As with last year’s edition of this post, feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read fantasy team analysis of a league that you’re not necessarily in. I know that really grates some people, and I understand. For those of you who do play fantasy, I’ll try to talk about who was available and who I had to choose from for each pick so you can get a context of the decisions I made.
League overview: 12 team 6×6 head to head. Your categories are:
- Hitting: Runs, HRs, RBIs, SBs, Batting Average and OPS.
- Pitching: Wins, Saves, K’s, ERA, WHIP and Holds.
Last year we had Losses as a category instead of Holds but too many of the league hated the Losses category, but wanted to keep OPS as a 6th category. So we’ve introduced Holds as a category for the 2012 season. I proposed this but rather inadvertantly; my strategy going into this 2012 season was going to be to go after the exact type of pitcher who normally gets holds; the setup-guy, the excellent specialized reliever who pitchers 60-70 innings but gets 70-80 K’s with excellent ERAs and WHIPs. With no Losses to worry about, the value of holding any type of pitcher increased over last year’s edition of the league. The only downside was that we are also introducing a transaction limit for the season (65 over the 21 week season). So picking good arms early will be crucial.
We added an 11th and 12th team to the league at the last minute, two newer guys to fantasy baseball who made some “interesting” picks throughout the night. I was picking 1st out of the 12 in a typical snake draft order.
My draft strategy for 2012 is as follows:
- Get the minimum number of hitters, and get them early to get the best players available.
- Focus on Homers. Homers lead to Runs and RBIs, 3 of your 6 offensive categories.
- Get a couple of top end starters early, then spend the entire 2nd half of the draft on pitching.
- Focus on NL, high K/9 starters only.
- Get a high end closer if they’re available, but don’t over spend.
- Focus on the high-end Holds leaders and setup guys, getting guys who can close in a pinch.
What became apparent about 5 rounds into the draft is the disservice of drafting 1st (or last) in such a huge league; if a run starts on a position, you have almost no chance of getting any of the top guys. Catchers, top-end Holds guys and top-end Closers all had major runs without my even getting a consideration to get a pick in. Once all the top closers were gone, I decided not to scrounge for saves, at all. If a guy like Rodriguez or Holland becomes a closer and I get free saves, all the better. But what I really want are low ERA, low WHIP innings all week that help lower the overall team ERA/WHIP.
Below are my round-by-round picks. Yahoo O-Ranks are given; this is Yahoo’s rank for the player for the 2012 season. Average Draft Rank (ADR) is listed as per MockDraftCentral’s ratings, though honestly after the Holds guys start going off the board the ADR is mostly useless. Plus ADR reports are based on the classic 5×5 league, not the 6×6 league that we’re doing. But it does illustrate some of the over-drafts and/or value picks I got.
- Matt Kemp: (Yahoo #2, ADR #2) With the first overall pick I really was choosing between Kemp and Miguel Cabrera. I liked Cabrera because he’ll be gaining positional flexibility at 3B, a relatively thin position. I also like Cabrera because he’s gaining Prince Fielder to provide lineup protection. However; Kemp was the #1 producer last season, had 39 Hrs to Cabrera’s 30 and threw in 40 steals for good measure. I think Kemp is the best player in baseball and I see no reason that he won’t at least repeat his (near) 40/40 performance. With the understanding that I’ll be missing most of the high end infielders by virtue of not picking again until the 23rd overall pick, I take Kemp. Cabrera’s grounder to the face just a few hours before the draft didn’t really factor into the decision. Ironically Ryan Braun was ADR #1 but he didn’t go until 4th or 5th in our league.
- Ian Kinsler: (Yahoo #20, ADR #23). With the 24th pick, I really wanted Curtis Granderson, who was a bit undervalued (Yahoo ranked #22 but 6th best player in 2011), but he got snagged just before I picked. Kinsler was highest guy on the board and was the natural pick. I’ve had Kinsler before and he’s always a solid, mid 20s producer with some consistency. He was hurt in 2010 but in 2009 was a top 10 player. Lets hope for a similar season. 2B is thin (even more so with Chase Utley’s injury), so I didn’t mind getting a halfway decent one this high.
- Giancarlo Stanton: (Yahoo #25, ADR #26): With the 25th pick, I reached a little bit for Stanton. I didn’t want to go with slighly higher ranked guys like Mark Teixeira and certainly not Hanley Ramirez (who Itook #2 overall last year and absolutely killed my team). Cliff Lee (Yahoo #24) should have been there but was drafted incredibly early by one of the new guys in the league. So, faced with a slew of positional guys after Stanton on the Yahoo chart who all under performed last year (Beltre, McCutchen, Wright) and therefore were not worth the draft position, I took a gamble on Stanton. Personally I think this guy is going to be one of the biggest names in the game; a 45 homer guy who helps bring his team back to relevance. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware that he’s been dinged up in Spring Training and now may miss opening day. That’s not good drafting. But i’d rather have him and miss a couple weeks than be frustrated with an injury prone guy.
- Tim Lincecum: (Yahoo #28, ADR #24)
- Cole Hamels: (Yahoo #32, ADR #29): After 22 more picks, drafting with the 48th and 49th overall pick I was stunned to see two NL heavyweight starters sitting there available for the taking. According to ADR both these guys should have been long gone. Lincecum struggled last year clearly, but Hamels overperformed based on his Yahoo ranking (#21 performer in 2011) and fit my profile of an NL starter with good stats. No argument here; I took the two leading starters available. Its like a repeat of 2011: I had both these starters last year and I’m looking forward to having them both again this year.
- Brett Lawrie (Yahoo #45, ADR #53): With the 72nd overall pick I again got great value in Lawrie. At this point I had not drafted either a 3B or a 1B, having missed out on the first couple of tiers of both. I had a 1B targeted (see pick #8) so I went for an upside pick. Lawrie had 9 homers in just 150 ABs in 2011 and based on his minor league production he seems set to be a monster hitter in this league. Based on who was left on the board at that position at this time (Mark Reynolds, David Frese, Martin Prado) I went with the best available guy. That being said, Lawrie is a risk. I’m slightly worried that 2 of my top 4 hitters are relatively young guys who could go south; this strategy failed me last year (when Jason Heyward and Pedro Alvarez both underperformed so badly that I had to drop them).
- Alex Gordon; (Yahoo #66, ADR #61): Right after Lawrie with the 73rd overall pick, I was scanning down the available hitters, with an eye on 2011 performance, I was amazed again to find a near top 20 guy from last year. Gordon was ranked #23 in 2011 performance but was still on the board. I grabbed him. 23 Homers, 87 rbi along with 17 steals and I think this is a halfway decent pick. He takes my last OF spot.
- Lance Berkman: (Yahoo #86, ADR #95); With the 96th pick I nabbed Berkman. Waiting until the 8th round to find a first baseman is not usually a good strategy … but it has served me well in the past. Instead of overpaying for one of the top 1Bs, I like to wait and get nearly as good a player but many rounds below. Last year it was Paul Konerko (who I would have loved to get again but Jamos snapped him up a few rounds earlier) so this year I targeted Berkman. Another undervalued pick (his 2011 yahoo ranking: 32) who qualifies at both OF and 1B but who will be playing the far less taxing 1B position fulltime in 2012. Because of this shift to the infield, i’m hoping for a healther season and more ABs. Berkman proved last year he can still hit, and with a relatively decent lineup still around him he should still see pitches to hit despite the Cardinals losing Pujols. 31 homers last year in just 488 ABs; he could broach 40 if he gets 600 Abs like he should.
- Jimmy Rollins: (Yahoo #73, ADR #88). 97th overall, still continuing to get value. Rollins isn’t the best SS out there, but by the 9th round he’s as good as you’re going to get. He was a decent producer in 2011 but is a far cry from his 2007-2009 numbers (when in consecutive seasons he was the 5th, 9th and 12th ranked fantasy player). He has some power, 30 SB capability and a decent bat. With the Phillies injury concerns, perhaps more RBI opportunities will fall to Rollins.
- Joe Mauer (Yahoo #95, ADR #82). At the 120th pick, I was missing two positional players: a catcher and a utility guy. I’ve been burned in the past drafting catchers too high, and frankly am happy to roll the dice with the recovering Mauer. Mauer has positional flexibility of qualifying for 1B if needed but what I really need is for him to be in the lineup and hitting. If Mauer returns anywhere close to his 2009 form (#12 fantasy producer) this will be the steal of the draft.
- Josh Johnson (Yahoo #101, ADR #99). More value, but also more risk, with the #121 pick. Johnson fits my profile of high K NL starters … but of course is coming off of a major arm injury. Is he ready to go? If he’s healthy, this is a 4th or 5th round talent way down in the 11th. If not … well there’s always the waiver wire.
- Drew Stubbs: (Yahoo #92, ADR #79). With the 144th pick I needed one last hitter to supplement my bench and noticed the huge number of SBs that Stubbs had last year (40). He was decently ranked for value and I think this is a pretty decent pick. The ADR of 79 probably is skewed higher because in a 5×5 league steals are more important. But Steals are important here as well, and looking at this team i’ve got a ton of them. Big fan of this pick here.
- Mike Adams. Pick #145 and the beginning of my main 2012 strategy; focus on setup guys who get holds and have good peripherals. By the 13th round the top Holds guys from 2011 (Clippard, Venters, Robinson, and Marshall) were all gone; I was most disappointed to have missed on Robinson in particular, who went just a few picks before I went. I grabbed Adams as the best holds guy available. (note from here on out I won’t bother with Yahoo ranks or ADRs for Holds guys since they doesn’t make any sense).
- Ricky Romero: (Yahoo #109, ADR #86): At this point in the draft I was targeting a few more starters and a few more setup guys and went for best players available. but getting a guy of Romero’s caliber with the 168th pick is great. Romero isn’t entirely my kind of starter; he’s AL, and more importantly he’s AL East. But his K/9 is improved and he’s a good pitcher on a team that will get wins. He had 15 wins last year with a sub 3.00 ERA; imagine if he pitched in the NL. Regardless, he’s a good pickup at this point in the draft.
- Francisco Rodriguez: I like K-Rod because, well, if Milwaukee’s closer (John Axford) falters or gets hurt, suddenly I’ve got a pretty good closer getting saves. As it stands, Rodriguez will get a ton of Hold opportunities and has all the incidentals I want in a back-end reliever (good K/9, good holds from 2011). The only downside on him is his ERA; its a bit high for an 8th inning guy.
- Fernando Salas: Salas was St. Louis’ closer for most of 2011 but got demoted after a couple of blown saves in August. He didn’t get demoted because his numbers were bad; in fact his 2011 numbers were great. Unfortunately for Salas, Jason Motte lit it up in the post season and enters 2012 with the job clearly in hand. Which means, like Rodriguez, he’ll get save opportunities as the former closer and would be the presumptive replacement in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
- Jeremy Hellickson (Yahoo #183, ADR #127); Going against my better judgement, I picked up yet another AL East pitcher, but once again went for value. Hellickson was my 193rd pick and despite being Yahoo ranked 183, he was 86th in performance in 2011. Lots of people think Hellickson will regress in 2012 because of his amazingly low BABIP (.223 in 2011). However not all of Hellickson’s BABIP variation is attributed to “luck;” He’s a flyball pitcher. And flyball pitchers will have more of their balls in play caught, keeping BABIP low. Hellickson had only 35% of balls in play be grounders in 2011. Roy Halladay, by way of comparison, has been 50% or more groundballs every year of his career. Where this should be catching up to Hellickson is in homers given up (more fly balls should lead to more homers), but his home ballpark helps. Either way. I’ll take him with the 193rd pick.
- Mark Melancon: Another deposed closer in Melancon, who got 20 saves for Houston last year but joins Boston as the presumptive 8th inning guy behind Andrew Bailey. Remember; Bailey missed 2 months in 2011 with a forearm strain; Melancon ably fits into the closer spot. This pick may be affected by recent news that Daniel Bard will be returning to the bullpen, but holds guys don’t have to be 8th inning guys.
- Greg Holland: What a find here; Holland has fantastic numbers and could be another steal since KC closer Soria has blown out his elbow. I don’t think Holland gets the call as the closer immediately, but if new acquisition Broxton doesn’t step up Holland will.
- Alexei Ogando (Yahoo #227, ADP #208); Looking for two more starters I went for best names on the board. Ogando may not be the best but he’ll get Ks and he has a big arm. And at the 240th pick of the night I’m happy to get a 13 game winner on a playoff team.
- Josh Collmenter (Yahoo #312, ADP #305): I don’t understand why Collmenter is so low; he plays in the weaker NL West, is in the NL, and won 10 games with good numbers last year (#140 ranked yahoo fantasy in 2011). Oh; just found out why; he’s got a 14.00 ERA in Spring Training thus far. Ouch. We’ll keep an eye on his first couple starts (perhaps sitting him if he’s going against a touch lineup) and see how he goes.
Hitters: I’ve got a ton of power, but also a ton of SB capability. Kemp is 40/40 guy, Kinsler and Lawrie project to be 30/30 and Gordon a 20/20 guy. Rollins and Stubbs both get a ton of steals. I’ve got 5 guys with 30+ homer capability. Homers lead to runs and RBIs. What may hurt me is AVG and OPS: Kinsler, Stanton and Stubbs all seem to be .250 hitters. Rollins and Stubbs both are < .800 OPS guys. So we’ll take the good with the bad. But I do like my hitters.
Pitchers: I’m less liking my starters versus what I had last year. I have three good NL guns but then have three #2/#3 AL starters. And I have a big injury risk in Johnson to go with spring dismal performances out of Collmenter. I may be playing some waiver wire games.
The middle relief/holds strategy should be interesting; with a transaction limit in place we’re going to have to monitor the 5 RPs closely. I’m not after saves (clearly; having not drafted a single closer) but I wouldn’t mind getting a few here and there. I have tried the no-closer route in the past; it didn’t work exactly as I wanted. I had too many mediocre starters and got killed in ERA and WHIP. This time around is slightly different; by focusing on middle relievers who generally have great stats, I’m hoping to keep ERA and WHIP down and continually add Ks and holds.
That’s your fantasy team. What do you think?