Despite the fact that I will be missing a large chunk of the baseball season while in Senegal and Argentina, I've decided to try my hand at fantasy baseball for the first time. One of the kids on my abroad program decided to organize things, and we did our live draft on the 6-hour bus ride to a rural African village. We're an 11-person league, and a few of the participants were tuned out/uninformed during the draft (there was one girl who chose her team based on physical attractiveness and interesting names, and a guy who only drafted from the bottom fifty from our top-300 list), so even though I had the ninth pick I think I ended up with a pretty solid team.
If this is totally uninteresting to you, feel free to check back later in the week for a Red Sox post (OPENING DAY WAHHH!!!), but for now I'll just run down my 2011 fantasy baseball roster - feel free to leave comments or criticisms for me.
1B Adrian Gonzalez: This was my first pick, and I'm excited for obvious reasons. I think Gonzalez will have a monster season at fenway Park, and unlike some of my competition, I don't think the shoulder surgery from last year will be an issue.
2B Brandon Phillips: The guy with the number 1 pick took Pedey in the second round, and then Robbie Cano and Ian Kinsler went before I picked, so I ended up with Phillips. I don't know too much about him, but his ranking on ESPN's top 300 list (51; 4th out of second basemen) along with his stat line from 2010 make me pretty excited about him.
3B Kevin Youkilis: Unsurprisingly, quite a few players ranked lower than Youk went before him in our draft (he was #19), and I capitalized. At this point, I don't think people will ever truly appreciate what a quality ballplayer Youkilis is: he's constantly turning in killer seasons, but he doesn't have the "look" of a star, and so he'll forever be underestimated. In terms of this fantasy baseball draft, I'm okay with that.
SS Troy Tulowitski: Somehow, Derek Jeter was taken before Tulowitski in our draft, despite the fact that Jeter is ranked 45 slots LOWER than Troy on our ranking sheet. There were a few Yankees homers in the draft, and I exploited that fact. Also, the fact that Tulowitski plays for the Rockies in the NL West meant that only 4 of 11 people participating had even heard of him. Yes, please.
C Matt Wieters: The would-be phenom hasn't lived up to his enormous hype in the last few years, but I have a good feeling about 2011. His power numbers went up last year from his rookie season, and he will be turning 25 at the beginning of the season, so he still has time to come into his own. I think this is the year he realizes his potential and becomes a star.
OF Colby Rasmus, BJ Upton, Aubrey Huff: Not a trio with too much star power, but they pack a good amount of punch between them. I'm pretty sure they were mostly overlooked due to the fact that they play for St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco, respectively, and very few people in the draft are hard core fans, so the big names went fast - though these three names should be bigger, in my humble opinion.
LHP CC Sabathia: Obviously excited about this. CC turns in nearly 20 wins every year, and is a reliable workhorse. I'm confident that he'll be a fantastic pick for me. Though it will be hard to root for a Yankee to win. Speaking of which...
RHP Phil Hughes: Someone please explain to me why Hughes isn't the number two guy in the Yankees rotation? Anyway, I think 2011 will be a big year for him, and, by extension, a big year for me. He was one of their two reliable starters last year, and he's heading into his age 25 season - fortunately for my fantasy team, and unfortunately for the Red Sox, I see big things in Hughes' future.
RHP Clay Buchholz: So Clay was only ranked at #140, and I took him before we had even gotten all the way through the top 100. I was judged by my fellows, but I absolutely do not regret this pick. Despite all the speculation about his luck last year with BABIP, but I don't foresee too much of a downslide. Bill James might not be too optimistic about Buch's 2011 (13-9, 3.54 ERA), but I am.
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez: I'm pretty sure 80% of the people participating in the draft had no idea who Jimenez is, which certainly worked in my favor. After winning 19 games in 2010 (while pitching in the thin air of Coors Field), I see him being a pretty consistent contributor to my squad.
LHP CJ Wilson: After being moved into the Rangers rotation last season, Wilson really came into his own, going 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA. In addition to on-field contributions, Wilson is quite the clubhouse character. I know this doesn't actually help with the whole fantasy baseball thing, but I find Wilson endlessly amusing (follow him on Twitter), so I'm glad he's on my roster.
RHP Neftali Feliz: Since Feliz is actually going to remain the Rangers' closer, I'm pretty pumped to see his stats rack up. Feliz, the AL Rookie of the Year in 2010, saved 40 games last season, and struck out 71 batters in 69.1 innings - and he's only heading into his age 23 season.
RHP Brad Lidge: This one is a gamble on my part, given Lidge's age (and that he's starting 2011 on the disabled list), but I think he still has something left in the tank - it was only 2 years ago that he was perfect, saving 41 games in the process. Last year he saved 27 games, so if he can do that again - and the Phils should give him plenty of opportunity - I'll be happy.
RHP Daniel Bard: This one was a no-brainer for me - even though he was ranked pretty low, and even though he won't get many save opportunities with Paps and Jenks ahead of him, I'm confident he'll once again be racking up the strikeouts.
RHP Rafael Soriano: Yes, another Yankee. Soriano signed his three-year, $35 million contract this offseason with New York - to be the set-up man to closer Mariano Rivera. He should get a lot of innings this season with all the question marks in the Yankees' rotation, so hopefully he can continue the excellence he displayed in 2010 (45 saves for the Rays) in his new role and under new pressure in the Bronx.
OF Vernon Wells: The former Blue Jay had 31 home runs last year - if healthy, he should perform well for the Angels.
OF/DH Manny Ramirez: This was mostly a nostalgia pick. After last year's injury fiasco and taking a bargain-basement deal (in Manny-terms, that is) to come to Tampa Bay, it would be easy to write off the aging slugger. However, I think that with the chance to DH more often to rest his ever-ailing knees, and with the presence of old friend Johnny Damon to keep him grounded, Manny might actually have a chance at a productive season.
LHP Mark Buehrle: Not the best pitcher out there, but he's pretty consistently turned in a dozen or so wins for the last decade or so, which makes me feel okay about having him as my backup. Plus, he shows flashes of brilliance now and then, so he has the potential to be totally domination at times.
So what do you guys think? I'm sure many of you are avid fantasy baseball players, and know what kinds of things I should have looked at. We're playing through Yahoo!, so I don't exactly know how points are calculated, but it's just for fun - and bragging rights - so let me have it in the comments if you think I made any major miscalculations.