As fantasy baseball experts, and professors, we naturally look for as many possible ways to challenge ourselves during the baseball season. My favorites are usually "Beat the Streak," where you choose one hitter every day and try to beat Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak, and joining obscure leagues with strangers and dominating them. Over the years, we have taken part in countless leagues but this year we decided to up the ante.
That's right. The professors are doing fantasy baseball—NFBC style.
If you aren't familiar with the NFBC—National Fantasy Baseball Championship—it's basically somewhere where fantasy nerds can get together and play for keeps. And by keeps, I mean a bit higher stakes than marbles. They also hold live drafts in select remote locations, but unfortunately we are all on a tight budget these days. You know, the economy...
So we decided to put our heads together and co-co-(tri?)manage a team and see if we can come out on top. With three brains behind the operations of our team (Da Professors, by the way) we already have three times the advantage over the competition. We can't lose!
Before I dive into analyzing our draft, you must know our league rules. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR LEAGUE RULES BEFORE DRAFTING! Knowledge is power.
League: Rotisserie, 15 teams, mixed
Draft: Slow snake draft, 50 rounds
Starting positions: 2 Catchers, 1 First Baseman, 1 Second Baseman, 1 Third Baseman, 1 Shortstop, 1 Corner Infielder, 1 Middle Infielder, 5 Outfielders, 1 Utility, and 9 Pitchers
Categories: Standard 5x5
It's a very deep league and we think it will give you a real insight into our strategy for drafting accordingly. We are ready and up for the challenge so let's get into the first fifteen rounds (225 picks) of this monster draft.
Round One (Pick 14) - David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
Around the sixth pick we decided that our top targets at 14 would be David Wright, Matt Holliday or Matt Kemp given the scarcity at third base and outfield this year. Only problem was Wright was a pipe dream because in such a deep league his value is clearly higher than normal, but then something happened. Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Zimmerman were drafted with the two picks before us and Wright fell into our laps. Eureka! We just got someone who not only contributes in all five categories, but filled in at a scarce position. Now we won't have to reach on Adrian Beltre in the third round, which is always a good feeling.
Round Two (Pick 17) - Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
We set Wright and Holliday as our top two targets and got them both. We are feeling pretty good right about now because we now have an elite player at third base and outfield and have shored up our batting average. Both hitters should hit in the .300-range and are five-category fillers. We thought about Kemp and Josh Hamilton at this point, but Holliday is much safer and you don't win leagues in the first three rounds, but you sure can lose them.
Round Three (Pick 44) - Kendry Morales, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
There's a bit of a misconception about the first base position this year. Yes it's deep, but it's also very top heavy with a fairly steep dropoff, which is why we went with Kendry Morales here. You don't want to wait too long and have to rely on another Paul Konerko surprise or hope for Billy Butler to finally develop some legitimate power. Even Justin Morneau is a huge question mark given his concussion. Morales missed almost all of 2010, but it was a fluke injury and he is good for 30 home runs and 100 RBI with upside to do more damage than that. He is also another good batting average to add to our already strong mix.
Round Four (Pick 47) - Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox
In such a deep league we thought having an elite pitcher was a must and since there are 26 picks in between our selections it was finally time to nab one. Cliff Lee was just taken with one of the "cream filling" picks (if our 44th and 47th selection are the outer cookie layers, then picks 45 and 46 are the cream filling—it's like an Oreo, try to keep up) so we were left to choose between Jon Lester, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. We pegged Greinke with the WHIP advantage and Verlander atop the strikeout totem pole, but we thought Lester was a very close second in both and had the edge in ERA, while playing on the best team. Greinke was a close runner-up just because his upside in the National League is tremendous, but Lester is also a perennial Cy Young candidate who has no weak link in his game.
Round Five (Pick 74) - Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners
If you recall from earlier this year I wrote a rather harsh article about Ichiro Suzuki and called for the world to stop drafting him as a top 10, or even top 20, outfielder. Well our leaguemates must be reading the site because he fell all the way to 21st among outfielders in the draft. We realized we needed some steals and debated whether or not to draft someone like Juan Pierre later, but when you have such a big gap between picks you need to take what you need when you are up because it is impossible to predict how the next 26 picks will go. Very important lesson here—there is no such thing as reaching in a deep league in a scenario like this. Get what you need when you have the chance, never play the guessing game. In shallow leagues you can afford to guess because there are more players available to draft.
We grabbed Ichiro and got a .300 batting average—with over 700 plate appearances—and at least 35 steals. He only scored 74 runs last year, but that was the perfect storm of bad offense around him. He should get at least 90, right?
Round Six (Pick 77) - Matt Cain, SP, San Fransisco Giants
Time for our first big debate. Hey, with three opinionated minds it was bound to happen at some point right? Matt Cain or Yovani Gallardo...we spent a good 20 minutes on the subject and finally settled on Cain. The reason? Cain has pitched 200-plus innings for four straight seasons, while Gallardo has missed time in each of the last two seasons and always seems to fall apart in the second half. Gallardo gives you a lot of strikeouts (9.7 K/9 in 2010) and he made huge strides in improving his control last year. Still, he hasn't put together a full season and it's not like Cain kills you in strikeouts (career 7.4 K/9). We'll take Cain and his inexplicable pitching success.
Round Seven (Pick 104) - Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays
I feel like Aaron Hill is becoming my poster boy for why you shouldn't draft a second baseman in the first 8-10 rounds of a standard 10-team league. We were able to take on Hill's batting average risk, although we peg him to be in the very reasonable .270-range, and we are rewarded with great power at a position where there isn't much. Stephen Drew was taken a couple of picks before us, eliminating any chance that we take a shortstop. It was at this point where we decided to not address the shortstop position until a couple rounds later with a guy we all like this year—Ryan Theriot.
Round Eight (Pick 107) - Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
Brian Wilson became the first closer taken as one of the "cream filling" picks. This posed the question, do we take an elite closer now, or do we address the catcher position and hold off until the next round for a closer? We decided to go with Matt Wieters here because the options after him (Miguel Montero, Jorge Posada, Kurt Suzuki) were not as good compared to the remaining closers. Also, we need two catchers in this 15-team league so it's important that we get one of the top 10 options.
Wieters should provide solid power and he is in a very solid lineup so there should be plenty of RBI opportunities. Plus, there's always a chance he figures it all out and realizes his full potential, which many have pegged to be at .290/30/100. Fingers are crossed.
Round Nine (Pick 134) - Joe Nathan, RP, Minnesota Twins
Remember when I said Wilson was the first closer taken at pick 105? Well, during our 26-pick break, 10 closers were taken. Talk about a run! So we missed out on a lot of the elite options, but should we still take a closer? We didn't want to risk waiting, and missing out on the second tier so we decided to go with Joe Nathan. J.J. Putz was also available, but if you asked me who was more likely to finish the season as a top-5 closer it would be Nathan every day of the week. He was one of the game's best closers before Tommy John surgery and we saw what Billy Wagner did last year. Despite missing out on Joakim Soria, Andrew Bailey and Heath Bell, I think we got ourselves a very decent option at a discounted price. That's a win in my book.
Round Ten (Pick 137) - Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets
We still needed a third outfielder, but we also started talking about a third starting pitcher. Our main options at pitching were Colby Lewis, Matt Garza, John Danks and Ricky Romero (in that order). While the first three were all on the visible page of pitchers, Danks was buried on page five. We have yet to uncover the reason why. This is when we started playing, as Chris cleverly put it, "John Danks roulette." More on that later.
For outfielders, we are starting to hit the tier where everyone seems to have a glaring question mark. Here's an example of some players at the top of the list: Jason Bay(concussion), Grady Sizemore (health/decreasing skills), Vernon Wells (don't get me started), Adam Jones (untapped potential) and Carlos Quentin (health). It came down to Jones and Bay and we thought to go with the guy who gives a little more in both the home run and stolen base department. We need to make up for some power after drafting Ichiro. All reports coming out of spring training said he is feeling great (surprise!), which makes Bay is a nice candidate for a rebound season.
Round Eleven (Pick 164) - Ricky Romero, SP , Toronto Blue Jays
Round two of "John Danks roulette." We missed out on both Lewis and Garza so we were left to decide between Romero and Danks. Now, we like Danks slightly better because he doesn't pitch in the AL East and he has more of a track record, but the difference between the two isn't too great so we decided to go with Romero and take the chance that Danks falls to us in the 13th round. We swear to ourselves that if he's available we would finally pull the trigger (no pun intended) and take him.
As for Romero, there's a lot to like as he made nice strides last year by improving his strikeout rate (7.5 K/9) and walk rate (3.5 BB/9). He is also a southpaw, which gives him a slight edge against some of the league's top offenses. Going into his third full season, he should continue to take strides toward becoming a reliable No. 3 starting pitcher.
Round Twelve (Pick 167) - Ryan Franklin, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
Just three rounds after nabbing Nathan we decided to get our second closer and at this point the options were pretty slim. The only remaining full-time closers were Ryan Franklin, Fransisco Cordero and Brandon Lyon so we chose to go with Franklin as his job is probably safest. He doesn't wow in any category, but he gets the job done so we can't complain. Needless to say we needed another guy who could get 30 saves because chances are we aren't going to start three closers every week in a 15-team league and you can't have two part-time closers and expect to finish respectably in the saves category. You would have to get very lucky in the later rounds. By the way, Danks is still there.
Round Thirteen (Pick 194) - Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Damn! Danks was finally taken, thus ending "John Danks roulette." It was fun while it lasted, but now we need another plan. We decide to wait on pitching and address one of the "extra" positions—middle infield. We think about Manny Ramirez and drafting our second catcher with our two picks here, but eventually decide that the dropoff at middle infield after Neil Walker is dangerous. Walker has an outside chance to hit 20 home runs while bat .280 and hopefully score some runs by batting in front of Pedro Alvarez and the powerful Lyle Overbay. OK, so he won't be scoring 100 runs, but I'll take 80 and be very happy.
Round Fourteen (Pick 197) - Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Colorado Rockies
Time for our second big debate—Jhoulys Chacin vs. Brian Matusz. At first, Bryan was alone on the Chacin train, but he presented an argument that I couldn't ignore. Both pitchers have ace potential, but one had problems with home runs and pitches in the AL East. The other induces ground balls, rarely allows a home run and pitches in the NL West. When in doubt go with the groundball pitcher, who pitches in the NL and has better strikeout potential to boot. Needless to say we welcomed Chacin to Da Professors with open arms.
Round Fifteen (Pick 224) - Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, St. Louis Cardinals
With our 15th pick we decided to finally grab Ryan Theriot to man our shortstop position. I'm feeling really good about this pick and I'll tell you why. He should hit in the .280-range, but could hit .300 if things go his way. Almost all of his outs happen on the field as his career 12 percent strikeout rate suggests. He will bat leadoff in a very good Cardinals lineup that features Holliday, Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus, which means 100 runs isn't out of the question and Theriot should get to 90. All that, and he'll give you 25-30 stolen bases, which makes him very solid in three-of-five categories. You won't find that too often with the 224th pick in the draft. Theriot is a great guy to target if you choose to wait on the shortstop position.
Part two will come once the 30th round is complete, but until then let us know what you think of our strategies and even some of your own that you implement in deep drafts.
Roster at this point:
C - Matt Wieters
1B - Kendry Morales
2B - Aaron Hill
3B - David Wright
SS - Ryan Theriot
MI - Neil Walker
CI - N/A
OF - Matt Holliday
OF - Ichiro Suzuki
OF - Jason Bay
OF - N/A
OF - N/A
P - Jon Lester
P - Matt Cain
P - Ricky Romero
P - Jhoulys Chacin
CL - Joe Nathan
CL - Ryan Franklin
P - N/A
P - N/A
P - N/A
Make Baseball Professor, the most personable fantasy baseball outlet on the web, part of your daily fantasy baseball routine for updated fantasy news and analysis. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated throughout the season.