StrategyJanuary 31, 2008


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The Game Plan

By R.J. White

It’s important to head into your draft with a game plan. You have your projections, your mock drafts, and your tiered cheat sheet – now you need an outline in place that will help you utilize those resources. Let’s take a look at how to do that.

First, you need to run an experiment based on what you think the perceived value is of all offensive players. I separate mine into these categories:

Studs (top 30 players)
Greats (top 30-60 players)
Goods (top 60-100 players)
Solids (top 100-150 players)
Kids (young’uns with potential)

1B
5 Studs (Pujols, Fielder, Howard, Teixeira, Berkman)
3 Greats (D.Lee, Morneau, Pena)
3 Goods (Gonzalez, Konerko, Helton)
2 Solids (Swisher, Delgado)
3 Kids (Loney, Votto, Gordon)

2B
1 Stud (Utley)
4 Greats (Phillips, Upton, Roberts, Cano)
3 Goods (Kinsler, Weeks, Uggla)
2 Solids (Kent, Polanco)
4 Kids (Kendrick, Pedroia, K.Johnson, Cabrera)

3B
4 Studs (Rodriguez, Cabrera, Wright, Braun)
4 Greats (Ramirez, C.Jones, Figgins, Atkins)
2 Goods (Beltre, Zimmerman)
2 Solids (Lowell, Encarnacion)
3 Kids (Gordon, Longoria, Kouzmanoff)

SS
3 Studs (Ramirez, Reyes, Rollins)
2 Greats (Jeter, Guillen)
4 Goods (Tulowitzki, Young, Tejada, Furcal)
4 Solids (Renteria, Hardy, Cabrera, Greene)
1 Kid (Drew)

C
0 Studs
2 Greats (Martinez, Martin)
3 Goods (Mauer, McCann, Posada)
0 Solids
3 Kids (Saltalamacchia, Soto, Towles)

OF
9 Studs (Holliday, Soriano, Guerrero, Beltran, Sizemore, Crawford, Lee, Ichiro, Berkman)
9 Greats (M.Ramirez, Ordonez, Granderson, Dunn, Abreu, Upton, Markakis, Rios, Hart)
11 Goods (Hunter, Matsui, Byrnes, Hawpe, Pence, Francoeur, C.Young, Wells, Bay, Sheffield, Pierre)
8 Solids (Swisher, A.Jones, D.Young, Damon, Ibanez, Burrell, Victorino, Dye)
6 Kids (Hamilton, Kemp, Fukudome, Hermida, Ellsbury, Ankiel)

There aren’t many quality catchers out there, and I would avoid this position untill the end of the draft. You want to take the power of Victor Martinez in the third round? The well-roundedness of Russell Martin in the fourth round? Martinez hit .300 with 25 HRs in 2007. A different player hit .310 with 27 HRs in 2007, while another hit .292 with 29 HRs. Those two guys are going at least five rounds later than Martinez. Martin hit .293 with 19 HRs and 21 SBs. Eric Byrnes hit .286 with 21 HRs and 50 SBs. Martin still goes a round or two before Byrnes. Wait untill later in your draft to snag a catcher so you don’t leave production on the board in favor of a scarce position.

16 first basemen made the list, eight falling in the Stud and Great categories and another three in the Good category. If you get a top-11 first baseman, you should be happy. Adding DHs gives us one more Stud (Ortiz), one more Great (Hafner), and one more Good (Thome). If those guys are 1B-eligible in your league, 1B has to look very deep. Third base has eight players you would be happy to have as your starter at the position. The talent drops off considerably, with only four more players in the Solid and Good range. Include Gordon from the Kids tier and that’s 13 guys to choose from. But if you don’t land one of the top-eight at both of these positions, you will struggle to catch up. The talent gap is wider at 3B, so it’s crucial to get one of the best.

OF has a big middle-class. If you can land two guys from the Studs/Greats groups, you have a head start on the competition. Add another from the Goods and your starting OF is set. But even if you choose to wait, there are enough Solids and Kids that everyone should be able to manage a solid starting OF. If you can land one from each of the top-three tiers of OFs, you should have at least a decent OF. With 37 OFs counting from Studs to Solids, OF is deep enough, but don’t wait too long. If you can’t land a Stud, you probably want to land two of the Greats. Otherwise, you’re looking at an uphill battle.

SS is looking very deep, depending on how you value the lower-class. You’d have to be happy with one of the top-nine SSs on your roster (eight if you don’t like Furcal to rebound), and many of you will wait for one of the Solids, or maybe even Peralta or Drew. While I wouldn’t go that far, I don’t see the harm in picking up a couple of the low-tier SSs if you don’t get one of the Studs in the first-round. 2B has only one Stud. A couple of the Greats are right on the fringe but ultimately end up in the second-tier. If you don’t get one of the top-five 2Bs, you have to grab one of the three Goods, because after those eight players it gets pretty ugly. The Solids are good as complementary pieces if you’re looking for a power (Kent) or average (Polanco) boost. Take one of the Kids and you might end up with a .300 hitter that can get you 15-20 HRs or 20 SBs, but you could also wind up with a .270 guy that can’t even crack double-digits in the power or speed categories.

If you believe in position scarcity, it is crucial to get a high-quality 2B this year, so add that into your game plan.

Depending on where I pick, I might be looking to make a game plan to grab these positions in each round:

3B (1), OF (2), SP (3), 1B (4), 2B (5), OF (6), SS (7), SP (8), OF (9), RP (10), SP (11), RP (12), SP (13)

Through 13 rounds, my team will probably look something like this:

1B J.Morneau (4th)
2B B.Roberts (5th)
3B M.Cabrera (1st)
SS M.Young (7th)
C
OF G.Sizemore (2nd)
OF E.Byrnes (6th)
OF A.Jones (9th)

SP J.Beckett (3rd)
SP J.Vazquez (8th)
RP T.Hoffman (10th)
RP J.Isringhausen (12th)
P T.Hudson (11th)
P J.Francis (13th)
P

OF looks a little weak, so if I employ this strategy in the draft, I’ll be looking for good OF values in order to improve on my 3rd OF. Let’s tweak my game plan a little:

3B (1), OF (2), OF (3), 1B (4), 2B (5), SP (6), SS (7), SP (8), OF (9), RP (10), SP (11), RP (12), SP (13)

And:

1B J.Morneau (4th)
2B B.Roberts (5th)
3B M.Cabrera (1st)
SS R.Furcal (7th)
C
OF G.Sizemore (2nd)
OF M.Ramirez (3rd)
OF A.Jones (9th)

SP J.Smoltz (6th)
SP J.Vazquez (8th)
RP T.Hoffman (10th)
RP J.Isringhausen (12th)
P T.Hudson (11th)
P J.Francis (13th)
P

Now the pitching is weaker, but the offense looks much better. Since my 2nd OF is now Ramirez instead of Byrnes, I added a SB-threat at SS in the 7th. If you have the mindset that you can always find pitching, you can make a #1 starter even less of a priority. If you wait until the 8th round to take your first pitcher and spend your first seven picks on offense, you could have:

1B D.Lee (4th)
2B B.Roberts (5th)
3B M.Cabrera (1st)
SS R.Furcal (7th)
C
OF G.Sizemore (2nd)
OF M.Ramirez (3rd)
OF E.Byrnes (6th)

Your rotation would be fronted by a combination of two or three pitchers from the Vazquez-Burnett tier, and you would want to focus on bringing in pitching depth in the hopes that you can find one or two gems to solidify your rotation.

Spend a couple hours crafting a game plan, and I guarantee you’ll come out with a better draft than the guys who didn’t. Cheat sheets, projections, and mock drafts can only get you so far. Now it’s time to take the next step.

 
R.J. White (a.k.a daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 13 years. He wants to write professionally and would like you to keep his name in the back of your mind for future reference.
 
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