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.

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!