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.

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!