For the second consecutive season, I am fielding a team in a very competitive fantasy-baseball league made up of Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures who flat-out know their shit. I ended up in fourth place last year, one spot out of the money, done in by a failure to reinforce my depth, which led to inability to compensate for the injuries that affect every baseball team, real-life or fantasy. I’m not making excuses – injuries happen, and overall, I was pleased with my performance.
Rather than listing my team by position, as I did last year, I thought it would be more insightful (and give everyone more things to make fun of later in the baseball season) if I went round-by-round and tried to explain my motivation for each pick, as well as my reservations about the picks, in some cases. So, here goes:
Round 1, Joe Mauer, C, MIN: This is the pick that will define my team. If Mauer stays healthy, he is, by far, the most dominant catcher in fantasy baseball. But that’s a huge “if,” as he’s battled injuries throughout his career. I didn’t plan to draft Mauer, but when my turn (No. 11) came up, I didn’t think any of the stud outfielders who were left were worth taking, passing up the dominant player at a very weak position.
Round 2, Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA: I always go into a draft intending to select a stud starting pitcher with one of my first two picks and, since my staff ace from last year, Tim Lincecum, was already drafted, King Felix was No. 2 on my list. I think the Mariners will be a vastly improved ballclub, and I can see Hernandez pushing 20 wins and 250 strikeouts, as long as he avoids injury issues.
Round 3, Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX: I was shocked that Kinsler was still available here. He was my first-round pick last season for reasons similar to why I drafted Mauer this year. Kinsler doesn’t dominate the 2B position the way Mauer dominates the catcher position, but he posts strong power numbers, steals bases, and is an all-around fantastic fantasy player (and real-life player). I intended to select my first outfielder here, but when Kinsler was available, I couldn’t pass him up.
Round 4, Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF: Continuing to act like I was allergic to outfielders, I chose Sandoval here because he was really the last good 3B available, and because, once again, none of the remaining OFs excited me. I realize Sandoval only has one season under his belt, and I also realize his belt became quite large toward the end of last season, so this pick was a little on the risky side, especially because his home ballpark is far from a hitters’ park.
Round 5, Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN: I swear, I have nothing against the OF position, but I thought Morneau was too good to pass up here and, again, the outfielders remaining were nothing special. The big question to be answered: How will the Twins’ move to an outdoor ballpark affect their hitting stats? I’ll find out soon enough, I guess.
Round 6, Jason Bay, LF, NYM: I never expected Bay to be available in the sixth round. I thought about him during rounds four and five, but I was afraid the large dimensions of Citi Field, as well as the piss-poor excuse of a lineup the Mets will surround him with, would really drop his numbers. I’m still afraid of those things, but I couldn’t pass Bay up in round six. Plus, I had to draft an OF at some point, didn’t I?
Round 7, Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD: I thought it was about time I drafted another SP, and Billingsley is solid. He may not be the ideal No. 2 pitcher on a fantasy staff, but he does put up pretty good strikeout numbers, and I feel pretty good about this pick.
Round 8, Hunter Pence, RF, HOU: I really like this guy, but I hate picking players in bad lineups, and I don’t have much confidence in the Astros. Still, he’s a solid hitter playing in a hitters’ park, so I hope he has a strong season.
Round 9, Alexi Ramirez, SS, CHW: Shortstops were becoming very scarce, and he has the potential to put up great numbers for that position.
Round 10, Alex Rios, CF, CHW: Here is where I started to pay for not drafting OFs earlier. I’m counting on this guy to have a serious bounce-back season, because he was terrible last year after being excellent in the past. This pick could seriously come back to bite me if Rios doesn’t bounce back.
Round 11, Ryan Dempster, SP, CHC: This was really more of a need pick. He’s solid, but nothing special.
Round 12, Huston Street, RP, COL: The run on closers was in full effect, and I didn’t want to get stuck with Matt Capps, like I did in another league last season. I don’t love Street, but he was probably the best remaining option at this point.
Round 13, Rick Porcello, SP, DET: I’m hoping he continues to progress. I believe he’s a very good young pitcher with a very bright future, and I’m hoping the future is now.
Round 14, Billy Wagner, RP, ATL: This pick was one of the most risky selections I’ve ever made in all my years of playing fantasy baseball, but I really hated the rest of the closers who were left. If Wagner’s elbow doesn’t blow apart into 20 pieces, he is capable of putting up fantastic numbers. If he hadn’t pitched pretty well in his few appearances at the end of last season, I probably wouldn’t have taken this chance.
Round 15, David Price, SP, TB: What I wrote about Porcello applies here, as well.
Round 16, Jay Bruce, RF, CIN: I had him last season, and he was having a very good year until his season was derailed by injuries. I’m hoping he picks up where he left off.
Round 17, Vladimir Guerrero, DH, TEX: If this guy gets back to 75% of what he used to do, he’s an absolute steal in round 17. If he doesn’t, he was a 17th-round pick, so I can’t really cry about it. The big disadvantage with Guerrero is that he can only go into the utility spot, as he only qualifies as a DH.
Round 18, Kevin Slowey, SP, MIN: He won 10 games in one-half of a season for me last year before going down with an injury. He’s not a spectacular pitcher and doesn’t strike many batters out, but he always seems to win games.
Round 19, Nyjer Morgan, LF/CF, WAS: I’ve always liked this guy and the stolen bases and runs scored he brings to the lineup, even playing on horrible teams (the Pirates and Nationals). He’s a great replacement if Bay or Rios struggle or get hurt.
Round 20, Erick Aybar, SS, ANA: He really impressed me during the American League Championship Series last year and, since Ramirez is far from a lock, I thought he’d be valuable to have. And he has sick speed.
Round 21, Adam LaRoche, 1B, AZ: A very underrated player, in my opinion, with excellent power numbers. I don’t see myself benching Morneau, barring injury, but I could very easily see myself using LaRoche in the utility spot. If everyone is healthy, my choice is between him and Bruce.
Round 22, Adrian Beltre, 3B, BOS: I thought this was a fantastic value pick, especially if Beltre bounces back hitting at Fenway Park. Also, I think he’s good insurance in case Sandoval goes on another Taco Bell binge.
Round 23, Octavio Dotel, RP, PIT: I hate drafting closers on bad teams, but since Wagner was such a risky pick, I had to pick up some insurance.
Round 24, Justin Masterson, SP, CLE: While I don’t put him on the level of Porcello or Price, I thought this was a great spot to take a chance with a young pitcher who has shown some promise.
Round 25, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Since we can’t make any moves before the end of the first week, most people in our league take a backup C in case their starter gets hurt, as the draft is always about three weeks before Opening Day. Barring something disastrous happening to Mauer, which would probably kill my team’s chances anyway, Saltalamacchia will be my first cut, either to fill any need or weakness that develops, or to jump on an opportunity.
Overall, I’m happy with my team, but I took a few risks that could really come back to burn me. As is the case with every team, real or fantasy, you can’t control injuries. I just hope I do a better job solidifying my bench throughout the season than I did last year, learning from my mistakes.