The lesson never learned? Don’t draft based off last year. This is the fastest way to lose your league before you start.
First, dig up your 2010 rankings. Whose ranking in the Top 100 changed significantly? Write them down, then write down why. If the answer is ‘breakout year’ you should safely write them off your cheat sheet, as these guys won’t provide a profit and will most likely drive you nuts all season … or at least until you give up in August. You want to highlight the guys whose value changed significantly downwards, as there will be value here. You don’t want 2010
Joe Mauer or
Mark Reynolds – guys who played above their heads the year before and were drafted like they’d repeat. You want 2009 Mauer and Reynolds. You can’t get points this year from last year!
OK, enough of this. You’re reading this because you want to know who to draft and who not to. I’ll start off with the top tier of players.
Matt Kemp – Joe Torre is no longer there to jerk him around in the lineup, and his head will be dialed in now that his drama queen girlfriend (Rihanna) has moved on. He was drafted in Round 1 last year because of his 30 home run-30 stolen base potential. That hasn’t changed, and he’s entering this season at 27 years old. It’s a strong possibility he does this year what Carlos Gonzalez did last year at a three-round discount.
Ian Kinsler – He is going to end up on the disabled list at some point. Once you’ve come to terms with that remind yourself of what he’s capable of when healthy. Just like Kemp, he has hit 30 deep before and swiped 30 bags too, in a short season. The difference? He’s two rounds cheaper this year (Chase Utley qualifies here too). Get him, and let someone else be bored with Dan Uggla.
Ryan Howard – Is he seriously falling to the third round in some leagues? Forget positional scarcity, power scarcity is very real (to come in another article). Good luck finding 45 home runs anywhere else after Howard’s off the board.
All of these guys who you found outside the Top 20 are going to out-produce these next guys who went in the first 15 picks.
Robinson Cano – Love the player, but absolutely not at a first-round price. He’s been a popular third-, fourth-, and fifth-round pick for the better part of a decade and that’s exactly who he still is today. He’s a rock, but a few caught line drives and he’s an uninspiring three-category player, not an anchor.
Josh Hamilton – I’ll call him, Mark Reynolds without the hacks. Buy him after a down year, avoid him after a good year. They’re inconsistent and they always will be. Don’t pay top dollar for either.
A little bit further down the list …
Jose Bautista – Lets look at his year-over-year numbers, hmm … which one doesn’t look like the others? He hit every home run but one to left field! Just don’t.
Adrian Beltre – Is it a contract year? No? Oh, he’s coming off a contract year too?! Pass …
Alex Rios – Go to Baseball-reference.com and hit the splits tab. What do Rios’ stats look like after June 1? What did they look like in previous seasons? Pretty similar? Then why is he going early when his same numbers (except with upside), Colby Rasmus, are available rounds later? I know, crazy!
OK, enough of the negative, who are you taking instead?
Mark Reynolds – He’s Josh Hamilton, except with the hacks. He wasn’t a double-digit round player in 2009 and those who took him were rewarded, but he also wasn’t a second-rounder like last year either. Then why is he once again falling to the double-digit rounds? Take advantage of others’ short sightedness.
Pablo Sandoval – I’m sorry you drafted poorly last year, but I’ll happily take him cheap while he’s on your do not draft list. He isn’t as good as last year and he isn’t nearly as bad as he’s being treated this year. The Law of Averages, people!
Nick Markakis – Never have I owned Markakis, and I didn’t think I ever would. In the first 50 picks there’s no upside with him. He is who he is, but when he’s falling outside the Top 100? When he’s in the middle of his prime? Yes, please!
Gordon Beckham – First full season in the majors while learning a new position and he’s expected to just keep raking. Yea, that makes sense. Last chance you’ll have to get him cheap ever again, so enjoy it.
If you want to win in this game you need patience and to understand that players are going to have down years. There will be a couple on your team this year, but by offsetting those picks with guys who are being undervalued by others for one down year you’ll be setting yourself up for a title run. Get ‘em.