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Friends, Family and Falzone: Draft Review, Part II

Yahoo Sports

School is now in session. My education with the experts has begun. In Part I you met the "Friends" of the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. Here in Part II, you'll meet the "Family."

The first day jitters are a thing of the past. It's a long, long season. The draft is important, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. Some guys who were supposed to explode are going to fizzle. Some guys no one's heard of are going to explode. How we react is going to make all the difference.

So here's the rest of the gang. Next time we speak, we'll be playing ball. Wish me luck.


Team: Y! - Buser
Manager: Matt Buser

Who are you? How long have you played with these guys? How have you done?
In this league I fall under the "family" heading. My first column for Yahoo! Sports appeared way back in September of 2005. This is my second season playing in this league. Last season I made a nice late run to finish second, but never was a challenge to Liss.

Who's your biggest competition this year?
First and foremost, Liss, because he kicked our butts so thoroughly last season. The talent is spread pretty evenly, though, and I don't see many weak links this season-it should be hard-fought the whole way. I'll feel good placing well in the league, regardless of who finishes below me.

What was your draft strategy?
In general, I always draft what I feel is the best available player for at least a few rounds, and that includes starting pitchers. But, to be honest, many strategies tend to go out the window in these types of leagues, because it's very rare that an industry draft goes anywhere near by the book.

Best pick?
Brandon Webb in the 4th round at 44th overall would probably qualify. I have him 4th overall on my SP ranks-he finished 26th in the Yahoo! ranks last season, and I don't foresee a drop-off. I was also very pleased with where I was able to draft Scott Olsen (Round 15, 191) and Kevin Youkilis (Round 16, 200).

Worst pick?
Julio Lugo's current ADP is 88.2, and I took him in the 5th round at 61st overall-it was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the number of middle infielders that had come off the board in the preceding picks. I'm higher on Lugo than most, but that still isn't likely to qualify as a "value" pick.

Any holes you need to fill? Do you prefer to trade to improve your team? Work the waiver wire? Pray?
I already have steals and batting average listed under the "stats wanted" column on the league's trading block page, and I also have only two closers. I'm open to all methods of improving my team, including divine intervention. I love to negotiate and execute trades of all sizes, but I'm just as happy to pull a gem off of the wire.

Any secrets to your success?
It's pretty simple, but research and preparation are the keys to any success that I may have. The more time you invest, the better prepared you will be to make quick but informed decisions on draft day.


Team: Y!-- Evans
Manager: Brad Evans

Who are you? How long have you played with these guys? How've you done?
I'm a butt mule with a receding hairline who relishes in obligatory jokes, fantasizes about long moonlit walks with Rich Hill, winning side bets with Chris Liss and, most importantly, making Funston cry. This is my rookie year in the Friends and Family baseball league. I hope to make a 1975 Fred Lynn splash without clicking the add/drop button 100-plus times like Scott Pianowski.

Who's your biggest competition this year?
Chris Liss is my arch-nemesis. I've already lost a high-dollar steak dinner wager at Caesar's Palace in Vegas over the F&F football league to him, and now I'm seeking revenge.

What was your draft strategy?
Typically, in any snake draft I target a speed guy early, shop for power next and have no thoughts about starting pitching until the middle rounds. Usually, unless it's a value of unimaginable proportion, I avoid saves until at least Round 8. When Billy Wagner was surprisingly available in Round 6, I gave into temptation. Naturally, the widow-peaked one tabbed me a "poser" – probably well-deserved.

Best pick?
I'm still bewildered that Mark Teixeira fell to me at pick 21 in Round 2. After locking up steals by drafting Carl Crawford with my first pick, I was hoping to snag a 35-homer power complement coming back. If he can put together two consistent halves, mammoth Mark may blast 50 homers this year entering his prime power years. I'll soil myself if that happens.

Worst pick?
My arm tendons are still a bit sore over the Delmon Young reach at 84th overall. Based on his Mock Draft Central ADP (99.3) I probably could have waited another round to acquire his services – especially with Rocco Baldelli, Nick Swisher and Corey Patterson still on the board. At least my chances of being impaled by a flying piece of lumber have dwindled.

Any holes you need to fill? Do you prefer to trade to improve your team? Work the waiver wire? Pray?
As always, I'm overly confident about my team. Despite my Cubs-fan-in-April optimism, clearly I need Bob Wickman to eat his way out of the job in Atlanta (I have Mike Gonzalez) or find a second source of saves via trade and/or the waiver wire. Since on average, 10 bullpens have had significant closer turnover over the past five years, I'm sure some end-game schmo (i.e. Dustin Hermanson) will don the Big Noise cap and be serviceable. Since I'm going to hell in a handbasket, praying is out of the question. Honestly, unless an ideal offer hits my inbox, I stay away from making trades. That is, unless I spend an unforeseen amount of days in the standings dungeon and am in dire need of a team shake-up. Regardless, I'll work the waiver wire harder than Bill Clinton wealthy campaign contributors at a Hillary fundraiser.

Any secrets to your success?
Starting pitching is completely avoidable until the middle rounds. You can build a powerful, high-caliber staff around perceived No. 3s like Brett Myers, Dan Haren, Cole Hamels and Rich Hill, and be very competitive in all categories. Also, confide in ADP information during your draft. You would be shocked at the values you can uncover. For example, I scored an enormous value on the king of the milk bowl, Coco Crisp, drafting him at pick 162 (Round 13) some 40 picks later than his Mock Draft Central ADP.


Team: Y! - Behrens
Manager: Andy Behrens

Who are you? How long have you played with these guys? How have you done?
I am one of America's foremost fantasy sports theorists. To the best of my knowledge, I've never faced these people in an imaginary sports battle.

Who's your biggest competition this year?
Falzone. Nobody wants to get mauled by the dude who's writing about the league.

What was your draft strategy?
With most picks, I'm just looking to find the player who's better than everyone else at his position by the widest margin. I try to look at the magnitude of the difference between any given player and the rest of the player pool.

Best pick?
I was reasonably happy with my draft. Rounds 11 through 16 all went pretty well for me. Mike Mussina in the 11th is an excellent value. Frank Thomas at 12 was nice; it's rare to get a 35+ homer guy that deep in a draft. No one really wants Barry Bonds, but everyone is draftable sometime, and in the 16th round, Bonds works. The pick I enjoyed the most was Howie Kendrick, because I'm pretty sure Brandon Funston was about to take him.

Worst pick?
I didn't need Jose Contreras. I just like him. There were comparable starters available later in the draft, though.

Any holes you need to fill? Do you prefer to trade to improve your team? Work the waiver wire? Pray?
I have subsistence-level speed, but that's it. Whenever I started looking at potential SB bargains – guys like Willie Taveras, Ryan Freel, and B.J. Upton – they'd get drafted. So I'd like to find a way to add another 30 steals, maybe. Someone like – oh, I dunno – Bobby Abreu. Hmm. Wonder who has that dude. This, in all likelihood, will not be your normal waiver wire. Usually I'm a hawk with waivers and free agent adds, but, in an expert league, you can't rely on beating people to the must-have player. I'm always willing to trade, and I'm willing to lose a trade in order to gain points. There's an art to that.

Any secrets to your success?
If you like a player, and you feel he can outperform his average draft position, don't be afraid to take him earlier than he's "supposed" to go. Even if the draft room mocks you. I think my sixth and seventh round picks (Kendrick and Prince Fielder) might just deliver stats worthy of first or second rounders. I always drafted Miguel Cabrera in the fourth or fifth round in 2004, and someone invariably said, "Too early." The next season, he was a consensus first round pick. Same story with David Wright in 2005. If you like a guy, get him.


Team: Y! - Romig
Manager: Matt Romig

Who are you? How long have you played with these guys? How have you done?
I might be the only California-born roto nerd to get his start playing fantasy hockey. I couldn't tell you exactly what year that was, but I can tell you I was pretty stoked to land Eric Lindros and it was long enough ago that I didn't come to regret that pick. I've been with Yahoo! since 1999 and became one of our original fantasy columnists back in 2002 (I think). Less and less of my time is devoted to the fantasy space these days, as I've graduated to a role as an editor for Yahoo! Sports. Thankfully, as I'm a reliable 7th-10th place finisher and I don't complain (much) when Funston rigs the draft order, I've retained my invite privileges to these prestigious Friends & Family leagues. Here's an industry secret: Experts play in too many fantasy leagues. This is my way of softening the fact that my track record in F&F leagues isn't all that good (though I currently sit third, still in contention, in the Y! hockey league). We've been doing these regularly since about 2004. I haven't won one yet. I really do hate fantasy sports.

Who's your biggest competition this year?
I need to do two things in this league. I need to finish ahead of the Average Joe. I need to finish ahead of Brad Evans. To relate to the latter, you need to add Bad Brad to your messenger friends list. To him, Bringing the Noise is not just a column name-it's a lifestyle.

What was your draft strategy?
Can't say that I had a concrete draft strategy. Using draft rankings and some mock recaps, I decided to draft David Wright and Grady Sizemore with my first two picks. Love those 25/25 guys. Get your steals without having to draft Dave Roberts. Of course, Wright and Sizemore went back-to-back at 11 and 12, each going a few picks ahead of their projections. Thanks for that, guys.

Best pick?
I have high hopes for 7th-round pick Josh Barfield. As many have pointed out, he hit .319 away from Petco Park last year. I like his prospects in a new park.

Worst pick?
J.D. Drew.

Any holes you need to fill? Do you prefer to trade to improve your team? Work the waiver wire? Pray?
My pitching staff has few if any sure things. Rich Harden and Jonathan Papelbon were both high-risk picks. Like a lot of experts, I didn't make starting pitching a huge priority. I'll be active on the waiver wire. I check the waiver wire every day. Multiple times per day. And I do this in the open at work, without the need for one of those "boss" toggle buttons. I still hate fantasy sports, but I do love this job. Trading is great-usually work out a deal or two every year in my keeper league. One pet peeve: If you're going to initiate trade discussions with me, send me the first offer. I can't tell you how many times someone has inquired about the availability of a player, then said, "Ok, take a look at my roster and send me an offer." What? Wasn't this your idea? If you try this approach with me, you can bet that I'm going to ask for Albert Pujols in return for Victor Martinez. Hey, you asked for it.

Any secrets to your success?
Read as much local content as you can. Don't be afraid to take risks. Stay active.


Team: Y! - Funston
Manager: Brandon Funston

Who are you? How long have you played with these guys? How have you done?
I'm the artist formerly known at ESPN as "The Gamer." I started the Friends and Family Leagues when I made the move to Yahoo! in '04 (started with football). I won the first baseball league in '05, but followed it up last season with a ninth-place finish – I have moderate-strengthed excuses … I'm sure you don't want to hear them.

Who's your biggest competition this year?
Senor Smug, Chris Liss, led wire-to-wire last year, so he's definitely wearing a bullseye. And Ryan Wilkins of ProTrade has a Baseball Prospectus background -- anyone from BP is likely to bring an air of superiority, so I'm gonna have to do my best to knock him down a couple pegs. Brad Evans and I are always bickering, so I certainly can't give him any ammunition. But, really, if I finish behind "Average Joe" Craig Falzone, I don't think I'd be able to live it down.

What was your draft strategy?
Fairly cliche strategies – steer clear of pitching early, look for the best available value as often as possible, try to get a enough speed from my studs that I'm not trolling for a Chris Duffy, Ryan Freel, Dave Roberts type late, etc. Oh, and don't overreach on my expected breakout players – oops!

Best pick?
I have a feeling getting Akinori Otsuka at No. 208 overall is going to look like a steal in the rear-view mirror. Gagne's starting the season on the DL as he lumbers back from elbow and back operations. I trust it won't be the last DL stint for Gagne in '07.

Worst pick?
Even a slobbering-fool of a Nick Markakis fan like myself has to admit I reached for him at No. 78. In fact, I reached for him a few days later in another draft, but this time it was 20 spots later (No. 98).

Any holes you need to fill? Do you prefer to trade to improve your team? Work the waiver wire? Pray?
Thirteen still isn't quite a big enough number to start worrying that the waiver wire won't be able to cure at least the bumps and bruises incurred from your draft-day misfires. I need a few breakout gambles to pan out, and I need to make sure I find Joe Nathan some help – hopefully it is already on the roster in the form of an Akinori Otsuka, Jonathan Broxton or Rafael Soriano.

Any secrets to your success?
Rigging the draft order … it's a start.

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League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 28 9:00 am