So here’s how my fantasy draft went this season (an 8 person league). We have 14 offensive categories (R, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, E, AVG, OBP, OFA) and 11 pitching categories (IP, W, SV, HR, BB, K, GIDP, HLD, ERA, WHIP, K/9).
- (7) Tim Lincecum SP
- (10) Pablo Sandoval 1B,3B
- (23) Justin Upton OF
- (26) Víctor Martínez C,1B
- (39) Aaron Hill 2B
- (42) Chone Figgins 3B
- (55) Andrew McCutchen OF
- (58) Adam Lind OF
- (71) Kendry Morales 1B
- (74) Matt Cain SP
- (87) Heath Bell RP
- (90) Everth Cabrera SS
- (103) Francisco Rodríguez RP
- (106) Billy Wagner RP
- (119) Max Scherzer SP
- (122) Nyjer Morgan OF
- (135) Brian Matusz SP
- (138) Garrett Jones 1B,OF
- (151) Daniel Bard RP
- (154) Casey McGehee 2B,3B
- (167) Luis Castillo 2B
- (170) David Ortiz 1B
Let me immediately say that I had to leave my draft after pick 106, so the rest of the draft was on auto-pick. I created a list before having to leave, but it must have run out of picks. I would never, never have drafted Ortiz or Castillo. They were immediately dropped for (eventually) closer David Aardsma and OF Jason Heyward (both went undrafted).
I was particularly excited to get Justin Upton in round 3 (were Lincecum gone, he might have been my first round pick) and Kendry Morales in round 9. Matt Cain in the 10th was also unexpected. Most of the teams in my league are geared toward starting pitching, so I decided to collect every closer I could (with Bard as my one set-up guy). Essentially, I know I won’t be competeing in cumulative stats such as Wins, IP, GIPD. But I should dominate rate stats such as ERA, WHIP, K/9 in addition to saves, HR, and BB. Given the high k/9 for my whole staff, I’ll even compete in gross K’s (given that Matusz and Scherzer are projected as +9 K/9 pitchers).
The only pick I regret–and I regretted it immediately–was the Aaron Hill pick. Dustin Pedroia was still on the board. Hill’s 100 / 100 season last year led me to pick him, but this team is built around scoring runs and stealing bases. I should have picked Pedroia–I think I was hesitant to pick two Red Sox in a row for fear of overvaluing the home team.
I picked Sandoval and Figgins high, but I thought both of them gave me great production at shallow positions. I knew Figgins would count as a 2B, so that’s nice depth for the bench. I also feel that SF will be much better this year, and thus think that Sandoval will have more RBI chances than a year ago.
I wrote earlier this season about my approach to shortstop. I dropped McGehee to grab Alcides Escobar, and then had to drop Escobar to grab a second basemen while waiting for Figgins’ eligibility to update. I have since dropped the 2B man (Rickie Weeks) to pick up the Dodgers’ Furcal, who’s hitting lead-off to start the season. That pretty much cements my roster for now, and I’ll try not to make any more changes until we get a larger sample-size of at-bats (around 100 or so). After that, I’ll revisit the Cabrera-Furcal-Escobar -(Scutaro?) shortstop question.
I had a losing week last week, going 9-13-3, but that was with my team hitting a combined .233 to open the season. Morales and Martinez hit a combined .227. Adam Hill (sigh) only managed to get 8 at-bats before missing time with an early injury. And, finally, had I started Garrett Jones for the first few games rather than Morales or McCutchen, then I would have won two more categories. So, I’m pretty happy with my depth of talent, and am looking forward to competing for the postseason in my second season of fantasy baseball.
I’m not necessarily a big fan of arm chair prognostication. I’m a much bigger fan of narration–and think that the most compelling sports analysis involves narrative arc. So, rather than offer a prediction, I’ll call attention to what I think are the most intriguing Red Sox story lines heading into the season.
1. John Lackey’s health
Of course, every team needs players to stay healthy. But the Red Sox are counting on their version of Maddux / Glavine / Smoltz this season–a three-headed pitching hydra poised to eat up innings and rack up wins. Lackey has missed 23% of his starts over the past two seasons. Put simply: missing 7 starts would be bad in a division that will likely come down to two or three games.
2. Can Defense Really Win?
This is a question posed by about every major media commentator [wsj.com]: the Red Sox’s turn toward defensive minded players. To separate myself a bit, I will point to the increased interest in defense in many of baseball’s “think tanks.” Seattle focused on defense as well this off-season–if the Sox and the Mariners do win their divisions, be prepared to become familiar with obscure terms such as RF and DE. I’ve been interested in these new defensive stats for quite awhile simply because they are so hard to quantify (and so few people will believe in the impact of something that cannot be measured). Rest assured, if the Sox win 100 games, you’ll see some theoretical-mathematical approaches to defense popping up on ESPN.
3. Does This Team Really Have a 4th Starter?
Those first three pitchers are incredible, and the team should benefit from increased defense. But can either Wakefield, Dice-K, or Buchholz maintain the Sox’s pitching advantage by consistently giving a 6 inning, 3 ER effort? The easy answer is “yes”–but last year’s struggles suggest that the Red Sox might actually have three number one pitchers and three number fives. I’m hoping Buchholz looks more like the pitcher of last September–a pitcher with top-of-the-rotation potential, than what he looked like at the beginning of last season or for most of this Spring.
4. Can This Team Score Runs?
This is an obvious question that has been covered elsewhere. Very simply:
- Which David Ortiz shows up? One who can hit .250 with 30 home runs or one who can hit .200 with 15 home runs? Or one that hits like Pat Burrell (ewww….)?
- Is Scutaro a one year wonder?
- Will Cameron have more hits or strikeouts? (Hint: the last time he had more hits than k’s was 2000).
- Can Drew repeat his stellar 2009?
- Will Ellsbury continue to grow or has he plateau-ed?
Ok, so I’m not optimistic about the answer to most of these questions…which leads to my next two storylines:
5. Will Josh Reddick Break Through this Season?
Only the die-hard Sox fans likely know who Reddick is. Last year, in Spring Training, Reddick hit .423 / .433 / .577. This season he followed it up with an even more amazing .404 / .426 / .702. That’s a 1.128 OPS from a 23 year old who can play all three positions. He had a rough trip up to the majors last September, going only 10 for 59 with 2 walks and 17 strikeouts. But, on the bright side, 6 of his 10 hits were for extra-bases. His major league service clock has been activated, so there’s really no reason to keep him in the minors any longer. He’s got a career .512 slugging in the minor leagues, and though he tends to swing (think Nomar), he could be the next big Red Sox wonder-kid. Here’s one prediction–if Ortiz struggles, then I think Lowell and Drew will platoon at DH while Reddick will come up from the Paw Sox to get a shot at RF everyday. We all know Drew is leaving after this season–Reddick is the best candidate to get his job. And getting Drew’s 15 million dollars off the book will give the Sox the option of…
6. Adrian Gonzalez (?)
Perhaps the Mauer contract will fool the Padres into thinking they can resign their local star. I doubt it. If anything, Mauer’s price tag probably emphasizes how little chance they have. The Red Sox gave Beltre a one-year deal in the likelihood that Gonzalez will be a free agent next year. Gonzalez at first, Youkilis at third… that would be quite nice. I have no idea if this will happen–but rest assured, if the offense problems in question 4 do materialize, then the Gonzalez to Boston rumors will continue to intensify.
7. Will Josh Bard Develop Into the Next Papelbon (Literally) ?
Ok here’s one from left field, so to speak. But Sox fans have to see the writing on the wall. All of the Sox home-grown wonder kids have extensions–Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, and Youkilis. Papelbon does not. And, if what I read is true, then its quite likely that he won’t. Papelbon wants to be the highest paid closer in baseball history, and the Yankees need a closer soon. Perfect match. The Red Sox will feel a lot more comfortable with the prospect of letting Papelbon go to free agency (Yankees, Yankees, Yankees) if and only if Bard realizes his 100 mph potential.
So there’s my 7 story lines for the season. I’ll add two minor league threads to pay attention to as well: the development of Lars Anderson (who, if he plays well, would be a nice chip in a possible Gonzalez trade) and shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Let the baseball begin.
Ah, blog. I haven’t been here in awhile. But, now that the season ended mercifully (i.e., without a loss to the Yankees), I thought I would throw up a quick post. I actually put this on my regular blog, and then decided to copy it here.
As a Boston/New England sports fan, the first decade of the new century went rather well. Perhaps too well. Our cultural ethos is constructed around losing and misfortune. Might it be that things are returning to normal?
This was an odd year for the Red Sox. While the offense struggled mightily, and while the pitching staff failed to live up to the lofty expectations, the Sox still made the playoffs. To lose in a sweep is a bit unexpected; to see Papelbon blow the save seems fitting for a season in which he, and other beloved veterans, struggled.
The Red Sox still have a very good collection of young players. The bloated contract of J.D. Drew will haunt them for at least one more year (two if Drew stays healthy). It will be interesting to see what happens with Jason Varitek and Jason Bay in the off-season. ESPN doesn’t have the CERA (catcher’s ERA) numbers for Martinez behind the plate, but I am going to guess its not as good as Varitek’s 3.87 (since the team ERA on the season is 4.35). It should not be overlooked that Martinez, and not Varitek, was catching yesterday as the Red Sox stellar, hard-throwing bullpen imploded. I was previously concerned about this.
Bay had a roller-coaster season. I imagine he is seeing dollar signs this off-season. The Yankees have a considerable amount of money rolling off the books this year. I still fully expect Carl Crawford to execute the one million dollar buyout on his contract to become a free agent. That will put Crawford, Bay, and Matt Holliday (ouch, that error hurt–I still think his numbers with St. Louis were an aberration–buyer beware with this guy) at the top of a talented group of free agent outfielders, that additionally includes Manny, a resurgent Abreu, Magglio Ordonez (injuries a factor here), and others. Most of the major markets–Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers (bye bye Manny?) will be potential buyers.
I have a feeling that the team will see a major shake-up this off-season: only time will tell if Varitek, Bay, Papelbon, or Mike Lowell returns next season. Papelbon in particular will be interesting to watch. The Red Sox still control him, but they have had difficulty coming to terms the past few seasons–and just barely avoided arbitration last year. I think part of the hesitation here is giving Papelbon, who has a chronic shoulder issue, a high-end long term deal. To avoid arbitration, and make the deal worthwhile for all sides, the contract would likely work out something like 32 million for 4 years (K-Rod got 37 million for 3 as an outright free agent). I had a feeling, when the Sox wouldn’t pull the trigger on the Halladay deal, that Bard was being groomed as a future closer. So, as much as I love the glare, I wonder how much longer Papelbon will be in Boston. Please note that my wondering has absolutely nothing to do with his performance yesterday. He lived dangerously at times this season, but is still a top closer. I just think, medically and economically, the Red Sox front office has showed hesitation to lock up Paps as they have locked up Pedroia, Youkilis, and Lester.
As to the Patriots, it is very hard for me to watch Tom Brady right now, if only because he set the bar so high. But his deep ball looks as accurate as JaMarcus Russell’s right now. I remember when Joe Montana returned from his elbow injury- though still great, he wasn’t Joe Montana. That’s how I feel watching Brady right now. Again, time will tell whether, like Donovan McNabb, he is able to recover from this injury or if, like Carson Palmer, Brady never quite returns to the level he was pre-injury.