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The Wheelhouse: Checks and Balances

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I like accountability. I guess I am just a little bit sick that way.

Sitting in the No. 9 spot along with co-pilot Tim Schuler at the NFBC Main Event on Saturday, we were happy to select Troy Tulowitzki with our first-round pick. David Van Der Stuyf was sitting to my right with the 10th selection.

"You said you had Cargo as your fifth-ranked player overall!"

(David was both surprised and seemingly very happy to get Cargo with that 10th overall pick.)

I was probably more surprised that David not only remembered what I had written/said, but that he was at least in some light considering it as part of his evaluation process.

I have always felt like the NFBC Main Event is a different animal when it comes to reading the other players at the draft table and predicting what they are going to do. At least, compared to the industry leagues like Tout and LABR, which do not have entry fees, there is a lot more at stake financially and the vast majority of players have a challenging combination of experience in the format and very well thought-out evaluations of individual players and strategies.

It's not as though the aforementioned industry leagues have owners lacking those traits, but there's just something more challenging about the Main Event.

Shoe and I spent time Saturday morning over football-sized omelettes running through a few scenarios with the first-round pick, knowing we'd have a choice of three or so players we really liked. Fortunately, we didn't draft with Shawn Childs, who took Tulowitzki over Ryan Braun at No. 3 overall in Jeff Erickson's draft (Vegas), because the prevailing takeaway at breakfast was that there would not be a player like Tulo available at 22 overall when our second-round pick came back.

That Jose Reyes was taken before we had a second selection ultimately validated our concern, and having a choice of Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward in that spot confirmed that our preference to draft ninth (second only to being first overall in the KDS selection process) this year.

Clayton Kershaw was on the board at that spot as well, and it was a coin flip that was essentially put in my hands to decide. Strasburg was consistently the top starting pitcher on my board this spring thanks to the elite offense behind him and strong bullpen tasked with protecting the leads of Washington starters this season. Even without a set innings cap, Strasburg is unlikely to match Kershaw's innings volume, but I have a generally bad feeling about the Dodgers this season and the pursuit of a few extra wins over more mileage from the ratios (this early) tipped the scale in Strasburg's favor.

For the second season in a row, we landed Jay Bruce at 3.9. I have mentioned the potential impact of Shin-Soo Choo's presence on Joey Votto, which ultimately leads to a bit more RBI upside for Bruce as well. Aside from that, he's still at an age and in a home park where I view him as a threat to his 40 homers this season, while also having some remaining upward mobility in the batting average department.

Adrian Gonzalez is not a player I was targeting anywhere this season. As it turned out, the Main Event became the first league (of 13) where I picked up a share this spring, but at 4.7 it was too much value to pass up, and he should help to counteract some of Bruce's batting average limitations.

One of the more common strategies in this format is to backup an early starting pitcher selection with a second starter before the end of Round 5. We didn't have Jered Weaver valued much below Gonzalez, and it was something of a gift that he was hanging around for us at 5.9 to stabilize the ratios with a workhorse to pair with Strasburg. Tumbling velocity is a concern, but Weaver fared well because of his secondary pitches last season while losing 1.3 mph from his fastball in 2012.

In a year where second basemen were at a premium, it was surprising to see Jason Kipnis slip into the middle part of Round 6. Not only was he a good positional fit for us at 6.7, but Kipnis' speed provided much needed balance for Tulo, Bruce and Gonzalez, who will likely steal 15-20 bases at most this season.

Finally, Round 7 brought a player that I've picked up several shares of this season in Melky Cabrera. Although he's not a plus-asset in the speed department, he'll bring a little something to the table in that area while boosting our average and runs count - two categories that the market often undervalues each spring.

Our first toss-up in terms of a decision between two players offering very different things came in Round 8 with Miguel Montero v. Fernando Rodney. The lean for us was Montero, not because of a lack of belief in Rodney, but because he continues to hit in the middle third of the D-Backs' lineup and gets to play half of his games in a very hitter-friendly environment at Chase Field. That level of production is very difficult to come by from the catcher spot after the first 100 picks are off the board. We knew Rodney would be gone before our Round 9 selection, but here's what happened in the 16 selections before we were up again:

88Pablo Sandoval3BFantology Josh Main
89Howie Kendrick2BSack of Lunatics CHI
810Kendrys Morales1BShawon-O-Meters
811Fernando RodneyMRTHIRTY STIFFS AND ME
812Hanley RamirezSSIsland TBD Main
813Jesus MonteroCSmelly Sheet
814Joe NathanMRPUHL CHI MAIN
815Curtis GrandersonCFbartoochies
91Jonathan LucroyCbartoochies
92Sergio RomoMRPUHL CHI MAIN
93Nick SwisherRFSmelly Sheet
94Josh WillinghamLFIsland TBD Main
95Greg HollandMRTHIRTY STIFFS AND ME
96Martin PradoLFShawon-O-Meters
97John AxfordMRSack of Lunatics CHI
98J.J. PutzMRFantology Josh Main


Six of the 16 picks before our turn were closers. After chasing saves in this league all season in 2012, one of our primary goals was to have three closers walking away from the draft, even if we knew there was a good chance that two might prove capable of holding the job all season.

Feeling that the closer run might not be over, we went ahead and selected Addison Reed. There is elite potential in Reed's arm, and his career 7.75 K/BB coming through the White Sox's system is a good reminder of that. Our hope was that Huston Street would be hanging around for us at 10.7.

It didn't happen.

910Chris Davis1BDarth Vander
911Tom WilhelmsenMRMidfield Thinkers CH
912Jake PeavySPWonderbread
913Huston StreetMRPACO THYME
914Glen PerkinsMRRainy Day Banditos
915Grant BalfourMRIN IT TO WIN IT
101Jim JohnsonMRIN IT TO WIN IT
102Nelson CruzRFRainy Day Banditos
103Mike Moustakas3BPACO THYME
104Hiroki KurodaSPWonderbread
105Ernesto FrieriMRMidfield Thinkers CH
106Erick AybarSSDarth Vander


Getting a read on the table here was particularly difficult. We had Justin Morneau marked as a great value in this spot and with six more closers off the board - including the guy we really wanted as our second option for saves - it was easier to fill the corner-infield spot with Morneau that reach for a reliever were weren't quite as comfortable with in Round 10.

That decision proved to be the right one, as Joel Hanrahan (11.3) was the only other closer to be selected before our first pick after the break in Round 11. Shoe liked Chris Perez in that spot, and I was willing to go that route because of the Indians' firmly established pecking order in the bullpen. His shoulder woes this spring add some risk, but there is something about Jason Grilli I just can't buy into, even with an elite strikeout rate in each of the last two seasons.

Without sharing ownership of this team, I may have gone after Asdrubal Cabrera instead (he fell to 11.13 - nice value), but getting a second closer was probably the more responsible play as opposed to filling up the middle-infield slot.

Still light on speed, Noriki Aoki and Cameron Maybin were at the top of our queue for Round 12. Aoki went at 11.14, but we were lucky enough to get Maybin eight picks later.

Potential five-category contributor (more likely four, because of potential floor in average) Kyle Seager was available in Round 13, and he slots in as our starting third baseman.

The quest for Closer No. 3 led to the selection of Brandon League in Round 14 - yet another player I did not own in any of my previous drafts. The Dodgers are using monopoly money, so the contract really doesn't afford him as much job security as it would elsewhere, but their decision to give him a significant deal suggests that they really like the flexibility of Kenley Jansen in the setup role instead.

Anibal Sanchez closed out the first half of our draft, and led to an impressive use of profanity in my home Wednesday afternoon when Jim Leyland's brilliant bullpen management cost Sanchez (and the Tigers) a victory.

The rest of our lineup is included with the full squad here:

C - Miguel Montero (8.7)
C - Welington Castillo (24.7) - Nice placeholder until Yasmani Grandal returns from suspension.
1B - Adrian Gonzalez (4.7)
2B - Jason Kipnis (6.7)
SS - Troy Tulowitzki (1.9)
3B - Kyle Seager (13.9)
CI - Justin Morneau (10.7)
MI - Jhonny Peralta (21.9) - Hardly flashy, but likely to profit from this spot. Cheap homers and RBI?
OF - Jay Bruce (3.9)
OF - Melky Cabrera (7.9)
OF - Cameron Maybin (12.7)
OF - Jayson Werth (17.9) - The wrist injury may sap his power, but nice placement in a strong lineup should carry his value.
OF - Matt Joyce (25.9) - Sits against lefties, but seriously discounted throughout drafts this spring.
UT - Kevin Youkilis (20.7) - Showed more power than people realize after trade to White Sox last season.

P - Stephen Strasburg (2.7)
P - Jered Weaver (5.9)
P - Addison Reed (9.9)
P - Chris Perez (11.9)
P - Brandon League (14.7)
P - Anibal Sanchez (15.9)
P - Jeremy Hellickson (16.7)
P - Edwin Jackson (19.9)
P - Vance Worley (22.7)

R - Leonys Martin (18.7) - Sitting this week because he lost a game for the lineup period after getting the Sunday night matchup against Houston. Surprisingly low buzz considering his home park, tools and the lineup around him.
R - Yasmani Grandal (23.9) - Operating with a shorter bench is tough in a league with no DL spots, but Grandal already has star offensive potential behind the plate.
R - Trevor Rosenthal (26.7) - Better arm than Mitchell Boggs, and investing in potential of Jason Motte's injury being more serious than Cards are letting on.
R - Ricky Nolasco (27.9) - Most likely, someone to stream at home in Miami. Also a potential cut if he can't put the pieces back together and be useful again in a limited role this season.
R - Maicer Izturis (28.7) - Versatility was a priority this light with a shorter bench following the Grandal pick. Just a good park/team context, nothing special in his skill set.
R - Steve Delabar (29.9) - Temporary hedge against further injury issues with Casey Janssen and Sergio Santos. Likely the first cut.
R - Matt Adams (30.7) - Plenty of teams would be starting him at first base. Speculating against an early Allen Craig injury until we need this roster spot for something else.