Technically, the XFL Auction, held at Ron Shandler's AFL First Pitch soiree each fall, sort of counts as the first draft/auction of the coming season. Last fall we did select our 2012 teams, something that has been an annual part of the AFL gathering since 2003.
The auction also comes on the coattails of the regular season, sometimes while the World Series is still being decided.
But, the first draft of the new year that counts - meaning all the mocks held before - is put on at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), coordinated by Charlie Wiegert, whom I met 20 years ago when we were both toiling for fantasy pioneer John Benson.
No one wears Prado until later
Well, yesterday evening, as part of the kick-off for the 2012 FSTA Annual Convention, many fantasy industry luminaries, including the venerable Mr. Wiegert, Ron Shandler, KFFL's Tim Heaney and Chris Liss from Rotowire, gathered at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas for the 2012 FSTA Experts Draft.
As part of the proceedings, earlier in the week we had a mini-draft where via random generator, each owner was allowed to select their draft spot. Normally I would have hoped for a good draw in that segment first coveting picks 1-3, followed by pick 7, then 13. The first choice is obvious, but I like the middle seven spot because you are never too far off from a pick, and I similarly like the wheel spot because it allows doubling up of picks where you can force a run of a scarce spot. This is always a great strategy because it offers the opportunity to disrupt the draft plans of your fellow owners.
Unfortunately the two slots left to me were 8 and 12 out of the 13 teams, so I took 12 hoping that two picks in close proximity would work to our advantage (when I say "we," I mean my Master-mate, Todd Zola, and me).
The snake selection, which was covered by Sirius stalwarts Jeff Erickson, Kay Adams and Kyle Elfrink, started off with a surprise as the #1 selection was Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki by Fantistics' Anthony Perri.
Then, in order went Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, and then it was Todd and me.
Now, I had already selected Hanley Ramirez in similar situations, both as the 12th choice in two 12-team mocks, and twice in the ninth position, and well, Hanley was there ready for the plucking. And, I like Hanley still as a first rounder, though my mate Lord Zola has Ramirez concerns.
Amazingly, so was Jacoby Ellsbury, and though I am not certain the Boston fly-chaser can match his awesome 2011 totals, if he hits half the number of homers (32) and doubles (46) he bagged last year, along with 40-plus steals, that is a pretty good gamble.
So, Todd and I took him. [Read Zola's thoughts, at Mastersball, on he and his partner's draft.]
Coming back around we did work a bit of scarcity, taking Ian Kinsler, shoring up both some power and some speed from the get-go (and a pick later Hanley went to Fantasy Alarm's Jeff Mans).
There were many other surprises, like the first pitcher drafted was Clayton Kershaw at 23, and after pitcher #2, Justin Verlander was taken to begin the third round Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus were taken in order, both before Carl Crawford or Roy Halladay to name a few stars.
The draft lasted 29 rounds in the format that does allow FAAB purchases from the free agent pool when the season begins, but no trading, and was a wild ride by the time the final selection of Jason Vargas (#377) was made almost four hours later.
All owners seemed to wait on hurlers, with Tim Lincecum going near the end of Round 4, Felix Hernandez the sixth pick of the fifth round (after Jered Weaver); in fact our first pitcher was also in the fifth with the Phils' Cole Hamels.
A few other surprises?
How about Mark Reynolds as pick #3 in the sixth round, or Yoenis Cespedes leading off the 19th round, followed by Bryce Harper? There was also Yu Darvish as the 9th selection of the 11th round, before Nick Swisher, Martin Prado, and Neftali Feliz?
Like I said, full of surprises.
By the way, the Mastersball team Todd and I got (selection in parentheses):
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Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.