March 30, 2009

With millions of fantasy baseball owners set to draft in the next two weeks, I thought it would be fun this week to provide sample results from the tests we conducted last week in four different cities. Our sixth annual National Fantasy Baseball Championship held live drafts on March 21 in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and Orlando, with 390 teams taking part in 15-team, 30-round drafts. The cumulative results should be a big help to each of you as you enter the draft room over the next two weeks.

Let's get right to the details and analyze the results:

Who goes No. 1?: We conducted 30 live drafts in which owners paid anywhere from $1,300 to $5,000 for a team and Hanley Ramirez went first 20 times. One day before Draft Day, reports about Hanley's sore shoulder surfaced and it definitely scared a few folks off -- he even dropped as low as fourth in one league. But he was drafted second seven times and third twice.

What did the first round look like?:Jose Reyes went first in six of the 30 drafts and he was the consensus No. 2 overall pick. Albert Pujols went first three times and David Wright went first once. Here's a look at the Top 15 from our ADP:

1. Hanley Ramirez2. Jose Reyes3. Albert Pujols4. David Wright5. Grady Sizemore6. Miguel Cabrera7. Jimmy Rollins8. Ryan Braun9. Ryan Howard10. Ian Kinsler11. Chase Utley12. Mark Teixeira13. Josh Hamilton14. Carlos Beltran15. B.J. Upton

Who's rising lately?: With Chase Utley hitting home runs this spring and apparently healthy enough to start on Opening Day, he's been a fast riser lately. He went in the first round in 29 of 30 leagues and went as high as eighth and no lower than 21st overall. He's getting a lot of love in the top 10 this week in our NFBC Online Championship leagues.

The top four are a lock there, even if the order is switched at times. With RyanHoward mashing the ball again this spring, he's jumped ahead of Mark Teixeira in some circles, but both are going in the first round. Jimmy Rollins has jumped into the top seven as the rib injury to Ryan Braun has seen him slide recently. B.J. Upton may miss the start of the season as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery, but even that hasn't scared folks away from him.

Who's falling in drafts?:Matt Holliday's ADP was 16 in our live drafts, but he did fall as low as 34th in some leagues and I've seen him fall to the third round in a few of our online drafts this week. He could be one of the most interesting picks this year as he moves from comfy Coors Field to cavernous McAfee Coliseum.

But nobody fell more last week than Minnesota's Joe Mauer, who was a consensus top-55 pick before word that his back injury could be career-threatening surfaced. I bought him for $21 in LABR's AL-only auction back in early March, but he went for $15-$16 two weeks later in our NFBC auctions and he dropped more than 100 spots in our NFBC drafts. Mauer went as high as the fifth round and as low as the 13th round, barely staying in the Top 200. The reports are better about his back now, but the risk there is just too great for most of our owners and I don't blame them.

Reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee is getting hammered this spring and his ADP has dropped to 116. It may fall even further in this week's online drafts as he was roughed up again over the weekend.

Where did Alex Rodriguez go?: The biggest wild card of 2009's drafts is the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who continues to rehab from his elbow surgery. A-Rod is on pace to return by May 15, but that's still six weeks of the season he will miss. He was once projected as the second pick behind Ramirez, but his ADP in the NFBC live drafts was 22 and he went as low as 38th overall in three separate drafts. He went as high as 15th overall, but right now it's a rare case if you find A-Rod going in the first round. In the AL Auction leagues, he went for $23-$25 and he didn't go any higher than $27 in our NFBC Mixed Auction Leagues (15 teams).

Where did starting pitchers go?: Johan Santana was first out of the gate in the NFBC with an ADP of 24. He went as high as 14th twice and no lower than 39th. Tim Lincecum followed with an ADP of 27, but he went as high as 11th overall and no lower than 33rd. After those two, CC Sabathia followed at 38th, Roy Halladay at 50th, Brandon Webb 51st, Jake Peavy 52nd, Dan Haren 55th, Cole Hamels 62nd, Francisco Liriano 63rd, Chad Billingsley 64th and Josh Beckett 67th.

What was the temperature for relievers?: Cool, at best. Jonathan Papelbon was first off the board most of the time, with an ADP of 61. Joe Nathan followed at 68, Francisco Rodriguez at 70, Mariano Rivera at 71, Brad Lidge at 76 and Joakim Soria at 80. There were so many uncertain closer situations on Draft Day that many owners stayed away from a second closer for a long time and took gambles on Kevin Gregg, Huston Street, Jason Motte, Chris Ray and Grant Balfour later on.

Motte was getting a lot of love from NFBC owners as he looks like the best option to close in St. Louis. He was going in the 17th round (top 250) in many drafts and could go even higher if he wins this job outright. Chris Ray was also emerging as the closer in Baltimore and was going a round or two before Motte.

Players to watch: One of the most interesting rookies to watch this year is Texas SS Elvis Andrus, who appears to have won the job for the Rangers. He has speed to burn, but there is a concern that he will struggle to hit .240 in the majors. NFBC owners were willing to take the bad with the good as he was going mainly between the 14th round (200-215) and the 18th round (top 270) last weekend. He stole 54 bases last year in the minors and that's what owners are looking for in the later rounds.

Texas OF Nelson Cruz has also been a fast riser this off-season, finishing with an ADP of 106 in the NFBC live drafts. Cruz hit 37 homers with 99 RBIs in 103 games at Triple-A last year before hitting .330-7-26 in 31 games with Texas last year and now he's all the rage on Draft Day. We'll see if he can produce like that again in 2009.

That's a quick look at Draft Day 2009. Good luck everyone and bring home a winner when all is said and done.

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