One of my first tasks upon embarking on a new fantasy season is to sit down and perform a mock draft where I play the role of each owner. It's easy enough to create your own cheatsheet based upon your rankings of who you think the best players are. In a mock draft setting, however, that list gets thrown out the window when team positional needs and the "run-on-a-position" phenomenom are factored in.
The guidelines of my mock draft were simply to follow the Yahoo! default league set-up. For that reason, I drafted 16 roster spots for 12 teams. And I made my selections with the league's 5x5 categories in mind. The following table is the results of this draft followed by my strategy for when to pick each roster position.
|1-1||Alex Rodriguez, NYY, 3B||2-1||Ichiro, Sea, OF||3-1||Derek Jeter, NYY, SS|
|1-2||Albert Pujols, StL, 1B||2-2||Scott Rolen, StL, 3B||3-2||Eric Chavez, Oak, 3B|
|1-3||Vladimir Guerrero, LAA, OF||2-3||Todd Helton, Col, 1B||3-3||Melvin Mora, Bal, 3B|
|1-4||Carlos Beltran, NYM, OF||2-4||Adrian Beltre, Sea, 3B||3-4||Mark Prior, ChC, SP|
|1-5||Miguel Tejada, Bal, SS||2-5||Aramis Ramirez, ChC, 3B||3-5||Eric Gagne, LAD, RP|
|1-6||Alfonso Soriano, Tex, 2B||2-6||David Ortiz, Bos, 1B||3-6||Gary Sheffield, NYY, OF|
|1-7||Bobby Abreu, Phi, OF||2-7||Jim Thome, Phi, 1B||3-7||Pedro Martinez, NYM, SP|
|1-8||Randy Johnson, NYY, SP||2-8||Miguel Cabrera, Fla, OF||3-8||Jim Edmonds, StL, OF|
|1-9||Johan Santana, Min, SP||2-9||Mark Teixeira, Tex, 1B||3-9||Jimmy Rollins, Phi, SS|
|1-10||Manny Ramirez, Bos, OF||2-10||Carlos Delgado, Fla, 1B||3-10||Rafael Furcal, Atl, SS|
|1-11||Barry Bonds, SF, OF||2-11||Juan Pierre, Fla, OF||3-11||Curt Schilling, Bos, SP|
|1-12||Carl Crawford, TB, OF||2-12||Jason Schmidt, SF, SP||3-12||Aubrey Huff, TB, 3B|
|4-1||N. Garciaparra, ChC, SS||5-1||Brad Lidge, Hou, RP||6-1||Joe Nathan, Min, RP|
|4-2||Edgar Renteria, Bos, SS||5-2||Ben Sheets, Mil, SP||6-2||Scott Podsednik, Mil, OF|
|4-3||Marcus Giles, Atl, 2B||5-3||Carlos Guillen, Det, SS||6-3||Francisco Cordero, Tex, RP|
|4-4||Victor Martinez, Cle, C||5-4||Mark Loretta, SD, 2B||6-4||Armando Benitez, SF, RP|
|4-5||Michael Young, Tex, SS||5-5||Jose Reyes, NYM, SS||6-5||Derrek Lee, ChC, 1B|
|4-6||Hank Blalock, Tex, 3B||5-6||F. Rodriguez, LAA, RP||6-6||Octavio Dotel, Oak, RP|
|4-7||Roger Clemens, Hou, SP||5-7||Bret Boone, Sea, 2B||6-7||Johnny Damon, Bos, OF|
|4-8||Chipper Jones, Atl, 3B||5-8||Keith Foulke, Bos, RP||6-8||Kerry Wood, ChC, SP|
|4-9||Ivan Rodriguez, Det, C||5-9||Jeff Kent, LAD, 2B||6-9||Tim Hudson, Atl, SP|
|4-10||Roy Oswalt, Hou, SP||5-10||Jake Peavy, SD, SP||6-10||Trevor Hoffman, SD, RP|
|4-11||Mariano Rivera, NYY, RP||5-11||Billy Wagner, Phi, RP||6-11||Orlando Cabrera, LAA, SS|
|4-12||Javy Lopez, Bal, C||5-12||Carlos Zambrano, ChC, SP||6-12||Adam Dunn, Cin, OF|
|7-1||Chone Figgins, LAA, 2B||8-1||Jose Vidro, Was, 2B||9-1||Paul Konerko, ChW, 1B|
|7-2||Jorge Posada, NYY, C||8-2||Carl Pavano, NYY, SP||9-2||Justin Morneau, Min, UT|
|7-3||Corey Patterson, ChC, OF||8-3||David Wright, NYM, 3B||9-3||Guillermo Mota, Fla, RP|
|7-4||J. Isringhausen, StL, RP||8-4||John Smoltz, Atl, SP||9-4||Eddie Guardado, Sea, RP|
|7-5||Josh Beckett, Fla, SP||8-5||Hideki Matsui, NYY, OF||9-5||Shawn Green, Ari, 1B|
|7-6||Oliver Perez, Pit, SP||8-6||Joe Mauer, Min, C||9-6||Dan Kolb, Atl, RP|
|7-7||Rich Harden, Oak, SP||8-7||Mike Lowell, Fla, 3B||9-7||Moises Alou, SF, OF|
|7-8||Roy Halladay, Tor, SP||8-8||Magglio Ordonez, Det, OF||9-8||Luis Castillo, Fla, 2B|
|7-9||Vernon Wells, Tor, OF||8-9||Sammy Sosa, Bal, OF||9-9||Sean Casey, Cin, 1B|
|7-10||Travis Hafner, Cle, UT||8-10||Mike Mussina, NYY, SP||9-10||A.J. Burnett, Fla, SP|
|7-11||Jason Varitek, Bos, C||8-11||Mark Mulder, StL, SP||9-11||Javier Vazquez, Ari, SP|
|7-12||Richie Sexson, Sea, 1B||8-12||Barry Zito, Oak, SP||9-12||Carlos Lee, Mil, OF|
|10-1||Mike Piazza, NYM, C||11-1||Chad Cordero, Was, RP||12-1||J. Bonderman, Det, SP|
|10-2||Braden Looper, NYM, RP||11-2||Matt Clement, Bos, SP||12-2||Tony Womack, NYY, 2B|
|10-3||Troy Percival, Det, RP||11-3||Kelvim Escobar, LAA, SP||12-3||Brad Radke, Min, SP|
|10-4||Shingo Takatsu, ChW, RP||11-4||Troy Glaus, Ari, 3B||12-4||C.C. Sabathia, Cle, SP|
|10-5||B.J. Ryan, Bal, RP||11-5||Greg Maddux, ChC, SP||12-5||Lance Berkman, Hou, OF|
|10-6||Danny Graves, Cin, RP||11-6||Odalis Perez, LAD, SP||12-6||L. Hernandez, Was, SP|
|10-7||J.D. Drew, LAD, OF||11-7||Torii Hunter, Min, OF||12-7||Juan Uribe, ChW, SS|
|10-8||Aaron Rowand, ChW, OF||11-8||Freddy Garcia, ChW, SP||12-8||Jason Kendall, Oak, C|
|10-9||Chris Carpenter, StL, SP||11-9||G. Anderson, LAA, OF||12-9||Jason Bay, Pit, OF|
|10-10||Dave Roberts, SD, OF||11-10||Steve Finley, LAA, OF||12-10||Chase Utley, Phi, 2B|
|10-11||Danys Baez, TB, RP||11-11||Phil Nevin, SD, 1B||12-11||Jose Guillen, Was, OF|
|10-12||Brian Giles, SD, OF||11-12||Jose Mesa, Pit, RP||12-12||Zack Greinke, KC, SP|
|13-1||Ken Griffey Jr., Cin, OF||14-1||Bob Wickman, Cle, RP||15-1||Scot Shields, LAA, RP|
|13-2||Andruw Jones, Atl, OF||14-2||Milton Bradley, LAD, OF||15-2||Jake Westbrook, Cle, SP|
|13-3||Mark Buehrle, ChW, SP||14-3||Ramon Hernandez, SD, C||15-3||Paul Lo Duca, LAD, C|
|13-4||Kazuo Matsui, NYM, SS||14-4||Greg Aquino, Ari, RP||15-4||Lyle Overbay, Mil, 1B|
|13-5||Jeremy Affeldt, KC, RP||14-5||Johnny Estrada, Atl, C||15-5||Alex Sanchez, Det, OF|
|13-6||Brad Wilkerson, Was, 1B||14-6||Matt Lawton, Pit, OF||15-6||Russ Ortiz, Ari, SP|
|13-7||Jaret Wright, NYY, SP||14-7||Bartolo Colon, LAA, SP||15-7||Tom Gordon, NYY, RP|
|13-8||Lew Ford, Min, OF||14-8||Jeff Weaver, LAD, SP||15-8||Ted Lilly, Tor, SP|
|13-9||Larry Walker, StL, OF||14-9||Jon Lieber, Phi, SP||15-9||Jason Lane, Hou, OF|
|13-10||Preston Wilson, Col, OF||14-10||Akinori Otsuka, SD, RP||15-10||Bronson Arroyo, Bos, SP|
|13-11||Brandon Webb, Ari, SP||14-11||Juan Rincon, Min, RP||15-11||Joel Pineiro, Sea, SP|
|13-12||Rodrigo Lopez, Bal, SP||14-12||Al Leiter, Fla, SP||15-12||David Wells, Bos, SP|
|16-1||Jeff Bagwell, Hou, 1B|
|16-2||Luis Gonzalez, Ari, OF|
|16-3||Doug Davis, Mil, SP|
|16-4||Randy Wolf, Phi, SP|
|16-5||Dontrelle Willis, Fla, SP|
|16-6||Bobby Crosby, Oak, SS|
|16-7||Michael Barrett, ChC, C|
|16-8||Chin-hui Tsao, Col, RP|
|16-9||John Thomson, Atl, SP|
|16-10||Tadahito Iguchi, ChW, 2B|
|16-11||Ray Durham, SF, 2B|
|16-12||Coco Crisp, Cle, OF|
Count on a quick shopping spree on catchers as soon as someone pulls Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez or Victor Martinez off the board. The value of the three are aligned fairly close and, from this draft and the few others I've already participated in, you can count on all three of these guys going within a 10-12 pick span. I think conventional wisdom has been that Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek are the next group to go, but at least a couple rounds later. One thing to look out for is Joe Mauer creeping up to the Posada and Varitek level as the spring progresses. I've witnessed the start of this trend and, given Mauer's ability, it's easy to justify. If you don't wind up with any of these six backstops in the first 8-9 rounds, feel comfortable writing off your catcher spot until the tail end of the draft. I honestly don't see a dramatic value difference between Jason Kendall, Ramon Hernandez, Johnny Estrada, Paul Lo Duca and Michael Barrett, at least not enough to go out of your way for. The X-factor is Mike Piazza, who is capable of 30 home runs or an extended DL stint. My philosophy is generally to avoid big question marks but, if you like to make these gambles, slot Piazza in those rounds between the second and third tiers.
First Base Analysis
There are six elite first basemen to get – Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Jim Thome, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Delgado. If you want one of them, you'll need to make that move within the first two rounds (you could get lucky in Round 3). Admittedly, you could wait 5-6 rounds later and go for a Richie Sexson, Travis Hafner, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Justin Morneau or Shawn Green. It is likely that 2-3 of these guys will play on par with the top half dozen at the position but again, I think the question marks start entering the picture with these guys, where as the top group is pretty bullet-proof. In all, I've mentioned 12 first baseman, which means it would be awfully hard for a default team to wind up without a quality player at this position. If, though, you pass on all these guys and other teams start absorbing them in their utility spot, your remaining choices will be the gap-power, solid-average types like Sean Casey or Lyle Overbay, or the old guard like Jeff Bagwell, Mike Sweeney and Rafael Palmeiro, who could see the bottom fall out on them at any time.
Second Base Analysis
At second base, one of these kids is doing his own thing. There isn't a bigger gap between the top player at a position and the rest of the field than at second base. Alfonso Soriano will go in the first round, and it could be another 30-40 picks before you see another second sacker taken. At that point, it'll be Bret Boone, Jeff Kent, Marcus Giles, Mark Loretta or Jose Reyes (if someone is hunting for speed) that goes next. Whoever it is, you can bet the rest of this group is soon to follow. After that comes Jose Vidro, Luis Castillo and Chone Figgins (if someone chooses to put him at 2B). That leaves three teams yet to choose a second baseman. If you are one of those teams, this is the point at which you stop worrying about the position until late, because the remaining second baseman are made up of speculative picks like Chase Utley, Brian Roberts, Tony Womack, Ray Durham and Japanese import Tadahito Iguchi. Sure, there is a potential fantasy star in that mix, but deciding which one it is a roll of the dice that isn't worth making until late.
Third Base Analysis
Traditionally, the hot corner has been a hot spot in fantasy drafts because talent usually runs thin here. That doesn't seem to be the case this season. Between Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Eric Chavez, Hank Blalock, Aubrey Huff, Chipper Jones, Mike Lowell, David Wright and Troy Glaus, that's 11 third basemen that could easily top 30 home runs and push 100 RBI. Then you toss in the OBP machine that is Melvin Mora, and the speed option of third base-eligible Chone Figgins, and you see that there are ample possibilities at the hot corner. A-Rod, Rolen and Beltre are the cream of the crop, but if you miss on them in the first couple rounds, you'll be just fine. Third base is witnessing a renaissance, and if your hot corner pick doesn't look like it is going to pan out during the season, there'll be help on the waiver wire, be it Corey Koskie, rookie Dallas McPherson, Casey Blake, Aaron Boone, or several others.
Shortstop Base Analysis
The shortstop position has one clear front-runner – Miguel Tejada – and a strong second group led by Derek Jeter and including Nomar Garciaparra, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria, Michael Young, Carlos Guillen, and Orlando Cabrera ( a bit of a tweener between this group and the next group down). In the case of Garciaparra, don't expect a bargain. I've already seen many people willing to write off last year as an anomaly. The general swell of opinion is that, in a contract year and healthy heading into spring, Garciaparra is very likely to return to the 25-30 HR, .300 hitter that he was in Boston. He's another draft climber, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him in Jeter's rear-view mirror in late March drafts. The nine shortstops mentioned should be your targeted group, because they represent the group that precedes the start of the bargain basement crowd. Grab one of the top guys in the first six rounds, or you'll likely regret it.
Because you need only three outfield starters, there is not much need to fill more than one or two of those spots in the first 10 rounds. It is easy to find good potential beyond that to round out the outfield. But, this is a big position for corralling speed – the top 11 base-stealers in '04 were outfield-eligible – so give extra value to Carlos Beltran, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre and Ichiro. And you'll likely have to reach a couple rounds early for pure steals specialists like Scott Podsednik, Dave Roberts and Alex Sanchez given that power is in ample supply while speed certainly is not. My general strategy for the outfield in Yahoo! default leagues is, for those other than the elite (Vlad, Bonds, Ramirez, Beltran, Abreu, etc.) that you'll see go in the top 2-3 rounds, wait until you see an outfielder fall below his expected value. Believe me, there'll be plenty of those situations pop up. In my mock draft, getting Brian Giles, Aaron Rowand or J.D. Drew in Round 10 would qualify as examples of this strategy. Certainly don't reach for a guy because you are playing a hunch. You'll get plenty of bargains if you are patient.
Like the outfield position dynamic, the fact that you need only have two starters in your active lineup means that you can spend most of the draft looking elsewhere. But I think it is incumbent upon owners to make sure they get a staff anchor early on. Yahoo! default leagues are ideal for rotating starters through the waiver wire because you can only have up to five starters in your active roster at one time (there are three pitcher "utility" spots that can be used for starters or relievers). In my mock draft, I found that there were plenty of solid starters that ended up going undrafted. So the talent will be there for cycling starters during the season. For that reason, having an arm or two that is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the pack might be the difference between your team and the rest of the league. Get two of the following: Randy Johnson, Johan Santana, Jason Schmidt, Mark Prior, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano, Tim Hudson, Oliver Perez, Rich Harden, Josh Beckett, Roy Halladay and Kerry Wood. If you manage to do that, you can kick back, pick a starter or two at the end of draft, with the expectation that you'll be cycling the waiver wire with the rest of your staff as the season goes.
The closer run in fantasy drafts is a tradition that likely dates back to the very first roto leagues. If you are drafting in a room with a group of people, someone is surely to call out that the "run" has begun as soon as two closers are chosen close together. Closers do one thing that contributes significantly to a team's bottom line – saves. My philosophy on closers is that I always want two guys with the potential to get me 40-plus saves and then possibly acquire a third reliever at the end of the draft that is either a stopper for a bad team, or a set-up man who is very likely to step into the closer role during the season. It's pointless to try and own the market on closers because the reward isn't that satisfying – what's the point in owning one category? You just want to make sure you can be competitive in the category so that it doesn't wind up being a drag on your team during the season. The best approach when it comes to closer runs is to be a close follower instead of a leader. Concentrate on filling out your team at other positions until another team steps up and decides to lead the run. And don't consider the run to have started with the selection of Eric Gagne. He's in a class by himself and is likely a round or two ahead of the rest of the group. The run officially starts with the closer that goes after Gagne. At that point, jump on board and get a closer.
The first run of closers should include Brad Lidge, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez, Keith Foulke, Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan, Francisco Cordero, Armando Benitez and Octavio Dotel. Get one of these guys, then wait for the next run. That group will include Jason Isringhausen, Trevor Hoffman, Danny Kolb, Guillermo Mota, Eddie Guardado, Braden Looper, Troy Percival, Shingo Takatsu, B.J. Ryan, Danny Graves and Chad Cordero. If you land a closer from each of these two groups, you are fairly set. If you land two of the best of each of these groups, you can call it good and figure on adding a closer during the season when bullpen situations start falling apart and new closers arrive on the scene. If you somehow miss out on a top-tier closer and end up with two from the second-tier, say Looper and Percival, you should look at adding a third closer – Jose Mesa, Greg Aquino, Danys Baez, Jeremy Affeldt, Bob Wickman – later on.
Hopefully you are now armed with a solid foundation of draft strategy to go and dominate your league. Best of luck in the '05 season.