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Kicking Rocks: Premature Draftulation

There’s really no need to be embarrassed.  It’s a very common problem.  In fact, I hear that it happens to a lot of fantasy owners.  I, myself, have been known to experience it from time to time.  No, no…I’m not just saying it to make you feel better.  It happens to everyone.  Believe it or not, even to girls.

I’m talking about premature draftulation.  Say it with me, it’s ok.  It occurs when a fantasy owner spends tireless hours researching a player, analyzes the stats, watches film, reads all the scouting reports, drafts the rookie and then SPLAAAAT!  All the fun and all the excitement is lost.  The player is a huge bust and the best part about owning him was left on the table at the draft, part of the mess left to be cleaned up by the waitress, bartender, hotel maid, whomever.  You’re left with nothing.

Then, the following year, when you’re riddled with shame and can’t even look your fellow owners in the eye when said player’s name is even mentioned at your next draft, you flinch and let him go to another team.  The taste in your mouth is too bitter and you’ve lost as much hope as you did dignity from touting him as the next big thing the prior season.  Only this year, that player goes off.  He does everything you expected him to do the year before, but now he’s doing it for someone else.  On the surface, you maintain a stoic demeanor.  You tell the other owner that you knew it all along.  But inside you feel betrayed, maybe even a little shame.  You were right, but you were too early.  Premature draftulation.

Fellow FanGraphs writer Jason Catania confided in me that he has recently suffered through it.  Last season he was pretty jazzed up about drafting Alex Avila.  After a brief stint in 2009 that produced a slash line of .279/.375/.590 with 5 HR in just 72 plate appearances, Catania was eager to pounce on the Tigers’ backstop heading into 2010.  He was methodical in his approach, waited on a catcher and built up his team at the other positions, all the while having images of a late round theft of a power hitting backstop dancing in his head.  By the time April was over and Avila was hitting .097 with no home runs and no RBI, Catania was already using another catcher.  When the end of May rolled around Avila was only at .233 with two home runs and Gerald Laird was grabbing a good chunk of playing time, Catania let him go.

This season, when draft day rolled around, Catania’s feelings of disappointment were still fresh in his mind and he looked past Avila.  He found solace in the arms of a different backstop and today, he sits there looking at the stat sheets and wonders what may have been.  Avila is hitting .280 with 6 HR and 15 RBI as of today.  His BABIP is at .324, so luck doesn’t appear to be a factor, and the .377 wOBA and 1.2 WAR are like daggers being twisted in his back.  Catania was there.  He had him….just a year too early.

And as we all know, Catania is not alone out there.  There are MLB players all over that are putting former owners through the same feelings of loss and betrayal.  Michael Brantley seems to be in the process of breaking out this year after being hyped as a sleeper in 2010 and filling the season with disappointment.  What about Justin Smoak?  And how many people who  suffered through Jed Lowrie’s previous seasons, didn’t bother with him this year, only to watch him produce today?  It’s hurtful, isn’t it?

Currently, I am feeling such shame.  I have often been known to be a sucker for power hitting, rookie third basemen and this year, the Siren’s song lured me towards Pedro Alvarez.  Now, the .204 average, the 33.3 K%, the one measly home run, the quad injury, and the potential loss of playing time to super-bust Brandon Wood are all weighing on me right now.  I hate to give up so quickly, but the idea of taking another stab at it next year couldn’t be further from my mind.  Third base has been tough all around, but the concept of proven talent over rookie hype for next year is where I am leaning at this moment.  Problem is, I know once I bypass him, he’s going off and the clown next to me at the draft who uses a late pick on him and asks me what I think, is going to reap the benefits.  I’ll be left with nothing but a shameful memory and a stain on my draft record.