First off, I hope everyone out there in reader-land had a safe and happy holiday season. Hopefully, you are using some of your rest and relaxation time to kick your 2012 fantasy preparation into high gear. I, for one, was very excited to find my 2012 Ron Shandler Forecaster under the Christmas tree.
I have written at length about different strategies and theories regarding draft, team construction and in-season management. All of these are incredibly useful tools and will help prepare you to dominate on draft day.
However, some of you may disagree with my methods. Maybe you don’t want to start your preparation in October or carefully construct your draft plan with contingencies for every possible scenario that could come up. And maybe you don’t want to dedicate long and arduous hours to construct your own personal projections for every MLB player, as well as an elaborate statistical value system for ranking said players. That’s fine, too.
But if you listen to one lesson, make it this one: Draft the players you love.
Forget about “value,” as the term is relative and will have different meanings to every drafter. Don’t think that you are the smartest man at the draft table and can game the system. You can’t. For example: I think I can pass on Elvis Andrus in the 4th round and take Dan Haren instead, because I know that my shortstop Andrus will be there for me in the 5th. Seems like a good plan, until Andrus is snaked out from under me before I have a chance. Now you’re stuck with Haren, who’s all well and good, but wasn’t a staple of your draft strategy, and you have to settle for Jimmy Rollins whose .250 average over 600+ at-bats makes you queasy.
Or maybe you think that because you have the latest and greatest Average Draft Position (ADP) data heading into your draft, that you can simply choose the guys you want a round before they are “supposed” to go off the board, and everything will work out beautifully. The problem with that scenario is that 14 other drafters are armed with the exact same data and are planning the same thing.
Having to go through the grind of the fantasy baseball season with a losing team can be a brutally painful experience. Having to do so with guys that you really didn’t want in the first place can be unbearable.
If you believe strongly in a player and want him on your team, do what it takes to get him. There is no worse feeling than being right about a player’s potential breakout but not getting to realize that breakthrough because you didn’t pull the trigger soon enough.
That said, here are a few of the players who I love and will make every effort to acquire this draft season. (Note: With draft rounds, I refer to 15 team NFBC style leagues.)
Adam Wainwright – Heading into 2011, Wainwright was the #3 overall pitcher on my board, behind only Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire year. If completely healthy, he’d be a fine anchor for any fantasy rotation, but is being drafted in the 7th or 8th round as more of an SP2. I expect that as we get closer to March, and he looks healthy in Spring Training games, his value will increase. Still, I’ll pay whatever it takes to acquire him.
Michael Young – Maybe I just have a soft spot in my heart for him because he helped lead me to a league title last year. But coming off of a monster year where he hit .338 and drove home 106 runs, he’s still being drafted in the 6th round, still qualifying at the ever shallow third base position, and still hitting in that high-powered Texas offense. I see no reason Young should continue to be so undervalued. These are the type of underrated players who win you championships.
Lorenzo Cain – I was extremely high on him heading into last season, and a solid year at AAA helped sustain my love. He’s slated to be the everyday centerfielder for the Royals this year, and may even be given a chance to supplant Alex Gordon atop the lineup. He’ll be a solid source of steals and runs while not killing your average or power numbers.
Howie Kendrick – He’s a guy whose value is hard to gauge as he appears to be a sleeper on many player’s lists this early draft season. He’s always possessed the potential for a high average bat and complimented that nicely with a dose of power in 2011. Heading into his age-28 season, he’ll have the luxury of hitting in front of Albert Pujols in the Angel lineup. I expect a career year from Kendrick in 2011.
Rafael Betancourt – Someone who’s always had the talent to close, but was never given the opportunity. With Huston Street out of the picture, I think Betancourt could run away with the job in Colorado and be a cheap source of 30+ saves.
Salvador Perez – Last, but certainly not least, is Salvador Perez. He’s another guy who helped lead me to a title with a strong finish to 2011, and someone I will strive to own in multiple leagues in 2012. He’s perfect for two-catcher leagues, as he should hit for a high average while most catchers are a huge drain there. He also has the full confidence of his manager and should play nearly every day. Finally, he’s still growing into his frame and the power should develop. He’s fun to watch and will hopefully be a staple of my teams this year.
I expect all of these players to help me win in 2012, but the important thing is it’s much more fun to go into battle with players you love.
As always, questions and comments are encouraged and appreciated!