Draft Review and Rankings 2011 (Part III)


Part III of this year’s Draft Review and Rankings is finally finished.

In total, this year’s DR&R covered 38 pages in Microsoft Word and took up more than 19,000 words. That’s an ass-ton of writing. I hope you’ve all enjoyed it.

Personally, I have appreciated all of the feedback and comments I’ve received thus far, it makes it feel like I’m not completely wasting my time on this thing.

Anyway, on with the festivities where I will now reiterate everything from the beginning of the first two posts, because I simply have no new introduction for this part.

This year, I’ve split the rankings into three parts to break it up a bit, as it will be a lot of reading.

Part I contains the teams I ranked 7th-14th and—if these rankings actually meant anything—will undoubtedly be missing the postseason as a result.

Part II contains the teams ranked 4th-6th that will be representing the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions in the playoffs.

Part III (ie: this post) contains the teams ranked 1st-3rd that will undoubtedly be atop the final rankings both in the divisions and in the postseason fray.

Now let me get on with my usual quasi-angry pre-post disclaimer:

I know it took—well—a long f’n time, but you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s a whole bunch of work and time that ends with a readership of just thirteen people, and that’s operating on the assumption that all y’all will even read this rambling tome.

It’s not exactly the most-rewarding writing because it’s based on picks that were all-too-often null and void within hours of the rosters going live (see: Aybar, Erick and/or Coghlan, Chris) and because, like I said, at the very most this little ditty snags me thirteen reads.

Anyway, let’s carry on…

If you’re looking to get the full draft results you can peep those by clicking here, this is just a review of the draft itself and a completely arbitrary ranking of each team based on whatever random statistical analysis and personal feelings I have regarding your squads.

I don’t believe I put focus on anything except for the players drafted. Any moves made since the draft should not have been included in this review, although it is possible I have included someone after taking a peek at your teams. I realize some of you may have already addressed weaknesses, if so…ignore what I’ve got to say. That’s your right either way.

Without any further ado…

03) money grubbers

Draft Pick #10

Keepers: Joey Votto (1B-CIN), Evan Longoria (3B-TB) & Yovani Gallardo (SP-MIL)

First Pick: Brian McCann (C-ATL) [Pick 10]
Last Pick: Michael Pineda (SP-SEA) [Pick 215]

Best Pick: Michael Pineda (SP-SEA) [Round 16 – Pick 215]

Pineda, 22, isn’t a household name—yet. There is a very good chance that since he cracked the Mariners’ opening day rotation he’ll not only be a household name, but an All-Star, Cy Young candidate and AL Rookie of the Year by this time next year. Despite being just 22, Pineda is already a seasoned minor league veteran after five seasons honing his craft in the Mariners’ farm system. All signs indicate that the flamethrower has ace potential as he entered the 2011 season as the number 16 prospect in all of baseball.

Pineda has a plus-plus fastball and couples that with two good, but not quite dominant pitches in his slider and change-up. His breaking ball has been inconsistent through much of his stint in the minor leagues, but if/when he gets it mastered, he might be damn near unhittable. He’s survived with top-notch results while only carrying one lights out pitch in the holster, this kid could be downright frightening when he’s got multiple weapons to draw upon on the hill.

Worst Pick: Clayton Richard (SP-SD) [Round 12 – Pick 159]

Richard, 27, didn’t land in this spot because I have questions about his abilities or skill-set. If I were basing the worst pick solely on that it’d be Edinson Volquez or Madison Bumgarner in the hot-seat. Instead, Richard is here for the same reason that Steven has been raked over the coals to no end about his ill-timed Tsuyoshi Nishioka pick in round six, it’s all about value.

Richard is a long-forgotten prospect from the White Sox system who was exiled to San Diego as the key cog in the Jake Peavy trade, essentially he was Dan Hudson before Dan Hudson. He had a breakout season a year ago—his first full-season in San Diego—and figures to continue building on that success as he enters his prime. He throws five pitches and of that assortment, his fastball, slider and cutter are all top-notch and that works to keep hitters off balance.

Richard likely would have gone in one of the last two rounds—to me, most likely, as I don’t know if he was on anyone else’s radar—if he were drafted at all, so Mike clearly reached and reached hard. Easily his worst pick—in terms of value.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Shaun Marcum (SP-MIL) [Round 5 – Pick 66]

Marcum, 29, has all of the potential in the world to be the best starter on a very good Milwaukee Brewers squad this season. That is largely because he has been battle-tested in the depths of the American League East and has come out better for it. The right-hander—who missed all of 2009 following Tommy John surgery—spent five seasons in Toronto compiling a 3.85 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, while averaging better than 7K/9 and keep his BB/9 under 3. That’s some serious front of the rotation stuff.

The move from the big bats and small ballparks of the AL East to the more pitcher-friendly parks and style of play offered in the National League figures to be a step in the right direction for Marcum. It’s not unfathomable to predict 175+ K to go with a sub 3.50 ERA and his usual sub 1.25 ERA with a move to the NL. This could be a monster year for not only the Brewers, but the least-hyped of their two off-season acquisitions.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Edinson Volquez (SP-CIN) [Round 8 – Pick 103]

I won’t even attempt to keep a professional pretense on this one, I don’t like Edinson Volquez. There, I said it. You can ask Steven—who enjoyed the one good half-season Volquez had in the big leagues—about my disdain for Volquez, as it knows no bounds. His cocky, me-first attitude hasn’t changed any either, despite surviving a suspension for violating MLB’s PED policy.

Volquez has had exactly one half of a good season in his entire career. From Opening Day 2008 until roughly the All-Star break he was the best pitcher in the National League. That’s it. His entire career is banked on a run of three months. He showed questionable control and was homer prone prior to Tommy John surgery and I can’t imagine it’ll magically bounce-back and/or prove to be better than it once was. His value is entirely tied up in his high strikeout potential, but the rest of his numbers don’t warrant taking the plunge just for strikeouts. If that’s the case, go pick up AJ Burnett or Bud Norris and take your luck there, same stats, different name on the jersey.

Strength(s):Power and Potential

Power: This club is loaded up and down with guys who can easily be counted on to pop 20 homers. Just looking at the roster, I’d say ever regular except for Gordon Beckham and Stephen Drew can probably be banked on for 20+, those two will likely have to settle for 15-20. Of those who can go over 20, at least half-a-dozen could go for 30 or more with ease. Tons of power to burn on this roster.

Potential: Mike, as he is wont to do, drafted young this season. The bulk of his roster is under 30 and has many-a-player on the verge of a potential breakout season. He has two of the best keepers on offense and both could be in for career years in 2011. Expect a lot of offensive fireworks.

Weakness(es):Speed and Bullpen

Speed: There isn’t a lot of speed to go around on this club. Alex Rios is the club’s stolen bases leader with 34 thefts. After that it’s Joey Votto (16), Evan Longoria (15) and Colby Rasmus (12) who are responsible for the speed on this club. I’d definitely expect a trade or free agent signing to infuse a little life into an otherwise sluggish roster. There is more than enough in-house power to swap for a quick pair of legs, but I’d suspect there’s at least one plenty one or two potential base-thieves lurking in free agency that will catch Mike’s eye before he hits the trading block.

Bullpen: I am not loving this bullpen. I’m a little wary about the backend of the rotation, but the bullpen worries me more. Jose Valverde is the type of closer that no one ever wants to draft. He consistently puts up good numbers, but everyone is always waiting for the wheels to come off. You could tell Mike felt the same way when he called out Valverde’s name in round ten. After that Mike is taking a gamble that Jake McGee will emerge from Tampa Bay’s closer-by-committee as the new stopper. If that doesn’t work out, Mike’s got himself a fireballing set-up man. Frank Francisco has been good and he’s been hurt. Right now he’s hurt. When he makes it back, he’ll serve as a solid value pick with the potential to knock down 30+ saves in Toronto. Kerry Wood is old-balls. Easily the oldest member of Mike’s roster and also the one who had the most surprising run late last season when he transitioned to a middle relief role. It’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain that level of success for a full season.

Storyline to Watch:Lack of Confidence

I know it sounds almost blasphemous to suggest that a Kunkel—let alone Mike Kunkel—might be suffering from a lack of confidence, but there was certainly less swagger from Mike at the conclusion of the 2011 draft. A year ago, he was roundly chosen as the GM who had the best draft. This year, very few seemed to peg Mike at the top of the heap and Mike’s own lack of the famed “Kunkel Swagger” is disturbing enough to warrant its inclusion as this year’s major storyline for the money grubbers.

Mike is a great manager in this league, but without his trademark self-assurance, he may react poorly to his annual onslaught of nagging, non-DL style injuries. He may misread the free agent market thinking he needs to make splashes when holding the line is the best action. If he starts off cold, expect a flurry of activity to compensate for what he feels are shortcomings after a draft that didn’t live up to his usual hype and hysteria. If he comes out of the gates with his guns-a-blazin’…well, then we can expect that trademark swagger to return pretty dang quick.

Summary: Another year, another good money grubbers squad. This is the lowest Mike has rated in years—which is saying something—and I think deep down Mike knows he didn’t assemble the type of squad he’s used to putting together. There were some definite reaches here for Mike to get the players he wanted and I think he left some talent on the table as a result. He picked up A LOT of the guys we were high on in the NFBC and I think ultimately, his preparation for the NFBC went into overdrive during the SLB draft causing him to reach for players he’d valued at a higher level in a different league.

Overall, I think this team has the potential to do major damage. The pitching staff will need some reinforcements. Relying on Volquez for any longer than necessary is a recipe for disaster. The offense will need a little more balance—some lightning to go with all the thunder, if you will—to make this one of the truly elite attacks in the league. Right now, I’d say this team has a shot at the playoffs and a deep playoff run, but some changes will definitely be needed along the way.

02) Genies in a Bottle

Draft Pick #11

Keepers: Hanley Ramirez (SS-FLA), David Wright (3B-NYM) & Jered Weaver (SP-LAA)

First Pick: Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-BOS) [Pick 11]
Last Pick: Jake Peavy (SP-CHI) [Pick 214]

Best Pick: Manny Ramirez (OF-TB) [Round 8 – Pick 102]

Manny Ramirez, 38, is going to be a full-time DH in 2011, a move that is loooooooooooong overdue, but one that figures to help him continue his legendary career a few years longer. He suffered through a number of maladies last year involving his legs and was reported after the season to have played through a sports hernia for much of the season. He is healthy and figures to be firmly entrenched in the clean-up spot in the Rays lineup.

Ramirez may be well-beyond the days of ripping 40+ home runs again, but expecting 25-30 with a return to the AL East isn’t out of the question. He’ll no longer need to take off afternoon games to rest his legs, thus giving him close to 125-150 extra at-bats. He’s a lock for an OBP over .400 along with 100+ RBI, 100 R and 35-45 XBH. There is no downside to that kind of value in the eighth round. He’d have to—oh I don’t know—get caught using performance enhancing drugs and abruptly retire a week into the season for this thing to not work out. What could go wrong?

Worst Pick: Joe Nathan (RP-MIN) [Round 9 – Pick 123]

Nathan, 36, was one of the best—if not the best—closers in baseball for a six year run of brilliance between 2004 and 2009. Tommy John surgery derailed him a year ago and he’s worked his way back this spring and was impressive enough that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire re-anointed him the closer to start the season.

I don’t hate this pick because of Nathan’s struggles. I hate it because I didn’t want to dive into the closer pool until round ten or later, no reason to overpay for such a fluctuating stat—and there was plenty of solid talent still on the board after I made this pick. It was blatant homerism and fanboy worship at its worst. I love Joe Nathan, I’ve got an autographed picture of the dude staring at me as I type this and that’s a problem. You need to draft with your head, not your heart and this was blatantly a heart pick.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Ricky Romero (SP-TOR) [Round 6 – Pick 74]

Romero, 26, was probably one of my biggest reaches of the draft and I’m down with that because he falls right into the wheelhouse of my “reach for the right player” doctrine. Romero is a young fireballer who—with the recent defections of Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum—has become the de facto ace of the Toronto pitching staff.

He’s got a great fastball and a change-up and curveball that are equally as nasty. He’ll mix in a cutter or slider to keep hitters off balance, but for the most part he comes right at ‘em and leaves hitters looking silly. He’s got the goods to strike out 200+ per year and his groundball tendencies pay major dividends in the thumper-heavy AL East. If he can limit walks this season, he’ll be in the short discussion for potential Cy Young candidates at season’s end.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jake Peavy (SP-CHI) [Round 16 – Pick 214]

Peavy, 29, is about four years and a ton of injuries removed from being a consummate Cy Young contender and no-doubt fantasy keeper. In the years since he’s suffered from a litany of arm and shoulder issues and moved from the best pitcher’s park in baseball to the worst. His control and blazing speed are still there—or were when last we saw him—but the move to the AL has severely hurt his value and expecting him to bounce back from a major surgery as an ace is likely a fool’s errand.

I like Peavy, it’s probably why I picked him in the last spot of the draft as a reclamation project rather than going after an up-and-coming stud like Michael Pineda (who, fun story, I was going to add when I moved Peavy to the DL…except Mike immediately gobbled him up with the next pick). Peavy has had numerous setbacks already, which isn’t surprising given that the original estimates didn’t have him returning until July or later. I’d like to think he can still be a top-flight pitcher, but he’s also got the biggest odds of blowing up in my face.

Strength(s):Balance and the Calvary

Balance: This club is packed with a balanced attack. The offense has a ton of potential to lay the smackdown. Every player drafted, with the exception of probably Jacoby Ellsbury, has the potential to blast 25+ home runs and drive in 80+ runs while nabbing 30+ XBH. The speed is largely centered on four players: Ellsbury, Ramirez, Wright and Utley. If/when healthy the latter three can all nab anywhere from 20-30 bases. Ellsbury could be the big difference maker as he swiped 120 bases over his two full seasons. The pitching is also balanced with plenty of solid high-K types and plenty of control types to temper the ERA/WHIP.

The Calvary: This club was setup with some obvious deficiencies. You don’t draft three players who are on the DL and not expect to start the season a little behind the 8-ball. I knew that I’d struggle without the immediate presence of Chase Utley, Kendrys Morales or Jake Peavy, but knowing that all three could join my team after only missing a month or two gave them each incredibly value, especially with their draft stock tumbling. Three-quarters of a season from Utley/Morales/Peavy will more than make up for playing with replacement players for a month or two.

Weakness(es):Slumps and Bullpen

Slumps: This lineup contains a lot of hitters who are prone to lengthy slumps. This is especially true of the younger sluggers on the roster and both of the offensive keepers. Slumps happen, it’s just the way things are, but if multiple players on this team slump at the same time, it could lead to some disastrous results for the Genies.

Bullpen: This was the second season in a row that GM Graves decided to eschew the bullpen in favor of better talent elsewhere. A year ago, I got a revival of Billy Wagner out of the deal and filled in with spare parts. This year I overdrafted Joe Nathan and complimented him with Brandon Lyon who is a great setup man and an okay—at best—closer. I completely blew off drafting a holds guy, figuring there are always top-tier holds guys available in free agency, why waste a draft slot? The bullpen will need another closer and a holds guy at some point. Neither in-house closing option figures to be dominate, so this may be a move that sends me to the trading blocks.

Storyline to Watch: The Playoff Hump

I have never missed the playoffs in the head-to-head format. Since we moved to H2H, I have finished the regular season in 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st and 5th. I have finished the playoffs in 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd and 3rd. I haven’t been in a championship game in four years. I have found my way to the playoffs—almost always a top-seed—and I’ve found my way to the championship game—albeit not recently—but I always come up short. As is the case every single year, my storyline to watch is whether or not this will be the year the Genies finally get over that hump and return to the championship game to claim a long overdue gold salmon.

Summary: This is one of the stronger teams I’ve put together in years. I’ve generally come in with a pretty rough sketch of what I wanted to do and rolled with it from there, this year I came in free as a bird. I had two or three first round targets (Adam Dunn, Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew McCutchen, respectively) and little else. I let the draft play out and went with whomever I felt offered the most value for my club at the moment—and I picked Joe Nathan—and it seemed to have worked out.

This club is balanced from top to bottom and aside from a few nagging needs, has the potential to do some serious damage all season long. The lurking DL-Calvary will likely tell the story of my season. If Utley/Morales come back slugging, it was a success. If they’re both slow to return—or don’t return—it will have been two wasted draft picks when plenty of legit, healthy talent was still available. It was a gamble that will likely make or break my season and it’ll be a hoot to see which way it goes.

01) SL Disappointment

Draft Pick #3

Keepers: Ryan Howard (1B-PHI), Dustin Pedroia (2B-BOS) & Cliff Lee (SP-PHI)

First Pick: Jose Bautista (3B/OF-TOR) [Pick 3]
Last Pick: Brandon Beachy (SP-ATL) [Pick 222]

Best Pick: Starlin Castro (SS-CHI) [Round 4 – Pick 54]

Castro, 21, has been called the second coming of Derek Jeter for a couple of years now; whether or not he’ll live up to that hype has yet to be seen. He does have the ability to hit for average and some good speed—albeit lacking the instincts to use it effectively—and a slick glove at shortstop. He’s still very much a raw product, but one with enough upside for management to have him bypass Triple A completely on his path to the big leagues a year ago.

The thing that makes this pick so great is that Castro has future star written all over him. If he is the second coming of Jeter, you’re looking at years of above average OBP, runs scored, extra base hits and stolen bases. He’ll hit for some solid power for the position (think 10-20 homers as he grows into his body) and the job is his for the next decade. In a league that is so panicky about drafting infielders, it baffles my mind that Castro even made it to round four, let alone the tail-end of the round. There were five shortstops taken in front of Castro in the draft and I’d be shocked if any more than one or two of those cats actually finish ahead of Castro when the season is over. Great pick. Great value. Great potential keeper.

Worst Pick: Hideki Matsui (OF-OAK) [Round 13 – Pick 171]

Matsui is all-kinds of old-balls. That’s not why I’m hating all-up on him here, though. He’s also proven to be a 15-20 homer guy with little else in his arsenal nowadays. That is also not why I’m hating all-up on him here. He’s never going to put up monster numbers in the HR/RBI department again. His XBH have all but dried up and his OBP is drifting closer and closer to league average with each passing year. None of that, however, is why I’m hating all-up on him here.

I’m hating all-up on Hideki Matsui because he was drafted as John’s sixth outfielder. If there’s anything I’ve stressed heavily throughout these rankings it’s that there is almost zero reason to draft this many outfielders. You leave your roster barren of any flexibility and you’re always stuck picking and choosing which guy to leave out of your lineup. Plus, Matsui is really only good for the four or five weeks a year he gets hot anyway. Other than that, he’s serious bench fodder.

It should be noted, this is pretty much the only pick of this entire draft that I could dig up. The rest of it was pretty airtight, round after round.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Jose Tabata (OF-PIT) [Round 9 – Pick 115]

Jose Tabata, 22, was on my ever-growing list of man-crushes this spring. The speedy Tabata—along with eternally depressed Andrew McCutchen—form one of baseball’s most dynamic one-two punches at the top of the Pirates lineup. Tabata has marquee speed and could easily become a player who swipes 40+ bags annually while posting above-average OBPs.

Something that stuck out about Tabata this spring was the amount of weight he’d put on bulking up over the winter. In an attempt to avoid becoming a one-dimensional slap-and-go speedster, Tabata added weight to allow him to hit for more power and drive the ball to the gaps for more extra base hits. The youngster has all the makings of a superstar and figures to be a legitimate beast alongside McCutchen all season long.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Vladimir Guerrero (OF-BAL) [Round 7 – Pick 87]

Originally, I wanted to go with Matsui here, but I always try to avoid doubling up on using a guy twice. As such, I had to take a shot at one of my all-time faves and peg Vlady for the down year. This is based largely on how slow and worn-out Vlady looked in the second-half and in the postseason last year. The fire and bat-speed that played so well in the first half dropped off the table after the All-Star break.

Vlady does have the benefit of another hitter’s haven in Camden Yards and a very solid lineup around him, but if he plays at the level he did during the second half last year, he might as well hang up the spikes, because he’s toast.

Strength(s): Balance & Rotation

Balance: This lineup has at least five guys who can be counted on for 15+ stolen bases and that includes Tabata and Castro who could each go for 30+ this season. The lineup also has seven guys who could reasonably crush 20+ homers and Ryan Howard and Jose Bautista could both go over 40 on their own. The offense is full of above average OBP-types and guys who wreck XBH like crazy. This lineup has the potential to give teams fits all season long.

Rotation: This team’s rotation is stacked with guys who can strikeout 150+ whilst keeping their ERAs under 3.50 and posting solid WHIPs. This rotation has three big-time aces in Cliff Lee, Matt Cain and Wandy Rodriguez. The peripheral additions of Brandon Beachy, Travis Wood and Hiroki Kuroda were all genius as all three were heavily underrated coming into the draft and all offer tremendous value.

Weakness(es): Bullpen

Bullpen: I’m wary of teams that try to carry four starting pitchers in this league. I’m equally wary of teams that don’t treat their bullpen as equals. John is currently carrying one closer and one setup man. One setup man makes sense as one hold is often enough to win you the week, but closers are notoriously streaky. They’ll rake up five saves one week and none for two weeks. Carrying one closers is like punting on the saves category altogether, but since it’s just as important as HR/RBI/W/etc…it doesn’t make any sense. This club needs another closer to avoid handing the saves category over week in and week out.

Storyline to Watch: John’s Attention Span

It’s no secret that once upon a time, John was a pretty solid fantasy baseball player. He ran away with the league in its inaugural season and then, um, just sorta stopped paying attention. We caught his attention again a few years later with live drafts, but the attention would generally wane a week or so into the season. This year, John has a job that allows him to check his team—and this blog, which I’m pretty certain he didn’t know existed until recently—as often as he wants. He’s got a good team and he’s got the ability to check it. Thus far in the season, he’s done just that…if he’s still paying attention by July or August, there’s a good chance most of the Pacific Division is looking up at John in the standings. If he’s moved on to new pursuits, like playing Bloons or something during his workday, well, there’s a good chance he’s back in or near the cellar.

Summary: John Kunkel appears to be back, ladies and gentlemen and that is no f’n good for the rest of the league. John has always—with the exception of 2010, WTF was that all about?—rated near the top of the boards following his drafts, but this one was crisp from top-to-bottom. He has assembled what is easily one of my favorite rosters in this entire league. I see a team that is balanced from top to bottom and only needs to retool the bullpen a little bit to be absolutely dominate. If John can acquire a big game closer, this roster has no holes—as currently constructed—that I can see.

He’s put together a very solid mix of young guys and veterans, burners and mashers and in the end, I think this squad has the potential to be the very best of the bunch when it’s all said and done. As I stated above, a lot of that will depend on whether or not John can stay focused on the league, but if he can…watch out.

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Fantasy Baseball 101: Drafting Rookies Correctly


Today’s edition of FB101 is dedicated to The Dominators.

Rookies are a special, special breed of big league ballplayer. This is especially true in an era where ballplayers are hyped endlessly from high school until they make their professional debuts.

Some of them (see: Longoria, Evan and Braun, Ryan) will make immediate impacts upon their debut and never look back.

For ever story of immediate success, however, there are others (see: Gordon, Alex and Wieters, Matt) that will flop and flounder and take the long road to success, if they ever get there at all.

That brings us to the focus of today’s FB101—the one and only—Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 26, signed a three year/$9.25 million deal last winter with the Minnesota Twins, as the club attempted to rebuild a middle infield that was ravaged by the trade of JJ Hardy, the free agent exodus of Orlando Hudson and the mere existence of Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert.

The Twins paid more than $5 million in posting fees to win the rights to Nishioka, a highly-regarded defender in Japan who was also coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his career.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that stats from Nippon Professional Baseball should always be taken with a grain of salt when players find their way to the United States.

Only Ichiro Suzuki has ever lived up to the intense hype and hoopla that surrounded his debut after years of dominating the Japanese game. Plenty of others—such as Hideki Matsui, Kaz Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu—have fallen short of matching their overseas accomplishments in Major League Baseball.

Suzuki was drafted during his debut season—by one enterprising and knowledgeable general manager—back in 2001. He was, however, drafted appropriately for an unknown commodity attempting to transition from the less aggressive NPB to MLB, as he went in round 17 at pick 130, nestled loving between the likes of such forgettable players as Richie Sexson and Dave Veras.

Despite all of these obvious warning signs, Steven Kunkel—general manager of the The Dominators franchise—took Nishioka in round six of the SLB Draft and to this very day defends the pick with such fervor that I couldn’t help but respond.

In a post on the SLB message board Steven said:

You want to know why Tsuyoshi Nishioka wasn’t THAT bad of a pick:

Because 3 relief pitchers were drafted in the 6th round.

Because Ian Stewart, who was drafted that same round, has already been dropped.

Because Dan Hudson, drafted that same round, has an 0-4 record with a 5.92 ERA

Also, because Colby Lewis, Phil Hughes, Vernon Wells, Madison Bumgarner, Aaron Hill, and Brandon Morrow, all drafted in the 7th round, have been flops so far this year.

Granted, having drafted Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Colby Lewis in round 6 & 7, I will take that as a HORRIBLE two round selection based on early small sample sizes. :)

Luvs :)

Given the complete and utter asininity of this post, I’ve decided to focus very heavily on why Steven is absolutely wrong in his assertion of Nishioka’s value.

So, without any further ado, I present…

Six Reasons Why Tsuyoshi Nishioka was an AWFUL Pick in Round Six:

Zero Big League Experience.

Were any other players with absolutely no big league experience drafted that early? Hell no. Some were drafted, however, so let’s take quick gander at how many other players with zero big league experience were drafted.

Two. Two is the answer. Michael Pineda and Brandon Belt, both taken in the final round of the draft, and neither one was, by any estimation, overpaid for on draft day. That’s what happens when you draft rookies appropriately.

Of the three no-experience rookies drafted: Nishioka is running on underwater treadmills, Belt is in Triple A and unemployed in the Salmon League and Pineda is tearing it up—albeit for a different club than the one that drafted him in the SLB. Experience isn’t everything, but it important and it certainly is a large indicator of where and when a player should be drafted.

Middling Expectations

Nishioka was a career .293/.364/.426 hitter in Japan, numbers that—although solid—don’t indicate he was a top-tier talent. To compare, Ichiro was a .353/.421/.522 career hitter and Kaz Matsui was a .302/.351/.471 hitter. Both Ichiro and Matsui had better resumes that included more power and speed.

In an effort to take a fair and unbalanced look at expectations for Nishioka coming into the year, I’ve gathered projections from three well-renowned resources:

ZiPS is the highest on playing time, while Rotochamp is almost as enthusiastic about his ability to steal bases. Personally, I don’t see anything here that’s overly impressive. Projections for his base-stealing are all over the place, but the majority lean closer to 20-25 than 30-35 as a potential ceiling for Nishi. The OBP figures to be right around league average and the runs scored—if he can hold down the two-hole—should be somewhere in the 75-90 range. Orlando Hudson raked in 80 runs last year in the same spot, so let’s assume that’s where Nishi lands.

In order to figure out what type of numbers Nishioka will be bring in the extra base hit departments, let’s take a look at this track record in Japan:

This indicates that his upside for XBH is probably going to fall somewhere in the 20-30 range for doubles and likely single-digit triples. I’d be shocked if he got more than single-digit home runs, especially playing the bulk of his games at power-suppressing Target Field. In the end, you’re essentially overpaying for an undeterminable number of stolen bases and a league average OBP.

Reach for the Right Guys

Teams reach for players. I get it. I’ve reached for many a player in my day, usually when I think he’s going to have a monster year and I’m worried that someone else at the table is looking at the same guy. The thing is if you’re going to reach for a player, you’ve got to be right.

This holds especially true when you’re reaching for someone with zero big league experience, middling expectations and absolutely nothing—beyond position eligibility—that makes him worth noting.

I feel it’s safe to say that no one else at the table was looking at Nishioka in round six. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that no one else was likely looking at him anywhere before the final round or two, if at all. That makes the sixth round reach absolutely mind-boggling. It’d be like if G-Doggy had pounced on Brandon Belt in round six. There’s no reason to go that early on someone with nothing but hope and promise on their side. Especially when there are better players available at that position.

Value: Relative and Real

Steven mentioned a number of other players who were taken in the sixth round who were also struggling. Players such as Dan Hudson and Ian Stewart—both of whom actually had roughly sixth round value headed into the draft. Stewart was derailed by injuries all spring and his demotion isn’t much of a surprise, much of his value is driven off of a few big years bashing balls out of Coors and a lot of hype as a prospect. Hudson is a young fireballer who pitches in a hitter’s haven. He was never a top-prospect and was drafted as the third starter on a team that was woefully low on starting pitching in the draft. His upside, however, made a sixth round pick totally manageable as this could be the year he finally gets 30+ starts and lives up to his potential.

Also mentioned in Steven’s rambling was the fact that three relievers were taken in that round. What he failed to mention in that all three relievers were taken at the ends of the round near the wrap, where reaching is a must, especially for a commodity like top-tier (or second—maybe third—tier in Papelbon’s case) closers.

Furthermore Steven went on to attack players taken in round seven such as Colby Lewis, Phil Hughes, Vernon Wells, Madison Bumgarner, Aaron Hill and Brandon Morrow for their early season struggles. On this list Morrow started the year on the DL and has only made one start thus far. One start wherein he struck out ten guys in 5.1 innings. Lewis, Bumgarner and Hughes have only made a handful of starts this season. It’s too early to judge any of them regarding their long-term value, but Bumgarner has the pedigree of a future workhorse and could be a top three starter for the next decade if he stays healthy. Hughes isn’t an ace, but he has front-of-the-rotation stuff when he’s healthy and hitting his spots. The same can be said about Wells and Hill on the offensive side as everyday regulars when healthy. These are players with proven track-records and/or at least some success in the big leagues. They’re likely to play up to (or at least close to) their round seven value. Nishioka—if he meets ALL of the most grandiose expectations will be lucky to match round six value.

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato. You Say Nishioka, I Say Infante.

Steven made a follow-up comment to take some shots at the shortstops who were drafted after he pissed away a used a draft pick on Nishioka:

“So I can set the record straight, Johnny did steal my 4th round pick of Starlin Castro one pick before I wanted him–bastard.

To double-up the record…

These were the shortstops taken AFTER Tsuyoshi Nishioka…

*clears throat* In order:

1) Ian Desmond (8)–7 Runs, 8 RBI, 7 SB, .253 OBP
2) Juan Uribe (13)–6 Runs, 12 RBI, .291 OBP
3) Mike Aviles (13)–4 Runs, 10 RBI, .241 OBP
4) Ryan Theriot (14)–10 Runs, 8 RBI, .367 OBP
5) Reid Brignac (14)–5 Runs, 4 RBI, .311 OBP
6) Omar Infante (14)–DROPPED!
7) Clint Barmes (15)–DL!
8) Erick Aybar (15)–DROPPED!

THESE were my choices following Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Are my sins really THAT BAD?!?!”

What confuses me most here is his mention of Starlin Castro. The dude has been touted as the next Derek Jeter and it is shocking—given the overwhelming dearth of worthwhile shortstops—that he lasted as long as he did in this draft. The thing is, however, how did Steven not have a legit backup plan? Travis—among others—as evidenced by the shortstop choices made—realized that once the top names were off the board, there was no point in reaching just to have a guy with “SS” beside his name on the roster shot. Steven claimed—to no end—when defending himself that Nishioka was the guy he wanted all along. Liar, liar pants on fire.

Let’s get into the comparisons here. First and foremost, with the exception of Ian Desmond—and that dude does have some breakout potential, he’s got wheels and burgeoning power, but he’s probably a year or two off—in round eight, no one else took a piss-poor short stop until the final four rounds. If there had been some sort of short-sighted run on low-value shortstops in round six or seven or eight or even eleven or before, this argument might hold water, but there wasn’t.

Do most of the shortstops listed here kinda suck? Yes, but they were almost all drafted seven rounds or more AFTER Nishioka was already on Steven’s roster. Also—and correct me if I’m wrong—all but Desmond and Aybar were drafted as bench-types due to their multi-position eligibility and either of those two could outperform their draft slot. Most of the cats listed offer the same things, league average(ish) OBPs, good—but not great—speed and the chance to score some runs and maybe ring out a few triples along the way. They are all slightly-lesser versions of Nishioka if he maxes out his potential…except that they all went roughly where Nishioka should have been drafted.

If I were a betting man, I’d put money on at least half, if not all, of these bros outproducing Nishioka in 2011.

The Best of What Remains

In 2010, Jorge Posada went undrafted. Given his track record and the lofty potential for anyone in the Yankees lineup, it was absolutely mind-blowing for that to happen. In 2011, three shortstops with either more potential or a better track record than Nishioka went undrafted: Yunel Escobar, JJ Hardy and Alcides Escobar all went untouched. Hell, even Jason Bartlett was still out there.

Not all of these players offer the same skill-set as Nishioka, but at season’s end, they could all have the same or better value and their sticker price isn’t a sixth round draft pick, it’s an injury-drop or a DL-pickup. Hardy alone could produce top five shortstop numbers if he’s finally healthy again and takes advantage of the move to Baltimore. Either Escobar offers significant upside and at least some level of a proven track record. There’s just so many better options.

The long and short of it is this, I don’t think that Nishioka is going to be a complete train wreck. I think his upside is somewhere around that of Kaz Matsui. He’ll—hopefully—put up a line somewhere in the projected .285/.345/.390 range with 30 stolen bases and 80 runs scored. All of that is, however, very optimistic…because it’s entirely possible that he is a train wreck who can’t adjust to the big leagues.

Regardless of whether he is or is not a train wreck, I still think that Steven royally overpaid for a guy who—once again—wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Most of the table didn’t even learn he was SS-eligible until Steven asked me to look it up. He was that far down on almost everyone’s sheet.

Steven has made many an ill-advised reach in the past—Manny Ramirez 2009: Round One, Pick One/Troy Tulowitzki 2008: Round One, Pick One—that have not paid off. This will likely prove to be another of those picks as the same inherent value—and likely the same player—would have been around more than half-a-dozen rounds later.

It’s not a case of hating on the player, it’s a case of hating where/when the player was drafted in relation to the value that was not only left on the table, but the value that was in-turn handed to everyone else at the table as a result.

An Exclusive Interview with Andrew McCutchen

FORT MEADE, FLA –

Mr. McCutchen arrives at the Fort Meade City Hall looking dapper in a grey suit with his hair tied back. He approaches the podium without a smile. Clearly something is weighing heavily on his mind. He adjusts the microphone and points to the first reporter.

Dayn Perry: “So…uh…you’re not playing baseball, huh, what’s up with that?!”

Andrew McCutchen: “Yes, I felt that, in my current state I wouldn’t be helpful to the ballclub.”

Dayn Perry: “What do you mean, ‘in your current state,’ Andrew? Is that simply a reference to Pennsylvania?”

McCutchen stares at Perry for an extended period of time, seemingly trying to figure out if the halfwit is just messing with him. As Perry waits with his eyes wide for an answer, he realizes that no, he is not messing with him and he is, in fact, likely retarded.

Andrew McCutchen: “No Dayn…not Pennsylvania. I’m referring to my emotional state. Next question.”

Michael Lupica: “Hey Andrew, Mike Lupica from the New York Daily News. When you say ‘emotional state’ is that due to the piss-poor production you’ve given the Pirates thus far in 2011?”

Andrew McCutchen: “No, it’s not related to my underachievements thus far. There is a far greater issue…”

McCutchen trails off and looks off at the sky, clearly lost in his own thoughts.

Ken Rosenthal: “Mr. McCutchen, could you please elaborate?!”

Andrew McCutchen: “I…um…sure…”

McCutchen pauses and takes a few deep breaths and then a long drink of water before continuing.

Andrew McCutchen: “I recently learned some very depressing news. Something that shook me to the core. Something that will likely change the rest of my life…”

There is a rumbling in the audience as many of the reporters speculate about what could be causing so much distress on the young superstar. McCutchen takes another long drink of water and then readjusts the microphone.

Andrew McCutchen: “I learned late last week that…”

Dejan Kovacevic: “Come on, Andrew…you can tell us.”

McCutchen pauses gain and makes a solemn head nod. He’s clearly toughened up enough to spit the words out.

Andrew McCutchen: “I learned late last week that I had been traded to the…the…money grubbers.”

The reporters in attendance let out a universal groan. Everyone understands the plight that has impacted the light of the would-be superstar. Andrew McCutchen, just 24-years-old may be already be at a crossroads in his career. After two stellar years in the big leagues, he is now under the management of the famed tyrant, Mike Kunkel.

Kunkel is notorious for treating his players like cattle. He runs ‘em into the ground, gets what he wants from them and then ships them off for a better return. It is also widely known that many players in Kunkel’s employ over the years have fallen to lingering injuries that do not warrant a trip to the disabled list, but simply linger and impact performance negatively.

The reporters understand why McCutchen left the team. He is clearly distraught and knows that his career may be as good as over.

Dejan Kovacevic: “Andrew will…will you go back?”

Andrew McCutchen: “I suppose I will. I am still under contract and I love to play the game. I know the risks associated with playing for Mike Kunkel, but it’s a risk I’ll have to take.”

Ken Rosenthal: “How is Mr. Kunkel taking your temporary leave of absence?”

Andrew McCutchen: “I told him my dad was sick and I was coming to check on him. He’s too busy staring at himself in the mirror and flexing and mocking other members of the Salmon League to read the papers, so he won’t know about any of this. I’ll return to the team in a few days and there’s a good chance he won’t even know I was gone.”

Erin Andrews: “I’ve heard he eats live puppies for breakfast.”

Andrew McCutchen: “I’ve heard the same thing. The man is a monster, no doubt about that, but I’ll do my best and hopefully, he’ll shuttle me along down the line at some point and I can resume my career without fear that I’ll randomly get struck down with temporary blindness or social anxiety disorder or rickets or pink eye or barking crabs or twisted sister or any of the other random maladies that his club has been struck with in recent years.”

McCutchen hangs his head and saunters off stage to a round of applause from the reporters who appreciate the young man’s bravery in such dire times.

Fantasy Baseball 101: Super Utility = Super Useless

Today’s edition of FB101 is dedicated to G-Doggy!

There are many, many lessons one needs to learn to be a successful fantasy baseball player and one of the most important is this: “Don’t Manage Your Fantasy Baseball Team Like Ron F’n Gardenhire!!

Ron Gardenhire is one of baseball’s most successful managers over the last decade, he’s also incredible divisive among the Minnesota Twins faithful. This is largely due to Grady’s incessant reliance on good glove, no bat super utility players who exhibit more “grit” than talent on the field.

This is largely because Gardenhire was a similar banjo-hitting underachiever during his playing days and has a soft-spot in his bacon-grease infused heart for his ilk.

Today, we’re about to learn why it’s a bad f’n idea to rely on super utility players in fantasy baseball.

Let’s start with some stats:

Looking at these raw stats, which player would you prefer to have your team?!

I think it’s safe to say that in a perfect world, neither of these slugs would be anywhere near your roster. For the sake of this experiment, however, let’s see what we’re dealing with here.

We’ve got two seemingly similar hitters with small sample sizes on display. One has ripped extra base hits and one has shown a little speed, but neither one is real impressive in any overall capacity.

To swing things a bit, I’ll let you know that Player A has on OBP of .353 (19 hits/5 walks) in 63 at-bats.

Player B has a far less impressive OBP of .263 (15 hits/5 walks) in 70 at-bats.

Four hits is what separates their OBPs right now; four hits and a difference of seven at-bats. A mere four—likely slap singles—is all that makes the difference here.

The really fun part is that these two players were just swapped for one another.

Player A is Jamey Carroll. Player B is Omar Infante.

Neither one belongs on a fantasy roster right now in a league of this size. Both offer one thing of value, multi-position eligibility. They offer that, because neither one is worthy of being a regular starter on a REAL big league ballclub, so why.—oh why—would someone want them on their fantasy roster?

This is my public, impassioned plea to you G-Doggy. As your brother. As your friend. As someone who likes to see people not named Kunkel succeed in life.

STOP PICKING UP SHITTY, MARGINAL PLAYERS!!

Good players. Legit players. Keepers. They are eligible at one position. There’s a reason for that…they’re good. They’re good enough to hold down a regular, every day job at one position.

Having an Omar Infante or a Jamey Carroll or a Willie Bloomquist or a Maicer Izturis on your roster only makes sense if they’re on a hot-streak. Otherwise it’s wasted roster space.

Why keep a second or third tier guy on your roster on the chance that you can sling him in the lineup somewhere at random?

Most teams have the same basic off-days Monday/Tuesday and then Thursday, so there’s no guarantee this super-utility guy will do you any good if he has an overlapping off-day. He only does you any good as a mid-day fill-in when a regular is going to sit and that only works if you’ve got the ability to change your roster on the fly when you see that someone is out of the lineup that night.

Beyond that, there is the inherent risk that a Jamey Carroll-type player isn’t going to play every day. I guarantee you that if/when the Dodgers are all healthy, Carroll doesn’t have a place in the optimal everyday lineup. That’s because he’s a super sub.

This completely eliminates his value as a bench guy if you can’t count on him being in the big league club’s lineup when you need to use him as a fill-in. This is why we go after every day players in fantasy baseball.

Carroll gets on base at a solid clip and hits for a hollow average. He’s got a modicum of speed, but not enough of anything else to be an everyday regular. Given that he’ll get you roughly 300-350 at-bats a year (most of them while he’d be on your bench) he does you no good.

Pick up a hot hand (ie: Freddie Freeman, Mark Trumbo, Jeff Francoeur, etc…) or pick up someone with serious upside to get their shit together after early struggles (ie: Vernon Wells).

Don’t waste moves on piece of shit, run of the mill secondary guys.

Draft Review and Rankings 2011 (Part II)


As promised, here is part two of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings for 2011.

I will now reiterate everything from the beginning of the first post, because I simply have no new introduction for this part.

This year, I’ve split the rankings into three parts to break it up a bit, as it will be a lot of reading.

The first part (ie: Monday’s post) contains the teams I ranked 7th-14th and—if these rankings actually meant anything—will undoubtedly be missing the postseason as a result.

The second part (ie: this post) contains the teams ranked 4th-6th that will be representing the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions in the playoffs.

The third part (ie: sometime later this week’s post) contains the teams ranked 1st-3rd that will undoubtedly be atop the final rankings both in the divisions and in the postseason fray.

Now let me get on with my usual quasi-angry pre-post disclaimer:

I know it took—well—a long f’n time, but you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s a whole bunch of work and time that ends with a readership of just thirteen people, and that’s operating on the assumption that all y’all will even read this rambling tome.

It’s not exactly the most-rewarding writing because it’s based on picks that were all-too-often null and void within hours of the rosters going live (see: Aybar, Erick and/or Coghlan, Chris) and because, like I said, at the very most this little ditty snags me thirteen reads.

Anyway, let’s carry on…

If you’re looking to get the full draft results you can peep those by clicking here, this is just a review of the draft itself and a completely arbitrary ranking of each team based on whatever random statistical analysis and personal feelings I have regarding your squads.

I don’t believe I put focus on anything except for the players drafted. Any moves made since the draft should not have been included in this review, although it is possible I have included someone after taking a peek at your teams. I realize some of you may have already addressed weaknesses, if so…ignore what I’ve got to say. That’s your right either way.

Without any further ado…

06) j’s team

Draft Pick #9

Keepers: Alex Rodriguez (3B-NYY), Ryan Braun (OF-MIL) & Roy Halladay (SP-PHI)

First Pick: Brandon Phillips (2B-CIN) [Pick 9]
Last Pick: Fernando Rodney (RP-LAA) [Pick 216]

Best Pick: Mark Reynolds (3B-BAL) [Round 10 – Pick 132]

Reynolds, 27, is by no means a great third baseman. His defense is below average and he has proven time and time again to have a me-first attitude in his flippant comments about how he would rather strikeout going for a home run than try for “productive outs” (ie: sacrifices). That fact notwithstanding, he is one year removed from serving as keeper in this very league to the guy who went on to win the regular season and lose in the championship game.

Reynolds is a great power option who has legitimate 40-home run power and the ability to drive in 100+ runs, especially entrenched in a very potent lineup in one of baseball’s best ballparks for power hitters. He may not post stellar OBPs, but he’ll post roughly average numbers in the OBP department with monster power. He can even swipe double-digit bags as an added bonus.

Given that Jay doubled up on both 1B and 3B in this draft, I’m not sure where Reynolds fits in, but Jay was hammered during the draft, so it’s entirely possible he doesn’t know where anyone fits either.

Worst Pick: Mark Buehrle (SP-CHI) [Round 15 – Pick 205]

It’s really hard to take shots at a guy’s 15th round pick, but Mark Buehrle, 32, is an absolute waste of a draft pick in this league.

When he’s not wishing bad luck on NFL quarterbacks, making redonkulous plays on defense or having his ass saved in a perfect game, by DeWayne Wise of all people, he’s busy being a worthless fantasy starter.

Buehrle is routinely a lock for an ERA right around 4.00, a WHIP around 1.30 and—if you’re lucky—100 K to go with anywhere from 12-14 wins (which is usually coupled with just as many losses). Even in the 15th round this is a wasted pick. At the least, Barry Zito who pitchers in an easier division and better ballpark was still out there and he’s usually a lock for 150 K.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Chad Billingsley (SP-LAD) [Round 6 – Pick 76]

Billingsley, 26, has been kicking around the big leagues for five seasons now—the last three as a full-time starter—and he’s been impressive for the bulk of that tenure. His impressive arsenal that includes a nasty slider, cutter and curveball keeps hitters off-balance and often leads to the batters taking themselves out of the game, as evidenced by his 50%+ ground-ball rate.

Billingsley isn’t completely inept at taking the hitters out of the game himself either, as he has racked up strikeout totals of 201, 179 and 171 in his three full years as a starter. He’ll take another big step forward this year as he heads the Dodgers rotation alongside Clayton Kershaw to form one of baseball’s most unheralded one-two punches.

At age 26, Billingsley is ready to transition into his prime and become a legitimate ace. He may still be a year or two away, but some big strides in 2011 could very easily lead to a 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 185+ K and 15-20 wins for a Dodgers team that could surprise a lot of people in the wide-open NL West.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Delmon Young (OF-MIN) [Round 4 – Pick 48]

Delmon Young, 25, has been on everyone’s radar as a can’t miss prospect for years now. In that time he’s hit for a hollow average, shown middling power, displayed none of the 30-steal speed he was hyped to have had coming out of the minors and his once-revered defense has proven very lackluster at the big league level.

In 2010—with his job on the line—Young re-committed himself to the game. He dropped 30 pounds in the offseason and worked to improve his approach at the plate. The results were extraordinary and he went from potential non-tender candidate to heart-of-the-order threat. The real problem is that nothing indicates last year’s power spike—like the one’s experienced the year prior by teammates Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer—is here to stay.

I’m not indicating that Young will go back to swatting ten homers and netting 60 RBI to go with 20-something XBH, but I am saying that last year was a tremendous jump for a guy who’s peripherals didn’t indicate any major changes beyond the final results. He cut down the strikeouts and upped his walks and that gave him better pitches to hit that results in an outstanding 46 doubles and 21 homers (which looked really pretty next to his 112 RBI), but I’d be hard-pressed to think he’ll duplicate those stats again. He’ll still probably put up solid numbers, but I doubt that he’ll produce fourth round value for a second-straight year.

Strength(s): Offensive Balance & Front of the Rotation

This offense can hurt you in a lot of ways. There are at least seven guys on the roster who can club 20 or more home runs—four of those guys could probably go for 30 or better—and then there’s another six guys who can probably swipe 20+ bags—at least three of those dudes could probably nab 30 or better with ease—and that’s just looking at the basics. There are XBH galore scattered throughout this lineup and this club should have no problem pounding the ball all year long.

On the pitching side of things, Jay has assembled a stellar front three for his rotation in Roy Halladay, Mat Latos and the aforementioned Chad Billingsley. Assuming they can all stay healthy, there is a good chance he snags close to 50 wins out of that crew and everyone of ‘em should be good for 180+ K and above average ERA/WHIPs. Toss in Mariano Rivera to lock down the bullpen and this club could be nasty to face, especially if you are the poor sap who gets ‘em in the short week after the All-Star break.

Weakness(es): OBP & Depth

This club has plenty of offensive firepower, but managed to post a meager, below league-average OBP of .334 as a whole last season. If these guys struggle in that same manner again, it figures to hurt the rest of the counting stats. Rebound seasons from Mark Reynolds, Derek Jeter, Carlos Pena, Chone Figgins, Alex Rodriguez and Matt Wieters could go a long way toward alleviating any offensive risk this club might endure.

There isn’t much depth on this roster, especially given the recent injury woes of Rodriguez, Pena and Reynolds. The depleted free agent market ensures that finding top-flight replacements is harder than ever before and Jay might be forced to get by with some lesser players, especially on the pitching side, if an injury occurs to this club.

Storyline to Watch: Keepers

One thing to watch this year will be Jay’s handling of his keepers. He has talked about trading Rodriguez and/or Halladay for a couple of years now, a move which makes good sense in a keeper league. If Jay finds himself out of the race near the deadline, it’s possible this is the year he makes a splash and loads up for the future.

Summary:It’s another year and we’ve got another solid club put together by Jay. I’m actually kind of surprised at how much I like this club when you consider that Jay was drunk as a skunk from about round ten onward. It goes to prove that when you come in with a game plan and stick with it, it doesn’t matter how drunk you get. We’ve established over the winter that Jay is one of the more consistently good teams in this league, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve on the few weaknesses this club has coming out of the draft.

Jay has a cagey way of making moves that seem to slip under the radar and keep him lurking in the shadows before he finally slips into the playoffs on a seemingly yearly basis. I think this will be another year where his team is good enough to get to the dance, but—as currently put together—I don’t know if this team could take home a third golden fish.

05) cracker jack

Draft Pick #4

Keepers: Buster Posey (C/1B-SF), Matt Kemp (OF-LAD) & Jon Lester (SP-BOS)

First Pick: Dan Uggla (2B-ATL) [Pick 4]
Last Pick: Austin Jackson (OF-DET) [Pick 221]

Best Pick: Austin Jackson (OF-DET) [Round 16 – Pick 221]

Jackson, 24, was the top prospect in the Yankees system before landing in Detroit via offseason trade a year ago. He proceeded to rake to the tune of .293/.345/.400 with 27 SB, 103 R and 44 XBH as a freakin’ 23-year-old. Given the insane overpays for speed in the draft, the value on this pick has to be magnified times a bajillion. Not only does he steal bases, he scores lots of runs and rips doubles and triples like a mad man. He figures to take another step forward in 2011 and, if he can learn to draw a few walks and not whiff so much, could push that OBP up closer to .360 while still scoring 100+ runs and swiping 30+ bags.

To put how good his debut season was in perspective, we’ll compare him straight-up with the other speedsters in the American League by looking at cats who swiped 25 bags or more. He ranked 13th in total steals (27), fourth in OBP (.345), first in XBH (44), second in runs scored (103) and third in total hits (181). Again, that was as a 23-year-old rookie. This dude is going to be an absolute beast. Snagging someone with this kind of ability and skill set with the fourth-to-last pick of the entire draft is absolutely bonkers.

Worst Pick: Bud Norris (SP-HOU) [Round 11 – Pick 144]

Bud Norris, 26, was a hot “sleeper” prospect on many fantasy websites last winter. Plenty of “experts” pegged the 26-year-old as a breakout candidate based largely on the back of his 158K/153IP showing last season. He had a solid minor league track record, but nothing to indicate stardom—or even more importantly, acedom—was in his future.

Strikeouts have never been a problem for Norris who piles ‘em up in bunches largely on the back of his absolutely nasty slider. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. He’s got an unreliable fastball and get-you-by changeup that’s nothing to write home about. He’s prone to giving up too many walks and the wild nature of his fastball sets him up as longball prone in a park that is all too hospitable to hanging fastballs.

Essentially he’s a mixed bag of big strikeout numbers along with big walks, home runs and a very unpleasant ERA/WHIP combo. He has shown flashes of ace material followed by stretches of unadulterated awfulness. Zach Sanders from FanGraphs said it best: “If you need strikeouts, Bud Norris is your man. If you need below average production in every other category, Bud Norris is still your man.”

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Billy Butler (1B-KC) [Round 2 – Pick 45]

Billy Butler, 25, is one of my favorite fantasy players of the future right now. The dude has an amazing eye at the dish and could conceivably be one of few modern ballplayers who are able to routinely post .400+ OBPs, especially as he gets older and gains a little more pop and a little more lineup protection. In the here and now, he’s an amazing asset to a fantasy team due to his high OBP and plethora of XBH. He his 51 doubles in 2009 and poked another 45 last season. His power dipped from 21HR/93RBI to 15HR/78RBI last season, but he’s still roughly two years off from hitting his power prime, so that’s not a big deal.

Butler isn’t likely to have his big “breakout” year in 2011 and maybe not even 2012, as he is more of a contact hitter. Once he gains some more power and can increase his HR/FB rates, he’ll be in good shape. I’d think the ceiling for Butler in 2011 is probably 20-25 homers at most and—given the way the Royals front office will job the lineup around him for cost-savings purposes—roughly 75-85 RBI. He’ll also contribute 40-50 doubles and an above average OBP.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Phil Hughes (SP-NYY) [Round 7 – Pick 88]

Phil Hughes, 24, has been the most talked about pitching prospect in the Yankees system for years. He’s been called the next Roger Clemens. He’s been called a bona-fide future Cy Young winner. He’s been called a future strikeout champion. Yet, for all of those accolades he owns a career ERA of 4.46 and has spent most of his professional career getting shuffled in and out of the starting rotation.

Last season Hughes had his “breakout” as a full-fledged member of the Yankees rotation. That breakout included a 4.19 ERA, way too many home runs, way too many walks and a fly ball percentage that left him very susceptible to big offensive outbursts. As shiny as his 18 wins, All-Star game appearance and 146 K looked, a lot of it was smoke and mirrors. He benefited from a lot of luck as batters had a Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .273 against Hughes, roughly 30 points lower than the league average. Hughes is a very good, very young pitcher with a solid career ahead of him, but I’d expect him to be drastically more exposed when the luck swings the other way.

Strength(s): Power Hitting & Power Pitching

This offense has at least ten guys who can legitimately crush 20+ homers this season; of those ten, I’d say at least four could probably put up at least 30 longballs and 100+ RBI to boot. This team has power to burn and could certainly use that as a trading chip later on in the season.

The top starters on this team Lester, Brett Anderson, and Josh Beckett (if healthy) all have the ability to get 200K, 15-20 wins with solid ERA/WHIPs in 2011. The bullpen mainstays of K-Rod and Joakim Soria are both veritable locks for 30 saves, solid K-rates and good ERA/WHIPs. It’s tough to beat that kind of combination week in and week out. If Hughes and/or Norris outperform my expectations, this could be an unbeatable squad to matchup with all season long.

Weakness(es): Speed & Depth

Right now this roster has exactly three guys who swiped double-digit steals last year: Jackson (27), Kemp (19) and Granderson (12). The rest of the roster combined for less than 20 stolen bases in 2010. Unless Jackson goes completely bonkers and swipes 70+ bags (unlikely) this club is going to need to add some wheels to avoid missing out on a number of speed-influenced categories (ie: stolen bases, doubles, triples and runs). Right now, this club is coming up just a little short in the speed department. Perhaps some of that overabundance of power could be used to change things.

The depth on this club is a little lacking. Juan Uribe is currently penciled in as the everyday shortstop, despite the fact he’s blatantly coming off a late career boom and shouldn’t be counted on to put up those numbers again. He’s got no backup as of now and the bench is filled with outfielders as the team is currently carrying two extra outfielders and an extra first baseman.

Storyline to Watch: Move Limit

Justin has long been known for his wheeling and dealing ways in the Salmon League. In fact, he’s the reason the 45-move limit was created way back in 2006 (or whenever), but right now he’s on pace to make roughly 100 moves this season with 10 moves through 16 games played. Keep an eye on when/if he settles down and rolls with the roster he has for more than a few days at a time.

Summary:Last year I had Justin ranked fourth, the year prior I had him ranked sixth, so it only makes sense that he’d slot into the five hole this time around. He is a perennial playoff team who—much like Jay—always seems to lurk on the periphery and slip his way into the postseason fray. I think this club has some major potential and could make a lot of noise this year.

He is hoping on a lot of preseason hype guys (Norris, Hughes, Freeman, etc.) to play lights out ball, but the core of this club is strong. Matt Kemp is due for a huge bounce back year, Jon Lester is my favorite for the Cy Young and Buster Posey—although due to regress a bit—has put himself on the short list of “best catcher in the game” types after less than a full-season in the bigs.

There is plenty of potential here and I have no doubt Justin will be monitoring this team and the waiver wire, free agent pool and trade market all summer long.

04) Dome Dog

Draft Pick #12

Keepers: Troy Tulowitzki (SS-COL), Josh Hamilton (OF/DL-TEX) & Justin Verlander (SP-DET)

First Pick: Justin Upton (OF-ARZ) [Pick 12]
Last Pick: Chris Iannetta (C-COL) [Pick 213]

Best Pick: Chris Iannetta (C-COL) [Round 16 – Pick 213]

Chris Iannetta, 28, has been the “catcher of the future” in Colorado for years now. Yet, for whatever reason, the club has continually blocked his path to regular at-bats and playing time by bringing in retread veterans. Making this situation even more muddled was the club’s decision to sign him to a three-year, $8.35 million deal prior to the 2010 season and then have him apprentice behind Miguel Olivo and spend time in AAA.

The job, however, is now all Iannetta’s and that’s a very, very good thing for Adam. The last time Iannetta was given a full-season’s worth of at-bats (2008) he hit .264/.390/.505 with 18 home runs. If an older, more powerful Iannetta can garner the same number of at-bats and put up an even remotely similar slash line to go with 20+ homers, this will be one of the best values of the entire draft.

Worst Pick: Aroldis Chapman (RP-CIN) [Round 11 – Pick 152]

Chapman, 23, is a flame throwing southpaw with just over 100 innings of professional experience under his belt. He has amazing potential as either a starter or a closer with his insane strikeout rates and absolutely mind-blowing 100+mph fastball. What he doesn’t have, however, is a starting job or a closer’s gig locked down to start the 2011 campaign. The Reds have decided to use Chapman in a middle-relief/setup role, thus making him a ridiculous overpriced holds option in round 11 of the draft.

There is a chance that Chapman nails down a couple dozen holds by the All-Star break and then returns to AAA to get stretched out as a starter for Cincinnati’s pennant drive or he could get moved into the closer role if the club manages to move incumbent closer Francisco Cordero. If that happens, this pick looks much better than it does right now. Either way we’re talking about a top four team, so this is clearly nitpicking.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Dan Haren (SP-LAA) [Round 2 – Pick 17]

Haren, 30, is by no means a sleeper, but coming off a “down year” that saw him post a 3.91 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP while going a pedestrian 12-12, his value was seemingly very suppressed heading into this year’s draft. He has been a keeper for the better part of the last half-decade and rightfully so as he’s averaged a 3.48 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 15 W and 192 K prior to last year’s “rough patch.”

What many people overlooked was that rather than pull his annual second-half slide, Haren actually got better as the year progressed in 2010 and was downright dominate for the Angels after being traded in late July. Haren posted a 2.87 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 14 games down the stretch for an underachieving Angels club. It laid the groundwork for Haren to have a monster year in 2011 with his new team where there will be far less pressure to be the ace, thanks to the presence of Jered Weaver.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Drew Stubbs (OF-CIN) [Round 5 – Pick 68]

Stubbs, 26, came out of nowhere last season to hit 22 HR, swipe 30 SB and score 91 R. It was an amazing year and played a big role in the Reds success. It was also very, very overrated. On the surface, the numbers are solid, but when you realize they’re accompanied by an underwhelming .255/.329/.444 slash line, 168 strikeouts and just 25 extra base hits, the shine starts to wear off.

In the minors Stubbs showed an ability to steal bases with reckless abandon, swiping 121 bags over four seasons. What he didn’t show was nearly the power displayed last year, as he hit a total of 28 homers over all four years in the minors. His flyball percentage increase by nearly 5% last year and that type of swing, for a hitter who strikes out at such a high percentage indicates more luck (as does his .330 BABIP) than skill. I’d expect a regression (or at best a holding pattern) in the power department, thus making him an overpriced steals option.

Strength(s): Power & Potential Upside

If I were a betting man—and I am—I’d probably be willing to wager that this squad leads the league in home runs at season’s end. The lineup boasts ten different players who can be counted on for 20+ homers. Out of that ten, I’d say at least half can probably be expected to go for 30+. There is a ton of power to be had in this lineup. Hell, even Neil Walker—arguably the lightest hitter on the team—is probably a good bet for 15+ long-balls, it is scary, folks. Scary.

One of the best things this team has going for it is the upside. Troy Tulowitzki has shown that when healthy, he can be an absolute game-changer. His play down the stretch last year could be a glimpse of what’s to come in 2011. If that’s the case, get ready to put Tulo in every conversation about the “best players in the game.” Justin Upton and Chris Iannetta have had big years in the past and are looking to reclaim their spot among the game’s best. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Stanton and Daniel Hudson have all shown flashes of brilliance in their short big league tenures and all have the potential to take big steps forward in 2011. This team is filled with potential breakout stars.

Weakness(es): Pitching & Depth

The starting rotation has two legitimate studs in Justin Verlander and Dan Haren. After that? Well after that it’s a lot of hoping that Daniel Hudson and Brian “the Duenslinger” Duensing both take big time steps forward in 2011. I’ve rarely seen a four-man rotation work in the Salmon League, so I’d be surprised if he sticks with this setup for long, especially considering he’ll be carrying two holds guys in Chapman and Chris Sale. The rest of the staff consists of two good, but not great, closers in John Axford and Huston Street. Neither of whom inspires much confidence. Street has a history of injuries and Axford is coming of an unexpected rookie year in Milwaukee, where they have a history of one and done type closers (ie: Dan Kolb & Derrick Turnbow).

Six. That’s the number of outfielders on this team. Two of whom are starting the year on the DL in Jason Bay and Grady Sizemore and one of whom is undoubtedly bound for the DL at least once in Josh Hamilton. The infield is dynamic with youngsters Walker, Alvarez and Tulowitzki…but the potential for slumps and/or injuries (ie: Tulo) is also quite prevalent. This team will need to acquire some serious positional flexibility via free agency or deal from the wealth of top-notch outfielders on the roster.

Storyline to Watch: In-Season Management

In 2010, as a rookie manager, Adam had one of the worst drafts I’ve ever seen. He overdrafted players left and right and chose injury-risk after injury-risk. Most of those risks came back to haunt him. As I said in his summary last year, the big game-changer would be his ability to manage the team in-season, which he did to perfection en route to winning the league championship. Now the question is whether he can match last year’s in-season mastery or if he is a one-year wonder.

Summary: I was not real high on Adam a year ago and he proved me wrong. This year, I’m very high on his club and it’ll be interesting to see if he proves me wrong again or if he is able to be the second back-to-back champion in league history and the first of the head-to-head era. There is a ton of talent and potential on this team, as he drafted a good mix of young players on the rise and veterans with proven track records to compensate for any of the struggles that young players often deal with early in their careers.

This club’s biggest weaknesses right now are its lack of dynamic speed options and a pitching staff that falls flat after the top power arms. I’d have to expect we’ll see a few big trades to bolster the pitching corps and some savvy maneuvering on the free agent market to supplement what appears to be another injury-prone lineup.

…and so ends Part II of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings. Check back later this week for Part III and this year’s “Expert’s Panel Rankings.”

Draft Review and Rankings 2011 (Part I)


The time has come once again to take a look at the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings for 2011.

This year, I’ve split the rankings into three parts to break it up a bit, as it will be a lot of reading.

The first part (ie: this one) contains the teams I ranked 7th-14th and—if these rankings actually meant anything—will undoubtedly be missing the postseason as a result.

The second part (ie: Tuesday’s post) contains the teams ranked 4th-6th that will be representing the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions in the playoffs.

The third part (ie: sometime later this week’s post) contains the teams ranked 1st-3rd that will undoubtedly be atop the final rankings both in the divisions and in the postseason fray.

Now let me get on with my usual quasi-angry pre-post disclaimer:

I know it took—well—a long f’n time, but you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s a whole bunch of work and time that ends with a readership of just thirteen people, and that’s operating on the assumption that all y’all will even read this rambling tome.

It’s not exactly the most-rewarding writing because it’s based on picks that were all-too-often null and void within hours of the rosters going live (see: Aybar, Erick and/or Coghlan, Chris) and because, like I said, at the very most this little ditty snags me thirteen reads.

Anyway, let’s carry on…

If you’re looking to get the full draft results you can peep those by clicking here, this is just a review of the draft itself and a completely arbitrary ranking of each team based on whatever random statistical analysis and personal feelings I have regarding your squads.

I don’t believe I put focus on anything except for the players drafted. Any moves made since the draft should not have been included in this review, although it is possible I have included someone after taking a peek at your teams. I realize some of you may have already addressed weaknesses, if so…ignore what I’ve got to say. That’s your right either way.

Without any further ado…

14) 38 MPH Heaters

Draft Pick #8

Keepers: Ian Kinsler (2B-TEX), Jason Heyward (OF-ATL) & Francisco Liriano (SP-MIN)

First Pick: Justin Morneau (1B-MIN) [Pick 8]
Last Pick: Mike Adams (RP-SD) [Pick 217]

Best Pick: Geovany Soto (C-CHC) [Round 7 – Pick 92]

Geovany Soto, 28, was one of my many pre-season man-crushes. If not for lingering doubts about his chances of garnering 500+ plate appearances, he’d likely have been drafted a round or two higher. Despite questions regarding at-bats, his production is still top-notch and warrants his value as a front-line catcher. Since becoming a (mostly) everyday player he’s been a poor-man’s Brian McCann, averaging a .360 OBP and nearly 20 homers per season.

If he can garner enough at-bats and stay in the middle of the Cubs talented, but aging lineup, he can be a major producer and a serious bargain in round seven; especially when you realize the number of catchers who may fail to match his numbers with an extra 100-150 at-bats to their credit.

Worst Pick: Alexi Ogando (SP/RP-TEX) [Round 12 – Pick 161]

Alexi Ogando, 27, is not ranked as Morgan’s worst-pick because he lacks talent. On the contrary, the converted outfielder is a strikeout machine who has worked primarily in middle-relief throughout his career, all the while piling up strikeouts and limiting base runners at every level.

What hurts this pick is that Morgan was drafting Ogando under the assumption that he was going to be closing out games for the Texas Rangers. In fact, when he was roundly mocked by the entire table—most of whom didn’t know what an Alexi Ogando was—he replied “don’t you fucking know baseball?!”

He would later learn that Neftali Feliz had returned to the closer’s role a few days earlier and Ogando was back in middle relief (this was prior to the last minute decision to move him to the rotation in place of the injured Tommy Hunter). As such it made Ogando a very early holds peg. Not only that, but one that likely wasn’t on ANYONE’s radar. Rough stuff.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Alexi Ogando (SP/RP-TEX) [Round 12 – Pick 161]

The irony is not lost on me folks, trust me. Although Morgan drafted Ogando under false pretenses, he may have landed a legitimate weapon—albeit one he overpaid for—who can help him all season long.

As I said in the previous section, Ogando is a legitimate strikeout machine who has averaged 12K/9 through his minor league career and put on a similar display of dominance upon reaching the big leagues last season. Additionally, his WHIPs have always been downright sick. The dude simply doesn’t let anyone on base.

He may get shifted back to middle relief given the abundance of starting pitchers the Rangers possess, but he’ll be a dominant force no matter where you put him. He may not end up worth a 12th round pick, but he certainly possesses some legit breakout value.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): B.J. Upton (OF-TB) [Round 3 – Pick 36]

Upton, 26, has been around forever it seems. He came up as a superhyped stud shortstop who lacked one key skill, the ability to play defense. This caused Upton to bounce around the diamond from shortstop to third base to second base and eventually to centerfield. His offense suffered while he changed positions, but finally seemed to click when he became a full-time outfielder.

Unfortunately, it then un-clicked as Upton has taken multiple steps backward every year since having his breakout campaign in 2007. His OBP is pedestrian, his power is erratic at best, he’s never scored 90 runs in a season, he’s driven in 70 or more runs once and he’s proven to be a one-trick pony. He can steal bases. He is essentially an overhyped, overpriced version of Michael Bourn, who is already an overpriced, overhyped version of Coco Crisp.

It is entirely possible that this could be the year Upton finally puts the whole package together and becomes a legit offensive weapon, but we’ve all been saying that for the better part of the last four years. He is still young and hasn’t even reached his prime, but he’s been in the game long enough that what you see, might be what you get and (unless he really does breakout this year) what you’re getting is a big flop for a third round pick.

Strength(s): Speed

This lineup can burn. With Upton, Dexter Fowler, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Theriot entrenched in the lineup and a cast of 10-20 steal types, this lineup could easily surpass the 150 stolen base mark and potentially push for 200 stolen bases.

Along with the stolen bases comes the added value of extra base hits and runs scored. Speed demons have the ability to turn on the afterburners and turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. In a league that places equal value on triples and home runs, it makes Dexter Fowler a very valuable commodity.

Weakness(es): Health & Pitching

There is an old saying in baseball that goes: “better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late.” This phrase is often attributed to players who are hot commodities before they’re befallen with injuries and a team cannot move them or their value has been obliterated.

Much of this squad makes me think of that phrase. There is plenty of talent on this roster, but there is also a plethora of players who have missed significant time with injuries in recent years: Morneau, Stewart, Cuddyer, Barmes (had a broken hand on draft day), Kinsler, Heyward and Liriano. This team will need all of these guys to avoid the injury bug for this club to be successful.

The second glaring weakness on this club is the pitching. The top two starters (Liriano/Buchholz) are coming off of career years that they may find hard to replicate. Matt Garza has long-proven to be a middle of the rotation monster, but doesn’t have the pedigree of a legitimate ace. A move to the cozy confines of Wrigley Field and away from a much younger, much more talented Tampa Bay club doesn’t figure to help.

Jeremy Hellickson—Garza’s de facto replacement in Tampa Bay—has shown signs of success, but is still young and is jumping into the starting rotation in the midst of a transition year for the Rays who will face four very tough lineups in the AL East for much of the year.

The bullpen—as currently comprised—does not have a legit shutdown closer. Ryan Franklin is good, not great and is only surrounded by a few supplemental pitchers for holds. The team will definitely need to bolster the bullpen to compete in the saves category.

Summary: On paper this team isn’t real impressive. There are a lot of good, but not great, parts in place and some in-season moves will be necessary to push this team into the postseason fray.

What gets me most about this squad is the complete lack of a standout player. No one on the team had 100 runs scored last season, no one had 100 RBI, no one hit 20 home runs, only three pitchers had double-digit wins (two of whom also had double-digit losses) and so on and so on.

The team has a good foundation and is relying on a lot of youth, but it will take career years and a lot of good luck (especially in the health department) for this team—as currently comprised—to crack the postseason.

13) The Dominators

Draft Pick #2

Keepers: Robinson Cano (2B-NYY), Ryan Zimmerman (3B-WAS) & Felix Hernandez (SP-SEA)

First Pick: Shin-Soo Choo (OF-CLE) [Pick 2]
Last Pick: Joaquin Benoit (RP-DET) [Pick 223]

Best Pick: Brett Gardner (OF-NYY) [Round 5 – Pick 58]

In all honesty, I thought this was a bit of a reach given where Gardner’s draft stock has historically gone. I’m letting it slide because of the potential upside for Gardner and the fact that at either end of the draft, you’re almost always forced to reach for players.

Gardner is coming off a breakout campaign wherein the Yankees were originally reluctant to trust him with an everyday starting role. He responded by posting a .383 OBP, swiping 47 bags and scoring nearly 100 runs. Most of that was done from the bottom half of the batting order, thus when the Yankees made the preseason call to use Gardner in the leadoff spot against right-handed pitchers, his value took a major jump.

With enough at-bats and the Yankees potent lineup behind him, Gardner should be a lock for 120 runs scored in addition to a stellar OBP and plenty of stolen bases. His left-handed swing could net him a few more homers this year as he’ll see a few batter-friendly situations with so many potent weapons behind him in the lineup.

Worst Pick: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B/SS-MIN) [Round 6 – Pick 83]

“What the hell is Steven thinking?!” That’s what went through everyone’s mind when Steven made the decision to take the 26-year-old rookie in the sixth round, long before he was even a blip on anyone else’s radar. Nishioka is expected to be—at best—a middling OBP guy, with roughly 30 steal speed and no power. On the plus side, I’ve heard he’s quite the motivator…so there’s that.

With that type of “upside” as the high water mark for Nishi, it would have been sensible to go with an established player or even a more heralded rookie in this spot and take Nishioka ten rounds later or go for someone like Ryan Theriot, Erick Aybar or Mike Aviles as all project out similarly. He needs to produce at roughly twice what he’s expected to do to make this pick even remotely justifiable.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Jordan Zimmermann (SP-WAS) [Round 11 – Pick 142]

Zimmermann, 24, was the top prospect in the Washington Nationals farm system before a couple of guys named Strasburg and Harper came along and took over the spotlight. A brief run-in with Tommy John surgery didn’t help Zimmermann’s stock any either, but he is healthy (unlike Strasburg) and he is on the big league roster (unlike Harper) and figures to contribute in a big way.

Zimmermann has the potential to be a legit front of the rotation starter and his biggest issue right now is when his control will come all the back after the aforementioned Tommy John surgery. When he finds his control, Zimmermann figures to be one of the best pitching values in this year’s draft. The only drawback with Zimmy is the 165-innings limit the team has put on his surgically-repaired arm as it figures to pull him out of Steven’s starting rotation right around playoff season.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Paul Konerko (1B-CHI) [Round 3 – Pick 30]

Paul Konerko, 35, ain’t getting any younger. Last year’s stats may indicate otherwise, but a quick look at the numbers show that last year was an aberration from the way Konerko has been trending in recent years. He busted out to the tune of 39 HRs, 111 RBI and a .393 OBP. His averages over the previous three years? A solid, but not round three-worthy: 27 HRs, 80 RBI and .350 OBP.

Konerko’s big year earned him a shiny new contract, but hasn’t earned my trust to repeat last year’s big bounce-back. I can see Konerko mashing the longball to the tune of 30 HRs and a solid 90-100 RBI campaign, but with Adam Dunn in the lineup, walking Konerko is no longer a simple option and his OBP figures to take a dip as a result.

I think he’ll put up respectable numbers, but likely nothing drastically more outstanding than Steven could have gobbled up half-a-dozen or more rounds later.

Strength(s): Upside & Balance

I’m not going to pretend I’m in love with this roster, in fact, if you take a peek at the “Trends” column on Steven’s team page, you’ll see that there’s not a lot of people in love with his team as only nine players are on his entire roster are currently started in 50% or more of Yahoo! leagues. What this roster does offer is plenty of upside. Robinson Cano and Ryan Zimmerman are still just tapping into their vast potential. Choo, Gardner, Ben Francisco and Zimmermann all have some serious potential to breakout this year.

The offense offers plenty of balance with speed and power and productive OBPs throughout. This is one lineup that will certainly not be confused for a single-pronged attack. The pitching, although less potent, is also quite balanced with innings-eaters and high strikeouts types in both the bullpen and the starting rotation.

Weakness(es): Star Power and Reliability

I can’t imagine I’m alone in saying this, but this team simply ain’t top-notch. I look at this roster and it is the best collection of keepers in the Salmon League surrounded by a bunch of second and third tier types. This team lacks the big names and star power of many great teams. I feel like this has happened somewhere before.

Additionally, Steven is relying very heavily on a lot of guys who have had small bursts of success, rather than lengthy proven track records. David Aardsma? Zack Greinke? Corey Hart? The aforementioned Nishioka? None of these guys have proven to be year-in and year-out game changers.

Summary: On the heels of one of the best regular season runs in Salmon League history, Steven has taken what—on paper—appears to be a major step backward in 2011. He has assembled a roster that appears shaky at best and downright awful at worst. His pitching staff isn’t overly impressive. His offense lacks firepower. His stubborn refusal to admit he overvalued certain players in the draft only further exacerbates the trending mindset that maybe last season was a fluke and Steven isn’t quite back to relevancy in the Salmon League.

The roster—as currently constructed—does little to instill fear in opponents and many of the frantic message board posts we’ve seen from Steven indicate he’s not entirely confident in his squad at the moment either. This team was poorly drafted and constructed with some major holes. It’ll take some work, but the building blocks are there to turn this squad into a contender, if Steven can make it happen.

12) Radioactive Rush

Draft Pick #1

Keepers: Joe Mauer (C-MIN), Adrian Gonzalez (1B-BOS) & Tim Lincecum (SP-SF)

First Pick: Matt Holliday (OF-STL) [Pick 1]
Last Pick: Yadier Molina (C-STIL) [Pick 224]

Best Pick: Matt Holliday (OF-STL) [Round 1 – Pick 1]

It’s Matt f’n Holliday, y’all…

I feel like that should be more than enough to explain why this was his best pick, but I’ll elaborate for sake of the viewing audience. Matt Holliday has been a keeper multiple times in the past and for good reason, as the dude is a career .318/.389/.544 hitter who is pretty much a lock for 25-30 homers, 100 RBI, 90-100 runs, and 10-15 stolen bases just to spice things up. Toss in a smattering of extra base hits and the dude is a legit—somehow under the radar—masher who produces year-in and year-out.

Worst Pick: Ian Desmond (SS-WAS) [Round 8 – Pick 112]

Ian Desmond, 25, is a good shortstop. He is, however, just another version of the much-maligned Tsuyoshi Nishioka whom Steven took roughly 40 picks earlier. The difference is that with Desmond, you know what you’re getting…and it ain’t much. He’s posted below average OBPs through much of his career in both the Major and Minor Leagues, he’s got good not great speed and offers little else of value.

The desire to snag a shortstop is always out there, but with guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, JJ Hardy and Alcides Escobar going completely undrafted, you gotta wonder why one would spring so early for such a middling up-the-middle option.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Pablo Sandoval (1B/3B-SF) [Round 7 – Pick 85]

Sandoval, 24, is coming off a down-year that saw him put on pounds and lose a whole bunch of counting stats. He spent the offseason doing everything he could to get back into shape and is primed to bounce back to his pre-2010 form. If that is the case, he’s a safe bet to pop off 25-30 homers, 90+ RBI, 80 R, 45+ XBH and an OBP north of .370.

The Giants lineup has improved dramatically from 2009—Sandoval’s last big year—when he finished 7th in the MVP voting after posting a .387 OBP, 25 HR, 90 RBI and 49 XBH. If he’s returned to that form in a lineup that now includes Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, and Freddy Sanchez…look out.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jonathan Papelbon (RP-BOS) [Round 6 – Pick 84]

Papelbon, 30, has been trending in the wrong direction for years now. After converting from a starter to a closer in 2006, Papelbon took the game by storm—for a few years, anyway—and propelled himself into every conversation about the “best closers in the game.” In recent years, however, his numbers—aside from his gaudy save total—have all been headed downhill. He walked 28 batters last year and 24 the year before that, the three previous years combined he only walked 36 total batters. He’s become drastically more hittable and is simply not a dominating force in the late innings anymore. He’s also in a contract year and has two potential closer replacements breathing down his neck.

I don’t hate Papelbon, or any team that uses him as their primary closer, I don’t like him going as the third closer off the board. If you’re going to jump this early for a closer, you do it right and you get an elite closer, not just a big-name closer.

Strength(s): Power and OBP

Gonzalez, Holliday, Sandoval, Werth and Weeks (if healthy) should provide some serious thunder for this lineup. Gonzalez alone could put up 40+ home runs moving to the American League East and calling Fenway—rather than spacious Petco—his new home park.

This lineup also features a number of players who can be counted on to post OBPs well above the league average. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see Gonzalez, Mauer, Holliday and Werth all finishing somewhere between .380-.400 in the category and big years from Sandoval and Weeks could help offset the damage that figures to be done by Desmond, Chris Young and Andres Torres in that category.

Weakness(es): Relief Pitching

There are two ways to look at this, Grant nabbed two closers in Papelbon and Francisco Cordero who generally can be counted on to close out 35+ games a year. That’s all well and good, the problem is that they’re two of the sloppiest closers in the game posting high ERAs and struggling to overpower hitters along the way.

Either man could lose his job this year and neither has a firm hold on the ninth inning heading into the season. Drew Storen offers some serious upside, but it was announced before the draft that he’d likely start the year in Triple A or as a setup man due to his Spring Training struggles. He’s a great guy for the future, but for the here and now, he’s a holds guy. Much like Rafael Soriano who is ALSO on the roster which is far too back-end heavy with bullpen types and doesn’t offer enough punch in the rotation after the Lincecum/John Danks cambo at the top.

Summary: I was very low on Grant’s team last year— ranking him dead last if you’ll recall—and this year, I only feel slightly better about his club. There is a good core in Gonzalez, Mauer and Lincecum and immediately adding Matt Holliday to that mix makes for a potent front four, but after that things get shaky.

Chris Young has been very good and very bad in his short career and it’s hard to put a lot of faith in a free-swinging outfielder with a career OBP of .315. He’s coming into his age 27 season and could take a big step forward (think 30/30) or he could regress and hit .200/.300/.400 with 15 homers and 11 stolen bases like he did in 2009.

The bullpen and weak rotation don’t scream out “contender” and I’ve got to wonder if Grant’s got the chops to overcome that in this league. He’s a little…um…“headstrong” and may not be willing to alter this club enough to get ‘em over the hump. The top of the offense is solid and the rotation has two aces, after that, there are a lot of question marks and seemingly very few answers.

11) ZIMA

Draft Pick #6

Keepers: Albert Pujols (1B-STL), Prince Fielder (1B-MIL) & Clayton Kershaw (SP-LAD)

First Pick: Andrew McCutchen (OF-PIT) [Pick 6]
Last Pick: Magglio Ordonez (OF-DET) [Pick 219]

Best Pick: Gio Gonzalez (SP-OAK) [Round 6 – Pick 79]

Gio Gonzalez, 25, is an absolute stud. He strikes batters out at ridiculous rates, he induces ground balls and he is the prototypical big game pitcher. He’s got a cool head and a hot arm. He may walk too many batters and may not quite be a household name (yet), but to snag a starter of this caliber in round six is an absolute steal.

Gonzo could easily strikeout 200+ batters this year while keep his ERA and WHIP above average and string together 15+ wins. The dude is legit and is part of one of the best young rotations in the league.

Worst Pick: Domonic Brown (OF-PHI) [Round 9 – Pick 118]

Brown, 23, has all the makings of a future All-Star and as the heir-apparently to Jayson Werth in Philadelphia it seemed like this would be the year he gets his potentially historic career rolling. Instead, he broke his hand early in Spring Training and had the hook of his hamate bone removed. Unfortunately, Collin didn’t know this headed into the draft and took him about seven rounds too early a result.

Brown has an impressive track-record in the minors, but didn’t produce in his stint with the team last season or in the Arizona Fall League. He looked lost in Spring Training before the injury and may struggle to win back the job if long-forgotten prospect Ben Francisco can finally tap into his 20/20 potential in Brown’s absence. Good player, bad pick.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Brian Matusz (SP-BAL) [Round 11 – Pick 146]

I am an unabashed supporter of Matusz. I think the kid has a big time future in the game and could be the ace of an up-and-coming Baltimore club for years to come. The 24-year-old southpaw misses plenty of bats as he piles up strikeouts and suppresses hits.

He’s still young, but he is entering his third year (second full year) in the big leagues and could take a major step forward in 2011 for a team that is improving by leaps and bounds around him. He could very easily be considered a (very) dark horse for the Cy Young in the American League.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick):Reid Brignac (2B/SS-TB) [Round 14 – Pick 191]

Brignac, 25, has been on prospect lists for years, but he’s yet to tap into any of the potential he showed early in his minor league career. He’s tumbled down the aforementioned rankings, but is finally in the bigs on a full-time basis as a cost-saving maneuver for the Rays who dumped Jason Bartlett.

Brignac simply doesn’t bring much to the table on the offensive side of things. He’s a below average contact hitter, his power dried up after he graduated to AAA and left the hitter-friendly environments of the Southern and California Leagues. He could leg out a solid number of doubles, but if his big league track record stands, he’ll do so with an OBP far closer to .300 than .400 and bring almost nothing else along for the ride.

Strength(s): Starting Pitching and Heart of the Lineup

The starting pitching assembled here is absolutely bonkers. Clayton Kershaw is one of the game’s best—and most unsung—young starters, David Price was in the Cy Young conversation a year ago, Gio Gonzalez is a future Cy Young winner, Brian Matusz could be right in that same conversation. Toss in the likes of Edwin Jackson to round things out and you have a dynamite rotation.

The offense is powered by the best hitter of this generation, Albert Pujols and a young, driven Prince Fielder in a contract year. There should be roughly 80+ home runs and 240+ RBI to go around from those two alone. Toss in the best young centerfielder in the game—here’s lookin’ at you, McCutchen—and you’ve got a dynamite offense. Michael Young, Rafael Furcal and Nick Swisher can all make solid contributions too when healthy.

Weakness(es): Depth and Speed

The team is very top heavy in the offensive department with Fielder, Pujols, and McCutchen likely doing the bulk of the work. Swisher should be a good compliment, but Furcal can hardly be counted on to stay healthy and Young is a mixed bag at age 34 with questions about his playing time and standing with the organization. There is a reason to have a guy like Aviles or Brignac on the roster, but to have both just strikes me as wrong.

McCutchen probably has the chops to steal 40 bags, but I’d be hard-pressed to think 2011 will be the year he does so as the club is poised to let Jose Tabata get more reps at the top spot and slide McCutchen into the three-hole. After that, the team is relying heavily on the aging Furcal who—when in the lineup—is a good source of steals, but can only be counted on for 20 or so swipes at this stage in his career. After Furcal, the next big stolen base threat is Aviles who projects out to a 15-20 SB guy if given sufficient at-bats. The lineup could use another dose of speed somewhere.

Summary: I questioned a lot of The Collin Brand’s draft picks, but overall I think he put together a solid club. I liked McCutchen in round one. I thought it was ballsy and he knew there was no way he makes it back to him. The dude is a five-tool prospect who is probably a year or so away from being a legit keeper. He’s only 24 and he’s put up very serviceable numbers in roughly one and a half years. He’s going to be a 30/30 guy for years to come and his eye could push that OBP north of .380 and toward .400 in a hurry. Long-story-short: I love me some McCutchen and think he’s the perfect complement to the keepers on the roster.

I think the pitching on this club is lights out. Collin has three pitchers that I am absolutely in love with in Kershaw, Gonzalez and Matusz and if they can call stay healthy—along with Price—this will be the best pitching staff in the league, bar none. I don’t like the bullpen nearly as much, but the rotation is nuts.

Collin has shown some serious potential and some serious deficiencies in his time in the league. I think he needs a big year in 2011 to stay relevant and in the mix as a team to watch out for going forward. This club has the potential with a few good moves along the way.

10) InSaNeAuDiO

Draft Pick #5

Keepers: Miguel Cabrera (1B-DET), Cole Hamels (SP-PHI) & CC Sabathia (SP-NYY)

First Pick: Jimmy Rollins (SS-PHI) [Pick 5]
Last Pick: Brandon Belt (1B-SF) [Pick 220]

Best Pick: Brian Fuentes (RP-OAK) [Round 13 – Pick 173]

Fuentes, 35, has been an under-appreciated closer for most of his professional career. This despite saving nearly 200 games in roughly five full-seasons as closer (note: I’m combining the time he was moved to middle relief in 2010 with the Twins and in 2007 following an injury with the Rockies as one full season as a closer). Fuentes was signed by the Athletics with the intent of serving as a top setup man, lefty specialist and backup closer.

An injury to incumbent closer Andrew Bailey guaranteed Fuentes the closing gig in Oakland and set him up as one of the best value closers in the draft. Bailey has proven—like many stud Oakland pitchers over the years—to be a bit snake-bitten in terms of injuries and could easily miss more time. Fuentes will pile up holds and saves all season long and will do so at a vastly more discounted rate than many of the relievers taken five or more rounds earlier.

Worst Pick: Jimmy Rollins (SS-PHI) [Round 1 – Pick 5]

I hate to put too much emphasis on first round picks, either as best or worst picks, but sometimes, you’ve just gotta do it. I like Jimmy Rollins. He’s cocky. He’s brash. He’s fun to watch. He’s also 32 and spent last season suffering through a malady of leg-related injuries; the type of injuries that don’t elicit confidence when they happy to players who rely heavily on their speed to remain productive.

I’m sure Rollins will still put up fine counting stats with 20 homers, 20-30 steals, 35+ doubles and close to 100 runs scored. There’s nothing to suggest he’ll get double-digit triples again and his once average-at-best on-base percentage has slipped dramatically in recent years, even falling below .300 in 2009…when he was healthy. I think he’s a fine player and I wouldn’t argue with him on my team if his pick came at the right place.

Given the recent injury woes, he makes more sense near the end of round two rather than early in round one. Ironically enough, this might be the year G-Doggy really should have gone with old standby, Derek Jeter instead.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Trevor Cahill (SP-OAK) [Round 6 – Pick 80]

Cahill, 23, is part of a very impressive starting three in Oakland along with the aforementioned Gio Gonzalez and another of my man-crushes, Brett Anderson. He may be the least heralded of the trio, but that could all change in 2011 as Cahill is poised to take a major step forward. He’s got an uncanny ability to dominate a game by missing bats or forcing players to do the dirty work themselves with his heavy sinker.

His big league strikeout numbers haven’t caught up to the lofty totals he posted in the minors, but early success in 2011, coupled with his entering the magical “third full season” in the bigs trend favorably toward his continued success this season. I think Cahill—who was an All-Star last season and finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting—will take another big step forward this year. He is one of three potential aces in that Oakland rotation and may be the one who makes the most immediate impact.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Alfonso Soriano (OF-CHI) [Round 4 – Pick 52]

Soriano, 35, is not a fourth round pick. In fact, at this stage in his career, he’s barely worthy of anything more than fourth outfielder consideration. His speed is completely diminished. He doesn’t score runs—partially his fault, partially the fault of a crappy lineup—anymore. He requires too much time off to rest his weary old legs.

All he brings to the table anymore is power, cheap power. He has 20-30 homer power with 70-80 RBI potential and not much else. That type of production can be had in the late rounds or off of the waiver wire all season. The worst part is that Soriano’s once middling OBP is now downright terrible. The only thing currently going in his favor was last year’s rebound in doubles after posting years of 27 and 25, he knocked 40 two-baggers to regain some marginal value. Overall, not worth the pick where he was taken and easily the most likely player on this team to not live up to his draft value.

Strength(s): Pitching Staff (as always)

Somehow, it seems that G-Doggy always throws together a solid pitching staff. Most of the power always come in the rotation and the bullpen is a hodge-podge, but this year I’m really liking what I see in both the front and back-end of his pitching corps. He’s got an outstanding front three in Sabathia, Hamels and Cahill and then he’s banking on bounce-back years from James Shields and Javier Vazquez. If just one of the two returns to form, he can dump the other and still have a solid rotation.

The bullpen figures to go one of two ways. I’ve already alluded to Fuentes’ value both as a middle-reliever and a short-term closer, but Jonathan Broxton and Octavio Dotel could pay large dividends as well. I think round eight was/is the right place to think about your bullpen and the Broxton pick was a ballsy one. Broxton is coming off a year that saw a major second-half implosion and demotion to a set-up role, but he’s also just one year removed from posting ridiculous numbers across the board. If he’s got it figured out, this bullpen has a top-tier closer at second-tier value. Dotel is a mixed bag. He gets tons of Ks and could steal some saves in Toronto, but will mostly be used for holds. He walks too many, but with the rest of this pitching staff, an uptick in WHIP can be compensated for elsewhere. Overall, I dig this pitching crew.

Weakness(es): Age and Diminishing Returns

I am not a fan of this draft. I think there is some serious potential here, but in the first seven picks, I legitimately liked one of them (Cahill). This is largely because G-Doggy went buck-wild accumulating guys are who are old balls. Jimmy Rollins (32), Aramis Ramirez (32), Alfonso Soriano (35) and Vernon Wells (32) are all on the wrong-side of 30 and have been banged up or ineffective in recent years.

Kelly Johnson had a big year last year, but there is little in his track record to suggest it was legit, let alone worth a third round pick. Nick Markakis has all of the potential in the world, and has for years now, but has yet to indicate he’ll ever turn his doubles power into legit power.

I think this roster is very susceptible to injury, ineffectiveness and excessive Metamucil consumption as currently comprised. There is some major talent on this team, but it will require a lot of guys having major bounce-back years and defying Father Time to get this club into the postseason.

Summary: G-Doggy—much like John—is seemingly a million times more focused this season. Personally, I’m quite excited about that fact as it should bolster an already competitive league. The question, however, is will G-Doggy be any better off with excessive focus? He’s had good—but not great—teams in recent years that were a few moves short of cracking the postseason. Too much focus could cause him to micromanage his roster into oblivion.

History has shown that G-Doggy is a bigger fan of fantasy baseball than, well, real baseball…so overreactions and miscalculations are likely to take place. They seem to happen every year in the draft when he drafts familiar names rather than the best players. I think this team has some key cogs for success—the pitching serving as the linchpin—and a few well-timed moves and savvy trades from a pitching-heavy roster could put this team into the postseason mix.

…if no one ends up in a nursing home before the All-Star break.

09) High Cheese

Draft Pick #13

Keepers: Jose Reyes (SS-NYM), Carlos Gonzalez (OF-COL) & Josh Johnson (SP-FLA)

First Pick: Victor Martinez (C/1B/DH-DET) [Pick 13]
Last Pick: Chipper Jones (3B/DL-ATL) [Pick 212]

Best Pick: Craig Kimbrel (RP-ATL) [Round 11 – Pick 153}

Kimbrel, 22, is a redonkulous fireballer. That much we know. He’s got the ability to absolutely shutdown the opposition at the end of the game and he’s already entrenched as the Braves closer of the future. What makes this pick so good is the overall value. Kimbrel was—what for it—the 19th closer off the board and 21st overall reliever off the board. That’s right, other teams were drafting for holds while Kimbrel was still on the market.

The Atlanta Braves—as a club—have averaged roughly 41 saves a season over the last decade. The bulk of those figure to land directly in Kimbrel’s lap. Figure the occasional vulture save for Venters or another middle reliever and you’re looking at roughly 35 saves—give or take—plus insane K-rates and a good WHIP/ERA combo to boot. I can only assume that a year from now, Kimbrel will be going in the same spot that Neftali Feliz went this year. Great, great value pick.

Worst Pick: Brandon Morrow (SP-TOR) [Round 7 – Pick 97]

Now don’t get me wrong here, I think that Morrow, 26, is prime for a breakout year in Toronto. He’s worked his ERA/WHIP down to more respectable levels and his K-rates are phenomenal. He’s exactly the type of pitcher you’d pick for a big time season as a pre-season “sleeper.”

The problem is, I think that Levi overpaid for him in round seven. It was very evident early on in the draft that most teams were unwilling to take a gamble on an injured player, even those who have performed at elite levels in the past. As such, I thought that Morrow probably would have sat on the board for another three or four rounds, at least, given the uncertainty surrounding his injury that surfaced just days before the draft.

This is very much a nit-picky kind of selection here, mostly b/c I thought that Levi got pretty solid value out of his picks up and down the board, especially for a guy at the end of the draft. It’s entirely possible Mike or Morgan or someone else down the table was waiting to gobble up Morrow on the first shot, but I think he’d have lurked given the cautious approach at the draft table toward injuries.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA) [Round 12 – Pick 156]

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this is Howie Kendrick’s year!

Okay, we’ve all heard it before time and time again and it already feels like he’s been in the game forever, when—in reality—dude is just 27-years-old this season and is primed for a monster year. Much like I wrote about Rickie Weeks a year ago—and was spot on about, what up!—I think that this is actually Kendrick’s year.

He was finally healthy for a full season in 2010 and it showed in his counting numbers. He doubled his extra base hit output and showed that with a little more bulk he could turn some of that 40+ double power into legit 20+ homer power in a hurry. Until he learns to take a walk, his OBP will never be better than average, but a .340ish OBP, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 80 R, 15 SB and 40+ XBH out of a 12th round pick with multi-position eligibility sounds pretty dang nice to me.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Victor Martinez (C/1B/DH-DET) [Round 1 – Pick 13]

Martinez, 32, has always put up very good numbers for a catcher. He’ll undoubtedly be run out as a catcher all-season long for High Cheese and he’ll get good results. What he won’t get, however, are first-round selection-level results. Martinez has been slipping for years as his power numbers—still in the 20-25 homer range—figure to take a hit moving to spacious Comerica Park and away from the cozy confines of Fenway Park. He’s seen his XBH hits tumble from low-40s and high 30s to the lower 30s where they now sit as injuries have taken his ability to turn singles into doubles.

His OBP figures to be above average and he’ll likely get plenty of at-bats serving as the backup catcher, backup first baseman and regular DH in Detroit, but as a first-round selection those numbers figure to fall woefully below what they were valued at on draft day. There’s no way V-Mart would have come back around in round three, so he had to gobble him up if he wanted a catcher, but it feels like a serious reach that won’t reap the numbers to make it worthwhile.

Strength(s): Balance

This is easily one of the more balanced attacks in the league. There is power (CarGo/V-Mart/Hunter), there is speed (Reyes/CarGo/Victorino), there is solid starting pitching (Johnson/Mad Max/Hudson), a good bullpen (Feliz/Kimbrel/Venters) and overall there aren’t too many chinks in the armor.

The balance does, however, rely very heavily on a lot of guys repeating past performance. CarGo is due for a regression. Martinez as a top power producer is a scary thought. Reyes may not have legs that let him swipe 60+ bags anymore. Etc.

Weakness(es): Age and Homerism

Guys like Victorino, Hunter, Martinez, Hudson, Lee, etc. all appear to be on the hook for some major production this year if this team is to succeed, but all are on the wrong side of 30 and not trending upward. There is plenty of young hotness to counter the old busteds, but at what point does countering not become enough to overcome the age deficits?

Seven. That’s the number of guys on this roster with ties to the Atlanta Braves. I could be missing someone who was drafted by the Braves or traded somewhere along the way, but I counted seven guys on a 19-man roster with Braves-ties. That’s seven taken on draft day out of the 16 players drafted. Nearly half of the players drafted. I know that we all love our favorite teams, but blatant homerism is the number one sin in fantasy sports and it could come back to haunt High Cheese in a big, big way.

Summary: I’m torn with this club. There is a lot of talent and upside here, mixed with some old balls, but enough young talent to make me think this team could succeed. I can’t get past this lingering feeling that there is something missing with this club. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m just not sold on this team. A cursory glance at the roster shows a lot of impressive names, almost all of them taken at or near where I’d have pegged them, but the roster doesn’t knock me on my ass as a major contender. I assume it is mostly because only a small sprinkling of these cats were on my draft board.

Anyway, I think it’s a good club with potential, but is currently lacking that spark (or something) that will put it over the top and into the postseason fray. Right now, I’d say this team—as currently comprised—will likely be struggling to finish in fifth in the Atlantic Division.

08) Seabass v6.0

Draft Pick #7

Keepers: Mark Teixeira (1B-NYY), Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B-BOS) & Tommy Hanson (SP-ATL)

First Pick: Nelson Cruz (OF-TEX) [Pick 7]
Last Pick: Brandon Webb (SP-TEX) [Pick 218]

Best Pick: Raul Ibanez (OF-PHI) [Round 15 – Pick 203]

Ibanez, 38, is no spring chicken and I’m not going to try and pretend I haven’t bagged on teams for drafting old balls before, but this is a great pick. In his two years in Philly, Ibanez has average 25 HR, 88 RBI, 84 R, 40 XBH and an OBP right around .350. All of that was done while battling various injuries.

Ibanez—who routinely naps in a hyperbaric chamber to aid recuperation—is said to be healthy and expected to play a big part in the Phillies lineup this season with the departure of Jayson Werth and injury to Chase Utley. He’s likely to produce better than Alfonso Soriano (and a number of other overrated players) who were taken roughly ten or more rounds early. This, my friends, is what we call amazing value.

Worst Pick: Aubrey Huff (1B/OF-SF) [Round 5 – Pick 63]

I dislike Aubrey Huff a great deal. There is little rhyme or reason for this hatred. I have the same situation with David Aardsma, Troy Glaus and a few other players that I’ve never owned, but disdain uncontrollably anyway; that rationale, however, is not why this was a bad pick. This was a bad pick because Aubrey Huff simply isn’t all that good.

Yes, he had a stellar year in a contract push. He was a big part of the Giants offense and all that jazz, but a cursory glance at his recent numbers does not indicate he’s a round five outfielder. His five-year averages of 22 HR, 83 RBI, 76 R, 35 XBH and an OBP right around .350 indicate that he’s Raul Ibanez with less power and a price tag that puts him ten rounds earlier, all the while plenty of better talent was still waiting to be plucked.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): JJ Putz (RP-ARZ) [Round 7 – Pick 91]

It’s hard to label Putz, 34, as a sleeper or breakout candidate, but given that he’s essentially been exiled from the ninth inning role for the better part of three years, he could be a surprise contributor. His track record shows that when he’s healthy he can strikeout batters with reckless abandon, all the while limiting walks and without having any longball tendencies that have haunted other closers.

Arizona is not a pitcher-friendly park—with the roof open, anyway—but Putz’s repertoire should play well in the desert. The Dbacks have had many-a-closer pile up saves over the years and Putz is the best regular option they’ve had since Jose Valverde left town years ago. Expect a good season in the desert from Putz and a very happy Craiggers as he counts up the discount-priced saves, all year long.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick): Jonathan Sanchez (SP-SF) [Round 6 – Pick 78]

This pick is one of my least favorite in the draft largely because it was immediately followed by Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Wandy Rodriguez. All three of whom I view as superior pitchers to Sanchez.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Sanchez is solid pitcher and a great number three for any rotation, but his numbers from last year indicate that his “big step forward” had a lot more to do with really good luck than great pitching. His BABIP and AVG/OBP/SLG against were all well below the league averages which explains a lot of how he managed to post career bests in ERA/WHIP whilst allowing more hits, home runs and walks than he did in the 2009 season.

He’s a legit strikeout machine and will still be a good middle of the rotation starter, but there is almost no chance that he replicates his 2010 stat line again without taking a ridiculous step forward as a pitcher or another dump truck full of luck.

Strength(s): Power

Simply looking at the two keepers and top draft pick, there’s roughly a lock for 100 home runs and 300ish RBI. That’s scary stuff. Alexei Ramirez brings some nice pop from the SS position, Huff/Ibanez are both good for 20+, Posada should go for 15+ as an everyday DH.

The only real wildcards are Ben Zobrist (who could hit anywhere from five to thirty-five home runs) and Danny Valencia who may or may not ever develop legit big league power. Setting the bar any higher than 15 homers seems a bit auspicious, but given the rest of the power in this lineup, 15 might be all the more Craiggers needs from Danny V in 2011.

Weakness(es): Regression and Injuries

A quick glance at this roster shows that Craiggers paid for a lot of 2010 production. Guys like Nelson Cruz, Aubrey Huff, Jonathan Sanchez, Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers are all coming off of seasons that were either career-bests or big resurgences, based on their recent history. Many of these guys came off the board very early for Craiggers, so he’s banking on a lot of very unlikely repeats to garner the appropriate return on investment.

Nelson Cruz only played in 108 games last year. He played in 128 the year before and never more than 96 prior to that. Kevin Youkilis played in 102 games last year and just 136 the year before that. He’s never played more than 147 games in a season. These are two anchors in Craiggers’ team. I’m not even going to get into Brandon Webb. The point is that there are plenty of guys on this club with sordid injury histories and if we’ve learned anything over the years it’s that Craiggers has never handled injuries well. Definitely something to watch.

Summary: We’ve got a prototypical Craiggers team here yet again folks, easily one of the better ones he’s assembled, but a Craiggers team nonetheless. Juan Pierre is in charge of the stolen bases and any chip in from Zobrist and Ramirez will be swell. Brandon Webb is lurking—he is always lurking—yet with no signs he’ll contribute. Youk is along for the ride as well. All we’re missing is an overhyped catcher (or two) and maybe Carlos Quentin for good measure.

I like Craiggers’ team, as I do most years, but it is generally the same cast of characters that are subdued by an inability to manage in-season. Craiggers may have turned a corner late last year when he made some shrewd moves to improve his club for a consolation playoff push that secured top draft priority and brought in keeper level talent.

If Craiggers can parlay that in-season management to this year’s club, he could prove to be a dark horse in the league this year.

07) Captain Jack

Draft Pick #14

Keepers: Adam Dunn (1B/DH-CHI), Carl Crawford (OF-BOS) & Ubaldo Jimenez (SP-COL)

First Pick: Chris Carpenter (SP-STL) [Pick 14]
Last Pick: Erick Aybar (SS-LAA) [Pick 211]

Best Pick: Johnny Cueto (SP-CIN) [Round 12 – Pick 155]

Cueto, 25, is one of the only guys on this squad who isn’t applying for his AARP card, so that alone makes this a solid pick. Another big plus is that Cueto—although starting the year on the DL—has the potential to be a legit front of the rotation buzzsaw.

He’s improved steadily since cracking the bigs in 2008. He’s brought down his ERA, WHIP, BB/9, HR/9 and ER/9, albeit at the cost of some strikeouts. Cueto has good mechanics and pitches at the front of an otherwise aceless staff. The Reds figure to be in contention, thus putting Cueto into some big game situations. He’s got legit ace stuff and in round twelve, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better value.

Worst Pick: Michael Bourn (OF-HOU) [Round 5 – Pick 70]

This was actually one of the hardest picks to make, because I really disliked Travis’ rounds 3-6. I thought he overpaid for one-dimensional outfielders and closers. Of the bunch, the 28-year-old Bourn drew most of my ire.

Bourn steals bases. That is it. Literally, that is it. His OBP is just a tick above average, certainly nowhere near where a leadoff man should be. He scores roughly 80-90 runs, not nearly enough for a leadoff man. He doesn’t get extra base hits. He doesn’t do much of anything but get on base with singles and steal bases.

At 28-years-old it’s possible he’s still got a breakout in him that’ll result in a legit OBP spike and 40-50 XBH, but right now he looks like a drastically overpriced stolen base peg when Juan Pierre could have been had nearly 50 picks later and both Coco Crisp (who offers additional value) and Rajai Davis went undrafted altogether. Serious reach and overpay. Dude needs to score 100 runs and swipe 100 bags to make this worth the draft slot.

Most Likely to Succeed (ie: Breakout/Sleeper Pick): Ian Kennedy (SP-ARZ) [Round 11 – Pick 154]

Kennedy, 26, has long-been labeled a Quad-A player. Too good for the minors and not quite good enough for the pros. As one might expect, what he needed was a move from the AL East to the NL West. Kennedy had a good, not great, debut season in Arizona—his first as a full-time starter—and established himself as a key cog in the rotation going forward.

Kennedy is still very young and has plenty of time to harness his massive potential. He’s got the skills to be a legitimate K-machine on the hill, but his biggest obstacles will be the long ball and his tendency to get wild on the hill. He led the league in wild pitches last year and gave up far too many free passes to opposing hitters. If he can put it all together and rekindle the magic he showed in the minor leagues, this could be the year he sheds the Quad-A label for good.

Least Likely to Succeed (ie: Dude is Gonna Flop Pick):Chris Coghlan (OF-FLA) [Round 15 – Pick 210]

Coghlan, 25, is probably the least-deserving Rookie of the Year winner in recent memory. That’s completely unrelated to why he’s going to flop, but I just felt like saying it. JA Happ, Andrew McCutchen and Tommy Hanson all got f’n jobbed on that dealio!

Anyway, Coghlan is also one of those guys who fits in with the Bourn class. He offers one or two things and nothing else. He’s got a track record of high OBPs and hitting doubles. That’s it. He doesn’t score a lot of runs—much like Bourn that’s just as much on his team as it is him, but it’s still a detractor—or hit for even moderate power. I’d be shocked if he popped ten homers this year. He had some speed—albeit not blazing—prior to knee surgery, but I can’t foresee him getting suddenly aggressive on the base paths following surgery.

The biggest issue is that he’s going to get run out in centerfield for the Marlins, a position he is wholly unfit to play as he was a below-average left fielder. Now the team expects him to take over in spacious centerfield coming off of knee surgery. He hasn’t experienced any setbacks since Spring Training, but I’d be hard-pressed to think he’ll stay healthy trying to man CF on a bum wheel all season and still keep up his offensive numbers.

Strength(s): Speed and Power Arms

This lineup is built to burn on both sides of the ball. This has long been Travis’ M.O. in drafts and I was less than surprised to see it in play again this year. He has accumulated enough big-threat base stealers to essentially guarantee that category week in and week out and he’s got enough power mixed in elsewhere to keep things pretty much leveled if everyone holds up their end of the bargain.

In the rotation and ‘pen, he’s loaded up on potential power arms in Jimenez, Carpenter, Cueto, Nolasco, Wilson and Bell. I wasn’t shocked to see Travis pounce way too early on—and then load up on—closers, but I gotta think that could haunt him if they don’t perform at a high level and with closers, that’s always a possibility.

Weakness(es):Age and Single-Dimensional Players

This team is old balls and a half. The median age of this squad is 30. The top four players drafted were 35, 32, 37 and 33. Only six players on this squad are 27 or younger. The potential for injury and age-related decline is extremely high with this club and I’d be shocked if every member of the old boys club makes it through the season unscathed.

The other major weakness is this club’s lack of real multi-tool players. There are plenty of players who hit for OBP or steal bases, but few guys who offer a legit menagerie of skills. As is the case with many of Travis’ teams of the past, he’s gone balls to the wall trying to acquire power arms and speed. It’s a strategy that makes me wonder if Travis isn’t actually a time traveler who was once a big league scout in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Summary: This feels like many of the teams we’ve seen Travis assemble in years passed, except—much like Levi’s squad—it lacks something to make me think it’ll be around when the postseason starts. Granted, we’ve all seen Travis wheel and deal his way through the season before and we know he’s got the chops to get it done as evidenced by his previous three-year run of dominance.

I think this club is good enough to compete, but given the tough level of competition that exists in the Atlantic Division, I think cracking the postseason—with the current roster—could be a much tougher task than ole Cap’n Jack is prepared to deal with this season.

…and so ends Part I of the Commissioner’s Annual Draft Review and Rankings. Check back tomorrow for Part II and later this week for Part III and this year’s “Expert Panel Rankings.”

Draft Analysis According to Team Money Grubbers

Each player is listed on the sheet as they were drafted. Keepers were listed by how they appeared on the ADP. The number immediately to the right of each player is the ADP from the sheet. The number/letter right after that is the pick they were taken. Each round is listed to the very far left of the sheet.

EXAMPLE = round 11, Ian Desmond, ADP 164.9, pick 154.

So according to these numbers Ian Desmond was picked at #154 and his ADP was 164.9. so according to the numbers Grant made a very slight but totally understandable reach at that pick.

The next set of statistics are immediately below the picks/rounds/ADP

To the left you see Average and Starters Average. These are formulas figuring out the average ADP of each teams picks in the draft. The first one is the total average and the second one is the “starters” average. The second average ONLY counts the 3 keepers and the first 13 rounds of the draft. Discounting Bench players or uber late starters changed some peoples averages significantly.

NOTE: If a player was undrafted on my ADP sheet they were assigned one number lower than the lowest number ADP selected. There were only two players ND on the list. Bard and Beachy

Next are the Reach/Steal of each team. Players determined by ADP and discounts the MI picks and ND picks since most standard 5×5 drafts won’t include them anyway

Next is the picks by opinion. My personal thoughts.

Next is the draft rankings. These were just #’s pulled from the AVG and SAVG and rated.

Last is my personal thoughts based on all these numbers.

(Click on the graphs to make them larger)

Radioactive Rush: Grade C-
A rather unimpressive collection of players…injuries could decimate this lineup and he jumped on the closer bandwagon earlier than everyone and took the 5th best closer available with that pick. His rotation after Lincecum is suspect at best with good but not great Danks as his second best SP. His closers are explosive high era types and his other starters are either unproven(Jaime Garcia) or Rockies(Jorge De La Rosa). I see good potential in the offense but they all need to stay healthy for that to happen. Werth, Weeks, and Mauer are unlikely to be those types. Like the Chris Young pick but in an OBP league he paid a premium for the steals and potential HRs.

The Dominators: Grade D+
Great keepers and first two picks…even with the Greinke injury the start of the draft was good to team Dominators. After that it all went to hell. Paid a premium for the Konerko contract year, Hart is explosive and played out of his mind last year and Gardner is a must have only he could have had him two rounds later. Nishioka is the true reach in the draft as he was on NO ONEs radar at that point. In fact considering the 2b/SS types still on the board this was probably the reach of the entire draft. He may perform at this level but the thing Team Dominators needs to learn when drafting is if you take a guy that high he HAS to perform at that level. We might all be proven wrong at the end of the year though. The Dominators lack the pitching depth of last year and he is hoping for huge years out of pitchers in the AL (B)East. Probably a bad bet for low era or whip types there. All in all I give this draft a B for originality but hard numbers are lacking.

S.L. Disappointment: Grade B+
The great S.L. Disappointment if only he could keep his head in the game. Team SLD performed his typically above average draft this year(what happened last year is anyone’s guess). He made some GREAT picks and some so so ones. He is hoping Bautista is no fluke but I am guessing he would take the 30+ HR reality and isn’t counting on the 54 HR Jose hit last year. His team fills out well with some good SPs in Lee, Cain, and Rodriguez (lets hope its 2nd half Wandy for SLD). All in all the picks fit well with the team whole and he has power, speed, good obp, and some good breakout candidates. Some of my personal hardons are in SLD’s current team and it is very upsetting to see I missed them. His one downfall is saves. He punted on the stat but considering it is 1 of 14 that isn’t such a bad thing.

cracker jack: Grade C-
Wow does losing Wainwright hurt. That one injury forced team Cracker Jack to make some hard decisions. The first one is counting on Posey to not regress in year two. It’s a hard thing to tell just look at Beckham last year. Overall the draft could be a real diamond here. Brett Anderson if healthy is a potential top 10 starter. Hughes, though in the AL (B)East, is really good. He is also relying on Beckett to turn it around and Bud Norris to breakout this season. His hitting has some pretty good OBP guys and could fill doubles every week. He sort of lacks in the speed department though. Team cracker jack might be dead last in triples and steals at year’s end. Factor that in with a higher than average ERA and WHIP and we are slotting him right in the middle. Most likely on the outside looking in for playoffs this season.

InSaNeAuDiO: Grade C
Team IA has internet this year and claims he will not suck again. We shall see says I. Many guys start out with great intentions and don’t have the staying power necessary to make it to the promised land. IA is the first team ever to keep two pitchers. He has two whoppers though and both could win the CY in each league. Not a bad year to keep pitchers. Couple that with the best actual hitter not named Albert and he is sitting pretty. Team IAs real problem appears to be current knowledge. It looks like he took a draft sheet from 4 years ago and said these are the guys I want. Three of his first four draft picks are old balls, declining players. Plus Kelly Johnson is possibly a one hit wonder. Not a good way to start. His mid rounds went well. Markakis in year 27 is a good buy, so is Broxton on the bounce and Wells slipping. All in all if he could have the first four rounds back he might finally be bound for top half. I am guessing middling though again. Prove me wrong!

ZIMA: Grade C-
Zima’s first few rounds look pretty solid. You can discount Young unless he is playing regularly and Furcal as being eternally brittle. He looks fairly solid through and through. Z shouldn’t have bought a middle relief guy so early as the top holds guy hasn’t even been drafted in the last four years. These are things you learn as you keep playing though. Overall it could have been better but I don’t feel it was the worst draft. Good SP’s, Good Closers, Great 1b’s. Much like team CJ though he is missing a few batting categories, where are the steals in this lineup? The triples? Drafting the injured Brown that early was another mistake. Predraft prep might have been lacking here.

Sea Bass v6.0: Grade B-
Team SB is sitting pretty damn good this year. Drafted a few good rounds of players to go along with his keepers. He filled in quite a few categories with the Pierre pick late and the Zobrist reach early. Add that to his uber high obp guys in tex, youk, and cruz and he is bound for success. I see a pitching staff that could struggle with some low to average k guys and a few questionable closers. Gregg especially could be rough and we don’t know if Putz will get even one save with that horrible relief corp in front of him. If Webb returns healthy in june don’t count this team out. He has some good potential here.

38 MPH Heaters: Grade F
What is MPH thinking? This draft right here could be bad. I mean team SLD 2010 bad! Consider that Morneau hasn’t played in a September ball game in 2 years and that was this guys first pick. Also consider his two hitter keepers are rather injury prone(Kinsler WORSE than Morneau) and you have the makings of a disaster. After that look at his draft. There isn’t a home run hitter on the entire team other than Morneau that is getting you 30+. He has part time guys abound and unproven hitters all over. What could of gone worse for MPH will his pitching didn’t help his case. Bucholz could be great but he does pitch in the ALbeast. Garza has impressed NOONE in Chicago this spring. Hellickson is a 140 IP guy this year as a rookie and he has ONE closer. This could get ugly this year fella. Someone needs to get a full night sleep before the draft next year.

j’s team: Grade A-
Very good…very good all over. Pitching is strong. Hitting is stronger. Pagan BAD pick. Other than that there isn’t much to dislike. His last three picks could of gone better but really they are his LAST three picks. Might have too many 1b/3b types but what a problem to have, right?

money grubbers: Grade D+
How to rate your own draft. This is going to be tough. According to the popularity contest from MDC I had the WORST draft in the salmon league. No matter how I swing the numbers my ADPs didn’t look pretty. According to the sheet I drafted 4 players lower than their posted adp’s. That is not a good draft strategy. If it weren’t for my complete unflappability and absolutely MONSTER keeper position players I would be worried. This team is counting on great bounceback seasons from a lot of players. Maybe too many! We are also counting an a lot of breakouts. If there is any consolation the team fills out great and according to projections I took quite a few .350 obp+, 15hr+, 75rbi+, 75 r+, 20 2b+, 15 s+ guys. Along with quite a few projected 175k+ pitchers and the entire bunch are in the NL central or west, Pineda is the lone exception. Overall I LOVE my draft but since I have to grade it and I am using these numbers to grade yours it can’t be that high.

Genies in a Bottle: Grade A
How do you change a bad situation? End 11 years of ALWAYS being the bridesmaid? You take your stupid, unproven, losing, draft strategy and throw it out the window. Yes team Genies is always built to succeed in the regular season but we are about championships here. It is time for a change. That is exactly what team Genies did this year. Scrap a tried and true strategy of always drafting “position scarcity” and go full hog with OFs. He basically avoided any non injury player other than outfielders until round 8. That is impressive people. He does have two pretty damn good infielders as keepers (both are kind of overrated though). Has either ever won team Genies a championship? I rest my case!!! No lie the dude is stacked this year. If Utley plays before July (which he probably won’t) and Morales comes back before May (which it sounds like he might) this team is going to be dominant.

Dome Dog: Grade C
Team DD is a testament that might projections and thoughts on this subject matter very little. I rated his draft the absolute WORST in the salmon league last year. What did team DD do? Win the whole damn thing. Granted his team did exactly what I said it would do…GOT HURT A LOT. Shrewd mid season management and picking up the right players to help his team made a much bigger difference than his draft. Well with the exception of Tulo and Hamilton who are back around for another swing. Can they stay healthy? Doubt it but what do you do? From the looks of DD’s draft the dude basically read every yahoo article in creation and wrote those guys down as “must haves” there is a lot of young potential here. But that is exactly the problem. Potential means only that! The first player not a keeper or closer over the age of 25 is Carlos Lee in round 12. Could be rough going for DD! However he got Bay AND Sizemore uber late and both players could bounce back. They could also remain brittle pieces of glass as are team DD’s favorites. Like the chance he took, will it play out?

High Cheese: Grade D-
First time drafters…how do you judge them? Well considering Levi’s draft maybe he will be ok. He has some old busteds in the OF to accompany CarGo (regression year). His infield is leaky and inconsistent. He does have some decent pitchers so long as they stay healthy but not much to love here according to the guy no one should listen to.

Captain Jack: Grade C+
We have seen this guy before. He drafts category cats and fills in all spots pretty well. Stealing Ichiro when he did is embarrassing to us all. Especially the guys who took Rasmus and Bruce instead of him. I guess we are going to have to live with that decision all year. If Capt could just of waited on Carpenter he might have been a bit happier. His pitching staff is weak. Wilson hurt, Carp ailing, Nolasco an elbow away from a tear, Kennedy average, Lidge awful, Cueto is hurt hurt hurt. The offense looks pretty tough but there is some real issues in that pitching staff. I don’t see him making a huge run with that it mind. I don’t think this is the year that the last pick wins it all.