Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Avoiding the runs on draft day

Ahh, the runs. They can result from a trip to a mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant or a perceived scarcity during fantasy baseball drafts. Either way, they are something to be wary of.

After participating in a few ... too many ... mock drafts, here are some runs I've noted.

Catcher

Catcher is such a bereft position it's almost inherently immune to runs, with one exception: round three. For some reason, after V-Mart gets snagged, people immediately want to select Russell Martin and even Brian McCann. Folks, V-Mart was the guy you wanted. You want to start a run, not end it. Anyone think Russell Martin is going to lead the NL in innings logged and games played as a catcher again? Probably not. He's going to regress, and I see him as a fifth-round value, not a third. Even worse is the McCann selection in the third or fourth round, which I've seen multiple times now. I'm high on him, but you shouldn't be taking him above the 20/20 OFs you need to be targeting in round four.

First Base

When Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and David Ortiz (in Yahoo Leagues) are gone, you need to chill out for a while. I saw someone jump on Lance Berkman in mid round two. Too. Soon. Albert Pujols has been discussed to death, so I won't even talk about him here.

There's power to be had late in these drafts at the CI slots. You need to look elsewhere. Sorry you missed out on the big boppers, but Adam Dunn in round four can supply you power without the draft premium of Lance Berkman in round two.

Second Base

In the first 16 to 17 picks of a typical, competent draft, six middle infielders (three SS, three 2B) are almost certainly going to be selected, judging by my experiences at Mock Draft Central. That's defined as a "shitload." It does not mean you should snag Derek Jeter in round three and Robinson Cano in Round four. If you missed out, turn to your draft cheat sheets and find value later; otherwise, you're reaching on marginal players.

Third Base

There are four third baseman you want in the first two rounds. If you missed out on A-rod, Wright, Cabrera, and Braun, please do not make Aramis Ramirez your mid-second-round pick (which I've seen) and Garrett Atkins your bookend third rounder (also seen). Those are good players in late round 3 or round 4. Ryan Zimmerman is likely the last 3B to be drafted before round 10 who should be drafted before round 10. If you don't have one by that time, hunker down and grab a Gordon or a Longoria late.

Shortstop

See the second-base primer, above. Carlos Guillen does not become a third round pick just because you missed out on Reyes, Ramirez, or Rollins.

Outfield

There is going to a crapload of OFs going in most round threes, fours, and fives. After the elite round-two guys (Soriano, C. Lee, Beltran, etc.), there will probably be a bit of a lull, then guys like Rios, Granderson, Pence, Hart, Hawpe, etc., will fly off the board. You want these guys, to be sure, but watch out. If you're at the tail end, there's a big difference with Hart at the 42nd pick versus Hawpe at the 47th.

Starting Pitching

Rounds four and five seem to be when everyone wants to grab their first pitcher. Don't panic. Starting pitching is about depth and working the waiver wire.

Relief Pitching

Actually, I haven't seen too many reliever runs (that just sounds nasty). Fantasy baseball folk appear to have decided en masse to wait on relievers. Papelbon and Putz tend to go in round five. You see guys trickling out after that ... but nothing too worrisome. As with SPs, the key is not to overreact to Capps, Soria, and Rafael Soriano being taken right in front of you. You can find quality late, and unlike hitters -- who seldom burst onto the scene with 30+ home runs or stolen bases -- there are always starters and relievers who go undrafted and have career years. It's actually a positive to plan on identifying and picking these guys up in the first two months.

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