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.