Well, I stuck to my rules of "I Have Never..." and I didn't draft any of the 5 players below. In fact, in retrospect, I probably drafted a team that is the antithesis of every one of those players. I built a team that is young, healthy and athletic. In doing so I sacrificed a little on 2 fronts- superstar power/big time numbers and experience/historical value- at least on the hitting side. On the pitching side, I stayed safe. Observe:
Russel Martin- Only will be his 1st full year as the signal caller. Holding breath here a little, but Catcher is really deeper than people think so I can pick up a #2 if need be. AGE: 24
Nick Swisher- Finally bloomed last year, but needs to show he can repeat. Plus I hope his batting average is higher. (And he's eligible at 1b and OF.) AGE: 26
Howie Kendrick- A risk as my starter, but having gotten some PT last year made it a little easier risk to take. (And he's eligible at 1b and 2b.) AGE: 23
Ian Kinsler- I'm tempted to start him until Kendrick shows what he'll be this season. He was a steal late in my draft. And he has a really good lineup around him (Young, Texeira, et al.). AGE: 25
Garrett Atkins- The dude is a monster in a short period of time. And he developed in a "down" year for the air in Colorado. He's the magical age "27" for a hitter and he doesn't turn 28 until December. AGE: 27
Derek Jeter- My hatred of the Yankess aside, Jeter's a Top 3 SS. He hits for average, some power, scores runs, knocks in runners, steals bases, and flat out hustles all the time. Even if he has a down year from his MVP-esque 2006, his 3-yr averages (BAA/HR/RBI/R/SB)... .314/19/82/117/24, give me my safest player next to Big Papi. AGE: 33
Orlando Cabrera- Safe backup to replace Jeter on days the Yanks have off. AGE: 32
Rocco Baldelli- Hurt for nearly 2 years, but he heated up in the second half of 2006 which gave me enough of a glimpse to have faith he's back and to take him in the middle rounds. AGE: 25
Michael Cuddyer- He hits between Joe Mauer (AL batting champ) and Justin Morneau (AL MVP). 'Nough said. AGE: 28
Jeff Francoeur- Can't be anything but helped by Andruw Jones' contract year determination. AGE: 23
Shane Victorino- They say he'll run this year. He hits between Rollins and Howard, and Burrell. As my last pick (Rd 19) he was worth the gamble to find a gur that scores 100 runs and steals 30 bases. AGE: 26
David Ortiz- What needs to be said other than he's BIG PAPI. AGE: 31
Roy Halladay- Drafted him a little early for my typical SP strategy. But he's a Top 5 SP, and this year my league counts Quality Starts (QS) and ROy is one of the best at that. AGE: 30
Jason Jennings- My next to last pick. A capable 2nd or 3rd line SP who has a good offense to help him. AGE: 29
**Note: Since I started this post, I release Jason Jennings and picked up Dustin Hermanson who was named the closer in Cincinnati. One thing I learned is to always find cheap sources of saves.
Jason Schmidt- Above average before the move to pitcher friendly Dodgers Stadium. Now? AGE: 34
Erik Bedard- #1 in Baltimore- a surprise in the second half of 2006. He's also coming into the peak time for his experience to start showing through. AGE: 28
Brian Fuentes- Solid back to back 30 save seasons. AGE: 31
Armando Benitez- I think he's a sleeper closer because people soured on him. AGE: 34
Todd Jones- He'll get 30 saves simply because the team is a winner. AGE: 39
So here's what I think of my team. THEY'RE YOUNG! At least on the hitting side, which usually makes or breaks a team. My average batter's age is 24.8 years old. That will either spell certain DOOM for my hitting categories (BAA, 2B, 3B, HR, R, RBI, SB-CS) or a Fountain of Youth that keeps me in Head-to-Head games week after week because I actually think that...
My pitching will carry me this year.
That's right. Last year I relied really on patchwork pitching and it only got me so far. By mid-season I was giving up some power (Carlos Lee) for a #1 closer (K-Rod). Granted, I made up for that by trading 3 spare parts (Kent, Bedard, Tracy) to land Vladi. In between I scraped by with spotty starters like Brad Penny and Chris Capuano. But I regret never having a staff ace like Halladay (or even Schmidt) that I could rely on. Interestingly enough, the scoring in my league (W-L, K-BB, ERA, WHIP, TBA, CG, S) really precipitated benching starters come playoff time to be in position to win 4 out of 7 categories with closers (specifically, ERA, WHIP, TBA, and S). That burned me in the end and cost me the League title (I made the Championship Round) because my relievers went cold and I ended up trying to feverishly add and drop starters to win K-BB, W-L, ERA and WHIP.
So this year, with the replacement in the stats of TBA by Quality Starts, starters became more important to me. So I drafted solid starters, mixed in some "cheap saves" with Todd Jones, Brian Fuentes, and Armando Benitez (all low draft picks) and now picked up Hermanson too. I may need a 4th (even 5th) starter once we see how the season looks after Month 1 (who's on the free agent wire exceeding expectations or sneaking in QS start after start). Here's a theory... guys that have QS will, by nature, have low ERA and be better in line for CG. The definition of QS (3ER or less in 6IP) demands it.
So there it is. I am hoping my experienced pitching carries my young hitters all the way back to the Championship Game... only this time to the title as well.