The 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys: Maybe auto-draft isn’t so bad

Jacoby Ellsbury

I had to rely on auto-draft for the second of my three fantasy baseball drafts this season. With a little one on the way, I am only playing on one softball team, and I will be missing part of the season for obvious reasons, so I elected to play softball and let the computer do the dirty work.

This league is fairly competitive, but not as much as the Section 39 Fantasy League. That being said, I have had no success, and I’ve been in this league quite a few years. These were my drafts in 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Part of the blame goes to injuries (Josh Johnson being a notable example a couple of seasons ago), part of it goes to bad luck, and, admittedly, part goes to poor drafting decisions on my part. Here is my latest attempt to climb out of the second division and into contention.

Three players are kept every season in this league, and players are only keeper-eligible for three seasons before being thrown back into the pool.

Without further ado, your 2012 Dropkick Ellsburys:

Keeper, Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS: His combination of power and speed were matched by very, very few players in Major League Baseball. While it may be optimistic to expect a repeat of his 2011 power numbers, he is still an excellent all-around player, at the top of a solid lineup.

Keeper, Jered Weaver, SP, LAA: He is a top-10 starter, if not top five, and an excellent anchor for a fantasy pitching rotation. Plus, barring injuries, the Angels are stacked. Keeping Weaver was a no-brainer.

Keeper, B.J. Upton, OF, TB: Upton is by far the weakest of my keepers, and he became a keeper by default. I wanted to keep Ryan Howard, but that changed when he crumpled to the ground at the end of the National League Division Series last year. Most reports don’t have Howard coming back from his torn Achilles tendon until June, and most reports also say that he looks like he ate Greg Luzinski, so I couldn’t risk what amounts to a draft pick in the first three rounds on half a season of a possibly healthy but possibly overweight Howard. Upton is a threat for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but his inconsistency is maddening.

Round 1, Hanley Ramirez, SS, MIA: If I were live-drafting, I probably would have chosen Cliff Lee here, but since I was on the softball field, I had no say in the matter. I drafted Ramirez in my other league, as well, and my reservations and hopes are the same. He is coming off his worst season, and there are 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 2, Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX: This is where live-drafting comes back to bite you in the ass. I like Andrus as a player, and I love his stolen bases as a fantasy pick, but there is no way in hell I would have drafted two shortstops with my first two picks. If I can acquire enough speed elsewhere, he is definitely trade bait.

Round 3, Shin-Soo Choo, OF, CLE: Bless you! (Thank you, I’m here all week, tip your bartenders!) The Indians are a weak team, but he is a solid ballplayer and puts up solid fantasy stats. If I were live-drafting, I might have taken Matt Cain here, although I might not have, because as I said earlier, I’d probably have taken Cliff Lee in round one. When I took at the hitters drafted around this pick, I like Choo.

Round 4, Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF: Like Ramirez, I also have Bumgarner in my other league. I like him a lot and think he’s a stellar starting pitcher in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. My only fear is that the Giants’ offense will fail to score and cost him wins. It’s hard to say if I would have been thinking of a starting pitcher here if I live-drafted, but if that was my direction, he would have been my choice.

Round 5, Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: This pick is a huge risk, as Wainwright did not throw a pitch last season due to injury. But I love the value in round five if he returns to form. It’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble I would probably have taken if I were live-drafting. The two starting pitchers taken directly before him were Josh Johnson, who also has a bad recent injury history, and Yu Darvish, who is still an unknown quantity, although my hunch is that Darvish will not be a bust like some of the other pitchers who have come to MLB from Japan.

Round 6, Joe Mauer, C/1B, MIN: In what is becoming a familiar team, in the same way I would not have taken shortstops with my first two picks, there is no way I would have used back-to-back picks on players coming off huge injuries. As I said about Wainwright, if Mauer returns to anywhere near his pre-injury numbers, this pick is a steal, especially with catcher being a weak position. But two consecutive gambles are a little dicey for my blood. I probably would have drafted Rickie Weeks here.

Round 7, Nick Markakis, OF, BAL: I somehow end up with Markakis every season, and his lack of power while playing in Camden Yards, where everyone else seems to launch homer after homer, frustrates me to no end. He always ends up posting decent numbers, but the lack of power and the fact that I’ve lost with him before means there’s no way I’d have picked him here if I were live-drafting. There was a little bit of a run on closers going on, so I might have joined that run.

Round 8, Ike Davis, 1B, NYM: I really like this pick. Davis was on his way to an excellent season before getting injured last year, and the Mets moved the fences in at Citi Field. I would have taken Billy Butler or Kendrys Morales here, but both were selected before my pick. And I certainly wouldn’t have taken Morales if I already had Wainwright and Mauer, because there’s only so much injury risk one team can bear. Davis is also on my other team.

Round 9, Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, TOR: I like Encarnacion, but I don’t know if I’d have picked him this early. Still, his bat showed a lot of life last season, the Blue Jays have a strong lineup, and I like the fact that he qualifies at both corner infield slots. And he is yet another member of my team in the other league.

Round 10, Chase Utley, 2B, PHI: I am a huge Utley fan, but with his recent injury history, there is no way in hell I would have picked him, especially with all of the other walking wounded on my roster. I just have to sit tight and hope he comes back healthy, but I hate this pick.

Round 11, Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD: He was the best closer left at this point, and I’d have picked him here without hesitation. He has a live arm, and I think the Dodgers will be an improved team this season.

Round 12, Sean Marshall, RP, CIN: I absolutely love this pick. I have picked up Marshall the past couple of seasons in a middle relief role due to his excellent strikeout, ERA, and WHIP numbers. If the Reds don’t let him close, they are morons, so add saves to the rest of his stats, and this is a great pick.

Round 13, Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: I apparently missed the auto-draft setting that said, “Draft every player who was hurt last season.” What the hell? Still, as I’ve said about some of my previous picks, Buchholz was having an excellent year before getting injured last season, and if he bounces back, this is a fantastic pick at round 13. There are way too many injury gambles on this roster, though.

Round 14, Addison Reed, RP, CHW: I like this pick. I am assuming he gets the closer role for the White Sox and pitches well enough to keep it, but he has a bazooka for an arm.

Round 15, Edwin Jackson, SP, WAS: Jackson is solid, but not spectacular. I had him last season, and I have to keep my eye out for a rut, because when he gets into one, it takes him a while to pitch his way out of it. Since Brandon McCarthy was chosen with the pick before mine, I’d probably have taken Trevor Cahill here.

Round 16, R.A. Dickey, SP, NYM: I don’t love this pick, and I probably would have looked at another position here. Yes, Dickey has been solid for two seasons, but I’m wary of someone who doesn’t “get it” until he is well into his 30s. Knuckleball pitchers are ageless, but the Mets are not a good team, and their offense will likely cost him wins.

Round 17, Delmon Young, OF, DET: I’m pretty happy with this pick at round 17, but Young’s OBP is putrid. Still, he’s good for about 20 homers, and the Tigers’ lineup is stacked, so his numbers may rise.

Round 18, Chase Headley, 3B, SD: I like this pick, especially this late. It’s based on potential, but I think Headley started to turn it around last season. The one negative is that he plays in a ballpark that is very unfriendly to hitters, but hey, it’s round 18.

Round 19, Aaron Hill, 2B, AZ: With Utley on the shelf, I hope he remembers what he was doing in his outstanding season for Toronto. I’d have never taken Utley, and I’d have taken a second baseman a lot earlier than this, but it is what it is.

Round 20, Michael Brantley, OF, CLE: He is a solid last-round pick, also based on potential. If everything clicks for him, this could work out well. If not, well, he’s my last-round pick.

Overall, I’m happy with the team, but there are a few too many players coming off serious injuries. If they can all bounce back, this team will contend. If not, I will have to rely on the waiver wire and the trade market to shore up some holes.

The Section 314 Boozers: Anatomy of Another Fantasy-Baseball Draft

This was my second fantasy draft, and the rules for this league are different than for my first one. Each owner keeps three players, who are eligible to be kept for up to three seasons, so those three players are basically your first three draft picks. So without further ado, let’s have a warm welcome for the Section 314 Boozers:

Ryan Howard

Round 1 (Keeper), Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI: This is the last year I can keep Howard, but with his power in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark, he’s good for 40 homers by accident. The only downside to Howard, which I’ve gotten a little better about managing, is that when he goes into a slump, it’s a bad, bad slump. He won’t even get you the occasional home run or RBI. When he’s in the tank, he’s deep in the tank, and I’ve learned to not be afraid to bench my “best” player.

Round 2 (Keeper), Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX: I actually kept Carl Crawford, the Rays’ talented outfielder, but made a draft-day trade for Kinsler after much deliberation. I have Kinsler on my other fantasy team, and I tend to end up with several duplicate players. As I said in my blog entry on my other team, Kinsler doesn’t dominate the 2B position the way Joe Mauer of Minnesota dominates the catcher position, but he posts strong power numbers, steals bases, and is an all-around fantastic fantasy player (and real-life player).

Round 3 (Keeper), Curtis Granderson, OF, NYY: I have been a Granderson fan for years, and the fact that he’s now a Yankee is just icing on the cake. The good news is that I expect his power numbers to rise big-time playing in Yankee Stadium. The downside: I fear that he may not try to steal as many bases because of the strength of the Yankee lineup and where he’ll bat in it.

Round 4, Dan Haren, SP, AZ: He was, simply, the best starting pitcher left here.

Round 5, Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF: Another duplicate pick for me, for the exact same reason I picked him in my first draft. He was the last good 3B available, but as I said in my blog on the last draft, he only has one season under his belt, and 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 6, Bobby Abreu, OF, LAA: As a Yankee fan, I was never an Abreu fan, because I felt that he was terrified of the right field wall on defense, and I felt that his RBIs never came in key situations. Fortunately, neither of those means a thing in fantasy baseball, and he is simply an on-base-percentage machine with good speed.

Round 7, Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX: Up-and-coming young ballplayer, also with good speed.

Round 8, Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD: He was another duplicate pick for me. I like his strikeout numbers and the fact that he pitches for a solid team in a pitchers’ ballpark.

Round 9, Joakim Soria, RP, KC: The run on closers started well before I picked (I had pick No. 9 out of 12), and Soria was the best one left by the time my turn came.

Round 10, Hunter Pence, OF, HOU: Yes, another duplicate pick and, as I said in my earlier blog post, 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 11, Billy Wagner, RP, ATL: Wagner is my risky pick in both leagues. As I said when writing about him after my first draft, if his 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 12, Brett Anderson, SP, OAK: A solid, young starting pitcher who put up good numbers last season.

Round 13, Alex Rios, OF, CHW: Yes, I have Rios on my other team, as well. 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.

Round 14, James Loney, 1B, LAD: I need someone to plug in at the 1B spot when Howard goes into his two or three deep funks every season, and Loney is solid.

Round 15, James Shields, SP, TB: I went with a really young group of starting pitchers. The good news is that they show potential for improvement and are promising. The bad news is that young pitchers are always risky.

Round 16, Erick Aybar, SS, LAA: I liked him as much as Andrus, for pretty much the same reasons, and I couldn’t believe he was still available this late in the draft.

Round 17, Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: He was the best catcher left at this point.

Round 18, Jaime Garcia, RP, STL: Yahoo! has him listed as a relief pitcher, but he won the No. 5 starter job for the Cardinals and has been one of their most highly touted prospects, so I figured I’d rather gamble with him in round 18 than waste a pick on an average veteran.

Round 19, Brian Matusz, SP, BAL: What I wrote about Shields applies here, and also some of what I wrote about Garcia. This guy has been a highly touted prospect and, if Garcia and/or Matusz fail miserably, serviceable veteran pitchers are always available.

Round 20, Juan Pierre, OF, CHW: Good backup outfielder with speed, and I think he will be a good fit with the White Sox.

Round 21, Joba Chamberlain, RP, NYY: This was the Yankee fan in me taking a shot that Joba regains his bullpen dominance and becomes a premier set-up man. And if he doesn’t, it was a 21st-round pick.

Round 22, Alex Gordon, 3B, KC: I’m pretty sure I drafted him in round three a few years ago. He’s been disappointing and hasn’t lived up to his “next George Brett” hype, but in the last round, I thought he was worth a flyer.

I think I have a decently balanced team, but I’m relying on a lot of young pitching, which can be scary. I’ve struggled the past few years in this league, and I’m just hoping to get to the All-Star break somewhere in the top five and in striking distance of money.