Before drafting a team, one must evaluate the depth at each position to ensure a solid lineup across the board. Though some big names will sit at the top of the position lists that will be hard to pass on, remember that good first basemen, outfielders, and starting pitchers will still be available later on in the draft. Catchers on the other hand will be a very thin position where after the top three guys go off the board, the available talent left will most likely hurt a lineup more than it will actually help it out.
Joe Mauer is the top catcher available and most likely will be gone by the end of the first round. Because he is a catcher, he will not get to the plate as much as the other top hitters on the board, but when comparing his stats to a catcher that would be available later on in the draft, there is a huge downgrade. Tim Lincecum is a solid ace that will go in the first round in most drafts, but the chances of another pitcher that will be available later in the draft producing usable stats will better those of a late round catcher.
Free agency will always produce some talent one may add to their team, so expect to find decent options at pitching and outfield as the season carries on. Remember that when drafting your team, because it is highly unlikely that one may pickup a solid option at catcher in free agency, but there will always be pitchers and outfielders still available that could turn out to produce great numbers.
Having a catcher on your roster that is consistently producing solid numbers is a huge advantage. Joe Mauer is undoubtedly the best catcher available, as well as one of the best hitters in the game, and his domination at this position makes him an outstanding franchise player for your fantasy team. The downside to this position is the amount of at bats they will receive throughout the season, as well as playing a more injury prone position. The upside to drafting Mauer is that the talent tremendously drops off at catcher once he is taken.
Brian McCann and Victor Martinez will be the best options after Mauer is gone, but once they are soon off the board, the available talent drastically decreases. One may roll the dice on a younger player with upside like Matt Wieters, but the risk may not be worth the reward. Most catchers produce stats that hurt your team, so assuring a top hitting talent at this position is critical. Drafting Mauer and rolling the dice on a solid pitching prospect later in the draft makes more sense than drafting Lincecum and getting stuck with a sub-par catcher.
Albert Pujols is one of the best players in the game and is always a triple crown threat. But when evaluating the depth at this position, his stock takes a slight dip. There are at least ten first basemen available in the draft that may not produce Pujols type numbers, but are capable of hitting over .300, 30+ HR’s, 100+ RBI’s, and 100+ Runs. Compare the stats of Pujols, the number one ranked first baseman, to Kendry Morales, the tenth ranked first basemen (according to Fantasy Baseball Index).
1. Albert Pujols – .327/47/135/124/16 (Had offseason surgery)
10. Kendry Morales – .306/34/108/86/3 (Only 26 with upside)
Now compare Joe Mauer, the top catcher on the board, to Brian McCann, the third catcher on the board, and Geovany Soto, the tenth catcher ranked.
1. Joe Mauer – .365/28/96/94/4
3. Brian McCann – .281/21/94/63/4
10. Geovany Soto – .218/11/47/27/1 (Hit .285/23/86/66/0 in ’08)
Though Pujols produced monster stats and is capable to do it once again, there will be many first baseman available later in the draft that can produce solid stats as well without such a significant drop off in production. Pass on Pujols and draft a good hitting first basemen later in the draft.
This has surprisingly become a power hitting position. Led by Chase Utley, who has mashed over 30+ dingers the last two seasons, there are also another eight players at this position that have 30+ homer potential. This has always been a position of speed, where at least nine players have the potential to rack up 20+ stolen bases. Drafting the player that will get you both is the best strategy to pursue.
Second Basemen with 30+ HR/20+ SB potential:
1. Chase Utley (31/23)
3. Ian Kinlser (31/31)
4. Brandon Phillips (20/25) (Hit 30 HR’s in ’07)
8. Ben Zobrist (27/17)
17. Clint Barmes (23/12)
If speed is not of your concern from this position, these hitters have big power potential:
6. Robinson Cano (.320/25/85)
7. Aaron Hill (.286/36/108)
9. Dan Uggla (.243/31/90)
10. Jose Lopez (.272/25/96)
The remaining players at this position among the top ten:
2. Dustin Pedroia (.296/15/72/20)
5. Brian Roberts (.283/16/79/30)
Keep an eye on these younger players:
14. Alberto Callaspo (.300/11/73/2)
16. Howie Kendrick (.291/10/61/11)
20. Martin Prado (.307/11/49/1)
26. Chris Getz (.261/2/31/25)
Given the depth at this position, it makes Chase Utley a less valuable pick. Put second base on your backburner and turn your focus to another position. Chances are, there will still be a productive hitting player at this position, or at least a player with speed, available later in the draft.
Hanley Ramirez is an excellent player who will only get better with age. But the key to drafting this position is finding the poor man’s Ramirez. Shortstop is not an incredibly deep position, holding Ramirez’s value very high, but there will be a couple players available later in the draft that could produce similar stats. This is also a position where there is plenty of top-flight talent on the way.
Ramirez compared with other top-five shortstop talent:
1. Hanley Ramirez (.342/24/106/101/27)
3. Jimmy Rollins (.250/21/77/100/31) (Hit .296/30/94/139/41 in ’07)
4. Derek Jeter (.334/18/66/107/30)
5. Troy Tulowitzki (.297/32/92/101/20)
6. Jason Bartlett (.320/14/66/90/30)
Despite Ramirez’s dominating stats and room for improvement, a shortstop with some upside should be available a little later in the draft. But considering the fall off after the first six players at this position, plan on drafting a shortstop relatively sooner than other positions.
If a shortstop run leaves you thin at this position or stuck with an older player, keep an eye on these younger players. You can always draft two late and cross your fingers.
10. Alcides Escobar – Age 23
11. Asrubal Cabrera – Age 24
12. Elvis Andrus – Age 21
13. Everth Cabrera – Age 23
19. Ian Desmond – Age 24
Alex Rodriguez is still listed as the top player available at this position, but his stats have dramatically decreased due to age and lack of steroids. This has become a relatively deep position with solid talent rounding out the top ten of available players. Passing on A-Roid and drafting a younger player with some upside might be the route to pursue.
Here is a list of younger third basemen with potential to improve on last season’s stats.
2. David Wright – Age 27 – (.307/10/72/88/27) (Homers down, stolen bases up from ’08)
3. Mark Reynolds – Age 26 – (.260/44/102/98/24) (He did strike out 223 times in ’09)
4. Evan Longoria – Age 24 – (.282/33/113/100/9) (Primed for a monster season)
5. Ryan Zimmerman – Age 25 – (.292/33/106/110/2)
8. Pablo Sandoval – Age 23 – (.330/25/90/79/5)
13. Gordon Beckham – Age 23 – (.270/14/63/58/7)
17. Ian Stewart – Age 24 – (.228/25/70/74/7)
25. Andy LaRoche – Age 26 – (.258/12/64/64/3)
It’s most likely better to target a third basemen sooner than later, but probably not worth wasting a top draft pick on this position considering the amount of younger talent that will be available later on in the draft.
The outfielders position is obviously the deepest next to starting pitchers. There will be plenty of talent here later on in the draft. There will also be talent available in free agency at this position as the season transpires. Wasting a high draft pick on an outfielder may hurt your team at another position, where talent is thin.
Ryan Braun has become the stud at this position, but considering the depth, he might not be worth your first round pick. Considering that you must start at least three outfielders on your roster, you do not want to ignore this position, but it might be a better strategy to allow solid talent to fall to you later in the draft.
Here is a list of outfielders that should be available later in the draft that could produce similar stats to that of a Ryan Braun. Players with speed and power are in italics.
13. Curtis Granderson (.249/30/71/91/20) (Average should rise dramatically this season)
15. Grady Sizemore (.248/18/64/73/13) (Injured last season, hit .268/33/90/101/38 in ’08)
16. Josh Hamilton (.268/10/54/43/8) (Injured last season, hit .304/32/130/98/9 in ’08)
17. Nick Markakis (.293/18/101/94/6) (Only 26 years old)
18. Adam Lind (.305/35/114/93/1) (Also only 26 years old)
19. Carlos Lee (.300/26/102/65/5)
20. Jayson Werth (.268/36/99/98/20)
21. Justin Upton (.300/26/86/84/20) (Only 22 years old)
22. Tori Hunter (.299/22/90/74/18)
23. Nate McLouth (.256/20/70/86/19)
25. Nelson Cruz (.260/33/76/75/20)
26. Denard Span (.311/8/68/97/23)
27. Shin-Soo Choo (.300/20/86/87/21)
28. Carlos Gonzalez (.284/13/29/53/16)
30. Raul Ibanez (.272/34/93/93/4)
31. Andre Ethier (.272/31/106/92/6)
32. Vernon Wells (.260/15/66/84/17)
39. Adam Dunn (.267/38/105/81/0)
Targeting a couple of these players later in the draft could help you round out the rest of your team. There are also many young players like Jay Bruce, Jason Kubel, Garret Jones, Nolan Reimold, Chris Coglan, and Brett Gardner who could step up and have big seasons this year as well. Also keep an eye on rising stars emerging from the minors who get called up due to injury.
Outfielders also produce most of the stolen base leaders, so drafting a player like Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew McCuthchen, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan, Rajai Davis, Dexter Fowler, or Julio Borbon could help you out in that category tremendously. But instead of wasting a high draft pick on Crawford or Ellsbury, look to draft one of the other guys listed after them later on.
As far as drafting your outfield, attempt to draft one stolen base stud, one power stud, and then draft as many players with potential to do both. Also attempt to draft outfielders that have the potential to bat over .300. There should be at least three outfielders available later on in your draft with .300/25/100/100/25 potential.
Tim Lincecum is arguably the best pitcher in baseball and will always help your fantasy team. But starting pitchers are always the most susceptible to injury, they do not help out your lineup everyday, and it is by far the deepest position. So think twice before you use your first round pick on Lincecum.
Every season, there is plenty of pitching talent that can be found in free agency. There are also plenty of pitchers taken early that end up getting injured or having sub-par seasons (Cole Hamels). There’s also emerging stars like Felix Hernandez and Josh Johnson who could churn out Lincecum type seasons that you won’t have to waste a first round pick on.
Drafting an ace for your fantasy team is mandatory, so you should focus on taking one of the top twenty pitchers relatively high. The longer you can wait to draft at least one of those pitchers the better, but don’t allow your starting pitching staff to run too weak. But once you have drafted an ace or two within the first six rounds of your draft, wait to see who falls down the board and scrap together the remainder of your staff with players who have strong upside. There will be some great pitchers available after round ten, and always some talent that emerges from free agency throughout the season.
Young talent like Ricky Romero, Mat Latos, Dallas Braden, Rick Porcello, Marc Rzepczynski, Jon Niese, Bud Norris, David Price, or Chris Volstad could turn out to be the steals of the draft this season. Rolling the dice on some younger pitchers with upside will help you build a better team. Draft at least four dependable aces, then wait for the end of the draft to pick up some young talent and see who pans out.
Making sure that you have at least two solid closers is a good strategy to pursue. You do not have to waste a high draft pick on a premier closer, but you don’t want to be left on the outside of a closer run in your draft. Though guys like Jonathan Broxton and Joe Nathan will be quick to go, there are still plenty of relievers that will post 30+ saves and have good ERA’s.
This is also a position where throughout the year, players will receive their opportunity to close games. There is always a couple high profile closers that get injured or don’t pan out, and their replacements can be scooped up in free agency. You don’t necessarily have to draft a top closer to hang in the save category, but it is a good idea to target at least two closers that will have the opportunity to save 30+ games. There should be at least 20 guys this season that will have that opportunity and you must have at least two of them to compete in saves.
The goal for your draft is to have a complete team when all said and done. You want to build a well rounded roster so that you can compete in every category. Sometimes you may have to pass on a better player strictly due to the position they play. Taking the best available shortstop over a better hitting outfielder or starting pitcher is the way to go if you consider the depth at the other positions and lack of depth at shortstop.
Listed below are the top players at the position and comparable players at that position that will be available later in the draft.
FRANCHISE CATCHER – Joe Mauer (The drop off at this position is drastic)
LATER OPTION – Matt Wieters
FRANCHISE FIRST BASEMEN – Albert Pujols
LATER OPTION – Kendry Morales or Joey Votto
FRANCHISE SECOND BASEMEN – Chase Utley
LATER OPTION – Aaron Hill or Ben Zobrist
FRANCHISE SHORTSTOP – Hanley Ramirez
LATER OPTION – Troy Tulowitzki
FRANCHISE THIRD BASEMEN – David Wright
LATER OPTION – Pablo Sandoval
FRANCHISE OUTFIELDERS – Ryan Braun, Matt Holiday, Matt Kemp
LATER OPTION – Justin Upton, Nelson Cruz, Hunter Pence
FRANCHISE PITCHERS – Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay
LATER OPTION – Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hanson
FRANCHISE RELIEVERS – Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan, Jon Papelbon
LATER OPTION – Andrew Bailey, Rafael Soriano, David Aardsma
LACK OF DEPTH PER POSITION
- THIRD BASE
- SECOND BASE
- FIRST BASE
- RELIEF PITCHER
- STARTING PITCHER
About the Author
Written by Josh Souder