This year is my 15th year playing fantasy baseball, and 9th year in this very tough league. I’ve finished as high as 3rd (out of 14 – now 16 – teams), and as low as 14th. My approach to preparing and my draft strategy keep evolving, but this year I returned to some basic principles that have worked for me before: Keep it simple, and draft for youth.
My returning core was basically what it’s been for a few years: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Jeremy Bonderman, Brett Myers, and a supporting cast of rookies or second-year players. But I needed to fill some of the “skill positions” (C, 2B, SS) and I desperately needed to draft a better pitching staff; pitching has been my bugaboo for years.
9 hours of draft later, this is what I went home with Sunday night:
|2B||Orlando Hudson||ARI||5/71||29||The 2B pool was very thin this year. I picked Hudson over Jeff Kent, picking youth and a hitter’s park over age and Chavez Ravine.|
|2B||Todd Walker||OAK||12/177||34||Not sure how much he’ll play, even though he nominally qualifies at 1B, 2B and 3B. The one pick I made that I actually regret.|
|SS||Bill Hall||MIL||1/7||27||Will probably qualify at OF before long.|
|SS||Bobby Crosby||OAK||10/151||27||I decided this was a good pick to roll the dice that Crosby can be healthy this year.|
|OF||J.D. Drew||BOS||3/39||31||I put my head in my hands when I made this pick. Frankly, Drew is a great player, but only when he’s not hurt.|
|OF||Shane Victorino||PHI||9/135||26||In another youth-oriented pick, I chose him instead of Ken Griffey.|
|OF||David DeJesus||KCA||8/119||27||Another guy I hope stays healthy.|
|OF||Josh Hamilton||CIN||22/342||26||My last pick in the draft. Personal problems hae kept him out of baseball for several years, but he made the Major League team and could be good.|
|SP||Zack Greinke||KCA||6/83||23||Comeback player of the year? He had a great spring training.|
|SP||James Shields||TBA||7/103||25||I like guys who don’t issue many walks.|
|SP||Esteban Loaiza||OAK||15/231||25||Starting the season on the DL|
|IN||Billy Rowell||BAL||18/279||18||Orioles’ 1st-round pick in 2006.|
|IN||Carlos Gomez||NYN||17/263||21||Mets prospect; reached AA at age 20.|
|IN||Felix Pie||CHN||18/286||22||Cubs prospect, probably ready to play this year, but it’s the Cubs.|
|IN||Jacoby Ellsbury||BOS||20/311||23||Red Sox center fielder of the future.|
|IN||Luke Hochevar||KCA||19/295||23||Royals’ 1st-round pick in 2006.|
The big difference between this year and last year’s team (which was awful – I finished 10th out of 16 teams) is that I don’t have Bonderman, Myers, and the four stooges (Javier Vazquez, Matt Clement, Derek Lowe, and Jeff Suppan): Instead I have Bonderman, Myers, and five young guys with some upside, plus a LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher) in Hernandez, plus a top prospect in Pelfrey. So I’m very hopeful that my pitching will be greatly improved this year.
I’m also happy that I managed to execute my draft plan: I picked Bill Hall in the first round, figuring that he should be at worst an average shortstop, and perhaps an All-Star quality shortstop/outfielder. Then I picked two of the four pitchers I was targeting in Capuano and Arroyo (Aaron Harang and David Bush were the other two), and a nice supporting cast.
Certainly I have some risk: None of my pitchers are sure things. J.D. Drew could get hurt. My catchers could potentially all be busts. But on the other hand I have a lot of useful spare parts and if things come together I could actually have a great team.
I enjoyed the prospecting this year. I knew that Tim Lincecum and Homer Bailey would be picked early, but Luke Hochevar could be an excellent pickup as well. And I’m always on the lookout for “the next Miguel Cabrera”, the 20-year-old who’s playing well at Double-A. Carlos Gomez didn’t play nearly as well at AA as did Cabrera, but he did play there, and not badly. He could be a great one.
Last year was a season mired in drudgery. I’m very hopeful that this year’s team will be a lot more fun, and more successful.