Last year was my first experience in one of the big industry leagues, as I participated with Jason Collette in the LABR mixed-league draft—a league I’m in again this year with him. This year, I have the distinct honor of pulling a two-fer in the big industry leagues, adding a Tout Wars invitation to the docket, as well. Like LABR, it’s a 15-team mixed-league draft. And just as in LABR, I was given the 14th pick in the draft. How crazy is that? I’m sure someone here at BP, probably Russell Carleton, can calculate the odds of me getting a pair of 14th picks in two different drafts! One major difference here was that OBP would be used in place of AVG, which definitely changes the dynamic for a handful of players.
The rather brisk draft took place on Tuesday night with the following draft order of industry titans (and me):
- Tom Kessenich
- Perry Van Hook
- Eno Sarris
- Greg Ambrosius
- Tim McLeod
- Paul Greco
- Nick Minnix
- Grey Albright
- Scott Engel
- Anthony Perri
- Ray Murphy
- Adam Ronis
- Charlie Wiegert
- PAUL SPORER!
- Brent Hershey
I was desperately hoping that Bryce Harper would somehow tumble his way down to the no. 14 spot, just as he did for Jason and me in LABR. Harper is a wildcard. His selection really depends on your league-mates more than that of any other first-rounder right now. I value him in the middle of the first round, so if I were picking sixth, I’d be taking him higher than any NFBC draft has seen him go (he has a peak of seventh and trough of 23rd).
Since it is an OBP league, I had designs on Joey Votto as a backup plan. He’s often making it out of the first round in standard leagues with an average pick of 16th, but of course being an OBP super-stud, he might rise up despite an overall tepid appreciation for his skills by the fantasy community at large. This group is too savvy, though, so I honestly had very little hope of getting Votto.
Other notions I had coming into the draft were:
- Get a top catcher: It’s a deep position, but I’ve been testing the depth a little too much in previous drafts and mocks, often ending up in a predicament, because I missed all of my targets in those top two tier. By then, it just makes sense to wait forever. Counting OBP jumps Joe Mauer’s appeal yet another level, on top of the move off of catcher, but I’m not sure I’m willing to take him in the fourth, which is where I think he will go. I want one of Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, or Jonathan Lucroy.
- Don’t get left out at 1B if Votto doesn’t fall in the first round: Similar to the catcher situation, I didn’t want to get caught waiting on first base too long if I didn’t get one of those first-round studs who might be available (Votto, Prince Fielder, or Edwin Encarnacion) near my pick.
- Hit the upper tier of closers: I don’t want to be chasing saves in-season. This is a shark tank of a league; they’re going to be in on the closers-in-waiting two weeks before they are being considered for the job. I could be that shark, too, if I wanted, but why not just secure (as much as you can secure anything in the draft, of course) the volatile position early on with one of super-studs, who by the way also afford you the opportunity to dabble a bit with a lower-strikeout starter in a spot or two, because their 100-strikeout potential offsets a more modest rate from someone like a Jordan Zimmermann or Jered Weaver. I’d rather not be first with Craig Kimbrel, but then one of Aroldis Chapman, Trevor Rosenthal, Kenley Jansen, or Greg Holland will be mine.
- Be aware of OBP, not a slave to it: Perhaps it’s just my experience in particular, but I feel like OBP is given more attention than AVG. It seems that the guys with horrible OBPs fall more those with horrible AVGs when playing in a standard 5×5 league. Obviously, if I get someone like Votto in the first round, he gives me one hell of a cushion for my OBP.
THE EARLY DRAFT (1-7)
So how’d it go?
The first round was a bit annoying, as my competitors rudely took several of the guys I wanted to fall my way. I was impressed, yet displeased, to see Fielder go eighth off the board to Albright. That’s obviously a response to the OBP setting, as Fielder sat over .400 in the category for four straight seasons before last year’s .362—a figure many expect to jump back up now that he’s in Texas. Then, I had my hopes dashed one-by-one with picks 10 through 12, as my top three targets went off in order: Harper, Votto, and then Encarnacion to Perri, Murphy, and Ronis, respectively.
Rude, guys, very rude.
Of course, no one is shedding tears for me, as I wasn’t exactly “stuck” with my pick, landing shortstop Hanley Ramirez and his insane skillset. I followed it up with Jose Bautista in the early second round, giving me a pair of guys who only played 204 combined games last year, but who bring incredible upside with health. Even with the stunted seasons, they combined for 48 home runs last year. Bautista hasn’t stayed healthy in either of the last two seasons, but he’s still managed 55 homers in 210 games. I had no problem gambling on him in that spot.
I was surprised to see Robinson Cano fall out of the first round entirely. I mean, I guess I wasn’t that surprised since I freely passed on him twice, but if there is real concern over him getting pitched to in Seattle, then we could see him log his first double-digit walk rate and jump north of .400 in OBP to account for some potential backslide in his counting stats. I did briefly consider him with my second pick, but I didn’t want to go without an outfielder in the first two picks.
Van Hook showed his belief in Jose Fernandez by making him the fourth SP off the board behind Clayton Kershaw (1.9), Yu Darvish (2.6), and Max Scherzer (2.15). There was a big run on shortstops right before my third-round pick making me happy to have Ramirez secured: Elvis Andrus (3.6), Jose Reyes (3.7), Jean Segura (3.8), and Ian Desmond (3.10). Desmond would’ve been the killer, because I’d have almost certainly been eyeing him with that late-third-round pick.
Instead, I enjoyed what I believe to be a nice discount by selecting Justin Verlander. I got him in the exact same spot during an NFBC draft I wrote about back in November. Frankly, this surprised, especially because he made his spring training debut on Tuesday afternoon. I’m not suggesting that the room should overreact to spring performance on any level, but we’re talking about a guy who has the capability to be baseball’s best pitcher. All signs are pointing to him being ready for Opening Day and I got him as the 10th starter off the board.
Up next, I heavily considered getting my star catcher in the fourth round with Mauer. He’s an OBP stud with a .400 or better effort in five of the last six seasons, including a .404 last year. He’s got a great shot to log a career high in playing time, as he’s no longer catching despite still qualifying there for one final year. Instead, I went with Jason Heyward. I think outfield drops off in a hurry this year, and while Heyward is far from perfect, he’s shown the kind of excellence that can bring a 20-20 season back in 2012. I think I’ll get a crack at my upper-level catcher next time around, and now I’ve got a pair of outfielders capable of being top-10 guys at the position.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see Mauer go three picks later at 4.5 to Murphy. Posey followed at 4.6. At this point, I wasn’t too worried about it triggering a massive run given what was available elsewhere. A lot of teams were going to start looking at getting their ace and I knew Craig Kimbrel was about to come off the board (he was, he went 4.11) which will likely spur a few other closers (it did, Aroldis Chapman and Greg Holland both went before my fifth pick), so I think my catcher will be there in the fifth.
I planned to go catcher/closer here. I had two elite RP options left, and I wasn’t really worried that Hershey would go RP-RP, so I could afford to risk him taking one and making my choice for me between Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal. I selected Brian McCann at 5.14. I’m really excited about his power potential in Yankee Stadium. He is two years removed from his great OBP totals (.375 and .351 in 2010-2011), but I can live with his .336 from last year, especially since I believe it will come with a career-high in homers as he finally pushes past 25.
Hershey did in fact make my decision for me in the sixth by selecting Jansen at 5.15 and leaving me Rosenthal; I’m a huge fan of the Cardinals’ flamethrower anyway, so I might’ve still taken him even if both were available. This will be Rosenthal’s first full year as a closer, but I’m not particularly worried about that. He handled himself brilliantly in the role during the playoffs. He’s got elite stuff that offers 100-plus strikeout potential, and he plays for a team that figures to win plenty and put him in the position for plenty of save opportunities.
I honestly might’ve pushed catcher down the line a bit more had Allen Craig fallen to me in the fifth, but he went 5.7 to Minnix. I didn’t want to get too deep into the first base pool so I definitely loaded my queue with options for the seventh round. I obviously could’ve taken Anthony Rizzo (6.6) or Jose Abreu (6.11) instead of Rosenthal, but the elite-closer tier was drying up quicker than capable first basemen.
Ten of the 13 picks ahead of me in the seventh round were pitchers and another two were catchers, all picks that didn’t really pull from queue—at least not my immediate queue. I love guys like Gerrit Cole (7.3), Alex Cobb (7.8), and Mat Latos (7.12) to name a few, but I had a deep pool of arms I was happy with as my potential second starter. Mike Napoli made it to me in the seventh and it didn’t take me long to make him my first baseman. Being OBP league only made taking Napoli easier as he’s had more than a 100-point split between AVG and OBP each of the last two years, and a 94-point split in 2011.
MY TEAM SO FAR
- Ramirez, SS
- Bautista, OF
- Verlander, SP
- Heyward, OF
- McCann, C
- Rosenthal, RP
- Napoli, 1B
I really liked my crew at this point. There are some calculated risks that I’m very comfortable with making. I’ve addressed some of the thinner positions without overreacting to positional scarcity and I love the team’s power potential.
Next week, I’ll look at the rest of my draft.
- How will my rotation look after Verlander?
- Did I wait too long to secure my second and third basemen?
- Who did I pair with Rosenthal in my bullpen?
You’ll find out in a week… or right now, if you just go look up the results. But what fun is that?!