2011 Fantasy Baseball: Fact or Fiction
Ever feel like you're being lied to? In my first couple weeks of mock drafts, I’ve noticed some trends developing and some widely accepted beliefs that don’t entirely hold true. Some positions aren’t as weak as they appear, some are weaker. And some guys just seem to end up on my team regardless of which draft position I start out with. These are the things that might be useful notes to make as you prepare your draft-day cheat sheet.
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It’s one thing to say there are many quality first basemen, it’s another thing altogether to say there are a lot of first basemen that I would feel comfortable with as my starting man on opening day. Quite the contrary.
Unless I end up with the #1 overall pick, I won’t own Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, orJoey Votto because I’d rather use a first round pick on a 2B, SS, or 3B. I also tend to prefer young guys, so I will probably never own Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Mark Texeira and Kevin Youkilis. So I seem to always end up with either Prince Fielder in the second, or Kendry Morales or Justin Morneau in the fifth round.
After those three, there isn’t much I’d feel good about as my starting first baseman. I think Fielder will get back in the 40 HR group, with a respectable average. At 26, he already has one 50 HR year in his pocket.
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I’ve always been a proponent of a balanced lineup. I almost always kept about the same number of pitchers and hitters through the draft. But this year, I just can’t seem to justify taking a pitcher in the first four rounds.
If I can fill 2B, 3B and SS, while grabbing Andrew McCutchen (my top target this season) in the first four rounds, I feel fantastic. In 12-team mocks, I’m getting Josh Johnson, Jered Weaver, Mat Latos and David Price in the 6th, 7th, 8th and later rounds. So fill the shallow spots first, and be pleasantly surprised when these aces fall to you later on.
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Not this year. Eliminate the top tier of David Wright andEvan Longoria at 3B, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki at SS, and Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, and Chase Utley at 2B. Depth at a position is about the guys below the elites that I wouldn’t mind starting on opening day.
At second base, I wouldn’t mind using Kelly Johnson, Rickie Weeks, or Aaron Hill. I might settle for Gordon Beckham if I had to. At shortstop, if I don’t get one of the top two in the first round, and I miss out onJose Reyes, I’m in trouble.I would probably wait a long time for someone like Starlin Castro, Erick Aybar, or Ian Desmond, and I wouldn’t be thrilled to have them in my starting lineup.
At third base, if I miss out on Wright and Longoria, I can get Pablo Sandoval, Pedro Alvarez, Ian Stewart, and I’m a Mark Reynolds buyer (40 HR, .240 AVG, 10 SB). Reach for one of the top three shortstops, not for third basemen.
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I never thought I would be recommending him, but as the full time DH, Manny is still one of the most talented pure hitters in baseball history. He has the prettiest swing in this generation, and with 500 at bats, I’d take the over on 20 HR and 80 RBI, with a solid .280ish AVG.
It goes against everything I believe in to recommend "Mannywood", but for a guy being buried in drafts, it wouldn't be shocking to see him rake for one more magical season. Over his 18 years in the big leagues, Manny has a 162 game average of .313, 39 HR, 129 RBI, 109 R.
I know he won't play 162 games. However, as the DH, he isn't likely to miss games due to injury. Mathematically, if he played just 130 games (around what can be expected) on that 162-game pace, he would tally 31 HR, 111 RBI, and 87 R.
First of all, I don’t spend high picks on one-category studs so I will never own Crawford, but I think he is in for a downturn this season. With questionable offensive production in Tampa Bay, Crawford has a constant green light on the bases.With the massive power behind him, he will be on a leash, to avoid running into outs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him steal less than 45 bases, AKA his lowest career total other than the injury-shortened 2008.
If Crawford isn't stealing bases, how can you justify taking him in the first round? In conversations with fellow mockers over the last two weeks, the majority who draft him are expecting 20 HR, 90 RBI, and 120 runs. He has never scored more than 110 runs. He has never hit 20 HR. He has had 90 RBI once and never more than 90.
Draft him expecting his career .296 average, 14 HR, 78 RBI, and 100 runs (his 162 game averages), with 30-35 steals. There isn't too much power upside. He could score 115 runs, and bat .300 with balls bouncing around in the Fenway Park outfield. But don't expect career highs in three categories.
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I never use rankings for drafting. I use tiers. As I mock, I’m thinking of guys to group together. There is an immensely talented group in the 5-7 rounds that are fairly comparable in preseason value.Andre Ethier, BJ Upton, Jay Bruce, Mike Stanton, Drew Stubbs, Colby Rasmus, Jason Heyward, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence, and Chris Young. I will likely end up with at least one of those guys, if not two, because I take infield early, so I usually need outfielders in the middle rounds.
So who are the elites? Well there are ZERO outfielders I’d take in the first round and Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday are the only guys I’d consider in the second. Because the top guys all have some very serious questions, and I emphasize safety early.
You’ve seen my thoughts on Crawford. Carlos Gonzalez had an unrepeatable batting average. He is a 20/20 guy for sure, but that can be had later on. Josh Hamilton is as health-risky as they come. People seem to be forgetting Matt Kemp is coming off a .249 season. Listen to this and tell me why Kemp is SO overdrafted. Kemp 2010: .249, 28 HR, 19 SB. Chris Young 2010: .257, 27, 28. I’ll take Young four rounds later.
Justin Upton… I know, I know “potential” this and “upside” that. He has never played 140 games, only had 20 HR once and 20 SB once, and batted over .275 once. I can get his numbers a lot later. After Braun and Holliday, my #3 OF, and the last one I put in the top tier is Andrew McCutchen. First two years in the league he has batted exactly .286, while 12–>16 HR, and 22–>33 SB. At 24, he is still growing, and 20/40 might be a basement for his 2011 year.
Wrap Up: Don't Buy the Lie
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When I say I will never own a guy, its not because he shouldnt be owned. Its simply because I can get his numbers later than he will last. That’s the same reason I will never draft Joe Mauer. He is easily the best catcher, but I can get his HR, RBI and SB much later, and I don’t take one-category studs in the first couple rounds, where Mauer gets taken.
People forget that Mauer is really a one-category stud. You draft him for his .320+ average. I’d rather spend that second round pick on fielder and get .280, 45, 130 and that third round pick on Jose Reyes and get .300, 13, and 50+ SB. It’s all about value. That’s why I’ll end up with a catcher from the tier of Matt Wieters, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli (25 HR, 80 RBI, and AVG won’t kill you).
One more note, if you missed out on those elite 1B, take Adam Lind in the middle rounds. He will have 1B eligibility in the first couple weeks and I expect .280, 30, 90 from him at least.