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1st Annual BTB Readers' League Draft

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Recently, Alpheus and I (and others) participated in a league headed by Marc Normandin. Dan Scotto posted a round-by-round summary of the draft. Here are his comments in regards to round one, for example:

And so, the draft began...

   1. Sons of Ed Sprague - David Ortiz
   2. Karate Explosion - Alex Rodriguez
   3. Diamond Dawgs - Felix Hernandez
   4. The Slurves - Albert Pujols
   5. The Slumpers - Mark Teixeira <-- Dan
   6. Nine Bill Muellers - Johan Santana
   7. The Dungeness Dragons - Manny Ramirez
   8. Boston Stranglers - Bobby Abreu <-- Marc
   9. Power Hour of Power - Michael Young <-- Alpheus
  10. Statutory Apes - Vladimir Guerrero <-- Me
  11. Academic All Stars - Derrek Lee
  12. Death By Sexy - Carl Crawford

I made a Top 5 board to start out the draft, just because it makes the first selection a lot easier.

My board looked like this:

   1. Alex Rodriguez
   2. Albert Pujols
   3. Mark Teixiera
   4. Miguel Cabrera
   5. Johan Santana

I knew I would end up with one of those five guys. A-Rod and Pujols are simply amazing hitters, and, while Pujols is better, I view A-Rod's position as more premium and he has a better surrounding cast. Cabrera's on the list because of positional flexibility. Johan Santana's on the list because he's the only pitcher I like in the first round.

Why Teixiera so high? He plays in a great hitter's park and is still maturing. He'll be 26 by the end of April, and he just keeps getting better; he hit .301/.379/.575 last year.

Teix fell to me, and, while I'd rather not take a guy like Teix b/c of the availability  of good first basemen later (see: Carlos Delgado), it was what I considered to be a low-risk type pick.

In this round, Vlad Guerrero was the steal, as Guerrero was my #6 guy and I'm sure often considered as a "second choice" type. If he's healthy, he's one of the 3-4 best players in the bigs, and he provides everything.

I was a little confused by the Felix Hernandez pick so high just because I couldn't imagine him being more valuable than Pujols. But would anyone be surprised if Felix hit his 90th percentile PECOTA? I sure as hell wouldn't be.

The overall interest level in fantasy sports is rapidly rising, and I'm sure many readers are part of various leagues themselves. As a result, I'd like to add some comments about this draft and fantasy baseball on the whole. Since I wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on my fellow league members, I'll reserve criticism for my team only, while also commenting on league-wide trends every now and again.

As Dan mentions in his post, it's clearly evident that third base is one of the deepest positions in the draft. After the elite troika of Rodriguez, Cabrera, and Wright, those who remain are not much different from one another. In retrospect, therefore, it wasn't all that wise of me to draft Eric Chavez in the the sixth round when Troy Glaus or Scott Rolen could've been had much later. Of course, Chavez is a reasonably safer bet to stay healthy for the entire season, but it boils down to a question of value. In Chavez, I drafted someone who will most likely post very similar statistics to third basemen who were drafted several rounds later. In the end, that's not an effective or efficient way maximizing my roster's utility.

Another concern I had when drafting was whether to take a safe bet -- someone who has already established that he's capable of performing at a productive level over the course of an entire season -- or a risk-reward type player. In my case, this was most evident in round eight, when I was deliberating between drafting either Felipe Lopez or Rickie Weeks. In the end, I decided on the safe bet. Normally, I'd take the player with more upside, but I ultimately settled on Lopez. However, I would not at all be surprised if Weeks, much like Chase Utley a year earlier, vaults himself in the the upper-echelon of second basemen before this season's over.

As a result of placing my focus on drafting players who are primed to outperform their draft position, I invariably end up drafting many young players. Of course, there are various problems associated with such an approach. Although they are primed for a breakthrough, many players often suffer through transitional seasons as part of their learning curve. Even worse, some young players simply don't amount to anything. And as Dan points out in his post, this undervalues older players who, although they are not primed for a marked increase in production, are safe bets to produce at previously established levels of productivity. In the end, however, I feel that with proper research, it's not unwise to draft inexperienced players. A team composed primarily of safe picks is likely to succeed, but it's highly unlikely that it will finish in first place. I think it's very important to strive to build a team around players who will likely outperform their draft position than players who will more than likely only perform to the expectations associated with their draft position.

I think I'll simply stop there, as fantasy leagues are first and foremost about having fun, not masochistic overanalysis (not that this was overly analytical, mind you). Anyway, I recommend any and every baseball fan who hasn't yet joined a league to join one prior to the start of the season. For me, participating in my firt baseball pool helped familiarize me with many new players and it acted as a conduit to reading into the game in a more statistically-oriented manner.