Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Draft Roundup

Just like any other league, we all think different things going into the draft, and we all have different responses to other teams' decisions. I decided to take a note from Yahoo's Brandon Funston and asked each team a couple of questions regarding their draft. I also asked each owner to declare who they thought to be the steal and reach of the draft.

I also asked Eddie Mattingly, brother and colleague, to come up with two questions for me, so I could defend my own rash decisions.

I offer the responses of each team that chose to participate below. This time, for kicks, I've sorted them alphabetically by owner's last name, then first name (since we have a few Mattinglys):

Ed Close, Columbus DamKnights

1) As I'm sure you noticed/planned, your team projects to finish well above everyone else in batting average, but looks underwhelming as far as power potential. Do you expect to be able to find power as the season progresses, or are you willing to just make that trade-off?

I'm certain that I tend to value batting average over other categories simply because I grew up that way, as a fan without regard to the fantasy value. However, I attempted to draft/keep younger players who hit well and would get an opportunity to bat in power or run producing positions in their respective lineups. I dislike drafting .250 hitting power hitters early in a draft. It is simply a prejudice of mine. I traded away Adam Dunn years ago because I hated the drag on BA.

As far as power, I've made a few trade overtures, even packaging Joe Mauer to one owner. Robinson Cano may bat 5th in a Yankees lineup and may be able to give me a lift. Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Snider, and Stephen Drew may deliver some needed power as well. Absent a big deal, I'll be patient and take a longer view (a few seasons) at this. I don't think you can pickup big boppers during the season. I added Jason Giambi one year and he gave me some pop at the end, but that was unexpected luck.

A note: I had Billy Butler on the top of my board but the Suspects drafted him earlier in round one.

2) Joe Nathan, one of your eight keepers, was injured early in our draft, and will be out for the season. Did his injury affect your draft plans? And if so, how?

I made a keeper-level investment in one of the few great reliable closers. That turned out to be a mistake. When Nathan went down, I did not feel that I could prudently fill that hole with the closers that were still available. The closers I saw available would provide perhaps 15-20 saves at the cost of elevated ERA/WHIP. I felt the DamKnights could do better by drafting to my other needs first - namely, young hitters and starting pitchers that I liked. After several rounds, I felt I could then invest in a few closers that had a chance of producing at the level of the closers that were available when Nathan went down.

3) Steal of the draft?

I liked the Pronks selection of Gutierrez with selection ten of round 8, and I liked the Mosquitoes selection of Matusz in round 5, selection eight.

4) Reach of the draft?

I think the Mosquitoes selection of Strasburg in round one stands out as a reach. But I hope he proves me wrong. I also was surprised to see The Usual Suspects select Sheets just after Matusz.

Nick Engle, Huber Heights Heroes

1) I'm sure by now everyone knows, you've got a unique strategy on the hitting side, where you punt batting average. How did that work out for you last year, and how do you think it'll work out in its second year?

Whoa whoa, did I not draft enough BA? All kidding aside, I think the strategy worked pretty well last year. I had never previously finished higher than 10th in this league and, in no small part because of punting BA, I finished in 4th place. I was even leading the pack for a while after
the all star break.

As far as this year is considered, I think my offensive stats will be great; it's my pitching that is a little worrisome. Due to the fact that I was pushing for the title last year, I had 1 pick in the first 5 rounds of the draft this year. That hamstrung me when drafting and kept me from surrounding my keepers with solid guys. I would have to have break out years from guys like Matt Latos and bounce back years from Erik Bedard and Johan Santana for any shot at competing for the 'ship.

2) You drafted several relievers, but they've all got question marks surrounding their capacity for picking up saves. Do you expect to have to make a move mid-season to acquire more saves, or do you have more faith in your guys than I do?

No, I do not have any more faith than you do in my relief pitching. Again, due to my lack of picks in the draft, I missed the first two runs for closers. I ended up with some pretty provincial guys (Kerry Wood, Mike Gonzalez) and a huge question mark in Brad Lidge. There is always an Andrew Bailey in the free agent pool to be found, but it is a shark tank out there trying to get him first. If I am competing for the title by the all star break, you'll see me dealing for a closer. The beauty of a keeper league is that not everyone is playing for this year.

3) Steal of the draft?

I'll look at teams other than my own. I think Alexei Ramirez in the 6th round was a great nab.

4) Reach of the draft?

It's hard to criticize picking prospects early because of being in a keeper league. I think Suspects took Juan Pierre a bit earlier (4th round) than anyone would have, but he was almost finished his draft by that time.

Chip Hart, Mercer AutoWreckers

1) Off-season trades brought in Andre Ethier and Roy Halladay, and you were able to snag Hunter Pence with your first round pick. Now, there are murmurs about the AutoWreckers being a championship contender in 2010. What weaknesses do you think you'll have to shore up before making a title run?

Well, lets be honest...our team has made serious strides to get from cellar-dweller to middle-of-the-pack. Our previous GM made some terrible "win now" moves that we've been paying for these last couple of years. We averaged 38.6 overall points during the first four years of Middle Earth and an average overall points of 58.5 in the last two years. That 20-point swing speaks volumes of our efforts to turn this team around.

I think it's obvious that we're leaning less on the "rebuilding" and more on the "win now" these days, but we still have a lot of work to do. Being a championship contender would be an appropriate and reasonable goal for us this year. Getting over the hump to land that #1 spot is going require special attention, some solid moves, and a little luck. It'll start with the hitting. We like the moves we made to put together a solid starting line-up. Our batting average is going to be great, but our home runs will be a point of concern. The draft helped us in steals, a category that we're continuously struggling to be respectable in. Getting back to the top in RBIs will obviously help too. The idea is that an increase in home runs will increase our run and RBI production. Even a shot at a championship hinges on our ability to hit the ball.

2) Between Rick Porcello and Mark Buehrle, you've got two guys with really terrible K/IP rates. Do you expect their strikeout rates to improve, or do you see their other numbers as valuable enough to accept lower strikeout numbers?

The pitching, overall, is currently the least of our concerns. We have a strong staff after some bold trades and made some solid picks to support that. With Roy Halladay pitching in the National League and King Felix being known for his high K/IP, not to mention the strikeouts we'll be getting from our relievers, our strikeout production should be extremely high. During the draft process, we believed that we had a good handle on strikeouts and it allowed us to draft these players for their other qualities, and the potential they bring to the table. Though, let's be honest, an increase in their strikeout rate would definitely help the AutoWreckers.

3) Steal of the draft?

Our steals in the draft would have to include Chipper Jones, who we acquired with the 6th pick of the 8th round. Despite his age, he still produces at a high level. He dropped down the draft for awhile. We were lucky to acquire a solid veteran. He'll also be a great clubhouse presence. Another steal is looking like Chris Perez, who we took with the 6th pick of the last round. Since Kerry Wood sustained an injury, Perez will be looking to fill in and steal a few saves early on for us.

Other than the AutoWreckers' reach of the draft, Nolan Reimold who was taken in the 10th round with the 8th pick by Stewie's SexyParties. He's a burgeoning young star on the Orioles roster. He came up late last year and put up some decent numbers. He was even in the Rookie of the Year talks for much of the end of last season. Despite recovering from an Achilles injury, he'll probably be starting for the Orioles in left field. The reason I think he was such a steal at that spot comes from the ESPN projections, which are just slightly lower than Hunter Pence's projections (whom I took with my 1st round, 6th pick). Now, these are just predictions, but I was pretty surprised when I made the comparison. Reimold has a lot to do, I think, to get those numbers (like get back to 100%), but I feel like he dropped pretty far.

4) Reach of the draft

Honestly, its hard to say which players were a reach for us. AutoWreckers all have a superb talent and each bring a special quality to the game. However, if we had to mention someone, we'd probably have to say Miguel Montero. He was selected in the 7th round with the 6th pick. Up to that point, only the four catchers that were kept were off the board. We think he'll have a great year, but in hindsight, we probably could have waited another round or more before selecting him or another catcher. Mark Buehrle, who was selected in the 11th round with the 6th pick, was a surprise reach for us as well. In fact, when we drafted him, we originally considered him a steal since he dropped as low as he did. After a respectable year, we were surprised to realize he was on such few radars. Regardless, we were excited to take him and know he'll give us a great year.

Other than the AutoWreckers' reach of the draft, Steven Strasburg and Jason Heyward. These two prospects have been talked about as much any elite veteran. Will they be good? All indications up to this point seem to say, "yes." Will either of them be start the season on a Major League roster? Not Strasburg. Should these kids have been drafted? Yes, of course, but in the first two rounds? A little to high for me, but then again, I'm not really a great fantasy baseball source.

All in all, the offseason and draft has treated the AutoWreckers well. We have lofty goals this year and definitely hope to meddle with the best in Middle Earth. Our long term goals from a few years ago have turned to short term goals today. A championship would be a sweet treat and is the ultimate goal, but we have to keep reality in check. We're still a handful of moves and possibly a year or two away.

Joe Mandi, Akron Pronks

1) You ended up with a lot of guys with 20 HR / 20 SB potential, a tactic that landed your commissioner in 8th place in the league's inaugural season. Was this by design, or just a matter of happenstance with a "best available" strategy?

Loading up on 20/20 guys was a combination of several things. Since I was keeping Brian Roberts, Jayson Werth and Shin-Soo Choo, I already had three combo guys locked up. With my three other offensive keepers (Victor Martinez, Kendry Morales and Kevin Youkilis), I only had three offensive starter positions to fill and then two to three additional bench spots. My initial strategy was to nab one combo outfielder, one power bat for my utility spot and a young, speedy shortstop. After several rounds of filling pitching needs, I was able to land the combo outfielder in Nate McLouth, but the speed shortstops (Andrus, Escobar and Cabrera) went several rounds before I was willing to pay for them. I was ecstatic about being able to fall back on Alexi Ramirez, but this meant that I was probably going to be short on steals and that instead of drafting a power bat I would have to land another power/speed guy. Luckily, one of my pre-drafts targets was still around in Franklin Gutierrez, a guy I think is poised for a 25/25 season.

At the end of the day, my numbers showed that I would still probably be a little short on both power and speed, but hopefully my offensive team is well rounded enough to compete in all categories. All that being said, I invested in a potential bounce back power guy (Ryan Ludwick) and am going to be closely watching the waiver wire for a speedster to make up any deficiencies I have.

2) We'd all love to have Tim Lincecum as the anchor to our staff. How does having the most productive starter in baseball change your approach to putting together your pitching staff?

Lincy (as I like to call him) makes putting a pitching staff together a lot easier from the perspective that his ratios are so low that you can afford more risk without worrying about blowing a category. Generally I'm looking for guys with good strikeout ratios and with Lincecum I know I can absorb, for example, Jonathan Sanchez's ERA, keep my team ERA low and still get all those sweet, sweet Ks. While I didn't get Sanchez, I did latch onto Javier Vazquez's 200K, 15 win potential with the knowledge that if his ERA is 4.0+, I'll still be OK. Having Lincecum also allowed me to trade Cliff Lee for Victor Martinez prior to the season. While I'll miss Cliff Lee's great numbers, the positional scarcity Martinez has makes my team better, while I hoping I found someone (I'm looking at you Gavin Floyd) that isn't too big of a downgrade from Lee.

3) Steal of the draft?

Overall Steal of the Draft? Ryan Madson, 13th Round...umm, embarrassingly I kinda thought he had been off the board for several rounds when this pick was made.

Pronks Steal of the Draft? Alexei Ramirez, 6th Round...less experienced shortstops were flying off the board in front of him, but Ramirez has 20 HR / 15 SB potential.

4) Reach of the draft?

Overall Reach of the Draft? Mariano Rivera, 1st Round...39 year old closer, coming off a near career year in a keeper league wasn't the right pick for a Those Guys team looking to rebuild.

Pronks Reach of the Draft? Gavin Floyd, 3rd Round...Floyd probably would have been available a round or two later, but I love the pedigree (4th overall pick in 2001) and the 2009 post-May numbers.

Edward Mattingly, The Usual Suspects

1) You mortgaged a lot of your draft and talent in 2009 in order to position yourself to have a stacked draft this season. With all those early draft picks, how do you feel about your team's makeup, and your ability to bring home the gold in 2010?

I like my team's make up. I think a majority of my team's starters come opening day will be around the age of 25. I feel confident that at the end of the year I will have eight very good keepers. In addition to that, I think my team has upside at every position, and if things develop quickly I will be in the thick of it come September. And if that isn't enough, this clip pretty much sums up my response... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuBnlNjZq24

2) The Suspects come into this season with only one 100-RBI player from 2009, and only three players who hit 20 or more home runs. Which of your players do you expect to turn up the voltage and provide the power numbers you'll need to compete?

I think Billy Butler and David Wright will have to be the cornerstones of my offense for me to have a chance to compete. Butler absolutely killed the ball with over 50 doubles last year, and I am looking at some of those to carry a little further over the fence this year. In addition, Wright’s HR production plummeted to 10 after averaging 30 over the previous 4 seasons. That will need to return in the 2010 season. That combined with my four OF (minus Pierre) getting good 25+ 100+ production (when they play) will help set up my team to be at least competitive in power statistics and give me a chance to compete for the title.

3) Steal of the draft?

Vladimir Guerrero. Hands down I think this was the steal of the draft. He is two years removed from a .329-30-125 season. Now, do I think he will do that this year...no. Do I think he’s a risk...yes. But a return to 25 HR with 100+ RBI and over .300 avg in Texas’ loaded offense is very possible. And that kind of upside and eventual production out of the 177 pick in the draft is the definition of a steal.

4) Reach of the draft?

Jason Heyward. I think people might agree with me when I say Heyward was probably the reach of the draft. I think he was probably a round at least from being on people’s radar when I selected him at the end of the second round. When I made the selection, I thought there was a 50/50 chance he would begin with Atlanta to start the season (UPDATE: Heyward was named the starting right fielder). With his ability to take walks and work the count, I thought he would reach his ceiling much faster than most hitting prospects. Also, there is just a gut feeling I get about certain guys. It’s not always right (Evan Longoria, Francisco Liriano, Matt Wieters, Delmon Young), but I honestly might like Heyward more than any of those guys. It might blow up in my face, but with so many high picks, I figured why not reach for a guy I really want?

Joseph Mattingly, Riders of Rohan

1) Last year, you traded your first two picks to make a run at the title, leaving your draft weaker than most other contenders. However, with eleven 3rd basemen kept, you still used one of your first two picks on a 1st/3rd basemen (Chris Davis) ranked outside the top 25 at both positions. If given the opportunity, would you make that pick again or would you try to address another possible weakness on your team?

First off, Davis was well inside the top 25 on pretty much every expert list I saw at both 1B and 3B. Yahoo's O-Rank seemed to be the only list that suggested he deserved to be ignored for a few rounds. Yahoo's composite expert rankings put Chris Davis as both the #1 first baseman and #1 third baseman on the board when I took him. While I might have been able to wait another round or two, the depth at 3B is virtually nonexistent, and I didn't want to be left choosing between Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado for my starter.

I like Davis' upside, and his turnaround in the second half of 2009 gave me all the encouragement I needed to think he'd be able to get back on track. He cut his strikeouts down and jacked up his batting average. I don't regret reaching a little bit for Davis at all.

2) The only trade made during the draft was your trade involving Jimmy Rollins for Jon Lester. What factors weighed in on making this deal? Without Rollins 30-40 steals do you feel like steals may be an area of concern?

Sometime in October, probably during the playoffs, I took a long look at Jon Lester's numbers, and fell in love. While Josh Beckett (deservedly) gets a lot of attention, Lester was quietly dominant in 2009, and has been getting better year by year. I know Rollins was the victim of bad luck last year, and I actually expect him to bounce back in a big way. But with my annual dearth of wins, I saw Lester as a guy who could hopefully get me off on track. The fact that I was able to move up in the draft sealed the deal for me, as I was beginning to see that depth was getting thinner.

Regarding steals, I'm hoping that between Alcides Escobar (Rollins' replacement on my team at shortstop) and either Alex Rios or Alfonso Soriano (whoever ends up spending the most time in my lineup), I'll make up whatever deficiencies I created by moving Rollins.

3) Steal of the draft?

I'm still stunned that Dan Uggla lasted 'til the 6th round. He's a 90-30-90 machine at second base. I also think the 13th round pick of Stephen Drew by the DamKnights could be one of those picks we look back on and say, "Really? He got him then?" My pick of Rios felt like a steal as well. If I'm picking one steal, though, it's Uggla.

4) Reach of the draft?

I generally accept that other people have a plan, so their picks can seem like reaches when in actuality they're just part of a strategy. Of course, my pick of Carlos Marmol is pretty much indefensible. It may go down as one of the dumbest in league history; he's had a rocky spring and has a history of control issues. I didn't exactly get great value on David Aardsma, either.

If I had to call out another owner, I guess I'd say Rich Harden went too early. He's injury-prone, and last year he wasn't even his usual dominant self. Package all that up with a move to Texas, and that seems like a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Michael Mattingly, Cleveland Enforcers

1) After a championship 2008, your 2009 was ravaged by injuries and disappointment. How much of a bounce-back are you expecting out of guys like Cole Hamels, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Quentin?

I expect Hamels to approach his numbers from 2008, probably closer to 3.50 than 3.00 though. Quentin should be recovered from his various injuries over the past year and a half. I expect about 30 home runs out of him to go with a .280 average. Hamilton is the wild card. I'm expecting 25-30 home runs with a .285 batting average and 110 RBI if he can stay on the field. But that is a big if.

2) After drafting Carlos Gonzalez (who won't start for your team yet) in the first round, you seemed to back into four legitimate closers. Had you known beforehand that you'd be able to get 101 saves from 2009 at such value, would you have still taken Gonzalez in the first round?

I remember not liking any of the pitchers that I thought would go in the next round, and historically the Enforcers do not take closers that early which left me with hitters. Butler would have been a great pick but went the selection before, and no other 1B or C seemed to be worth the slot. I went into the draft not being sold on the heath of Quentin, Hamilton, or Reyes so an extra hitter seemed like a good idea. The team has been built around flexibility allow Gonzalez to be the replacement of Zobrist, Rodriguez, Reyes, Hamilton, Upton, Quentin, and Beckham. And chances are, a couple will miss time (Reyes will already be out at the beginning of the season).

3) Steal of the draft?

Vladimir Guerrero in the 11th round by Those Guys. He was a keeper after the 2008 season and hit .300 with 11 home runs after the break last year. I hear he is projected to hit between Hamilton and Kinsler in Texas. Seems like a good situation. Side note: Does anybody in MLB have a more injury-prone middle of their lineup?

4) Reach of the draft?

Asdrubal Cabrera in the second round to the DamKnights. I get the sense that most people are higher on Cabrera than I am but this seemed early. Especially when Alexei Ramirez went four rounds later.

Patrick Mattingly, Feisty Mosquitoes

1) You went young right away, grabbing Stephen Strasburg in the first round, and picking up Brian Matusz and Wade Davis in the 5th and 6th, respectively. Is it fair to say you're confident in your ability to pick up replacement starters if the youngsters falter, or start in the minors (as Strasburg will)?

This begins with drafting 12th (not exactly 'right away'). Having won the previous year, the chance to repeat is difficult. I had kept 7 hitters, so it had to be a pitcher. I took Strasburg because I believe young hard throwing pitchers have the upper hand when they hit the big leagues initially. They usually falter after there is enough tape, and then have to work there way back up to good pitching stats. I was projecting a mid-season arrival with a good year and a cathedral ceiling, with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he's the one that the rest of the league never catches up with.

The rest was just hunt & peck, click and take. I almost took an SP with my back to back picks in the 2nd/3rd round, but made the decision to take proven closers and be done with that so I was free to go to starters. But when I got back to drafting, all the ones I was eyeballing were gone. After I took Burnett, I felt 'enough of that...so I started to draft potential, hoping one or two pan out. If not, well, off to the waiver wire (isn't Pettitte still available?). I have had success with replacement starters, but of course, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future success.

2) Similarly, you drafted four middle relievers late in the draft, rather than acquiring any more proven starters. Are you prospecting for saves, or expecting their other numbers to help mitigate any weaknesses you might find in replacement starters?

Well, gee why don't you just give away my secrets...yes, yes, yes.

3) Steal of the draft?


4) Reach of the draft?


Mike Plundo, Stewies SexyParties

1) You've got three of the top ten talents in fantasy baseball (Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Ryan Braun). How does having those elite players change your draft strategy with regards to younger players?

I tried to draft the best players to help my team make a run at the league title this year. I did not really focus on trying to get young guys that may develop into future keepers. The other thing that I was able to do was get Andrew McCutchen before the draft started, who I figured will fill the role as a young guy who could develop into a great player and be kept for a number of years. That said, if he wasn't ready to play this year, I wouldn't have grabbed him. My draft strategy was definitely to try to compete this year and not 3 years from now.

2) Your lineup looks more balanced than it has in years. How possible do you think it is that you sweep and pick up the maximum 60 points from the hitting categories?

I'd say 0.5% possible, there are a lot of teams with great hitters this year. I need to get as many hitting points as I can though, because in my opinion, my pitching is not as good as I'd hoped this year. And now I may have 3 pitchers start the year on the DL, so it might be a rough year from a pitching stand-point.

3) Steal of the draft?

Since it looks like Jason Heyward is going to be starting out of the box for Atlanta, he may end of being the steal of the draft, especially in a keeper league. I think perhaps my steal of the draft was getting Tim Hudson with the 216th pick (final pick in the 10th round) in the draft. If he's 1/2 as good as they're saying he's looked this spring, he'll be a steal for me since he was basically "no risk" at that point in the draft.

4) Reach of the draft?

You hate to pick a "reach," especially in a keeper league since people could be thinking 2 years down the road with picks and keepers, but I guess that I would say that keeping Brandon Webb as a 7th keeper was probably a reach. ESPN has him ranked #180 overall for this season, I think there were better pitchers available that could have been acquired and kept, for instance I happen to know that Nolasco could have been had very cheap in the days leading up to the draft and I think he's a much better option going into the season.

Mark Sabina, Those Guys

1) In off-season trades, you moved your 3rd and 4th round picks to improve your keepers, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Josh Johnson. After seeing how your team panned out, how happy are you with those moves?

At the end of last season, I knew I needed pitching badly. I didn't think the draft (especially in the 3rd round) was going to yield any more talented pitchers than I could have traded my picks for. Having the 1st pick definitely helped to get better pitchers than if I were to have had a middle or late round pick, so I figured I would use it to my advantage. Having the 3 J's (Josh, Josh, John Lackey) in my keeper list allowed me to focus on improving other positions before filling out the rest of my starters. The trade that gave me Gonzo was just a good deal all around for me. Like Joe expressed in his blog post, I agree that Gonzo was my top keeper. And for me to only give up my 4th and 8th to get him, he was a steal in my mind.

2) You used the first overall pick to select Mariano Rivera, but then spent most of the rest of the draft targeting younger players, including Pedro Alvarez and Mike Stanton who may not break spring training with their teams. What was the strategy behind those combination of moves?

Since I had Papelbon on my roster, I knew I only needed 1 more ace reliever and I would be somewhat good on that front, and who better to fill that ace reliever role than Rivera? Taking him with my first pick allowed me to focus on filling the rest of my roster out. Although age-wise Rivera should be way past his prime, you wouldn't be able to tell that from looking at his numbers. Seeing how everyone seemed to be focusing on pitching early in the draft, even if I had my 2nd round pick, I don't think he would have fallen to me. For my roster, and for my draft plan, Rivera was the best pick out there for me.

3) Steal of the draft?

Lilly, definitely. Sure his injury might have turned people off to him, but I don't think he should have fallen to the 10th. Once my b2b2b picks came around and he was still on the board, I knew he would be one of the three. I believe I got him in the 6th last year, and his numbers at the end of the season showed he should have been a 4th or even mid-late 3rd rounder. Sure he's getting older, but his numbers these past few seasons show he's not losing much on his pitches.

4) Reach of the draft?

Mike Stanton was my reach of the draft solely on the reason that he may not even move up to the majors until the end of the season. Pair him with Alvarez and that's 2 roster spots that are useless until the at least the middle of the season. If players start to go down (thank god I don't have Chipper this season) it will make things a little more difficult. But of course those 2 picks weren't for this season. Hopefully Stanton's minor league numbers and Alvarez's minor (or major?) league numbers at the end of the season will prove why they should be kept.

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