Draft dilemma: the five hole
I’ve maintained all winter long that the top four picks in a standard draft are going to be essentially the same in every draft: A-Rod, Pujols, Vladdy and Teixeira. I’ve also been adamant that the next 10-15 picks, starting at #5, are going to be a free-for-all and can go in virtually any order, making it better from a value standpoint to be closer to the end of the draft than the top. Well, guess what position I have in the Fantasy 411 listener league draft tomorrow night? Right, number five.
I’ve run through various scenarios in my head and right now I’m down to three players who I think are the top options with the pick: Carl Crawford, Derrek Lee and Manny Ramirez. There are arguments to be made for a few others, but these seem to be the leading candidates in most drafts… so let’s examine each one on his merits:
- Pros: A top-five stolen base threat who also adds a good amount of power, unlike "specialists" like Podsednik. He’s only 25 and his power has increased each year, too, making an 18-20 homer season a real possibility. The D’Rays lineup should be stronger this year, so it’s not unreasonable that he could drive in 75 or more runs again and score over 100.
- Cons: It’s hard to envision him maintaining his .290+ average with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate and fewer than 30 walks every year. His plate discipline has not improved, in fact it declined last year, making a dip in average likely. And reports on the bone bruise in his hand range from, "it’s no big deal" to "it’s a very big deal." Medhead friend Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus wonders if the lingering bruise indicates a hairline fracture, although he says both are essentially treatable the same way and with the same recovery timeline.
- Pros: He’s averaged 16 steals over the past four seasons, so he’s more likely to provide value in that category than Pujols or Bay, whose steals spiked unexpectedly last season. He’s always had good plate discipline, so he should maintain a .300 average or so, although I’m not expecting anything near .335 again. At his size and age, it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll maintain some of the power spike and sit in the 35-40 homer range for a few years. And, the Cubs lineup is much better this year with Pierre setting the table, so he’ll drive in more than 107 runs this time around.
- Cons: Three big ones. First, the bruised shoulder. It’s said to be something he can play through, but as with Crawford, any injury risk becomes magnified when it’s a first round pick. Second, we know last year was a career year, but how much of the growth can he maintain? If he dips 10%, he’s the Vladimir Guerrero of 1st baseman. If he drops back down to his 2003-2004 levels, he’ll be a good 4th rounder, not 5th overall. And third, first base is incredibly deep this year… do I need to spend this early a pick on one when I can get Thome or Huff or Morneau or several other decent options 6-8 or more rounds later?
- Pros: A clockwork orange of offensive production, averaging .315 with 40 HR, 122 RBIs and 103 runs in his five years with the Red Sox; his slow start last year dragged down what was actually another elite year. As long as he hits among Crisp, Loretta, Ortiz, Varitek and the rest, he should easily match those numbers again this year. Plus, I like to have a big outfield, and it’s not terribly deep this year in terms of top-end options.
- Cons: He’ll be 34 this year and has to slow down at some point. He’s a headcase, and a trade from Boston, or even rumors of it, could throw off his production. He does not steal at all, and speed is always at a premium.
In some respects, who I pick at #5 isn’t really the issue… who I get (or think I can get) with my second and third round picks will ultimately influence my decision as much as anything else. If I think there’s going to be a run on speed throughout the early rounds, Crawford is the pick. If I decide to take a more balanced approach, Lee is the choice. And if I want to gamble on getting speed later with specialists like Pods, Manny is the best option. So right now I’m running multiple mock-draft scenarios in my head, trying to figure out who might be available for me with those next two picks. I probably won’t decide until it’s time to click the button around 10:04 p.m. ET tomorrow night…
Of course, I could go for David Wright or Bobby Abreu or Jason Bay or Miguel Cabrera or Johan Santana or David Ortiz…