As chronicled in my first post, yesterday was draft day in my 16-team, head to head points league. I went into the draft having kept CC Sabathia and Adrian Beltre and having traded away the third of my three keepers, Prince Fielder, for draft picks, which resulted in me having 5 picks across the first three rounds, including the second overall pick.
I went into this year's draft with a bit more of a strategy than I have had in past years (where I've tended to be reactive while trying generally to take the 'best' player on the board who I can fit on my roster). After studying the available players and doing a bit of mock drafting, I decided to 'script' those first 5 picks with plans to deviate only if something crazy happened.
As a reminder, the draft is twenty rounds, but due to the keeper rules Round 1 is really like Round 4 of a standard mixed league draft.
Round 1: Ian Kennedy
The league rewards pitching and with several owners sitting with two, three and even four starters going into the draft, getting a second ace (or near ace) to compliment CC was a key part of my plan. Kennedy and James Shields were the only two pitchers in the draft pool that met those criteria in my opinion. Shields was the #1 overall pick, and so Kennedy it was.
Round 2: Ben Zobrist, Doug Fister
I was going to take the best OF or 1B bat available, but that was when I had projected Zobrist to go in the first round. Most of that round was dominated by teams taking starting pitching and Zobrist fell this far. Zobrist is an undervalued player in fantasy, particularly head-to-head points formats like ours, where I have him as the fourth overall 2nd basemen. That plus his multi-position eligibility (2B, SS, OF) makes him a very valuable fantasy asset. Having him totally opened up my draft.
I had planned to take the best available SP with my other 2nd Round pick, and after the run on pitching Fister was it. This gave me Sabathia, Kennedy and Fister at the front of my rotation, all legit #1 or #2 fantasy starters before some teams had even drafted a #1.
Round 3: Chase Utley, Matt Wieters
Position scarcity dictated my strategy here: I had a long wait before my next pick and didn't want to go that long without filling my MI and C spots. Taking Zobrist allowed me to take either the best SS or 2B on the board here, and Utley was it as a potential comeback candidate. By this point, Wieters and Yadier Molina were the last decent catcher options on the board and Molina ended up going before my next pick, validating my choice to reach a bit early for talent at a weak position.
Rounds 4-6: Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Phil Hughes
My focus on pitching and filling out weak positions early left me with gaps at traditional power spots like OF and 1B, but those are the choice we make. Victorino as my #1 outfielder is not as strong as I'd like, but I'd take him over guys who I expect to perform marginally better that went several rounds earlier any day. Big Papi at 1B is an injury and age risk, but could still deliver decent production, and my flexibility at IF and SP could let me trade for a better option later.
My rotation depth also let me take Hughes in the 6th round as my fourth starter, even though he's a #3 starter in our league and similar (uninjured) guys were already off the board rounds earlier. With my depth, I can ride out the earlier part of the season and then either get a boost in production or trade him to a team in need of rotation help.
Rounds 7-10: Neil Walker, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Vance Worley
I was looking for OF #2 and not liking the options I saw in round 7. Still on the board was Walker, who due to anonymity of Pittsburgh, survived til round 7 and is capable of putting up 100 points more across the season than the average outfielder on the board at that point. I was already set at 2B (with both Utley and Zobrist there), but Walker can DH and serve as a hedge against the injury-prone Utley. I feel somewhat validated in this strategy because I got Aoki as my second OF (a top 30 fantasy outfielder in our format) 2 rounds later when similar players were going in this round.
Chen and Worley rounded out my starting rotation. I'm not a huge Chen fan but he fell farther than he should and will get some wins on a good Baltimore team in a weakened AL East. Worley is a big question mark coming off injuries and poor performance, but still the kind of guy I could take flier on as my sixth best pitcher.
Rounds 11-15: Ben Revere, Jim Johnson, Sean Marcum, Jeff Keppinger, Mark Teixeira
3rd outfielders are a dime a dozen and I almost always end up finding a waiver wire guy who outperforms both my #2 and #3 outfielders, but you need to start 3 and Revere's improving OBP and speed make him an attractive choice.
I always wait until about this point to take a closer because there are so many options out there, and indeed Jim Johnson projects similarly to guys who went 5+ rounds earlier (and will undoubtedly be outperformed by 5-8 guys who aren't on anyone's radar right now). Marcum is another injury case/ potential upside pitcher who could provide help or trade fodder when he comes off the DL, and Keppinger's multi-position eligibility makes him an attractive backup infielder.
Even though it's a gamble, I consider Teixeira the steal of the draft in round 15 if he returns and produces anything like his career averages for even just the second half of the season. I'd rather take the flier than draft a waiver wire guy or unproven prospect and walk away with no tears if he ends up missing the season.
Rounds 16-20: JP Arencibia, Phillip Humber, Jason Vargas, Jake Westbrook, Tevor Rosenthal
Once a backup catcher is secured, the late rounds are all about drafting pitching depth. I like to draft undervalued guys with upside potential, rather than unproven rookie talent. Humber has shown that he can perform at a high level and a change of scenery might help him find the consistency he's lacked. The move to Anaheim (with it's big dimensions and good team) could also breathe new life into Vargas. Westbrook isn't the sexiest pick, but you know what you're getting and Rosenthal is both a good hedge on him and a guy with breakout potential if he gets a shot at the St. Louis rotation or is traded.
In a league that rewards pitching heavily, a rotation of Sabathia, Kennedy, Hughes, Fister and Chen is definitely in the top third of the league. I'm also strong at traditionally weak positions like MI, 3B and C. I'd prefer to have a little more power in my lineup at 1B and OF, but have the ability to perform near league average across those positions. The flexibility with so many multi-position guys and SP depth also gives me some nice insurance to deal with injuries and lay the groundwork for future deals. There are a couple of teams whose rosters I'd prefer to have... but not many.
Overall grade: B+