2011 Draft Tips Fantasy Baseball — 28 March 2011
There are a lot of positions to fill in a fantasy baseball draft. A typical league has 10-14 position players, along with a double digit number of pitchers. With at least 20 starters on your team, there are going to be some positions that you won’t fill until the late rounds of the draft. 

Notice how I didn’t say some positions will have to suffer?

See, the key to a solid draft isn’t knowing who to draft, so much as knowing when to draft. And the key to knowing when to draft is knowing what you can afford to wait for.

Shortstop and Third Base are two positions that seem to lack a relative amount of depth. You really can’t afford to wait until the 12th round to fill that side of your infield. Sure, there are plenty of good outfielders and pitchers, but since you have to draft so many of each, they can’t all be mediocre.

But then there is Second Base. Like any other position, there is a dropoff after the top tier. But that drop-off isn’t nearly as significant as it is at, say, Catcher. Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, and Utley are the clear cut favorites, but Uggla, Weeks, and Phillips aren’t far behind. And if you are in a points-only league, Uggla and Weeks are just as valuable as the top guys.

But depth isn’t the only reason that the drop-off beyond the first tier isn’t as big as in other positions.  There is quite simply a lot of uncertainty with the stars at this position. Cano is a stud entering his prime, buy aside from him, everyone is either aging or injury prone. Pedoria spent half of 2010 on the DL.  Weeks just completed his very first full major league season at age 27, and even if he’s healthy, his average will kill you in roto leagues. Uggla’s career average is about as prolific as his speed. Chase Utley is 32 years old, and his knee injury could cost him a good portion of the season. Even if he plays through it, his numbers should take a hit.

I think you get the point. This is why if there is one position that you want make a point to wait on, it should be 2nd Base. Even if we look past the top seven that were mentioned above, there are still some solid picks on the board.

Kelly Johnson had a dream season in 2010, and he’s due to fall back to earth this season.  His HR/FB rate doubled last season. While we should expect that to drop, his home/away splits seem to suggest that he absolutely loved playing in Arizona. That, and the fact that his BABIP isn’t that far off of his career norm, would lead me to believe that 2010 wasn’t a complete fluke. Expect his 2011 numbers to fall somewhere in between 2009 and 2010.

Aaron Hill couldn’t have had a worse 2010. He was the most unlucky player in the majors, based on his BABIP.  Since most leagues only show last year’s stats in their draft window, I’m expecting a lot of owners to avoid Hill like the plague. If you have faith in a bounce-back year, you should be reaping the benefits in September.

Martin Prado came on strong with the Braves last season. His average and runs will be solid for someone you can get so late in the draft.

Gordon Beckham put it together in the second half last season. His first half was so pitiful that a lot of owners will probably overlook him, but he could be a huge pick if you’re willing to take the risk.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka could find himself undrafted in some leagues. It’s tough to project how Japanese players will adjust to the majors, but this guy seems like the real deal. ZiPS projects him to score 91 runs, steal 36 bases, and hit .281. Hudson had a nice year with the Twins last season, and I would expect similar results from Nishioka, but with more stolen bases.

Sure, all of these guys have question marks, but so do the guys at the top, and it’s certainly better take a risk in the 12th round than in the 2nd.

So sit back and watch while your opponents are ruining their batting average, or occupying their DL slot. There are plenty of solid players floating around the bottom.

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Tim Young is a Civil Engineer away from MLBSoup, but at the site he heads the pre-season fantasy baseball draft guide and reviews each week in the big leagues with his weekly round-up report. His heavily math-based background shows up in his writing, as he likes to keep a focus on numbers, and dig deeper than the usual surface scratching.

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