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.

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.

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.

Ticketless Basterds: Trying to draft my way out of the fantasy baseball second division

I had my draft Sunday for the fantasy baseball league that I’ve been in the longest. Unfortunately, it’s also the league I’ve had the least success in. And I’m already starting at a disadvantage because we keep three players every season, and my keepers are absolute garbage.

I’m trying to reverse season after season of bad decisions, decisions that seemed good at the time but backfired, injuries, and just about any other form of bad luck that can inflict a fantasy baseball team.

I think I did a better job than last year, but looking back at last year’s draft, I am amazed I didn’t finish in dead last. What a shit show. What the hell was I thinking with some of those picks?

Josh Johnson

Without further ado, I present the 2011 Ticketless Basterds:

Round 1 (keeper): Josh Johnson, SP, FLA: Johnson is the only one of my three keepers who could remotely be considered someone who might be selected in the first three rounds. I traded for him late last season with an eye toward keeping him, and he proved that he belonged on my team by immediately being shut down for the rest of the season. All reports indicate that he’s healthy. He’s a top-level pitcher. Can the Marlins score enough runs when he pitches?

Round 2 (keeper): Alex Rios, OF, CHW: Rios has power and speed, but he is by no means a player who belongs in the first three rounds. Neither was my other keeper (below). My team was so bad last year that, Johnson aside, I was basically choosing from the best cat turds in the litter box.

Round 3 (keeper): B.J. Upton, OF, TB: If potential ever became reality, he would be a legitimate keeper. He has great speed and has shown some power. I’m hoping that being surrounded by a decent Rays lineup will help, and that he finally takes that last step to stardom.

Round 4: Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI: Welcome back, big fella. Players can be kept for three seasons in this league, and I had Howard for almost three, as I traded him late last season. His power numbers will always be there, but, as I’ve learned with Howard, you have to really pay attention when he starts slumping, and you can’t be afraid to bench him. When he hits one of his two-week ruts, they are really, really bad ruts, and production is nonexistent. But when he’s hot, he can carry both the Phillies and the Ticketless Basterds.

Round 5: Jered Weaver, SP, LAA: I have never had elite pitching in this league, and one of my goals coming into this draft was to change that. Johnson and Weaver represent a formidable one-two punch, with strikeouts galore.

Round 6: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT: I probably took him about two rounds too early, but according to my value sheet, he was the only decent third baseman left. He showed a lot in a half-season with the Pirates last year, and I’m banking on continued progress.

Round 7: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS: Ellsbury, Rios, and Upton should keep me at the higher end in the stolen base category. Ellsbury doesn’t bring too much else to the table, but I really didn’t like the other outfielders available here. As evidenced in my other draft this season, I seem to be allergic to drafting outfielders.

Round 8: Kendrys Morales, 1B, LAA: I generally don’t like taking another player at a position I already have covered (Howard), but he was by far the best player left on the board. I just hope that when Morales added an “s” at the end of his first name, he also added the common sense to not break his fucking leg by jumping into the celebratory pile after a walk-off home run. He’s a great power hitter, and I will plug him into my infield or utility slot, as well as using him to replace Howard when he slumps.

Round 9: Clay Buchholz, SP, BOS: I wanted a strong rotation, and this pick was a big step toward achieving that goal.

Round 10: Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL: His spotty health scares me, but I needed a second baseman, and 75% of Roberts was better than 100% of anyone else left on the list. Of course, he’s already hurt.

Round 11: Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: I didn’t think any of the remaining shortstops or catchers were worth burning a pick for, and I am a big fan of Hughes and believe he gets better with every start.

Round 12: Joe Nathan, RP, MIN: The inevitable run on closers began, and the healthy elite closers were gone by the time I picked, so I opted for gambling on a previously elite closer returning from an injury, rather than a closer with a spotty hold on the job.

Round 13: Josh Beckett, SP, BOS: Beckett cannot possibly be as bad as he was last year, could he? I thought a pick in round 13 was worth finding out.

Round 14: Starlin Castro, SS, CHC: I had him during the latter part of last season, and he was a surprisingly strong producer on a scuffling Cubs team.

Round 15: Joel Hanrahan, RP, PIT: Some reports have him closing, while some lean toward Evan Meek. I needed a second closer, and he was the best of what was left, as long as he gets the job.

Round 16: Edwin Jackson, SP, CHW: He put up very solid numbers last season, and I was surprised he was still available. Granted, he’s not a big-name guy, but I was very happy to get him this late in the draft.

Round 17: Aroldis Chapman, RP, CIN: His talent is unquestionable, but this pick could backfire because it doesn’t look like he’ll start or close. But if he throws a bunch of innings out of the bullpen, the strikeouts will come, along with an occasional win or save.

Round 18: Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE: A pick in round 18 was totally worth gambling on this guy getting healthy. He’s likely starting the season on the DL, but I’m not concerned, yet.

Round 19: Kurt Suzuki, C, OAK: Another returnee who performed very well for my squad last season.

Round 20: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, MIN: I made this pick based on potential (his only stats are from Japan) and on the fact that I can plug him in for Roberts or Castro. I just hope he’s more like Ichiro and less like Kaz Matsui.

Round 21: Austin Jackson, OF, DET: More steals, and a solid backup outfielder.

Round 22: Koji Uehara, RP, BAL: Another potential closer, and his numbers were excellent last season.

Round 23: Alfonso Soriano, OF, CHC: How the mighty have fallen. I remember when he was actually in the mix for No. 1 overall pick. With Sizemore starting off the year on the DL, I wanted some power to plug in. Hell, it was round 23!

The 2011 Hoboken Nine: Third time a charm? Pick-by-pick analysis of a fantasy baseball draft

Saturday afternoon marked my third draft as a participant in a very competitive fantasy-baseball league made up of Yankee Stadium bleacher creatures and, after fourth-place finishes in 2009 and 2010 — and especially after being knocked out of third place and money on the last day of the 2010 season — I’m hoping to take the next step.

I had pick No. 11 in a 12-team draft, for the second year in a row. The draft order goes back-and-forth, so I pick, the No. 12 team picks twice, I pick again, and then I sit idle for far too long, scratching player after player off my want list. I’m not complaining — it’s pure luck of the draw (in this case, names picked out of a hat), and someone who has been in leagues as long as I have should be able to work out of any draft position. Plus, while the draft is obviously a major component of the fantasy season, moves made during the year can make a difference, as well.

Miguel Cabrera

Without further ado, I present the 2011 edition of the Hoboken Nine:

Round 1, Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET: For some reason, I have never been a fan of Cabrera, even though he has been a steady, durable fantasy producer. He was by far the best offensive player left on the board at this point, though. If Roy Halladay had been available, I would have considered going against my usual strategy and drafting a starting pitcher in the first round. Felix Hernandez was still up for grabs, but I had a strong feeling I could get him in the second round (it only involved one person passing on him).

Round 2, Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA: For the second consecutive season, King Felix was my second-round pick. He is, without question, a fantastic performer, both in real-life and fantasy ball. But the drawback is that the Mariners are not a strong ball club, so he doesn’t earn as many victories as he should, often losing frustrating 2-1 games. Wins (and saves) are huge in our league, accounting for eight points apiece and often making the difference between an average day or session (two-week periods for which the winner gets cash), and a stellar one. The next pitcher on my board was Cliff Lee, and I just didn’t feel comfortable taking him in the second round.

Round 3, Matt Kemp, CF, LAD: Kemp is coming off a down year, but he puts up numbers in every category, and I’m hoping for a bounce-back year, aided by a new manager for the Dodgers, Don Mattingly. Plus, I didn’t want to make the mistake I made last season, when I waited until the sixth round to draft an outfielder, and the first one I chose turned out to be a disaster (Jason Bay).

Round 4, Jered Weaver, LAA: I really wanted two outfielders with my third and fourth picks, but I just didn’t see fourth-round value in the outfielders who were left, and I thought Hernandez and Weaver represent an incredibly strong 1-2 punch. I had to forgive him for being Jeff Weaver’s brother, but that’s all water under the bridge now.

Round 5, Victor Martinez, C, DET: There are so few quality catchers out there. I didn’t want to overshoot like I did last season, when I took Joe Mauer in the first round and he had a disappointing season, but I couldn’t pass up Martinez here. I believe the Tigers’ lineup will be stellar, and I like having both Cabrera and Martinez, although on the days when the team doesn’t score, I may not quite feel that way.

Round 6, Brandon Phillips, 2B, CIN: Much to my dismay, I am heading down the same path I did last season when it comes to outfielders. But once again, I looked closely at the remaining outfielders and thought I would get much better value out of another position. Phillips is one of the top second basemen and, while I was sad to say goodbye to Ian Kinsler, a member of my first two Hoboken Nine squads, I’m very happy with Phillips.

Round 7, Andrew Bailey, RP, OAK: One of the disadvantages of picking very early or very late is that when a run starts on a specific position, you are often caught at the tail end of it. This happened to me with closers. All the elite closers were gone well before my pick, so I took the best one left. Bailey is far from a slouch, though, so I don’t feel bad about this.

Round 8, Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI: It seems that at least once every draft, I make a pick that I know I’m going to hate myself for, and Rollins was this season’s entry. Once again, I thought drafting any of the remaining outfielders would be sacrificing value to fill a position, and Rollins was the best shortstop left on the board. He’s also coming off a down year, but I’m hoping that if the Phillies are as successful as everyone is projecting, success will be contagious.

Round 9, Phil Hughes, SP, NYY: I was very happy to fill the No. 3 spot in my rotation with a guy who put up 18 wins last season and seems to be improving more and more with every start. Yes, I am a Yankees fan, so I am slightly biased, but I don’t let my rooting interests get in the way of my fantasy drafting. I thought Hughes was a solid pick here.

Round 10, Mark Reynolds, 3B, BAL: Outfield? What’s an outfield? Reynolds holds the Major League Baseball record for strikeouts in a season, but since strikeouts don’t count against you in fantasy baseball, I chose to ignore the gale-force breezes created by Reynolds’ bat and instead focus on the prospect of someone who has clouted 40 home runs in the past playing at Camden Yards, which has been a home run factory over the years.

Round 11, Nick Markakis, RF, BAL: Markakis and I have an abusive relationship, and I just keep coming back. I have had him on so many fantasy teams, and for the life of me, I still don’t understand how he can play in Camden Yards and not top 20 homers. He’s a solid hitter, but the power numbers just never seem to be there. I thought it might be a good idea to finally start filling in my outfield spots, and he was the best one left, so either he finally develops power, or I hate myself in October.

Round 12, Juan Pierre, LF, CHW: Wow, did I hate this pick. I felt that I had to round out my outfielders here, and that I couldn’t afford to wait until the draft snaked its way back to me, but Pierre is the classic one-category player. The only statistic he is good for is stolen bases, and his on-base percentage sucked last year. As the old baseball cliché goes, you can’t steal first base. I have a strong feeling Pierre will not last long in my starting lineup.

Round 13, Jeremy Hellickson, SP, TB: I seem to have a thing for taking young Devil Rays starting pitchers, as I selected David Price in the 15th round last year, and that couldn’t have possibly turned out better. Price was obviously off the board for quite some time at this point, but Hellickson is a highly touted prospect who moved through the system quickly and pitched well in the Majors after a September call-up, so I feel pretty good about this pick.

Round 14, Colby Rasmus, CF, STL: On the plus side, Rasmus is a solid No. 4 outfielder and option for the utility spot in the lineup. On the minus side, he only qualifies at center field, and Matt Kemp is the only one of my starting outfielders I actually feel good about. I still thought he was the best offensive player left, so I went with him.

Round 15, Matt Thornton, RP, CHW: A secondary closer run had begun, and even though Thornton wasn’t guaranteed the closer’s role, I didn’t like any of the other options. I didn’t know this during the draft (it was announced today), but the White Sox signed Thornton to a two-year extension, which made me feel much better about the pick.

Round 16, Angel Pagan, LF/CF/RF, NYM: Pagan is a solid, steady player who qualifies at all three outfield positions. I thought about taking him instead of Rasmus in round 14, but I had a feeling he would slip another couple of rounds, especially in a room full of people who hate the Mets.

Round 17, Edwin Jackson, SP, CHW: Jackson quietly had a great season last year, and I’m hoping for a repeat. And depth in the starting rotation is always key.

Round 18, Vladimir Guerrero, DH, BAL: I normally don’t like drafting players who only qualify for the utility position, but Guerrero was a sick value this late in the draft, and Camden Yards can only help his numbers.

Round 19, Chase Headley, 3B, SD: I feel much better having Headley to slip into the lineup if Reynolds falters or gets hurt than I would having to scour the waiver wire. Third basemen are hard to come by, even more so as the season goes on.

Round 20, Howie Kendrick, 2B, LAA: Kendrick is a good backup for Phillips and a dark-horse candidate for the utility spot on occasion. He is a very streaky player, and if I can catch one of his hot streaks, I will be very happy.

Round 21, Chris Coghlan, LF, FLA: Coghlan had a very good season, and I have a strong feeling either he or Pagan will replace Pierre in my starting lineup.

Round 22, Evan Meek, RP, PIT: He is the front-runner for the Pirates’ closer job right now and, while the Pirates probably won’t win many games, a likely closer in round 22 isn’t a bad pick.

Round 23, Dallas Braden, SP, OAK: He tailed off big-time after his perfect game, but he’s got good stuff, and I thought he was well worth a flyer this late in the draft. I wonder if I can get him to send me a “Get off my mound” T-shirt.

Round 24, Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL: I was pleasantly surprised that Freeman was still available in round 24. If he ends up having anywhere near the success of last year’s highly touted Braves prospect, Andrew Heyward, this is a great pick. And if he doesn’t, this is a 24th-round pick.

Round 25, Chris Sale, RP, CHW: This guy has sick, insane stuff, and he has an outside shot at the closer job for the White Sox if Thornton doesn’t work out. The downside to this pick is that if he doesn’t close, he probably won’t start, and will pitch out of the bullpen. Wins and saves are vital in our league, and he may not have much of an opportunity for either. But I thought Sale was a solid gamble for my final pick of the draft.

Once again, I feel like I royally failed when it comes to outfielders, but I’m hoping that’s something I can fix during the season. I’m ecstatic with my rotation, and pretty happy with the rest of my offensive players and my closers. Play ball!

Unemployment Nine: This hat trick put me in the penalty box

I scored a hat trick on my commute to my freelance job this morning. Had I been playing hockey, I’d be elated, as it would mean that I had scored three goals. However, when it comes to my commute, it means that I just missed the PATH train, just missed the D/B/F/M/whatever the hell else the MTA decides to run down the Sixth Avenue line, and just missed the 7 train.

Three times in one morning ... FML

This wonderous display of piss-poor timing stretched a commute that usually takes me about 50 minutes (and probably would be 45 minutes if not for the fucking tourists in and around Grand Central Terminal) to one hour and 15 minutes.

Aside from the annoyance of just missing trains three times in a row, that one hour and 15 minutes is completely unproductive time, which is not a good thing while trying to juggle two freelance jobs. I’m underground the entire time, meaning that I can’t even check e-mail. Even if I could, as much as I love my Droid, I’m not about to try to do work on it. As it is, half of the texts I send out get cut off in the middle because my sausage fingers keep hitting the return button. I wouldn’t dream of trying to do any real work on the Droid.

I really, really wish I could work from home for both jobs, as even the normal 50-minute commute each way represents 100 completely and utterly wasted minutes. I’m not going to try to sport a halo and claim that I don’t waste some time of my own during the work day, but I’d much rather be harassing friends on Facebook and shoring up the bullpen of my fantasy-baseball team than standing on a platform scratching my ass.


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.

The 2010 Hoboken Nine: Anatomy of a fantasy-baseball draft

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.

Joe Mauer

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.

Section 312 Lushes

I had the last of my three fantasy baseball drafts today, with the Section 312 Lushes (named after my section in the new Yankee Stadium) joining the Hoboken Honkies and the Hoboken Nine.

The 2009 Section 312 Lushes are:

C Mike Napoli, LAA (round 17): He hit more than 20 homers in limited at-bats last season, and even stole seven bases.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

1B Ryan Howard, PHI (keeper): It wasn’t too hard of a decision to keep a monster when it comes to home runs and RBIs.

2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS (keeper): I actually picked up Pedroia as an injury replacement last season, cut him, then picked him back up three weeks later.

SS Jhonny Peralta, CLE (round 10): It’s a good thing spelling isn’t one of the categories in fantasy baseball.

3B Garrett Atkins, COL (round 7): He’ll probably move to first base to make room for Ian Stewart, but he’s a good power threat, albeit inconsistent.

IF Mike Aviles, 2B/SS, KC (round 14): This kid can just flat-out play and would be a lot better known if he played anywhere besides Kansas City.

OF Carl Crawford, TB (round 4): He’s been one of my favorite players since he broke in with the Rays, and it was hard to pass up his speed.

OF Curtis Granderson, DET (round 6): A solid all-around ballplayer with some speed and some power.

OF Vernon Wells, TOR (round 12): He’s on a little bit of a downswing for his career, but I was surprised to see him available so late.

UTIL Howie Kendrick, 2B, ANA (round 16): When healthy — which, sadly, he wasn’t for most of last season, when he was also on my roster — he’s a good hitter with some speed.

SP Ervin Santana, ANA (keeper): He’ll be on the disabled list until the end of May, but he’s a strong pitcher on a strong team, averaging almost one strikeout per inning.

SP Jake Peavy, SD (round 5): He was an absolute steal here, especially if he ends up getting traded to a better team than the Padres.

SP Jon Lester, BOS (round 8): I hate drafting Red Sox, but he was by far the best pitcher available here, and I had to take him.

SP Matt Garza, TB (round 13): He was another guy whose availability this late was a pleasant surprise.

RP B.J. Ryan, TOR (round 9): I fell victim to the run on closers, and the guy I wanted, the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton, got snatched up with the pick directly before mine.

RP Matt Capps, PIT (round 11): He was one of the few closers left at this point, probably due to the Pirates being a lousy team.

P John Danks, SP, CHW (round 15): With Santana on the DL, I needed another starter, and he was a solid pick, especially this late in the draft.

P Jose Arredondo, RP, LAA (round 19): This guy is a strikeout machine and could inherit the closer’s role at some point.

P Grant Balfour, RP, TB (round 20): He’s not the closer, but he ate a lot of innings and posted a lot of strikeouts last season.

Bench Jeff Francoeur, OF, ATL (round 18): He’s coming off a miserable year, so I’m looking for a bounce-back. It was good to see him jack one in his first at-bat tonight.

Bench Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, TEX (round 21): He’s sliding a little, but he’s still got some pop, and I like the positional flexibility, especially with Atkins’ tendency to be inconsistent and Howard’s tendency to slump.

Bench Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA (round 22): What in the world was this guy doing out there in the last round of the draft?

Your 2009 Hoboken Honkies

I just finished fantasy draft No. 2 out of 3, this one done online. I present your 2009 Hoboken Honkies, round in parentheses:

C A.J. Pierzynski, CHW (19): All of the top-notch catchers got taken a little too early for my tastes, so I waited as long as possible.

1B Mark Teixeira, NYY (2): I normally stray from taking Yankees because I hate having players from my favorite team on my fantasy team, but he was by far the best hitter left.

2B Robinson Cano, NYY (8): See above on the topic of taking Yankees, but in round No. 8, this was highway robbery.

SS Michael Young, TEX (7): Why even bother explaining? I obviously have some sort of bromance with this guy, because he finds his way onto every single one of my fantasy squads. Still, 200 hits is 200 hits.

3B Ryan Zimmerman, WAS (6): There was a huge drop-off at this position after him.

OF Nick Markakis, BAL (4): He’s another guy I seem to draft all of the time, and I’m really hoping his power develops.

OF Bobby Abreu, LAA (5): I hate his guts as a fan and was happy to see him leave the Yankees, but from a fantasy standpoint, it’s hard to turn down power, speed and on-base percentage.

OF Jay Bruce, CIN (10): This kid was a beast when he came up in the middle of last season.

U Jim Thome, CHW (14): I normally won’t take guys who only qualify at DH, but it was hard to pass up 30 homers in round 14.

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

SP Johan Santana, NYM (1): I can’t believe he was still there with the 12th pick. I detest the Mets, but not taking him here would be grounds to be banished from fantasy sports.

SP Roy Halladay, TOR (3): I absolutely love the one-two punch of Santana and Doc.

SP Justin Verlander, DET (11): This guy’s always a risk, but I took the same path in my first draft.

RP Carlos Marmol, CHC (9): If the Cubs win and his arm doesn’t fall off, he’s a good first closer.

RP Matt Capps, PIT (12): I’m not a big fan of taking closers from bad teams, but with the No. 12 pick out of 12, when you pick twice and then sit there scratching yourself for an hour, if there’s a run on a position (closers, in this case), you take what you can get.

RP Heath Bell, SD (13): I actually like him better than I liked Capps, but I think the Padres might actually suck worse than the Pirates.

P Johnny Cueto, SP, CIN (16): He’s another guy from my first draft, and he has big-time strikeout potential.

P Frank Francisco, RP, TEX (17): Now that he’s done throwing chairs at fans, I hope he can pick up some saves for a bad Rangers team.

P Jeremy Guthrie, SP, BAL (18): He’s yet another player on both of my teams. I do this way too much. He’s a solid starter, albeit on a bad team and in a hitters’ park.

P Manuel Corpas, RP, COL (20): He’s shaky, but he’s still a closer available in round 20.

B Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX (15): In the interest of full disclosure, this pick was an accident. I thought, for some ungodly reason, that Cliff Lee was still available, and I ran out of time, so the autodraft feature selected him. That being said, I’m happy with the pick.

B Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, TEX (21): What the hell was he doing out there in round 21?

B Orlando Cabrera, SS, OAK (22): I made this move just in case Young gets hurt, but I have a feeling Cabrera may be my first cut if I need someone at another position.

B Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA (23): This was a pick based on potential. He started to come on last year. We shall see.

B Akinori Iwamura, 2B, TB (24): I cannot believe he was available in the last round of the draft. Having him may enable me to use Cano for trade bait.