162 Games of HATE: A fast-paced fantasy baseball draft with some shocking picks

My third and final fantasy baseball draft of the 2012 season was an interesting one. Candidly, I am not happy with the job I did in this draft overall, but I am ecstatic with a couple of my picks and where I was able to select them.

I have been in enough drafts of all types, so I’m not making excuses, but the majority of players in this league auto-drafted, so the pace was blistering, and I had trouble keeping up with it at times. Plus, one person’s selections in the first two rounds blew my mind more than any picks I can remember in a fantasy baseball draft for quite some time. Again, I have enough experience that I should have been able to overcome both of those factors, but quite a few of my picks were rushed. I hope they work out, but I’m not supremely confident.

162 Games of HATE, the 2012 edition:

Round 1, Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA: I know it seems unheard of to be disappointed after ending up with arguably the best player in the game over the past decade, but I had the third pick in the draft, and the two guys I would have selected ahead of Pujols went first and second: Miguel Cabrera and Matt Kemp. It’s hard to complain about Pujols, though. He’s a skilled enough player to ease my worries about his transition to the American League, and the Angels are loaded.

Round 2, Roy Halladay, SP, PHI: Are you fucking serious? Halladay lasted until the 20th pick of the draft? Holy shit! The two picks before Halladay were Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. I would have taken Halladay over either of those guys, but I can’t really argue with either pick. The two picks I can definitely argue about, however, came from the same person: CC Sabathia with the No. 10 pick in the draft, and Johan Santana with the No. 15 pick. My jaw dropped after both of those selections. I am still shaking my head.

Round 3, Matt Holliday, OF, STL: He was the best hitter left on the board. I really wanted Ian Kinsler, but he was selected with the pick right before mine. I’m a little wary of the Cardinals’ lineup without Pujols, but Holliday has been a consistent performer over the years.

Round 4, Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR: I may have made this pick a round or two early, but third base is an awfully thin position, and I love what Lawrie did in a couple of hundred at-bats last season. Plus, the Blue Jays’ lineup is stacked and should score a ton of runs. I thought about Shin-Soo Choo here, but I crossed my fingers and hoped he would fall into the next round.

Round 5, Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE: Holy crap, something actually worked. I like Choo a lot, and he was definitely the best hitter left on the board. I thought about another starting pitcher, but I decided to gamble that either Matt Cain or David Price would still be on the board with my next pick.

Round 6, Dee Gordon, SS, LAD: If Gordon can get on base consistently, he will lead the Major Leagues in stolen bases. And shortstop isn’t exactly a stacked position, either. I love this pick.

Round 7, Yu Darvish, SP, TEX: This pick was a gigantic gamble, and I’m really not sure why I pulled the trigger. Part of my thinking was that I wanted another starting pitcher, and none of the known quantities was really calling out to me. If he pitches anywhere near his potential, this could turn out to be a fabulous pick. But if the queen had balls, she’d be king.

Round 8, Matt Garza, SP, CHC: There was no doubt in my mind that I was picking another starting pitcher here, just in case Yu Darvish turns out to be the next Kei Igawa. Although the Cubs are awful, Garza was the best starter left on the board.

Round 9, Jemile Weeks, 2B, OAK: It was way too early for this pick, but the pool of second baseman was drying up in a hurry. This was a dreaded potential pick: If he reaches his potential, it will work. If not, I am hosed.

Round 10, Alex Avila, C, DET: I was thrilled with this pick. Avila is one of the few serious offensive threats at catcher, and he can be a force in the Tigers’ lineup.

Round 11, Sergio Santos, RP, TOR: The run on closers was in full effect, and he was the best one left.

Round 12, Brandon League, RP, SEA: Speaking of the run on closers …

Round 13, Jason Motte, RP, STL: OK, I think I can stop worrying about saves now.

Round 14, David Ortiz, DH, BOS: I hate this guy’s guts, but this was a great value pick. The only bad thing about him from a fantasy baseball standpoint is a complete lack of flexibility, as he only fits into the utility spot. But his season last year was one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox, and if I can get 30 home runs out of a pick in round 14, that ain’t too shabby.

Round 15, Delmon Young, OF, DET: He did not have a great season last year, but I’m hoping for a bounce-back and some decent power numbers.

Round 16, Brandon McCarthy, SP, OAK: I can’t believe he was still around this late in the draft. Oakland sucks, but he is a quality starting pitcher and, with the way his ball club cleaned house during the off-season, my hunch is that he will be traded to a contender at some point.

Round 17, Sean Marshall, RP, CIN: Yes, I know, I said I was done with closers, but Marshall puts up fantastic numbers year after year as a setup guy, and I couldn’t pass him up here.

Round 18, Daniel Bard, SP, BOS: This pick was a bit of a risk, much like Boston’s decision to convert a reliever with closer stuff to a starter is a bit of a risk, but none of the “safe” picks at starting pitcher excited me in the least. Plus, if the experiment fails and Bard goes back to the bullpen, I will have some serious trade chips for teams that are short on closers.

Round 19, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: He is an excellent backup at both corner infield positions, hitting in a stellar lineup.

Round 20, Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: I try not to let spring training play a big role in my drafting, but he looked like the 2010 Hughes in spring training, so I took a shot with this pick. Hell, it’s the 20th round.

Round 21, Austin Jackson, OF, DET: Depth, speed, and the leadoff hitter in a good lineup. He needs to get on base more. If he does, I will find a way to start him.

Round 22, Aaron Hill, 2B, AZ: I would like to say that I’m hoping for a repeat of the one fantastic year Hill had with Toronto, but truthfully, this was a backup pick, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Round 23, Alcides Escobar, SS, KC: A solid, under-the-radar, backup pick.

Round 24, Ben Revere, OF, MIN: If he is ever in my starting lineup, I am in a heap of trouble. Still, his potential was worth the risk of a final round pick.

Hoboken Nine, the 2012 edition

Ryan Braun

The Section 39 Fantasy Baseball League held its draft last weekend, and I was a participant for the fourth consecutive season. It’s a very competitive league and, while I have not finished in the money, I’ve held my own, finishing fourth, fourth, and fifth in a 12-team league.

Last season was my most disappointing, as I just couldn’t find any consistency. I vaulted into second place in August on the strength of two consecutive 100-plus-point days, driven my wins from all my starting pitchers and a bunch of wins and saves from my relievers, but I couldn’t stay with the pack.

Here are my round-by-round picks (I had the No. 8 pick out of 12), along with my reasons for choosing the players I selected.

Round 1, Ryan Braun, LF, MIL: This pick was a bit of a risk after the news during the offseason that Braun had failed a drug test. His suspension was overturned, and everything I’m reading suggests that he won’t be suspended again, but there’s always the chance. And, if he really was on performance-enhancing drugs, how much did it help him during his MVP campaign last season, and how will it affect his numbers this season? Still, I thought he was a steal with the No. 8 pick in the draft, and he would have been in the top three if it weren’t for the suspension (big if, I know). I actually thought about Roy Halladay here, but I’m hesitant to take a pitcher in the first round (even one as dominant as Halladay) because if there’s an injury, they just don’t bounce back the way hitters do.

Round 2, Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: I was all set to grab Halladay here, but he was chosen with the pick right before mine. This pick was also a little bit of a gamble, with Ramirez coming off his worst season, and with rumblings that he is unhappy about moving to third base to accommodate the Marlins’ signing of Jose Reyes. But if Ramirez comes close to a typical Ramirez season, he can dominate a generally weak position.

Round 3, Curtis Granderson, CF, NYY: I love the combination of power, especially with 81 home games at Yankee Stadium, which is tailor-made for his swing, and speed. Yes, I am a die-hard Yankees fan, and yes, I was always a Granderson fan, going back to his days with the Tigers, but I don’t let my rooting interests get in the way of my drafting. I was ecstatic that Granderson fell to the third round.

Round 4, Hunter Pence, RF, PHI: I really wanted a third baseman here, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger on Alex Rodriguez, partially because I hate him, but mostly because he is a big risk coming off an injury. David Wright also scared me a little here, although the fact that they moved the fences in at Citi Field tempted me. But if Chase Utley and Ryan Howard can come back healthy, Pence is an excellent hitter in an excellent lineup, and he has 81 home games at homer-friendly Citizen’s Bank Park.

Round 5, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Again, I seriously thought about Wright with this pick, but I was also wary of not having a pitcher yet, and I liked Bumgarner and pitcher-friendly SBC Park better than anyone else who was left. I would have drafted his teammate, Matt Cain, but he was selected just before my pick.

Round 6, Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: He is an excellent all-around ballplayer at a relatively weak position, and I thought he was the best value pick left on the board. I thought about another starting pitcher here, but decided that Phillips was my best option.

Round 7, Matt Garza, SP, CHC: Once again, the guy I wanted here was chosen with the pick just before mine, Jeremy Hellickson. I’m a little concerned about Garza because I think the Cubs are a weak ball club, but he’s a solid pitcher. I thought about Tommy Hanson here, but decided on Garza.

Round 8, Aramis Ramirez, 3B, MIL: I felt that there was a huge drop-off at this position after Ramirez, so I decided to grab him. The next third baseman on my list was Mark Reynolds, and I had him last season. Reynolds is an all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine player, and he is frustrating as all hell from a fantasy standpoint. I didn’t want to go through that again.

Round 9, John Axford, RP, MIL: I apparently made a subconscious decision to be a big Brewers fan this season. I don’t like drafting closers this early, but, much like my pick of Aramis Ramirez last round, I thought there was a big drop-off after Axford, so I decided to pull the trigger here.

Round 10, Sergio Santos, RP, TOR: There is usually a run on closers, but that wasn’t the case in this draft. Similar to my choice of Phillips, I just thought he was the best value left on the board, and I also believe the Blue Jays will be solid this season, which will give him ample save opportunities.

Round 11, Miguel Montero, C, AZ: As I said about closers, I also don’t like drafting catchers early, but in what seems to be a theme for me during this draft, he was by far the best catcher left on the board, with good power numbers.

Round 12, Cameron Maybin, CF, SD: I didn’t really need another outfielder here, especially with my lack of a first baseman at this point, but I love this guy’s potential. Petco is not a hitter’s park, but it is a good park for speed guys, and I can see Maybin racking up doubles and triples, and putting up good numbers in runs scored and stolen bases.

Round 13, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I finally got my first baseman, but once again, the person picking before me swiped the guy I wanted, Gaby Sanchez. I actually take this trend as a good sign, because she (yes, SHE) knows her shit and has won the league before, so it’s good to see that we were thinking along the same lines. I really like Davis and am not sorry I ended up with him. Now, how far did the Mets move the fences in?

Round 14, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: He was off to a good start last season before getting injured, and, while I am obviously counting on a bounce-back, I am very happy with this pick in round 14.

Round 15, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: Lacking a superstar at either position Encarnacion is eligible for, I thought this was a smart pick if Aramis Ramirez or Ike Davis falters or suffers an injury. Encarnacion will likely DH, which will probably help his hitting in a strong Toronto lineup.

Round 16, Brandon McCarthy, SP, OAK: I love this pick and was stunned that he was still on the board in round 16. Oakland is not a strong team at all, but he is an excellent pitcher who seems to get better every start.

Round 17, Adam Lind, 1B, TOR: This was more of a value pick than a need pick, and the strong Toronto lineup definitely influenced me.

Round 18, John Danks, SP, CHW: I was very happy to get a solid starting pitcher this late in the draft. He’s not a superstar, but he eats innings and gets the job done.

Round 19, Jason Bay, LF, NYM: I thought he was a great risk pick this late in the draft. Bay has had two miserable seasons since joining the Mets, but if he can get back to anything like what he used to be (remember those shorter fences?), this will be a great pick. And if the Mets really struggle, he could be good trade bait.

Round 20, Jonathan Broxton, RP, KC: I’m pretty confident he will win the Royals’ closer job, and he throws some serious gas. I love this pick.

Round 21, Francisco Liriano, SP, MIN: This pick was very similar to the Bay pick: Liriano has been a disappointment for a couple of years, but I thought a pick in round 21 was a worthy gamble on his potential.

Round 22, Ian Desmond, SS, WAS: I thought this was a fantastic value pick, and Desmond is a solid backup if Hanley Ramirez slumps or gets injured.

Round 23, Homer Bailey, SP, CIN: This was another pick based purely on potential, and not results, but Bailey has been a highly touted prospect for a while, and I’m hoping he delivers. If he doesn’t, it was a pick in round 23.

Round 24, Delmon Young, LF, DET: 20-plus homers from a backup outfielder made this decision for me. I hope I never have to use him at left field, because it would mean something bad happened to my first-round pick, but he’s good to have on the roster, and a potential fill-in at the utility spot if Maybin slumps or gets hurt.

Round 25, Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: We are not allowed to cut or acquire players until after the first week of the season, so most teams draft two catchers just in case their starter gets hurt, to avoid the possibility of a zero at that position for the week. Most teams also cut their backup catcher at the first opportunity, but I may hold onto Suzuki and his decent power numbers, unless I really need the roster spot.

I feel pretty good about my draft. I’m not cocky about my team, and I don’t look at my roster and think I’ll run away with the league, or anything along those lines, but I think it’s a solid team that will keep me in contention. If I get into August with a chance, I’m happy. Let the chips fall where they may.