Family Affair: Meandering through the 2010 F&F

The usual suspects got together on Tuesday for the Sixth Annual Yahoo Friends & Family League. It's my favorite league of the year, given the competition and camaraderie; I wish we could cut and paste some of the draft-room banter. Let's have a quick look at my haul, with some comments thrown in. A much longer and more comprehensive league review, incorporating all teams, will be on Yahoo! next week.

Quick specs: 14 teams, 25 rounds, three bench spots, two active utility spots, 5x5 scoring, and a 1250 innings cap.

1 (10) Justin Upton(notes) OF
2 (19) Roy Halladay(notes) P

The names you'd expect went in the first nine: Pujols, Hanley, A-Rod, Longoria, Utley, Braun, Kemp, Fielder and Teixeira. I'm not taking Joe Mauer(notes) in the first round, especially since it's just a one-catcher league. Mitch Kramer Timmy Lincecum, also not my style.

In retrospect maybe a player like Ryan Howard(notes) makes more sense; I tend to underrate homers during a draft as I search for balanced players and getting someone like Howard early pays so much of the power bill. But I am confident Upton will produce well enough that I don't regret this pick. I switched to value mode later in the draft, but my early selections were more of the targeted player variety.

Halladay was a fairly easy call in Round 2 after Howard and Miguel Cabrera(notes) flew off the board. Doc's going to love the ways of the NL, where the pitchers can't hit, the bunts come with regularity, and the crooked numbers don't get nearly as much play.

3 (38) Derek Jeter(notes) SS
4 (47) Shin-Soo Choo(notes) OF

I was torn between Jeter and Jayson Werth(notes) in Round 3; I decided it was possible that Werth would get back to me at 47 but Jeter was unlikely to. I also liked that Jeter was significantly better than the next shortstop available. Matt Romig dashed my Werth hopes by taking him at 45, and now I'm annoyed I just didn't take Werth at 38. And so it goes. Nick Markakis(notes) and Curtis Granderson(notes) also fell before Choo, outfielders I would have strongly considered. I'm not as sold on Choo as others in the industry are; all those strikeouts have me concerned that the average might not be sustainable, and while he's a power and speed contributor, he doesn't dominate in either area. And that Cleveland lineup doesn't really scare anyone.

5 (66) Chris Carpenter(notes) P
6 (75) Chone Figgins(notes) 3B

I decided before the draft that I wouldn't be afraid to take early pitching if the value was reasonable, and that's the case with Carpenter here. I also love having two NL aces to anchor my staff. The Figgins pick wasn't a fun one; corners flew off the board at a furious pace in the first quarter of the draft (made possible by the two utility spots we use) and everyone recognizes how thin third base is this year. The other problem with taking Figgins here is that it probably steers me away from a value-steals player in the middle of the draft, one of those Nyjer Morgan(notes)-Rajai Davis-Juan Pierre(notes) types.

7 (94) Jason Bartlett(notes) SS
8 (103) Manny Ramirez(notes) OF

I know Bartlett isn't a favorite of Yahoo Nation, but I think he'll keep more of last year's stats than most think. The offseason weight program explains the power spike, and his zesty line-drive rate justifies the average. I'm calling for something in the neighborhood of .290-87-10-54-30, and that fits into this slot.

Ramirez was a welcome selection over the century mark, given that I need to address power. Manny Ramirez, a boring veteran grab? That's the story in 2010.

9 (122) Raul Ibanez(notes) OF
10 (131) Jered Weaver(notes) P
11 (150) James Shields(notes) P
12 (159) Johnny Damon(notes) OF

I've been singing the praises of the "Ibanez All-Stars" for many years, underappreciated veterans who return respectable value in the middle rounds, and Ibanez and Damon both come under that umbrella here. I'm not blind to the risks at play – Ibanez is coming off hernia surgery while Damon is leaving a park that was perfectly suited to his swing – but the sticker price seems to work.

I'd prefer to keep working off the NL pitching but Weaver at least gets the easier side of the draw in the Junior Circuit. Shields hangs out in the AL East softball game, but his three-year averages are solid (3.82 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 170 Ks).

13 (178) Ryan Franklin(notes) P
14 (187) Ryan Dempster(notes) P
15 (206) Matt Lindstrom(notes) P
16 (215) Nick Johnson(notes) 1B

I missed out on a closer run right after my Damon selection – the next five picks were middle-tier closers – so it was time to address the saves chase when the button got back to me. Franklin's statistical fleas are obvious and a career year that shows up in the mid-30s is a glaring red flag, but the Cardinals liked him enough to give him a late-season extension, and there's a lot to be said for the protective womb of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. And heck, getting three outs with no one on base isn't that difficult; look at some of the mediocre pitchers who have succeeded as closers over the years.

Before you throw Dempster in the dumpster, remember we're working off an innings-pitched cap in this league (1250), so strikeout rate is very important. The heavy reliance on his slider is a concern, but if Dempster stays in one piece, he's a safe bet for 155-175 whiffs.

Lindstrom isn't an easy pick to make, but he's been sharp this spring while Brandon Lyon(notes) rehabs; Lindstrom probably is close to securing this gig. I've had some good runs with sketchy closers in the past (the first year of Brian Wilson(notes), Todd Jones(notes), guys like that), and after Pick 200, I'm not going to be a snob when it comes to securing this stat. Sometimes you have to hold your nose while you make a pick.

Waiting at first base came with a price; Johnson's got an obvious upside (the No. 2 slot in the loaded Yankees lineup) but he's not a major power guy and no one expects more than 120 games. I like the player for what he is, but I'm not proud that he's my No. 1 first baseman at the moment. Hey, in a competitive league, you're not going to get everything you want.

17 (234) Kelly Johnson(notes) 2B
18 (243) Scott Kazmir(notes) P
19 (262) Kevin Gregg(notes) P
20 (271) Chris Perez(notes) P
21 (290) Mike Lowell(notes) 3B

Arizona's Johnson was another player I had semi-targeted before the draft, but it was hard to know when to pull the trigger. He's buried in the game ranks (remember he was an Atlanta non-starter back when our magazine went to press), but I know the owners in this room were hip to him. I got a lot of immediate feedback after the Johnson selection; had I not grabbed him here, he wasn't coming back to me. Go look at his sneaky-valuable 2008 stats, I think we're going to see them again.

I've never been much for Kazmir through the Tampa days but his strikeout upside and Anaheim context has me intrigued. Gregg is a mediocre pitcher but he might be Toronto's ninth-inning guy, and the electric Perez is just one Kerry Wood(notes) tweak away from saves.

22 (299) Derek Lowe(notes) P
23 (318) Carlos Gomez(notes) OF
24 (327) Scott Hairston(notes) OF
25 (346) Yadier Molina(notes) C

I pretty much swore off Lowe for good after last year's crash-and-burn, and I didn't take those "I fixed my mechanics" stories seriously from the winter (everyone says that when they struggle). But when your'e 300 picks into this exercise, the draft does funny things to us. Immediately after the draft, I punted Lowe and gave Brandon Inge(notes) a look-see, hoping fixed knees will help him approach his first-half form from last year (.268-51-21-58).

Gomez is easy to mock, and he never met a pitch he didn't want to hack at, but I'm giving him a 20-25 percent chance to be this year's Michael Bourn(notes). All you're looking for this late is some sort of plausible upside.

Yadier Molina, I know, I know. I probably should have taken a catcher in the middle of the draft somewhere, but other needs kept jumping in front. I've generally avoided having a designer backstop in this league and it's never hurt me too much; we'll see what happens. Carlos Ruiz(notes) (nice second half), Ramon Hernandez(notes), Rod Barajas(notes) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) are some of the current free agents.

So what does it all mean? I've got a strong starting staff, but that's the position with the most volatility. Plenty of speed, but the power could be lacking. I've generally been proactive and successful finding saves for nothing, but up against the strongest field in F&F history, I can't assume anything. I can't say I love this team, but I certainly don't hate it.

I expect some of you throw the tomatoes, as is the custom when we unveil a roster in public. Before you get out the hatchets, I ask you to consider that this league truly is a lot more competitive than the average public group. And for whatever you might think of my drafting acumen, I've found a way to contend in each of the previous five years (2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 2nd). I'm not going to promise anything but my best game, my best efforts. And we'll discuss it nightly, in this space, looking for a win-win for us all.

(Want more Friends & Family rosters to look at? Take a peek at the RotoWire crew, which has already chimed in: Dalton Del Don here, Jeff Erickson here, and defending champ Chris Liss here. And wait, there's more wrap-ups to check out: Mike Salfino here, Paul Singman here. And we'll have our massive F&F Review on Yahoo! next week.)


Photo via US Presswire

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