Fantasy Articles
This was a standard 21-round, 12-team draft for a standard 5x5 rotisserie league. I studied each round to determine quality picks and questionable reaches and selected the best and worst of each round. This is the first part, starting with Hanley Ramirez as the overall first pick, followed by teammates Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Round 1
(1) Team One - Hanley Ramírez (Fla - SS)
(2) Team Two - José Reyes (NYM - SS)
(3) Team Three - David Wright (NYM - 3B)
(4) Team Four - Álex Rodríguez (NYY - 3B)
(5) Team Five - Albert Pujols (StL - 1B)
(6) Team Six - Jimmy Rollins (Phi - SS)
(7) Team Seven - Ryan Braun (Mil - OF)
(8) Team Eight - Miguel Cabrera (Det - 1B,3B)
(9) Team Nine - Grady Sizemore (Cle - OF)
(10) Team Ten - Josh Hamilton (Tex - OF)
(11) Team Eleven - Ryan Howard (Phi - 1B)
(12) Team Twelve - Johan Santana (NYM - SP)

Quality Pick: Ryan Howard
Ryan Howard was a quality pick at #11.
Just about any selection in any first round of a draft is a quality pick, but getting Howard – baseball’s leader in homers (153) and RBI (431) over the last three seasons – at the eleventh pick is an exceptionally good buy. People will hate on his batting average (a career-low .251 last season), but as long as you stay away from guys like Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell later in the draft, Howard’s average won’t kill you. And, on the upside, he reported to spring training early this year to shrink some of the holes in his swing. Howard is already a virtual lock for 45/125/100, and if he can raise his average to a respectable .270, he’s a steal – even in round one.

Questionable Reach: Jimmy Rollins

If this were a year ago, I’d have no problems at all with this pick. Rollins was coming of an MVP year in which he scored 139 runs, hit .296 and had 30 homers, 94 RBI and 41 stolen bases. Last season, however, Rollins numbers were down almost all across the board – 76 runs, a .277 average, 11 homers and 59 RBI. Part of that was due to missing 25 games, but the drop-off still shouldn’t have been that drastic. Rollins did steal 47 bases last year – and he does play shortstop – but there’s no way he can be considered a legit sixth overall pick.

Round 2
(1) Team Twelve - Tim Lincecum (SF - SP)
(2) Team Eleven - CC Sabathia (NYY - SP)
(3) Team Ten - Ian Kinsler (Tex - 2B)
(4) Team Nine - Mark Teixeira (NYY - 1B)
(5) Team Eight - Carlos Beltrán (NYM - OF)
(6) Team Seven - Chase Utley (Phi - 2B)
(7) Team Six - Dan Haren (Ari - SP)
(8) Team Five - Brandon Phillips (Cin - 2B)
(9) Team Four - Alfonso Soriano (ChC - OF)
(10) Team Three - Dustin Pedroia (Bos - 2B)
(11) Team Two - B.J. Upton (TB - OF)
(12) Team One - Evan Longoria (TB - 3B)

Quality Pick: Mark Teixeira
Teixeira is one of the most consistent performers in all of baseball. He’s hit at least 30 homers and knocked in at least 100 RBI in each of the last five seasons. Teixeira’s numbers last year were impressive enough (.308/33/121/102), but alongside Jeter and A-Rod, he should duplicate those numbers with ease.

Questionable Reach: Dan Haren
Dan Haren is a bona fide ace, and I’ll gladly take his 16 wins and 206 strikeouts in my rotation. But there’s no way Haren should be taken before teammate Brandon Webb in any league in any format, especially in the second round. In fact, Webb wasn’t taken in this draft until the fourth round, which is where Haren should be taken – and maybe even one round later.

Round 3
(1) Team One - Manny Ramírez (LAD - OF)
(2) Team Two - Carl Crawford (TB - OF)
(3) Team Three - Prince Fielder (Mil - 1B)
(4) Team Four - Matt Holliday (Oak - OF)
(5) Team Five - Carlos Quentin (CWS - OF)
(6) Team Six - Ichiro Suzuki (Sea - OF)
(7) Team Seven - Justin Morneau (Min - 1B)
(8) Team Eight - Lance Berkman (Hou - 1B)
(9) Team Nine - Carlos Lee (Hou - OF)
(10) Team Ten - Jason Bay (Bos - OF)
(11) Team Eleven - Brian Roberts (Bal - 2B)
(12) Team Twelve - Roy Halladay (Tor - SP)

Quality Pick: Manny Ramirez

Yes, he’s getting up there in age (37 this May). Yes, he’s still a free agent. Yes, he’s like Randy Moss in that he only cares when he wants to. But, as indicated by last year’s stat line (.332/37/121/102), the guy can flat out hit. Given that there are only a handful of teams that can afford Manny, he’s going to end up in a big market and in a great line-up. No one expects him to be as hot as he was with the Dodgers for an entire season (.396, 17 homers and 53 RBI in 53 games), but this is a third-round pick that could easily yield first-round value.

Questionable Reach: Matt Holliday
Everyone knows all about the home/away splits, and everyone knows that Oakland isn’t exactly a hotbed for offense (Oakland finished last in batting average and on-base percentage last year). Holliday will still be a decent player, but there were much safer players still available at this point, including Jason Bay, one of the most underrated outfielders in fantasy baseball (.286/31/101/111/10 in 2008).

Round 4

(1) Team Twelve - Mariano Rivera (NYY - RP)
(2) Team Eleven - Vladimir Guerrero (LAA - OF)
(3) Team Ten - Nick Markakis (Bal - OF)
(4) Team Nine - Matt Kemp (LAD - OF)
(5) Team Eight - Brandon Webb (Ari - SP)
(6) Team Seven - Kevin Youkilis (Bos - 1B,3B)
(7) Team Six - Jonathan Papelbon (Bos - RP)
(8) Team Five - Russell Martin (LAD - C,3B)
(9) Team Four - Álex Ríos (Tor - OF)
(10) Team Three - Curtis Granderson (Det - OF)
(11) Team Two - Aramis Ramírez (ChC - 3B)
(12) Team One - Brian McCann (Atl - C)

Quality Pick: Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez was the safest option left at a position that’s scarcer than you think.Ramirez won’t come close to the 38 homers and 119 RBI he had in 2006, but he’s still just 30 years old, and he’ll flirt with .300/30/110/100 (.289/27/111/97 in 2008).

Questionable Reach: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon
The fourth round is way too early for closers like Jonathan Papelbon.
Rivera and Papelbon are two of the best closers in the game. I don’t care. Picking a closer before the eighth round is questionable; picking one in round four is downright stupid. If you want to go with an arm, go for a stud starter like Cole Hamels and Jake Peavy, both of whom were still available and who will give you great production across the board. Otherwise, you’re just making this game a whole lot easier for your opponents.

Round 5
(1) Team One - Alexei Ramírez (CWS - 2B,SS,OF)
(2) Team Two - Cole Hamels (Phi - SP)
(3) Team Three - Matt Wieters (Bal - C)
(4) Team Four - Adrián González (SD - 1B)
(5) Team Five - Nate McLouth (Pit - OF)
(6) Team Six - Jake Peavy (SD - SP)
(7) Team Seven - Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos - OF)
(8) Team Eight - Shane Victorino (Phi - OF)
(9) Team Nine - Joe Mauer (Min - C)
(10) Team Ten - Geovany Soto (ChC - C)
(11) Team Eleven - Troy Tulowitzki (Col - SS)
(12) Team Twelve - Joe Nathan (Min - RP)

Quality Pick: Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a bit of an under-the-radar first-baseman. In 2007, he hit 30 homers, had 100 RBI and scored 101 runs. I stayed away from him last year because of the park he played in, and I wanted him to prove that 2007 wasn’t a fluke. So he did. In fact, his numbers went up; last year he had 36 bombs, 119 RBI and 103 runs. Not too bad for the fifth round.

Questionable Reach: Matt Wieters
Wieters has certainly been one of the more-hyped prospects this off-season, but the fifth round is way too early to gamble on a player who is yet to take a big-league swing. Besides, if you’re going to take a catcher this early, why not grab one of the more proven guys like Joe Mauer or Geovany Soto, both of whom were taken a few picks later?

Round 6
(1) Team Twelve - Víctor Martínez (Cle - C,1B)
(2) Team Eleven - Francisco Liriano (Min - SP)
(3) Team Ten - Corey Hart (Mil - OF)
(4) Team Nine - Rafael Furcal (LAD - SS)
(5) Team Eight - Dan Uggla (Fla - 2B)
(6) Team Seven - David Ortiz (Bos - Util)
(7) Team Six - Josh Beckett (Bos - SP)
(8) Team Five - Garrett Atkins (Col - 1B,3B)
(9) Team Four - Magglio Ordóñez (Det - OF)
(10) Team Three - Francisco Rodríguez (NYM - RP)
(11) Team Two - Brad Lidge (Phi - RP)
(12) Team One - Jon Lester (Bos - SP)

Quality Pick: David Ortiz
I’m not big on utility-only eligible players who hit just .264 in 109 games the previous season, and for those reasons I’m staying away from Ortiz this year. But considering I’ve seen Ortiz go as early as the second round, a sixth-round selection is a good buy for a guy with his pedigree who still plays at a hitters’ haven with good protection in the order. A bounce-back season wouldn’t be shocking.

Questionable Reach: Francisco Liriano
Liriano is never going to be the guy he was in 2006 when he won 12 games, had a 2.16 ERA and struck out 144 guys in 121.0 innings. So the sixth round is a little high for a guy who last year had an ERA near 4.00 and a WHIP around 1.40.

Round 7
(1) Team One - Ryan Ludwick (StL - OF)
(2) Team Two - Chris Davis (Tex - 1B,3B)
(3) Team Three - J.J. Hardy (Mil - SS)
(4) Team Four - Derek Jeter (NYY - SS)
(5) Team Five - Ervin Santana (LAA - SP)
(6) Team Six - Cliff Lee (Cle - SP)
(7) Team Seven - Bobby Abreu (LAA - OF)
(8) Team Eight - Chad Billingsley (LAD - SP)
(9) Team Nine - Hunter Pence (Hou - OF)
(10) Team Ten - Chipper Jones (Atl - 3B)
(11) Team Eleven - Joba Chamberlain (NYY - SP,RP)
(12) Team Twelve - John Lackey (LAA - SP)

Quality Pick: Bobby Abreu
Abreu may turn 35 this year, but he had one of the better all-around seasons among outfielders in 2008. Leaving the Yankees hurts, but he could have winded up in a lot worse places than Anaheim. For the seventh round, you can’t ask for much more than a guy who could get .300/20/100/100/20.

Questionable Reach: Cliff Lee
Call me crazy, but I’m not expecting Cliff Lee (2.54 ERA last year) to pitch like Bob Gibson again in 2009, especially since his ERA was 6.29 in 2007 and 4.40 in 2006. I would have opted for a much more consistent hurler like Roy Oswalt, whose single-season ERA has been between a 2.73 and 3.54 throughout his eight-year career.

Round 8
(1) Team Twelve - Xavier Nady (NYY - OF)
(2) Team Eleven - Joakim Soria (KC - RP)
(3) Team Ten - Adam Dunn (Was - 1B,OF)
(4) Team Nine - Ryan Zimmerman (Was - 3B)
(5) Team Eight - Roy Oswalt (Hou - SP)
(6) Team Seven - Jhonny Peralta (Cle - SS)
(7) Team Six - Rich Harden (ChC - SP)
(8) Team Five - Michael Young (Tex - SS)
(9) Team Four - Chone Figgins (LAA - 2B,3B)
(10) Team Three - David Price (TB - SP)
(11) Team Two - Ryan Doumit (Pit - C)
(12) Team One - Félix Hernández (Sea - SP)

Quality Pick: Rich Harden

Last year Harden struck out 181 batters in just 148 innings and had a 2.07 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP. When he’s healthy, he’s straight up filthy.

Questionable Reach: Adam Dunn
Dunn has hit 40 homers and no fewer than 92 RBI each of the last three years. But you have to figure he’s due for a drop-off now that he’s playing for the Nationals. He might still get 30 homers, but the sub-.240 batting average isn’t worth it – at least not this early.

Round 9
(1) Team One - A.J. Burnett (NYY - SP)
(2) Team Two - Robinson Canó (NYY - 2B)
(3) Team Three - Raúl Ibañez (Phi - OF)
(4) Team Four - Joey Votto (Cin - 1B)
(5) Team Five - Scott Kazmir (TB - SP)
(6) Team Six - José Valverde (Hou - RP)
(7) Team Seven - Matt Cain (SF - SP)
(8) Team Eight - Carlos Mármol (ChC - RP)
(9) Team Nine - Howie Kendrick (LAA - 2B)
(10) Team Ten - Stephen Drew (Ari - SS)
(11) Team Eleven - Jermaine Dye (CWS - OF)
(12) Team Twelve - Aubrey Huff (Bal - 1B,3B)

Quality Pick: Jermaine Dye
Jermaine Dye is a good pick in the ninth round.
Photo by mcclouds, used under creative commons license.
He’s 35, but based on last year’s numbers, Dye may come close to .300/30/100/100. I’ll take that in the ninth round.

Questionable Reach: Matt Cain
Cain isn’t too bad of a pick at this point, but I’d much rather have a more consistent guy like Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is coming off an 18-win, 2.90-ERA season.

Round 10

(1) Team Twelve - B.J. Ryan (Tor - RP)
(2) Team Eleven - Jay Bruce (Cin - OF)
(3) Team Ten - James Shields (TB - SP)
(4) Team Nine - Bobby Jenks (CWS - RP)
(5) Team Eight - Daisuke Matsuzaka (Bos - SP)
(6) Team Seven - Matt Garza (TB - SP)
(7) Team Six - Kerry Wood (Cle - RP)
(8) Team Five - Jonathan Broxton (LAD - RP)
(9) Team Four - Edinson Vólquez (Cin - SP)
(10) Team Three - Carlos Delgado (NYM - 1B)
(11) Team Two - Carlos Zambrano (ChC - SP)
(12) Team One - Yovani Gallardo (Mil - SP)

Quality Pick: Jay Bruce

He’s only 21, but he’s one of the top young hitters in baseball. Thirty homers and 100 RBI are do-able, but Bruce needs to raise that .254 average a bit.

Questionable Reach: James Shields, Matt Garza

Neither is a bad pick per se, but I try to avoid starters in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox.

Round 11
(1) Team One - Justin Verlander (Det - SP)
(2) Team Two - Brian Fuentes (LAA - RP)
(3) Team Three - Ricky Nolasco (Fla - SP)
(4) Team Four - Zack Greinke (KC - SP)
(5) Team Five - Francisco Cordero (Cin - RP)
(6) Team Six - Derrek Lee (ChC - 1B)
(7) Team Seven - Jorge Posada (NYY - C)
(8) Team Eight - Milton Bradley (ChC - OF)
(9) Team Nine - Javier Vázquez (Atl - SP)
(10) Team Ten - Adam Wainwright (StL - SP)
(11) Team Eleven - Vernon Wells (Tor - OF)
(12) Team Twelve - Denard Span (Min - OF)

Quality Pick: Javier Vazquez

Vazquez is arguably the best strikeout pitcher left on the board (200 in 2008 and 213 in 2007). You have to figure a move to the NL will help lower his high ERA (4.67 in 2008 and 3.74 in 2007).

Questionable Reach: Jorge Posada

Posada turns 38 this season and is coming off a year in which he hit just .268 in 51 games (this after hitting .338 in 144 games in 2007). Age has finally caught up with him. And if you don’t have a catcher in the eleventh round, you might as well wait a few more because the best of the rest isn’t much to brag about.