Vegas is a place where miracles happen. People win money. They drink to excess. They meet the love of their life. Well, they meet the love of that night at least. But it's not all fun and games when The Oracle goes to Vegas as he's also known to get down and dirty with a fantasy baseball draft or two.
On Wednesday the 15th I was part of the annual FSTA Experts League, the first experts league ever year that kicks off the new baseball season. Yes it's early to be drafting, but the thought is that we can help to get the word out on how we as an industy view players and that's well worth doing (I'll speak to how drafting this early can cause some issues in a bit). So 12 experts an I sat down to do a 5x5, 13 team mixed league of 29 rounds (14 hitters and nine pitchers start with six bench spots). Here is the team I put together (round taken in in parenthesis).
C: Joe Mauer (4), Alex Avila (27)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez (6), Justin Morneau (14)
2B: Jason Kipnis (2), Howie Kendrick (12)
3B: Brett Lawrie (10)
SS: Jed Lowrie (17), Jhonny Peralta (21)
OF: Ryan Braun (1), Matt Kemp (3), Desmond Jennings (7), Austin Jackson (9), Alejandro De Aza (18), George Springer (22), Justin Ruggiano (24), Chris Young (25)
SP: Cole Hamels (5), James Shields (8), Cory Kluber (11), C.J. Wilson (13), Tim Lincecum (16), A.J. Griffin (19)
RP: Jim Henderson (15), Fernando Rodney (20), Jose Veras (23), Cody Allen (26), Darren O' Day (28), Ryan Cook (29)
For the first time this league will allow trading. As such, I wasn't afraid to go heavy at a spot like outfield while leaving myself thin at a position like third base.
The Jason Kipnis pick has drawn some heat. He's nearly gone 20/30 the last two years while playing second base. No reason to think that he fails to approach those numbers again.
Kemp was a risk. If he plays 150 games this pick will be totally fine. If he plays 125 games or less, well, then it will have been a poor selection.
Mauer in the 4th? Have I lost it? Don't think so. At first and DH I'm hoping he plays 150 games.
Hamels in the 5th is the earliest I've taken a pitcher in a while. Had to do it though as this draft was much more aggressive when it came to selecting hurlers early. I backed him up with Shields who is always solid. Kluber caused some people some pause, but more than eight strikeouts per nine, a very low walk rate and a solid GB/FB paint him as someone who can have more success than most seem to think he will. Griffin is something like 11th in baseball in WHIP the last two years. He's way better than people think (his only issue is the homer). And then there is Lincecum. Say what you want about him and my unhealthy bordering on pathological belief in him, but in the 16th round I had no choice but to draft him. Toss in Wilson who wins like 14 games with 170 Ks every season, and I've legitimately got six starters who could get 170 punchouts.
My bullpen is a bit messy. I kept wanting to take closers and they kept going right before I was ready to call out their names. As a result I've got Henderson and questions. Veras could easily end up closing for Cubs and he's got a big arm. Rodney could still sign with the Rays and get his closer role back. It was then lottery time with all the other relievers. Since we've got more than two full months to go before the season starts I thought I'd roster a bunch of middle relievers on the off chance that the men ahead of them for 9th inning work struggle or end up hurt. If the MRs don't assume the 9th inning role early on, I might very well move on from them. It's much better to take a middle reliever in the 28th round in the draft versus having to blow a third of my FAAB budget in Week 1 if some setup man becomes the closer.
I've got a very nice collection of arms, even if they names don't make you want to do cartwheels (something I could never do by the way). I've got a couple of lottery tickets in the outfield which if they pay off might leave me with 4-5 guys going 20/20 (Young has done it before and Justin Ruggiano owns the skills to do it). I'll need Lawrie and Kemp to stay healthy, Braun to be the hitter he once was, and for a couple of those relief arms to come through. If all that happens, no small feat mind you, this team could contend.
Here is the link to the entire 2014 FSTA Draft.