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Go Bold or Go Home: Blog Wars Draft Review

Surprisingly enough, there are several other fantasy baseball-themed blogs out there in the aethersphere. I know--what a surprise! Well, we decided to wage war and mutual self-promotion at the same time in the eXpertLeagues.com Blog Wars league. Fifteen teams, all owned by experts, and I'm representing RotoAuthority. We drafted on Monday, and it seemed like the perfect time to put my own advice to the test: go bold, or go home.

I went home. I really, really meant to go bold, I did. Promise. My plan going into the draft was to make as many of my decisions as possible based more on upside than balanced risk analysis. Why? Well, there's only one winner and we're playing for pride. What pride is there in a solid fifth-place finish? None. So I was going to go for broke.

Turns out, I wasn't the only one with that strategy. Consider, for instance, some of these first round picks: Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowtizki, and Bryce Harper. (Do keep in mind that it's a 15-team league, but still!) People hated safe picks so much that Albert Pujols lasted until the 12th pick. Man, was I disappointed with my slot of 13th.

By the time it got around to my pick I had a choice of which road to go down: safety and Giancarlo Stanton, risk and Troy Tulowitzki. With the clock counting down (I might have spent a little too much mental energy getting excited about Pujols) I made the call that Tulo was more likely to last four more picks than Stanton, who I grabbed. Wrong! With that, the die was cast.

Sort of. I made Stephen Strasburg the first pitcher taken just a couple picks later, and some would probably see that as a pretty bold move. The way I see it, I was just making sure that mine wouldn't be among the large population of teams without an ace.

It was a long time until my next pick--if you aren't used to 15-team leagues, you're in for some long waits between selections. If you are, you'll understand why we stopped after less than two rounds to change the draft time from 90 seconds to a minute. Speaking of things that take a long time, check out this round-by-round of the rest of the draft.

Rounds 3-4

Unsurprisingly, position scarcity was becoming a big deal by the end of the third, when I next got to pick: Cano, Kinsler, and Pedroia were all gone at second; Tulo, Reyes, and Castro at short; Cabrera, Longoria, Beltre, and Wright at third. My only logical choice: Ben Zobrist, with Ryan Zimmerman on the backswing of Round 4. It was the right call, as the next couple rounds saw SS slip all the way down to Asdrubal Cabrera, while 2B saw its next three hitters go off the board. At this point, the good news was that I had a solid core. The bad news, was that I wasn't feeling terribly bold.

Rounds 5-6

Maybe that's why I made Anthony Rizzo my 5th round pick, or maybe it was just for the position scarcity. As starters slipped off the board, I grabbed Yovani Gallardo. Which is only bold because, between me and my wife, we've got him on seven or eight teams. Maybe just three. Either way. Infielders continued to disappear here, while I pretended not to worry that I still had just one of my five outfielders.

Rounds 7-8

Frustratingly, I wasn't able to sneak Jimmy Rollins or Elvis Andrus by anyone. In fact, SS went so fast that Erick Aybar was off the board in the seventh. Seriously, Erick Aybar! Really! My only choice was to take Alcides Escobar, which was a lot higher than I'd expected, even in a 15-team league. Fortunately, I managed to gain a foothold in steals while filling my SS hole. The only bad news, was that I had relegated Zobrist to 2B, something I never draft him expecting to do. Bold plays like Carlos Gomez, Eric Hosmer, Ryan Howard, and Hanley Ramirez all went off the board in the seventh, making me think that cautious might be the new bold after all.

In the whole draft, I caught criticism for just one selection: Wilin Rosario in the 8th round. Considering that Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli, and Salvador Perez had just been drafted, I'm not sure if the comment was sarcastic or what, but I was stoked to get my personal fourth-ranked catcher this late, in a league where 30 catchers must be drafted. Miguel and Jesus Montero would go in the next round, as would injured stars Chase Headley and Curtis Granderson, and one of my favorite sleeper/breakout candidates, Todd Frazier.

Rounds 9-10

Around this time, I was thinking of being seriously bold and taking the ailing Roy Halladay. My thinking was this: I've got two pitchers to mitigate some of that risk I thought I didn't care about, and if Doc comes back to his old self, having him and Strasburg on the same staff would be hard to beat. Instead, I took Jake Peavy, and I feel a lot more confident in my rotation. 

I could have gotten Doc with the next pick--it would have been so easy!-- but relievers were starting to go. Took John Axford instead.

Rounds 11-12

I was still intent on ol' Halladay (he's a great choice for your fourth pitcher in just about any format, let alone in the 11th Round), but he was snatched right out of my grasp by the same team that snagged Pujols from me in the first, so I switched tactics and took the last two good relievers left: Jason Grilli and Glen Perkins. Long story short, I feel great about my position in saves. Some more high-upside risks slipped away here, like Dan Uggla, Tim Lincecum, and Marco Estrada.

Rounds 13-14

At this point, I was really wanting to fill in my OF and get some speed, but I just couldn't let Will Middlebrooks pass by for my CI spot, especially with nearly all the playable 1B's off the board. Plus, I had him in the same tier as Frazier, who went five rounds earlier. For the next one, though, it was time to get on with the plan and take OF number two: Coco Crisp. Yeah, my outfield is going to be a problem. To make matters worse, I had targeted Nick Swisher and Josh Reddick for that slot, but both just barely slipped through my fingers. At least I got speed, right?

Rounds 15-16

Operation build-my-outfield continued in these rounds, where I got Cameron Maybin for speed and Ryan Ludwick for power. I have to admit, I was excited to have Ludwick as my fourth outfielder, so if you think about it, only my #2 and #3 OF's are a problem. And they steal bases....

Unfortunately, this section saw three pitchers I'd targeted get drafted: A.J. Burnett, Homer Bailey, and Alexi Ogando. Also, Jedd Gyorko seemed like the last upside and playing time option for MI and he went too. 

Rounds 17-18

With several gaping holes in my lineup filled, I turned my attention back to my rotation and grabbed Andy Pettitte and Ryan Dempster with my next two picks. Neither Boston nor New York is as sure a source of wins as they used to be, but they stand a decent chance of being above-average, and both of these pitchers should produce some strikeouts too. If they stay healthy.

Rounds 19-22

At this point, I felt like I was sitting on a decent rotation and a great (for 15 teams) bullpen, but I still had holes to fill at 2nd C, 5th OF, MI, and Util. So a lot of holes. With J.P. Arencibia barely off the board, I grabbed Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With upside/longshots Justin Ruggiano and Brandon Moss gone, I took a pair of injury prone power hitters for the last spot in the outfield and utility: Carlos Quentin and Cody Ross. Predictably, both are less than 100% certain for Opening Day. I also grabbed Daniel Murphy for that MI slot, which isn't very exciting, but at least he isn't known to be horrible.

Rounds 23-27

My starting lineup finally filled out, I went after starting pitchers to fill out nearly all the rest of my roster. In a league with lots of bench slots, I like to use most of them on pitchers. I took Wei-Yin Chen as the best starter available, Joe Blanton because of his ridiculous K/BB rate, Bronson Arroyo because he's dependable and the Reds should slug their way to lots of wins for him, and Johan Santana as my DL stash. For my last pick, I vacillated between taking Colby Lewis as a second such injured player and getting a bench hitter. I took the hitter, in the form of Chris Nelson, because he plays 2B and 3B, and hits in Colorado. 

So I learned that things get pretty ugly by the 27th round and the 403rd pick, but overall, I feel decent about this team. Check out the roster below the fold:

C Wilin Rosario
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Alcides Escobar
MI Daniel Murphy
CI Will Middlebrooks
OF Giancarlo Stanton
OF Coco Crisp
OF Cameron Maybin
OF Ryan Ludwick
OF Carlos Quentin
Util Cody Ross
Bench Chris Nelson (2B/3B)
SP Stephen Strasburg
SP Yovani Gallardo
SP Jake Peavy
SP Andy Pettitte
SP Ryan Dempster
SP Wei-Yin Chen
RP John Axford
RP Jason Grilli
RP Glen Perkins
Bench Joe Blanton
Bench Bronson Arroyo
Bench Johan Santana 

What do you think? A team ready to compete with 14 others and represent RotoAuthority well in the War of the Blogs? 

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