The Verdict: Be prepared to change your plans

Over the past few weeks, I have been participating in the KFFL Baseball Analysis Draft (“BAD”) with some of the top experts in the industry. This 12-team, 5×5 roto league had a slow draft with two-hour time limits per pick. I had the sixth overall pick and went into the draft hoping to land Andrew McCutchen.

Sure enough, that is what happened. After that, my plan was to wait until after the fourth round before taking a pitcher and I had no intention of taking a catcher before the 20th round. But, as in most fantasy drafts, I had to think on my feet and improvise when the unexpected happened. You can view details by visiting the league’s home page.

My complete roster is listed below with the number in parentheses representing which round I draft that player in. Looking back, there are some choices I am second-guessing now. But overall, I am pleased with the team I drafted. I think I will be very competitive during the season with a chance to win the league championship.

C A.J. Ellis-LAD (23)
C Wilson Ramos-WAS (26)
1B Mark Teixeira-NYY (5)
2B Ian Kinsler-TEX (3)
3B David Freese-STL (10)
SS Asdrubal Cabrera-CLE (7)
MI Derek Jeter-NYY (17)
CI Ryan Howard-PHI (11)
OF Andrew McCutchen-PIT (1)
OF Jose Bautista-TOR (2)
OF Michael Bourn-CLE (6)
OF Andre Ethier-LAD (13)
OF Alfonso Soriano-CHC (16)
U Mike Moustakas-3B-KC (14)

P David Price-TB (4)
P Roy Halladay-PHI (8)
P Jonathan Papelbon-PHI (9)
P Josh Johnson-TOR (12)
P Jonathan Broxton-CIN (15)
P Brandon League-LAD (18)
P Tim Hudson-ATL (19)
P Ryan Vogelsong-SF (21)
P Andy Pettitte-NYY (22)

BE Denard Span-OF-WAS (20)
BE Colby Rasmus-OF-TOR (24)
BE Jeff Keppinger-3B-CHW (25)
BE Lucas Duda-OF-NYM (28)
BE Ubaldo Jimenez-SP-CLE (27)

I love the 1-2 combination of McCutchen and Bautista. I was a little surprised that Bautista made it back to me in the second round, but that is because people are concerned about him coming back from wrist surgery, which is always a red flag for power hitters. However, I was thrilled to land him with the 19th overall pick, which is exactly where I recommended taking him when I previously discussed his return from injury here. Even if Bautista’s power regresses slightly, I still expect 30-35 home runs with a ton of RBIs in the middle of a very potent Blue Jays’ lineup.

In the third round, I had to go with Plan C because David Wright and Jacoby Ellsbury were taken right before me. So I opted for Kinsler. Normally I would not select a second baseman not named Robinson Cano this early, but I was targeting a player who could produce across the board. With all the recent departures from the Rangers’ lineup, I expect Kinsler to step up and become a more prominent force.

Heading into the fourth round, I was still planning on waiting for pitchers. But when I saw 2012 Cy Young winner David Price on the board after Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels were gone, I had to snatch him up. Price is one of the best young pitchers in baseball and, assuming he remains healthy, should be a lock for 15-20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, a sub 3.00 ERA, and a WHIP in the low 1.00s.

When looking at my roster, it is clear that there is a lot of age and injury risk. Players like Teixeira, Howard, and Jeter are no spring chickens and all have had injuries within the past year. But the risk is worth the reward given where I took them in the draft.

I was targeting Freddie Freeman or Billy Butler for first base, but they were drafted before me. Teixeira is one of the hardest working players and, despite his poor batting average the past few seasons, is a lock for 30 homers and 100 RBI. Not bad consolation.

Howard is finally healthy after a dreadful 2012 when he was coming back from Achilles surgery and then injured himself again at the end of the year. I don’t expect him to reach .290 again, but I also don’t expect him to hit below .220 like he did last year. Regardless of his average, there is no reason to think he won’t put up 30-100 again over the course of a full season.

As for Jeter, I was very pleased to get him in the 17th round. True, he is in his late 30s and coming back from ankle surgery. But Jeter is a machine and is coming off one of his best years. He will provide solid production in batting average and runs scored as my middle infielder.

I filled out the rest of my offense with players of similar capabilities. None stand out as league-leading bashers. But players like Freese, Moustakas, and Ethier can all be counted on for something in the ballpark of 20 homers and around 75 RBI. Ethier and Freese are capable of hitting .290, but Moustakas will need to show some improvement with his average to really become a fantasy standout.

Michael Bourn will help keep me competitive in the stolen base and runs scored categories; I expect him to run wild in Cleveland. Speaking of Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera was a big bust in 2012 but should be able to come close to his 2011 numbers now that he has reinforcements and support in the Indians’ lineup. And Alfonso Soriano, one of the most perplexing and fascinating fantasy players, will be a real bargain as a 16th round pick if he can duplicate his 2012 numbers and reach 30-100 again.

Chasing saves in roto leagues is usually a complete crapshoot. There are always premier closers who lose their jobs midway through the season, and there are always guys who emerge out of nowhere to rack up saves later in the season. Craig Kimbrel has become as close to a sure thing as there is, so it was not surprising he was the first closer taken. I wanted to at least ensure that I was competitive in this category, so I took Papelbon in the ninth round after Kimbrel and Jason Motte were off the board. Papelbon had a stellar season in Philadelphia despite the team underperforming. Now the Phillies are healthy again and should be a much improved team, which means more save opportunities for Papelbon.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

I surrounded Papelbon with two potential disasters—Broxton and League. Broxton returns to his closer role now that the Reds are shifting Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. Cincinnati should be a very good team this year, so Broxton will get a fair share of save opportunities. The issue will be whether he still has lights-out stuff now that he is a few years older and already had major arm surgery. League is the epitome of a wild card because of how electric and erratic his stuff is. He completely blew up for Seattle last year before he was shipped off to the Dodgers. Now Don Mattingly has anointed him as the team’s closer thanks in large part to the questions surrounding Kenley Jansen‘s health. The Dodgers, on paper, should be one of the best teams in baseball so League will have plenty of chances to show he has improved his control and can shut games down.

In terms of my starting pitchers, I feel pretty good about my No. 2 and No. 3, who could become two of the biggest steals of the draft. I took Roy Halladay in the eighth round; I think that will turn out to be one of the best picks of the whole draft. Halladay had a down year in 2012, in large part due to a nagging shoulder injury. All of his numbers trended downward so drastically that many people have written him off. I am not one of those people. I expect him to rebound in 2013 and return to his previous Cy Young form. The Phillies would be smart to not let him throw as many pitches and innings this year despite his motivation to reach 259 innings and have his option vested for 2014.

The other possible steal I had was Josh Johnson in the 12th round. His injury history is well documented, so I accept full responsibility if this blows up in my face. But now that he has a fresh start in Toronto, I expect big things from him as his contract is about to expire. Johnson will also have some of the pressure taken off of him because he is now a No. 2 starter behind R.A. Dickey. It’s a minor detail, but it is something to consider given that he will not be matched up as frequently with other teams’ aces.

The rest of my pitching staff is composed of players who are long in the tooth but consistent across the board. Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Andy Pettitte won’t lead me to winning the strikeout category. But they are all consistent pitchers who will keep their ERAs under 4.00 and have good chances of winning most of their games thanks in large part to the good bullpens they have behind them.

I didn’t even mention my catchers because I intentionally punted the position. I think it s a mistake to invest much in a catcher since injuries are so frequent and they typically do not play as many games as other players. Feel free to disagree. With Ellis and Ramos, there is no dispute that I won’t receive much contribution from that position.

Is this the best draft I have ever had? No. But I am happy with the way it turned out. There are some obvious weaknesses and concerns on my roster, but I think they can be overcome with solid and consistent production from my known entities and some big payoffs from some of the chances I took.

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Will H.
Will H.
You certainly didn’t dodge the fact in your write-up, but wow, this is a lot of injury risk. I’d take the other side of your bet on a 36 yr. old pitcher with tons of miles coming off a shoulder injury and reduced velocity being Cy Young worthy and, combined with Johnson (whose loss of a mph each of the last two years accompanying his own should issues) is a scary 2-3. And considering you punted C, having a third of your hitters with their own injury questions means you really need for things to break right injury-wise many times… Read more »
If the season was 1 month long, you’d have a “chance to win the league championship.” Great picks 1-4.  Good jub punting catcher.  Otherwise, lousy picks pretty much 5-28.  Your team is heavily weighted with brittle players.  You backed them up with limited upside players with replacement level value.  Yawn.  Predicted finish:  8th out of 12 at best (factoring in probable injuries).  If everyone “stays healthy” which is a rediculous assumption, 4th out of 12 at best.  Who knows, maybe you’re a waiver wire master and can/will piece something together…  I’d recommend being on the SP look out week 1.… Read more »