There’s an old adage that says leagues aren’t won at the beginning of the draft. The old “drive for show, putt for dough” golf mentality. To a large degree, it’s true. Winning takes hitting on your mid-round upside players, as well as snagging the early surging players who break through and don’t fizzle out, and a world of good decision making in between. However, misfiring early in a draft is almost always a key to certain failure. You may not be able to win your league in the first sixty picks of your draft, but you can certainly lose it.
So, what happens when you take a dozen Cafeholics, pool them together, and mock the first five rounds (and only the first five rounds) of a standard 5×5 league? Well, it looks a lot like the first 20% of the other mock drafts you’ll see and participate in this year. However, we went a step further and prodded some of these intelligent fantasy baseball minds about their draft positions, and the strategies they invoked, as well as where they would look to head if this particular draft were to continue. Consider it another valuable resource in the ever growing Fantasy Baseball Cafe community.
So, let’s take a quick look at who drafted in what spot, and we’ll be on our way.
The first strategical bump that is often perused is drafting at the turns. With 22 players going off the board in between each drafter’s turn, draft strategy necessitates some tweaking. On drafting at the turns…
Inukchuk: I think the best part about picking first is, well, the first pick. Being assured of getting a stud with (hopefully) positional versatility allowed me to draft the best player available for my next few picks. I also like the back to back aspect of drafting at the turn, as it affords the opportunity to quickly plug roster holes. I find myself going back to back with guys from the same position (such as SP or OF) at least once every draft when I have the turn.
… and on whether Miguel Cabrera’s No. 1 pick status is contingent on earning 3B eligibility…
I almost took Albert first anyway, but decided the dual eligibility puts Cabrera a touch higher. While both guys are very close, I think Albert was a victim of a career low hit rate last season and should be back over .300 next season. While their counting stats should be a wash, I like Albert’s slight edge in power and speed a bit more than Miggy’s batting average advantage. Honestly, while either guy is a fine choice given the same positional eligibility, I prefer Pujols by the slightest of margins.
daullaz: I’m not really a fan of how the draft shook out for me. I was looking to land a marquee 1B at the turn, but Gonzalez and Fielder went off the board. So I took a shot with Kershaw, my No. 1 SP overall this season. Going pitcher early has worked for me in the past, but I must confess I’m not thrilled with it. It would have been better to go MI in the first and Greinke in the third, but hindsight is always 20/20. Strategically, you always have to take who you want at the turn, regardless of whether it’s a reach because they won’t be there when things come back around.
Pogotheostrich: I liked being near the end and having two picks relatively close. Like in the first, if I didn’t think I could get a good OF in the second like J. Upton or C-Gon I wouldn’t have taken Fielder; I would have just taken Upton. The only down side is there is 20 picks between mine going the other way, so a lot could change.
The middle picks present their own strategical road blocks as well, though. On the best and worst parts of drafting there…
chris8: Worst is easy – knowing that I wouldn’t get one of the (to me) obvious top six in this year’s draft – no surprise that all six of them went in the first six picks. The best part, I think, is that eighth seems to be a good spot to pick up players that other people are hesitating about taking at the start of a round. There’s something psychological about drafting in that a player who you wouldn’t necessarily want to take at the start of the second round can be perceived as decent value only a few picks later. So, for example, I felt a lot better about taking Jose Reyes at 2.05 than I would have at 2.01.
GiantsFan14: The best part of the fifth pick is that I feel there is a pretty clear top five, and by picking there you’re guaranteed that you get to choose at least one of them. Also, at no point during the first five rounds did I feel like I was picking at a point where there was a drop-off in talent from the picks immediately before mine. I absolutely hate having to draft from high in a new tier and that wasn’t a problem I felt I had to deal with in the fifth spot. The worst part was that Kinsler went right before me in the second round and Cliff Lee went right before me in the third round. Both are guys I love this year and were at the top of my rankings for each of those picks.
|1.01||Miguel Cabrera||DET||1B *|
|2.04||Hanley Ramirez||MIA||SS *|
* Speculative 3B eligibility
After the Kershaw selection, a comment was made to the effect of, if you’re going to take a pitcher this early, you might as well take the best one. On whether or not he was disappointed with his selection of Kershaw in Round 1, and having ‘Ace’ starters make it to the following turn…
daullaz: A little, but hindsight is 20/20. I really hadn’t planned on going SP in the first, but I wasn’t really in love with my options. If we did the mock over today and the first 11 picks fell the same way, I may go 2B and SS with my first two picks. I could consider OF/OF. However, having the No. 1 SP is a great advantage during the draft as you never feel like you have to reach for pitching. If Morse and A-Rod perform up to my expectations, the hitting would take care of itself.
After Cabrera and Pujols are off the table, the third pick is somewhat ‘dreaded’ by some this year, but not all…
Grounded Polo: The best part about picking third was the ease of formulating a draft strategy. It looks like Cabrera and Pujols are the consensus 1-2; all I need to do is decide between Kemp, Bautista, or Tulowitzki. Picking later in the draft would require making more adjustments because the back half of the draft won’t be clear.
It was in this round (the fourth), that the player with the lowest ADP among the 60 draftees was selected. Mike Morse (ADP: 77) was taken 37th overall. When asked if he felt he had reached, and why he had so much confidence in Morse…
daullaz: Why wouldn’t I have confidence in him? He performed just as well as Paul Konerko last year, but he has age on his side. That’s on top of a great second half in 2010. As a 1B/OF eligible player, I have the ability to shift him around depending on value later in the draft (I’m looking at you, Ryan Howard). His MDP may have been low, but I didn’t see him as staying on the board through the end of the fifth, and like I said before, you need to take guys regardless of ADP and MDP if you want them and you feel that way.
When asked about having any worry regarding Jay Bruce’s .241, 11-HR, 40-RBI, 32-R, two-SB second half from a season ago, and leaving the “safer” Hunter Pence on the board…
chris8: Bruce had a relatively disappointing second half, compared to his first half, although he still had a nice seven-HR month in August. The problem, of course, was his average, which, as someone who is still only 24, he has plenty of time to rectify, and I already have guys like Reyes who can compensate in that department. Pence may get 25 HRs or so with a decent average; Bruce should be in excess of 30 HRs, so I will take the risk of a low average in return for the excess power every time. So no, je ne regrette rien!
When asked about his comfort level with Jered Weaver being his “Ace”…
TheRock: Weaver gets no respect. I drafted in him every league last year because he was so cheap with all the experts saying he would regress. I’ll probably do the same this year.
I happen to be exceedingly concerned about Chase Utley this season, so I asked Chris about selecting him 56th overall…
chris8: Put it this way, I’m not expecting a repeat of the 31-110-23 season of 2009! He had a tough year last year, no doubt, and the key question is whether or not he can stay healthy. If he can, a 20-20 season is perfectly possible (or at least 20-15), which is very valuable at 2B. Yes, he’s a risk, but you don’t win fantasy baseball leagues by playing it safe!
When asked about his preference of Starlin Castro to Elvis Andrus at SS…
Grounded Polo: The main difference between them is Castro’s value isn’t so heavily dependent upon steals. Castro will likely hit around 12 home runs this year but Andrus only managed three home runs until September, a completely no show in one category. An ISO below .100 just won’t get it done as a fifth round pick, even if he primarily there for speed. Castro is also a .300-plus hitter and can keep it up because he racked up 45 extra base hits last year compared to just 30 for Andrus. Scoring 96 runs is impressive but when you only hit .279, it says that any kind of leg injury will crush his value because he primarily hit singles and then uses his speed to produce fantasy value, not his bat like Castro did. At this point, I don’t see Andrus getting much better while Castro has the upside with his bat to take a step forward in 2012.
When asked about any concerns on the injury-front after drafting teammates Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz…
j24jags: With Kinsler I think the worst case scenario is a 20/20 second baseman. He can put up 20/20 in a little over 100 games. If he can stay healthy all year (or at least for 140-plus games) then you’re looking at a realistic shot at 30/30 from a second baseman. He was plagued by an extremely unlucky BABIP last season so I would expect him to hit closer to his career average of .275; I’m not expecting him to be a liability in that department. When I grabbed Cruz in Round 5 I felt he was the best player on the board. I almost went with Napoli there, but Cruz has Round 1 upside if he can somehow stay healthy all season. You can’t win a fantasy league without taking some chances and given the talent on the board, I felt these risks were well worth it.
One draft member selected approximately 850 SB with their first five picks, but neglected to select a pitcher. When asked about those two things…
ayebatter: I was looking to end the 5th round with 2,700 at bats, 120 HRs, 450 runs, 450 RBIs, 120 SBs and a .280 average. Having just done the first Cafe Mock, where I went in thinking 3B was thin, I had decided there to load up on 3B eligible players early to see how everyone would react. In hindsight I found third not as thin as I thought, and I put myself in a position to take too many middle infield chances. So this time I avoided third basemen in the first five rounds, instead taking Hanley/Uggla in the middle. Mark Reynolds would have been my pick in the sixth, and I know he would have been there (everyone hates a low BA this early).
(As for the pitching) I don’t feel as if I’m at such a disadvantage, I’m fairly sure that five of my 25 would be available in rounds 7 thru 11. Guys I like going around there would be C.J. Wilson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Shaun Marcum, Chris Sale, Tommy Hanson, Neftali Feliz, Daniel Bard, Doug Fister and Ricky Romero. I’d probably wait for two or three low level closers more towards Rounds 14 through 17.
Conversely, two different players ended up with two starting pitchers in their first five picks…
Pogotheostrich: I feel like I got a good balance, but with 2 SPs I probably need some more offense. My teams usually end up HR- and RBI-heavy while being light on SBs and BA. So, the next couple rounds would be HR-first hitters, unless someone dropped in my lap.
Urban Cohorts: My hitters covered positions that I thought were tougher to fill (1B, 2B, 3B). Having very good players at these positions allows me to focus on OF later on. I also drafted three hitters who can all hit over .300, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that category, meaning I can draft power hitters like Carlos Pena and low-average, high-SB outfielders. And since I drafted Greinke and Gallardo to anchor my staff (who I think could both finish as top 10 SPs), I can afford to hold off on SP for a while and go for later, high upside guys.
So there you have it. A small glimpse into the minds of twelve of the best the Cafe has to offer. The first five rounds are more than just sexy names and busts waiting to happen. There will always be somebody telling you that you could get this or that value X rounds later, but there’s a reason these guys go first.
Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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