Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Draft Night Revelations
Hanley Ramirez: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

If prize fighters can "over-train" for an individual boxing match, then it's certainly possible for fantasy doofs, like myself, to over-prepare for a garden-variety mixed league draft. Sadly, that may have been the case after Sunday's 12-team draft amongst friends (or at least, friend-of-a-friend's friends). After partaking in 40-plus mock drafts throughout March and possessing the No. 1 overall pick in this head-to-head, weekly league, my cocksure goal was to build the greatest offensive machine in fantasyland history -- without the benefit of cheat sheets. Here's how I fared:

Round 1 (No. 1): SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
Round 2 (No. 24 overall): OF Matt Holliday, Athletics
Round 3 (No. 25 overall): OF Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
Round 4: OF Carl Crawford, Rays
Round 5: OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Round 6: OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Round 7: 3B/1B Chris Davis, Rangers
Round 8: 1B Joey Votto, Reds
Round 9: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
Round 10: 1B Carlos Pena, Rays
Round 11: RP Joakim Soria, Royals
Round 12: RP Matt Capps, Pirates
Round 13: RP Francisco Cordero, Reds
Round 14: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins
Round 15: SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Round 16: 3B Alex Gordon, Royals
Round 17: 2B Howie Kendrick, Angels
Round 18: RP Heath Bell, Padres
Round 19: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers
Round 20: 3B/1B/OF Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Round 21: RP Jason Motte, Cardinals
Round 22: RP Joel Hanrahan, Nationals
Round 23: OF Elijah Dukes, Nationals
Round 24: C/1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rangers
Round 25: RP Matt Lindstrom, Marlins (A required "DL" pick -- he's certainly expendable)

What I Liked: I certainly didn't plan on taking five outfielders in the first six picks, but the inherent value of each budding star was simply too great to pass up. For example, what respectable fantasy league lets Jacoby Ellsbury slip to the 72nd slot? I could understand that rationale in April 2008 -- when Ellsbury was jockeying for regular starts with Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew. But with Manny and Crisp out of the picture, Ellsbury is a lead-pipe cinch for 50 steals, 110 runs and a .296 batting average. The same goes for Matt Kemp, my No. 4-ranked outfielder in all of baseball, but someone who would've tumbled out of the Top 50 ... had I not rescued him in Round 5.

What I Loved: In head-to-head leagues, I want the security of winning ERA, WHIP and saves by a large margin, every single week. That explains the mid-draft assault on top-end but reasonably priced closers in Joakim Soria (No. 6 ranking), Matt Capps (No. 8), Francisco Cordero (No. 13), Heath Bell (No. 16), Frank Francisco (No. 23), Jason Motte (No. 21) and Joel Hanrahan (No. 31), who might have top-10 closer potential if he played on a better team.

What Makes Me Nervous: I grabbed my seventh-ranked starting pitcher (Kevin Slowey) in Round 14 and 16th-rated starter (Yovani Gallardo) in Round 9. The problem is ... they're my only two starters, which means I'll likely be conceding wins and strikeouts on a weekly basis. Yikes!

Why I Only Have Two Pitchers: As God as my witness, I had every intention of drafting Zack Greinke, Paul Maholm and Braves standouts Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson (perhaps the most dynamic rookie of '09). But I could never shake the thrill of getting (read: stealing) Troy Tulowitzki in Round 15 (150th overall -- strange but true), Howie Kendrick in Round 16, Carlos Guillen (he'll be 3B-1B-OF eligible in mid-April) in Round 20 and Elijah Dukes in Round 23 -- the only guy this late in the draft with certifiable 25-25 potential. (Too bad he's actually, um, certifiable.)

My Proudest Value Pick Come September Will Be ... Rangers slugger Chris Davis, who could lead Texas in home runs this season, while giving Josh Hamilton a viable run for the team's RBI crown.

In Case You're Wondering ...

Here are the first two rounds (24 picks) of Sunday's mixed-league, head-to-head draft:

1. SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
2. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
3. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals
4. 3B David Wright, Mets
5. SS Jose Reyes, Mets
6. SP CC Sabathia, Yankees
7. OF Grady Sizemore, Indians
8. SP Johan Santana, Mets
9. OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers
10. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies
11. SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
12. 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees
13. 1B Justin Morneau, Twins
14. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
15. SS Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks (more on him in a bit)
16. OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
17. OF Carlos Quentin, White Sox
18. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies
19. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants
20. 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers
21. SP Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
22. 2B Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
23. OF Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
24. OF Matt Holliday, Athletics

Lethal Leap Of Faith

Citing the above draft, here's a message for novice drafters everywhere: If you're going to R-E-A-C-H for a player in the first two rounds, for the love of Peter, Paul and Mary, make sure it's for a power-hitting outfielder or lights-out pitcher with amazing strikeout/WHIP potential ... and not the solid, but unspectacular shortstop for the Diamondbacks, aka Stephen Drew. In the last three seasons, Drew has totaled 38 HRs and 14 steals (yawn); and while his progression curve remains on the upward swing, he should never, ever be taken 15th in a mixed-league or NL-only draft. D'oh!

It's What To Look For

Are you having trouble making sense of the 839 publications -- give or take a few -- devoted to fantasy baseball this spring (print and online)? More specifically, can you tell the difference between a draftable and non-draftable starting pitcher? Well, here are my across-the-board, minimum requirements for selecting pitchers in terms of their '09 projections:

Mixed Leagues
WHIP: 1.29 (those 1.40-plus guys will absolutely kill you)
Strikeouts: A 2.5-to-1 K/BB ratio (sorry, Jamie Moyer)
ERA: 4.03 (don't let any 4.10-plus pitcher off the hook in mixes)
Wins: 14 (I'm the least militant about this one -- since pitchers have little control over wins)

AL- or NL-Only Leagues
WHIP: 1.34
Strikeouts: A 2.25-to-1 K/BB ratio
ERA: 4.16
Wins: 12

Rank & File

Here's a revised list of the top 20 relief pitchers in 5x5 American League-only drafts (ERA, WHIP, Ks, Wins and Saves):

1. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
2. Joe Nathan, Twins
3. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
4. Joakim Soria, Royals
5. Brian Fuentes, Angels
6. Kerry Wood, Indians
7. Bobby Jenks, White Sox
8. B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays
9. Joey Devine, Athletics
10. Frank Francisco, Rangers
11. Troy Percival/Dan Wheeler, Rays
12. Brandon Morrow, Mariners
13. Jose Arredondo/Scot Shields, Angels
14. Brad Ziegler, Athletics
15. George Sherrill, Orioles
16. Grant Balfour, Rays
17. Octavio Dotel, White Sox
18. Juan Cruz, Royals
19. J.P. Howell, Rays
20. Scott Downs, Blue Jays

Rank & File, Part II

... And here are the top 20 relievers in 5x5 National League-only drafts (ERA, WHIP, Ks, Wins, Saves). As you can see, some teams have shaky bullpen situations, featuring interchangeable parts:

1. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
2. Brad Lidge, Phillies
3. Jose Valverde, Astros
4. Matt Capps, Pirates
5. Francisco Cordero, Reds
6. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
7. Heath Bell, Padres
8. Mike Gonzalez, Braves
9. Joel Hanrahan, Nationals
10. Kevin Gregg/Carlos Marmol, Cubs
11. Jason Motte/Chris Perez, Cardinals
12. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks
13. Brian Wilson/Sergio Romo, Giants
14. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
15. Manny Corpas/Huston Street, Rockies
16. Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers
17. Jon Rauch/Tony Pena, Diamondbacks
18. Rafael Soriano, Braves
19. Taylor Buchholz, Rockies
20. Jeff Samardzija, Cubs

Tiers Of A Clown

In auction drafts, fantasy owners seldom haggle over a buck or two when plotting their pre-draft strategies. Instead, they rely heavily on the tier system to get through the exhaustive process of bidding for talent. So, in deference to these way-too-patient experts, here are the five classifications of relief pitchers in mixed leagues:

Tier I
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
Joe Nathan, Twins
Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
Brad Lidge, Phillies
Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Joakim Soria, Royals

Tier II
Kerry Wood, Indians
Brian Fuentes, Angels
Francisco Cordero, Reds
Jose Valverde, Astros
Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
Troy Percival, Rays
Bobby Jenks, White Sox
B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays
Kevin Gregg, Cubs

Tier III
Matt Capps, Pirates
Carlos Marmol, Cubs
Heath Bell, Padres
Joey Devine, Athletics
Brian Wilson, Giants
Brandon Lyon, Tigers
Manny Corpas, Rockies
Huston Street, Rockies
J.J. Putz, Mets
Dan Wheeler, Rays
Grant Balfour, Rays

Tier IV
Mike Gonzalez, Braves
Brandon Morrow, Mariners
Frank Francisco, Rangers
Jason Motte, Cardinals
Chris Perez, Cardinals
George Sherrill, Orioles
Joel Hanrahan, Nationals
Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks
Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
Joel Zumaya, Tigers
Octavio Dotel, White Sox

Tier V
Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers
Jon Rauch, Diamondbacks
Damaso Marte, Yankees
Scott Downs, Blue Jays
Sergio Romo, Giants
Jose Arredondo, Angels
Brad Ziegler, Atheltics
Tony Pena, Diamondbacks
J.P. Howell, Rays
Taylor Buchholz, Rockies
Ryan Perry, Tigers
Juan Cruz, Royals

Going Batty
Ian Kinsler: Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI

The No. 7 pick in American League-only drafts has the initial appearance of No Man's Land, since it's too late to get Grady, Miggy, Hamilton or Mark Teixeira and too early to select a stud pitcher like CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, James Shields and -- I'm not kidding here -- Minnesota's Kevin Slowey. But hath no fear or ambivalence ... because here's a time-tested, mock-approved look at your options from the seventh slot (and beyond) in 10-team leagues:

Round 1, Pick 7: Motive -- Best overall player at scarce position or best outfielder
1st option: 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers ... 2nd option: OF B.J. Upton, Rays

Round 2, Pick 14 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or No. 1-ranked starting pitcher
1st option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles ... 2nd option: SP CC Sabathia, Yankees

Round 3, Pick 27 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or best available hitter
1st option: OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox ... 2nd option: 3B/1B Chris Davis, Rangers

Round 4, Pick 34 overall: Motive -- No. 2-ranked closer or top-end starting pitcher
1st option: OF Joe Nathan, Twins ... 2nd option: SP James Shields, Rays

Round 5, Pick 47 overall: Motive -- Best power-hitting infielder or best available pitcher
1st option: 1B Carlos Pena, Rays ... 2nd option: SP Scott Kazmir, Rays

Round 6, Pick 54 overall: Motive -- Best pitcher or top-end catcher
1st option: SP Jon Lester, Red Sox ... 2nd option: C Victor Martinez, Indians

Round 7, Pick 67 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or best infielder
1st option: SP Zack Greinke, Royals ... 2nd option: 3B Alex Gordon, Royals

Round 8, Pick 74 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or best middle infielder
1st option: OF Coco Crisp, Royals ... 2nd option: 2B/SS Mike Aviles, Royals

Round 9, Pick 87 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher
1st option: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins ... 2nd option: SP John Danks, White Sox

Round 10, Pick 94 overall: Motive -- Top-end closer or best outfielder
1st option: RP Joey Devine, A's ... 2nd option: OF Delmon Young, Twins

Round 11, Pick 107: Motive -- Best outfielder or best available closer
1st option: OF Shin-Soo Choo, Indians ... 2nd option: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers

Round 12, Pick 114: Motive -- Best outfielder
1st option: OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers ... 2nd option: OF Adam Jones, Orioles

Round 13, Pick 127: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or best available catcher
1st option: SP Clay Buchholz, Red Sox ... 2nd option: C Matt Wieters, Orioles

Round 14, Pick 134: Motive -- Best closer
1st option: RP Brandon Morrow, Mariners ... 2nd option: RP Brad Ziegler, A's

Round 15, Pick 147: Motive -- Best available hitter
1st option: OF Jason Kubel, Twins ... 2nd option: OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays

Round 16, Pick 154: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or best reliever
1st option: SP Fausto Carmona, Indians ... 2nd option: RP Scot Shields, Angels

Round 17, Pick 167: Motive -- Best catcher
Only option: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rangers

Round 18, Pick 174: Motive -- Best middle infielder
Only option: SS Erick Aybar, Angels

Round 19, Pick 187: Motive -- Best pitcher or best third baseman
1st option: SP Kyle Davies, Royals ... 2nd option: 3B Josh Fields, White Sox

Round 20, Pick 194: Motive -- Best third baseman or outfielder
1st option: 3B Josh Fields, White Sox ... 2nd option: OF Brett Gardner, Yankees

When In Doubt ...

If you're ever in a pinch during an AL-only draft and it feels like the talent pool has been exhausted of all fantasy goodness, simply (read: blindly) load up on hitters from the 1) Rangers, 2) Red Sox, 3) Yankees, 4) Angels and 5) Tigers. On the flip side, just keep plucking pitchers from the 1) Twins, 2) Rays, 3) A's, 4) Red Sox and 5) Royals. At first blush, this strategy reeks of oversimplification; but recent history tells us all Texas Rangers hitters -- even the anonymous ones -- have solid value. Case in point, no one knew of Nelson Cruz (37 HRs, 100 RBIs, 94 runs, .341 average in the minors in 2008) this time last year ... and now, I'm thinking of moving heaven and earth to grab him in Round 11. Conversely, very few people are aware of Oakland phenoms Trevor Cahill (11 wins, 2.61 ERA, 136 Ks in only 124 minor-league innings last year) and Brett Anderson (slightly taller version of Cahill) at this point ... but they are the "chosen" thoroughbreds within the Athletics' deep, deep stable of future pitching stars. In other words, get 'em while the getting's good!

Homer Odysseys

Turning the discussion back to Kinsler & Co. ... here are CBS Sports's top 20 HR projections amongst second basemen:

1. Chase Utley, Phillies -- 30 HRs
2. Dan Uggla, Marlins -- 30
3. Brandon Phillips, Reds -- 23
4. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox -- 23
5. Ian Kinsler, Rangers -- 22
6. Mark DeRosa, Indians -- 18
7. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox -- 17
8. Jose Lopez, Mariners -- 17
9. Robinson Cano, Yankees -- 16
10. Kelly Johnson, Braves -- 15
11. Rickie Weeks, Brewers -- 15
12. Jeff Baker, Rockies -- 14
13. Mark Ellis, Athletics -- 13
14. Freddy Sanchez, Pirates -- 12
15. Mike Fontenot, Cubs -- 12
16. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays -- 11
17. Clint Barmes, Rockies -- 11
18. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers -- 10
19. Brian Roberts, Orioles -- 9
20. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians -- 8

Average Intelligence

... And here are CBS Sports's top 20 batting average projections amongst second basemen:

1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox -- .313
2. Howie Kendrick, Angels -- .306
3. Placido Polanco, Tigers -- .300
4. Freddy Sanchez, Pirates -- .300
5. Chase Utley, Phillies -- .299
6. Joe Inglett, Blue Jays -- .291
7. Ian Kinsler, Rangers -- .290
8. Robinson Cano, Yankees -- .290
9. Mark Grudzielanek, Free Agent -- .289
10. Mike Fontenot, Cubs -- .288
11. Aaron Miles, Cubs -- .288
12. Brian Roberts, Orioles -- .285
13. Mark Loretta, Dodgers -- .285
14. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays -- .284
15. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox -- .284
16. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers -- .281
17. Akinori Iwamura, Rays-- .279
18. Mark DeRosa, Indians -- .279
19. Chris Getz, White Sox -- .276
20. Jose Lopez, Mariners -- .274

Mi Casa, Su Casa; Su Dinero, Mi Dinero

If you're looking to win an easy fantasy public league on ESPN, CBSSports, Sporting News, etc., without really trying, simply join the one where its commissioner advertises something in the vain of "Reds Fans Only," or "Die-Hard Astros Honks Only" or "You Must Know that Keith Hernandez won the MVP in '79 with ST. LOUIS to play here." Think about it: These commissioners aren't trying to entice the savviest fantasy owners from all parts of the world -- or at least the nation. No, these chuckleheads are looking for someone to vent with in the chat rooms, IF Wandy Rodriguez ever realizes his "ace" potential or WHEN Reds outfielder Jay Bruce goes into a mid-June swoon (rhyme intended). In other words, they're looking for a friend, a faceless companion to lean on during, uh, those lean times of a season (pun intended). But really, that's the best kind of league to join -- you get inside the heads of apologists and myopians, who will undoubtedly reach for their preferred players, while killing them slowly over a loooooong season with sound, rational decisions about players -- who may or may not be wearing your favorite team's jersey (winning intended).

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