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Thursday, February 14, 2013

First Base Strategy: Rizzo, Davis, Hosmer, Freeman

I've been thinking about position scarcity and the quality of 2nd level and 3rd level options at different positions.  So, if you will permit me, I'd like to think out loud for a little while and share with you a strategy I've been noodling.

Regarding position scarcity, my feelings about second base are well documented at this point.  However, to recap... It's Robinson Cano or bust for me.  He is a super stud with every "green flag" (we talk about those a lot around here - the opposite of red flags) imaginable.  After Cano, there are question marks everywhere.  Everywhere, folks.  Second base is a wasteland.  You can make yourself optimistic about Kipnis or Kendrick or someone else, but the bottom line is that even if you hit on one of them and they deliver at their ceiling they are nowhere near Cano's likely projection.

Shortstop isn't so great either, but I feel like it is a fairly smooth spread downward across the top 10-12 options at the position.  Tulowitzki is the top guy but Reyes isn't far behind.  Hanley Ramirez and Starlin Castro lag back in the next couple of spots with Ben Zobrist and his positional flexibility slot in next.  It's smooth, but steep.  You want to get in on shortstop sooner than later or you will be hoping for a repeat performance from Ian Desmond or one more solid year from Derek Jeter.  Hope alone is not a great strategy, my friends.  In my opinion, shortstop should be prioritized.

Catcher is interesting this year, too.  It's really not unlike second base.  Buster Posey is the clear leader of the position with a bunch of solid options after him, but those other guys are full of question marks just like the guys at second base.  Plus, for most of them, their ceiling isn't very close to Posey's likelihood.

Okay, so here's what I've been thinking about.  What happens if you took Cano early in the first round and Posey in the second and then managed to get Reyes early in the third?  To me that is a dream scenario this year.  Why?  Because it provides enormous differentiation for you versus your competitors at the three most scarce positions.  But, after the Reyes pick you've got to seriously start thinking about your strategy.

Waiting on pitching isn't a bad plan at all, but how long can you wait?  At this point in the draft the outfield is starting to get thin, too.  What if you need five outfielders?  And, what do you do with the corner infield positions?  Those are supposed to be the foundation of your team, right?  No first baseman or third baseman through three rounds?!?  You cannot be serious!

Okay, okay... here we go.  Strategy.  This is what we do here, Brainiacs.  Think with me.  Your team has a big leg up on the competition at this point at the rarest positions, but you've got to start scooping up some production in the outfield, at starting pitching, and some power from the corners.  Given those options, I'm taking a strong outfielder in round four and probably the best available starter in round five.  As long as we're planning the perfect (but plausible) draft, let's say we land Matt Holliday and Zack Greinke.

Okay, that's great but we've still got massive holes at 3B and 1B and still a lot of need at OF and SP.  Yes, absolutely.  We'll fill in around Holliday and Greinke with an OF and a SP every 3-4 picks and the other picks will be 1B and 3B.

Is that horrible?  You're waiting forever at both corner infield positions.  Well, I don't think it's that bad.  Look at the options we have at the corners at this point in the draft.  I believe that both of those positions are really deep.  What I want you to do if you are running a strategy like this is to double up at 1B and 3B, sort of like what we advocate with quarterbacks in football.  Take two of each pretty close together to maximize your potential and cover yourself from any potential busts.  We don't have to worry about busts at catcher, second, and short so we can completely de-prioritize those positions at this point.  They are covered.

So, to map it out, it might look something like this:
  1. 2B
  2. C
  3. SS
  4. OF
  5. SP
  6. 1B
  7. 3B
  8. OF
  9. SP
  10. 1B
  11. 3B
  12. OF
  13. SP
  14. OF
  15. SP
  16. RP
  17. OF
  18. SP
  19. RP
  20. OF
  21. SP
  22. RP
  23. RP
  24. OF
  25. 2B/SS
You shouldn't map out the positions you are taking ahead of time like that, but doing this exercise can give you a feel for what you are prioritizing and why.  The map above shows you how late you'll be taking relievers and just how spread out and late you are taking most of your starters.  Plus, your outfielders might end up being pretty lousy.  (By the way, I contend that starters and outfielders are the easiest positions to fill in-season because there are so many guys out there getting a shot to prove themselves.)

Back to 1B and 3B.  You are getting two of each in rounds six through eleven.  That gives you multiple serious options and a great chance for a couple of those guys to explode, especially at 1B.  Using the composite rankings at, your 6th and 7th picks could be Brett Lawrie or Pablo Sandoval paired with a Freddie Freeman or Anthony Rizzo.  Down in rounds 10 and 11 you could get guys like Martin Prado or Will Middlebrooks to go along with an Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis, or Chris Davis.

So, listen... If you left the 11th round with the list below you'd be ecstatic, right:
  1. Cano
  2. Posey
  3. Reyes
  4. Holliday
  5. Greinke
  6. Sandoval
  7. Freeman
  8. Carlos Beltran (for example)
  9. Josh Johnson (or similar)
  10. Prado
  11. C. Davis
Man, I love that team.  You did a few things there with the last two picks, too.  If all goes according to plan and Sandoval and Freeman are your starters at the corners, Prado and Davis have the flexibility to play in the outfield (and more for Prado).  That is huge.  Positional flexibility is one of the most under-rated aspects of fantasy baseball.  There will never be a day where you can't fit Prado or Davis into your lineup.  It won't happen.

So, all of that to say that I think that 1B and 3B are deep and you should double them up very quickly if you wait on them.  Take two really close together to hedge your bets, especially if you go with someone like Eric Hosmer.

A lot of people downplay position scarcity, and I get it.  I just believe that giving yourself a huge edge with rare players like Cano and Posey sets your team up to win it all if you manage well in-season.

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