Last weekend, I took the yearly four-and-a-half-hour pilgrimage out of Los Angeles on I-15, past Barstow, past the world's largest thermometer in Baker, and into the sin-laden city of Las Vegas. But it wasn't for placing bets on March Madness games, like everyone else there. It was for a much dorkier reason: My annual AL-only 5x5 Roto auction draft.
Picture this: Nine guys sitting in a hotel suite at the Hilton, laptops open, loose sheets of paper strewn about the room, Baseball Prospectii laid out at various angles, pens anxiously in hand waiting for the next pick. Now picture that same image for ten hours and you'll get a sense of just why I needed to down about 20 Advil immediately after the draft. The good news is that the extra-long draft--which is honestly the best part of the season--gave me plenty of time to consider the following minutiae for every American League player.
(Keep in mind again, I'm talking about a 9-team, AL-only, 5x5 Roto league with a $260 budget. Make your adjustments accordingly.)
Catchers are worthless this year.
The name of the game is position scarcity, and there's no position as scarce as catcher in the American League. Matt Wieters ($11), the most can't-miss player at the position, has yet to see a major league pitch. After that, there's Joe "no timetable for his return" Mauer ($14), Victor Martinez ($13) who's coming off an injury-plagued year of his own, and a bunch of also-rans. I made an early-draft mistake of taking Kurt Suzuki ($3) when, if I only waited long enough, I could have had Mike Napoli or Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a buck.
Dollar deals are back!
Every year, there are plenty of dollar-value outfielders and pitchers that sneak under the radar and become productive contributors. Last year, my dollar steal was Carlos Quentin--as I'm sure you'll recall from me basing every column around him--but this year there were even more quality bats and arms available for the same price as a Double Cheeseburger from, well, anywhere. Here were the best dollar bargains of the draft, in order of value: Ty Wiggington, Mark Teahan, David DeJesus, Ben Francisco, Nick Swisher, Luke Scott, Adam Lind, Jed Lowrie, Phillip Hughes, Trevor Cahill, David Purcey, Brad Penny.
B.J. Upton's post-season season is going to cost you.
Before his power explosion in last year's playoffs, Upton was projected as another high-average, high-speed, middling-power type, someone out of the mold of teammate Carl Crawford ($33). But after knocking out a whooping seven home runs in three post-season series on the national stage, visions of 35-35 seasons are dancing around in everyone's head. As such, he went for $39 and was the third highest earner of the draft, despite being only the 15th best hitter on my board. Here's the top five earners: Miguel Cabrera ($44), Grady Sizemore ($42), Upton, C.C. Sabathia ($37), and then Mark Teixeria, Josh Hamilton and Alexei Ramirez (!) tied at $36.
Bone up on your sports fan psychology.
Many of the folks in this league come from the South Side of Chicago, meaning they're mostly White Sox fans. So, you'd expect a lot of Sox players to go for more than usual since there's nothing like having the same guy rack up wins for your favorite team and points for your team in Fantasy World. (See: Quentin, Carlos). That was the case with the above-mentioned Ramirez, Quentin ($28 this year) and Jermaine Dye ($21). But it also works the opposite way, with owners being too harsh on their team's players who sucked the year before. After his awful season in 2006, I got Javier Vazquez in a bargain and rode him to the championship. This year, both Paul Konerko ($13) and Jim Thome ($13) went for way lower than they should have because of their poor showings last year.
This whole "Vegas is not recession proof" story is true.
One of the most common topics of conversation over the weekend was how the city was struggling because people don't have the disposable income of old. It got so bad that when we drove in Saturday night and the lights were out, we thought the casinos were just trying to save money on their electric bill before we remembered "Earth Hour."
Don't bid $2 on Eric Chavez in a room full of professional comedians.
This situation will probably never come up for you, but just in case. Thing is, Chavez is the worst starting third baseman in the AL, someone who should go for no more than a buck in a 9-team league. But since he has "name quality" an extra dollar was spent on him. Some other "name players" that cost way too much this year: Jacoby Ellsbury ($34), Ichiro Suzuki ($28), Bobby Abreu ($26), Robinson Cano ($18), Hideki Matsui ($10).
The biggest steal in the draft: Alex Rodriguez?
A-Rod, this year's biggest story, went for $29 in our league. That's either a steal or a complete waste of money. Who knows? It was still the second highest price for a third baseman--Evan Longoria went for $32--but we really have no way of knowing until his injury (*cough* suspension *cough*) heals up.
Player On My Team of the Week: Now that I have an actual team to speak of, this week's award goes to Brandon Morrow, who had the guts to tell his team he wants to closer instead of a starter. While it probably isn't the best move for the Mariners in "real" baseball, my team sure likes those extra saves.
How to Heckle One of My Players of the Week: "Hey John Lackey, maybe it's time to stop whatever strenuous activity you're doing in the off-season and just, I don't know, hibernate or something."
The Stupid April Fool's Joke That Actually Got Me of the Week: This fake story by In Contention that gives the following details of the next "Batman" movie, in order of increasing horror: It will be called "Shadow of the Bat", Jim Carrey will reprise his role as the Joker, Christopher Nolan has hired both Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as consultants. Good one, Internet.
Buy High: My hopes, now that the Bears got themselves a quarterback. For an organization who hasn't had an actual adequate signal caller since a certain "punky QB", you have no idea how much this means.
Sell Low: My hopes, after realizing that Rick Ankiel is right. One of these days, I am going to have to tell people to call me "Dick".