This past weekend I had the pleasure of facilitating live drafts for the NFBC in New York. This was my third year in a row running a Main Event draft, and when I am not playing myself, it has become my way to be part of the festivities and get a front row seat to the Main Event action. It is always fun to see old friends and make new ones and I am always impressed by the camaraderie of the NYC crowd. I was particularly impressed with how many people remembered me by name without hesitation. Now I was a bartender for years, so for me that is second nature, but I haven’t been in too many communities where people exhibit this trait as well as fantasy baseball players do. Maybe it comes from training our brains to memorize the player pool and stats that we are able to meet one of our brethren and be able to file that name away for future use. Once you’ve gone to battle in the NFBC, you always remember your fellow competitors. For me, it is part of what makes the weekend so much fun, as aside from Ron Shandler’s seminars, this is as close to a convention for players as we get.
While New York is no Las Vegas, there is something to be said for the fact that in NY it’s all about the drafts. No sports-book, no glitz, no late nights spent playing craps. The focus is on drafting, plain and simple. Guys come into the room well rested, focused and prepared. There is definitely an East Coast flavor to the room, with plenty of New York/New Jersey accents filling the room, with a touch of Boston and Philadelphia mixed in for good measure. While Vegas often boasts some of the more prominent names in the field, New York always boasts their own roster of accomplished players and it is always fun to watch everyone race over on the breaks to see how the other drafts are progressing. My draft board got a lot of attention and was the buzz of the room as our draft saw Hanley Ramirez selected first overall. The guy who took him openly confessed that he took Hanley because he is his favorite baseball player and he wanted to have him on his team. While some in the room criticized the pick and openly wished they had been in that draft, others took my position of “He paid his entry fee, so he can take who he likes when he likes.” Despite the criticism, this guy wasn’t going to let anyone rain on the fact that he got the guy he wanted in Round 1.
The biggest development that unfolded on draft day from my perspective was the ascension of both Eric Hosmer and Brett Lawrie to the second round of drafts. Hosmer in particular was an early target of some prominent drafters, who clearly had made getting Hosmer a centerpiece of their strategy. Talking to the guys who drafted him afterwards, the common strategy was to grab a MI in the first round (Tulowitski, Cano or Kinsler) knowing that they could bump Hosmer up to the second round and still get their 1B. These guys were for the most part drafting from around the tenth or eleventh spot, and knew Hosmer wouldn’t make it back in the third. While they all admitted to the risk in moving Hosmer up that early, the all talked about the upside he brings when compared to the guy some of them passed on, Mark Teixeira. They all liked Hosmer’s batting average as well as the stolen bases he brings, and felt that even conservative projections made him the better fit for their overall plans. The key to Hosmer getting elevated I think was that after him, the next best bet at the position was Paul Konerko. After Konerko, you were looking at lesser options with more risk involved. I myself often targeted Michael Cuddyer as a fallback option, but admit if you waited here, you could end up with an Ike Davis or Freddie Freeman instead.
Brett Lawrie’s stock rising was I think directly tied to Hosmer coming out so early in many cases. I guess it was to be expected in these NFBC drafts, as all it takes is one drafter to jump a hyped player up a round or two. Lawrie makes less sense to me as a second rounder however. While the bulk of the first base class was off the board when Hosmer was drafted, this was not the case when it came to Lawire. He was consistently drafted ahead of Adrian Beltre, Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval. I personally would not take him ahead of Beltre and would have looked elsewhere in Round 2 if I saw so many other comparable third basemen still on the board. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Lawrie’s talent, I just didn’t see the same logic in those who moved on him early as I did from those who moved on Hosmer. In any case, another NFBC weekend is in the books and now all that is left is for the games to begin. Those that drafted these two young studs early will find out soon enough if they made the right call. Let the games begin!
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpcarey