I'm currently in the throes of two dynasty-style, 20-team, roto league drafts. Both leagues are 6x6 categories, with slightly different, but no value-altering settings. I wanted to post how both 1st rounds went to give you all an early idea of where players are falling. These are not mock drafts, so managers are forced to appropriately balance the risk/reward of certain players. I provided some light commentary after each pick, but my main goal is just to give the public a sense of how things are shaking out early on. One of the leagues is our FakeTeams Dynasty League and the other is a league run by a good friend. I did not disclose any of the owners (except Ray!) but I suspect a few might expose themselves in the comments.
Both leagues have a major and minor league draft, and I will be doing a similar post for the minor league drafts once both 1st Rounds are completed.
FakeTeams DL: Mike Trout
Fantasy Elite: Mike Trout
No brainers here. Trout is the best fantasy player in any possible format and in all likelihood will hold that honor for the next 10 years. Nothing else to see here.
FakeTeams DL: Chris Davis
Fantasy Elite: Bryce Harper
Chris Davis was a shocker. Only 27 years old, he's actually a very real keeper option but his 2013 campaign and 29.6% HR/FB% screams regression. Even if he hits 13 less HRs, a line of 40 HRs, .280 AVG, 90 Rs, and 100 RBIs isn't far away from the #2 player. There's still just too much risk in that projection for me to take this sort of gamble.
I have no problem with the Harper pick here. 30 HR production, a .275 AVG, 10 SBs, 90 R and RBI could soon become the norm for Harper. There's more upside in Harper's power, and if Trout's speed regresses in a few years, Harper could make a case for top overall fantasy player.
FakeTeams DL: Bryce Harper
Fantasy Elite: Miguel Cabrera
The Harper pick was my own selection at 1.3. I snubbed Miggy here in favor of Harper due to a draft strategy leaning towards youth. In my opinion, besides Trout, Harper has the best chance to be worth a new contract before the 2018 season. Cabrera, the pick here in the other league, is still an excellent keeper play especially in a format like these where 4-year contracts are the max. It might be a tough decision to re-sign him, but no one is considering their 5th and 6th year windows at this point. He was easily the best player on the board.
FakeTeams DL: Miguel Cabrera
Fantasy Elite: Clayton Kershaw
Weird to see Cabrera fall all the way to #4 and this owner is in an excellent position. The Kershaw pick is a bit of a head-scratcher. I can't recommend building around an SP in keeper leagues given the injury risk that comes with them, but if there is an exception to the rule it's Kershaw. With a lot of high-caliber, young bats still available like Goldschmidt, McCutchen, and Stanton the Kershaw pick might have been a bit of a reach. If the manager's strategy is go heavy on pitching, this pick makes a lot more sense because the remaining elite arms like Darvish, Wainwright, and Felix won't be around for his second pick.
FakeTeams DL: Paul Goldschmidt
Fantasy Elite: Paul Goldschmidt
With Miggy's return to 1B, Goldy is no longer the best option at the position in re-draft leagues, but he is still my favorite in keeper/dynasty formats. Only 26 years old, Paul Goldschmidt is heading into his prime after already establishing himself as one of the game's best multi-faceted power threats. The 36 HRs is elite, but combine it with a .300/.400/.500 triple slash and 15ish SBs and Goldschmidt becomes a fantasy asset that no one at 1B can duplicate.
FakeTeams DL: Andrew McCutchen
Fantasy Elite: Andrew McCutchen
Another safe, smart pick here. McCutchen is an across-the-board fantasy producer and at 27 years old still has plenty of prime years ahead of him. The power fell quite dramatically in 2013 thanks to a more patient approach to the plate and a normalized HR/FB%. 20-25 HRs should be his range for the next few years and mixed with the 20-25 SB and .300/.400/.500 triple slash, McCutchen should be a Top 10 play all through his prime.
FakeTeams DL: Robinson Cano
Fantasy Elite: Robinson Cano
I find it strange that neither league let Cano fall below 7th overall. Cano's value in keeper/dynasty formats is definitely less than it is in re-drafts, but more importantly the move to Seattle raises a few question marks about his future productivity. He's leaving some of the most favorable run environments for some of the least favorable and while it wasn't the case for 2013, in the future I would expect the Yankees to field a much more formidable lineup to help boost Cano's counting stats. I don't hate the pick here, I was just expecting Cano to fall somewhere just outside the Top 10 in this type of format. He should still lead the 2B position in fantasy production for the next few years and in a position that shallow, it's hard to argue selecting the best this early.
FakeTeams DL: Carlos Gonzalez
Fantasy Elite: Carlos Gonzalez
It's been said every year, but can you imagine what CarGo's numbers would look like if he played a full 150+ games? The upside is something like 100/30/100/30/.300. That is Trout-esque level of production. Definitely a stat line worth gambling on, especially when the floor is 20/20/.300 in only 110 games. The best part of Gonzalez's injury-riddled 2013 is that he dispelled the notion that his value is tied directly to Coors. CarGo hit 2 more HRs away from the humidor in 2 fewer games. There is certainly some risk in this pick, but the upside is tough to let slide any further.
FakeTeams DL: Hanley Ramirez
Fantasy Elite: Hanley Ramirez
In what equated to roughly half a season, Hanley Ramirez was the best SS in the fantasy game when he was on the field. He's on the wrong side of 30 now and there's a chance he slides over to 3B in the not so far future, so it's tough to go all ga-ga over his dynasty value. To his credit, he's raked ever since he moved to LA, and I love the idea of pairing HanRam with one of the stud SS in the minors (Correa, Russell, Baez, etc.) so that he can slide over to 3B without skipping a beat.
FakeTeams DL: Adam Jones
Fantasy Elite: Ryan Braun
The Braun pick comes down to your position on how much of the 30/30 player will return post suspension and PED use. I'm on the glass half-full side and optimistic that Braun will return to his previous form and be a Top 5 pick by season's end. So obviously I like the pick at 10. I'm very down on Jones and think his production could be headed for a cliff. A sub-4.0% walk rate and an 8th worst swinging strike rate among qualified hitters is a combination that doesn't mix at all. To his credit, he still doesn't strike out very often but I'm not sure how sustainable that is, and his K% and BB% took big jumps in the wrong direction last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 22 HR/10 SB/ .270 AVG from Jones. But I also have no idea how he's produced as well as he has to this point, so maybe he continues to defy the odds.
FakeTeams DL: Troy Tulowitzki
Fantasy Elite: Giancarlo Stanton
Two vanilla picks here. Tulo is still the best SS in my opinion and that's counting HanRam in the discussion. It's all a matter of health and staying on the field. A solid backup option is a necessity for those drafting Tulowitzki. Stanton didn't deliver on the hype letting a lot of fantasy owners down in the HR category where we penciled him in 30+. I'm willing to give him a pass due to injury, but he's moved to a fringe second or third round pick in re-draft leagues. In this format however, he still retains a lot of value and I like him at this spot.
FakeTeams DL: Wil Myers
Fantasy Elite: Adam Jones
I covered Jones earlier and am not wild about him anywhere in the 1st Round, especially in keeper leagues. I love Wil Myers and think he'll be a perennial first round pick, but I'm not crazy about taking him this early. You've picked all the meat off the bone and just hoping to break-even. Mid-second round is a bit more appropriate in my opinion so that you have another top bat to help carry the load.
FakeTeams DL: Evan Longoria
Fantasy Elite: Yasiel Puig
Can't knock the Longoria pick - he's in the middle of his prime, one of the best at his position, and just played 160 games in 2013. His AVG fell to .270, but even at that level he's still a solid play here. Puig faded a bit in the final month of the season, but he's still a safe 20/20 guy with the power having a higher ceiling than the speed. Not sure what to make of the crazy .383 BABIP. He sustained the high level across 100 games and he has the speed, low-fly ball rate makeup of the players who can sustain inflated BABIPs. Ultimately, he may be more of a .290 AVG guy but that's still first round worthy and in the middle of the LA lineup he'll put up top notch counting stats.
FakeTeams DL: Clayton Kershaw
Fantasy Elite: Joey Votto
A much more appropriate spot for Kershaw. There should be another top bat available in Round 2 if the manager chooses to pursue that route and he won't be sacrificing as much offense as the owner who took him #4. The league does use OPS so Votto does get a boost there and more importantly, Joey Votto has the skillset that should age slowly. Power lingers well past a player's prime, and his exquisite patience doesn't demand much physical ability so while the power leaves a bit to be desired, it is safe to project his current stat line for quite a few years.
FakeTeams DL: Yasiel Puig
Fantasy Elite: Yu Darvish
Again, nothing wrong with Puig here. Injury risk due to the way he plays the game is my only concern here. For Darvish, the pick works for me at #15. The walk rate scares me into thinking he could be a WHIP balloon especially in roto leagues, but since 2005 no other qualified pitcher has had a walk rate above 9% and managed a WHIP below 1.10. And others who have exceeded the walk rate and came close on the WHIP are Gio Gonzalez (2012), Tim Lincecum (2008), Clayton Kershaw (2010), David Price (2010), and Jon Lester (2010) so he's in good company. He's a strikeout machine who just made this owner the favorite to win the K's category.
FakeTeams DL: Ryan Braun
Fantasy Elite: Manny Machado
Absolutely love the Braun pick here. I gave him serious consideration at #2 and he didn't pop until #16. Big ups to Ray for this pick (sorry for disclosing that Ray). Personally, I'm not sold on Machado's long-term power so I don't love this pick here given the injury he's recovering from. Machado is still one of the best up-and-coming 3B/SS but his glove and his makeup might make him more valuable in real life than in fantasy leagues. He's a pull-heavy HR hitter who rarely takes a walk. There's better hitters to be had in the first and second rounds even considering his age.
FakeTeams DL: Giancarlo Stanton
Fantasy Elite: Felix Hernandez
Didn't mind Giancarlo at #11 and the same applies here at 17. Solid pick. Felix a solid selection with Kershaw and Darvish off the board. I would probably have gone Sale over Felix in this format, but King Felix has the track record and despite the mileage already on his arm, has shown no signs of slowing down.
FakeTeams DL: Justin Upton
Fantasy Elite: Troy Tulowitzki
For all the ups and downs, Upton's final fantasy line turned out quite alright. He still has his prime years ahead of him and should see a bump in the RBI totals with a better Atlanta lineup around him. I kinda like the pick here when compared to what else is around. I was okay with Tulo at #11 so I like him at #18 here as well. Strange to see him fall this far, but can accredit that to Kershaw popping at #4 and the reactionary picks of Darvish and Felix.
FakeTeams DL: Jason Kipnis
Fantasy Elite: Edwin Encarnacion
I'm coming around on Kipnis who I was skeptical about heading into 2013 due to his 1st half/2nd half splits in 2012. He didn't do much to calm my fears with another lackluster 2nd half, but I'm a bit more comfortable categorizing him as a streaky hitter. These types are less damaging in roto leagues. I won't be taking him in the first 3 rounds of standard leagues, but I can see the attraction of a 15/30 guy at 2B. Encarnacion was my pick in this league. I was hoping to get E5 and Longoria with this pick and my next. I should've grabbed Longoria figuring he had the lesser chance of falling, but I felt Encarnacion's power was important to secure. I ended up grabbing Wil Myers in Round 2 to hedge the age of Encarnacion.
FakeTeams DL: Joey Votto
Fantasy Elite: Evan Longoria
Excellent value here on both these guys. I've covered them both above, but getting them here at the turn presents a great opportunity for a manager to load up on another bat or spread the wealth and get a top SP to anchor the staff. Nice picks here for a 20-teamer.
For more coverage of the draft or to ask me any fantasy quesitons, follow me on Twitter @BrianCreagh