2012 Fantasy Baseball Challenge, Pt. 1

Spring training has begun; preparations for the season are underway. We brothers of the fantasy baseball fraternity now craft our draft strategies (Who should be off the board after round 1; when should we take our first closer?) We scrutinize over the value of players based on their current team, position, and even their age.

What if we tried building our own competitive fantasy team, drafting all former Tulsa Drillers players? Can it be done with success?

But what other factors influence our decision? Consider “the homer,” i. e. the person who drafts guys from the hometown team. What if we tried building our own competitive fantasy team with all former Drillers? This task comes with two restrictions. First, our players all must be former Drillers. Guys like Alex White, who threw for Tulsa in 2011 while on a rehab assignment with the Rockies, don’t count.

Second, we must pick the player with the best stats at each position. Two former Drillers might play 1B, but we’re only drafting the better of the two.

Our roster will consist of one player at each position – C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, DH – and three pitchers. Each draft round value will be based on ESPN.com’s top-300 rankings in a 12-team, 5×5 league setting. In part one, we’ll present one-half of our all-Drillers team and showcase some of the bigger stars with roots in the Drillers organization. Without further ado, here are the first six members of our team:

 #1, Round 1: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies.

This is a no-brainer as Troy Tulowitzki ranks annually among the top three options at shortstop. “Tulo” wowed Drillers fans in 2006, hitting.291 average with 13 home runs, scoring 75 runs and driving in 61 more. Tulowitzki debuted with the Rockies in 2007 and has been a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate ever since. He plays hard, but the injury risk is worthwhile given his elite production with the bat and the glove. We see Tulo repeating as arguably the number-one shortstop option in fantasy baseball this year. Draft him in full confidence among the first six or seven players off the board.

Our Guess: 90 R, 30 HR, 98 RBI, 11 SB, .299 AVG.

#2, Round 2: Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees.

First base is a position very deep in talent, and 2012 is no different. This year’s crop is top-heavy with three or even four of the best 1B options coming off the board in the first round. Mark Teixeira ranks #6 in that group and earns a second-round tag as one of baseball’s elite power hitters.

Teix played 48 games with Tulsa at the end of the 2002 season, hitting .316 in 171 at-bats and tallying 54 hits, 10 home runs, and 28 runs batted in. He carried the Drillers in their hunt for a Texas League Championship in the final year of the Drillers’ affiliation with the Texas Rangers.

Teixeira is fresh off of his second 39-HR season in three years, tops among 1Bs in 2011. His batting average took a hit for the second year in a row (.248), but the elite power production plus a potent Yankees lineup keep Teixeira near the top of the 1B class.

Our Guess: 98 R, 36 HR, 112 RBI, 3 SB, .260 AVG.

#3, Round 3: Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals.

Outfielder Matt Holliday played 135 games with the Drillers in 2003, flashing power and speed with 28 doubles, 12 home runs, 72 runs batted in, and 15 stolen bases. But that was just the beginning for the Stillwater, Oklahoma native.

Holliday posted an MVP-caliber 2007 with a .340 average and 137 runs batted in to pace the National League. Several years and two teams later, Holliday enters 2012 as the anchor in a sans-Pujols Cardinal lineup. Guys like David Freese, Carlos Beltran, and a rejuvenated Lance Berkman will provide plenty of run production, however; so draft Holliday with confidence knowing he’s a top-ten outfield option.

Our Guess: 94 R, 28 HR, 102 RBI, 6 SB, .303 AVG.

#4, Round 6: C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels.

C.J. Wilson barely makes the cut as a former Driller, making only five starts in late 2002. The 21-year-old sported a 1.80 ERA across 30 innings, striking out 17. His first five seasons in Texas would bring about inconsistency and questions about his bloated walk rate. But a move to the starting rotation would prompt a significant leap forward. Wilson’s five-pitch arsenal with three plus offerings – a fastball, changeup, and a cutter – would move him into the upper tiers among American League starters.

Wilson reached the 200-inning plateau in back-to-back seasons, twice boasting high strikeout numbers and solid peripherals. After a 16-7 season with the Rangers, featuring a 2.94 ERA and 206 strikeouts, he remains a solid pitching option for ’12 as he joins the Angels. Good run support and a stingy bullpen will help the former Driller feel right at home. Draft Wilson with confidence.

Our Guess: 16-8, 3.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 206 K.

#5, Round 9: Michael Young, DH/1B/3B, Rangers.

Michael Young is a DH, but he filled in as a corner infielder following injuries to his teammates in 2011. Fortunately for us, he played enough games at 1B and 3B to quality at each for the 2012 season; and with the dearth of talent at third base, it would be wise for us to slot him there on our roster.

Young made the most of a 43-game stint with Tulsa in 2000, racking up 60 hits, scoring 30 runs, driving in 32 more, and hitting a robust .319 with nine stolen bases. The .296-lifetime hitter in the minors soared again in 2011 as, arguably, the Rangers’ most valuable player. Young turned in his sixth-career 200-hit season with a career-best .338 average and drove in 106 runs. In fantasy, he finished tenth among 3B-eligible players. Young may not have another renaissance year in 2012, but his hitting skills are still present, making him a quality play at third.

Our Guess: 82 R, 14 HR, 96 RBI, 5 SB, .309 AVG.

#6, Round 9: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians.

Ubaldo Jimenez had control issues in his first stint with Tulsa in 2005, sporting a 5.43 ERA in 63 innings with a 1.41 WHIP and 53 strikeouts. In a second tour, he looked much improved: a 2.45 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 13 starts with 86 strikeouts. Jimenez then began a solid major league career with the Rockies. A 19-win 2010 campaign with 214 K and a 2.88 ERA led to a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting.

His 2011 season began with a dip in velocity and diminished control, fueling rumors that Jimenez was injured. And on July 31, 2011, a struggling Colorado shipped Jimenez to Cleveland, where he did not fare much better. His peripherals suggest that he was and is still the same pitcher, meaning 2011 spoke more to fatigue and bad luck than to injury. Jimenez is a strong bounce-back candidate in 2012. A pitcher-friendly Progressive Field and weak-hitting AL Central (save for Detroit) will make Jimenez a steal in round 9 of your draft. This is a worthwhile risk to take.

Our Guess: 15-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 208 K.

———-

We have now drafted the first six players of our 12-man roster, and I must say things are looking up. But be warned: murky waters lie ahead. In Part Two, we’ll draft the final six and analyze our roster. Stay tuned for more.


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