I didn't have a firm strategy for this year's draft beyond placing a greater emphasis on hitting than years past. Each season I seem to end up plucking good pitching from free agency and then witnessing my team's annual early- and late-season hitting slumps destroy my scores. If I had to commit to general guidelines for my pre-draft meditations:
1) Get better hitters.
2) Don't be afraid to draft value while everyone else is reaching.
3) Don't be afraid to reach for pitchers if you get a good feeling.
4) Try to find a way to stop slumming free agency for middle infielders.
5) Don't get caught on the ass-end of a closer run.
6) Fuck Fabian over whenever possible.
So, thus equipped with my banal mantras and outdated magazine, we began.
ROUND 4: Johan Santana (SP. Mets)
So much for hitting. A surprising number of pitchers were keepers, and then Wainright and King Felix went early at the start. I knew that if I wanted to entertain the concept of having a single staff ace, I'd need to select a pitcher here. My options were: Guys from the AL East, the guy pitching in Coors Field, and guys in the NL East. Playing the odds, it basically came down to Santana (recovering from surgery and whatever strange affliction plagues the Mets clubhouse), Josh Johnson (owned last year, loved), and Tommy Hanson (acquired last year for a cheeseburger, loved). Of course I picked the 30 year old coming off arm surgery. Of fucking course I did. I want to say it's because I couldn't yet trust this high a draft pick to two guys that have only pitched at the ace level for one (or one half) year, but really I just choked. Johnson should have been the pick here.
I should note that I desperately wanted to get one of the stud 3B or 2B that weren't kept, like Sandoval or Reynolds or Hill or Zobrist, but everyone else was a step and half-dozen draft positions ahead of me.
Season line to date: 2-1, 2.59 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 22 K
Verdict: Paying off
Hindsight is 20/20: Ubaldo Jimenez (Drafted last year, dropped mid-season. This will become a theme.)
ROUND 5: Brandon Phillips (2B, Reds)
This pick is purely adherence to guideline number 4. I didn't want to have to wait through another two rounds, fingers crossed that I could catch a winner like Dan Uggla on the rebound, or otherwise once again spam refresh on Yahoo's research tab looking for this year's Martin Prado (who seems to be Ty Wiggington, free agent). His stats have been declining for three or four years, he plays for an awful team, and he was clearly option six at this point in the draft. There's some upside in that he's batting cleanup for the Reds, and he's good for at least 20 stolen bases.
Season line to date: .217/.299/.377, 9 RBI, 9 runs, 1 SB
Verdict: Epic fail
Hindsight is 20/20: Jayson Werth
ROUND 6: Bobby Abreu (OF, Angels)
I already had two outfielders, so this was just a value pick. Abreu had dropped pretty far, and had comparable numbers (or better) to the five other outfielders that were taken since my Phillips pick. There were no appetizing third basemen or shortstops here either, so outfield was the only decent place to go. I understand there's an age concern, but the man's been putting up identical stats for a decade. Surely at 36 he can still turn on a fastball and steal thirty bases. Right? Fuck.
I would have liked another pitcher at this point, but they were all going going gone. We were in Billingsley/Peavy/Baker territory when my turn came around, and I wasn't particularly interested in the damaged goods of the second tier. Nolasco and Kershaw, sure, but they were gone. By the way, the triumvirate I listed that sandwiched my Abreu pick? Averaging a 6.51 ERA. Further note: I knew Fabian didn't have any outfielders at this point.
Season line to date: .270/.316/.446, 9 RBI, 9 runs, 2 SB
Verdict: Could have been worse. He's been better lately, and going pitcher wouldn't have been any better.
Hindsight: Nelson Cruz. He's everything Abreu was: Power, speed, in his 30s.
ROUND 7: Jonathan Broxton (RP, Dodgers)
There were going to be twenty four picks between this and my next one, so I had to make it count. At this point not a single RP had come off the board, so the time seemed right. Of the upper echelon of closers, Rivera is old, Papelbon is unstable, Wilson and Soria play for awful teams. Broxton was the right call. It also began a closer run that saw guys like Brian Wilson, Bell, and Marmol get called while, say, Carlos Pena was still around. It was supposed to help keep the talent pool inflated long enough for me to scrape something of value off the edges on the flip side of the round when I had two picks nearly in a row.
Season: 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 1 save, 11K
Verdict: The lack of save opportunities isn't his fault. Worth his tremendous weight.
Hindsight: Brett Anderson was interesting, but unproven.
ROUND 8: Carlos Lee (OF, Weight Watchers)
ROUND 9: John Lackey (SP, Red Sox)
Lackey's stats are on the wrong side of everything, and frankly I don't want to type about them. His strikeouts are down, his hits are up, and obviously getting a second life in Boston just means that you're a fucking undead zombie thing living in Boston, and pitching in the AL East. Also, I hate having to root for the Sox every five days.
Verdict: Referenced above.
Hindsight: Michael Cuddyer and Roy Oswalt
ROUND 10: Jose Valverde (RP, Tigers)
Needs, at this point: C, SS, 3B, SP, RP
I was disappointed to see Posada go last round, because we were getting into dire catcher territory, with terribly few names remaining that were a step above the generic catcher line: .240/.280/.360 55 rbi, 45 runs. Everybody already reached for their shortstops at this point so I felt safe ignoring them. Third base would be taken care of after Fabian's picks. No good starting pitchers were taken in the next two rounds, so I'm vindicated in not taking one here. Locking up a second closer seemed like the right idea, and Valverde is in the tier of closers that wouldn't start the season immediately in a closer battle with the setup guy.
Line: 1.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 5 saves, 4 K (yikes)
Verdict: Just about right
Hindsight: Would do it the same a second time
ROUND 11: Chipper Jones (DL, Braves)
I took a lot of heat for this pick in the draft room. I just want to say that:
1) This is round 11.
2) Chone Figgins and Gordon Beckham went before this guy, and look how that's working out.
3) Cantu. Who knew? (Hint: He'd been on my team the past two years. Fuck me.)
Despite pulling a muscle and apparently hurting the right side of his hip this weekend, Chipper's not doing badly. That he doesn't seem to have anyone ahead of him on base ever isn't his fault, it's Yunel Escobar's. I'd expect the RBI total to rise, provided he continues hitting at this pace and doesn't resume deconstructing the lower half of his body during BP.
Season: .283/.421/.500, 5 RBI, 10 runs, 2 SB
Verdict: Good, not great, but my hole needed filling
Hindsight: Ian Stewart or Cantu.
1B: Mark Teixeira (Good thing I didn't draft any slow starters..)
2B: Brandon Phillips, aka Where RBIs Go to Die
3B: Chipper Jones
OF: Ryan Braun
OF: Carl Crawford
OF: Bobby Abreu
UTIL: Carlos Lee
SP: Johan Santana (arm surgery)
SP: John Lackey (2009 arm woes)
RP: Jonathan Broxton
RP: Jose Valverde
Thinking at the time: I have a lot of speed and power, this is exactly what I wanted. Now I can focus on some sleeper SPs while everyone else scrambles for twiggy outfielders.
Thinking now: All my drafted hitters are having the worst slumps of their careers, my best closer has no saves, and my second best closer and starter can't strike anyone out. Might be time for the annual desperation team name change.
Second half coming later.