Those of you following along either on Twitter or the Google doc know that The Dynasty Guru Experts League draft has been moving along very quickly–we’re through more than 30 rounds in under two weeks. This is a testament to the writers involved, who have all made a dedicated effort to push this thing forward despite having plenty of obligations to be concerned with. But despite the speed of the draft, I’m continuing with my plan for writing this up–as you know, I like to stick to plans unless forced otherwise–and tackling my first ten picks of the draft today.
The biggest reason to break the draft out like this is that I divided it up mentally based on what I set out to do. In the first ten rounds, I set out with two goals and two goals only: 1) Get the best value possible with each pick, and 2) Grab one high-profile prospect, if possible, but don’t reach for him. You’ll notice I didn’t set out with a competitive goal, as I wanted to see how the draft would shake out before committing to one approach over another. In the end, I felt like I accomplished both goals I set out, but ended up with a very different team than I thought I might. Just for reference sake, I put each player’s ranking on the Dynasty 500 next to his name–even though the rankings aren’t meant for such a deep league, it’s still a good approximation of value.
And now, Team TDG Overlord:
Pick 1.11 – Hanley Ramirez, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Rank: 7)
This can’t come as much of a shock to anyone. I love Hanley in all formats and I think that he can return excess value on this draft slot just by staying healthy. Of course, that’s the question with him these days. Given the other options on the table (Adam Jones, Robinson Cano mostly), it was a no brainer for me. The two other guys who I thought I’d get at this spot ended up going right before me, in Ryan Braun and Joey Votto. All three of these players make excellent targets with the 11th pick.
Pick 2.30 – Justin Upton, OF, Atlanta Braves (Rank: 17)
The biggest surprise of the entire draft may have been that at pick 30, I still had a choice between four players in my top-20 (Upton, Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce and Jacoby Ellsbury rounded out my first-round grades). In the end, the upside won out. Even when Upton has down years, he’s still been decent enough for fantasy. And when he’s has up years, watch out. The speed may be a thing of the past, as he’s starting to slow down a bit and the Braves don’t like to run much, but this is still a hitter who can hit .280 with 30-plus homers and a lot of goodness around it. And he’s just entering his prime now.
Pick 3.51 – Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners (Rank: 23)
I hadn’t planned on taking a starter this early, but couldn’t pass up the arm here. King Felix is as steady as they come, and he may even be good for a few more wins now that Seattle is putting a half-decent offense together–though that’s probably wishful thinking. He’ll still be 27 years old on Opening Day and still pitches in one of the best parks in baseball to call home. Sure, there have been whispers about his elbow for two seasons now, but that’s all they’ve been, whispers. Any pitcher is a risk and I’m happy with that risk being one of the most consistent performers in the game.
Pick 4.70 – Matt Holliday, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Rank: 52)
In a deep league, the non-sexy players get to undervalued and that certainly seemed to happen here. Holliday may not have cracked the top-50 on the Dynasty 500, but he was certainly a top-50 talent in this draft pool given the sheer roster sizes. The batting average, power and counting stats that you can expect from him carry even more value here, and even though he’s now the oldest player on my roster (for at least the next three rounds), I don’t expect those numbers to drop off in the next couple of seasons. Holliday is a natural hitter.
Pick 5.91 – Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (Rank: 58)
The great thing about drafting purely for value is that you’re always happy with who falls to you. Zimmerman happened to be the perfect blend of value and need, as third base fell off a cliff after him and he was the best hitter available on my board. It seems incredible that he won’t turn 30 years old until the end of the season, as it feels like he’s been around forever. And as far as the eligibility goes, consider me unconcerned in this format. Even if he does lose his 3B status after 2015, his bat will be well worth playing for much longer than that.
Pick 6.110 – Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (Rank: 64)
There’s no fear quite like having the highest rated player on your board be a pitcher who is dealing with shoulder soreness and an unclear timetable. At the time of this pick, he was still supposed to only miss the first two starts of the season and the news was generally positive. The long-term confidence in Hamels swung me though and I bit the bullet (rather than moving down the list to my next target, Matt Cain). Of course, that changed a few days after I made the pick, but such is life.
Pick 7.131 – David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox (Rank: 86)
In a two-DH league, I don’t care how old Ortiz is, I want him on my team. He doesn’t strike out and he’s not slowing down. The decline will come, but I don’t think it comes in the form of a cliff.
Pick 8.150 – Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (Rank: 144)
And here was where I decided to jump in for my first prospect. I’m a huge Clint Frazier supporter and I ranked him as such this off-season (he was a top-20 fantasy prospect for me). I don’t care how many strikeouts he had in rookie ball and I certainly don’t care that he hasn’t played full-season ball yet. When I bet on teenage hitters, I bet on bat speed and Frazier has it in spades. He was the highest rated hitter on my board at this point and the timing was perfect. At this point I knew I was going to fully compete for a championship in Year One and he can be a great trade chip if I need it.
Pick 9.171 – Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates (Rank: 163)
Another deep league favorite of mine, Walker doesn’t get the accolades that he deserves for being a strong all around contributor. He may not steal many bases anymore, but his unusually low BABIP cratered his batting average in 2013 and I don’t expect that to continue. He should be a .275-plus hitter with nearly 20 homers, strong counting stats and the ability to approach 10 steals again.
Pick 10.190 – Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers (Rank: 147)
Yes, I already had a third baseman and yes, Ramirez makes for a better play in shallower leagues where replacement level is higher, but I just couldn’t pass on him here as we neared the quarter pole of the draft. He’s a high-average slugger who hits in the middle of a relatively strong lineup and he’s only one year removed from getting MVP votes. Thirty-five years old isn’t ancient and he is still capable of putting together another .290 season with 25 homers in a wonderful home ball park.
Next ten picks to come next week. Follow me on Twitter at @dynastyguru.