In the War Room: Expert Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy Rounds 1-7

Todd Farino@truegurufarinoCorrespondent IMarch 4, 2009

Welcome to The True Guru's war room. Trying to draft your perfect team in an expert draft sounds great, but isn't likely. It requires a sound strategy that can adjust on the fly and one that is ready for causalities.

Imagine getting all the type of players you really want in the rounds you want them. As tough as it is, a good draft strategy can do it with due diligence, patience, strong will, and the ability to heave your dinner on the spot from internal stress.

I was invited into the KFFL K-BAD Expert league with some of the heavyweights of the industry including Baseball Prospectus, BaseballHQ, Lester's Legends, KFFL, The Hardball Times, and others. I received the sixth pick and I was very happy with that pick.

The sixth pick is unique because it is the only pick in the draft where you have 12 picks in-between every pick and that is great for consistency in a strategy. I like getting the sixth pick cause it gives me the chance to try out my theories and put them to the test.

Let's go through the draft round-by-round and I will explain why I made each pick, why that pick plays into my strategy, give projections, and also let you know who else was considered.

Remember, a good draft strategy is one that can change on the fly. No draft strategy will remain exactly the same as you prepared. For example, players can slip down to you that you figured you would never get, so even that can change some of your picks. I try to list players I feel will be there for me in the corresponding rounds.

League Type: Standard 5x5 Rotisserie, 12-team expert league.


Round 1Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians, OF

108 R, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 37 SB, .285 BA

Sizemore busted out in 2008, becoming a very hard-to-find 30-30 player, with room to spare. His batting average hurts for a first-round pick, but at 27 he is in his prime, and his production should continue on the uptrend. You need five outfielders, so it works in your favor to get what will be a scarce position started early.

Planned Strategic Pick—Yes. As far as your perfect team goes, get out of the first round with a 30/30. Some people feel position scarcity matters over skills, I don't. In the first round there are only 3 30/30 players. If you can't get Ramirez or Wright, Sizemore is perfect. Very nice start to the draft.

Other Considerations: Ryan Braun, 3B, Jimmy Rollins, SS. Strategic Plan: Get a 30/30 player.


Round 2B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays, OF

23 HR, 80 RBI, 104 R, .285 BA, 40 SB

Last year, torn labrum and all, Upton matured in front of a national audience as he hit home run after home run in the playoffs. Even with shoulder surgery in the offseason, I feel that Upton will have a career year in what is still a young career.

Upton brings to the table speed and power with the possibility of a solid average. However, if he bats lead-off his RBI numbers will suffer.

Planned Strategic Pick—Yes. If there was another guy who has the capability of being a 30/30 player look no further than B.J. Upton. Yes he had surgery in the offseason to repair his shoulder, but that is good news.

I love getting maximum value for each draft pick (who doesn't) and Upton is that. Did anyone say last year that Sizemore would be a 30/30 guy? Probably not. He was being drafted a bit higher than Upton was this year, so he's in the same boat.

Upton is 25, hitting his prime and is primed for a huge season. It will be fun to watch.

Other Considerations: Evan Longoria 3B, Justin Morneau 1B. Strategic Plan: Get Speed and Power with solid average potential.


Round 3Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Ray, 3B

31 Hrs, 105 RBI, 85 Runs, .277 Avg, 9 SB

Last year's American League rookie of the year impressed everyone with a terrific 2008 season. In only 122 games he hit 27 home runs and batted in 85 runs to lead the resurgent Rays to the World Series. We fully expect Longoria to improve his numbers from last year and hold his spot as one of the top third basemen in fantasy baseball.

Planned Strategic Pick—Yes. Frankly I actually considered taking Longoria with the second pick of the draft, but I decided against it and he was there for the third. That is a perfect example of how you not only picked correctly, but maximized your draft value by getting both players.

Longoria is a highly touted prospect who is a stud in a scarce position. The guy I wanted here was Matt Kemp. He was drafted the very next pick. So I lost one player that was very high on my draft board, but gained one I thought I wouldn't get in Longoria. Another value in taking Longoria is I already had two outfielders, and getting a 3B was critical.

Other Considerations: Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Carlos Quentin. Strategic Plan: At this point I wanted power in the infield, but I was also fishing for average.


Round 4Manny Ramirez, LA Dodgers, OF

35 HRs, 122 RBI, 96 Runs, .315 Avg, 1 SB

After Manny was traded from the Red Sox he was energized and put up insane numbers for the Dodgers topped by a .396 avg. Currently, Manny is a free agent, but we suspect he will be a Dodger for the start of the season and at 36 he is still one of the most feared bats in baseball.

It's clear he still has a few good years in him. We expect him to have another big year in 2009.

Planned Strategic Pick—No. But we will take it with a huge grin on my face. Frankly, I have one draft rule. Actually, I have several draft rules, but one is definitely try to avoid guys over 35, especially early in the draft. There are a few exceptions however one being Manny Ramirez.

I assume Manny hung around this long in the draft because he doesn't have a deal with a team, but I couldn't let him get past me in the fourth. I was intending to get Matt Kemp or Chris Davis, but both were gone. Manny is clearly a steal in the fouth round as long as he suits up for the season and there is no doubt he will.

Other Considerations: Carlos Quentin, Jacoby Ellsbury. Strategic Plan: To get the best player available who provides RBI and average.

Round 5Russell Martin, LA Dodgers, C

18 Hrs, 81 RBI, 85 Runs, .294 Avg, 20 SBs

I must be crazy taking two Dodgers in a row! Last year Martin suffered with a sore foot most of the season and his stats reflected that. This year the foot is no longer a problem and I expect Martin to get back to his 2007 numbers and maybe even surpass them a bit.

The Dodgers have built a strong lineup, so Martin will see good pitches and have plenty of RBI opportunities. He was a steal in the fifth round.

Planned Strategic Pick—No. Honestly, I never draft catchers this early, but with Martin sitting out there in the fifth round I had little choice. He was a steal with the 54th overall pick.

I was looking to get Joey Votto or even break one of my own rules and take Jake Peavy or Dan Haren, but I got one of two catchers I need and one of the best in the game. He's not a perfect team pick for me, but he's far better then I wouldn't have gotten.

Other Considerations: Joey Votto, Dan Haren, Jake Peavy, Francisco Rodriguez. Strategic Plan: Pick up SBs and average. Power is also nice in this round, but not necessary.


Round 6Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres, SP

17 wins, 235 Ks, 2.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Peavy is one of a handful of stud aces in fantasy baseball. He is coming off arguably his worse season that was riddled with inconsistency and injury. However, in 2009 he is so healthy that he plans to pitch for Team USA in the WBC. That should get his competitive juices flowing early and he should be primed for the season.

I couldn't pass on Peavy in the the sixth round and frankly I would have taken him in the fifth round if it wasn't for a rule I have for 2009. Do not take a pitcher before the sixth round.

Planned Strategic Pick—Yes. Every team needs one ace. I was expecting to get Scott Kazmir, Cliff Lee, or John Lackey as my team ace since I don't take SPs early. Peavy fell to me and I was more than happy to take him over David Ortiz. I was hoping the Danny Haren would fall to me, and if he had it would have been a tough call. Haren was drafted four picks earlier.

I love this pick cause now I'm settled at SP for at least two more rounds and I can focus on infield and a closer in the next couple of rounds. I did consider David Ortiz and Stephen Drew, but in the end chose my SP.

Other Considerations: David Ortiz, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera. Strategic Plan: Get the best available starting pitcher or closer.


Round 7Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks, SS

24 Hrs, 78 RBI, 101 Runs, .299 Avg, 7 SB

Drew came on the second half of last year and some say he was the hottest player the rest of the season. In watching Drew we could see that not only was he hot, but that he figured it out and was much more comfortable at the plate.

We drafted him in the seventh round not only because he was a great value, but we feel he is an emerging star at the SS position and he will perform better than a seventh round pick in 2009.

Planned Strategic Pick—Yes. Frankly, I don't buy the strategy you have to invest in a SS early or that position is death. At the opening of this draft I was looking at guys like Tulowitski, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, and Stephen Drew. I managed to get one of them with several solid shortstops still available and did it in a perfect round.

In the shortstop position I feel it's important for someone to be solid in three categories: Home runs, runs, and average. With Stephen Drew I felt I did that.

Other Considerations: Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Brad Lidge, Chris Young. Strategic Plan: This is a round I consider a free round. Take whatever your needs are because rounds 8-12 are critical. At this point in the draft I had two glaring weaknesses, no closers, no middle infield. I went middle infield with a SS.

Coming next, rounds 8-14!


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