Lopez will match Hill’s value in 2010?

A: Drafting Hill was a matter of dipping into a quickly vanishing depth pool at second base. At the spot I took him, Hill became the seventh 2B-eligible player off the board and the only other player I would have considered in his class that was still available was Roberts. But Carl Crawford(notes) was my Round 2 pick, so Roberts’ SB prowess wasn’t calling me, especially given his balky back. So, while I do expect at least a dozen-homer regression from Hill, that’s (24 HR) still damn good for a second baseman, and I like that he’ll hit No. 3 in the order, from a run-production standpoint.

As for Lopez, I think it’s a fair argument that he may return similar value as Hill, but I think that points more to Lopez being undervalued in this draft than Hill (at pick No. 49) being a reach. I’d still expect Hill to edge out Lopez in each of the five roto categories. But I’m happy to plug in a middle class version of Hill at MI, and his soon-to-be three-position eligibility (2B/1B/3B) gives me corner options if issues arise there.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I haven’t abandoned all hope with B.J. Upton(notes) – not at all – but No. 33 overall is a stretch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gehlken’s next pick (Andrew McCutchen(notes)), 19 spots further down the draft, comfortably outperforms Upton.

SOD: Frankly, if I’d have known that Matt Wieters(notes) would last until Buser’s 128th pick, I would have gone a different direction than V-Mart in Round 3 and nabbed Wieters in Round 9 before Buser’s Round 10 heist.

Yahoo! – Andy Behrens (Previous F&F finishes: 3rd, 7th, 1st)

Q: Based upon ADP data, you were about 50 picks earlier on Julio Borbon(notes) (No. 99 overall) than the industry consensus. Please explain to us what Borbon has that much cheaper options Michael Bourn(notes), Nyjer Morgan(notes), Rajai Davis(notes), Juan Pierre(notes) and Dexter Fowler(notes) don’t have?

A: First of all, we need to keep in mind that I was picking at the turn in a 14-team serpentine draft. If you’re in that position, you can’t be timid. I would have simply auto-drafted if I wanted to make sure that all of my picks were in line with ADPs.

Secondly, I haven’t assigned Borbon to the “cheap speed” pile. You’ll note that I ranked him well ahead of the other names on your list, so it’s not as if I didn’t telegraph the pick. Borbon has hit above .300 at every level he’s visited, he’ll bat lead-off in an outstanding lineup, and he has 50-steal speed. (He swiped 53 bases across two levels in ’08, then stole 19 in just 46 major league games in ’09). I project him as a three-category fantasy asset (R, SB, AVG); I wouldn’t describe any of those other names the same way. To me, Borbon is closer to Ellsbury.

Q: Since you normally have a hard time answering three questions in a row seriously, I’ll let you have some fun with this one – Please explain your TCCB strategy that you pompously crowed about in chat during the draft. And, if you could throw in a comment about the Jason Heyward(notes) pick at No. 126 overall, even better.

A: Let me assure you that I consider this draft business to be deadly serious. You must be confusing me with Evans, who views everything we do as an opportunity to link to hot pictures of terrible actresses.

But I appreciate the opportunity to unveil my new proprietary subscribers-only draft method: TCCB, or Total Corner Control, [profane]!

In the Friends and Family draft, somehow Ryan Howard(notes) and Miguel Cabrera(notes) both fell to me at the turn. Rather than pass on either of those two players – in favor of a less reliable, second-tier middle infielder – I took ‘em both. Thus was born the TCCB plan. In the fourth round I selected Aramis Ramirez(notes), because I felt there was a significant drop-off at the position after him. And in the sixth I grabbed Gordon Beckham(notes) (technically a corner in our game). TCCB became a running gag, as well as an homage to Ron Shandler.

The Jason Heyward(notes) pick was similar to the Borbon pick, actually. I didn’t want to miss out. Would he have been available 26 picks later? Maybe. But I’m not the only owner in the league who’s willing to reach for exceptional talents.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Well, it’s easy to say Elijah Dukes(notes), but no one really saw his release coming. Brian Roberts(notes) in the fifth was an aggressive pick, considering that he’d been given an epidural the day before due to back pain.

SOD: Hideki Matsui(notes) went in the 19th round of a 14-team draft. That’s pretty amazing. People tend to ignore the Utils, but he’ll almost certainly outperform his draft position. Cameron Maybin(notes) was a nice lottery ticket in Round 20, too.

Yahoo! – Brad Evans (Previous F&F finishes: 10th, 10th, 4th)

Q: Alright, Lucy, you have some ‘splainin’ to do. I offer up Exhibit A. I offer up Exhibit B. You know where I’m going with this, I’m sure. So can you please explain why you gave man-crush Billy Butler(notes) the Heisman in favor of Kendry Morales(notes) with the No. 48 overall pick?

Butler hit 13 homers after the break in ’09.
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A: Paint the Noise a hypocrite, but this is classic Evans fade selection. Degenerate gamblers in Vegas have followed the strategy for decades with marked success. Toeing the counter line guarantees useful production out of Kendry Morales(notes). It’s a genius psychological ploy …

In all seriousness, I didn’t expect Liss to extend his go-go-gadget arm for the Ass-O-Meter (Butler). Morales is an incredibly balanced player entering his prime with an RBI-friendly position in a formidable lineup. Understandably, he’s adored by fantasy pundits. Frankly, he wouldn’t have lasted another round. But based on my experience in previous industry drafts, fanalysts have avoided Butler temptation at least two rounds later on average than his first base counterpart. My ploy was to sneak Mr. Belvedere a round or two later. Liss, who will eventually pilfer an exceptional talent from my team for Butler’s services, is holding a golden trade ticket. For that, he should’ve never been born.

Q: You took human air-conditioners Mark Reynolds(notes) (No. 37 overall) and Chris Davis(notes) (104). What do you feel you need from them to satisfy their draft price? And do you think your team BA can overcome in the event that they both hit sub-.250?

A: The vampiristic tendencies of Reynolds and Davis could leave Team Evans bloodless and pale. Young gothic schoolgirls will surely adore it. However, their prodigious power upside and Reynolds’ all-around production were too valuable to pass up. Once I acquired “Crush,” selecting complementary players with high-contact rates and sound batting averages become a top priority. Michael Bourn(notes), Nyjer Morgan(notes), A.J. Pierzynski(notes), Miguel Tejada(notes) and Marlon Byrd(notes) satisfied this approach.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Elvis Andrus(notes) in Round 7 by Del Don was borderline tendon-snapping. With several productive shortstops still on the board (i.e. Yunel Escobar(notes), Jason Bartlett(notes) and Miguel Tejada(notes)), Triple-D could’ve exercised patience.

SOD: A.J. Burnett(notes) in Round 13 was an outstanding value pick by Team Razzball. He may be a WHIP whale, but 13-15 wins, 185-plus Ks and a respectable ERA that late is well played.

Yahoo! – Scott Pianowski (Previous F&F finishes: 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 6th, 2nd)

Q: You left yourself in a bit of a tenuous situation at closer with Ryan Franklin(notes), Matt Lindstrom(notes) and Kevin Gregg(notes). Do you think this group is good for the long run? And how much did the fact that you write a nightly Closing Time column covering, among other things, closer hot spots around the league factor into your team’s lack of closer emphasis? Also, do you realize how much league-wide resentment there is for a guy who is adding freshly anointed stoppers while the rest of us are sleeping?

A: I like going the stink closer route and I’ve done that pretty much every F&F season en route to a decent score in the saves category. One year I had Todd Jones(notes) (back when that wasn’t a bad thing), I skated by with Joe Borowski(notes) in Florida one summer, Kevin Gregg(notes) was a value last season even as he eventually blew up. It’s a little stressful at times, but I really dislike taking a closer in the top 10 rounds, and I misjudged the closer run that we saw in the 12th round last week.

I’ve always been up-front with the fact that Closing Time helps me in any daily league like this one (that’s the idea, right?), but in any competitive and knowledgeable group, you need to be one step ahead of the save chase no matter when you’re online (and the CT gig also means I’ll routinely get beat on AM news – even a caffeine-driven scribe like me needs a little sleep now and then). I didn’t get Andrew Bailey(notes) last year on a save-and-react dive, it was a matter of seeing the amazing ratios and investing long before he had the ninth inning.

The 2010 F&F field is the most skilled and aggressive in league history, so it’s probably a mistake for anyone to assume they’ll get a saves kickback on the wire. Guys will emerge, yes, but there will be a street fight for those saves. If I had to do it all over again, I would have taken a reliable Tier 3 closer in the 12th round, not Johnny Damon(notes).

Q: One thing that stuck out at me in examination of your squad is that you don’t have one multiple-position eligible player. And you also have just a combined 30 home runs total from your three corner infield spots. Any concerns about this lack of flexibility and, potentially, power?

A: I definitely don’t have enough power (the sharp Roto Arcade readers noticed this immediately), and that deficiency is a recurring problem for me as I generally look for balanced offensive players. In hindsight, Ryan Howard(notes) would have been a good Round 1 pick, guarding against my preference for category balance.

The early power run (fueled by Andy’s ground-breaking and proprietary TCCB strategy) significantly altered the corner market in the first half of the draft; ultimately I decided to not overreact to the run. I didn’t think it was worth it for me to take Derrek Lee(notes) in the fourth (he was gone before I picked in the fifth), or Jorge Cantu(notes) in the fifth (he went early in the sixth) or Adam LaRoche(notes) in the 10th (taken early in the 11th). I was happy to land Nick Johnson(notes) as a value play in the middle of the draft (pick 215), but obviously it’s foolish to expect anything more than 400 at-bats from him.

The position eligibility issue is also something I’m hoping to eventually address, be it through trading or free agency; given the short benches we use, a Swiss Army Knife really comes in handy, especially on Mondays and Thursdays.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: The power run forced Jorge Cantu(notes) to go at 80th overall, too early for my blood. Other possible reaches: Elijah Dukes(notes) (169, and I felt this way before he was cut), Jay Bruce(notes) (74).

SOD: There are a lot of differing opinions on the worth of the late speed market, but I see some late grabs I like there, such as Chris Liss landing Chris Getz(notes) at pick 331. Other late gems: A.J. Pierzynski(notes) (300), Milton Bradley(notes) (329), Mike Adams(notes) (305), Michael Wuertz(notes) (310).

Yahoo! – Matt Romig (Previous F&F finishes: 13th, 5th, 9th, 7th, 7th)

Q: Looking at your roster, your 3B and CI spots seem like the most perilous positions on your roster. Your candidates for the two spots are Casey Blake(notes), Brandon Wood(notes), Jake Fox(notes) and Juan Uribe(notes) – nary a slam dunk among them. Do you share my skepticism?

A: The short answer is yes. I was set to take Aramis Ramirez(notes) in Round 4 and he was grabbed two picks before I was up. The same happened with Gordon Beckham(notes) in the sixth round. Michael Young(notes) was another guy I had teed up. At one point I was even considering taking Matt Wieters(notes) as a second catcher in a one-catcher league. He was slipping a little bit in this draft and I figured he might make a good CI trade chip, but alas, he was selected before I could execute that plan, too.

Q: You drafted shortstop Erick Aybar(notes) ahead of Miguel Tejada, Ryan Theriot(notes) and Everth Cabrera(notes), among others. What expectations do you have for the Angels’ potential new leadoff man?

A: If things break well with Aybar I’m looking at 80-plus runs, a.300 average and 25 stolen bases. I’m predisposed not to trust Tejada, and frankly I was looking at Aybar and Theriot as just about a coin toss.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I’m normally the last guy to criticize someone for taking one of Evans’ pet players before the Noise can get to him, but I have to say I thought the ninth pick of the fourth round was a little early for Billy Butler(notes), particularly when you consider how deep the first base position is.

SOD: I could name any number of situations where a player was drafted directly out of my queue right before my pick was up, but one guy that stood out was James Loney(notes). I thought he would be great value late in the ninth round, but he was selected the pick before me.

Yahoo! and – Matt Buser (Previous F&F finishes: 7th, 2nd, 12th, 2nd)

Q: After drafting a strong contingent of “established” guys in the early and middle rounds, you started rolling the dice on some youngsters late in Drew Stubbs(notes), Austin Jackson(notes), Michael Brantley(notes) and David Freese(notes). What are you hoping to get out of this group and how long of a leash will you have with them if they don’t perform adequately out of the gate?

A: As a general draft strategy, I will give the benefit of the doubt to a young player with potential to outperform their draft slot over a veteran with a well-established ceiling. I can’t say I have grand expectations for this group, although Stubbs, Jackson, and Freese will certainly be in positions to succeed. If I can get some runs and steals out of Stubbs and Jackson and a bit of run production from Freese without a major drag on batting average, then they will warrant their picks.

Q: Garrett Jones(notes) was a revelation for your Pirates last season, and he’s one of fantasy’s biggest X-factors this year? You took him with the No. 153 pick overall. What do you think is a reasonable projection for his upcoming season?

A: I’ll call a line of .270/75/25/85 reasonable from the perspective of an optimistic Pirates fan. Opinions very widely on which way he’ll go, and given his minor league track record, but the argument that he’s a late bloomer can’t be completely dismissed.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I’m not sure I’m in a position to call out other managers’ picks, so I’ll pick the best and worst of my own draft. Troy Tulowitzki’s(notes) steals will need to stay high to warrant his draft position, Curtis Granderson(notes) will need to get that batting average back up, and Carlos Quentin(notes) will need to stay healthy all season to warrant their selections.

SOD: Some of the players with the best chance to out-perform their draft position are Josh Johnson(notes) (69), Carlos Quentin(notes) (97), Alcides Escobar(notes) (181), and Austin Jackson(notes) (293).

Yahoo! “Average Joe” – Michael Gehlken (Previous F&F finishes: 9th, 4th)

Q: You took three players exceedingly higher than their ADP values – Andrew McCutchen(notes) (No. 52 overall), Jorge Cantu (80) and Edwin Jackson(notes) (117). Were these players you specifically targeted or did the ebb and flow of the draft influence these picks? What are your expectations with these players?

McCutchen nearly went in the Top 50.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

A: Out of respect for the league’s competition level, I didn’t put any stock into ADP when drafting. With most of my picks, if there was a player I considered the best available, I assumed he wouldn’t last until my next turn and took him. That was the mindset with McCutchen. I had both Billy Butler and him queued up with Chris Liss on the clock before me. Liss went Butler, so I somewhat settled for McCutchen.

At pick 80, I felt I needed to address third base after Gordon Beckham went to Behrens, the greedy bastard. Looking back at how the draft played out, I could have gone Ricky Nolasco(notes) at 80 and then Adrian Beltre(notes) at pick 117 instead of Jackson, who I’m targeting as a No. 2-3 starter this year. I love Nolasco this season.

As for my expectations for those three players, I’m most excited about McCutchen. Early last season, he showed the most power of his professional career in Triple-A Indianapolis, and that power followed him to the majors upon his June call-up. McCutchen put on some weight over the offseason to better prepare himself for the season’s grind. After his power sapped in September following his eight-HR August, I love seeing that. If he holds up, a 20/40 season is realistic.

I mentioned I went for a third baseman after missing on Beckham. I should add that I’m very comfortable with Cantu. The Marlins have a great top of their lineup, and Cantu cleans it up. At age 28, I expect him to easily surpass last year’s 16-homer total with a solid average and 100-plus RBIs. And Jackson has great stuff. The NL switch and accessibility to Brandon Webb(notes) and Dan Haren(notes) can only help. I’d sign up for 15 wins and a 3.50 ERA.

Q: Jackson was part of your three starter run in Rounds 8-10 – Brett Anderson(notes) and Matt Garza(notes) the other two. Other than late speculative plays on Justin Masterson(notes) and Oliver Perez(notes), the trio pretty much is the meat and potatoes of your starting staff. Are you worried at all that you might be a bit light, rotation-wise and, if so, how will you combat this during the season?

A: Yeah, I was hoping to better support my staff than I did. I wanted to use two spots on some combination of Brian Matusz(notes), Chris Young, Marc Rzepczynski(notes) (I can spell and pronounce that without looking it up; I deserve him) and Homer Bailey(notes), but was blindsided after my turn in Round 20. I got fancy and went Erik Bedard(notes) since the league has two DL spots and was expecting either Young or Rzepczynski (too easy) on my turn eight picks later. Neither made it back. Nor did Matt LaPorta(notes), my Plan C to address UTIL. That hurt my team.

I may consider benching Masterson and Perez during their first turn or two to see exactly what I have, but I am quietly confident in their ability to strike guys out without killing my ERA. I might as well go on record now and say I believe Perez’s future prospects are being undervalued in leagues this year due to past transgressions. He’s baseball’s Cedric Benson.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Mariano Rivera(notes) at pick 62 felt early. The next closer wasn’t taken off the board for another 38 picks. Knowing Chris Liss, he’ll overcome it and kick all our asses anyway.

SOD: All those aforementioned pitchers on my target list, including Rzepczynski (that’s three), will be remembered as steals. But to choose one player, I’ll go offensive and say Kelly Johnson(notes) to Pianowski at 234. Your pick of Corey Hart(notes), Funston, at 148 should also pay out.

MEET THE FRIENDS – Chris Liss (Previous F&F finishes: 1st, 6th, 3rd, 1st, 9th)

Q: Josh Beckett(notes) is the closest thing you have to a sure thing among your starters. The others – Francisco Liriano(notes), Ervin Santana(notes), Brandon Webb(notes), David Price(notes), Brian Matusz(notes) – all come with question marks. What do you think are realistic expectations for this group? How many do you think need to pan out for you to be successful?

A: I like my staff a good deal, considering I spent most of my high draft picks on offense. The low innings cap really puts a premium on K/9, and all of these guys can miss bats. I don’t know which ones will pan out, but I think it’s likely that at least one or two do, and they’re the types of players who can pan out big. Think Justin Verlander(notes) or Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), who I got late last year – guys with great arms who could turn the corner at any time. I like that Liriano’s velocity is finally back, and Webb looks like he’s feeling better, too.

Q: You mentioned in the draft chat that you prefer to takes reaches as opposed to drafting for value. Care to explain that philosophy? And, quite frankly, it seems like your team doesn’t have too many reaches. Are there players you didn’t land that you wish you would have extended yourself for if you had to do the draft over again?

A: I trust my instincts about players. So it’s important for me to draft the guys I like. In an auction, that’s easy. Just bid an extra dollar unless the price gets outrageous. In a draft, that means you’re constantly faced with picking the guy you want (who might or might not be there on the way back), or picking the best “value” on the board – the guy who has slipped the most. In my experience, reaching half a round or a round on the guy I want usually pans out better than getting the guy I never targeted but “should” take based on how much he’s fallen. I think my team does have “reaches,” only you’re less inclined to see them as such because of what happened with many of them last year. But I’m just taking the guys I have a good vibe about after looking at their numbers, situation and career development to date. Billy Butler in the fourth, Rickie Weeks(notes) in the eighth, Liriano in the 11th and Lasting Milledge in the 13th, qualify as “reaches” in my opinion. A few people on RotoWire also accused me of reaching on Alfonso Soriano(notes) in the 10th (though I actually don’t think that’s a reach). I somewhat regret not reaching for Tim Lincecum(notes) at No. 6. The only reason I didn’t do it was if I did, I’d have to go offense for the next eight rounds or so, and I was worried people would wait on pitching and sweep up huge bargains that I’d be unable to draft.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I really don’t know. My basic philosophy is that one should reach, so I can’t single one player out. There are a lot of players I wouldn’t have drafted where they were taken: Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) in Round 7, Andre Ethier(notes) in Round 5, but who knows – those could be great picks.

SOD: Probably Tim Lincecum(notes) at No. 13 – as I said I almost took him at No. 6 – in a low innings cap league, Ks are king, and Lincecum gives you a huge leg up. I liked Johan Santana(notes) in Round 4, too – probably a better pick than Billy Butler, but there were a lot of good pitchers left, and I was hoping Santana would slip to 5.6. – Jeff Erickson (Previous F&F finishes: 11th, 12th, 8th, 10th)

Q: Ok, I’m gonna take you to task here a bit with this first question. You drafted just one closer (Jose Valverde(notes)). If you recall, you tried this one closer strategy back in ’08, and you have a last place finish to show for it. What are your plans for saves this time around? If it involves being active on the waiver wire and picking up new closers as they emerge, good luck with that.

Is one closer enough, or a ticket to the basement?
Bob Levey/Getty Images

A: It really wasn’t a strategy to go with just one closer. I was caught at the end of a huge run at the end of Round 12 – one that really started with Behrens’ pick at 11.14. Including that pick, seven of 10 picks were all relievers. I just refused to pay the retail price for the closers that were remaining after that run – Leo Nunez(notes), Mike Gonzalez(notes), Ryan Franklin(notes), Octavio Dotel(notes), Brad Lidge(notes), etc … They all have fleas, and frankly I think that the talent that was available at other positions at that point wasn’t worth passing up for those flawed closers.

Yes, it’s not easy just to pick up the “saves that come into the league” with this crowd, but it can be done. I picked up Ryan Franklin, for instance, last year. You just have to act early. Plus, rumor has it that you’re allowed to trade in this league, unlike seemingly other industry leagues.

You’ll note that I didn’t give up completely on finding guys that might close, drafting Matt Thornton(notes) (who I actually like better than Bobby Jenks(notes) this year) and already picking up Joey Devine(notes).

If I don’t find a second closer by hook or crook, I agree with you, though – it’s a sub-optimal position to be in.

Q: You drafted over 200 steals from ’09, which would have put you within a few swipes of the SB title in last year’s league. I’m wondering why, with Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) already in tow, you decided to go with another “Ellsbury-type” in Rajai Davis(notes) in Round 12. Not to beat a dead horse, but at that spot, you could have actually landed a Leo Nunez(notes), Ryan Franklin and a few others in the mid-to-late closer class. Please explain why you felt the need for more speed?

A: When you draft an “Ellsbury type” in Round 2, you’re already giving up some element of power early on to kill a category. You have to protect that investment in speed, much as you might have to protect an early starting pitcher draft pick. If anything, I don’t mind the Davis pick (which didn’t cost me any of those closers that you mentioned), but the Brad Hawpe(notes) pick at 13.3 could be more debatable (though I don’t think it was a bad pick).

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Jorge Cantu (6.10) – a victim of the TCCB strategies employed throughout the draft.

SOD: Gio Gonzalez(notes) (23.1) – Sure, he’s risky, but give me a guy that strikes out 109 in 98.2 IP as a starter and hope he figures things out at that point in the draft. – Dalton Del Don
Q: Project Reclamation seems to be sort of a theme with your draft: David Ortiz(notes), Lance Berkman(notes), Jeff Francoeur(notes), both Chris Youngs … Was that an intentional plan to go after these guys while their values were way down?

A: No, it wasn’t a conscious plan beforehand. However, coming from someone who is as aggressive as it gets with drafting young, unproven players in fantasy football, I’ve come to realize old, boring veterans often produce the most profit in baseball. Ortiz hasn’t exactly impressed during spring, and his stock has been dramatically affected by a horrendous first two months last season, but he posted a .913 OPS with 81 RBI after June started last year, and his 27 home runs over that span led the AL. He’s 34 years old, not exactly 40, and he’s also in a contract-year still hitting in the middle of Boston’s lineup. Plus, I was desperate for a CI, and Ortiz is 1B eligible in Yahoo! I was also in need of a first baseman at the time I took Lance Berkman(notes), who is one year removed from a .312-29-114-106-18 campaign. He’s obviously an injury risk, but I took him with pick No. 116 – he fell in my lap and happened to be a position need at the time, also not a target. Few (if any) players had Chris Young’s (Ari) 20/20 potential at that stage of the draft, and as for the pitcher Chris Young, I like him in this format, as I will be able to use him exclusively during his Petco Park starts.

Q: Elvis Andrus(notes) is a “buzzy” player this spring, but you took him (No. 81 overall) about 70 picks ahead of his current ADP. Obviously you’re expecting big things from the Rangers’ shortstop. Do you mind telling us just exactly how big you expect him to be this season?

A: Frankly, I had no idea I took him that much higher than his ADP, since I really don’t pay much attention to that data. Don’t get me wrong, it can certainly be useful – you don’t want to reach for a player who would be available the next round. I also use ADP as a reference for undervalued/overvalued players in my columns. However, when it comes down to it, I usually just end up going off my own personal rankings. And in this specific case, I needed a shortstop, and Andrus was easily my highest one rated, so I pulled the trigger. And to better prove my point, Jeff Erickson got mad because he would have taken him the very next pick, so ADP wouldn’t have mattered one bit here. I doubt I expect more from the sophomore SS than most, but he did swipe 33 bags over 480 at-bats while showing good BB skills as a 20-year-old last year, and Andrus has a great hitter’s park at his advantage as well. Plus, I needed the steals. If you want a guy, take him. Don’t let ADP affect your reasoning too much.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Edwin Jackson(notes). I don’t necessarily dislike him, especially with the move to the NL, but ahead of Jake Peavy(notes), Scott Baker(notes) and Matt Garza(notes), among others? I didn’t love it.

SOD: There were a few, but I’m going with Stephen Drew(notes). I also think Behrens got great value with Stephen Strasburg(notes). Yes, he’s going to be that good.

Comcast SportsNet – Michael Salfino (Previous F&F finishes: 12th)

Q: You drafted Denard Span(notes) (No. 86 overall) and Chris Coghlan(notes) (139) higher than I’ve typically seen this spring. Can you tell us what your expectations are for these two up-and-comers?

A: As the draft progressed, it seemed like I had a much easier path to winning batting average after taking HanRam and Pablo Sandoval(notes) early. These picks made those points more certain. I’m also hoping for a bit of a power spike for both given that they’re more comfortable now as regulars and are guaranteed so many at bats. Basically, any regular with any kind of pop nowadays can hit 15 jacks given 700-plus plate appearances, which those two are sure to get. I also think there’s more SB upside than their ’09 stats indicate, especially from Coghlan, who was 34-for-44 stealing in ’08 over 132 games in Double-A. Span should also best his ’09 numbers. My hope is that both are ascending players and I think that’s likely. I expect 1,300 at bats of .300 average with 210 runs, about 50 steals and 25-to-30 homers.

Q: My quick take upon a quick glance at your lineup is that you may have left yourself a bit light in the power department. You are one of two teams that didn’t draft a player that hit at least 30 home runs last season and you have just two players that drove in 100 runs. Do you feel sufficient in power, and are there some players that you are banking on for big breakouts in that department?

A: Power definitely is a concern. So are RBI. I wish I had more. I wish I had more everything. But this was a tough room. Again, you hope to lead the league in at bats and then have the counting categories in offense – especially RBI – take care of themselves. You finish top three in ABs and you’ll almost always finish top three in overall offensive points. I need 25 homers from LaPorta, which I don’t think is a crazy projection given his prospect pedigree. I also plan on playing Barmes only at home where he was .283-13-46-9 last year. That’s why I have so many extra MIs. I was hoping that Brian Roberts would continue to trade steals for homers in typical late-career fashion and match last year’s total, when his FB rate spiked. But Roberts’s back seems to have taken a turn for the worse, so that seems less likely. I think I’m reasonably at a little over 260 homers without expecting anything crazy and that was my target after the first three rounds broke down like they did.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I hate doing this. Everyone has their reasons and I respect all my leaguemates here. Often, you’re just constructing a team and something may be very important to your particular puzzle – like Swisher was to mine when I grabbed him too early for most. But if I must say someone I’ll say Jorge Cantu at the 80th overall pick. To me, he’s a ham and egger.

SOD: Probably Miguel Cabrera(notes) at pick number 15. But I like to look later with a question like this and thus will say Matt Weiters at Pick No. 128. Even in a one-catcher league, that’s just too much upside at a still-scarce position, unless you think every scout who ever came within 100 feet of him was wrong. – Chris Ryan
Q: Based upon ’09 totals, you have just over 200 home runs from your offense, which would have placed you right at the bottom of the HR category in this league last year. Are you concerned with this lack of power and, if not, which players are you expecting power spikes from compared to their ’09 totals? Interestingly enough, you also would rank at the bottom of the league in steals based upon last year’s numbers. You got a speed plan, as well?

Did Chris Ryan draft enough power?
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A: Despite those alarming numbers, I’m not worried about a power outage at all. Sure, there’s no big bopper, but other than Rafael Furcal(notes), everyone posted double-digit dingers in ’09. And maybe I’m delusional here – always a possibility – but I’m counting on 55-plus homers between David Wright(notes) and Jay Bruce(notes). If those two rise to previous expectations, and Kyle Blanks(notes) and/or Randy Ruiz(notes) contribute the kind of power numbers their expansive body types and impressive minor league numbers suggest, I’ll have more than enough pop – and yes, I’m aware I just cited a 32-year-old rookie DH as a key factor in my power production. Told you I might be delusional.

Speed wise, Furcal’s the one player who could massively improve on his ’09 steals total (12), but at a creaky 32 years old, I’m not counting on it. I’ll do my best to find this year’s Rajai Davis in free agency, but in all honesty, I’ll probably have to deal one of my well-balanced outfielders (Matt Holliday(notes), Nick Markakis(notes), Adam Jones(notes), Franklin Gutierrez(notes)) for a specialist at some point. Unless, that is, I can find a market for a 32-year-old rookie DH with serious power potential …

Q: Are you a saves punter or relentless vulture? I assume you have to be one or the other considering you didn’t draft one reliever with a closer role currently in hand. How do you plan to treat saves this season?

A: I’m circling as we speak. I’ve already feasted on the mess in Oakland, coming away with Brad Ziegler(notes) – Bob Geren’s only healthy closing option at the moment. I’ll suck him dry of all his value, and when Andrew Bailey(notes) returns, I’ll kick him to the curb and move on to the next broken bullpen. In the past two weeks we’ve already seen Joe Nathan(notes), Kerry Wood(notes), Huston Street(notes) and Bailey go down with injuries, opening up at least eight different guys for potential saves. It’s not going to be pretty, and I’ll probably get involved with several Randy Choate’s(notes) before I find my Salomon Torres(notes), but I’m confident there’s enough saves out there to stay competitive in the category. And I’m willing to stay up until every West Coast game is finished to find them.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Chris Coghlan(notes) (10th round): Not buying the .321 average, and went single-digits in both steals and homers in over 500 ABs last year.

SOD: Carlos Zambrano(notes) (18th round): Just way too far of a fall for a 28-year old “ace” with eighth straight sub-4.00 ERA seasons and a strikeout rate on the rebound.

The Hardball Times – Paul Singman (Previous F&F finishes: 4th)
Q: You drafted three starters in the first seven rounds when only a few teams had as many as two. Considering you didn’t draft another starter until Round 22, this looks like a calculated decision. Can you explain your thought-process in regards to how you handled your starters?

A: My plan coming into the draft was to take hitters in the first few rounds but still come out of the single-digits with at least two starters I was comfortable with heading my rotation. That strategy was the result of the 1250 max innings cap that prevents streaming and places a premium on high strikeout pitchers, and also my feeling that the sixth through 10th rounds is one of the more difficult places in the draft to pick hitters so I often opt to take my first pitchers here, when I feel they are better values. Having secured Justin Verlander(notes), Ricky Nolasco(notes), and Yovani Gallardo(notes) I felt there was no need to take another starter until the last few rounds where I might get lucky with one of my late upside picks.

Q: Ben Zobrist(notes) had a breakout ’09 and I’m on board that it wasn’t a fluke. But you were so bold as to take him with the No. 29 overall pick. How much of this was your belief in the player independent of his position eligibility and how much of this had to do with middle infield depth concerns in a 14-team league? In other words, where would you take him there in a 10-team environment?

A: The Zobrist pick in the third round was one I knew would raise some eyebrows but having taken the corner combo of Albert Pujols(notes) and Ryan Zimmerman(notes) with my first two picks and not wanting to take another corner, a starting pitcher, catcher, or outfielder yet my only option was a middle infielder. Zobrist, Robinson Cano(notes), and Brandon Phillips(notes) were my options and even though Zobrist is the least proven of the group, I like the flexibility he offers and think he will put up at least equal numbers, if not better ones, than Cano or Phillips. To be unlike most politicians and answer your question directly, this pick was almost completely a positional affair and if we did not have three MI positions to fill and there were less than 14 teams I might have taken a chance with someone like Mark Reynolds(notes) instead.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: I would call Razzball’s pick of Jose Reyes in the fourth round as the Reach of the Draft, mostly for lack of a better one. The third to fourth round was where I considered taking Reyes before the news revealing the gravity of his thyroid problem and obviously after hearing that, he fell way down my draft board. I haven’t heard any specifics of when he will be able to play and once he plays it is up in the air how much he will be able to steal. From my fourth rounder, I wouldn’t want so many strings attached.

SOD: I’ll give the award to you, Funston, for your selection of Carlos Beltran(notes) in Round 13. It is weird to call one person out for drafting an injured Met and then praise someone else who gets an injured Met. However a 13th round investment is relatively small, Beltran’s timetable to return is fairly stable, it is easier to find a one-month replacement for an outfielder than a shortstop, and Beltran’s knee should not hamper his game as much as Reyes’ injury might. For all those reasons, I am envious of you for nabbing Beltran and wish I had the foresight to do so myself.

Razzball – Grey Albright
Q: You drafted Adrian Gonzalez(notes) at No. 22 overall. If you knew going in that he was not going to get traded, would you still take him there? How do you see A-Gon’s season playing out?

A: I drafted a 40 homer first baseman with my second pick. I didn’t even take into account that he might be traded. Will he, won’t he, number three stole the cookie from the cookie jar … It’s all Sumerian to me. I just knew I needed a big bat at first base. If he gets traded to the Red Sox because they can’t compete with only four first basemen, then that’s just gravy. And, for what it’s Wuertz, I like gravy.

Q: Your middle infield is comprised of two rookies – Ian Desmond(notes) and Scott Sizemore(notes) – and one big injury question mark – Jose Reyes. Does that concern you at all? What are your expectations for these guys, and what happens in the event that the rookies are both back in Triple-A in a month?

A: I punted MI. It’s true. I preach taking upside at the end of the draft at MI. If you’re that late, you may as well. We all know an Izturii is not going to win you a league. A Scott Sizemore(notes) or Ian Desmond(notes) could. Also, the difference between one of my upside picks and Yunel Escobar(notes) (Round 9) is minimal. You’re telling me you’d prefer Yunel? More of a rhetorical, Funston, no reason to answer. As for Reyes, assuming the only connection he has to ‘roids this year is a thyroid, I think he’ll be fine. At pick 50, I could do worse.

Q: Among all drafted players, who do you think were the ROD (reach of the draft) and SOD (steal of the draft)?

A: ROD: Every pick by Behrens? I keed. Asdrubal at pick 87 seems pretty reachy.

SOD: Love EverCab at 229.