Sunday, March 28, 2010

Post-draft thoughts

So the UPL just finished its 2010 fantasy baseball draft. Earlier I posted about some decisions I would need to make in this keeper league. And some of these decisions were made easier after the expansion draft, which saw me lose Billy Butler to the Milwaukee Whiffers. So after that and Joe Nathan's injury, here's who ended up making my 18 keepers:

C - Victor Martinez / Miguel Montero
1B - Ryan Howard / Pablo Sandoval / Victor Martinez
2B - Empty
SS - Jason Bartlett
3B - Aramis Ramirez / Pablo Sandoval / Chipper Jones
OF - Justin Upton
OF - Manny Ramirez
OF - Carlos Gonzalez / Michael Bourn / Chris Coghlan

SP - Dan Haren
SP - Javier Vazquez
SP - Wandy Rodriguez
SP - Edwin Jackson
RP - Brian Wilson
RP - Chad Qualls

Last year I had 4 closers going into the season, and that seems to be a good number in the UPL (which usually has about 12 teams). If I can find 5 reliable closers, then that's an even better number. At the bare minimum I want to have 3 closers, so that's another good reason to always have at least 4--if one goes down with an injury or gets demoted, at least you still have 3.

No doubt, the Joe Nathan injury is a huge loss for my team, especially if he would have gone on to have another 40+ save season with phenomenal peripheral stats. But here's the bright side: At least the injury happened before the draft, giving me an opportunity to plan around it.

As mentioned on the UPL blog, I actually beat the odds and won a lottery pick in this year's draft. While it was exciting at first to learn I had landed my 1.28% chance of moving up into one of the top 3 picks in the draft, after some time had passed I realized the true implications. Basically, there were only 2 "special" prospects available in this draft--Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg. If I could have drafted one of those two, then I would have either had a nice prospect with a relatively high chance of becoming an All-Star, or at the very least I had a piece that could likely be traded for a top 100 player immediately. The problem, of course, is that I ended up falling one slot short and ended up with the 3rd pick. And that was a bitter pill to swallow.

When we look back on this draft 5 years later, we might laugh at how highly we regarded Heyward and Strasburg. But what matters now is that these two guys are widely perceived as the next two Hall-of-Famers in the making. And really, JimmyDix has already cashed in on this perceived value by trading the #1 pick (which turned out to be Heyward) and Kendry Morales for an upgrade at 1B, Adrian Gonzalez, and a quality closer, Jose Valverde. It will be fun to look back on this trade a few years from now to see if one side got the better deal or not. 

Another thing that hurt my team was Coghlan losing his 2B eligibility. I guess this proves I don't follow the Marlins closely, because I thought he had played a little 2B last year and would keep his eligibility for this season (I know Dan Uggla is Florida's regular 2B, but I thought Coghlan might have stepped in at times). But I was wrong. And while Coghlan is a very nice player to have at 2B, his value at OF is considerably less. And it meant that going into this draft I didn't have any 2Bs.

So my team's holes were very clear: closer and 2B. And I felt the worst thing I could do in the draft would be to not at least try to shore up my team's ability to acquire saves. While I hated the idea of picking a low-end closer with the #3 pick that I had won in a lottery, it seemed as though I had no other choice. Sure I could have tried to trade the pick, but I think there was a huge drop in value from the #2 pick to the #3 pick. Perhaps others will disagree, but people weren't exactly banging on the door to pick third in this draft.

I studied the relievers available in this draft very closely. By my count, there were only 3 relievers who were very likely to be their team's long-terms closers on Opening Day: Octavio Dotel, Matt Capps, and Matt Lindstrom. Conventional wisdom had it that Jon Rauch would get the nod in Minnesota, but I also was hearing rumors that Francisco Liriano or someone else might get the job. I also liked Chris Perez, because he would likely be Indians closer at least well into May; and Franklin Morales was on my radar because he was slotted to be Huston Street's replacement through April. And I also had a close eye on Ryan Madson since he was going to be the Phillies closer to start the season. Sure, Brad Lidge is scheduled to return soon, but you never know. Plus Madson's peripherals are very nice to have.

At the top of my 2B wish list was Martin Prado. He's likely to bat at or near the top of the Braves' lineup, and by all accounts he's going to be a solid hitter for a 2B. I considered taking him with the third pick, but here's the other problem with drafting toward the top... it's a long wait until you get your second pick. In my case of drafting third out of 13 teams, I would have to wait 20 picks before my next chance would roll around. Also, it's important to not lose sight of the fact that this isn't really a traditional "first round" of the draft--with 18 keepers it's more like the 19th round. So if this were the 19th round, what would I value? And what would my opponents value?

In my world, I figured that those remaining closers would look good to at least a few teams with those 20 picks in between my first two picks. I could easily envision a scenario where I take the 2B I want at #3, Martin Prado, and then have my top 3 closer choices all go off the board before I have a chance at the #24 pick. So with Capps having elbow issues last year and some competition for his job this season in Washington, and with Lindstrom also coming off an injury-plagued year and potentially some competition with Brandon Lyon in Houston, I decided that I would take Octavio Dotel and his high-K rate in Pittsburgh where he has relatively little competition for the closer role. I know, it's not what I had envisioned when I "won" a lottery pick, but I feel it's what I had to do.

Unfortunately, and actually surprisingly, Martin Prado went off the board at #7 to Phatsnapper. I was hoping that Prado would fall to me at #24. While I think it was a good pick for Phatsnapper, I just thought Prado would have slipped a little further in the draft. Plus I would have guessed that Phatsnapper would have gone for a player with a little more upside. But then again, I do think there's plenty of upside with Prado--especially for a 2B.

But the bigger surprise to me is that all 20 of those picks went by without anyone taking a closer. I would have never predicted this outcome. Sure, I could see people being uncomfortable taking a low-end closer with their first pick of the draft, but by the time you're in the 2nd round (which is really the 20th), how can you not at least consider another closer? Even if you already have 3 good closers, I would think that there would be some good value in at least trying to find a fourth.

At #24, I already had decided that I needed to address 2B. And with Prado already off the board and my other top choices already kept by other teams (such as a guy like Rickie Weeks), I was forced to look in places I otherwise would have preferred to avoid. I went with Casey McGehee who is likely just a one-hit wonder from last year, but I had to take the chance. I had read up on him last week and he seemed likely to start the year as Milwaukee's 3B ahead of Mat Gamel, but his struggles recently (which I read after the draft) now have him in a dogfight for a job. McGehee might not be my solution at 2B, but there was one other interesting name on my 2B wish list that I thought maybe, just maybe, might fall to me later in the draft.

At #29, still no other closers had gone off the board, so I had to take a flier on Matt Capps. I think it's unlikely he can regain his form of 2 years ago, but for now he is set to be the closer for the Nationals in a pitcher friendly park. I'm not sure what all was wrong with his elbow last year, but here's hoping he can regain the magic. If so, then hey, I'll be happy with this pick. For now, he's my fourth closer and that was a major goal of mine going into this draft. I'm trying to claw my way back into contention for the saves lead.

Now it's time to wait another 20 picks... During this time a few other relievers finally started to go off the board. Hats for Bats took Brandon Lyon (as a Marlins fan, he probably has no faith left in Matt Lindstrom), IamJabrone took Chris Perez (as a Cubs fan, he probably has no faith left in Kerry Wood), and the Benver Droncos took Jon Rauch. Interestingly, during Hats' 2nd pick out of these 20, he took Matt Thornton--a great setup guy with nice peripherals who many expect to replace Bobby Jenks as the White Sox closer at some point this year.

At #50, I had a few options. But with my #3 rated pre-draft available closer, Matt Lindstrom, still on the board, and with the opportunity to go 3 for 3 in landing these closers, I couldn't pass. At the very least I would likely be denying one of my opponents an opportunity to add to their closer depth. (Due to a comment from Westy later in the draft, I learned that he was the opponent I was denying. Muahahaha!)

At #55, I was happy to see the Tigers' rookie 2B Scott Sizemore still available. I think someday he could be a solid hitter at 2B, although it's unlikely to be this season. Unfortunately, due to my desperation at this position, I had to take a flier on him. It might pay off this season, but only time will tell.

And now it's time to wait another 20 picks... If you look again at my 18 keepers listed above, you'll notice I only have one guy at SS--Jason Bartlett. I like to have at least two at each of the hitter positions, so I felt now was the time to address SS. I hadn't really read up on SS before the draft, but right now I was cruising the web to get the latest info. I quickly honed in on Ian Desmond, who I remembered reading about a while back as a top prospect who could be starting in Washington this season. Plus he had some quality MLB experience from last season--and best of all, he was still available in the draft. I also found info on San Diego's SS Everth Cabrera, who many people listed as a good late round sleeper. He was available as well, but Ian Desmond--in my view--had way more power and upside... and after Benver's pick at #75, Desmond would be mine at #76.

Too bad Benver reads up on baseball prospects, too, because with the 75th pick he stabbed me in the back and took Ian Desmond. It was another bitter pill for me to swallow. I ended up taking Cabrera, and for now I hope that my starting SS Bartlett can have another season where he's at the top of the Rays' lineup with a .390+ OBP, 90+ runs, and 28+ steals.
At #81, all of my top SP choices were gone. I thought Wade Davis would have been nice to land late, but he ended up going off the board in the second round (which is a good pick if you're looking for SP help). There were a few other SPs that would have been nice, but none of them were left. However, another reliever who was on my radar before the draft was surprisingly still available: Franklin Morales. While he'll likely be replaced by Huston Street a few weeks into the season, there's still a good chance he'll rack up 3 to 5 saves beforehand. Plus there's always the chance that Street has a setback or is ineffective upon his return. In the 7th round (really the 25th round), Morales seemed like the guy who could most help my team now. Yes, this means I'm likely entering the season with 6 closers, and no I don't consider that ideal. But there are worse predicaments for a fantasy baseball team. Plus the closer position is so volatile, it's hard to know where things will stand a month from now.

With my final pick at #102, I finally got my fifth SP with John Maine. He's still fairly young for a SP and (hopefully) developing. Plus if you look at his splits, he's been a decent pitcher at home (including last year in the new Citi Field). So he'll likely only pitch at home for my team.

So how would I rate my draft? Well, every year after the draft I think that I could have done better. Perhaps the grass always seems greener on the other side of the street. But my main goal was to add some closers to my roster to give my team a chance at being competitive in saves to start the season, and I feel that this was accomplished. I was disappointed that Prado didn't fall to me at #24, but if either Casey McGehee or Scott Sizemore steps up, it might be OK. Or maybe I'll need to swing a deal for a 2B.

And how do I feel about my team overall? Come on, are you serious? Everyone thinks their team is awesome in April.

Update I: Pauly of Hats for Bats has posted his take on the draft here.
Update II: The Chairman has analyzed the draft as well.


Pauly said...

John Maine...I seem to remember an old conversation we had in Vegas about Maine....and the conclusion is still the same now!

Greg said...

I remember that conversation as well. Perhaps I should have taken C-Lauff's advice and left my Maine crush at the door.

Westy said...

Open to trading a closer?

Sadly, I'm desperate. Probably related to the fact that somehow people think keeping 4 closers in a 12 member league is reasonable (but wait, there aren't 48 closers...).

Greg said...

Westy, I'm not sure that I want to risk a repeat of our Joe Saunders-Mike Cameron debacle trade from last season. ;-)

All kidding aside, I'll give it some thought. But it could be difficult since only 1 of my team's closers (Brian Wilson) went all of last season as the closer. I'm not really sure which of these guys I can trust.

clauff said...

According to Nick, you should never trust an Afghan. Do you have any of those on your squad?

Greg said...

Heheh. You know, I'm not really sure. Could the last name Lindstrom be Afghan?

Pauly said...

How was that John Maine outing for ya tonite :)