The First Draft of 2001, part 5    (02/01/01)

...and DOWN the stretch they come.

21st Round:
1. Baseball HQ: N. Perez, Col, SS
2. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: T. Crabtree, Tex, RP
3. Long V. Castilla, TB, 3B
4. Wall St. Sports: J. Payton, NYN, OF
5. Bart Lynch: A. Ochoa, Cin, OF
6. Dr. Stats: M. Kotsay, Fla, OF
7. Creative Sports: D. Hermanson, StL, SP
8. Users: J. Jimenez, Col, RP
9. Sandbox: C. Smith, Fla, SP
10. Woodman: J. Olerud, Sea, 1B

OK, I sorta wandered into the wilderness on this one, but maybe my reasoning will make sense.  Two years ago, Vinny Castilla was one of the 3 best hitting 3rd basemen in the majors.  Then he got traded away from Coors.  Everyone, including myself, expected a dropoff, but not like what happened last year.  He went completely AWOL.  I figured a guy with his bat speed shouldn't completely collapse like that without good reason.  Two good reasons: 1) back spasms and 2) bad divorce.  Both of those are fixable.  So my thinking was that if he's taken care of those two things, he should bounce back pretty close to his 1999 production.  Another reason I took him, in keeping with my modified strategy, was because he makes contact almost 90% of the time.  Two guys I would have liked to get that went in this round were Ochoa and Hermanson.  Ochoa put up monster numbers in September last year when he was given the right field job (.337, 7 homers, 28 RBI), but his resume doesn't indicate that kind of performance over the long haul.  Still he should be a very solid contributor.  Dave Duncan has a knack for turning around guys who look like they've lost it (Dave Stewart, Darryl Kile, Andy Benes, etc) and Hermanson certainly falls into that category.  I was just concerned that his problems were physical as there were a number of rumors that his shoulder was bothering him all last year.

22nd round:
1. Woodman: Q. Veras, Atl, 2B
2. Sandbox Sports: D. Deshields, Bal
3. Sandbox Users: C. Guzman, Min, SS
4. Creative Sports: M. Williams, Pit, RP
5. Dr. Stats: S. Alomar Jr., ChiA, C
6. Bart Lynch: C. Koskie, MIN, 3B
7. Wall St. Sports: J. Wright, Clev, SP
8. Long E. Yan, TB, RP
9. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: D. Segui, Bal, 1B
10. Baseball HQ: T. Ritchie, Pit, SP

Esteban Yan just came out of the blue for me.  I wanted to have a deep reserve of hard throwing pitchers because I believe that this year especially they will be a valuable commodity.  I really don't know which hitters will fare well with the new strikezone but I'm fairly certain the hard throwing pitchers will do well.  So I figured that I'll be able to trade a hard thrower for any hitting needs I might have as the season progresses.  And Yan certainly qualifies as a hard thrower.  His numbers are pretty solid out of the bullpen - 30 IP, 28 H, 8 BB, 34 K.  Some of his earned runs came as a result of other pitchers failing to strand runners.  Yan himself had an outstanding strand rate, leaving 19 of 24 baserunners in the field.  If he can get past his first blown save OK, he could become one of the top firemen in the AL.

23rd Round:
1. Baseball HQ: R. Aurilia, SF, SS
2. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: M. Sirotka, Tor, SP
3. Long R. Hernandez, Oak, C
4. Wall St. Sports: T. Hollandsworth, Col, OF
5. Bart Lynch: C. Knoblauch, NYA, 2B
6. Dr. Stats: M. Redman, Min, SP
7. Creative Sports: C. Carpenter, Tor, SP
8. Sandbox Users: M. Mulder, Oak, SP
9. Sandbox Sports: R. Ventura, NYN, 3B
10. Woodman: C. Pavano, Mon, SP

There were a number of other guys I would have rather picked, but with the roster size being limited to 25, I just didn't feel comfortable going into the season with Mitch Meluskey as my only catcher.  He's good, but he's young and he does play in a tough park to hit in.  Hernandez seemed like a good upside pick: decent power, good line-up protection and he makes contact a high precentage of the time.  Last year he made contact on 85% of his swings, but in the minors he was up over 90%.  Of the other picks in this round, I really like Chris Carpenter.  Many have said he has the stuff to be an ace starter one day and maybe with the taller strikezone, he'll find it.

24th round:
1. Woodman: J. Rollins, Phil, SS
2. Sandbox Sports: F. Castill0, Bos, SP
3. Sandbox Users: F. Vina, StL, 2B
4. Creative Sports: R. Ortiz, SF, SP
5. Dr. Stats: H. Bush, Tor, 2B
6. Bart Lynch: M. Bordick, Bal, SS
7. Wall St. Sports: E. Karros, LA, 1B
8. Long AJ Burnett, Fla, SP
9. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: B. Mueller, ChiN, 3B
10. Baseball HQ: J. Offerman, Bos, 2B

After Brad Penny was picked so much earlier, I was surprised to find Burnett here.  Burnett was supposed to be the ace of the Marlins staff last year - unless you count perpetually injured Alex Fernandez.  But he ruptured the thumb ligament in his pitching hand in spring training and was out for the first half of the year.  Even so, he pitched reasonably well upon his return, going into the 7th inning in all but 3 of his starts and averaging 7 Ks/9 in his last 7 starts, including a 10K gem against Rick Ankiel and the Cards.  There's no question he has the stuff to take advantage of a taller strikezone: 95+ mph fastball and a hammer curve (John Sickel's description, not mine).  With the addition of Charles Johnson behind the plate to guide him, the only real question is can the Marlins score enough for him to win.  I liked the Offerman pick here; he's defintely due for a better year than last and looks like the type of player than can weather the new strikezone reasonably well - makes contact, walks some, doesn't strike out a whole lot and isn't overly tall.  A return to 1999 production is a likelihood.

25th Round:
1. Baseball HQ: O. Dotel, Hou, SP
2. Fantasy Baseball Headquarters: S. Reynolds, Hou, SP
3. Long D. Jackson, SD, 2B
4. Wall St. Sports: T. Armas Jr, Mon, SP
5. Bart Lynch: M. Quinn, KC, OF
6. Dr. Stats: C. Patterson, ChC, OF
7. Creative Sports: M. Barrett, Mon, 3/C
8. Sandbox Users: G. Heredia, Oak, SP
9. Sandbox Sports: B. Mayne, Col, C
10. Woodman: J. Washburn, Ana, SP

I was gonna go with my man Bubba [Trammell] here but I felt compelled to shore up my bench with a middle infielder.  What it came down to was a coin toss between Julio Lugo and Damian Jackson.  I'm sure my affinity for the Padres got the better of me, but Jackson did post some intriguing numbers last year - he hit .302 as the leadoff man (.368 on base/.450 slugging) and .295 as a second baseman (.369 on base/.460 slugging).  In September and August, when that's what he was primarily (2nd base and leadoff), he hit .295/.373/.448 with 15 steals.  Any advantage Lugo might have in slugging, Jackson more than makes up for with speed.  Given an improved Padre line-up (Gwynn for more than 35 games, Trammell instead of DeHaan/Owens in left, Darr instead of Rivera/Owens in center), Jackson might score 100 runs.  I was disapponted to see Washburn and Dotel go.  I had hoped to watch them impartially this spring.  Quinn, Barrett and Armas were also intriguing picks as they are each quite talented.


Looking at the big picture, I like my team.  It's funny but what other people viewed as long shot picks - Wood, Wagner, Rocker, Morris, Williamson, Floyd, Burnett, Yan - I feel extremely confident about.  To me, those guys are as rock solid as Delgado, Guerrero and ARod.  The ones I'm more concerned about are the "solid" picks like Salmon, Rusch, Ashby and Nomo.  Castilla is also a concern.  The nice part about those guys is that I'll know fairly early in spring whether or not they'll pan out: bat speed or velocity is down, unusual pains, etc.  So I think I'll be able to react a little more quickly than many of the other owners to shore up any weaknesses.  I am somewhat concerned with how many taller hitters I ended up with, but I'm hoping that I grabbed enough good contact guys that it won't be much of a factor.

Regardless, all I wanted to do in the draft was to make sure I got a good hitting team with some high-upside guys on the pitching staff.  From the looks of things, that's exactly what I did.  I have a knack for picking up good pitchers early in the season (I got Rusch and Hernandez opening week last year in my NL league and snagged Felix Rodriguez a few weeks later) so I didn't feel it necessary to load up my pitching staff with safe picks.  If I have the hitting to start with, I'm reasonbly sure I can make the pitching work.  Hopefully, my theories regarding the strikezone this year will pan out.  If so, I should be in great shape.  If not, well, it should be very exciting.

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