Just like everyone else, draft day is the highlight of my year. It marks a crescendo for the swell of excitement that accompanies a new baseball season and it occurs before reality comes crashing down round you. Your season has not yet been derailed by injuries, poor performance and poorer judgment. On this glorious day anything is possible, and all that matters is potential; in your players, in your team, in yourself (man, that’s some deep stuff, I should be writing Hallmark cards, though I’m not sure “Draft Day: Enjoy it because every other day sucks” will be a big hit.)
With a hop in my step and a song in my heart (unfortunately, it was “Loser” by Beck), I entered the draft room for the 2009 Fantasy Baseball Search Expert League. The league is an H2H 5×5 (OBP instead of AVG), 21 starters (only 1 C and 4 OF’s in addition to the usuals) and six bench spots. The event took place on March 3rd, right before the A-Rod news rocked the fantasy world. The following is a recap of what happened.
Pre-Draft – Wearing a baseball jersey last year didn’t bring me any luck, so I decide to go a little more literal this time. I settle into my War Room shirtless, covered in hog blood. I’m rocking a loin cloth over some Revolutionary War-era pantaloons. On the table I’ve got a stack of statistical printouts partially obscuring a map of Prussia. I’m ready.
As I enter the room, I’m greeted with some comforting chatter. As we are in the height of draft season and everyone is seemingly in dozens of leagues, it seems some of the other participants had managed to forget that this league uses OBP instead of AVG. Those fools!!! Now they’ll only beat me in seven categories a week instead of eight.
Rounds 1-2 – The week before the draft, I found out I had the last pick. I initially hated the slot, given the first round had 11 sure things and I was picking 12th, but I came around upon realizing I wouldn’t have to predict what others would do and I could just grab whoever I wanted, knowing they wouldn’t still be around 24 slots later. There are no worries the guys picking behind me would screw up my draft and I can focus all my energy on screwing it up myself.
After considering a myriad of strategies, including only drafting players with an “S” in their name and avoiding all guys born in October (the evilest month), I settled on a best player available/position scarcity hybrid. The league only required four outfielders, so I wanted to avoid them the first few rounds and then pick up guys ranked in the 20-30 range at the position later in the draft.
The key to the plan was a smash and grab of elite second basemen at the top of the draft. I got exactly what I wanted when 11 picks went by without Kinsler or Utley’s name being called, so I nabbed both of them. Despite the confusion that settled over the room, I felt good about it then and I feel even better now after I heard Mike Siano say on the MLB Network Fantasy Preview that he pulled the exact same move in one of his own drafts. Look Ma! I’m just like the pros!
Rounds 3-4 – Predictably, I abandon the position scarcity model immediately and select Adrian Gonzalez and Adam Dunn. A podcast covering the draft was broadcasting live and needless to say, they did not appreciate my genius. They tore into these picks like hipsters into an Arcade Fire album. I don’t quite get it – Dunn was 17th in the league in OBP last year. If he hit .300 wouldn’t he be a top 25 pick in standard leagues? But what do I know, I’m no expert.
Rounds 5-8 – After the debacle in the last two rounds, here is where I decided to just fully commit to taking the best player available for the rest of the first ten rounds. I know from my VAST experience, this is where the real meat of the draft takes place. Leagues can be lost at the top, won at the end, and are otherwise decided in the middle. I want to at least avoid losing the league before it even begins, so I grab Peavy (one of the last elite pitchers on the board), Carlos Pena (monster in OBP), Furcal (huge upside in the 7th round), and Dye (I like him cause he always looks angry).
Rounds 9-11 – Every draft takes on a life of its own and here is where the true nature of the draft revealed itself. That’s right, it’s here where I discovered all the other drafters were dead. Wait. Nope. That wasn’t the draft, that was “The Sixth Sense.” This was even more shocking (only because someone told me the end of that movie before I saw it. If you are in the same boat, there you go, you’ve saved 90 minutes of your life. You’re welcome).
Relievers started flying off the board like this was a rare 5×1 league, with saves as the only pitching category. A remarkable eight closers were picked in these three rounds, making it 15 closers selected in the drafts first 132 picks, most of which a round or two above their ADP. If this run was meant to freak me out, mission accomplished. I figured they all knew something I didn’t and as the old adage goes, if you can’t spot the sucker at the table, you are the sucker. I stay away from all relievers, take A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, and Chris Iannetta and just hope for the best.
Rounds 12-16 – Ok, I’m not going to lie. This was the happiest stretch of picks I’ve ever had in a fantasy baseball draft. I know, I know. The fantasy gods are now going to spend the year treating me as their own personal sock puppet, but I was truly pumped about this run. And there are worse things in life then being a sock puppet. What you hate entertaining children with magical stories, off-kilter voices, and googly eyes? Didn’t think so.
Here are my picks. Lastings Milledge (going to go 20/20 plus for my favorite team), Raul Ibanez (who I almost took 24 picks earlier, but didn’t because I’m a homer), Brett Myers (now with less minor league action!), Aaron Harang (owes me big time from last year), and Adrian Beltre (the pick Fred Lynn loved).
As elated as I am, there is one sad note. When I saw that Beltre was going 194th overall on Mock Draft Central, I knew there was no way I could justify drafting a guy who will give me similar production 100 picks earlier. So it’s with great sadness that I announce I had to break up with Ryan Zimmerman this year. I’m just going through a lot right now, you know and I feel I need to focus on me. It’s not you Ryan, it’s me. We’ll always have last year’s Opening Night.
Rounds 17-27 – With the core of my lineup finished, I grab as many lottery tickets as I can to finish out the draft, with a focus on creating a bullpen. With the deep bench, I plan to stash every possible closer I can and hope to get lucky. Highlights include Eric Byrnes (think he gets 400 at-bats and 20 plus steals), Troy Percival (hope he gets 20 saves before the rigor mortis kicks in), Trevor Hoffman (ditto, though might be too late), George Sherrill and Chris Ray (indifferent to who gets the job), Aaron Cook (I have no idea how this happened), and Roy Corcoran (welcome to cutsville, population: you).
So there you go. I learned a lot in the draft. One – Some experts love closers. Like a lot. Two – An expert draft isn’t any different from other draft except you spend most of the time feeling dumber than you should. Three – Drafting with a guy you vividly remember watching play as a kid is surreal, but satisfying when he turns out to be such an amazingly nice guy (and that’s not just because he liked my picks, though that helped).
And perhaps most importantly, when you talk to them afterwards, all experts are seemingly happy with their squad, which isn’t surprising as it should reflect their own prejudices. So let me take another step towards expertdom and say I love my team. I’m a little light on speed and a lot light on saves, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m rock solid all the way around on offense and have enough power arms I should compete in most pitching categories. I’m ecstatic the season is starting. Let’s play ball!
C – Ianetta
1B – Gonzalez
2B – Kinsler
3B – Beltre
SS – Furcal
CI – Pena
MI – Utley
OF – Dunn
OF – Dye
OF – Milledge
OF – Ibanez
U – Byrnes
P – Peavy
P – Burnett
P – Joba
P – Myers
P – Harang
P – Cook
P – Percival
P – Hoffman
P – Sherrill
Bench – Ray, Corcoran, Dan Wheeler, Scott Olsen, Ian Snell, Edgar Renteria
Complete Draft Results
How do you think Toby did? Please leave a comment below or send an email to let him know.