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Let the Games Begin

February 2, 2009 | By Tim McLeod | comment on this post
While this hottie couldn’t resist David Wright, Tim opted to pick up someone else with his first rounder.

Well folks, now that 2009 is well underway, is there a better way to commence the New Year than getting that first league draft of 2009 under my belt? I’m not talking mock draft, but the real deal. Thanks to Mike Kuchera at for inviting Team RotoRob to partake in the 2009 version of The Battle of the Fantasy Gods. A fine cast has been assembled, including:

Chris McDonnell – Fantasy Baseball
Kuchera – The Fantasy Man
Scott White – CBS Sports
Troy Patterson – Fantasy Pros 911
Tim McLeod – RotoRob
Brian Fitzsimmons – Sports Buff
Todd Farino – Fantasy Baseball Search
Brad Stewart – MLB Front Office
Jeff Boggis – Fantasy Sports Empires
Geoff Stein – Mock Draft Central
Mojo Moshovetis – Crucial Sports
Knox Bardeen – Crooked Pitch


This league has a couple of nuances that caused me to do some serious pondering. There are no restrictions on innings pitched, no bench, and we’re doing weekly transactions. Other than that, it is your standard 5X5 rotisserie format with the customary 23 roster slots. Taking the format and rules of play into consideration was going to be a prime focus when looking at assembling a team in this year’s league. If one is going to play the game, understanding the rules is paramount when developing a solid and successful strategy.

This league is getting off to a very early start, and this definitely played into the development of my strategy. I wanted to attempt to acquire five-category players early (who doesn’t want that?), grab myself at least one, possibly two solid closers, two high risk save gambles, and build on two solid starting pitchers. In a daily transactions league I’d probably look at trying to fill my third and fourth relief pitchers from the waiver wire, but with 11 shrewd competitors all playing the waiver wire weekly, I don’t want to be chasing saves under those circumstances. The odds just get a tad long when bidding against the entire league for one category. With no bench to work from I also liked the idea of building into my team a potential strength for future trading purposes. Those were the primary reasons behind the five-four split on starting versus relief pitching. I feel reasonably confident in my abilities to procure starting pitching off the waiver wire if I want to attempt to boost my strikeouts and wins down the road.

I spent a fair bit of time mulling over my first pick (fifth overall) options, and came to the conclusion that I was going to focus on stolen bases with that selection. I was hoping Jose Reyes would fall to me and if he didn’t, I was flipping a coin between the two suspects I felt might be there as alternative options — Grady Sizemore or David Wright. Conventional wisdom would suggest I take Wright, but who says I’ve ever been conventional? With that in mind, let’s see how our starting point for the 2009 season shapes up.

Round One – Sizemore, OF: So we’re going to take the unconventional route in 2009. The stolen base potential was just too enticing and I decided Sizemore was my man with the fifth overall pick. It is pretty hard to argue with the 33 homers, 90 RBI, 101 runs scored and 38 thefts in 2008. Is the best yet to come for the 26-year-old outfielder? It would certainly stand to reason considering he’s just about to enter his prime power years.

Round Two – Justin Morneau, 1B: I wanted a solid corner this year and the runner-up in the 2008 AL MVP vote is a solid bet. I’ll take 25 homers, 125 RBI, and a .290 BA out of first base for 2009. Besides, what would a RotoRob entry be without some serious Canadian content?

Round Three – Matt Kemp, OF: It might be a bit early, but in a league of this calibre one either reaches a tad or watches them disappear off the board. The potential for a 25-homer, 35-stolen base season from Kemp is just too high for me to see him on someone else’s team.

Round Four – Alex Rios, OF: As much as I’ve crapped on Rios in the past, the lure of those stolen bases combined with the modest power potential made it so I just couldn’t lay off. The potential for Rios to repeat 20+ stolen bases, improve his power, and hopefully have a healthy Vernon Wells to provide some protection in the Jay line-up, should lead to a solid campaign in 2009.

Round Five – Brian McCann, C: I wanted a solid catcher and McCann has the potential to be the best in the business. I’ll be more than happy with a repeat of that fine 2008 season.

Round Six – Joey Votto, 1B: The potential upside from Votto in 2009 is huge. I’m hoping that he can build on that strong finish in 2008, and move into the top tier at first base this year. Is a 30-homer, 100-RBI, 15-SB season too optimistic a projection for this young Canuck?

Round Seven – Brad Lidge, RP: Well, that takes care of the stud closer situation. Normally I’d stay away from this strategy, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, with a draft this early, and the level of competition, I don’t want to be focusing on getting lucky on the waiver wire. Everything is going according to plan.

Round Eight – Joakim Soria, RP: I might as well make it two closers early and shore up my saves. Soria had a truly outstanding 2008 campaign, posting a 1.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and finishing second in the AL to only Francisco Rodriguez with 42 saves. The bullpen is in very good shape.

Round Nine – Johnny Damon, OF: Okay, he’s getting up there a bit in age, but batting at the top of the order for the Yankees, he has to find a way to score 100 runs. Toss in 15 homers and 20+ stolen bases and he’s a perfect fit for my team strategy.

Round 10 – Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP: I’m still a believer that the best is yet to come for Dice-K, and 2009 is going to be the year that his walks will drop and the strikeouts will rise. Of course, I do have a bit of a bias, being that he was one of my NPB scouting projects. A.J. Burnett and Jon Lester went just before my pick, and Edinson Volquez, Ben Sheets, Ricky Nolasco, Yovani Gallardo, and Ryan Dempster all went before my next kick at the can, so I think I jumped in at the right time.

Round 11 – Matt Cain, SP: At some point in time, the skill sets demonstrated by the 24-year-old Cain have to translate into some wins, don’t they?

Round 12 – James Loney, 1B: I was looking for another power bat heading into this round and the guy I had my sights on, Xavier Nady of the Yankees, was taken with the pick immediately before mine. Brad Hawpe went two picks before Nady. My outfield was solid, so why not grab another first base type and shorten the position a tad? As I mentioned several times this offseason, I see first base as a tougher position to fill in 2009 than it has been for a very long time.

Round 13 – Adam Jones, OF: Prospect alert! I’ve been targeting Jones in most of my early mocks so why not in the real deal? If in fact we don’t see the progression in his skill sets that I’m anticipating, the options are fairly deep in the outfield for 2009. Apparently Jones has done some beefing up in the offseason, so let’s hope it helps in the power department and doesn’t diminish that stolen base potential.

Round 14 – Jose Lopez, 2B: Was last year an overachievment or the commencement of bigger and better things? The 25-year-old middle-infielder has 20-homer, 85-RBI potential and with my speed already in good shape, he fits my team plan perfectly.

Round 15 – Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B: Now, here’s a guy that is getting very little respect. PETCO Park is far from being a hitter’s paradise, but the proven 20-80 power out of Kouz is just too tough to pass on at this stage of the draft.

Round 16 – Orlando Cabrera, SS: He is still waiting to find a home for this year, but the speed and runs scored potential out of O-Cab makes him a decent option. Cabrera was also the last shortstop on the board with at least some potential, making this decision a very easy one. When I decided to go with a heavy outfield/first base mix for this team it had to be at a cost, and my middle-infield would be that cost.

Round 17 – Scott Baker, SP: The Twins just keep cranking out those young arms, and Baker is poised for what could be a breakout campaign. He’s young, throws strikes and in Round 17, this has the potential to be a steal. The 27-year-old finished last season with seven quality starts in his last eight appearances, a 3.45 ERA (eighth best in the AL), 141 strikeouts and 11 wins. That is more than enough to get my attention.

Round 18 – Jorge Posada, C: I’m hoping for at least a bit better upside out of Posada than some of the last round gambles at catcher. A 15-homer, 60-RBI season out of Posada as my second catcher will suffice.

Round 19 – Trevor Hoffman, RP: I’m not a huge fan of Hoffman heading into this season, but I simply couldn’t ignore the save potential this late. I gambled here and it looks like, with his subsequent signing by the Brewers, that he could be a nice bonus. Thirty saves in Round 19 has a nice ring to it.

Round 20 – Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: With Jimenez heading into his third season, I like the potential upside here. It wasn’t all that long ago that drafting starting pitching from the Rockies was a huge taboo, but not anymore. The 25-year-old has to cut down on the base-on-balls, but I really like the high strikeout potential. He could close in on the 200 K mark in 2009.

Round 21 – Chris Ray, RP: It’s getting near the end, so why not do some gambling? And Ray is a good candidate to gamble on. George Sherrill is not the long-term solution and, if healthy, Ray could either put me over the top in saves. Or, he could be one of my first cuts. But that’s why they call it a gamble.

Round 22 – Wandy Rodriguez, SP: What do you want for a 22nd round pick? Now that Rodriguez has conquered his road woes, a 14-win season and upwards of 175 strikeouts could make him a very valuable end-game play in 2009.

Round 23 – Aaron Hill, 2B: I had several options for my middle-infield with my last pick and decided to go with Hill. He managed a solid 2007 campaign, and if he can bounce back from his concussion woes of last year, Hill could be a nice bargain. There are several candidates still out there, and let’s face it, anyone knowing me fully realizes that I will be making some moves over the next several months.

Overall, I’m happy with my effort. I have a decent power base, my usual top three potential in stolen bases and a strong bullpen with a couple of solid starting pitchers to anchor my rotation. We’ll see how my strategy of building a strong outfield and shorting first base holds up as the season progresses. What will eventually make the difference, as always, are the gambles one takes, and I believe with this effort I’m heading in the right direction from both a risk and upside perspective.

Thanks again to Mike for getting this project underway and to all of the skilled participants in this year’s league. Welcome to the 2009 season!

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11 Responses to “Let the Games Begin”

  1. Todd says:

    Tim, just to pick nits here’s my evaluation of your draft. I’m thinking Beltran should have been your second round pick. He had more runs, HR and SBs than Morneau and only 17 less RBI. He did have a worse BA though. I think you reached in round 3 with Kemp. Aramis Ramirez would have been a better choice and would shore up 3b In the 4th round, as much as I like Rios, I would have went with Ellsbury whom I like much more.

    After that, I’m convinced Johnny Damon is running on empty. I think you should have hit the SP starting with this round.

    In the 12th round you picked Sean Casey – oops, make that James Loney (same difference). It gets tough here but I’d go with someone with more impact potential. Loney’s an OK guy and I’m sure he’s fun at parties, but just leave him be. Show Alex Gordon some love – this is his breakout year I’m convinced … again.

    Overall, I hate to say this, but not one of your better efforts. You’re weak at 2b (though I like Hill a lot this year), SS (just say no to O – and take a chance on Jed Lowrie) and 3b.

    I’ll be interested to see how you do with this team. Knowing you, you will pull off some waiver magic. Keep your loyal readers posted.

  2. Tim McLeod says:

    Thanks for the evaluation and feedback Todd, always appreciated. And now for the rebuttal.
    Morneau- Can’t disagree with your numbers, but with 5 Firstbase taken prior to my pick and a further 3 taken in the next round I thought it imperative to grab a top slugger at the corner. Part of my masterplan this year. The depth at o/f especially in relation to the way I was planning on building my team made Beltran although a nice pick, not a necessity. I certainly didn’t want to be chasing Pena, Davis etc for my firstbase slot.
    Kemp- I wanted him so I paid. He most certainly wasn’t coming back to me with that next pick. Let’s revisit this one in about August and see if it was a reach, or a bargain?
    Rios- I pondered Ellsbury for this pick but went with Rios based on the power potential. I really like Ellsbury but just don’t see him matching Rios on the homers, at least not this year. Between Sizemore,Kemp and Rios the combination of power/speed is tough to beat imo.
    Loney- I’m still not convinced that Loney can’t find a way to hit 20 HR. Again, balance is attained as other than power he really is solid in all other categories. Another pick to re-visit a couple months down the road.
    Damon- I think he has another year left in the tank. Time will tell, but at 35 is there reason to expect him to fall off the map statistically in 09? I can certainly see your argument on the pitching Todd, but I did end up with my preferred choice in the next round.
    I agree my middle-infield is shaky, but I do like Lopez and we both know I’ll be making moves over the course of the year and this is most certainly an area I’ll be looking to upgrade. Once those first 4-5 Rounds are off the board at both ss and 2b the options get very shaky quick. If you want a strong MI you have to build it quick and it wasn’t in my plans. If you don’t get those early guys I’m convinced that you might as well wait till the later rounds. Different strats for different folks. Thanks again for the analysis Todd and I will most certainly be updating my progress in this league as the season rolls along.

  3. Todd says:

    Thanks for your explaintation Tim. It’s easy to sit here at play arm chair drafter afterwards rather than make decisions in the heat of the moment. We all know how fast that pick can come back to you and if your player of choice goes off the board that can screw with your head and make you do weird things.

    On a related note. It’s interesting that we felt last year’s OF was way thin when this years seems loaded. Just the opposite at 1b where it looks much thinner than most years.

  4. RotoRob says:

    Hey Todd….don’t you ever sign into your IM? Let’s talk when you get a chance.


  5. Tim McLeod says:

    Yes, the times they seem to be changing. After those first couple of rounds there is a rather large gap into that second tier at first. The other thing that seems apparent early on is that this year the starting pitching category seems to have a few more quality options heading into the later rounds. I think one of the toughest things to do in any draft is to adapt. We all have what I like to call “comfort zones”, and moving in different directions is a challenge but necessary skill if looking at success. As you well know I’ve been a proponent of buying saves on the cheap for years. In this format I felt I had to look at saves from a totally different perspective. In standard leagues I say wait, vulture from the waiver wire and grab those late round gambles. In this format with the rules being what they were and the timing of the draft, I just felt it necessary to shore up the bullpen early. Not that this guarantees success, but at least what I believe to be the highest level of opportunity to achieve success. You gotta roll with the punch’s!

  6. […] season. Oh ya, and he just turned 25 last month, meaning there’s plenty of upside. Expect to use a fifth round pick to land McCann, currently representing U.S.A. at the […]

  7. […] 6. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: Morneau has done a great job of making better contact in recent seasons, something that allowed him to rack up a second .300 season last year. Although his experience at the WBC with Team Canada was a major disappointment, you canít argue that Morneau is not only one of the ALís top sluggers, but heís become a much better gloveman at first as well. Target him with a second round pick. […]

  8. […] dealing with a strained oblique this spring and has been slow to recover. He’s going around the 19th round in most drafts, but don’t think about reaching for Hoffman until more dependable closing options […]

  9. […] fortunately, he did an excellent job in improving his strikeout rate. It all add up to about 14th round value for Lopez, the second baseman for Venezuela at the WBC and a player we could see taking a big leap […]

  10. […] fortunately, he did an excellent job in improving his strikeout rate. It all add up to about 14th round value for Lopez, the second baseman for Venezuela at the WBC and a player we could see taking a big leap […]

  11. […] that, O-Cab was better in the second half, batting almost .300, so he’s probably worth around a 16th round pick. While it’s fantasy irrelevant, it’s interesting to note how well Cabrera’s real life teams […]

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