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I spent this past Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association winter conference. (Well, to be more accurate, I spent the entirety of Monday in multiple airports after delays, cancellations, and lost bags, but that's beside the point.) During the FSTA conference, there was an experts draft held and broadcast live on SiriusXM's fantasy channel. I'm not sure where the official draft results can be found online, but there was a huge draft board that was displayed throughout the conference, and a few selections stuck out to me, so I wanted to discuss them today. Keep in mind that we're dealing with a standard 5×5 mixed league with 23-man active rosters and 13 teams.

  • Troy Tulowitzki was drafted first overall. This seemed like a slight reach to me with guys like Matt Kemp and Albert Pujols on the board. Don't get me wrong: I like Tulo, but his raw stats don't compare to the other guys, and I don't think position scarcity makes up for the gap.
  • Young players went very early. I'm not sure if they were statement picks or if drafters felt they could take more risks in a league of this depth, but there were a lot of sophomores going really early: Brett Lawrie (third round), Desmond Jennings (third round), Eric Hosmer (fourth round), Matt Moore (ninth round), Dustin Ackley (tenth round), etc. Taking the cake, though, is Stephen Strasburg, who was taken as the ninth pitcher off the board, ahead of guys like Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, Matt Cain, Jon Lester, and David Price. Don't get me wrong, Strasburg is a tremendous talent, but there are enough question marks with his health alone to make him a questionable choice over proven studs like those I listed.
  • Ryan Braun fell to round four, which seems late in a league this shallow. I was asked about Braun in a recent live chat with BP readers:

    Andrew (Las Vegas): Ryan Braun is still going in the 3rd round in NFBC drafts despite the likely 50 game suspension. Too early? Or worth it if you plug in a capable replacement-level player while he's out?

    Derek Carty:
    You nailed it right on the head. That replacement-level player is the lynchpin of his value…

In a mixed league of just 13 teams, guys like Michael Brantley, Mike Carp, John Mayberry, Franklin Gutierrez, and Andres Torres went in the late rounds, and plenty more quality full-timers went undrafted entirely. You know exactly how long Braun is going to be out for, and as long as you have a bench spot to spare, he should have plenty of value as a fourth rounder.

  • Victor Martinez was selected as the first catcher off the board, less than 24 hours before the news about his potential season-ending injury came out. Ouch.
  • There were some curious closer choices. John Axford as the second closer off the board was one. While Axford is very good, he has just a year and a half of closing experience, so guys like Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon—those with similar skills and more experience—are a better bet. Drew Storen was selected as the fifth closer off the board, which perplexed me even more. Axford is a great pitcher; Storen is a pretty good one. He'd probably be in my top 10-15, not top five.
  • Continuing with closers, there were a couple of guys without definite ninth-inning gigs who went quite early: Kenley Jansen (round 14, between Rafael Betancourt and Huston Street) and Jordan Walden (round 13, between Jason Motte and Carlos Marmol). Role trumps all when it comes to closers, as the guy who starts with the job is at least even money to save 25-30 games. It's easy to be seduced by the skills of a guy like Jansen, but if Javy Guerra starts with the job, he's not a good bet for saves—at least not that early. In contrast, Guerra went in round 26, which could prove to be a steal, even if his skills are nowhere near those of Jansen.