Monday, March 17, 2014

Middle Earth Baseball 2014 - Q&As

Machado's Miscreants
Nick Engle

Machado's Miscreants was pitching-heavy coming into the draft, with four starters already on the roster. How did you come to take two more pitchers with your pair of first round picks?

Damn you Kevin Mattingly! With your showing up late and your make out parties! I had no intention of taking Tanaka or any pitcher with my first pick. I knew Kevin was going to take him at number 1, so I was all set on taking Joe Mauer to shore up some offense and greatly increase my batting average. Then the whipper snapper Kevin showed up late to the draft and AutoKevin took Cespedes, leaving Tanaka to fall to me at pick 5. I knew I wanted, maybe even needed Mauer on my team. But with this being a keeper league and the potential upside of Tanaka, I couldn't resist. I did take a minute and thought about taking Mauer and then hopefully Tanaka would have fallen a few more picks to my next selection at 9, but I think I was doomed to get only one no matter who I took. Over all I am happy about the selection for my team in the future. Koji Uehara at pick 9 was best available player who was also a need. Tier-wise, he was also the last reliever on his tier left, in my opinion.

You took Kendrys Morales in the seventh round, while guys like Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Howard were still on the board. Do you think Morales' upside is big enough that he was worth the risk of him not playing right away this season, with him still a free agent?

Yup.

Oh...you want more? Well I've always been a fan of the much maligned Morales, and of alliteration. I think he is going to find a team very soon and at worst that team is going to be Seattle, meaning last years numbers are a floor for the hopefully healthy, hunky hitter. Of the other guys you named, Napoli may have been the next guy I was looking at. I chose Morales over Napoli mainly for batting average reasons. While Napoli and Howard may, by a few degrees, doink more daunting dingers, Morales should best them in BA by a sizeable margin. And his power numbers dwarf Martinez's sissy slapped singles.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

I honestly don't think I had any "best" picks. All of my guys were pretty standard or a bit early where they were taken. I guess you could say Masahiro Tanaka at pick 5 in round 1. I honestly really liked grabbing Bobby Parnell in the eighth round. Also, my catcher selection of Evan Gattis has big upside but may not get enough at bats to get the counting stats. My worst pick may be Evereth Cabrera in round 2, it may have been early but some of the other guys I were targeting had just been taken and I didn't like any of the other SS out there.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

Steal of the draft might be Shane Victorino at Round 4 Pick 9. I was gunning for him as well. Stupid Mandi. Reach of the draft is probably Matt Weiters at Round 3 pick 4. Stupid Chip.

Oldtimer
Pete Picariello

First, welcome to the league. As this was your first draft in our league, what was your takeaway from draft day? Anything stand out as a real surprise?

The greatest adjustment for me was getting ready for the draft. I have never been involved with an 8 player keeper league. So I had to decide who the keep and who would be left in the draft. I never was in a league that traded draft picks so that presented a challenge. The selection of players was as competitive as I expected but I especially enjoyed picking second in each round - all my other fantasy drafts (except auctions) were snake drafts.

Coming in as the brand new owner of a team that had fallen on hard times of late, chances are, you found some holes in your team. What weaknesses did you feel were most pressing, and do you like how you were able to resolve them via offseason trades and the draft?

The team had poor hitting and poor pitching and I decided to concentrate on improving the pitching via trades. I thought I accomplished that before the draft, but things look bad for Medlen. Each draft is subjective, so we'll see if I improved with my choices.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

I liked my pick Of Wacha and the two relief pitchers to help the pitching, However if Granderson has a great year perhaps I should have passed on Wacha.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

Steal - Mike Moustakas in the 18th round
Reach - Michael Wacha in the 10th round

Mercer AutoWreckers
Chip Hart

Kyle Seager was a small surprise for some owners as an early first round pick. His O-rank suggested he might have been available a round or two later, although he's got power and speed upside at third base. What are you expecting out of him to justify his place at the top of the draft?

It wasn't as much my expectation of him.  I just thought the third base position had a quick drop-off in talent after all the keepers, so I wanted to get a guy I thought could give me some good numbers there.  I'm expecting him to give me some solid offense at an otherwise thin position.

A lot of your picks went towards players who are proven commodities, but with minimal upside (J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Howie Kendrick, etc). Are you counting on the reliability of those players to give you a solid base from which to work this season? And how much are you expecting out of your high potential players like Matt Adams and Andrelton Simmons?

I'm hoping for any kind of consistency, really.  I took some chances on some players, but I'm excited about the foundation I've drafted to hedge things if the high potential players don't pan out.  Like all high potential players, you draft them in hopes that the expectation pans out.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

As soon as I drafted Wieters, I thought to myself, "Man, I could have waited another round."  I'm glad to have him, but thought that was probably one of my worst picks with how soon I took him.  My best pick would probably have to be Ervin Santana.  I drafted him 2nd to last round and, I think he'll put up some solid starter numbers... you know... after he signs with a team.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

(I need to re-hash the draft and the "Car Dance Party" that happened during the draft to jog the old memory.)

Cleveland Enforcers
Mike Mattingly

Perhaps the most interesting keeper on any team was Billy Hamilton. He's got a wide range of possible outcomes for his season. What are you counting on out of him this season, and going forward?

I’m counting on him to hit enough to stay in the majors. As long as he doesn’t “Dee Gordon” his opportunity away the steals will come. Sounds like they plan on using him at the top of the order as opposed to the number 8 slot which is promising. If he can get in the upper double-digits in steals with a decent batting average, and plenty of runs in front of a good heart of that Reds offense I think he could be pretty valuable for years to come. He should be a fun player to watch and own.
While you've got some enviable commodities in your lineup, there are some questions about whether or not you've got enough power to compete. After keeping guys like Reyes and Hamilton, do you think you addressed that need sufficiently in the draft?

No.

I really needed Mark Trumbo to fall to me in the first to even have a shot at it. I thought I might have been able to sneak in Jose Abreu as a potential potent power awfully alarming alliteration) source. What did I feel like when Abreu was drafted? Probably similar to how a target of a half-man half-wolf feels as it is being preyed upon in a large town in England. Probably. I have Brandon Belt with a limited power upside at first. I think McCann was probably the best source of power at the catchers position. And will need Lawrie to take a large step forward to get towards the middle of the pack in HRs and probably RsBI. Anybody want to trade?

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

Huston Street was probably the worst. Not terrible, but he’s a closer which I immediately don’t love and I liked a lot of the next 11 players that went off the board. So more about the opportunity cost than the asset himself. I’m sure Street will provide saves, a decent ERA and WHIP, and a DL stint.

I really liked getting Victor Martinez in the 10th round. He may pick catcher back up, but even if he doesn’t I could use him at first and utility. He had a great second half after missing all of 2012 and is projected to hit cleanup behind Miguel Cabrera.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

There were a few picks I liked a lot. Chase Headley and Chase Utley going in the 8th round to the Akron Pronks and Werewolves of London respectively were excellent values. With Brett Lawrie holding 2B and 3B eligibility I was holding off on filling the remaining starting slot since I had some flexibility. I quickly developed what would become known as the Chase Plan. I would wait until one Chase was off the board then take the remaining Chase with my next pick. It was a flawless plan, unless of course they both went between my picks, but what were the chances of that? 2%? 4% It turned out 100%. They were picks six and eight of the round. The Chase Plan surprisingly failed and so I took a second baseman that is losing a position battle to powerhouse Dee Gordon. Anyways, I think both of them were great values in the 8th round. I actually almost took Headley in the 3rd. Why I didn’t I take him in the 4th through 7th rounds? I know! I also really like the CC Sabathia pick in the 10th round by Vandelay Industries. That guy was kept for the past 17 years and he didn’t have that bad of a season. Would not be surprised to see a bounce back season from him.

It seemed like a reach to me but I’m sure there is a plan behind it, but Matt Harvey in the 4th seemed early. He should miss the entire year and I think it would be tough to keep a player that missed the entire year. Granted I know it was done with Strasburg and seems to have been the right call at this point. Suspects seem to have 15 keepers at the end of every year, so giving up a pick for this year’s team seems odd. But who knows, I’m sure there will be a market for him next offseason or could just be part of the long term strategy of getting an elite level starting pitcher when you can in the draft.

Stewies SexyParties
Mike Plundo

How was Disney On Ice? Just kidding. Obviously we all know you weren't able to make the draft this year, and from your picks, we can see that you put together a dynamic preranking list. So, first question, how do you feel about how Yahoo's autodraft system executed your plan?

My plan this year was to go more for the “futures” theme. I ranked with a true “Keeper League” mentality. It’s pretty obvious with Profar first that they went off of my list. He is top-50 on keepers lists and if he and Bogaerts both pan out, my middle infield is set for 5+ years. Time will tell.

Chris Davis was obviously a powerhouse last year, and Pedro Alvarez burst onto the scene with 36 dingers. After that, however, home runs and RBI may be difficult to come by for your team. Are you expecting some of your youngsters (Bogaerts, Yelich) to deliver more pop, or is your wagon hitched to Davis and Alvarez repeating their monster outputs?

My wagon is hitched to those two guys. Maybe the Ryan Howard/Mark Texiera combo that Yahoo decided to draft for me will result in one of the two rekindling some of that old power. I don’t remember pre-ranking those guys in particular. So I’m guessing they just happened to be next on the yahoo list. Who knows? I do think Alvarez continues to progress. The dude is only 27 and in his 3rd full season of Major League baseball. He’s hit a few monster shots already this spring training.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

I can say that Yahoo’s autodraft’s best pick for my might have been Francisco Liriano because he was fun as hell to watch last year and I considered keeping him. I was happy to see that I got him and for round 11, I thought that that was pretty darn reasonable. He backed that up by pitching a spring training no-hitter into the 7th inning the next day - take that Grapefruit league!

Franky had 163K’s in 161 innings while winning 16 games and having a 3.0 ERA after missing the 1st month+ to injury. That’s a tough act to repeat, but I’m willing to let him try.

The worst pick was likely George Springer. It was probably too early. Who knows? I wasn’t there. I probably ranked too many young guys. I guess time will tell. My assumption is that if I was actually picking for myself, I wouldn’t have reached so far there. He was 3 HRs shy of going 40/40 in the Minors which certainly makes him appealing to take a flier on in a Keeper League. It’d be nice if I had another actual useable OF to start the season though and probably will need to make room for one before the season starts. If Yelich is a solid player and I can let Springer develop, it’ll look like a great move eventually.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

I haven't poured over the draft, but I'd like to give you my steal and reach of the day for me.

The steal of draft day was the surprise dipping sauce that came with the soft pretzel that I bought for my kids. They had no interest in the bacon-infused cream cheese slurry-type concoction that came with the soft pretzel braid. I thought that hardly anything good can come of spending $15.50 on 2 soft pretzels and a bottle of water, but when i ate half of the cup of dipping sauce on 1 small nub of pretzel... I knew that was a highlight for me.

The biggest reach was the creator of the ‘Disney on Ice’ show choosing to spending 15 minutes on a 3-song medley from the movie Mulan. Most of the kids in the audience are too young for Mulan and it certainly isn't a highlight from the first 60 or so Disney features. One song would have been too much. Three was overkill.

Cupcakes
Kevin Mattingly

You were one of the most active teams this past offseason, acquiring four keepers and trading one of the biggest names in fantasy baseball these days, Bryce Harper. Seeing how the draft panned out for your team, how do you feel about your offseason moves?

I believe my offseason moves were a great idea. I needed more keepers in my line-up to be a contender for the championship in this league and I believe the moves that I made enabled me to do this.

Now for the question I think everyone wants to know: did you actually mean to take Yoenis Cespedes with the #1 overall pick, or was it a matter of waking up late? And if not, who do you think your #1 choice would've been?

Of course I did not want Cespedis first round. I got up late because I didn't get off work until 4am the night before. I would have taken Tanaka as my first pick. No doubt about it. It was my plan.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

My best pick was probably Teheran. I think he's gonna be money in this season.Worst pick. Cespedis. Maybe he'll be good.

Feisty Mosquitoes
Pat Mattingly

You gave up three highly rated players for Bryce Harper this offseason. How productive does he need to be this season for you to feel good about the move, and how good do you expect him to be in the next 1-3 years?

The reasoning behind the trade is much broader than you indicate.  First, I had soemthng like 10-12 players in the top 100.  Can't keep them all.  Knowing there was a good prospect that the number of keepers would go down in the next year, it seemed to make good sense to get the best five I could. (it appears this may be up for discussion based on chat in the draft, but it was what was known at the time.)  For the mosquitoes, effectively, the trade was Harper,a first round pick and Santana for Zimmerman, Craig and Segura. The pick was not known at the time either and it was either Werth or Beltran.  In addition, I had won last year, repeating is difficult...so the stars aligned and said do it.  In addition, I believe this makes the Cupcakes..well, less a cupcake..adding to a more competitive balance.  Zimmerman streaky, Craig injury prone and Tulo sitting in the SS position.  In answer to your question, I would say not a whole lot.  He does not need to meet lofty goals..maybe (just) 95 runs, 25 HR's 100 RBI's and 17 steals..bat 285.  


I recognize he has an upside that may take into the 40 HR vicintiy in 3 years..and that's what I expect, 35-40 HR's 110-120 rbi's.  I suspect the steals will diminsh and the average will be servicable abt. 290.  that'll work.

You kept a pair of outfielders with good pop in Harper and Justin Upton. Yet with your back-to-back first round picks, you nabbed two veteran, power-hitting outfielders in Jayson Werth and Carlos Beltran. Now that you've seen what sort of outfielders and power hitters were available later, do you feel better or worse about your decision to act quickly on those needs?

I'm fine with it.  I seem to have a much easier time locating pitchers than batters.  Besides, I'm a notoriously poor drafter..my best moves are usually in season ones.  Maybe I should have taken a high end closer instead of both OF's. No regrets. Only concern is age.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?
 
For me - I think I did well.  Again, that's for me.  It wasn't the picks, perhaps the hole is the strategy.  Very concerned about 3B and SB's. May have issues with WHIP & ERA from my closers...usually I depend on them for lowering these numbers, it looks like my starters need to do that this year.  but OK..if I had to pick:

I like Bradley in the 17th and maybe I could have waited on Moustakas in the 18th.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

Steal of the draft - I'll go with Chris Carter by the Cupcakes...with Billy Butler a close 2nd.

Reach of the draft - it was a confusing draft.  Ignoring Harvey & Buxton as purposely picked to have for..well whenever they play next.  Maybe Chris Archer.  I'm always concerned about that second time around with pitchers.

Werewolves of London (questions by Eddie Mattingly)
Joe Mattingly

Coming into the draft you elected to keep only one pitcher.  During the draft you selected only 2 pitchers with your first 6 picks.  Was this a reaction to position depth, or a strategy you brought into draft day?

In my personal mock drafts, I had planned on getting a starting pitcher with my first round pick, either Julio Teheran or Alex Cobb. But my mocks had always had my top three guys (Mauer, Tanaka, Pence) being taken before my pick. When Mauer was available at my selection, he was the pick. I grabbed Shields and Buchholz in rounds 2 and 4, but I could see by that time that I was out of exciting options, and would probably be saddled with unknowns for the rest of my staff. That said, I don't hate the back end of my rotation. Dickey, Kazmir, and Tillman all have solid potential.

As far as relievers go, they all seemed to go a round or two before I was comfortable taking them. It seemed like the quality level dropped off precipitously after Koji Uehara, and I just couldn't convince myself to draft for saves as a need. If my team shapes up and I need the stat, I'll have to rely on trades and free agency to find it.

Second base is a traditionally weak position in fantasy baseball. However, you ended up selecting 3 second basemen in the draft.  What caused you to elect to draft such depth at 2nd instead of another postion?

I had targeted two second basemen coming into the draft (after Altuve, who I expected to not be able to get): Aaron Hill and Chase Utley. I was comfortable with where I was able to pick up Hill; the fifth round seems about right for his upside and risk. However, because he's had some injury and performance questions, I felt like I needed to get a solid backup for him. Utley in the 8th again felt like good value (and there weren't any pitchers I felt I needed to grab).

Brian Dozier wasn't someone I targeted coming into the season, but he's got the same mid-level power/speed potential as my other two guys, so it seemed like a reasonble fit. I don't expect Dozier to stick around too long on my team unless he improves his batting eye, but for a short-term speculative pick, I figured he was worth a look.

Your best pick of the draft?

As I said, I wasn't expecting Mauer to be available at my first round pick. He was #1 on my personal big board, so obviously I like that I got him. As far as a later pick, I liked getting Joaquin Benoit late. Huston Street is always getting hurt, figure getting his backup is a fairly safe bet for 10-15 saves.

Your worst pick of the draft?

I like Jose Abreu a lot, but I had him and Billy Butler rated very closely. After I took Abreu in the third, there was a whole run of closers (Perkins, Soriano, Reed, Papelbon, Grilli) before my next pick. If I'd known I could've gotten Butler three rounds later, I'd have nabbed a closer there to balance out my bullpen.

Steal of the draft?

As I said, I thought Butler went pretty late for his ability. Tony Cingrani, taken in the 5th, might be as good as any SP in this whole draft. Ian Kennedy's dominant 2011 seems like a long time ago, but a full season in San Diego could make him a great last-round steal if he puts it back together.

Reach of the draft?

It's hard to dismiss someone else's pick as a "reach", but there are picks I was surprised by. I thought Beltran was early at the end of the first round, based on his age. Brandon Belt's power upside sounds pretty limited, so him in the third is a stretch I think. Although, people tell me Freddie Freeman is a stud, so maybe home runs aren't important. And almost all closers went earlier than I would've drafted them, so all of them were reaches I guess?

Akron Pronks
Joe Mandi

You grabbed Byron Buxton in the sixth round, while other teams were still nabbing closers and filling out their lineups. With Buxton unlikely to get more than a cup of coffee in September this year, is it fair to say that you're looking at a strong possibility of keeping this year's #1 prospect? Or, to steal Eddie's phrase from the draft, are you "all in" on Buxton?

You bet I'm all in on Byron Buxton!  He's the consensus #1 prospect in baseball and has numbers that are eerily similar to Mike Trout at comparable points in their careers.  That said, it would be foolish to extrapolate anybody to be the next Mike Trout, but Buxton is definitely on his way to being a very good player and I'm willing to wait for it.

Your pitching staff is perhaps the youngest in the league. Danny Salazar, Matt Moore, Shelby Miller, and Tony Cingrani have only 119 combined major league starts. Do you have high hopes for all of them, or do you feel like you're simply buying multiple lottery tickets and hoping one hits?

I would say lottery tickets is probably the wrong term for the type of pitcher I was after.  I was definitely looking for younger arms, but I was targeting good ratios and high K rates.  Danny Salazar was dynamic in his big league stint and I was willing to bet that Matt Moore still hasn't lived up to his pedigree, so I felt comfortable keeping both of them.  In the draft, Shelby Miller was my top rated pitcher, so I was excited to grab him in the middle of the first round.  I also had Tony Cingrani ranked as one of the top five available pitchers and I really didn't expect to have a shot at him, so I was pretty pumped when dropped to me in the fifth round.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

My worst pick was probably Curtis Granderson at the end of round two.  He has major bounce back possibilities, but Citi Field is probably going to suppress his home run total, especially after making the move from Yankee Stadium.  There were probably better options out there.  Chase Headley was probably my best pick.  He struggled through injury in 2013, but if he's healthy he's a great value in the eighth round.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

I thought Auto-Plundo's aggressive grab of Christian Yelich in round four was the steal of the draft.  The SexyParties paid a high price, but after treading water as a rookie Yelich is poised for a breakout in 2014.  Unfortunately I thought Joe Mauer was the reach of the draft.  Mauer's a plus player in maybe two categories with significant injury potential playing in a below average lineup.  I'm not sure he provides much more potential than Evan Gattis or Wilson Ramos, guys that went over a hundred picks later.

Dunedain Rangers
Garrett Petzold

Five of your first seven picks were pitchers, and you were one of the first teams to fill out your entire lineup of active pitchers. Did you feel that pitching was a strength of this draft, or is that just how your picks panned out?

I knew I wanted to take pitching early but I did not intend on taking that much pitching. After taking Trumbo in the first round most of my starting positions were already filled out, with the only starting position left to fill being shortstop. I was also targeting Jose Abreu who was drafted before I could take him so some of those first five picks that were initially intended to be postion players turned into pitchers.

I noticed you took Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy with a couple of late picks. Was it a conscious effort to acquire some hometown flavor, or is that coincidence?

Gausman and Bundy were two players that I had on my list going into the draft, both are young, highly rated prospects, with the potential to get into the starting rotation before the All-Star break, although Bundy is more likely to be after the All-Star break. So, it is some what of a coincidence that they are both hometown players, but I would probably not have been as aware of them if they were not on the Orioles.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

I think my best pick of the draft was Alex Cobb, while he has not put together a full season yet, his rate stats project well. My worst pick of the draft would be Sergio Romo, he is a fine closer but at the spot I would of rather had Jose Abreu.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

The Steal of the draft is Howie Kendrick and reach of the draft is Matt Wieters.

The Usual Suspects
Eddie Mattingly

As usual, you made a bunch of trades involving draft picks, and so your draft presence fluctuated a lot. How do you feel the variation affects your ability to fill needs on draft day?

I think it was a double edged sword.  In some instances I was forced to reach for players before I wanted, due to the fact that I did not possess a pick for a round or two.  An example of this would be my selection of Harvey.  I really struggled to gauge what interest there would be in him and where he would fall in the draft.  When it came to my pick at the end of the 4th round I struggled with the decision of whether he would last until my next pick, over 30 picks later.  In the end I took Harvey and probably set back my rotation for this year in the process.  On the other hand, having the 3 picks at the end of the 3/start of the 4th allowed me to take Rosario and Ryu because I thought they were good values while still grabbing Archer who was a top target for me entering this draft. 

After trading Justin Verlander over the offseason, you were the only team to not keep a single starting pitcher this season. You've got a wide range of options now, but do you think you've got a pitching staff that can compete this year?

I think I have half of one.  As the draft unfolded I came to three realizations.  One, having to draft an entire starting pitching staff puts you at quite a disadvantage.  That said I think Ryu and Iwakuma offer me two quality starting pitchers will hopefully provide me a solid ERA and WHIP base.  To supplement I tried to select a variety of established starters (Peavy), up and comers (Archer, Ross, Walker), and bounce back possibilities (Johnson, Beachy.... whoops).  I think within this collection of starters I should be able to find 4-5 very solid SP.  The second thing I realized is that closers were going to cost too much in this draft.  With such a large hole at SP I decided to punt saves in the draft and instead focused on starters.  The final realization is that I did not want to be left without a starter to anchor my staff in the future.  This is really why I decided to draft Harvey.  While he comes with a big Tommy John questions mark I figured without a 1st round pick he provided the best bet to draft a stud quality SP for the future.  With the DL spot I can try to chase down saves as well.

What were your best/worst picks of the draft?

I'm not really sure I had a best pick.  I like my picks but I never felt like, "Oh wow how did I snag him here".  Maybe Khris Davis at pick 241.  I know he's a pretty popular sleeper choice by many fantasy "experts".  Picking him up at 241 was much later than he was going in mock drafts (ADP 190)  My worst pick has to be Harvey.  Until he is healthy and cleared he is just a lottery ticket.  In the 4th round that is a pricey lottery ticket.

Steal of the draft? Reach of the draft? (other owners)

Tori Hunter at pick 249 is my steal of the draft.  In Detroit's lineup he should continue to produce at a high level.  In the last two rounds its a steal to grab a pretty good bet at 90 18 90 .300. 

Ubaldo Jimenez at pick 145 is my reach of the draft.  Ubaldo has been inconsistent over the last few years.  Add this to the change to a hitters ballpark in the AL East and I have my doubts about Ubaldo putting up consistent numbers.  I think Ubaldo does have upside potential but he may have been available later in the draft.

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