by: Jake Ciely
I’m in LABR. That’s pretty quick, huh, seeing as how I was just a virgin to this prestigious experts league when we drafted February 11. Along with 14 other stalwarts of the industry, I drew the 13th pick, even after significant bribe attempts with eats galore from my deli (All In Gourmet ) for Steve Gardner of USA Today. He wasn’t having it apparently. So, “unlucky 13″ is where I began, and truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to be so pleased.
Most experts give us a pick-by-pick breakdown. I’m taking a slightly different approach, as I think my draft strategy holds more value. After all, you can find player breakdowns all over the internet. I’m not poo-poo’ing those who gave us those breakdowns. After all, I don’t want to be trade blacklisted before the season starts. Truthfully, I enjoy reading all of the recaps. It lets us know what the experts were thinking for their picks and how happy or disappointed they are. It actually gives the rest of the league an edge for trades during the season. Now we know just how each owner values his players. Hmm… maybe I don’t want to include any pick analysis for my draft. Okay, I still will, but hopefully, the 14 others don’t read my piece!
A few years back, Grey Albright of Razzball.com wrote about the year-end stats it took to win a category in rotisserie. He based it on a 12-team league, and since we’re in a 15-team league, the numbers take a slight hit. Nevertheless, it’s still a solid barometer for what you need. The 15-team expert league  that I ran away with last year had first place stats fairly close to Grey’s. For reference, here are the numbers for each category according to Grey and what took first in my league:
Runs 997/1040, HRs 257/288, RBI 970/1014, SBs 176/186, AVG .267/.279
Wins 82/99, Saves 126/153, Ks 1305/1345, ERA 3.51/3.20, WHIP 1.19/1.15
Most of the 5×5 categories are fairly close with a few extreme differences. It shows that your average “need” to win a category won’t guarantee a win, and every league will have teams that exceed expectations in areas.
Strategy wise, the main hitting categories I attack are Runs and AVG. I have found that it’s much easier to find home Runs, SBs and even RBI throughout the season. I go after high-average guys for two reasons. First, it allows more flexibility during the draft when you grab a power/low average hitter late, and second, it does the same in season as you pick guys off the wire or make trades. I made a move late for Pedro Alvarez last year to help my homers and was able to absorb his poor AVG.
With pitching, I ignore Wins. Any owner worth his salt knows that projecting Wins is a fool’s errand.
Wait, why is salt defining value? Salt is one of the Earth’s most bountiful resources, and you can buy a five-gallon drum for about 30 cents, I think. In any case, ignore Wins and instead focus on ERA, WHIP and Ks. I always aim for low-ERA/high-K starters early, so I can keep chasing strikeouts later knowing many of those options are wilder and have higher ERAs and WHIPs.
So where did I end up? Using my starter projections, I have 1,029 Runs, 264 HRs, 991 RBI, 116 SB and about a .270 AVG. For pitching, I have 94 Wins (although, why even project these), 75 Saves, 1,351 Ks, a 3.46 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. I feel as though I have a great shot at Runs, HRs, RBI, Wins and Ks. I need work with SBs and Saves, while I should remain in contention with AVG, ERA and WHIP. This team (on paper) appears well balanced with a few areas for improvement. Yet, in a 15-team league, you can’t expect to be topping the charts everywhere… especially with this group.
To make good on my promise, I’ll provide insights on some picks.
Shocked! Shocked I tell you… that Cano fell to 13th.
Two things about the Cano naysayers. First, we’ll touch on the power concerns in Safeco. You know how many of Cano’s career home runs wouldn’t have left Safeco if he hit them ALL in Seattle? Not.a.one. There are a few “on-the-wall,” but not a single home run would have definitively dropped inside the park. Second, the lineup? Look at the Mariners 2014 lineup and tell me that it’s any worse than the collection of misfit toys wearing pinstripes last year. Thought so.
Just praying he plays at least 140 games. 150-plus, and I’ll be doing cartwheels… or whatever you want to call putting your hands on the ground and trying to jump in a cartwheel-like motion, only to fall on your knees.
Expecting Heyward to have his best season yet. My current projections: .273 AVG, 95 Runs, 25 HRs, 79 RBI, 12 SBs. Me likey.
Bounce back lock of the year. Fun fact: Cain’s four-year average ERA before last season was 2.93. Super fun fact: Cain’s second half ERA last year (after his 5.06 first half ERA) was 2.36.
Like Cano, I believe the “lost power” in Citi Field is overblown. In 2011 and 2012, Granderson would have lost around 10 homers (few in that “on-the-wall” area). I’d say 74 homers over two years are still pretty dang good. While I don’t expect 35-plus for Grandy, him nearing 30 shouldn’t come as a shock. I conservatively put him at 24.
There is still promise of that 2011 talent we saw with Lawrie. Interesting comparison: Heyward was slow to reach his potential too, and just before his 2012 campaign with 27 HRs and 21 SBs, he had just 14 and 9 with a .227 AVG. I’m not saying Lawrie is Heyward, but don’t cast him aside just yet.
Few, if any, players get less respect than Soriano. All he does is hit home runs. The man has 12 straight seasons with 20-plus dingers.
A favorite of mine. I expect Gomes to get his at-bats, and that will turn into nearly 20 home runs with 60-plus Runs and RBI.
Tillman significantly improved his strike rate on all three of his four pitches, did the same with his swing percentage and upped all four in swing-and-miss percentages. His second half 3.42 ERA, 3.3 K/BB and 1.07 WHIP show the potential he has. I like him for a 3.78 ERA and 167 Ks.
I believe part of his decline was due to the wrist injury. He won’t be 2012 Josh Reddick, but I don’t need him to be.
Happy to have him as my second catcher in a two-catcher, 15-team league. The offensive upside is still plentiful with Grandal, even if I have to wait a few weeks to reap the rewards.
Check the home/road splits. Enough said.
If he bombs, so what? Getting an outfielder with 20/15 ability in the 25th round is fine by me.
Tyler Clippard/Jake McGee
Low-ERA/Low-WHIP/High-K relievers. Do yourself a favor and draft a few instead of grabbing that near-5.00 ERA guy who might strike out 150 batters.
Lucas Duda/Miguel Sano
My fliers of the draft. Duda obviously needs an Ike Davis trade or Juan Lagares demotion for real value, but either could still happen. Sano has power for days, and while I might have to stash him on the bench for a while, Wil Myers proved the validity in the saying “good things come to those who wait” last year.
Full Roster (Draft Board)
C – Yan Gomes
C – Yasmani Grandal
1B – Ryan Howard
2B – Robinson Cano
SS – Troy Tulowitzki
3B – Brett Lawrie
MI – Matt Carpenter
CI – David Freese
OF – Jason Heyward
OF – Shane Victorino
OF – Curtis Granderson
OF – Alfonso Soriano
OF – Dexter Fowler
UTIL – Josh Reddick
SP – Adam Wainwright
SP – Matt Cain
SP – Zack Wheeler
SP – Chris Tillman
SP – Yovani Gallardo
RP – Glen Perkins
RP – Rafael Soriano
RP – Tyler Clippard
RP – Jake McGee
OF – Chris Young
1B/OF – Lucas Duda
3B – Miguel Sano
SP – Ricky Nolasco
SP – Nathan Eovaldi
SP – Phil Hughes