Friday, April 03, 2009

It's Just a Fantasy...2009

Can you believe that April is already upon us? Man, March went by so fast that I didn't even get around to reaching my ten post monthly quota (and that's the story I'm sticking to). Of course, for all baseball fans, the start of April means the start of another fresh new season; another year of following your team through the 162 game war of attrition that marches through the sweltering dog days of summer and hopefully into the chilly promised land of October. As for my hometown Mets, the outlook for 2009 seems relatively optimistic. The team is essentially the same as last year but they made moves to completely turn their biggest, most crippling liability (the bullpen) into what may very well be their greatest strength. In addition, Sports Illustrated, just the other day, predicted the Mets to win the World Series and at the same time fatally jinxed CC Sabathia by putting him on the cover. And finally, what are the statistical odds of a third straight disastrous September collapse? Improbable, right? Right?!

The start of the new baseball season also signals the beginning of, that other great national pastime, fantasy baseball. While all I can really do is watch, cheer, and hope for the best in the realm of real world baseball, within the stat filled universe of fantasy baseball, I can at least attempt to exert some sort of control over my team's destiny, and it all starts with the draft.

The drafts for both my yearly Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball teams have recently concluded and the initial die has been cast. So once again I present the exclusive 2009 round by round coverage of the first of my two annual fantasy baseball teams:

League: The Champs Are Here
My Team: The Chan Ho Parks
Draft order: 1st pick out of 12
Previous Year's Rank: 8 of 12

For the second straight year, my team managed subpar 8th place finish. It was technically worse than last year since there were 12 teams as opposed to 13. Looking back with the crystal clear lucidity of hindsight at my picks from last year, all I can do is shake my head at some of my demented optimism. There were injury plagued busts (Chris Young, Ryan Zimmerman), breakout stars that just broke (Corey Hart, Rich Hill), and of course, as the case with every Victor draft, terrible closer seasons (Trevor Hoffman, Rafeal Soriano). These types of disappointments, however, are not just exclusive to me, time makes fools of every drafter. The key to success is how one adapts and adjusts their initial hand as the season progresses. But delusion will always springs eternal at the start of the year draft:

Rd1. Hanley Ramirez SS - This was the first time in my entire fantasy baseball drafting existence that I got the first overall pick. Unfortunately, I promptly squandered this opportunity by forgetting about the draft and showing up five rounds late. Although, all things considered, you're probably better off having the auto drafter make a 1st overall pick than a more nuanced later one. Han-Ram has been generally considered the consensus number one pick so, with the possible impulse choice of David Wright, I would have likely drafted him anyway.

Rd2. Carlos Beltran OF - For the second year in a row I get him as my second round selection. I can't really complain about the auto drafter's selection here, he's a top tier fantasy OF. Although I usually prefer to fill out my scarce infield positions and then rely on the depth of the outfielders.

Rd3. Prince Fielder 1B - A little disappointed with the drafter's discretion on this pick. There are plenty of big bat, slow footed (although he somehow managed to steal 3 bases last year) slugging 1Bs to be found later in the draft. Last year was a definite regression from his monster 50 HR 2007 and I have a feeling that the Brewers are headed for a step back this year. Also, I like to keep my teams with "no fatties".

Rd4. David Ortiz UTL - I really don't approve of this selection. Right after drafting a big fat slugger in the previous round, the auto drafter picks up another big fat slugger...with even less versatility. I've always been wary of that small class of straight up DH guys who can only play in the valuable utility spot. If they're not providing you above average production, they're just hindering your roster flexibility. I also think that Big Papi is basically done as the fantasy monster that he once was. I'm sure he'll still contribute to the team but those 40+ HR/125+ RBI/.300 seasons may be a thing of the past.

Rd5. Curtis Granderson OF - I'm not really over the moon about this pick as well. He's got speed and a little bit of pop, hopefully he can get back to being a 20/20 guy. If he ends up with something similar to his 2007 numbers he'll make for a good poor man's Grady Sizemore. If only triples were a roto category.

Rd6. Chad Billingsley SP - This is actually my first real pick of the draft. I frantically entered the drafting room to find that it was five rounds in and the drafter had yet to give me a pitcher. Based on what was available, I was glad to see my long time fantasy crush Chad Billingsley was still on the board. For the past three years I have had him on one team or another and he has never disappointed. As my ace, I expect another 15+ win, low 3 ERA, 200K season from the man.

Rd7. Mariano Rivera RP - Throughout my fantasy existence, the only closer I have ever selected in the past who did not immediately turn into suck for the upcoming season has been Mo. His ability as a closer to remain healthy and productive after being drafted on one of my teams is one of his greatest accomplishments as a pitcher and will no doubt be noted on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Rd8. Ryan Zimmerman 3B - Let that be a lesson kids, you wait until the 8th round to address your 3B position and you get Ryan Zimmerman. This is actually a full round lower then when I got him last year. Last year was a complete disaster (perhaps National disaster?), but I still hold out hope that he'll come back healthy, productive, and emerge from the fantasy blackhole that is the Washington Nationals to actually become a useful player again.

Rd9. Carlos Zambrano SP - As a fantasy owner, I am first and foremost drawn to predictable dependability. I usually like to leave all the high upside, high risk selections to the other owners. Few players embody the steady reliability I look for than the Big Z. The guy's a lock every year to pitch 200 innings, keep the ERA under 4, toss around 200Ks, win around 15 games, and walk a ton of guys. Last year was actually a slight aberration from the norm but I'll definitely start him with confidence.

Rd10. Andre Ethier OF - I hate to admit it but I really dig the Dodgers' lineup, in addition to stars like Manny and Furcal, they've got a really solid lineup of exciting young players, including Ethier, who is still slightly undervalued and has terrific upsides.

Rd11. Zack Grenke SP - Everyone's favorite brooding ace seemed to have overcame his social anxiety disorder and being a Royal to put together a fine looking season. I'm hoping that he'll continue his development and bring me similar to better numbers as my number three starter. One more quality year and I will stop referring to him with the word "crazy" in front of his name.

Rd12. Jose Lopez 2B - Lopez is my official hot pick of the year. In a position category where the talent level falls off a cliff after the top four or so guys are taken, I've grown quite fond of the criminally overlooked young 2B from Seattle. Despite solid offensive numbers (.297/19/89) and the potential for an even bigger breakout season, I find him lumped around middling, later draft, second tier options like Rickie Weeks and Kelly Johnson.

Rd13. Brian Wilson RP - Since I find drafting closers to be a complete crap shoot, I just looked for guys who had at least a firm lock on their jobs. Brian Wilson definitely is of the Todd Jones/Joe Borowski school of unsexy closing, but I'm willing to settle for quantity over quality in my saves. With an improved Giants team this year, would another 40 save season be all that out of the question?

Rd14. Bengie Molina C - Ah the catching position; where unless you overpaid for one of the top five or so catchers, the question to ask in making a pick isn't "will this player help my team" but "will this player not hurt my team"? His laughable position as the Giants' cleanup hitter last year allowed him to put up career offensive numbers. I expect them to be a little tempered this year but still consistent.

Rd15. Ted Lilly SP - Lilly's eight or so years of pitching mediocrity before joining the Cubs has thus far seemed to have shielded many from the fact that his last two seasons have been his best and most productive. Durable and consistent, another quality Victor type player.

Rd16. Kevin Gregg RP - I drafted him as an afterthought, just for the seemingly unlikely chance that he was going to beat out the far more talented Carlos Marmol for the Cub's closer spot. It was a pleasant surprise when he actually won out. The Cubs are going to win a lot of games this year and many of those wins will require unflashy, workman-like, Kevin Gregg saves.

Rd17. Jair Jurrjens SP - No real story behind this pick. I just needed a pitcher on the bench and I figured he had some decent upsides. Also, I felt the team could have used more J's on the roster.

Rd18. Ryan Theriot SS - By this point in the draft you're getting all your bench players in order so who's a better spark plug off the bench than Ryan The Riot? Versatility, a good average, plenty of speed, and most importantly "scrappy intangibles".

Rd19. John Smoltz SP - Sure he'll turn 42 in May and he's coming off major surgery and there's a good possibility that he'll be rocked by American League hitting; but until he shows me otherwise, the guy can still throw. How quickly people forget that he was well on his way to another age-defying sterling season last year before going down. I'm willing to take a flyer for the 19th round.

Rd20. Jeff Francour OF - He had just an absolutely atrocious season last year, but as a late round pick it's totally low risk/high reward. He's still a young guy and if he can make some adjustments and put up numbers even somewhat resembling his 06 and 07 seasons, it'll be more than worth it.

Rd21. Mike Pelfrey SP - Why the heck not? Gives me someone else to root for.

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