Also See: Early mockery, part I
Before you spent all that money on season previews, online draft guides, and various almanacs, there's something we should have mentioned: You're still not going to have a great draft.
No one ever really does. Sure, we all feel smug when our drafts are finished, but even the good ones are pretty awful. Drafts are just the beginning.
For example, last year in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League my third round pick was Roy Oswalt. My fourth rounder was Troy Glaus. My fifth rounder was Felipe Lopez, my 11th was Mike Mussina, and my 13th was Carlos Quentin.
Those were all terrible selections that people loved. Especially Quentin. "Great pick," they typed in chat. "There goes my queue," they wrote. And three months later Quentin was hitting .185. So my team did not exactly run the table on draft day.
However, it did win the league by an overwhelming margin and finished with 121 points out of a possible 130. This required aggressive management, a series of well-timed (and not unlucky) acquisitions, and a handful of draft picks that went spectacularly well. But only 10 of the 22 players on my end-of-season roster were actually drafted by my team.
In a competitive league you can't simply draft well, then coast. Even a successful draft will have its flagrant misses. If you don't actively manage your team, it can't win.
The most important thing you can do on draft day is reach for players, and do it thoughtfully. People who reached early for Miguel Cabrera in 2004 won their leagues, but they were probably ridiculed in draft chat for taking him too early. Same story with David Wright in 2005, Ryan Howard in 2006, and Prince Fielder in 2007.
In public mixed leagues, there's going to be talent in the free agent pool at all times, enough to help you overcome any failed draft picks. But you're not going to find players in the free agent pool who perform at an elite level over a full season. You'll have to draft those guys. Since we can't say with absolute certainty who they'll be, in order to actually get this year's Cabrera, Wright, Howard or Fielder, you'll need to draft a few of the strongest candidates. In a public format, there's just not much of a penalty for guessing wrong. It's a relatively simple risk/reward question.
Yet, as the Democratic presidential candidates are fond of saying, this is where my colleagues and I have a fundamental difference. Except when candidates say it, the differences aren't usually fundamental or discernibly different. You'll probably read a lot of fantasy advice over the next month that's intended to be useful to owners in small mixed leagues. Some of it will suggest a strong preference for predictable veterans over younger, higher-ceiling/higher-risk players.
There's a culture war here, basically, with the Overbays on one side and the Vottos on the other. I'm more of a Votto, although I like to think we're reaching out to the Overbays with a message of hope.
You can't eschew prospects, not in mixed leagues. Of course you can't eschew veterans, either. But a vet-heavy draft is just going to be bad in a different way than a prospect-heavy draft, and no fantasy draft is going to be perfect. You'll need quickly to build on the successes and divest yourself of the failures.
This brings us to Part 2 of the recap of this draft …
P61 Andy Behrens, Yahoo! – Justin Verlander
P62 Mugrila, Fantasy Cafe – Francisco Rodriguez
P63 Bob – Chris Young OF
P64 Another Blown Save, Fantasy Cafe – Carlos Guillen
P65 Raiders Umpire, Fantasy Cafe – Takashi Saito
P66 Patrick Dahl, Rotoworld – Robinson Cano
P67 Aaron Shinsano, East Windup Chronicle – Aaron Harang
P68 Stephen Himes – Ian Kinsler
P69 Brendan Horton, Fantasy Cafe – Chipper Jones
P70 Tim Stuart, North Side Baseball – Matt Kemp
P71 Jackson Broder, East Windup Chronicle – Joe Mauer
P72 Derek Carty, Hardball Times – John Smoltz
We'll discuss Hart's charms in greater detail in the Outfield Primer at the end of the week, but for now let's just say that in 140 games at age 25, he stole 23 bases and hit .295 with 24 HR. His BABIP wasn't extreme, either. Hart is a fairly obvious candidate to make a significant leap in value. No player is likely to make such a leap, but some are less unlikely than others. Hart's average draft position is 61.8 and Verlander's is 62.1, so passing on one player meant not getting the other.
That full-outfield thing led me to take Verlander. He's a young pitcher with a high K-rate, a career 3.74 ERA, and he'll receive a ton of run support. Not bad, and not particularly risky. I'd managed to convince myself – in the 90 seconds that you have to convince yourself of things when you're drafting – that losing out on Hart would be acceptable, since I could get Matt Kemp in Round 10. He's another young power/speed upside pick, and his ADP is 122.2.
Naturally, he went at 70.
P73 Carty – Paul Konerko
P74 Broder – Carlos Zambrano
P75 Stuart – Roy Oswalt
P76 Horton – Felix Hernandez
P77 Himes – Carlos Pena
P78 Shinsano – Corey Hart
P79 Dahl – Adrian Gonzalez
P80 Raiders – Tim Lincecum
P81 Blown Save – Rickie Weeks
P82 Bob – Vernon Wells
P83 Mugrila – Chris Young SP
P84 Behrens – Rafael Furcal
And Hart went eight picks later, in Round 7. He fell just far enough for me to start hoping that he'd make it back to the turn.
This round was loaded, both with rising and declining players. Broder's auto-picking team finally took its first starting pitcher, Zambrano, a guy who's walked over 100 batters in each of the last two seasons. He took his next starter in Round 11, and ended the draft with Barry Zito and Tom Glavine. Those two are like flesh-eating left-handers, devouring innings, leaving nothing of value behind. Workhorse starters with low K-rates will just ruin you in leagues with innings limits. They were dropped as soon as the league went live.
Pena doesn't usually fall quite this far (ADP 60.4), and Konerko doesn't normally go quite this high (87.5). Vernon Wells went almost exactly where he typically goes (78.8), although that may have been one of a handful of picks where Bob insisted that the draft room wrested control from him. As if Mock Draft Central had created a HAL 9000 for their own dark purposes. If Wells bounces back fully after shoulder surgery and a .245/.304/.402 season, the pick works.
I'm not really proud of Furcal in the seventh. Ron Shandler took him in the same round of an industry draft two weeks later, though, and that made me feel somewhat better. The pick wasn't really about filling a position so much as it was about acquiring a stat – in this case, steals – without having to draft a one-category player later in the draft.
I'd rather just have Hart at UTIL and no Verlander. If I'd taken Hart in Round 6, I'd have gone SP/SP in Rounds 7 and 8.
P85 Behrens – Daisuke Matsuzaka
P86 Mugrila – Hideki Matsui
P87 Bob – Mariano Rivera
P88 Blown Save – Matt Cain
P89 Raiders – Ryan Zimmerman
P90 Dahl – Michael Young
P91 Shinsano – Jorge Posada
P92 Himes – Jose Valverde
P93 Horton – Billy Wagner
P94 Stuart – Nick Swisher
P95 Broder – Brad Hawpe
P96 Carty – Francisco Liriano
And if I'd gone SP/SP, the second of them would have been Liriano.
It's been 16 months since the Tommy John surgery, there have been no discouraging reports, and the last time we saw him pitching regularly he was slightly better than Johan Santana. So there's some upside there. Liriano's ADP is actually 119.0, so thinking of him as a Round 10 pick is appropriate – in fact, in the aforementioned industry draft, I took him in the 11th.
But here, I knew from a previous mock that Derek Carty was targeting Liriano. And he knew that I was targeting Liriano. It seemed likely that Derek would get him at the turn, so that was no great surprise. I'm clearly not confident that Verlander-Furcal-Matsuzaka is better than Hart-Matsuzaka-Liriano. Let's just leave it at that, before I completely obliterate the trade value of my own players, Jim Hendry-style.
The fact that Posada is almost always there in Round 8 (ADP 94.1) is enough to make me pass on Russell Martin in Round 3 and Brian McCann in Round 5. Brad Evans advises essentially the same thing right here.
P97 Carty – Jermaine Dye
P98 Broder – Francisco Cordero
P99 Stuart – Edgar Renteria
P100 Horton – Roy Halladay
P101 Himes – Jason Bay
P102 Shinsano – Alex Gordon
P103 Dahl – Fausto Carmona
P104 Raiders – Dan Uggla
P105 Blown Save – Yovani Gallardo
P106 Bob – Bobby Jenks
P107 Mugrila – Delmon Young
P108 Behrens – Rich Hill
We've mentioned this fact before in a few places, but it's worth repeating: Delmon Young is still only 22. He's hit .293 in 771 Major League at bats, and he demonstrated great power and stolen base potential in the high minors at ages 19 and 20. It only seems like he's already a bust, since we've been discussing him for years and he still hasn't produced a 30/30 season. But again, he's only 22. Not much of a risk with pick 107.
It's a little amusing that ardent Royals fan Himes took Jason Bay immediately before Alex Gordon was picked. "My team would have been awesome two years ago," he wrote the following day. If that's your post-draft assessment, you might want to update the Trading Block.
The second- and third-tier closers, who are not necessarily a whole lot less valuable than the first-tier closers, began to go in Round 9. Thus, the tenth went like this:
P109 Behrens – Huston Street
P110 Mugrila – Trevor Hoffman
P111 Bob – Manny Corpas
P112 Blown Save – Andruw Jones
P113 Raiders – Jeff Francoeur
P114 Dahl – Matt Capps
P115 Shinsano – Adrian Beltre
P116 Himes – Mike Lowell
P117 Horton – Rafael Soriano
P118 Stuart – Kelvim Escobar
P119 Broder – Gary Sheffield
P120 Carty – Juan Pierre
People have very strong opinions on the projected worth of one closer relative to another, and these opinions are usually based on the wrong things, like how many games a player's team won the previous season. The fact is, saves aren't the easiest thing to project with any precision, and they're not the only thing that contributes to a closer's fantasy value. Also, new sources for saves will emerge during the season.
Maybe Street will outperform Soriano, maybe he won't. Those two are both strong candidates to make a Valverdian leap in fantasy value this year. Corpas or Capps might, too. If you draft Hoffman, you're hoping that his second half (4.44 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) wasn't the beginning of the end.
Originally, this recap was only going to cover ten rounds, but there were some fairly interesting names in Rounds 11 and 12, too.
P121 Carty – Jim Thome
P122 Broder – Brett Myers
P123 Stuart – Kosuke Fukudome
P124 Horton – Ben Sheets
P125 Himes – Javier Vazquez
P126 Shinsano – Placido Polanco
P127 Dahl – Shane Victorino
P128 Raiders – A.J. Burnett
P129 Blown Save – Jacoby Ellsbury
P130 Bob – James Shields
P131 Mugrila – Howie Kendrick
P132 Behrens – Pedro Martinez
P133 Behrens – Dustin McGowan
P134 Mugrila – Chad Billingsley
P135 Bob – John Maine
P136 Blown Save – Ian Snell
P137 Raiders – Chad Cordero
P138 Dahl – Tim Hudson
P139 Shinsano – Orlando Cabrera
P140 Himes – Phil Hughes
P141 Horton – Johnny Damon
P142 Stuart – Tony Pena RP
P143 Broder – Todd Helton
P144 Carty – Frank Thomas
All the trendiest pitchers went in a quick binge, beginning with McGowan at pick 133. Vazquez and Shields fell amazingly far considering that they were both top-25 fantasy pitchers in 2007. Hudson, too. When we drafted these teams in late-January, Tony Pena was the presumptive closer in Arizona. Today, that's Brandon Lyon.
Note how solid Shinsano's team is at second and short, despite waiting until Rounds 11 and 12. Derek drafted back-to-back designated hitters in the mid-rounds, and we only have one UTIL spot. It seems safe to assume that he saw Thomas sitting there (26 HR, 95 RBI, .277 AVG in '07) and decided that Thome was a trade chip. Mugrila managed to get Kendrick fairly late (his ADP is 120.2), and immediately ahead of me.
The remainder of my draft went like this:
Don't read too much into all those Red Sox. I like Pedroia just fine; he's like Kendrick's generic equivalent. But Varitek is a placeholder until I can upgrade inexpensively, and Youkilis is a designated run-scorer with eligibility at two positions. I don't expect either to last the full season on my roster.
Rasmus and Longoria are clearly about upside. They can remain harmlessly on the bench until either does enough to make the other expendable. I'm not relying on both of them – or either of them, really – to be great.
The combination of Broxton and Shields produced these numbers last season:
159 IP, 8 W, 4 SV, 176 K, 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
That's basically Chris Young plus four saves. In most roto leagues you'll have an innings maximum to deal with, and you shouldn't give those innings to just anyone. If you're willing to rely on middle relievers, you can construct a useful pitcher from spare parts.
Yet another reason for me to regret Verlander in the sixth.