When I last updated my progress on this mock draft, I was through five rounds. We’re nearly 10 rounds further along at this point, so I’ve got plenty to cover on my end as far as who I’ve taken and why. I’ve yet to draft in the 15th round, so let’s look at rounds six through fourteen.
Sixth Round – The Scarcity Pick
I thought long and hard about going with Paul Konerko right here. First off, I think he’s going to rebound quite nicely with something in the 30 HR/90 RBI season, but also that was the last infield position I needed to fill. Enter phase 1 of my game plan: eliminate scarcity. In a league this deep, bottom tier outfielders and first basemen will look a heckuva lot more appetizing than the rubble left up the middle. Therefore I went with Jhonny Peralta here and sealed up the my entire middle infield in just six rounds. At this point, I have a 2B, SS, MI and C in my first four picks. As for Peralta, doesn’t it feel like he has been around forever? He is just 26 years old, but he’s been a very good player for three of his four seasons giving fantasy owners about 20 HR and 80 RBIs year in and year out. His one off year (2006) still produced 13 home runs and 68 RBIs. I would be more than content with a repeat of his $20 season from last year, but improvements aren’t out of the question either.
Seventh Round – The Zag
There were 24 picks between me and my next selection and all but seven were pitchers and outfielders. Most teams were filling out the positions requiring the most selections, but I had other plans in store. I targeted Ryan Doumit here and I felt rather certain he’d be on this team. This is a league of sharks, so there’s no doubt they all know plenty about Doumit, but outside of the big Ms going where you would expect, no one appeared to be looking at backstops. Remember when I said this was a league of sharks? Doumit predictably went four picks before I was up. Not to be deterred, I stuck to the plan of zagging when they zig… or whatever the saying. I stayed behind the plate and went with Chris Iannetta. It was pick 133 which felt a little early, but I was happy with it regardless. Then I looked at the ADP list on mockdraftcentral.com and saw he was sitting at 135 and I felt even better. Can you believe his 135 ranking is actually six spots LOWER than Matt Wieters? I wouldn’t feel confident going high on a rookie catcher even with what Geovany Soto did a year ago. That’s the exception, not the rule. Iannetta has the skills for a 20+ home run season with a decent batting average and solid counting numbers. He’s got great plate discipline so as long as he remains healthy, he’ll be quite good in 2009.
Eighth Round – The Reach
With my positional scarcity plan full executed through seven rounds, I now need to begin focusing on the deeper positions before I’m left with nothing I like and my plan is foiled. Outfield is an area I feel strongly about in 2009 after absorbing so much knowledge while writing the Top 100 piece. One player whose stock I purchased plenty of during that process was Shin-Soo Choo. I made him the 148th selection overall which did not compare favorably with the mock drafting masses as he checks in at 264 on the ADP list! Color me unfazed by this development. If I followed the herds in fantasy baseball, it’d be hard to be successful. I don’t know how my leaguemates viewed the pick and if he was in the queue for many of them, but even though I would call it a bit of a reach, there are just too many picks in between to wait on someone you feel could be close to going off of the board. He second half surge wasn’t a fluke that came out of nowhere. He was a highly touted prospect coming up and began paying dividends on his promise during the second half of last year.
Ninth Round – The Mistake
I made my first mistake in terms of executing my plan flawlessly. It’s foolish to punt any category in such a large league and while I generally punt the most puntable stat, saves, I vowed not to in the 20-teamer this year. I wanted to get an ace (a relative term, given how volatile the entire group is) closer that could net me 35+ and then speculate from there. If you speculate out the gate and don’t hit, you’re now competing against 19 other owners (and damn good ones at that) for anything that pops up during the season. The chances of a middle reliever that gets a shot NOT being on a roster already are slim, too. The mistake comes in that I should’ve taken B.J. Ryan or even Matt Capps instead of Choo. As I mentioned, Choo might have made it back to me and then I’d have my closer. Instead, I let them go and they were taken before the eighth round finished. Instead I got newly appointed closer, Heath Bell. Though he struggled mightily during the second half last year, he still struck out over 1/IP to make up for the lack of dominance in the first half. Pitcher friendly park, flamethrower and on a team where most wins should come in close games are reasons to like Bell here. As a rebound from my first “Oh crap!” moment, I’m pleased.
Tenth Round – The Bounceback
Ever since I passed on Konerko, I’ve been eyeballing the first basemen thinking I should take one. I would’ve taken Jason Giambi last round but he was gone so I passed because I wasn’t in love with Plan B: Adam LaRoche. This is one of those picks that if it pays off the way it can, ends up being a season-changer. I started off my rotation with Erik Bedard. I don’t think I ever stopped believing in him last year even when it was clear that 2008 just wasn’t his year. He remained firmly entrenched on my radar again this season and I decided that he would anchor my staff. I am not the kind of guy that drafts pitching early all that often. Even in a league this big, I hold off. Starting pitching will emerge as the season progresses, even some guys that aren’t rostered, even in a 20-team, 5-reserve league. I’ll build my rotation around some upside guys and take it from there. Bedard fits the mold nicely as a return to 2006-2007 levels would give me near-ace level production with pick 188. My other consideration here was WHIP-friendly, Kevin Slowey. That may have been a safer pick, but I wanted to gamble.
Eleventh Round – The Post-Hype
Immediately after picking Bedard, I committed to the idea of building my rotation for the next few rounds and I wrote one name down for the 11th round. The superstitious part of me was reticent to do that, but I wanted this particular skillset. I probably could’ve found a derivation of it somewhere else had he gone, but Johnny Cueto made it back to me and I snagged the post-hype sleeper as my #2. He was a bit wild at times and suffered from a serious case of gopheritis, but he is an absolute flamethrower with room to grow. The giant downside is that he has an idiot for a manger in Dusty Baker meaning his season could be ruined with a four inning middle relief stint at the drop of a hat. Another thing that sold me on Cueto was that his 174-inning workload at the major league level was only a 13 inning jump from his minor league work across three levels in 2007. He could feasibly be the third Cincinnati Reds starter to go after Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang, but he has a legitimate shot at ending the season as their best.
Twelfth Round – The Favorite
Though I wrote a few more names down to target in the 12th round, anyone that knows me knows that I only wanted one of them. I didn’t even see who else made it to me when I picked because Andrew Sonnanstine was available and he instantly became my #3 starter. The strangest thing about my desire to roster Sonnanstine in every league (including NL-Onlys for some reason) is that I love strikeout guys, almost to a fault. Sonny’s game is at the opposite end of that spectrum. He’s right around that usable level of 6.0 K/9, but it’s his pinpoint control and reluctance to give a free pass I like so much. When he first came up in 2007, he had a completely worthless defense and bullpen supporting him so his numbers were garbage. Now both are assets and he is on his way to becoming a very reliable, very underrated starting pitcher.
Thirteenth Round – The Late Power
The outfield depth dried up on me in a hurry and frankly, it caught me by surprise. I had Jack Cust and Ryan Garko as my top two candidates for this round. Both went, so I knew I wanted to go with my OF3 here in round 13, but I expected a better list of candidates. This late, no one is a sure thing, but the question marks on a lot of these guys are in 72-point font. I went with a somewhat reliable power source in Josh Willingham. He can be a walking WebMD entry at times, too, but he’s a 20+ HR hitter if he gets 500 at-bats. Perhaps he can recapture the magic he had going out of the gate last year and put up that career year he was headed towards.
Fourteenth Round – The Aged Veteran
When Garko was taken last round, I started looking at the likes of Lyle Overbay as my first baseman. That’s when I knew I was in trouble there. Then, someone took him near the end of the 13th and I knew I was dead meat! I may regret not locking up one of my primary power targets (Giambi and Cust) earlier as I now have Todd Helton at 1B. He hasn’t been a top-flight power threat since 2005 and despite the surgery to fix his back issues, 2009 will be no different. Ideally, I just want 450 at-bats because it’ll likely net a .300-something average with 70 runs scored & driven in. If he can toss in 12-15 home runs, great. I continually pushed the envelope of 1B targets I really liked and I paid the price here. Hindsight being 20/15, this is a much greater mistake than skipping Ryan and Capps to get Choo and end up with Bell.
And that catches us up now. Overall, I’m pleased with how my position scarcity plan worked out and I have the beginnings of a nice rotation as far as I’m concerned. Again, the first base debacle haunts me right now, but there is time to correct it and who knows, maybe Helton is ready by early April and gets 500+ at-bats in this year.
Thanks for the patience during the lag in posting. The computer issues I had were nightmarish, but it looks like everything is firmly back on track and even better than a week ago as my sound now works and will facilitate a return to podcasting. If I can finish all of my work in a timely manner, I will have a post AND podcast tomorrow evening.