There are two ways to get ahead in life: Do your homework, or look at the other guy and copy what he's doing.
Let's face it; nobody likes homework. While I'm not against digging through data and scribbling notes until the interior of my cubicle resembles Dr. Nash's loony cabin from "A Beautiful Mind," I'll also admit to keeping an eye on the guy next door, too.
That's why mock drafts are so helpful. You don't have to let them dictate your actions, but they are a nice resource. Thinking of taking Mike Mussina in the fourth round? Maybe he'll slide to the fifth. How long can you wait before pulling the trigger on Kazuo Matsui? Are folks still taking a chance of Ken Griffey Jr.?
A few weeks ago I was invited to draft a team on behalf of Yahoo! Sports in a league set up by Krause Publications. You have to take the good with the bad when drafting this early. I like the fact that it puts a premium on knowing your prospects; you can't rely on spring training stats to find this year's breakthrough players. On the downside, somebody will get screwed by an injury. I just hope it's not me.
Last week I shared my roster. Many of you expressed an interest in viewing the entire draft, so today I give you the first 10 rounds. While these results will give you a good idea of where the experts rank your favorite stars, please remember that some picks may have been dictated by roster or scoring settings that differ from your league.
This league uses standard (5x5) rotisserie scoring. Each team drafts 23 active players (no reserves). The roster positions are: C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, 5 OF, DH, 9 P. Now on to the draft.
Round One: No surprises in the first round? Guess again. Funston turns some heads by taking Nomar with the fourth pick. I like the boldness, but it will take a career year to justify the risk. Bonds and Ramirez are second rounders on my charts. I would have taken Sheffield four picks earlier, so I was happy to see him available when my turn came up.
Round Two: Scott Rolen has never hit .300 and it has been six years since he topped 30 homers. I'd take Chavez over Rolen if only because he's been more durable over the past four seasons. No surprise to see these guys taken back-to-back, as we are a few reliable bats away from a big drop-off at third base.
Round Three: Johnson wasn't in my plans, but I couldn't pass on him at No. 34. Will he stay healthy? Will he get any run support? Why did I draft a guy with so many question marks? I have about 350 reasons, which is the number you'll find in his strikeout column if he makes 35 starts. A couple of scary middle infields have been assembled as Cockroft matches A-Rod with Boone and Berry pairs Soriano with Renteria.
Round Four: Beckett has never made 30 starts or won 10 games, but here he goes in the fourth round. I wouldn't draft him ahead of Schmidt, who carried his dominance over an entire season. Huff is versatile, but he won't start the season with eligibility at third base in Yahoo! leagues, so adjust your rankings accordingly. Tinker uses three of his first four picks on outfielders. Abreu and Pierre could help him corner the stolen base market, but what about the infield?
Round Five: We've officially reached the "anyone can go" rounds. I like Orlando over Miguel in the battle of Cabreras. Miguel has tons of upside, but he could also hit under .260 with 160 strikeouts. The closer run officially begins here and I like Funston's pick of Wagner. I add Smoltz to complement Schilling and the Unit and officially commit to an all-carbon-dated pitching staff.
Round Six: Which Reyes did I draft? If I get the minor league kid with poor plate discipline and a corresponding on-base percentage, my team is in trouble. I'm hoping for the Reyes who hit .339 with 11 steals in 42 games after the break. Mulder is the second of Oakland's big three to be drafted. With Huddy, Mulder and Zito all going after the 50th pick, it's clear that fantasy owners aren't counting on much run support from the Tejada-less Athletics.
Round Seven: Every draft seems to have one round that you could easily pick up and drop about three rounds later and nobody would notice. We've reached that here. Can you really count on any of these guys as sure things? Zito and Castillo are most likely to deliver here.
Round Eight: Berroa is a very nice pick this late. If he can get on base more and cut down on strikeouts, he should top 100 runs in an improved Royals lineup. Loaiza finally goes here. Sure he faced Detroit six times – he was also 7-3 against playoff teams. Twenty wins in the eighth round? Could be a steal.
Round Nine: Here we see how far Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker have fallen. Let's not forget that Edmonds hit 39 homers last year in just 137 games. Health will always be a concern, but in the ninth round he's well worth the gamble. Ramirez hit 15 homers after August 4 and should benefit from a full season at Wrigley. Great pick this late. Ortiz never delivered in Minnesota. Let's hope his first season in Boston wasn't a fluke.
Round Ten: Another 20-game winner goes late when Tinker grabs Ortiz. He always seems to get the most out of a decent ERA and poor WHIP. Will Atlanta be able to provide the run support this year? Durham scored 100 runs for six straight years before injuries limited him to 110 games a year ago. I'm not banking on 20 steals, because it won't happen, but with a hole to fill at second base, I'll take .280 and 110 runs.
So that's the end of part one. We'll take a look at rounds 11-23 next week as Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball draft season officially heats up.