In fantasy baseball circles I'm known as the 'anti-pitcher' guy. I tell people all the time that in re-draft leagues there is no reason to take a pitcher at the top of a draft, and I practice what I preach (see how my staff turned out in the recent FSTA Experts Draft where I waited until the 8th round to take my first hurler). I know though that many others disagree with that line of thought. So for the sake of thoroughness and seeing both sides of the coin, I decided to flip my traditional script on its ear and go pitching early in a draft. Not only did I go pitching early, I went bonkers with pitching early.
I was invited by Cory Schwartz of MLB.com to participate in a 15 team mixed league (23 rounds with 14 hitters and nine pitchers, but no bench). I drew the 13th pick in the draft and thought, what the hell, I'm taking a hurler in the first round to see how my team would turn out since I know so many of you are drafting hurlers in the first round. I took Clayton Kershaw. When my second turn came up, pick #18 overall, guess which dominating righty was still available? If you said Justin Verlander you are correct. If you said that I did the unthinkable and took Verlander as well... you'd be right again. Not only did I blow past my 'never take a pitcher in the first round' strategy, I multiplied the pitching love by grabbing the top two arms in the game with my first two selections. How did my team turn out? Let's take a look.
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C: Matt Wieters (6th round), John Jaso (17) 1B: Adrian Gonzalez (4) 2B: Marco Scutaro (20) 3B: Pablo Sandoval (5) SS: Alcides Escobar (11) MI: Josh Rutledge (12) CI: Adam LaRoche (14) OF: Jay Bruce (3), Nelson Cruz (7), Carl Crawford (8), Shane Victorino (9), Nick Markakis (10) UT: Brett Gardner (16)
I certainly went as big as one could in the first two rounds on the hill, but then I didn't take another arm until the 13th round, and my third starter didn't come until the 15th (I would bet many who do go big early on pitching then sit back and wait to fill out their staff with the thought being that they got a stud or two early so now they can afford to wait). This was only a 23 round draft, there were no bench rounds, so you can be assured that at least two, possibly three, of my bench spots would have been devoted to starting pitchers to round out the group. Still, with the two best arms in baseball at the top, a strong ratio guy (Hudson), a potential 180 K guy (McDonald), and a cheap/solid arm (Wandy), I like this group given the constraints I was working under.
I also love my bullpen arms. You might be saying to yourself 'but Ray you only have one closer,' and that's fair, but look at those four arms. That quartet of relievers should be good for 10 strikeouts per nine innings. They are also likely to flat out kill it in ERA and WHIP. In fact, that foursome could very easily dust both Kershaw and Verlander in ERA, WHIP, K/9... and they have the chance to pick up a few saves as well. Basically, if everything goes according to plan, I'll win Ks, ERA and WHIP. Wins, should be solid enough, and with an injury or poor performance here or there I could get some lucky saves love as well. Remember, only 23 round in this draft, so there would be plenty of time to add more depth to a unit that is filled with power arms in the reserve rounds.
So the staff is impressive. What about the offense, is it offensive like stinky cheese?
My duo at catcher is strong. In a 15 team league to get a duo that is capable of doing the things of Wieters and Jason – gotta like that.
A-Gone is about as good a bet to go .300 with 100 RBIs as any first baseman in baseball not named Pujols or Votto. Sandoval is a potential .300-25 guy at the other corner if he can avoid that third helping of plantains at dinner (his career bests would leave him with a .330-25-90 line). Up the middle I've got solid but boring Scutaro. He's not likely to blow blast past .300 this year (see his Player Profile). Escobar is a solid add for the speed, but there are some questions about his overall game (see his Player Profile). At corner infield LaRoche is boring but does he ever put up numbers in the counting categories. Rutledge doesn't have a big league season under his belt, but there's 15/15 potential there.
The outfield is solid. I've got Bruce and Cruz for some pop, and then went all-around game with Crawford and Victorino. Questions abound about what Crawford has left to give, and if Victorino can hang on for another season (see his Player Profile), but if they are both healthy there no disputing that the results could potential lead to a bounty of offense. Markakis isn't a big name, but since most of the big names went off the board while I was grabbing my two arms, he was a strong fallback play for my squad. Ditto on Gardner who people forget averaged 48 steals and 92 runs scored in 2010-11.
So to wrap it up. The offense has solid speed (Gardner, Escobar, Victorino and Crawford). There's some decent pop but nothing over the top. I had to take chances on talent that was coming back from injury as the depressed value allowed the fellas to be available for me to roster well later than they would be if they were coming off a healthy 2012 (Sandoval, Crawford, Markakis, Gardner). If that foursome of players all play 150 games then this offense will be pretty decent for a 15 team league.
Is it a perfect team? No sir. Is it a solid enough team that I could compete with it? I think the answer is yes. However, there are certain health risks on offense, and how those players perform in 2013 will likely determine how this team will ultimately finish after I spent my top two picks on the best lefty-righty duo anyone in the fantasy game could put together in 2013..
For the full results click on the link to MLB.com Draft.
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By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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