Rookie mistakes: Draft day retrospective

I am a veteran of auction leagues who this year stuck my toe into my first fantasy draft, joining a long-distance league of guys whose common connection is the University of Virginia. Ours is a 14-team mixed league with 23 roster spots: eight position players, two utility players, eight pitchers, including at least two relievers, and five bench players. We had a snake draft the last weekend in March, with the order computer generated. What follows is a review of the players I selected and some thoughts about what has gone right and what wrong. I will post a more detailed analysis of what I think I have learned from the experience, but in the meantime would welcome your thoughts and comments.

Draft

1.(3) Alex Rodriguez
2. (26) Adrian Gonzalez
3. (31) Mark Reynolds
4. (54) Jose Reyes
5. (59) Nelson Cruz
6. (82) Clayton Kershaw
7. (87) Javier Vazquez
8. (111) Carlos Gonzalez
9. (115) Julio Borbon
10. (138) Brett Anderson
11. (143) Rafael Soriano
12. (166) Kurt Suzuki
13. (171) David Aardsma
14. (194) Vladimir Guerrero
15. (199) Jonathan Sanchez
16. (222) Mat Latos
17. (227) Brian Matusz
18. (250) Scott Sizemore
19. (255) Magglio Ordonez
20. (278) Travis Snider
21. (283) Everth Cabrera
22. (306) Chris Young
23.(311) Peter Moylan

Draft analysis (not pick-by pick but some observations)

(1) I hated getting the third pick as there was a big perceived drop-off after Albert Pujols and Hansley Ramirez. I debated long and hard about going with ARod or Ryan Braun and the tipping point for me was what I expected would be an un-godly number of RBI opportunities in a Yankee lineup I thought might feature three .400 OBP guys at the top of the order. ARod does have a few more RBI but with his wonky hip I would rather have Braun right now. Braun ended up sliding to sixth behind Chase Utley and Matt Kemp.
(2) Reynolds’ batting average has been painful but should improve as his BABIP returns to his and league norms.
(3) Reyes was a gamble and has neither been a flop or a success—so far. If his health continues I like the odds of the latter.
(4) Cruz was having a monster years before his hamstring intervened; that said, he did present an elevated injury risk.
(5) Also down for the count have been Anderson (injuries), Snider (injuries) and Sizemore (demotion). Those losses would kill me in a deep league—injuries have killed me in my 12-team AL roto league. But in a mixed league with 14 owners, the free agent pool is much deeper. The shallower the league, the more one can withstand colossal failures, and I would think that makes it more justifiable to take risks on draft or auction day.
(6) Drafting closers is a bit like playing chicken—I held off as long as I could, waiting while 10 closers were drafted before taking Soriano and 16 before taking Aardsma.
(7) There’s little need to take starting pitching earlier when players such as Latos, Sanchez and Matusz are available so late. Certainly Laros and Sanchez in the mid-teens have out-performed two of my three top-10 pitchers in Vasquez and Anderson. And there were plenty of other good arms taken in the mid-teens and still others not drafted at all.
(8) My stars to-date—those who have exceeded expectations—have been Guerrero, Carlos Gonzalez and to a lesser extent Ordonez: Something old, something new and something blue.
(9) Moylan was an accident pick—got to hung up sorting possibilities for that all-important last pick and the clock ran out and my pick was computer-generated.

Transactions

March 31  Drop Moylan       Add Kyle Blanks
April 14  Drop Young        Add Phil Hughes (dropped five days earlier for Delmon Young)
April 27  Drop Cabrera      Add Carlos Zambrano (dropped four days earlier for Doug Fister)
May 3 	  Drop Snider       Add Eric Young
May 15 	  Drop Young        Add Gordon Beckham (dropped three days earlier)
May 16 	  Drop Sizemore     Add Ian Kennedy
May 16	  Drop Blanks       Add Snider
May 16	  Drop Zambrano     Add Mike Stanton 
May 20	  Drop Snider       Add David Freese (dropped three days earlier)
May 23	  Drop Stanton      Add Kosuke Fukudome (dropped three days earlier)
June 8	  Drop Anderson     Add Snider
June 8	  Drop Fukudome     Add Brett Cecil
June 8	  Drop Snider       Add John Axford
June 9	  Drop Beckham      Add Skip Schumaker (dropped 19 days earlier)
June 10	  Drop Borbon       Add Juan Pierre

Transaction analysis

(1) Best pick-ups have been Hughes and Kennedy and I’m hopeful Cecil will continue to pitch well. Only Hughes was drafted and he was dropped early, which reinforces my view that you can wait to draft pitchers.
(2) My schedule is too busy to be the first to nab a player just called up or returning from the disabled list, so I try to compensate by anticipating, but not too successfully so far—I took Stanton too soon, then dropped him.
(3) One team’s trash is another’s treasure: Six of my signings have been of cast-offs.

Trades

None.

Trade analysis

There has only been single trade in what is a start-up league with another nixed by owners. I have yet to be approached with a trade proposal; I have made several offers but to no avail.

Bottom line

I’ve made a lot of mistakes but fewer than my rivals—as of Sunday night my team was in first place with 104 points, the second-place team was at 98.5 and one other team was above 90. I lead the league in only one category—RBI—so my success has been predicated on a lack of a major weakness: I’m in the top half of every category. Many categories are tight, especially wins and runs, so I have added starting pitchers and Pierre. Our league has a maximum cap on innings above which cumulative stats don’t count, but so far I’m on pace to reach but not exceed the cap.

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Comments

  1. Baseball Paul said...

    Everything looks timely…EXCEPT DROPPING MIKE “MONSTER” STANTON!!!  How could you lose faith on that guy??  Looking at your lineup I would say you are more comfortable with AL players than NL (I am the same).  I would not have guessed that you’d be in first though….great job!

  2. Jonathan Sher said...

    Baseball Paul –

    I’m kicking myself about Stanton too but the challenge for me was being down a roster spot while I kept a spot warm for Nelson Cruz. I had just added Travis Snider, who was really starting to hit before his injury and was also trying to add starting pitchers. I figured I’d drop Stanton and add him back just before he was promoted, which in hindsight was a risky proposition since my schedule didn’t make me the quickest draw on the waiver wire in our league. So it wasn’t a lack of faith but a failure to follow-through that lost me the big bopper.

    The A.L.-bias was definitely a product of feeling I knew those players better from my A.L.-only league. That said, some of my worst picks were A.L. guys and some of my better ones N.L. – Carlos Gonzalez has been perhaps my best across-the-board hitter while Latos and Sanchez have been strong in a league that counts K’s.

  3. Jonathan Sher said...

    Always good to hear from a fellow Hoo—1988 grad here.

    Reynolds is a risk on batting average but I am hopeful I have absorbed most of the pain to this point of the season; His Babip will hopefully regress toward the mean. That said, I have tried to move Reynolds a few times without success.

    Sanchez has pitched well but not as well as the stats we use in our league – ERA, WHIP, K, W and S. His control has improved by about a walk a game but his xFIP is 4.11 compared to an ERA of 2.78. His home run rate seems unsustainably low (5.5% of fb) and his Babip is low even considering his low line drive %. He’s lost one mph off his fastball. I expect he will finish with an ERA a bit below 4. Now would be a good time to move him if someone will pay on his performance to-date.

    Other than his age, Latos is a better candidate to sustain his numbers. His xFIP at 3.68 is just a bit higher than his ERA, he pitches in San Diego and he is giving up more infield flies than line drives, which I suspect is quite unusual. So while his Babip is very low, if he pitches as he has, I would expect it to rise but not so much. He throws a 93.6 mph FB and a 85.7 mph slider and both pitches have been very effective. His change had been decent. His main risk markers are youth and injury. If he stays healthy, I expect him to continue to pitch well.

  4. Charlie Lorber said...

    As another former HOO I stay far away from Reynolds.  He’s a ba killer and unless he keeps running like last year he’ll hurt more than help.  I am in a similar league (15 teams) and have a lot of the same players. Trades are hard to come by because the free agent list is so deep. Question: are Latos and Sanchez going to keep it up all year.  That may be the key to your team.

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