Fantasy Baseball: FSWA Draft Review – March 20, 2013

On March 20, 2013, I participated in one of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (“FSWA”) fantasy baseball leagues hosted on ESPN. I had the fortune of being in a league with some of the best minds in fantasy baseball including Patrick DiCaprio, Paul Greco, Ben Pritchett, A.J. Mass, and Josh Kay. This is a 12-team roto league with OBP and SLG replacing batting average and homeruns, as well as Quality Starts in lieu of Wins. I think these categories better represent the value of several players and should create an interesting competitive dynamic.

Andrew McCutchen 2The draft order was randomly selected an hour before the draft, and I was given the 4th overall choice. Despite the alternate categories in this league, I still fully expected the usual three of Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Mike Trout to be off the board before my turn. Sure enough, that is what happened. So with the 4th pick, I selected Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen. I have been very high on McCutchen all winter and opted for him over the likes of Matt Kemp, Joey Votto and Robinson Cano. McCutchen is a star on the rise and a great contributor in all categories. He could be in line for an MVP-caliber season and I didn’t hesitate to make him my first pick.

Below is my complete roster with the round I selected each player in parentheses.

C A.J. Pierzynski-TEX (18)
C J.P. Arencibia-TOR (23)
1B Freddie Freeman-ATL (5)
2B Chase Utley-PHI (10)
3B Martin Prado-ARZ (9)
SS Jose Reyes-TOR (2)
CI Paul Goldschmidt-ARZ (6)
MI Andrelton Simmons-ATL (17)
OF Andrew McCutchen-PIT (1)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury-BOS (3)
OF Hunter Pence-SF (11)
OF Ichiro Suzuki-NYY (14)
OF Alfonso Soriano-CHC (15)
UT Kendrys Morales-SEA (19)

P Craig Kimbrel-ATL (4)
P Yovani Gallardo-MIL (7)
P Kris Medlen-ATL (8)
P Jake Peavy-CHW (12)
P John Axford-MIL (13)
P Huston Street-SD (16)
P Edwin Jackson-CHC (21)
P Clay Buchholz-BOS (22)
P James McDonald-PIT (24)

BN Todd Frazier-CIN (20)
BN Starling Marte-PIT (25)
BN Juan Pierre-MIA (26)
BN Andy Pettitte-NYY (27)
BN Kelly Johnson-TB (28)

I am extremely pleased with this team. In terms of my 2nd and 3rd round picks, I was very happy to get Jose Reyes and Jacoby Ellsbury. Reyes should have a big year in the American League leading off for a potent Blue Jays lineup. Ellsbury will be motivated to prove he is healthy and set himself up for a hefty payday as he approaches free agency at the end of 2013. With this format of OBP and SLG in play, Reyes and Ellsbury will be rewarded for their propensity for extra base hits that do not necessarily make it over the fence. They will both steal a lot of bases and score a ton of runs. With the trio of McCutchen, Reyes and Ellsbury, I have assured myself of being at or near the top in runs scored and stolen bases.

Paul GoldschmidtHaving passed on first baseman through the first four rounds, I was pleasantly surprised to take two of the best young sluggers in baseball with my 5th and 6th round picks. Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are on the brink of becoming superstars and could both top 30 homeruns and 100 RBI this year. I filled out the rest of my infield with a solid pick in Martin Prado at third base and then took a chance on Chase Utley in the 10th round. Prado should do well in Arizona and fits the mold of my team thus far with all-around consistent contribution. Utley is certainly a risk due to his health problems over the past few years. But he has played a full spring training and appears to be healthy. I don’t expect the 2008 version of Utley, but I see no reason why he can’t put up 15 homeruns with 75 RBI.

Fantasy baseball championships are not won because of your first few picks. Every team has a couple of superstars. Leagues are won by building the rest of your team with solid depth and avoiding gaping holes. I feel confident I have done that with players like Hunter Pence, Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano, Kendrys Morales and Andrelton Simmons. These players will contribute in varying degrees amongst all categories such as stolen bases and runs scored by Suzuki and Simmons, as well as SLG and RBI by Soriano and Morales. I consider Pence somewhat of a wild card because he is capable of being a very good fantasy outfielder across the board. But he has seemingly regressed a bit so that is some cause for concern.

As you know, I typically punt the catcher position in fantasy baseball leagues because I think it is a waste of a pick to take them too early. Catchers tend to get injured more frequently, they don’t play every day, and you are probably passing on a player who will have better production irrespective of what position he plays. In this draft, I did wait quite awhile to take a catcher but I was very happy with the two that I ended up with. A.J. Pierzynski and J.P. Arencibia will not only help me lead the league in players with initials, but they will provide solid power and run production from the catcher position. Pierzynski is coming off a career year, so I don’t expect a replication of his 2012 season. But now that he is on Texas, he should still smash 15-20 homeruns and drive in 65-70 runs. Arencibia is an albatross for OBP, but he is good for 20 homeruns now that he knows he is the full-time everyday catcher with Travis D’Arnaud out of the picture.

If there is a weakness on my team, it is starting pitching. However, I don’t consider it too much of a weakness. While I don’t have one of the proverbial studs like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg or David Price, I do have some very solid pitchers who are capable of putting up big numbers. Yovani Gallardo is constantly underrated despite being a lock for 15 wins, a solid ERA and WHIP, and 200 strikeouts. Kris Medlen was incredible during the second half of 2012 and could be a bargain in the 8th round. Much like everyone else, I am skeptical of whether Medlen can repeat his dominance. But I was a bit surprised he lasted so long in the draft and I had no reservations selecting him where I did. A couple of wild cards on my staff are Jake Peavy and Edwin Jackson. They both have the potential to be big time fantasy pitchers, but they come with different types of risk. Peavy is always one pitch away from ending up on the disabled list while Jackson is totally inconsistent.

Craig KimbrelIn terms of closers, I put myself in a good position by deviating from my normal draft practices and took Kimbrel in the 4th round.  Typically, I would not take a closer that early. I had Cliff Lee all set in my queue, but he was taken right before my turn and there were no other top flight starting pitchers left on the board. So I decided to grab the best closer in baseball and take that approach. I also have John Axford and Huston Street to serve as my closer trifecta. While Axford was horrendous at times in 2012, I feel confident that he will rebound and return to his 2010-2011 form. I expect 30-35 saves from Axford, but I also know he could possibly implode and hurt me with ERA and WHIP. Finally, I really liked getting Street where I did because he can be one of the better closers in baseball. However, health is always a concern along with playing for a bad team. But the Padres should be improved this year and normally play in low-scoring close games.

I think this team has a good chance of competing for a championship.  There really weren’t any picks that I necessarily regret or would have done something differently.  I love my offense which is very versatile and doesn’t have any real holes.  Even the weakest part of this team, starting pitching, still isn’t too bad.  I feel good going into battle with this team and competing against some of the top experts in the fantasy baseball industry. 

What do you think of my team?  Let me know by sending an email to michael.stein@fantasyjudgment.com or by posting on Facebook or Twitter (@FantasyJudgment).

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