When we last visited the Krause Publications experts league draft room, Frank Thomas was selected with the final pick of the 10th round. If it was up to me, it would have been break time.
Every draft needs a timeout. I've long argued that all fantasy football drafts should have a mandatory five-minute break after the third round to allow owners to crack a beer (or several) and say things like, "I've been looking forward to this day for five months and I just used my third pick on Plaxico Burress."
For baseball, 10 rounds is a good stopping point. I could have used a few minutes to come to grips with the fact that I've pushed in all my chips and risked my fantasy fortune on four pitchers with a combined age of, oh, 240 years. It's also nice to take a look around the league to see where everybody stands, a luxury you don't have when cranking out a pick every few minutes.
Since we're not live here, however, we can take a look back.
The middle infield positions were a top priority in the early rounds. Through 10 rounds, six teams had already secured a second baseman and a shortstop. Only one owner, Scott Engel of CBS Sportsline, completely ignored the middle infield.
As expected, closers were also a hot item. Only three teams drafted 10 players without selecting an established fireman. For the record, no teams drafted a second closer before the 11th round. Let's move on now to the middle rounds of the Krause draft.
Round 11: This is where the Griffey and Gonzalez watch begins. It's like when Dwayne Schintzius nearly escaped the first round of the 1990 NBA Draft. Nobody wants to pull the trigger on Griff or Juan Gone, but you just can't get either player out of your mind as the rounds go on. Gonzalez is first off the board in this room. For Patterson to be worth my gamble here, his knee will have to be healthy enough for him to hit AND run. He was on pace for about 30 steals last season.
Round 12: Podsednik is a nice story, but with career minor leaguers there is always the fear that you'll soon discover why the guy couldn't make it all these years. With 21 steals in the final two months, however, this is probably the right round to gamble on him. Harden struggled over his last eight starts, but showed enough flash as a rookie to justify a selection here.
Round 13: If you haven't already stockpiled steals, Alex Sanchez is a great pick this late. Detroit turned him loose after his mid-season arrival in 2003, and he never stopped running. He had 10 or more steals in three of the season's final four months. Joe Nathan is a guy you should target as your second or third closer. Best case, you have Minnesota's new closer. Worst case, a solid setup guy capable of winning 10 games and striking out 100.
Round 14: Last June you would have thought it would be Willis, not teammate Josh Beckett, flying off the board in the early rounds. He had a rough stretch in the playoffs, but let's not forget that he was 3-1 with a sub-3.00 ERA in September. Konerko was simply awful in 2003, but he did show signs of life when he hit 12 homers and drove in 40 runs over a 48-game span in July and August. It looks like Chicago will keep their lineup intact, and I'm expecting a return to 2001-02 form for Konerko.
Round 15: I like Cockroft's selection of Byrd here. He hit better than .300 in his first full season and will sit atop a potent Phillies lineup. They let him run in the season's final month, and he responded by swiping six steals in seven tries. Like Konerko, Burrell is a 40-homer guy looking for a rebound season. Ponson's numbers never are great, but 20 wins is a possibility if Baltimore's revamped offense provides the necessary support.
Round 16: The Griffey watch officially ends in the 16th round. Let the injury watch begin. Keep an eye on Cintron in your draft, particularly if your league features a 2B/SS position. He closed last season with months of hitting .347 and .337. Mark Redman moves to the ultimate pitchers' park, which makes him a great pick this late even if Oakland can't score either.
Round 17: Wagner was stolen directly out of my draft queue. To this day, I don't understand why I'm not entitled to some form of compensation when this happens. Crosby is an intriguing pick if you have a vacancy at shortstop this late. On one hand, the organization is confident enough in his abilities to let former AL MVP Miguel Tejada go. On the other had, Oakland loses an MVP every year. For the record, he hit .308 with 22 homers and 24 steals at Oakland's Triple-A affiliate last year.
Round 18: Two more promising prospects make an appearance here. Jason Bay topped 20 homers and 20 steals in 90 games for San Diego's Triple-A affiliate in 2003. Bay, acquired in the Brian Giles trade, will have every chance to earn a full-time spot in Pittsburgh's outfield. Martinez hit .344 in September and is worth a look if your catcher position is vacant in the later rounds.
Round 19: Phelps was a popular sleeper in 2003, but he never fully delivered on his promise. He did close with nine homers and 31 RBI over the final two months. This isn't a bad gamble at this stage of the draft.
Round 20: A lot of "need" picks here as teams scramble to fill their second starting catcher position. Joe Mauer is the best of the bunch. Baseball America ranked him as the top prospect in the Twins organization in 2002 and 2003. Last year at Double-A, he hit .341 with 41 RBI in 73 games. Lidge has amazing stuff and 100-strikeout potential out of the bullpen. He's a nice insurance backup to Octavio Dotel as Houston fills the vacancy left by Billy Wagner's departure.
Where are rounds 21-23 you ask? Well, we may touch on those next week as we continue to discuss Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball draft prep. Alternatively, I may just say that 36 players were drafted – none of them all that good – and leave it at that.