Fantasy Baseball: FSWA Draft Review
On March 10, 2014, I participated in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association fantasy baseball league draft as part of the R.J. White division. It is a 12-team, 5×5 roto league hosted on ESPN. The interesting thing about this league is that OBP and SLG replace home runs and batting average, and Quality Starts replace Wins. I was randomly assigned the second overall pick which meant my pick was a no-brainer. Personally I was hoping to land Mike Trout because I have never had him on any of my fantasy teams. But even if Trout went first overall, I had no qualms about “settling” for Miguel Cabrera.
1. Miguel Cabrera (3B-DET)
Sure enough, Trout went first. After missing out on him, I wiped away the tears and somehow brought myself to accept the fact that I would have to settle for Miguel Cabrera. This will likely be the last year he qualifies at third base, so his value is even better at that position. His return to first base should help him stay healthy as he claims he is fully healed from the injuries which hindered him in 2013. I expect nothing less than Triple Crown numbers from the best hitter of our generation.
2. Adam Jones (OF-BAL)
I was really hoping Jones would fall to me, and he did. Jones is an elite fantasy player who produces in all categories. His numbers have steadily improved every year, so he could be in for a monster season hitting in the middle of a potent Orioles lineup. He has become a “sure thing” in terms of fantasy production which cannot be said for many players.
3. Freddie Freeman (1B-ATL)
After taking Jones, I wanted Freeman to last two more picks so I could select him. I am a big Freeman fan and believe he is on the precipice of emerging as an elite fantasy player as he becomes the new face of the Braves’ franchise after signing a lucrative long-term contract this winter. He should have no problems surpassing 30 home runs and driving in well over 100 runs.
4. David Price (SP-TB)
In every other draft I have done thus far, I have taken at least one pitcher in the first three rounds. Not so here. So I knew I needed to take my first pitcher and settled for Price after Madison Bumgarner went a few picks ahead of me. Price has been the subject of trade rumors all winter, but Tampa Bay has held onto him with the hopes of contending again this year. His second half of 2013 gives hope that he is healthy and ready to return to his Cy Young award-winning form.
5. Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL)
Not that I am complaining about getting the best closer in baseball, but I was all set to take Justin Verlander at a huge discount when he was sniped just one pick before me. So I changed direction and grabbed Kimbrel who is by far the best closer in the league. He is a lock for 40-45 saves along with a sparkling ERA, WHIP, and almost as many strikeouts as some marginal starting pitchers.
6. Carlos Beltran (OF-NYY)
Beltran proved he has plenty left in the tank after two great seasons in St. Louis. Now that he has signed with the Yankees, he can DH occasionally to rest his legs as he takes aim at the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. I see big things coming from Beltran as he pads his statistics towards making a run at Cooperstown.
7. Carlos Santana (C-CLE)
I completely deviated from my own strategy of punting catchers by taking Santana here. I don’t ever take catchers until the end of drafts, but it was too tempting to pass up. Santana won’t be doing much catching this year because Cleveland wants his bat in the lineup every day, which is a smart move. He also walks more than most catchers, so he will be especially productive with OBP.
8. Mark Trumbo (1B/OF-ARZ)
If there was ever a SLG monster left in the draft at this point, it was undoubtedly Trumbo. Big things are expected from him after his trade to Arizona. He has position flexibility at first base and outfield which makes him appealing as well. Trumbo could easily hit 35-40 home runs and drive in well over 100 runs.
9. Masahiro Tanaka (SP-NYY)
After seeing him pitch in spring training, I was impressed with what I saw. It may take a little time for him to adjust to facing legitimate Major League hitters and pitching every five days, but I think Tanaka will be very good once he acclimates himself to these changes. He may not be as good as Yu Darvish, but then again not many actually fit that bill.
10. Pablo Sandoval (3B-SF)
The Skinny Panda slipped in the draft after a few injury-marred seasons. He slides right into my Utility slot because that guy named Cabrera occupies third base for me. Sandoval needs to stay healthy, and if he does then he will be productive in both OBP and SLG.
11. Shane Victorino (OF-BOS)
There are some concerns about the aging Flyin’ Hawaiian including various leg ailments and off-season thumb surgery. But Shane Victorino says he will be ready to go for Opening Day and will return to switch-hitting. He still can steal 20 bases, but that may be asking a lot from him at this point.
12. Jedd Gyorko (2B-SD)
I was quite surprised to see Gyorko still available at this point. He is an emerging star with power at a scarce position. I was preparing myself to punt the position, but all of a sudden second base is now a strength for me.
13. Rafael Soriano (RP-WAS)
I wanted to make sure I got a legitimate second closer because I have been in too many leagues where I wait too long to pick one up. After landing the best in Kimbrel, I have another bona fide 40+ save closer in Soriano. His ERA and WHIP leave little to be desired, but he won’t hurt me too badly.
14. Jon Lester (SP-BOS)
I thought about taking Lester in previous rounds, but I took the chance that he would last. Sure enough, he did. Lester is poised to have another big year with free agency on the horizon. The return of John Farrell proved to be a tonic for Lester who demonstrated that 2012 was a fluke.
15. Nelson Cruz (OF-BAL)
I thought I was fortune when I landed Cruz in the 15th round of the KFFL Baseball #BADfantasy draft right after he signed with the Orioles. A few weeks later, I got Cruz again in the 15th round with everyone having this knowledge. Even though home runs are not a category, he should be very productive in SLG and RBI.
16. Jimmy Rollins (SS-PHI)
I went this long without taking a shortstop, so I took who I felt was the best of the rest. Rollins is showing his age as his power has completely left him. But he can still be counted on for 20+ stolen bases and has extra base power which bodes well for SLG.
17. C.J. Wilson (SP-LAA)
After suffering a scare in his first spring training start, C.J. Wilson has come back and looks just fine. He quietly has put up great numbers since joining the Angels and should be a consistent source of production with quality starts, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.
18. Tim Lincecum (SP-SF)
Call me The Sniper when it comes to The Freak. I had Lincecum queued up during the last round but decided to take the chance that he would make it all the way back. My risk paid off as I believe I got Lincecum at a great value at this point in the draft. He may not ever return to his previous Cy Young form, but I think he is far better than the 2012-2013 version we saw of him.
19. Michael Bourn (OF-CLE)
Despite having Victorino and Rollins, I knew I still needed some speed on my team. Michael Bourn had a disappointing inaugural season in Cleveland, but he is due for an improvement. He is not a prototypical leadoff hitter in that he doesn’t have a high OBP, but if he can find his way on base he can perhaps turn back time to his 40+ stolen base seasons.
20. Zack Wheeler (SP-NYM)
With a half season under his belt already, Zack Wheeler is prepared to step up and be the Mets number two starter this year. He has looked great in spring training, but we all know that means nothing. The key to his success will be his control. If he can throw strikes, he can limit his pitch count and actually last to the 6th inning and qualify for a quality start.
21. Derek Jeter (SS-NYY)
Somehow I ended up with Derek Jeter again as I have drafted him in a few other leagues already. He appears healthy as he prepares for his final season. He will be helpful in terms of OBP and should contribute runs scored and a handful of stolen bases. This should be very solid value for my MI position at this point in the draft.
22. Michael Brantley (OF-CLE)
Brantley had a nice coming out party in 2013 after which he was rewarded with a long-term contract with the Indians. I think he has the ability to get strong and increase his power, but I realize I am in the minority about that. Irrespective of that, Brantley is a solid source of runs scored, RBI and a handful of stolen bases.
23. Matt Garza (SP-MIL)
I don’t love the fact that Garza signed with Milwaukee, but he is too good to pass up in the 23rd round. Since wins are not a category, I feel Garza was undervalued here.
24. Josh Johnson (SP-SD)
No, Josh Johnson did not get injured when I drafted him. I am just as surprised as you. Johnson had a miserable 2013 season in Toronto, so he is looking to re-establish his value with a one-year deal in San Diego. He could be a sleeper if he stays healthy as he returns to pitching in the National League and in the spacious confines of PetCo Park.
25. Joaquin Benoit (RP-SD)
Benoit proved he can close games last year after he took over for Jose Valverde in Detroit. He signed a two-year deal to set up Huston Street in San Diego, but let’s be honest about this. Street is always hurt, so it is only a matter of time before Benoit gets a chance to close games.
26. Brian Roberts (2B-NYY)
I realize this was probably a wasted pick because Roberts is always hurt. He hasn’t played a full season in four years, but now he is being relied upon to be the Yankees’ primary second baseman. Knowing the Yankees’ luck, he will be the 2007 version of himself.
27. John Jaso (C-OAK)
Normally I would be taking my first catcher here, but I changed things up and already have Carlos Santana. I debated between John Jaso and Russell Martin here, but I ultimately chose Jaso because of his OBP and vulture stolen bases.
28. James Loney (1B-TB)
With my final pick, I selected James Loney over Mitch Moreland. Moreland clearly has more power and should be the Rangers’ primary DH. But he cannot hit left-handed pitchers so a platoon may be in order again. Loney proved to be a solid presence in Tampa Bay’s lineup. While he will never hit for much power, he does know how to get on base and drive him runs.
Here is my complete roster broken down by position:
C Carlos Santana (CLE)
C John Jaso (OAK)
1B Freddie Freeman (ATL)
2B Jedd Gyorko (SD)
3B Miguel Cabrera (DET)
SS Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
CI Mark Trumbo (ARZ)
MI Derek Jeter (NYY)
OF Adam Jones (BAL)
OF Carlos Beltran (NYY)
OF Shane Victorino (BOS)
OF Nelson Cruz (BAL)
OF Michael Bourn (CLE)
U Pablo Sandoval (SF)
P David Price (TB)
P Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
P Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)
P Rafael Soriano (WAS)
P Jon Lester (BOS)
P C.J. Wilson (LAA)
P Tim Lincecum (SF)
P Zack Wheeler (NYM)
P Matt Garza (MIL)
BN Michael Brantley (CLE)
BN James Loney (TB)
BN Brian Roberts (NYY)
BN Josh Johnson (SD)
BN Joaquin Benoit (SD)
EVALUATION: I really like the team I drafted. I think this roster has the potential to win the whole league assuming I can avoid critical injuries and get some bounce-back seasons from players like Michael Bourn and Tim Lincecum. I don’t see any gaping holes except I could probably improve my pitching staff if presented with the opportunity to strike a deal.by