- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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It's a fruitless search.
Make no mistake, it hasn't stopped us from looking. Whether it's a job, a swimsuit model, a car, a vacation, a politician, an experience or, in the case of me, fried foods that results in hair growth we are always looking for perfection.
It does not exist, my friends.
Including in fantasy drafts.
Not you, not me, not the annoying guy three cubes down who keeps bragging about how many leagues he has won and who calls everyone "Bro." The only person allowed to call everyone "Bro" is Steve Sanders and you have to be shirtless in your 'Vette to pull it off. Otherwise, you're a tool. But I digress. The point is no one has a perfect draft.
Partly because it's impossible to tell the future about the athletes you draft, partly because it's impossible to predict what your league mates will do, your team is only as good or as bad as it relates to the other teams in your league. People often forget that, as they display their teams on message boards or recite their rosters to perfect strangers. No team exists in a vacuum. Is three closers too many? Yeah, if everybody else just grabbed one and loaded up on starting pitching instead.
A draft is only one part of a successful season. An important part, to be sure, but only one. How you set your lineup every day, play the waiver wire, the trades you make, the trades you don't, the health of your team, what happens to your players in regard to playing time and, more importantly, performance (that they at least do what is expected of them) and how you react to those fluctuations are just as important. Especially compared to how every other team in your league handles the exact same challenges.
All that said, draft day is crucial. And hopeless though it may be, we still yearn for that perfect draft. Make no mistake, when I am busy yearning, a perfect draft is not tops on the list, but it does make the top 10.
What would it look like? Hard to say because honestly, we all have different definitions of perfection. But here's my attempt.
I went to the ESPN live draft results, which are based on our standard game, which is a 10-team, 5x5 mixed league, and I gave myself pick five (right in the middle of the round). The premise is that I would draft as though everything fell my way. Now, nothing crazy, like Miguel Cabrera falls to the third round. But that, based on the draft results, the player could drop to me up to two picks, and anyone whose ADP is lower than my pick was also fair game.
This never happens, of course. Even in a best-case scenario, there's always one or two guys that go just before you were going to grab him. But what the hell. It's my article, these are my rules, and in this world, I have a full head of hair, chicken fingers are better for you than tofu and everything is going my way in this draft.
So here's the team I built, in order, with their average draft position in parentheses. I've also included my thought process when taking them. You'll see I follow many of the names I mention in Love/Hate, 50 Facts and even You Heard Me! along with the suggestions of my Draft Day Manifesto. There are a few times I went out of order from my Top 250, based on team need or because my feelings have changed since I published those ranks.
Round 1, pick 5: Chase Utley (ADP: 5.9). As much as I preach outfield scarcity, it's not like second base is super deep. He's basically money in the bank for a 30/15 year with a .290 average and he once starred in a ESPN Fantasy Baseball commercial. Done and done.
Round 2, pick 16: Justin Upton (ADP: 18.3). Going later than he should, I have Upton at No. 10 overall. Outfield is shallow this year (remember, you gotta play five) so I tend to hit it early. Also notice a trend that will play out for most of this draft: I'm grabbing guys that get power and speed while protecting average.
Round 3, pick 25: Zack Greinke (ADP: 25.6). My basic take on pitching this year is to get a stud in the first five rounds and then wait, wait, wait. Hard to pass on Zack here, especially since I don't love any of my other choices here. (I've written before about how I'm down on Ian Kinsler and Ichiro, and I like Zack more than Derek Jeter with this team. I came close to grabbing Adrian Gonzalez, but first base is so deep, I felt I could wait. Plus, getting Zack allows me some leeway with my pitching. I can take a little more risk with my WHIP, for example.
By the way, this has nothing to do with anything, but since we are in the elite pitcher section, I thought I'd take the opportunity to address it. Many people questioned my CC Sabathia bold prediction in my You Heard Me! column. (Fewer than 15 wins, an ERA over 4.) Understand it's a bold prediction, so I'm not saying it's likely, just that it could happen. And among other things, it's based on this excellent entry in the TMI blog.
Round 4, pick 36: Kevin Youkilis (ADP: 38). Love Youk for the batting average and power he provides, especially at a shallow position like third base. When in doubt, I'm grabbing power before speed. Speed will be there later.
Round 5, pick 45: Adam Lind (ADP: 42.9). I said it'd have to be a draft where everything fell for me. So I'm hoping Lind drops two spots because someone thinks last year was a fluke. I got sour news for you, Jack. It wasn't. Another .300/30 homer guy in the outfield? Yes sir.
Round 6, pick 56: Curtis Granderson (ADP: 56.6). (Hmm, this is starting to look a lot like my AL Tout Wars team. Click on the link if you care. The live blog of the AL draft is kind of interesting.) Anyways, my first batting average risk, but, because of Zack, I didn't want to go with pitching and, thanks to Youkilis, I didn't need Aramis Ramirez. You know I am not going closer with Mo Rivera, and while I like both Andre Ethier and Carlos Lee, I wanted the speed of Granderson. I'm very high on Granderson and actually think we might be a little low on his power and speed projections. (You can see our projections for any player by clicking on them).
Round 7, pick 65: Ben Zobrist (ADP: 63.7). Another hoping-he-drops-two-spots guy, I'm drafting him here to play middle infield, but I like his position flexibility. For those that missed our "Baseball Tonight Fantasy Draft" special, we did something called "Blind Résumés," where we showed you two sets of stats and then revealed whom they belonged to. Shout-out to our producer Scott Clark while you check out one of the "reveals."
Round 8, pick 76: Billy Butler (ADP: 78.7). As much as I like Adrian Gonzalez, I'm happy I passed on him to get Butler here. The difference between Butler and Gonzalez is not nearly as great as the difference between Grienke (go Royals!) and say, Josh Johnson (the best pitcher available at this spot).
Round 9, pick 85: Gordon Beckham (ADP: 86.7). Another power/speed guy, I love Beckham this year, especially since he'll qualify at both second base and third base about 10 games into the season. This team is shaping up as fairly flexible, which is always nice.
Round 10, pick 96: Elvis Andrus (ADP: 95.4). No offense to Stephen Drew or the Drew family (except J.D. -- to hell with him), but after Andrus I felt there was a significant drop-off to the next tier of shortstops. My first pure speed guy.
Round 11, pick 105: Wandy Rodriguez (ADP: 109.3). With much of my offense filled out (only two outfield, a utility and a catcher are left), time to start grabbing some starting pitching. There may not be a better example of why you wait on pitching than the fact Wandy Rodriguez is going in pick 109. Way-Rod 4VR!
Round 12, pick 116: Jose Lopez (ADP: 116.3). Now I'm really glad I have Zobrist. I'm moving him to the outfield and throwing the underrated Lopez (25 home runs last year!) in my middle slot. He'll qualify at third in a week, so now with Youk, Beckham and soon Lopez, I have a lot of depth at third (a very scarce position this year) if I need to deal.
Round 13, pick 125: Brett Anderson (ADP: 133). I reached a little for Brett here, but I like him and his upside much more than any of the other choices here (mostly closers like Huston Street, Brian Wilson and Jose Valverde; I'm not paying for saves or outfielders, where I feel I'm pretty strong). Anderson had 105 strikeouts in just more than 106 innings last year and is a trendy sleeper for many, including me.
Round 14, pick 136: Juan Pierre (ADP: 136.8). Buster Olney has talked about how much the White Sox are gonna run this year (they've attempted 43 steals in 29 games this spring) and Pierre has never stolen fewer than 40 bags when he's received at least 375 at-bats (which he will this year). He's a career .301 hitter and I like him slightly more than my other speedy outfielder choices here like Nyjer Morgan or Julio Borbon.
Round 15, pick 145: Jason Heyward (ADP: 145.8). Oh yeah, I'm buying. Especially in a league this shallow, where if he doesn't work out, I can find replacements fairly easily.
Round 16, pick 156: Max Scherzer (ADP: 159.6). With my starting offense all set, I'm now just gonna take the best pitcher available for quite a while. Mad Max needs to stay healthy, but moving to Comerica only helps. My other choice was Rich Harden here, but I've soured a bit on him with his poor spring and questions about his velocity.
Round 17, pick 165: Jorge De La Rosa (ADP: 167.8). If you've read me any amount of time, you know I have long loved the Jorge De La Rosa. All over him and Ubaldo Jimenez last year and having Greinke gives me a little WHIP leeway. Which is gonna come in handy with my pick in Round 19.
Round 18, pick 176: Frank Francisco (ADP: 175). Time to finally bite the bullet and get a closer. He had 25 saves last year and, if he can stay healthy, that number will rise. Certainly worth an 18th-round pick. Seriously, why do people draft closers in the first 10 rounds?
Round 19, pick 185: Jonathan Sanchez (ADP: 199). Another bit of a reach ahead, but I'm very high on Sanchez this year, who seemed to turn a corner over the second half of last year. Definitely a WHIP risk, but worth it for the strikeouts he brings.
Round 20, pick 196: Mike Gonzalez (ADP: 201.5). Another closer. Yawn.
Round 21, pick 205: Francisco Liriano (ADP: 209.5). Apparently many of the ESPN drafters aren't buying his spring numbers: 30 strikeouts and five walks in 20 innings. Come on guys, at some point we have to start believing. Don't we? Guys? Hello? Am I alone on this island? Anyone? Hellooooo. Anyone at all?
Round 22, pick 216: Leo Nunez (ADP: 212.5). See Gonzalez, Mike.
Round 23, pick 225: Kurt Suzuki (ADP: 224.3). With standard leagues requiring only one catcher, you can wait if you don't get one of the big four. People don't realize Suzuki was actually the fourth-highest rated catcher on our Player Rater last season.
Round 24, pick 236: Kyle Blanks (ADP: 236). I'll shut up about Kyle Blanks now.
Round 25, pick 245: Matt Capps (ADP: 263). See Nunez, Leo.
So that's the team. It looks like this:
MI J Lopez
OF J Upton
P W. Rodriguez
P B Anderson
P De La Rosa
P F Francisco
P M Gonzalez
BN K Blanks
BN J Sanchez
The idea is to have the four closers in at all times and sub in the starters; I can't imagine many days where I will have more than five starters going the same day. With that strategy in mind and using the ESPN projections for each player, my team totals come out like this:
Matthew Berry "Dream Team" projections
Now, I don't agree with all of our projections. We're too low on Liriano, Granderson, Heyward and Sanchez in my opinion, among others. But let's just use these for the moment. Now, we look at these handy charts which show you the points you could get for your stats, on average, last season. (You can also download a cheat sheet version of it if you'd like).
2009 average points per statistical benchmark: Hitting
2009 average points per statistical benchmark: Pitching
This team is projected to be in the upper half of all categories except WHIP (I may have to ditch Sanchez since I'm crushing strikeouts anyways), and in many cases I'm third or better. This is a team that is well suited to make a serious run at the title.
But I'd probably tweak it if Sanchez falters, and ditch him for a better WHIP pitcher. Wow. Even my perfect draft isn't perfect.
Told you so.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has yet to actually be able to get Francisco Liriano in a draft this year. He's got three more coming up though, so fingers crossed. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend
Matthew Berry explores what it would be like to have everything go your way in a draft and to get the player you target in each round.