This past Friday night, I had my third and final baseball fantasy league draft. (I had my previous two earlier this month.) Fantasy baseball has become a hobby of mine, and there are dozens of fantasy baseball web sites. I've used ESPN's since 2001, and I generally have a good experience with it. ESPN provides lots and lots of stats, and their experts are usually pretty knowlegeable. (But they only allow one slot for a disabled player, and I've argued with them for 5 years to change that to 2 or 3 slots, with no luck at all!)
I'm in a ten-player league, and we play head-to-head, and we're matched in five pitching (wins, ERA, strikeouts, saves and WHIP) and five offensive (HRs, RBI, average, SBs and runs scored) categories. If you win the category, you get the victory. So, a couple of days, me and eight other guys (one was not present so the computer picked for him) got together and divided up the major leagues. It's a fun and sometimes frustrating experience (especially when somebody in front of you takes a player you really want), and there are 25 rounds. At ESPN, you select 13 position players, 9 pitchers and 3 bench players (can be anyone). You have to pick catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, five outfielders, a corner infielder, a middle infielder and a utility position player.
I was given the ninth overall pick (the computer randomly decides). I was happy with that, as it's better to have an early round (1, 2 or 3) or late round pick(8,9, or 10) than be in the middle, as the draft is down in "wrap-around" fashion. (In other words, the guy who picks 10th, starts the second round first, and the guy who picks 9th selects second in round 2, and so on).
My buddy Greg had the first overall pick, and he took Alex Rodriguez, who is generally the first overall pick in most leagues. (I wouldn't have taken him first, simply because I have a rule: No Yankees on my team, as I don't want to have to root for them in real life.) Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero and Johan Santana were the next picks, and they were no surprise at all. But a friend of Greg's selected Robinson Cano as his first pick, which really surprised me. Cano isn't a first round selection (at least not yet in my mind), but that was his choice.
It actually turned out to be a blessing, as I was looking to take either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez as my number one. But I was also looking at Carl Crawford as my first selection, especially if Manny and Big Papi were gone. The next pick in the draft was David Wright of the Mets, which was another surprise (the guy who took him was a Mets fan). Then with pick number 7, was Carl Crawford. I practically let out a cheer, as now I was going to get one of the Red Sox big bangers. My buddy Mark, a Red Sox fan in Boston, took his time making his choice, but I knew he'd take one or the other. Papi or Manny?
He took Big Papi, and I made my immediate selection of Manny Ramirez. I was really happy with that, but then two choices later, I saw another great player who was still on the board I wanted: Mark Teixeira of Texas. He and Manny had remarkably similar seasons last year, and I was shocked he was still out there at number 12. (I had to think for a minute: he wasn't hurt or something?) I grabbed Teixeira.
My next pick was my number one starter, Jake Peavy (I picked him in all three of my drafts) and my fourth choice was stud closer Chad Cordero. I closed out my top five picks with a speedburner, as stolen bases are a top category (and a hard one). I took Jimmy Rollins ,who stole 41 bases for the Phillies last year.
The draft went on for an hour and ten minutes, and I really liked the team I chose.
So without further ado, here is my team, The Castlebar Green Sox:
Position players: Javy Lopez, Mark Teixeira, Tadahito Iguchi, Jimmy Rollins, Morgan Ensberg, Manny Ramirez, Vernon Wells, Juan Pierre, Willy Taveras, Shawn Green, Mike Sweeney, Ron Belliard, Chris Shelton.
Pitchers: Jake Peavy, Felix Hernandez, Josh Beckett, Freddy Garcia, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano, Chad Cordero, Francisco Cordero, Trevor Hoffman, Derrick Turnbow, Mike Gonzalez, Chris Ray.
My team will look very different in early September, when the league playoffs begin. They will be injuries, players not playing well, or free agents that I will get to replace them. I like the balance I have on my team. I have three stud starters, and six closers. I have three speed guys and at least five guys who can hit at least 30 homers.
We'll see how all of this plays out. Next week is Opening Day, especially for fantasy players as well. If you're interested in playing ESPN Fantasy Baseball, you still have time to join a league. Click on this link and it will take you to the main fantasy baseball page: http://games.espn.go.com/cgi/flb/front
Let the games begin.