I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks preparing for my upcoming fantasy baseball drafts, the first of which comes on Monday. I thought I might as well do a post on where I have a lot of Pirates players ranked, plus some of the other players I like for any of you who want some tips from an ex-fantasy baseball expert (well, I’m still an expert, but not a professional one).
First, let me tell you about the draft I’m in on Monday. It’s a league hosted by Razzball, and the goal is to have the worst fantasy players possible. You can check out the details of the league here, and since the grand prize is a free hot tub, you might want to consider joining. The league I’m in is full, but there’s plenty of other leagues.
When setting up my rankings for the league, I took a simple approach of calculating the possible points based on my projections, and went with the raw results. Usually when I’m setting up my rankings I’ll tweak the results so that I can get the best value for my draft picks. For example, I think Jimmy Rollins is a late first round talent this year, but I tweak my rankings so that I can get him in the third round, where he goes in most drafts. Since there’s no mock drafts for the Razzball leagues, I’m hoping my raw rankings are good enough.
I do hold the first overall pick in my draft, and I’m taking Carlos Gomez. That may seem strange, since a lot of people are taking Gomez for their regular fantasy leagues. This league doesn’t penalize for stolen bases, which means that Gomez loses the only value he has in normal leagues. Since I have him hitting for a low average, and since I figure he’ll get plenty of playing time due to the lack of centerfielders in Milwaukee, not to mention the trade for J.J. Hardy and his defense, I’m guessing he’ll get a ton of points.
Unfortunately, two Pirates make my top 20 list in this league. Those players are Lastings Milledge and Zach Duke. I have Duke with a 4.29 ERA, but I have a feeling he’s high on the list because of a high WHIP and low strikeout numbers. Well, that and losses get eight points each. Milledge is on the list for similar reasons as Gomez: has some fantasy value with steals, will get a lot of playing time, but not a huge average. I’ll probably stay away from Milledge, since I think there’s a chance he hits for a better line than my .270 projection, not to mention I don’t want to risk his power taking off this year.
As for my normal leagues, the only guys I would consider taking are Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Doumit, Octavio Dotel, and Paul Maholm as a sleeper. I’m targeting Doumit as a strong second catcher in my two catcher leagues, or my number one guy in NL-only leagues. I have him ranked seventh overall in my catcher rankings. I have McCutchen ranked 27th, and he’s exactly the type of player I love going for. McCutchen can provide numbers in all five categories, making him a very valuable player in my book. He’s also the only Pirates player I have ranked in my top 100 for mixed leagues.
Dotel is in the lower tier for closers, mostly because he’s not going early in drafts. I like taking closers late, and Dotel is the type of guy I like (a lot of strikeouts) so I’ll probably end up with him in a few leagues. I have Dotel ranked four spots ahead of Matt Capps, although I’m also targeting Capps for a bounce back year. Those two follow my sleepers, Billy Wagner, Kerry Wood, and Chad Qualls.
If you read my draft kit last year, or if you drafted with me last year, you know that I was all over Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, and Chad Billingsley as my sleepers. So far this year I find myself drafting Wandy Rodriguez, Tommy Hanson, and Cole Hamels a lot. I’ve also been breaking my own rule of not taking a pitcher before the 7th round, just to get Jon Lester when he falls to the 5th or 6th rounds. I actually have Lester ranked one above Greinke this year, and just one spot outside of my top five.
The reason I’m fine taking Lester is because of some of my sleepers. Those are guys like Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, Jose Lopez at second base, and Jason Kubel in the outfield who I’m targeting after the seventh round, but who I consider top seven round talents, which allows me to justify taking Lester in the 5th or 6th round when he falls to me.
It would be hard to call Lester my 2010 Zack Greinke. Greinke had decent numbers prior to 2009, but he was an elite pitcher in 2009, and that’s what I was going for. It would even be a stretch calling Wandy Rodriguez my sleeper ace this year. I feel Tommy Hanson is cheating a bit, kind of like Lincecum two years ago, although that didn’t stop me from picking Lincecum as my sleeper ace. So who are my candidates this year?
I’m back with Chad Billingsley for one of them. Billingsley is being drafted in the 10th round in most mock drafts. He was a stud last year until the end of the season. I believe he can return to the first half form where he posted a 3.38 ERA in 125.1 innings. Ricky Nolasco and Jake Peavy are two guys who have seen a dip in value from their poor 2009 seasons (Peavy’s disappointment obviously due to injury), with both falling to the 7th-10th rounds. I like them both. Same with Cole Hamels.
If there’s one guy I’m targeting, it’s probably Hanson. It seems like cheating, since he’s so highly touted, but he’s going in the 7th round in most drafts, and I can’t pass that value up.