Next week, Lawr and I will be in Las Vegas, at the Bellagio for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s (FSTA) winter meeting. I know, rough life. While neither of us are the biggest fans of Sin City, we manage to make it through the two-day event every year unscathed, in part due to our annual visit to the Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. In between bites of one of the biggest and best sandwiches known to mankind, we plan on talking strategy for the impending FSTA Expert’s Draft sponsored (and covered) by Sirius XM though we usually end up talking about everything but baseball. Pastrami will do that to you.
This year’s trip will be special for two reasons. First, as Lawr documented last winter, he had a health scare that prevented him from traveling so we communicated via g-chat. It’s sure going to be nice to have his yang next to my yin in-person at the draft table, or as Lawr has so deftly named our team management style, Zen and Now will be back together. The other reason this trip will be special is when we’re interviewed by Sirius or prompted to give our pick, we’ll be referred to as defending champions. We can play the humble card all we want but we’d be lying if either of us said it’s not going to feel good being called champ.
The first opportunity for Zen and Now to brag a bit will be this coming Monday on Sirius SM Fantasy Sports Radio during The Drive, sometime between 5:00 PM ET and 7:00 PM ET. The league sets the draft order via a lottery. A team is picked out of a hat and chooses their draft spot live on the air, usually providing a brief explanation. Last year we picked 12th out of 13 teams and tabbed Buster Posey as our first pick, causing a bit of a stir. We followed with Justin Upton, once again demonstrating you don’t win a league with your first couple of picks.
Lawr and I have briefly cyber-discussed from which spot we prefer to defend our title but haven’t finalized the plan yet. We’ll probably do so Sunday night after the football games have ended. Here’s my current thinking in terms of desired draft spot.
There’s a pretty good chance we’ll turn that into a top-four, adding Paul Goldschmidt to the mix. By the numbers he deserves to be there but even though his track record is the same length as Trout’s, there’s some uneasiness with Goldy that I don’t feel with Trout. But probably not enough to knock him from the four-hole.
Here’s where it gets a bit hairy as my choice for number five will be shared by some but not the majority as Jacoby Ellsbury is a love-him or hate-him type of player. I feel Ellsbury is accident-prone as opposed to injury prone thus expect enough playing time (and production) to warrant this pick. Others are leery of the health issues or strategically prefer to draft more power than speed early on. Unless Lawr agrees with my sentiments on Ellsbury, if the five spot is the first available at our turn, we’ll likely opt for a later pick.
If that’s the case, the question becomes how late. An advantage of picking early is the delta between players is greatest at the top (the decline is not linear) so you can gain an on-paper advantage with an early pick. Countering that is the possibility a higher ranked player falls to you towards the end of the round. Ellsbury is the perfect example. There’s a chance we slides into the double digits – a very good chance. So from my perspective, we may get a top-five player then get an early pick in the second round to pair with him.
What I like to do is decide how many players I would pick as early as possible (we’ll include Goldschmidt thus call it four) then determine how many other players I’d be satisfied with choosing in the first round. If the players are bunched together thus there is no discernible difference, I’ll pick as late as it takes to guarantee getting one.
After Ellsbury, the group I am comfortable drafting in the first includes Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Gomez and Adrian Beltre. Note I said comfortable. Conspicuous by their absence are Robinson Cano, Chris Davis and Ryan Braun.
I favor reliability early even if that means sacrificing upside. Of the five names I mentioned as first round targets, Gomez may be questioned as the least reliable. I think his batting average is indeed risky but he’ll provide a treasure trove of counting stats. Still, there’s a chance he falls to the second so I’d eliminate him and set 9th as the latest spot from which I’d want to draft.
In this league, that means there’s a chance that we’ll be forced to pick 10th through 13th if our name isn’t taken early from the hat. If saddled with one of those spots we may get lucky and one of the top-nine may fall. There’s a very good chance Cano and Davis are taken ahead of us if we’re drafting 10th to 13th. In some leagues, Clayton Kershaw could go and he may go in this league.
This is the main reason Lawr and I talk more about other stuff than our strategy at the Carnegie Deli, we’re going to get a good player. Last year we literally chose Posey by default. We had a list of 11 names and had the 12th pick. We were sure someone else would sneak into the top 11. Wrong – so on the fly we ended up on Posey. And still won.
I’m still going to put some serious thought into both the draft spot and the possible targets because that’s what I do. But I’m not going to sweat our spot, regardless of where it is. I’d rather expend my energy savoring that pastrami sandwich, especially since I will have a brand new elliptical waiting for me to deflower when I return home. It’ll be the last time I spoil myself with pastrami for a long, long time.
You know, until Zen and Now are plotting our three-peat next year!