We had the draft for my AL Only league yesterday. My team is the Blue Sox. This is a keeper league, and we are allowed to keep up to 14 players for our active roster of 23 (14 hitters and 10 pitchers) and up to 4 minor leaguers. I previously posted my keepers. Having kept 14, I needed 9 players, 4 pitchers, a shortstop, a middle infielder, two outfielders, and another hitter at any position. We each get $50 total. After my keepers, I had $15.90 left. I had the least amount of money to spend. The Grim Rippers had $34.70. More on them later.
We started with the four-round minor league draft. We go in reverse order of last season's standings, and do not serpentine. I finished 8th last year so I had the third pick. Through various trades, I had no 3rd or 4th round pick, but had four 2nd round picks, mine and three others. So I had the third pick and the thirteenth through sixteenth picks. My first choice was going to be Gordon Beckham. He was 7th on my list of available guys, but I think he might make the White Sox (no relation) and that would allow me to only spend .20 on my middle infield in the major league auction, freeing up money for my pitching. (I already have Elvis Andrus who right now is set to start for the Rangers. So I could draft a shortstop for a dime with the idea of dropping him for Andrus when the season starts and saving money for the auction. Same idea as with Beckham.)
Trevor Cahill was the first pick, which was a good one. He was sixth on my list, but may make the rotation for the A's and should help right away. Unfortunately, G. Beckham went second to the Aardwolves, who probably had the same idea I did although the Aards drafted Alberto Callaspo for .40 at middlie infield, having kept Johny Peralta at SS).
This was my first adjustment of the day right out of the shoot. Cahill was probably my second choice for the same reason described above for Andrus, but for a pitcher. The first guy on my list was Tim Beckham, but he's very young and a ways off from helping in the majors. I have an abundance of draft picks and we can only keep four per year, so it's difficult to keep a minor leaguer several years in a row, which will be required for T. Beckham. The same is true for Michael Inoa (or Ynoa) of the A's, who was fourth on my list. Second on my list was Eric Hosmer, but I went with number five on my list instead, Justin Smoak. He's a big switch-hitting firstbaseman. I like the buzz on him more than Hosmer (actually I didn't hear any buzz on Hosmer) but one issue is that the Rangers have Chris Davis already, and the Royals have Mike Jacobs. The Royals have Butler, too, but he's more of a DH type. I made all of this on the fly, but we'll have to wait a while to find out if I did the right thing.
I had originally thought of Brian Matusz as my top choice if I didn't go with G. Beckham. He was actually number three on my list. A big lefty who went #4 over all to the O's in last year's draft. I actually got to see him pitch in person last fall in the Arizona Fall League and really liked him. (Smoak was there, too, but didn't play in the game I saw.) But with my "help-this-year" strategies not working, I decided to just go with the best available for my second pick. Tim Beckham went late in the first round, so I settled on Hosmer (my nuber two) but he went with the second pick of the second round. Two rounds in a row, the Aards, picking right in front of me, picked the guy I wanted. I happily went with Brian Matusz for my second round pick. As indicated, I had the next three picks from trades. One thing I considered was trying to get Austin Jackson, who I picked second last year, but didn't keep (Dontrelle Willis was a risk, and Jackson was the cost.) But Jackson went with the first pick of the second round. I also thought about Desmond Jennings, who I picked first last year but later traded, and he wasn't kept. I had other guys higher on my list, though and didn't take him. In fact, he went undrafted, so I'll try again next year.
With my next three picks I went with Aaron Hicks (Ben Revere, another CF prospect for the twins was ranked higher, but I think Hicks will pass him this year and will be a top-ten prospect next year) Jesus Montero (the catcher I wanted, Carlos Santana, was already gone), and Greg Halman. Halman's a risky guy, buth with a lot of upside. Not bad for my fifth pick. Plus I saw him hit a mamoth home run in the AFL (off of Matusz!) Other guys I would have liked to get were Jennings and Michael Main, both of whom went undrafted.
Smokin' Guns and the Water Buffaloes (who were already stacked with minor leaguers, including Weiters, Feliz, and Tillman) got some great prospects in the draft, but the steal of the draft went to the Twins, who drafted Felix Pie in the first round. I don't believe anyone else even realized he was eligible. He was in the minors on 8/31 last year (our qualifying rule) but he was with the Cubs. He's the starting leftfielder for the O's right now, and could steal 30 bags this year. Curiously, however, the Twins had four outfielders coming in (Hamilton, Jones, Kubel, and Ordonez) and paid $9.70 total for Crawford and Torii Hunter. So there's no place for Pie on the roster. (Hmmm. I see a trade opportunity!) The Twins also snagged Rich Hill in the third round. He should be in the O's rotation this year if healthy. The Legends drafted him last year so I know he spent almost all year in the minors but started to turn it around toward the end.
My strategy going into the auction was pretty specific as I didn't have much money to spend and needed pitching badly. My plan was to try and spend my $15.00 on the following 4 guys, and use the remaining .90 to fill my other 5 spots. I was going to spend what it took to get Sabathia and then try and get Fuentes, Sonnanstine, and Russell Branyan and keep it at $15.00. One problem: I figured The Grim Rippers (owned by VeniceLover, with an assist this year from his wife Annie) would come in with the same strategy, whatever it took to get Sabathia, plus a top closer. I figured the worst-case scenario would be for Josh Beckett (the second best pitcher available, and my fall- back plan) to be brought up first and me not know what it would take to get CC and, therefore, not know what to do.
Well, Howie Kendrick was brought up first. I could have kept him for $3.00 (and the loss of another keeper, because I kept the full 14) but I didn’t. I wanted him back, however, because I need his batting average. (Somebody’s got to make up for Branyan’s .230 average.) But this early in the draft, I didn’t have any extra money for my infield. He went for $3.10.
Next up? You guessed it, Josh Beckett. I stayed in, because he was the second best pitcher on my board. When The Grim Rippers dropped out I knew I was right, they wanted CC no matter what. So I felt like I had to get Beckett because I couldn't bid with The Rippers on CC. I got Beckett for $7.50 and I'm glad I did. CC went to The Rippers for $10.10, the first $10 player since I've been in the league. The down side, I spent almost half of my money on the second player. My plan, however, was still in effect, just with Beckett instead of CC.
Then I made what might have been a crucial mistake. I had Chris Ray as a reliever, but he likely won't close at the beginning of the year. I had only five available closers on the board: Fuentes, my choice; Wood; Percival; Sherrill; and Lyon, in that order. Somebody called up Percival. The Rippers (with all the money ... and my strategy) had Joey Devine but I figured would go for another closer. I wasn't sure who that would be, so I stayed in for awhile on Percival. To my surprise, I got him at $2.70. So I know what you're thinking, "Beckett and Percival instead of CC and Fuentes, but with only $10.20 spent I'll surely get Branyan and Sonnanstine for under $4.80 and will have some money left for my hitters and final pitcher." Well, not exactly.
But I'll get to that in a minute. I have Elvis Andrus as a minor leaguer and he is supposed to start for the Rangers. So my plan is to only spend a dime on my shortstop with the idea that I will replace him with Andrus. We just go around the room and call up players one at a time. There is some strategy to this but I'm not sure what it is. Some guys call up guys they want, but usually the strategy early is to call up a guy you don't want that you know will go for a lot of money forcing teams to spend their money. That's what happened to me with Beckett. But other times, you need to call up a guy you want because you might get him. If you want a dime player, you have to be the one to call him up. So I made a list of shortstops I wanted and started calling them up for a dime until I got one.
I ended up with Julio Lugo, which is perfect. I found out today that he'll have surgery on his knee (I already knew he was hurt) so I'll be able to put him on the D/L to start the season and won't have to drop him in favor of Andrus. Then when he comes back I'll have a good player (who steals bases) for a dime.
Here's where the plot thickens. Fuentes is still on the top of my list in terms of value. When he got called up, I decided to stay in for awhile and ended up getting him at $4.50. So far, my plan was working except for Percival. Sonnanstine ultimately when for $2.50, and I got Branyan for a dime, so I could have gotten Beckett, Fuentes, Branyan, and Sonnanstine for under $15. However, instead I had Percival. If Percival stays healthy and closes I'll do well in saves and/or have a good trade chip. If he gets hurt, this was probably a critical error. I am light on starting pitching and will struggle in the strikeouts and wins categories. My other starters aren't great strikeout guys. Beckett should help.
Rounding out the pitching staff, I had a list of guys for that final spot including Escobar, Bonderman, Uehara, Davies, Hochevar, Smoltz, Penny, Contreras, and Colon, roughly in that order. David Aardsma was my saves sleaper, but I already had my relievers. I ended up with Penny for .30. The guy I really wanted was Smoltz, but he hadn't been called up yet and I thought I should go for Penny at .30. I also wanted Escobar, who also went to the Twins for .30, but he got called up later as well. Sometimes you just have to go for a value pick with a guy on your list even if he's not at the top. The other guys all went for more than I could spend, except for Contreras, who wasn't drafted.
As mentioned, I did get Branyan, and for a dime. He was my big sleeper going in, with an assist from Jon Williams, a follower of this blog, who runs "Advanced Fantasy Baseball." Thanks, John. I guess these means I have to go for Daniel Murphy in the Colonial Leage. I had Branyan number eight on my list of available hitters and he was the only one I had a chance of affording. I waited until the end to call him up and no one else could bid on him.
I got Nomar with my final middle infield spot and also for a dime. I could see him starting at third if Chavez is hurt, and then platooning with Giambi at 1B and/or DH when Chavez gets back. He could also get hurt and do nothing, but I like the risk at ten cents.
I finished off my hitters with two dime outfielders, and finished with forty cents left over. That beat the $2 something I left with last year. I got DeWayne Wise, who if he wins the job could steal 15 and hit 15 homers, although his average will suffer. I also got Travis Buck, who has been a prospect and a Blue Sox for quite some time and failed at both. But he could break-out if he wins the job. If these guys start they're good picks. If they don't, I wasted two spots.
Overall, I felt okay about the draft. I don't like that the entire success of my draft may hinge on the health of Troy Percival. That's like betting that Britney Spears won't make the tabloids this season. I also don't like that I spent hours coming up with my draft strategy and came so close to perfect execution. With any luck, Percival closes for at least half a season. If that happens, he's worth the $2.70. And I can probably pick up a starter somewhere along the line. After all, Cliff Lee went undrafted last year.
Later in the week, I'll discuss how everyone did and my predictions for the season. Also, I'm headed to spring training next week so look for some Sarasota updates. If I can figure out the technology, there will be some video blogging available from sunny Fla.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
3 months ago