Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year. There are leagues that I play in, leagues that I play in and really pay attention to and then there's this league. Everyone has this league -- the one that they prepare that much harder for on draft day and the one whose championship they value that much more than the rest. Mine is a 16-team redraft auction league that plays by many of the original rules. Its 4x4 (but modified to include K's instead of WHIP) and we have no bench.
The league has been in existence since 1984 and at the draft hangs a banner of all the previous winners and their championship seasons. Tomorrow I'll get to see my team's name on the banner for the first time. While I haven't been in the league since its inception, it's been nearly a decade since I joined, so this has been a long time coming. However, since this will now make three top-3 finishes in the last four seasons, I'm prepared to have a few extra eyes on my strategy at the draft.
So what is my strategy? It's really nothing earth-shattering. I like to grab a few safer top-notch hitters (last year it was Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria), an undervalued ace (last year it was Dan Haren) and pounce on good valued players the rest of the way while monitoring my team's needs. I don't come in with specific targets for the big names, but I definitely have specific guys I hope to grab at the end -- and my here are my ten favorite endgame targets (guys who are currently being taken outside the top 250 according to Mock Draft Central):
Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins (ADP: 260)
Regardless of when you've owned the guy, you're not going to find a pitcher in this group with higher upside than Liriano has. Like I mentioned a few weeks back, in his breakout 2010, he had a 6.0 K/BB during spring training. In his other three springs as a starter (2008, 2009 and 2011) he had a combined 2.6 K/BB rate. This spring it's 6.5 -- whether you take that as a sign is up to you.
Chris Sale, SP, White Sox (ADP: 273)
I talked about Sale last week as a possible Holy Trinity candidate (he had a 50% ground ball rate out of the bullpen last year), and is my personal favorite of the 2012 class of reliever-to-starter conversions. It's also very difficult to find pitchers this late in the draft who have a legitimate shot at putting up more than a strikeout per inning. There are workload concerns here, but I think they're well priced in at this point.Kelly Johnson, 2B, Blue Jays (ADP: 286)
If I could put Kelly Johnson on this list twice at this price, I would. It's true his .222 average was a disappointment last year, but he did hit 21 HR and stole 16 bases. The biggest difference between last year and this year though is that he'll be hitting in front of Jose Bautista. This means he'll see more fastballs. This is good news for KJ as he's 63 runs above average against fastballs versus 2.9 runs below average on all other types of pitches.
Yonder Alonso, OF, Padres (ADP: 302)
If there is a type of hitter who isn't affected as much by moving to Petco Park, it's Alonso. He's a right-handed hitter who can potentially hit for high average with average power (15-18 HR), and there's no reason he can't do that this season in San Diego. In a year where the position thins out pretty quickly, he's a very attractive option as the 83th OF off the board -- and he'll have 1B eligibility as well, if you're into that sort of thing.
Addison Reed, RP, White Sox (ADP: 311)
You may be asking why I put Reed on this list when Sean Marshall and Greg Holland also have similar ADPs, and it's a two-part answer. First of all, if you have a draft this weekend, both of those guys are going well ahead of this spot. Second, I think Reed laps them both in K's (100+ is a real possibility) and notches at least 15 saves. His ADP has fallen since Thornton was "named" the closer, but it's only made him a better value.
Matt Harrison, SP, Rangers (ADP: 315)
Another guy who should be getting more love than he does, Harrison sits alone as the unsexy guy in the Rangers rotation. Even Alexi Ogando, the Rangers 6th starter, is even going more than 100 spots ahead of him which is hilarious since he's not even in the rotation. Harrison's got the pure stuff to raise his K rate from last year's 6.1 per 9, and he can support another season of an ERA under 4.00.
Ryan Doumit, C, Twins (ADP: 339)
There are many important adages in fantasy baseball, and one of them is "when you can take a catcher who won't be playing the position, you have to do it." And it's a good thing Doumit won't be catching since the guy cannot stay healthy while doing so. He'll be getting most of his at bats at DH, and some at 1B while Morneau gets his sea legs back -- and a .275 average, 15 HR, 75 RBI season is a real possibility.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals (ADP: 367)
Escobar should be able to steal 25-30 bases and could surprise in batting average, potentially hitting .280 or higher. He was a career .293 hitter in the minors and he’s gotten pretty unlucky the past two years. His BABIP of .285 may not immediately scream regression, but his xBABIP was .333 last season. There’s room for some serious upward mobility here and he’s being drafted in the nether regions of the position.
Jeff Niemann, SP, Rays (ADP: 383)
If you haven't read Jason Collette's fantastic preview of Niemann on DRaysBay, you're not doing it right. Seriously, read it now. I'll wait. After a slight tweak to his setup, between July and September Niemann had a 7.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 50.0% GB rate. It was also just announced this week that he will be the Rays fifth starter over Wade Davis. Plus underlying stats along with plus defense behind him on a winning team? Sign me up.
Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks (ADP: 395)
Yes, seriously. I believe he'll be up by Memorial Day and he's got a real chance to be a top-30 pitcher once he does make it to the majors. I know in some leagues it's tough to stash a guy who won't play at all for a month or two, but Bauer is one of the guys it's worth it for. Even more so than Bryce Harper.