Round 16, #186 Overall: Steve Cishek
At this point in the draft, I know I need to collect more speed. But I'm not going to take it earlier than I need to, so I'm essentially playing chicken with the draft a bit and looking to pick up more value first. I know my rotation is not going to be strong on starters, so I decided to go with the best closer left in terms of job security. This gives me three closers, and assuming all stay healthy and productive, I can pencil myself in near the top in saves. While my wins and strikeouts aren't looking hot, I also have a good thing going with my ERA and WHIP thanks to three closers and Chapman.
Also nice to know I could have gotten my catcher here, eight rounds later. Oh well, what can you do?
Relevant players taken after: Alejandro De Aza, Brandon League, Ernesto Frieri, Miguel Montero,
Salvador Perez, Josh Willingham.
If I'm going the excellent ERA and WHIP route, Ogando seems like a good fit here being "Chapman Light": converted reliever who should give me about 150 excellent IP. Also nice potential for a keeper league. Given the quality of starting pitching left and what my strategy looked like, I think this was a solid pick.
Relevant players taken after: Emilio Bonafacio, Todd Frazier, Shaun Marcum, Jarrod Parker.
Round 18, #210 Overall: Ichiro Suzuki
With two more good arms rounding out the pitching staff a bit, it was time to finally grab another stolen-base guy.
Relevant players taken after: Jean Segura, Xander Bogaerts, Cameron Maybin, Nick Swisher, Andrelton Simmons, Alcides Escobar, Marco Estrada
I was really hoping to grab Segura or Escobar with this next pick, and kill two birds with one stone by filling in my MI spot and getting the rest of my needed stolen bases with one player. Sadly, those stolen bases are still needed, so I took Crisp here and slotted him into my utility spot. I'm well aware he'll probably be injured at some point in the season while giving me 30-40 stolen bases, so I like having him there where I can easily plug in a sub when he does inevitably go on the DL.
Relevant players taken after: Michael Young, Lorenzo Cain, Derek Jeter, Lance Lynn
Another domino effect from not getting Escobar or Segura a few rounds earlier. Not crying too much about getting Alexei for this spot though; if anything, it makes taking Aybar in Round 11 look worse.
Round 21 and 22: A.J. Burnett and Tim Hudson
These were the last two picks to round out the starting team before getting to the bench, and I was fairly happy getting these two veteran guys. Burnett provides the strikeouts I need to hopefully get me closer to the middle in the category, and Tim Hudson provides some reliable innings that won't ruin my plan to maintain a great WHIP and ERA. He'll also pick me up some solid wins, which I could use.
Crunching the numbers at this stage, I'm actually projected to come in first in the league! Pretty surprising, as I was beating myself up over the few questionable picks I made. Of course, this is just running the numbers off projections, so they're not set in stone, subject as they are to my opponents' bench moves and the general ebb and flow of the season.
The biggest positive I got from looking at the projected stats at this stage was confirmation that my pitching strategy can work. As I expected, I'm towards the middle-bottom of K and W, but the other stats are good enough to make me competitive.
Round 23: Kyuji Fujikawa
Round 24: Sergio Santos
Round 25: Brandon Moss
Round 26: Dillon Gee
Round 27: Francisco Liriano
There are a few things going on with the Fujikawa and Santos picks: first, I already have three closers, so getting a fourth one only provides marginal value (I might gain something like 2-3 points going from third in saves to first). But these picks do protect me if one of my three closers loses the job, or gets injured. Second, and perhaps most importantly, they represent excellent potential value this late in the draft. If and when they become closers, they give me another asset I can trade to strengthen my team in other places. And finally, having two of the better "next in line" closer candidates also allows me to control the market a bit. I know I need to place near the top in saves to win the league, and having this many consolidated means when I do trade some of them for value, I can make sure they go to a player who won't trump me in saves and cause a loss of points.
Brandon Moss: Serves as the best Morneau caddy I could find at this stage of things. There's a lot not to like in his peripherals from last year, but he's a good pickup at Round 25 if he can somehow repeat that power in a full time role.
Dillon Gee: I was unreasonably excited to take Gee here (granted, I am a Mets fan). His walk rate and strikeout rate have both gone in the right direction the last three years, and he's young enough where he can still have a breakthrough season. I don't think we expect it out of him since he doesn't have amazing stuff scouts rave about, but the numbers tell a story I like.
Francisco Liriano: Was already cut to make room for Garrett Jones off the waiver (this spot is likely to cycle a few more times based on Spring Training job clarity).
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Prince Fielder
2B: Brandon Phillips
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Erick Aybar
MI: Alexei Ramirez
CI: Justin Morneau
OF: Norichika Aoki
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Alex Rios
OF: Giancarlo Stanton
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
U: Coco Crisp
P: A.J. Burnett
P: Aroldis Chapman
P: Steve Cishek
P: R.A. Dickey
P: Tim Hudson
P: Joe Nathan
P: Alexi Ogando
P: J.J Putz
P: C.C. Sabathia
Now that you've slogged through about 6,000 words, I'll give you my top level impressions and takeaways that can help you with your draft:
"Wait on pitching" is a dead concept
Last decade, I always waited on pitching. Didn't even look at it until at least Round 7. While you can still find good value in later rounds, and of course pitching always emerges during the season, I don't think you can wait very late on it unless you have a specific and disciplined strategy. I think you need two pitchers capable of a 8-9 K/9 rate who throw quality innings: whether you take them early with the elite guys, in middle rounds with Darvish or Scherzer, or a later round sleeper who can give you this production is up to you.
With a bit more attention focused on pitching, I wouldn't have been shoehorned into my "Low wins and strikeouts, hope/pray for excellent WHIP and ERA" strategy. While it seems to be working based on projections, I'd still be happier with one more solid ace, or even one guy with ace potential. Taking pitching early is a delicate balancing act
Despite what I said above, there's also a significant dropoff in the quality of position players after Round 3. I don't think I'd draft Verlander, Strasburg or Kershaw for that reason, but instead I'd focus on getting the next tier. This is where I'm most concerned about my draft: Sabathia and Dickey are great, but they aren't getting any younger and my season hinges on them pulling off close to another 200 IP quality innings, 200 K season each.
You're not as clever as you think you are.
If you're playing with a bunch of random guys, you probably will be able to pick up Darvish, Scherzer, Altuve, and other players that are theoretically underrated by ADP. But if you're playing with good people, you can expect these guys are going to go much earlier than you expected. I don't think I'm just speaking for my draft either, I've seen similar trends in other draft recaps and mocks. Plan appropriately, and be ready to shift your strategy on draft day. The value you get by taking a good catcher is probably negated by the value you miss at other positions
Yadier Molina is a great pick at catcher. But taking him in Round 9 (which theoretically is a great deal based on an ADP of #52 at Fantasypros.com) when you can get Salvador Perez or Miguel Montero in Round 16 means the overall quality of the rest of your positions is going to be lower. I don't think it's the worst pick in the world, but if I had waited longer on catcher, I probably would have a better rotation and a better set of middle infielders. There are more respectable players at the back end of the draft than you think
I took Aybar in the 11th round, but I could have just as easily taken Jean Segura in Round 18, or Andrelton Simmons in Round 19. Granted, those are unproven players, but if that was my concern even J.J. Hardy was taken in Round 25 (and he's good for reliable power with a blah average).
Obviously, you don't want to be stupid, and you want to have a good player at every position. But you can dig up reasonable players for the thinner positions at the end of the draft, put players on your bench who can provide insurance, and trade for what you need. Granted, if you don't feel comfortable trading or that's not your style, this may not work.
Hopefully, the mountain of text you just waded through will help you on draft day! It would be great to see more draft reports like this if you have an outlet to write them up (I'm at least hoping to see a few here on Rotoballer). If you have any feedback, feel free to hit me up @revtoby on Twitter.