I torture myself every year by looking back at what could have been.
I have a league that has been going on for the better part of two decades – it used to be housed on the old “Sandbox” but migrated to Yahoo many years ago and it has had anywhere from ten to twelve owners year to year. It’s your proverbial bragging rights league, although as we’ve gotten older, more money has been wagered but I’m convinced we’d play for a thimble just to say we beat the next guy. This season, it was set up as a pretty simple standard, ten team non-keeper points league with a snake draft.
With the draft well behind in the rear view mirror and the next one six long months away, I decided to take a look at the results just to see if there was anything to take away from it.
In doing so, I marveled at the bargains that people pulled during the draft, and it rather got me salivating thinking about what hidden gems there will be in 2012. What follows are the highlights from this past March, and a cool reminder that I ought not over-imbibe on draft day until at least the 20th round.
AL MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury went 72nd overall in the draft, just before Francisco Cordero and just after Corey Hart. His ADP was actually in the 80’s headed into the draft, but this owner clearly brought his crystal ball as Ellsbury is the leading point producer in the league for any hitter. The next three are Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp, and Ryan Braun. Not a bad return for an 8th round pick.
Interestingly, after his slow-ish start, Ellsbury was dealt for none other than James Shields, who was drafted way down at 181. That manager no doubt thought he was wicked-smart, only to have Shields go on to do what you all know he’s done. Shields wound up being the fourth best point producer at SP in this system, and actually had about 20% more points than did Ellsbury (don’t get me started about how this league over-values the win).
The next three bats down the list were all sort of comeback hopefuls after less than spectacular 2010 performances. David Ortiz at 139, Curtis Granderson at 142 and Alex Gordon at 176. The Granderson pick may very well be the pick of the draft on offense. Somehow, the same owner who drafted Granderson also drafted David Ortiz but only managed to finish 7th, a testament that a couple fortuitous picks can’t save you. Gordon was actually drafted ahead of his ADP in this league but is so far the second highest point producer at third base (although in most formats, Gordon will lose his third base eligibility, which is a shame).
The real story of this draft was the quality of the pitching had in very late rounds. Jeremy Hellickson and Josh Beckett both went in the 17th rounds but the three biggies were James Shields, Craig Kimbrel (223) and Ian Kennedy (238). We’ve already discussed Shields, but Kimbrel was far and away the most valuable reliever in this league while Kennedy was ninth in overall points, ahead of the likes of Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, and Tim Lincecum.
It’s simply remarkable to look back and realize one could have likely built a championship caliber team without making a single pick until the 8th round. And while it’s totally unreasonable to expect that you could strike gold with every pick, when I look back at drafts, I always feel like there are lessons to be learned. Sometimes painful lessons.
Even though I’ve been at this for some time now, and even though I know better than to do so — when preparing for our draft this past year, I recall obsessing over the first three rounds and yet, this league was won on value picks far later in the draft. This off season, there will no doubt be plenty of analysis about value picks in the middle and later part of your drafts and I’m committing to having a much more robust target list down to the last man standing.