Baseball BeatApril 04, 2005
You Gotta Say His Name
By Rich Lederer

As I mentioned in my weekend article, my friends and I held our 22nd annual fantasy baseball draft Sunday night. We drafted 364 players (14 teams x 26 players each) over the course of a five-and-a-half-hour evening. Long but well worth it.

I drew number seven out of the hat but wound up with the third pick owing to the fact that four members opted to slide back in the draft. My college roommate pulled out the slip of paper with a number one on it but decided to go sixth. My cousin also had a low number but chose the 14th slot, which allowed him the last selection in the first round and the first pick in the second round. There were two other team owners who decided for one reason or another to move back toward the middle of the group.

Before I tell you who went first and how my team shaped up, I should point out that we have six hitting -- AVG, R, RBI, HR, (2*DBL + 3*TPL), and BB+HBP+(.5*(SB-2*CS)) -- and what amounts to five-and-a-half pitching -- IP, ERA, WHIP, K-BB, W, W-L %, and SV -- categories. The latter three pitching stats are half weighted. You get 14 points for finishing in first place and one point for last in the full categories and seven points for the penthouse and 1/2 point for the cellar in the half-weighted categories.

We start one player at each position plus a DH and use five starting pitchers and two relievers. Each team has 10 players on the bench. Each player is assigned one position and he can only play that particular spot all year. We do not allow trades, instead opting for three replacement drafts of two players per team at each of the quarter poles in the season.

OK, now that I've got your heading spinning a bit, let me tell you that the owners in charge of this year's first four draft slots have won eight of the last 12 pools. I have won three and I was directly in front of a friend who has also won three during this period. Of course, I was after him during the even rounds of our serpent draft.

Alex Rodriguez was the first player chosen in our draft. It was the eighth time in the past nine years that A-Rod was numero uno. He went second in 2000, right behind Pedro Martinez. Albert Pujols went in the number two spot for the second consecutive year.

With A-Rod and Pujols off the board, I selected...drum roll, please...Johan Santana. I've always been fond of pitchers with 13-0 records, 1.21 ERAs, and 0.75 WHIPs in the second half of the previous season. The rest of the first round went as follows: Randy Johnson, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Carlos Beltran, Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Schmidt, Alfonso Soriano, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, and Scott Rolen.

On the way back in the second round -- remember I had to sit out 22 picks waiting for my next selection -- the order was as follows: Pedro Martinez, Roy Oswalt, Jim Thome, Jeff Kent, David Ortiz, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Delgado, Curt Schilling, Ben Sheets, Mark Teixeira, and Mark Prior. The last choice was interesting because it gave the defending champ The Big Unit and Prior in the first two rounds. A gamble no doubt but one he was obviously willing to make.

So, with those 25 players all crossed off on my draft sheet, I picked Adam Dunn. If the big, power-hitting outfielder can deliver the same stats in 2005 as in 2004 -- and why not, he only turned 25 last November -- I will make out just fine with the man who was second in the majors last year in HR and fifth in BB. I would have taken Teixeira had he been available because I believe first base is a surprisingly weak position this year, but I chose a somewhat comparable player in Dunn.

This is where the draft got interesting. Oliver Perez, Carlos Zambrano, and Josh Beckett were taken in three of the next four picks (along with Nomar Garciaparra). I was actually hoping to get Beckett this year but, in lieu of the Florida right-hander, I took the next best thing -- Rich Harden. Yes, the kid with a grand total of 16 wins in his career and an ERA north of 4.00. Well, as we like to remind ourselves, "You gotta say his name" if you want somebody bad enough.

I had actually told Patrick Sullivan, aka Sully, in an instant message the night before that I was planning on getting two of the following three starting pitchers: Beckett, Harden, and AJ Burnett. Well, guess what, I was able to get my man Burnett (the third time in four years I've drafted him) in the fifth round. I selected AJ in his breakout season in 2002, let a competitor pay up for him the following year, and then came back and swooped up the Marlin flamethrower on the cheap in the 23rd round last year when others backed off, knowing full well that he wasn't slated to pitch until late May at the earliest.

In between my Harden and Burnett picks, I was fortunate that Derek Jeter was still available when my turn came up in the fourth round. Jeter gives me a middle infielder and provides strength in areas in which Dunn comes up a bit wanting. I continued with my unplanned method of taking pitchers and hitters every other round by stepping up and calling out Justin Morneau's name in the sixth round. One or two members commented to the effect that I had taken the Minnesota slugger a tad early, but I felt as if he was right where he belonged as the eighth first basemen selected in our draft. Besides, with Santana and Morneau locked up, I wanted Aaron Gleeman to have another team to root for other than his beloved Twins.

From there, I took Lance Berkman in the seventh round (87th pick in the draft), Greg Maddux in the eighth, and Brad Wilkerson in the ninth. I figure I can live with my fourth outfielder for the first few weeks of the season while waiting for Berkman to recover from a torn ACL. Heck, if it wasn't for flag football, there is no way the 29-year-old outfielder would have lasted beyond the first round. By my way of thinking, Berkman just needs to deliver something close to .290-.300 with 20-25 HR and approximately 80 R, RBI, and BB for me to get my money's worth with that pick.

Maddux was flat out cheap in the eighth round. For some strange reason, players who have been around awhile tend to be under -- rather than over -- valued in our pool. Based on our statistical categories, my spreadsheet calculated the four-time Cy Young Award winner as the 16th most valuable starter last year. He was surprisingly 12th in K-BB and 14th in WHIP among pitchers with 180 or more IP. Who knows how many wins Maddux may get this year, but he's won 15 or more every year going back a few years now.

Wilkerson is Adam Dunn Light. A cynic might accuse me of duping certain stat categories but I don't mind accumulating a bunch of HR and BB, especially when I can do so with a couple of guys who I think are still going up the elevator.

I picked Corey Koskie in the 10th round (my brother chose David Wright eight spots earlier) and backed him up with Mike Cuddyer, his successor at the hot corner for the Twins. Santana, Morneau, Koskie, and Cuddyer, and someone might accuse me of being a closet Twins fan. I can hear them now, "Next thing you know and Rich will probably begin singing the praises of Bert Blyleven." Well, I'm here to tell you that I didn't take Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon for my bullpen. Instead, I chose Billy Wagner in the 11th round and Scot Shields in the 17th. Shields may not have much value in most 4x4 or even 5x5 pools, but I figured he was one of the top 20 relievers in the majors last year and I see no reason why he won't put up comparable numbers in 2005. I picked up another similar reliever in Juan Cruz in the 25th round and figure that either Shields or Cruz will give me as many K-BB as most starters and even better ERAs and WHIPs, albeit in fewer innings.

Craig Biggio -- a player I didn't come to the draft to get but one with whom I am perfectly happy to field at second base -- and Mike Lieberthal round out my starting eight. In addition to Cuddyer, my backups are Mark Kotsay (you know what you're going to get with him) and Austin Kearns (my breakout choice for 2005) in the OF, Jose Reyes at SS, Orlando Hudson at 2B, Adam LaRoche at 1B, and Koyie Hill (don't make me repeat his name) at C.

After my Big Four of Santana, Harden, Burnett, and Maddux, I have Adam Eaton (20th in K-BB and an ERC a half-run below his actual ERA), Dan Haren, Ted Lilly, and Kevin Brown. I don't care for Brown per se, but I think he makes for a heckuva eighth starter in a 14-team league.

Hmmm, Harden, Haren, and Cruz give me three Oakland pitchers. Well, that kinda makes sense to me, seeing that I have picked them to win the AL West this year. I even have a Billy Beane-castoff in Lilly to boot, perhaps in more ways than one if the tendinitis in his shoulder doesn't subside prior to our first replacement draft on May 15th.

How did I do? Where did I go wrong? What would you have Dunn instead? Feel free to go on record. After all, I did. Now that you know my team, I feel like I'll be swimming in a fishbowl all year long. Oh well, you gotta say his name.


Other than Koskie and Biggio I like the team. I like the Twins and A's players you chose.

It looks like you have a good team; I especially like the Wilkerson and Berkman grabs.

I think you missed out on David Wright, though, especially if he was going that late. I think Wright has a chance to be Carlos Beltran lite at third, even this year.

I hope Dunn doesn't depress your AVG too much; I always have that problem with him, even in my weird more realistic leagues.

I also like Shields a lot, as well as Cruz. I agree I'm less-than-enamored with Koskie and Biggio, especially Koskie.

Thanks for the comments, SaberTJ and Alex. Before I assess Ciepley with a 15-yard penalty for piling on, let me address the Koskie and Biggio picks.

I was hoping to get Wright but had Koskie down as my last acceptable starting 3B. Although there are a dozen guys out there who are better, I think I could have done worse, too. Not sure if he will hit home runs at the same rate in 2005 as he did in 2004 (25 HR in 118 games), but it is my belief that he won't be any worse than his three-year averages (.272/.370/.463) playing half his home games in the SkyDome.

Had I selected Wright a round earlier, I would have missed out on Wilkerson. I guess it comes down to Wright and Kearns (my 4th OF) vs. Koskie and Wilkerson. That's a tough one but I can see the argument for taking Wright although Wilkerson may just be the best of the four.

Now, as far as Biggio is concerned, he was my seventh position player chosen and 13th overall. As an OF, I would not have taken him at all. However, as a 2B, I think it is a totally different story. I'm not suggesting that he can repeat his numbers from 2004 (.281 with 24 HR and 100 R), but I don't see why he couldn't put up a .270-18-90 line this year. The fact that he walks less now than earlier in his career is bothersome but Dunn, Berkman, and Wilkerson can more than make up for that deficiency. Like I said in the article, I didn't come to the draft to get Biggio, but I was actually pleased that he was still available after 11 other 2B had already been taken.

Hey, how 'bout that Dunn guy? Three-run HR off Pedro in the first and a game-tying jack in the ninth. Two down, 48 to go.

I'm curious, what are the rules for your re-draft?

We conduct a draft. Each team is allowed to replace two players. We draft in inverse order of the standings. It is a serpent draft. The last place team has the first pick and the 28th pick. The first place team has the 15th and 16th picks.

The positions are based on the positions we assigned at the original draft. If a player wasn't on our list, then the position he has played the most is the one he is eligible for in our league.

Other than that, there really aren't any rules per se. Think of it as just a mini-draft, which allows you to freshen up your roster a bit.