April 02, 2010
Fantasy Clicks
Reality Bites? Maybe Not
Zack Greinke: Paul Jasienski/Getty Images

If I knew all the right answers, I would have put 'em down instead of the wrong ones.

This wannabe Yogi Berra-ism was the automatic response given to my parents (Larry/Judi) during childhood, whenever they would inquire about a significant quiz or major exam in school. It was basically my snarky way of saying, I had no idea what the he(ck) I was doing, but I probably did OK. Well, I had the same confounding feeling of cocksure uncertainty on Wednesday, upon completing the super-sized SI.com & Friends league draft, comprising 15 teams and 25 rounds. For starters, I came into the event even more prepared than my Perioidic Table Of The Elements test for 8th grade science (I aced that one), and also reaped excellent value in the mid-to-late rounds (like Jorge de la Rosa/Russell Martin/Travis Snider). Throw in five automatic studs at the top (A-Rod, Greinke, Werth, Josh Johnson, Adam Jones) ... and the entire roster looks like a top-3 contender, preceding trades, of course.

But ay the rub. If I had a crystal ball to tell me the undrafted free agent who'll end up a top-20 pick in next year's draft, I would have grabbed him in this one; and if the same crystal ball could tell me that James Shields will experience a Scott Kazmir-like fantasy demise in 2010 -- setting the stage for a trade away from Tampa Bay -- perhaps I wouldn't have considered him in Round 8. But since I don't have access to the future and what it holds, I'm resigned to feeling sporadically confident about my club:

15-Team Mixed-League Draft (Wednesday, March 31)
Round 1 (No. 2 overall): OF Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Round 2 (No. 29): SP Zack Greinke, Royals
Round 3 (No. 32): OF Jayson Werth, Phillies
Round 4: SP Josh Johnson, Marlins
Round 5: OF Adam Jones, Orioles
Round 6: 1B Derrek Lee, Cubs
Round 7: OF Hunter Pence, Astros
Round 8: SP James Shields, Rays
Round 9: RP Matt Garza, Rays
Round 10: RP Rafael Soriano, Rays
Round 11: SP Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies
Round 12: C Russell Martin, Dodgers
Round 13: RP Frank Francisco, Rangers
Round 14: 1B Paul Konerko, White Sox
Round 15: OF Corey Hart, Brewers
Round 16: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers
Round 17: OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
Round 18: OF Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
Round 19: SS Cliff Pennington, Athletics
Round 20: 2B/SS Luis Valbuena, Indians
Round 21: 1B/3B Garrett Atkins, Orioles
Round 22: SP Colby Lewis, Rangers
Round 23: SP Justin Masterson, Indians
Round 24: RP Sergio Romo, Giants
Round 25: 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

In Case You're Wondering ...

... Here are the first 25 picks from Wednesday's draft (5x5 rules):
1. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2. 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
3. SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
4. OF Ryan Braun, Brewers (the first of 75 starting outfielders in our league -- wow!)
5. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies
6. OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers
7. 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
8. OF Carl Crawford, Rays
9. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers)
10. 3B Evan Longoria, Rays
11. 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees
12. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies
13. 3B David Wright, Mets
14. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (eliciting a 'woo-hoo' from Scott Wraight)
15. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies
16. C Joe Mauer, Twins
17. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (the highest I've seen him taken in any real/mock draft)
18. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
19. OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals
20. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants
21. SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
22. SS Derek Jeter, Yankees
23. SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
24. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
25. 1B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox

Mistakes, I've Made A Few

Don't misinterpret my blind enthusiasm for the SI.com & Friends draft; I still had regrets in certain spots:

**It's not that I regret taking 1B Derrek Lee at No. 89 overall (6th round) ... but I certainly could've gotten him three picks later at 92 (opting for Hunter Pence), while grabbing catcher Matt Wieters at 89. On the other hand, it's never wise to build one's team around first- and second-year players -- even limitless fantasy gods like Wieters.

**At No. 119, I fully intended to grab Alexei Ramirez to fill the shortstop slot, and then take either James Shields or Matt Garza three picks later. But somehow, some way, I cannoodled around too long on my "queue list" and hastily selected Shields once my ESPN.com time clock had gone under 5 seconds (that beeping sound rattles the nerves like no other). I was ticked for a second but figured Ramirez would still be available at 122. I was wrong ... and ended up taking two pitchers three picks apart -- contradicting my original plan of beefing up the middle infield.

**Speaking of middle infielders, I grossly underestimated Ian Stewart's value in a 15-team league. The obnoxious, experienced mock-drafter in me was convinced Stewie would be available at 149; unfortunately, he went four picks prior to that. (In summary: Lost out on Ramirez and Stewart ... damn!)

**For the 149th pick, I grabbed Rafael Soriano as my No. 1 closer, which seemed like a great plan ... until realizing that Jason Heyward -- the consensus favorite for NL Rookie of the Year AND the most-hyped prospect since Albert Pujols in 2001 -- was still on the board. This is why it's sometimes fatal to automatically denigrate rookies on draft boards. Heyward (who went at 151, one pick before my 11th-rounder) would've been a great value at this spot.

**It's always smart to wait on saves in sizable mixed-leagues; but there's a downside to that theory: At pick 182 and feeling the pressure to corral another top-end closer (Frank Francisco), I ended up screwing the pooch on Kevin Slowey -- my 21st-ranked pitcher in all of fantasyland. Ugh!

Depth Of Knowledge

For AL- and NL-only leagues, there is no greater draft-day resource than the official (and up-to-date) depth charts for each MLB club. In no particular order ...

National League
Marlins | Braves | Mets | Phillies | Nationals

Reds | Pirates | Cubs | Brewers | Cardinals | Astros

Dodgers | Diamondbacks | Padres | Rockies | Giants

American League
Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Yankees | Blue Jays

White Sox | Tigers | Indians | Royals | Twins

Rangers | Angels | Athletics | Mariners

Seven Springtime Trade Rules To Live By

1. Never approve a same-position deal (3B-for-3B), unless it's a blowout in your favor
Rationale: Unless two stars of comparable value bring completely different things to the table, there's no reason to jump the gun on an April trade. If you crave positional versatility and steals, perhaps it's worth owning Chone Figgins instead of Aramis Ramirez; but when considering similar players with similar skill sets, it's simply too early to shake things up.

2. Never accept an unsolicited offer for a Round 1 pick from an unfamiliar owner
Rationale: If you're reticent about dealing a top-5 stud (Pujols, A-Rod, Han-Ram, Braun, Utley) to a virtual stranger, make damn sure you're getting a top-5 pitcher (Lincecum, Greinke, Sabathia, Felix, Verlander) in return, as part of a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 megadeal. The rule of thumb: Using A-Rod as an example, you should get one of the aforementioned pitchers AND no lower than Owner B's Round 3 selection (think Ryan Zimmerman. It's likely a win-win for both parties.

3. Never surrender your advantage with star infielders
Rationale: Simply put, NEVER trade a talented player with positional versatility (Figgins, Gordon Beckham, Garrett Jones, Michael Cuddyer, etc.) as part of a 1-for-1 trade.

4. Admirable bench depth can always be compromised in April
Rationale: This one's rather self-explanatory, but always be willing to throw in a few established non-starters in fantasyland Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Rafael Furcal, Vernon Wells, Jhonny Peralta, etc.) to push a 3-for-1 or 4-for-2 blockbuster through. In fact, you'll be amazed at just how many undrafted free agents unexpectedly morphy into viable fantasy regulars by mid-May, and thus becoming sufficient contributors on your bench.

5. Give super-hyped rookies their fantasy due ... but not too much
Rationale: Chances are that Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Drew Storen, Austin Jackson, Desmond Jennings, Buster Posey) won't perform like Albert Pujols (circa 2001), Ryan Braun (2007) or Dwight Gooden (1984) this season, and yet, fantasy owners will disrupt their entire draft board to land these alleged once-in-a-generation prospects. Whenever possible, ALWAYS acquire an established player with upside in favor of Strasburg or Heyman (keeper leagues excluded).

6. Don't sweat trading a top-flight closer for a struggling 5-category stud
Rationale: On draft day, Jimmy Rollins should always get top billing over Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Broxton. But for whatever reason, the reverse is true once the season actually begins, when owners take negative stock of their clubs. Hence, it's the perfect time to strike -- grab Rollins, wait out his slump ... and enjoy the post-All-Star Break ride.

7. Don't be afraid to cut another owner out of the loop
Rationale: The rule for this one is quite simple: Upon receiving three lopsided offers from one owner in a relatively short period of time (none of which are in your favor), immediately bar him/her from all future deals. Being disrespected by another fantasy owner is the biggest no-no in our industry ... and it's always worthy of incommunicable banishment.

Understanding ADP: Third Basemen

The quiet geniuses at MockDraft Central have identified the round-by-round studs at the hotcorner:
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (3rd overall)
Evan Longoria, Rays (10th overall)
David Wright, Mets (14th overall)
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks (21st overall)
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (32nd overall)
Pablo Sandoval, Giants (38th overall)
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs (62nd overall)
Chone Figgins, Mariners (84th overall)
Gordon Beckham, White Sox (86th overall)
Michael Young, Rangers (91st overall)
Ian Stewart, Rockies (121st overall)
Chipper Jones, Braves (134th overall)
Adrian Beltre, Red Sox (177th overall)
Jhonny Peralta, Indians (199th overall)
Alex Gordon, Royals (217th overall)
Casey McGehee, Brewers (219th overall)
Mark DeRosa, Cardinals (250th overall)
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (261st overall)
Garrett Atkins, Orioles (268th overall)
Casey Blake, Dodgers (286th overall)
Mark Teahen, White Sox (317th overall)

Tiers Of A Clown: Starting Pitchers

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 toget through the often-exhaustive process of bidding for talent. Taking an auctioneer's cue, here are seven classifications of starting pitchers in mixedleagues:

Tier I
Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez

Tier II
Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo, Javier Vazquez, Chris Carpenter

Tier III
Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hanson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels

Tier IV
James Shields, Wandy Rodriguez, Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza, Jered Weaver, Chad Billingsley, John Lackey, Roy Oswalt, Brett Anderson, Scott Baker

Tier V
Brian Matusz, Jair Jurrjens, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jorge de la Rosa, Netfali Feliz, David Price, Rick Porcello, CarlosZambrano, Scott Kazmir, Stephen Strasburg

Tier VI
Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Derek Lowe, Zach Duke, Rich Harden, Trevor Cahill, Max Scherzer, Andy Pettitte, Bronson Arroyo, Wade Davis, Brandon Webb

Tier VII
Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Randy Wells, Jeff Niemann, Randy Wolf, Mat Latos, Kevin Correia, Huroki Kuroda, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Millwood, J.A.Happ, Joba Chamberlain, Ervin Santana, Jeff Francis, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, Ross Ohlendorf, Gavin Floyd, Jonathan Sanchez, Nick Blackburn, MadisonBumgarner

Green Light Goodness: Pitchers

In previous Clicks, we conjured up statistical red flags for hitters and pitchers. So now, it only makes sense to spin things the other way ... with sensory-pleasing trends from 2009 to build upon when evaluating veterans for this season. In lay terms, we're guaranteeing the following pitchers will equal or eclipse these thresholds:

Starting Pitchers
Roy Halladay: Expect ... 1.13 WHIP
Dan Haren: Expect ... 223 strikeouts and 3.14 ERA
Jon Lester: Expect ... 15 wins and 3.41 ERA
Zack Greinke: Expect ... 16 victories
Adam Wainwright: Expect ... 19 wins
Felix Hernandez: Expect ... 217 strikeouts and 1.14 WHIP
Josh Johnson: Expect ... 191 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw: Expect ... 185 strikeouts and 2.79 ERA
Johan Santana: Expect ... 13 victories
Tommy Hanson: Expect ... 11 victories and 1.18 WHIP
Yovani Gallardo: Expect ... 13 wins/204 strikeouts/3.73 ERA
Jered Weaver: Expect ... 16 victories and 3.75 ERA
Josh Beckett: Expect ... 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP
Matt Cain: Expect ... 14 victories and 1.18 WHIP
Matt Garza: Expect ... 189 strikeouts/3.95 ERA/1.26 WHIP
Carlos Zambrano: Expect ... 3.77 ERA
Chris Carpenter: Expect ... 17 victories and 2.24 ERA
Jake Peavy: Expect ... 3.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP
Wandy Rodriguez: Expect ... 14 wins/193 Ks/3.02 ERA/1.24 WHIP
Jorge de la Rosa: Expect ... 193 strikeouts
Mark Buehrle: Expect ... 13 wins and 3.84 ERA

Relief Pitchers
Jonathan Broxton: Expect ... 114 strikeouts/2.61 ERA/0.96 WHIP
Jonathan Papelbon: Expect ... 38 saves and 1.15 WHIP
Jose Valverde: Expect ... 25 saves
Joakim Soria: Expect ... 30 saves and 2.21 ERA
Trevor Hoffman: Expect ... 48 strikeouts and 1.83 ERA
Frank Francisco: Expect ... 57 strikeouts
Chad Qualls: Expect ... 3.63 ERA
Rafael Soriano: Expect ... 102 strikeouts and 2.97 ERA
Ryan Franklin: Expect ... 44 strikeouts and 1.20 WHIP
Leo Nunez: Expect ... 26 saves

Tiers Of A Clown: Relief Pitchers

Last but not least, here are the tier-system rankings for relief pitchers:

Tier I
Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera, Heath Bell

Tier II
Joakim Soria, Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Trevor Hoffman, Andrew Bailey, Frank Francisco

Tier III
Jose Valverde, Rafael Soriano, Francisco Cordero, Billy Wagner, Carlos Marmol, Ryan Franklin, Jon Rauch

Tier IV
David Aardsma, Mike Gonzalez, Chad Qualls, Huston Street, Brad Lidge, Netfali Feliz, Jason Frasor, Leo Nunez, Matt Lindstrom, Brian Wilson

Tier V
Bobby Jenks, Sergio Romo, Kerry Wood, Chris Perez, Brandon Lyon, Octavio Dotel, C.J. Wilson, Ryan Madson, Jason Motte, Luke Gregerson, Joba Chamberlain, Daniel Bard, Mike Adams, Manny Corpas

Tier VI
Matt Guerrier, Fernando Rodney, Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, Alfredo Aceves, Ryan Perry, Joel Zumaya, Juan Cruz, J.P. Howell, Dan Wheeler, Michael Wuertz, Jose Mijares, Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, Tony Sipp, Jim Johnson, Cla Meredith

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