Here I was kind of looking forward to a short hiatus from the world of fantasy baseball. Those six months, or really eight months when adding in the draft prep period, are so intense that by the time it’s all over I’m more than ready for the season to be over, that is until about mid-January when I can’t wait for it to start again. In fact, I’ve never even done a mock draft before mid-January.
Maybe I take mock drafts a bit too seriously, but I just wasn’t ready. Well, this year I decided to break my rule after being invited by Derek VanRiper of Roto Sports Inc. to take part in an NFBC style expert mock. 15 teams, 30-man rosters, hey why not? Then when I learned that fellow Mastersballer Lawr Michaels would be a participant, well, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse! This would be the deepest mock draft I’ve ever been a part of, and by far the earliest. So what did I do to prepare?
I printed out a set of rankings just to have the names in front of me on one page. In a 450-player draft, this was a must. My strategy? Nothing too complicated. I’d follow a best available player approach while paying attention to position scarcity. I know a lot of people like to try out radical strategies in mock drafts, but for the most part I’m not one of them, particularly this early in the offseason. An added twist in a November draft is the free agent factor. With a number of high-impact players destined to change teams, it’s tougher to predict their 2012 performance level, so I was forced to ignore this altogether. I chose the #6 draft position as I generally prefer to be in the middle rather than having to constantly reach for players, but in retrospect I’m now thinking that the more teams in the league, the more it pays off to be at the wheel as you’re more likely to get the players you really want. Scroll further down for my thoughts on the first 15 rounds, and see Mock Draft Central for the full draft.
Best Value: Hanley Ramirez – Round 2 (Overall Pick #16)
My season-long frustration with Hanley has been well-documented, but 16th overall is outstanding value for a 27-year-old five-category shortstop. I can’t help but think that injuries played a major role in Ramirez’s nightmare 2011 season and am willing to give him another chance.
Biggest Reach: Carlos Santana – Round 2 (Overall Pick #29)
I get it, Carlos carries loads of upside, but 29th pick is an awfully high price to pay for a guy with barely over a year of big league experience under his belt. The 27 homers were great but he hit .239. .239! Perhaps even more telling, Brian McCann went 17 picks later.
Best Value: Jose Valverde – Round 10 (Overall Pick #149)
I know that many owners subscribe to the “Wait to draft your closers” theory, but I was shocked that Valverde was available here. Sure, he makes the ninth inning quite interesting at times but almost always gets the job done. Oh yeah, he’s coming off a season in which he converted all 49 of his save chances.
Biggest Reach: Logan Morrison – Round 7 (Overall Pick #94)
Plenty of candidates here but I’ll go with Morrison, who hit for a lousy average last year while displaying a lot more pop than he did in the Minors. Even if he bats .275 with 25 homers over a full 2012 season, this would be a so-so pick.
Best Value: Adam Wainwright – Round 13 (Overall Pick #184)
A risk well worth taking. All reports say that Wainwright will be 100 percent by the start of spring training, and while he might not return to ace form immediately, at this price the reward is huge.
Biggest Reach: Chase Headley – Round 12 (Overall Pick #166)
It’s really hard to criticize any pick at this stage of the draft but this seemed a bit too early for Headley, who offers minimal power at a position where you’d like to get 20 or so homers.
All in all, I think I did a decent job in this ultra-challenging mock draft. I’m not overly thrilled, but then again I’m rarely satisfied with my early mock draft teams, so this shouldn’t come as a shock.
My Favorite Pick: Jeremy Hellickson (Round 10)
The kid’s for real. Just check out the stats, which look even better when we consider that he pitches in the AL East. The strikeout rate was surprisingly low but the 24-year-old has plenty of time to improve in that area.
My Least Favorite Pick: Aramis Ramirez (Round 4)
I was focused on addressing the somewhat weak 3B position with this pick but probably should’ve waited a round and taken Brett Lawrie. A-Ram is old and injury-prone and a move away from the Friendly Confines will only hurt his overall value.
OK, there you have it. I’m officially done with mock drafts until 2012…I think.
Tuesday, November 1 – 11:42 AM
7-1! This is getting kind of ridiculous now. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected my team to be in first place midway through the season, but here I am. It seems like every week I have one player who puts up a monster stat line and almost single-handedly carries me to victory. Although this past week, it wasn’t one player but rather a group: the Bills defense. I picked them up as a bye week replacement for the Packers and they go on to notch a shutout! Go figure. As is often the case in fantasy football, luck did play a role as half of my opponent’s regular starters were either injured or on a bye. Still though, I was the high scorer for the week, so this was no cheap win. Anyway, this just goes to show you that you should never give up on your team before the season even starts. Lesson learned.Wednesday, November 2 – 1:55 PM
The way this season is going, it might be a good idea for me to go out and buy some lotto tickets. You’re probably sick of hearing about my lack of a No. 2 running back, but this issue hasn’t gone away. I’ve just been able to hide it thanks to the rest of my lineup stepping up or in some cases wise short-term starts. First it was Earnest Graham. Yeah, he’s out for the year now, but not before rewarding me with a strong performance back in Week 6. Then last week I got to play Pierre Thomas, who saw an expanded role in the Saints’ explosive offensive attack as a result of Mark Ingram’s injury. So who’s my savior this week? His name is Michael Bush. You’ve probably heard of him. He’s the guy who ran for 99 yards a couple weeks ago in relief of Darren McFadden, who suffered a foot injury in the first quarter. With Run DMC expected to be out Sunday, Bush is a must-start. He’s proven in the past to be more than capable of handling a full workload and should do well facing a Broncos defense that has struggled against the run all season. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if McFadden remains sidelined for an extended period of time. Here I go again rooting for guys to get injured and then stay injured. It’s mean, I know, but I just can’t help it.
Friday, November 4 – 3:38 PM
Less than an hour ago in one of my other leagues, someone dropped Jermichael Finley. I wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t think that the former Finley owner is crazy for making the move. After all, aside from one exceptional game in which he caught three touchdown passes, Finley has been pretty awful this year. So unlike the earlier incident in which I, as the Commissioner, put the Chris Johnson for Steve Johnson trade to a league veto vote (the deal got vetoed), I won’t interfere with this at all. Honestly, the whole Johnson for Johnson story has embarrassed me to no end, and I really feel bad for the guy who was set to trade CJ2K before we intervened. He would have been a lot better off right now. Going forward, I’ve decided that I’ll be less of a hands-on commish. So if this owner wants to gamble that Finley will not return to elite form, I don’t have a problem with it. That said, there’s no doubt in my mind that someone will put in a claim for the Packers’ tight end, and that someone could very well hit the jackpot.
Turns out that the team I was totally distraught over back in early-September, the team I pretty much gave up on before the season even started, is 4-1. But I’m still not a true believer in this group, and the events of the past 24 hours have done little to alleviate my panic. As if relying on Joseph Addai as my No. 2 RB isn’t risky enough, now he’s hurt! The oft-injured Addai left Sunday’s game early due to a hamstring injury, and his post-game remarks were far from encouraging. “Sometimes you feel a tear,” Addai said. “This was a little grab.” Not good. If he’s out for an extended period of time, I’ll need to make a trade, and with wide receiver being my only area of depth, I’m in real trouble. Wide receiver just so happens to be the deepest of all the positions. Who in their right mind would want to trade a top-20 RB for a non-elite wideout? Let me see if anyone is interested in a swap involving either Jeremy Maclin or Santana Moss. If I can’t pull off anything before Sunday, either Pierre Thomas or Michael Bush will be in my starting lineup. Scary.Tuesday, October 11 – 8:20 PM
What a waste of time and energy. After carefully examining each of the rosters and finally identifying a team that’s loaded at the running back position (Beanie Wells, Felix Jones and James Starks are all sitting on his bench), the guy isn’t at all interested in my receivers. “I’d be happy to move a running back but I don’t see either of those guys as an upgrade at WR for me,” he says. “I really need help at TE, so if you wanted to do one of those backs for Graham, I'd be interested.” Wait a minute. I’m not quite that desperate. So far, Jimmy Graham is the highest scoring tight end in our league. And it’s not even close. Am I crazy to think that this is an unreasonable demand? I’m not even going to answer him. Why bother.Friday, October 14 – 8:45 PM
Fantasy football is cruel. In what other setting do you actually root for players to get injured? Fantasy baseball? Not really. An injury to a regular could open the door for a reserve player to get additional at-bats, but you can just as easily find a suitable replacement on the waiver wire. In football, the waiver wire isn’t nearly as appealing, particularly at the running back position. So if a starter gets hurt, it’s a pretty big deal. A back who would normally get 2-3 carries per game is all of a sudden in line for 15-plus touches. Even though he’s not even on my team, LeGarrette Blount will be awarded the game ball should I win this week. His injury combined with my Week 2 pickup of Earnest Graham has saved me. Look, I’m not expecting Graham to all of a sudden put up monster numbers, but he’ll give me something, especially since this is a PPR league. After all, Graham is averaging just under five catches per game, this as a strict backup. The other good news is that Joseph Addai’s hamstring injury is considered just a strain, so there’s a decent chance he comes back next week. Man, am I glad I didn’t overpay for a mid-tier running back. Sure, it took a little bit of luck, but sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.
With the 2011 baseball season officially in the books, I thought I’d break from my traditional diary format this week to look back at the postseason and, from a fantasy perspective, try to make sense of it all. Now listen, I’m not one to overrate a player’s postseason performance to the extent where it radically alters my valuation of the guy heading into the following season. In fact, the main reason why I even pay attention to this stuff is that many fantasy players do tend to place way too much importance on the postseason. After all, the images of October linger all winter, so it’s real easy to let a few weeks cloud our judgment. Determining what to believe and what to ignore could give the astute owner a huge advantage on draft day. So here’s a look at five players who were either smoking hot or ice cold over the past month.
Postseason (2 Games, 1 Start): 1-0 0.90 ERA 0.60 WHIP
Seven shutout innings in your first ever postseason start is impressive enough, but considering that this also happened to be Moore’s second career big league start, the kid deserves a ton of credit. He’s a big-time prospect who wasted little time proving that he belongs in the Majors. Chances are he’ll reach ace status sooner rather than later, but in non-keeper leagues, I definitely won’t be the one who reaches for him. Paying big bucks for a pitcher with a mere three Major League games under his belt is too risky. Would I draft Moore at the right price? Absolutely. But I’m pretty sure that he’ll go for a lot higher than I’m willing to spend. To me, at least for the time being, he’s a back end of the rotation mixed league starter who will be valued as a mid-rotation guy. No thanks.
Postseason (12 Games): 5-for-5 in saves 2.19 ERA 0.49 WHIP
Just when we thought that Motte’s dominant postseason guaranteed him the Cardinals’ 2012 closer job, he gets pulled from Game 2 of the World Series before he even allows the tying run! Is that how you treat your closer? I know, I know, the lefty-swinging Josh Hamilton was due up and with a precious one-run lead, Tony LaRussa opted to go with his own lefty, Arthur Rhodes. But still, closers aren’t supposed to be taken out of games like that. The important thing though was that when it came down to securing the Cardinals’ 11th title in franchise history, Motte was the man on the mound. There’s little doubt in my mind that he will open 2012 as the St. Louis stopper, and his talent is unquestioned, but LaRussa’s penchant for micromanaging his bullpen and changing closers on a whim would give me reason for pause before investing heavily in Motte. Even if I drafted him as my No. 2 closer, I’d be a little worried.
Postseason (18 Games): .397 AVG 5 HR 21 RBI .794 SLG 1.258 OPS
Even before his dramatic walk-off homer in Game 6 of the Fall Classic, Freese, the obvious choice for World Series MVP, was arguably the most valuable player of the entire postseason. I’ll tell you why I’m not sold on him though. Freese’s postseason walk and strikeout rates were roughly in line with his regular season averages, yet he batted 100 points higher in October. Not to mention that he was a very streaky hitter throughout the regular season. While Freese’s outstanding month has certainly earned him respect in fantasy circles, I still need to see more before drafting him as my starter in mixed leagues. And I have a funny feeling that plenty of owners will do just that.
Postseason (11 Games): .073 AVG (3-for-41) 1 HR 2 RBI .146 SLG .263 OPS
One of the bigger fantasy surprises of 2011, Avila was basically an automatic out in October, recording a mere three hits in 41 at-bats. But fear not! Avila’s struggles can partly be attributed to a knee injury suffered back in July which eventually led to tendonitis. I can’t help but think that the persisting injury combined with the physical toll of catching every day had something to do with this. Avila will not need surgery, and I fully expect that an offseason of rest is all he needs. He’s ranked as a top-5 catcher on most early 2012 cheat sheets, and I have no problem with it. Avila did enough during the regular season to convince me that he’s for real, and I would not hesitate to target him in drafts next spring.
Postseason (3 Starts): 0-3 14.90 ERA 2.28 WHIP .395 BAA
To say that Marcum struggled in the playoffs would be a monumental understatement. After virtually duplicating his stellar 2010 stat line in 2011, the 29-year-old righty couldn’t even make it through the fifth inning in any of his three postseason starts. Add in the fact that he struggled through a rough September (5.17 ERA 5 HR allowed in five starts) and plenty of owners might be scared off. Don’t be one of those owners. Few starting pitchers have been as consistent as Marcum over the past three years, and I’d gladly slot him into the middle of my mixed league rotation. Give him to me at a discount and I’d be ecstatic.
Friday, October 7 – 4:28 PM
You see, I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan. I’m not arrogant. I don’t assume that we’ll win the World Series every year. I’m not infuriated with A-Rod, Teixeira and Swisher, even though all three are coming off horrendous performances in the series that ended last night the same way 2010 ended, with a Rodriguez strikeout. Disappointed? Yes. Devastated? Not so much. The truth is that the Tigers are an excellent team, a well-balanced group led by two elite players, a first baseman who is in the thick of the MVP discussion every year and a starting pitcher who will win the AL Cy Young, almost surely in a unanimous vote. But the thing about the Tigers is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I just never got that feeling about the 2011 Yankees. The season will be remembered for Jeter’s 3,000th hit and Mariano’s 602nd save, both tremendous personal accomplishments. There weren’t a lot of team moments though, a ninth inning rally capped off by a walk-off hit. I don’t remember too many of those.
I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan. I don’t expect Seattle to hand us Felix Hernandez for a bunch of prospects just because we can afford to sign King Felix to a lucrative long-term contract extension. One guy even called in to a local radio station today suggesting a Teixeira for Hernandez swap! I got a good kick out of that. Like the small-market Mariners would want to pay Tex 20-plus million bucks a year for the next five years. Will we overpay for C.J. Wilson, the lone high-end starting pitcher available on the free agent market this winter? Maybe. But chances are the 2012 squad will look a lot like the 2011 version. And unlike your stereotypical Yankee fan, I don’t see this as such a bad thing. A few pieces here, a few pieces there, and who knows, perhaps we can recapture that ’09 magic.
Walking the city streets today, it was hard to ignore the Yankee hangover. Bleary-eyed fans were eager to vent. I must have gotten into about four separate conversations in the span of an hour, some longer than others but all full of opinions as to what went wrong and ideas as to how to fix it. Why didn’t Girardi remove A-Rod from the cleanup spot? Why in the world did he use CC out of the pen last night when Hughes was looking so sharp? Swisher needs to go. Gardner should be traded while his stock is high. After wrapping up an in-depth chat with my building’s doorman, who knows his stuff, I’m standing in line in the bank and this guy I’ve never seen before, noticing the interlocking NY on my hat, comes up to me. “What’s wrong with A-Rod?” he asks. “It has to be the steroids.” Clearly, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so I need to censor myself here. Keep it simple. Politely, I shrug my shoulders and say something about how there are still six years left on Rodriguez’s contract.
Look, we were all spoiled by those teams of the 90’s, but what’s easy to forget is that if it were not for the homegrown group of Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Bernie and Mo, that dynasty era never would have existed. I’m looking forward to 2012. Jesus Montero appears to be a star in the making. Banuelos, Betances and Brackman could all make meaningful contributions by season’s end. Patience everyone! Why are we in such a rush to get rid of these guys?
Did I mention that I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan?