The snow has melted, the birds are singing, Joe Mauer is injured and, call me an optimist, the winter jacket has been retired for the year, which of course means two things: my futile attempt to get in shape before the summer will soon begin and another season of fantasy baseball with the FF crowd is upon us (I think this is the tenth season that many of us have participated in the league). We play in a roto league using the standard 5×5 categories, except that we use on-base percentage instead of average. Without further ado, here is this season’s edition of the Cereal Killers (in draft order, with overall selection in ( )):
1. (5) Miguel Cabrera: While one may be the loneliest number, in this year’s draft five is certainly the most annoying. A-Roid’s injury left the draft with four studs (Hanley Ramirez, Pujols, Wright and Reyes), all of whom were taken. Miggy’s post-break line of 21 HRs and 70 RBI and his 3B availability sealed the decision for me. Anything less than 40 HRs and 120 RBI will be a disappointment.
2. (16) Ian Kinsler: Was really hoping that Howard or Berkman would be available in this spot, but was left choosing between Kinsler and Beltran. Position scarcity definitely played a role in this selection but I also like Kinsler’s upside, especially if he can play at least 150 games atop the Rangers’ line-up.
3. (25) Jake Peavy: I consider Peavy a top tier SP, along with Johan, Lincecum and Hamels. Johan and Lincecum had been selected (along with CC and Webb). I went with Peavy over Hamels because Peavy has a lengthier track record, plays in the most pitcher-friendly park, has a better K/9 ratio and I was concerned about the number of innings Hamels pitched last season. Tough decision.
4. (36) Carl Crawford: Up until this pick, I always avoided Crawford since he has been a one trick pony who usually goes too high in drafts; however, the Rays’ line-up is stacked (who would have imagined that a few years ago, but then again who would have guessed that the US government would be the largest shareholder in Citi). With Longoria, Pena and Burrell behind him, Crawford has the potential to score 110+ runs. Also, between Crawford and Kinsler, I should be in good shape with steals.
5. (45) Adrián González: Yo Adrian, I did it! The most underrated fantasy player in the game. Two consecutive 100/30/100 seasons.
6. (56) Bobby Abreu: There are always certain players that usually end up on my roster and Abreu is one of those guys. He fills up the entire stat sheet (last year’s line: 100 runs; 20 HRs; 100 RBI; 22 SBs) and will be batting third with Figgins and Kendrick ahead of him and will have Vlad the Impaler and Hunter behind him, which should result in many RBI and run opportunities.
7. (65) Josh Beckett: Fantasy baseball is not brain surgery, yet somehow I always end up over-thinking my draft strategy. I really wanted Harden on my team after he excelled for me last year, but felt I could pass on him in round six. Of course, he went off the board with pick 64 (last year CC got all the press for his post-trade performance for the Brew Crew, but Harden’s numbers for the Cubs were ridiculous: 89 Ks in 71 innings pitched with a 1.77 ERA and 0.97 WHIP). With Harden gone, I went with Beckett, who has a solid K/IP, decent ratios and a chance for 18+ wins (which should even out Peavy’s lack of wins). Blisters are always a concern.
8. (76) Brian Fuentes: I was surprised that many of the fantasy experts had Fuentes rated outside of the RP top ten, especially given his numbers outside of Coors (1.84 ERA and 0.89 WHIP) and Scioscia’s stat producing use of his closer (last season K-Rod never went over an inning in any of his 76 appearances and only entered a game without a lead six times).
9. (85) Troy Tulowitzki: At this point, I needed to up my HRs and RBI and fill one of the weakest positions on the board, so TT is the man. Here’s hoping for a repeat of his 2007 season.
10. (96) Pat Burrell: A poor man’s Adam Dunn. I needed power and Burrell delivers (also his average is not a liability given the league’s use of OBP).
11. (105) Derek Lowe: I just got off a conference call when I realized it was my turn to pick. I had a list of SPs to choose from and Lowe was at the bottom. For some unexplainable reason, much like the government deciding to give loans to Chrysler and GM, I convinced myself that Lowe was my man since so many pitchers thrive in Atlanta (that said, he looked awesome last night against the Phillies!).
12. (116) Randy Johnson: Given the Lowe debacle in the previous round I needed to up my K per inning ratio and Big Unit does that and will usually not hurt any of the ratios. Johnson is like Abreu, he always ends up on my team.
13. (125) Frank Francisco: I needed saves and to up my Ks per inning and Francisco helps in both categories (Texas will have many close games due to their poor starting pitching and Francisco had 83 Ks in 61.1 IPs last year).
14. (136) Carlos Delgado: Sits in the heart of one of the game’s best line-up. Keeping my fingers crossed that the first three months of last season were a fluke. Should go for 100 RBI and 30 HRs.
15. (145) Mike González: He has a live arm and Atlanta should be in many close games, so, hopefully, the Ks and saves will come. Am concerned about his high WHIP.
16. (156) Jayson Werth: Abreu-lite. Was 20 for 21 in SB attempts (he and Pedroia lead the majors in SB success rate) and will be batting second in a stacked line-up.
17. (165) Hiroki Kuroda: Was choosing between Hiroki and Kershaw—ended up with both. When in doubt go with SPs in the NL West—big parks and light hitting teams. HK exhibited solid command in his debut season and was dominant in the spring, while Kershaw, at just 21, has been tapped as a future Cy Young winner.
18. (176) Clayton Kershaw: See above.
19. (185) Jorge Posada: Was hoping to grab Iannetta or Sandoval, but both were gone. Jorge is a great consolation prize; provided he is healthy. Great line-up and OBP for a C.
20. (196) Jack Cust: Solid power and should increase his RBI and run total with Orlando Cabrera, Holliday, Nomar and Giambi in the line-up (ended up dropping Cust to pick up Smoltz (who sits in one of my two DL spots) and Bonifacio).
21. (205) Justin Duchscherer: Great numbers in 2008 (2.54 ERA and 1.00 WHIP) before getting shelved following elbow surgery. Will start the season on the DL.