The best team hindsight can buy

If you were given the opportunity to go back to your league’s draft day and redo the draft given the knowledge of what’s happened almost one-third through the season, how different would your draft look? My goal in this inquiry is not to make you question how heavily to weigh early season performances and create projections for players to the end of the season, though that would be the more scholarly thing to do.

Instead I’m simply forcing you to look back at all of the picks you shoulda, coulda and almost made that would have made your team that much better at this point in the season. Using the Yahoo ADP numbers, here are the players that, if drafted realistically around the same place they were in the preseason, would compose the most dominant fantasy team thus far.

The Hindsighters

Catcher: No One (Round 0) – Honestly no catcher deserves to be on this team since the most valuable catcher currently is Miguel Olivo. Mauer is fourth on that list and I am surprised that so little has been said about his unremarkable season, from both a real and fantasy baseball perspective. It sounds ridiculous to call a .363 wOBA from a catcher “disappointing,” but when it succeeds a .438 wOBA from the prior season, well, clearly some expectations are not being met.

First base: Miguel Cabrera (1) – Cabrera has been the most dominant fantasy hitter so far in 2010, hitting for an insane power and average combo of 17 home runs and a .351 average. Throw in a league-high 51 RBIs and you have the numbers of a player even Albert Pujols cannot match at the moment.

image
I wasn’t kidding when I said lumberjack. (Icon/SMI)

Second base: Robinson Cano (4) – As the second-most-valuable fantasy hitter so far this season, Cano barely beat out Justin Morneau—the third-most-valuable—to make the cut for this team. An elite contributor in all the fantasy categories save for steals, Cano figures to compete for this year’s AL batting title and is currently sporting a sporty .363 average.

Third base: Kevin Youkilis (3) – Despite excellent production the past two seasons, Youkilis has remained just outside the bubble of elite fantasy players. Available in the third round of most drafts, this lumberjack of a ballplayer has burst that bubble and joined the pack of the elite, batting .320 with 12 home runs already and an incredible 50 runs scored.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus (10) – In the preseason it was my feeling that Andrus, for a variety of reasons, was being overpicked in the 10th round. Unlike the other two players mentioned in that article who have complied by being either injured or ineffective, Andrus has been rather effective this season most notably by batting a robust .304 with 39 runs and 18 steals.

Outfield: Carl Crawford (2) – Crawford is one of those across-the-board fantasy producers and, with the development of a respectable power game last year, is immensely valuable in fantasy. His 41 runs and 18 steals make him elite in those two categories and with a .299 average, 32 RBIs, and five home runs in the others he is certainly not lacking in any facet.

Outfield: Andrew McCutchen (6) – Already aptly compared to the player directly above, McCutchen has been doing a fantastic Crawford impersonation since his impressive rookie campaign last year. The homers, average, and steals are there; the biggest thing holding back McCutchen’s fantasy value is the Pirates lineup that makes runs and RBIs infrequent.

Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez (12) – His 36 R, 8 HR , 36 RBI, 7 SB, and .308 AVG line is a fantasy baseballer’s treat. Simple as that.

Utility: Alex Rios (14) – I never thought I would say this, but Rios has been the fourth-most-valuable fantasy hitter so far in 2010. With possibly the most impressive three-category line of a .318 average with 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases, he has made a truly miraculous turnaround in Chicago. I just wish he did it while on my team last year.

Starting pitcher: Adam Wainwright (5) – Wainwright got a little lucky with his 2.63 ERA and unprecedentedly high strikeout rate of 8.2 batters per nine in 2009 and understandably fantasy owners were somewhat hesitant to draft the towering righty this preseason. Surprisingly Wainwright has built upon his “lucky” 2009 by increasing his strikeout rate even more to 8.7 and cutting back on walks and hits so that he almost deserves his current 2.05 ERA.

Starting pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez (7) – It should come as no surprise to see this Rockies hurler on this team as Jimenez is off to an unprecedented start to the 2010 season. His 11 wins, 78 strikeouts, and uncanny 0.93 ERA and WHIP are good enough to carry an entire pitching staff.

Starting pitcher: David Price (13) – After not meeting the hype with a meh rookie season, Price has responded well in his sophomore campaign, earning eight wins already with a 2.29 ERA and 53 Ks. Although it does not matter for this article, I feel obligated to warn you, the reader, about the upcoming regression to Price’s ERA. His strikeouts are down, the BABIP is low, the LOB percentage high, and home run rate slightly lower than it should be. Call me Emeril and this sounds like the recipe for a higher ERA.

Relief pitcher: Heath Bell (9) – Players picked in the ninth round were quite the terrible bunch but at least if you picked Bell you got a guy who is tied for the third most saves with 15, is striking out plenty of batters, and has a pristine 1.08 ERA. Impressively he has done all of this despite pitching slightly sub-par as evidenced by his 1.32 WHIP.

Relief pitcher: Carlos Marmol (11) – What Ubaldo has been doing with ERA Marmol is currently doing the equivalent with K/9. By far the league leader with a 17.4 mark, Marmol is striking out basically two batters for every one inning pitched. Coupled with solid ratios and saves totals, Marmol has been the second-most-valuable closer—behind only Jonathan Broxton—and by far the most exciting to watch. The 51 Ks in 26 innings says it all.

Final thoughts

I’m sure there are at least a couple of players on this team that you were oh so close to drafting but then took some other scrub instead. For me I remember running the clock down to the last second while deciding between Ben Zobrist and Robinson Cano in the Yahoo F&F league draft. Unfortunately Zobrist’s SS eligibility won me over and I chose him instead of Cano, but at least Zobrist has not played horribly so I can live with it.

Feel free to share your own sob stories of drafting regrets in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. buck turgidson said...

    You could have highlighted Uggla, Johnson or Prado instead of the always overvalued Cano.  I drafted Johnson in the 19th round in one league.

  2. Dan said...

    While I am very fortunate to two guys from this list (Rios and Ubaldo) on my team, I can’t help but go back to this decision I made on draft day.

    McCutchen had slipped a little and I was one of the skeptics about his power numbers, so I chose to go with a guy I was admittedly very high on in pre-season. While Quentin has stayed relatively injury free he just has not produced much outside of mild power and I cant help but keep saying what if.  Just imagine and outfield of J Upton, Rios, McCutchen, and Rasmus; my current outfield with Quentin replaced.

  3. Biggy said...

    Sweet! I have 5 (Marmol, Price, MIggy, CarGo, Cano) on my team!

    With a projected regression for Price, and a deep pitching staff, should I trade him for, say, Justin Upton?

  4. Chris said...

    I joined a keeper league that had been going since ‘04 but had recently lost a number of managers. Since there were already established teams I ended up taking part in the ‘expansion’ draft of the players that were on the empty teams which left a decent amount of talent, but not the cream of the crop out there.

    I ended up snagging CarGo in the 5th round of the 15 team expansion draft and worried that it might have been an overdraft, but I’m being proven wrong and loving it since then. I also managed to get Tulo in the 2nd round which is proving to be something of a steal so far.

    The league also plays specific OF positions, and with my 17th pick (out of 18 prior to the league wide draft) I snagged up Magglio Ordonez who may go down as the steal of the draft.

    I just wished I had taken the chance on Olivo when I was drafting (was picked up by another team early in the season off of FA) but with Kendry Morales hurt I should see some value with another late pick; Napoli.

  5. Lombard said...

    Personally I would rather put Justin Morneau at Util and drop one of Cargo or McCutchen off this list, but I understand if you were going for balance across all categories.

  6. Paul Singman said...

    @buck – Uggla I couldn’t put in over Ubaldo since both were drafted in the 7th round. How is Cano “always overvalued” by the way?

    @Dan – What were you thinking??? Just kidding… but not really.

    @Biggy – Go for it.

    @Chris – Cargo certainly has developed into a solid (especially fantasy) player. Although as an A’s fan it pains me to see him and Andre Ethier (the only two of our hitting prospects to blossom recently) do so for other teams.

    @Lombard – Filling the positions with one player picked in each round was a bit harder than I initially thought. Not putting Morneau on the team was one of the tough choices I had to made. Tough might be a bit strong of a word but you get the point.

  7. DonCoburleone said...

    One BIG TIME mistake I made was taking Prince Fielder over Miguel Cabrera. Both guys slipped to the bottom of the 1st round and I went with Fielder over Cabrera.  D’oh!

    Also I have a rule in my drafts that I NEVER take a pitcher before round 8, so I lost out on Ubaldo 2 picks before I was drafting in the 8th round… I do have Cano, CarGo & Andrus on my team though, so I’m still doing okay.

    Also how about some of those REALLY late round picks who have paid off?  E.G. I took Juan Uribe of the Giants in the 24th round of one of my drafts and he is the #7 rated Shortstop in Yahoo right now.

  8. Jeffrey Gross said...

    I kick myself every day for picking Ryan Howard over Miguel Cabrera in my fantasy draft. I need to just keep telling myself Ryan Howard is 70% second half production

  9. Jason B said...

    Very good work Paul.  As you pointed out, there’s been so much value in the undrafted catchers this year – Olivo, Barajas, and Buck are the ones that immediately spring to mind.  Makes me glad I never pay for catchers.  I just wish I made wiser selections when choosing from the $1 bin.

    CarGo was definitely undervalued with a 12th round ADP.  He’s McCutchen-esque (McCutchen-lite?) coming six rounds later.

    Wainwright and Cain have been quietly excellent in the NL this year.  Hard to get a lot of ink when competing with the sheer dominance of Ubaldo, the impressive start of Halladay, and the ho-hum goodness of Lincecum, among others.

    Most teams need more than five pitchers, so you can probably fill out a rotation with other late-rounders (or “zero rounders”) like Shaun Marcum, Colby Lewis, and Ricky Romero.

  10. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Jason,

    Very true. Wasting high picks on low-performance (comparatively) catchers is pointless. They all hit .270 with 10 HR, get 40-60 RBI/R and only get 600 AB max (unless you’re mauer). Better resources spent elsewhere. Especially in 10 or 12 team, 1-C leagues.

    My rotation this year consisted of buying Cain and Nolasco then filling out the rotation with Colby Lewis, Gio Gonzalez, Kris Medlen, Phil Hughes and Jaime Garcia for $40. Best money i ever spent

  11. Jason B said...

    Jeffrey – yes I’d say your rotation panned out quite nicely.  smile So, so many great stories among the undraftables, particularly at pitcher. I didn’t even mention Garcia, Medlen, Silva, Garland, and others. 

    McGehee, Gomes, and Glaus are also excellent stories amongst the hitters.  Maybe I’m steering the storyline away from “best bang for the buck by round” and toward “players who were drafted in fewer than 5% of leagues” or something along those lines.

  12. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Even though pitchers tend to be more volatile than hitters, I like to think that its easier to pay low and gamble on pitchers. The SP to specific position ratio is 5+:1. You gamble wrong on a pitcher, there’s probably one on waivers or you can stream.

    It’s harder to play the hot hitter because its hard to know when they’ll stay hot or cold. Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen and Luke Scott excepted, hitters—- by being more consistent—- tend to be harder to play off the FA pool.

    Thus, I would say viva el cheap pitcher strategy, but avoid such a strategy with hitters. Stars and Scrubs only succeeds with star hitters and scrub pitchers, in my opinion, not in reverse

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