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Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton are going to be on a lot of my teams this year and are a big reason why I advocate against Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun before the seven first-round corner infielders are off the board. If you leave Round 3 with three outfielders you’ve really limited yourself for the rest of the draft. On the flip side, if you leave the first three rounds without any outfielders you still have lots of options as the draft plays out. Maintaining flexibility while building your foundation is what you want to do, so that’s why passing on the outfielders in Round 1 is the way to go.
Why McCutchen and Stanton? Because they’re going to be Round 1 picks next year. McCutchen is due for a bump in average, he still has 30 home run/30 steal potential (and a high floor to go with it), and as the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup strengthens around him, his counting stats will only go up. Stanton is going to hit 40-plus home runs this year. He hit 34 home runs as a 21-year-old in a season in which he was banged up early on and the Florida Marlins moved the fence in 10 feet in right and knocked out the high wall in left. It’d take a minor miracle for my two picks in Rounds 2 and 3 to not be either of those guys. In fact, I can’t think of a scenario in which I don’t take these two guys at Picks 2 and 3 if they’re available. You do need to develop backup plans in case they’re not available, though. After all, while their average draft positions indicate they should be (McCutchen’s is 19, Stanton’s is 34), in the draft there are no guarantees. You will want to look for some combination of the below pairings
(If you got a first baseman in Round 1)
Evan Longoria – He is the one exception to the McCutchen rule. If he falls you take him.
Josh Hamilton/Curtis Granderson/Jay Bruce
Jose Reyes/Hanley Ramirez/Ian Kinsler
Hamilton/Granderson/Bruce – If Kinsler, do not draft Granderson or Bruce due to average issues).
Stanton – If all of McCutchen and the middle infielders leave the board. just reach for Stanton now.
Hamilton – This team cannot handle Granderson’s or Bruce’s average.
(If you got a third baseman in Round 1)
The benefit to the combination of players above? In almost every scenario you are going to get a great pick in Round 4 as the value lies in starting pitching and corner infield. Most leagues won’t have an elite starting pitcher (Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw or Cliff Lee) available, but assuming that’s the case then you will have some quality corner infielders left in the pool. If you went third base in Round 1, I’d bet on Paul Konerko being there. Take him. He may slip another round, but you can’t risk that as the bottom falls out on first base after he goes. If you went first base in Round 1, you’re going to have some combination of David Wright, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman and Brett Lawrie available. Take one of them. In the unlikely event that all of them are gone, Starlin Castro will be there. His profit potential is a bit limited, which is why I prefer the other options, but selecting him offers you the most options later and his floor is very high.
At this point you likely have first base, third base, and two outfield positions filled up. You probably have the best power numbers in the league while maintaining an average in the top half and enough speed so you’re not reaching to get caught up later. In the post steroid era this is crucial as speed is the cheapest offensive asset to acquire. I’m not a big fan of speed-only guys and try to avoid them, but you haven’t married yourselves to these types yet. We’ll discuss later how to avoid going down that route but also being prepared to adjust if you have to. In any event, you’re in a great position to take a number of different routes with your draft beginning next round. The owners that went with middle infielders, catchers and pitchers in the first four rounds are going to be settling for significantly worse options than your starters at first base and third base while you’re sweeping through and cleaning house on outfielders and starting pitchers that much more closely resemble the guys that went in the Top 50.
I haven’t forgotten about you poor souls stuck on the back elbow either! You’re banking on one of those third basemen (David Wright, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman or Brett Lawrie) being available and will pair that guy with either an elite starting pitcher, Paul Konerko, or worst case scenario Starlin Castro. Obviously if Giancarlo Stanton falls then you take him instead, but don’t plan for it; just adjust if the opportunity presents itself. There is going to be some pitching and outfielders that will look good when you’re picking again in 23 picks. As tempting as a Jay Bruce or a Tim Lincecum may look at the 3-4 elbow, let them slide. You’ll see why at your next set of picks. By making the selections that you have, assuming you didn’t get Stanton, you’re going to be in the Top 4 or 5 in every offensive category. Balance is key to drafting on elbows because you can’t pigeonhole your picks 23 in advance. You have to be able to go in several directions once you pick because you don’t know what will happen over the next two rounds.
Auction drafters – you have a relatively simple job again. Go to those same websites you did to get Joey Votto and Evan Longoria prices, add $5 to Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton, then do the same with the fourth-round corner infielders. Get them. Then adjust your budget accordingly afterwards if you got any of them for less than you had documented. If I had to isolate one third baseman it’d be Pablo Sandoval. He has already shown both the pop and the ability to hit for average; definitely the safest among those four and may be the cheapest. Some may argue that I’m advocating overpaying and that’s not a winning strategy, and my counter is that there is always cheap speed, pitching, middle infielders and catchers available. There is no such thing as cheap power (no, there really isn’t) and five category players. Unlike the regular drafters, you can assure yourself of two outfielders and two opposite corner infielders, so do it.
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