Expert Mock Draft – January 14, 2008
When reviewing Tim’s “all outfielders, all the time” strategy, you don’t need to wonder if he just fell off a truck – he really did!
A couple of weeks ago, the fine folks over at Mock Draft Central assembled their first “Expert” mock of the New Year, with yours truly being fortunate enough to pick up an invite. My apologizes for the lateness of this draft summary, but unfortunately I got both a bit long-winded and a tad light on the number of fingers required to type this thing. (Note to self: when falling off the back of a truck, the wrist does not work well in cushioning the blow.)
Well, better late than never I say! As you can see, the list of participants was a veritable who’s who from the fantasy world. The draft order:
1. David Gonos – CBS Sports
2. Andy Behrens – Yahoo!
3. Derek Carty – The Hardball Times
4. Jason Pliml – Mock Draft Central
5. Chris Bracke – Mock Draft Central
6. Brent Grooms – Baseball HQ
7. Ray Flowers – Baseball Guys
8. Tim McLeod – RotoRob
9. Nate Stephens – Rotoworld
10. Peter Kreutzer – AskRotoman
11. Mike Kuchera – Fantasy Baseball Express
12. Mike Inglett – Sport Fanatics
I have a tendency when formulating my draft strategy to revert to what I call the “safe” mode, or my comfort zone. I have a history of placing a very high value on steals, vulturing saves and looking at starting pitching in the middle to late rounds. A lot of these philosophies stem from my play in larger 15- and 20-team formats, where I find these strategies work exceptionally well.
For this draft, a 12-team, 5×5 format, I decided to work towards a different goal. Picking eighth, the plan was to look for Chase Utley with my first pick, grab Johan Santana with the fourth pick in Round Two and follow up with Victor Martinez in Round Three. With catcher and second base being relatively weak positions in terms of depth heading into 2008, I wanted to look at position scarcity early as a strategy.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. Utley went early, Peter Kreutzer shattered my dreams by grabbing Santana, and both Martinez and Russell Martin went before my third pick. Okay, so that didn’t work. So let’s build ourselves a power/speed package and head back to familiar ground with the pitching later on, my safe zone.
Again I can’t stress enough when drafting the value of having that “Plan B” ready and the ability to change horses in the middle of the stream. That and the Boy Scout’s motto “Be Prepared,” should be part of every fantasy player’s vocabulary. With that in mind, let’s move forward and give this the old once over.
Round One – As mentioned, Utley went a bit higher than I expected (fifth), with Albert Pujols sliding into seventh. No big surprises as I watched all the big stolen base guys taken off the board. Utley in the eighth slot was apparently a bit of a reach on my behalf, so Matt Holliday it was.
Round Two – Okay, Santana is gone, so let’s pick up some five-category talent in Grady Sizemore. I was a bit surprised that he fell to me, but I certainly was not going to complain. I found the fact that Vladimir Guerrero fell to the No. 21 slot a bit odd. I believe it is more of a statement reflecting the need for speed and those seven third basemen and shortstops moving in the first round rather than a perception that Guerrero’s skill set is deteriorating.
Round Three – There I was, mulling over Curtis Granderson, Alex Rios and one of my personal favourites, Nick Markakis, with my third pick. I wanted the stolen base potential so Granderson it was. It would seem that Nate Stephens and Kreutzer were on the same page as me, as Rios and Markakis went with the next two picks. No major surprises here as the top two catchers went early in this round. I thought one might fall to me, but it wasn’t happening.
Round Four – At this stage, I was off to a decent start on offense but was still looking for a bit more power. With three outfielders on board already can I make a move on a fourth and still build a decent team? I think I can, so I proceeded to grab Adam Dunn in the fourth. The worst that can happen here is I’ve now built a top-tier outfield and hopefully shorted the position a bit, allowing me some bargains later on. My power and speed were now in good shape.
Round Five – Time to head back towards that original train of thought with regards to position scarcity. Robinson Cano went with the first pick in Round Five, so with the top four second basemen now gone, I reached a bit and took Ian Kinsler. After Kinsler, the dropoff gets rather pronounced in my opinion and I really like that 25-home run, 25-stolen base potential. The first closer went this round, Jonathan Papelbon, and I really liked the Corey Hart pick by Brent Grooms in the 54th spot overall.
Round Six – With the top two catchers gone, it was time to fill that slot with Brian McCann. I think the 20-90 potential in a relatively weak position works just fine.
Round Seven – Traditionally, I’ve been very high on gambling on the closer slot and for this mock I wanted to get a top-tier closer to shore up the position. With Papelbon gone, I went with the Mariners’ J.J. Putz. The outfield was basically done, I was strong up the middle and had a top-tier closer, so I was starting to really like the way my team was falling into place.
Round Eight – The pitching started moving a bit this round with three starters and two closers taken off the board. I went with one of my favourite picks at this stage of the draft and grabbed Adrian Beltre. There’s nothing wrong with 25-100 potential and 10 or so stolen bases at the corner. Remember, Beltre has seemingly been around forever, yet is only 28 and heading into what could be potentially his peak power years. I really like the Vernon Wells pick here by Chris Bracke. A healthy Vernon in the spring makes this pick a potential steal.
Round Nine – Time to start building a pitching staff, so Kelvim Escobar it was. As long as he can stay healthy, he’ll certainly provide adequate numbers across the board.
Round 10 – Back down the ladder, and I grabbed another of my favourite picks to click in 2008, Matt Cain. Don’t let that won/loss record dissuade you; those peripherals are solid and any semblance of either offense or breaks and it wouldn’t shock me to see 15 wins this coming year. Finally we get to the round where the pitching starts to fly, with eight of the 12 picks used on hurlers.
Round 11 – I happened to be following the first base situation fairly close and it was getting to be that time, so I reached a bit and took James Loney. With my cumulative offense, I like the BA potential and I could sacrifice a bit of power. I really didn’t want to be the owner of Carlos Delgado and that .250 BA.
Round 12 – I went back to the pitching here, taking Chad Billingsley, and hoping he can further build on that excellent second half of 2007. Given a full year in the rotation, 15 wins with 180 Ks is a distinct possibility.
Round 13 – Time to continue working on that starting rotation and I just couldn’t pass on the risk/reward of grabbing the Brew Crew’s Ben Sheets. If Sheets can stay healthy and, yes, it’s a huge “if,” getting a potential “ace” at this stage is a steal. I really like the Kosuke Fukudome pick by Andy Behrens at this stage. In Round 13, how many players have that .300 BA, 20-80, 10 SB potential?
Round 14 – Coming back down the ladder it was time for me to fill in the outfield and I went with some youth with decent upside in Jacoby Ellsbury. I like the potential for 25-30 SB with a decent BA. It was time for that young talent to start moving as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joba Chamberlain, and Joey Votto went with the next three picks.
Round 15 – Time for my first serious faux pas of the evening. I reached a bit and took Carlos Marmol of the Cubs. Not that this isn’t what I believe to be a decent gamble based on those 2007 numbers and the very real possibility of him closing this year, but there were other closers available with much lower risks. Mike Kuchera made a very nice grab this round when he went with a much underrated Aaron Hill at second base — a very solid choice at second base this late in the draft.
Round 16 – I’d been watching the SS position intently since early on and made the decision to sit back a bit here and let things fall to me in the later rounds. Jhonny Peralta was still available and at this stage of the draft that 25-75 potential just couldn’t be passed on. With both the depth in this category and quality at the top end, some very nice bargains can be had for those with a bit of patience. There was another great grab by Kuchera this round when he plucked Gary Sheffield at No. 182 overall.
Round 17 – Someone in 2008 has to be the one driving in Hanley Ramirez, so why not Josh Willingham? Adding a bit to the power base this late is certainly not going to hurt. Six of the 12 picks this round were starting pitchers as it was time for most to start filling in the gaps.
Round 18 – It was time to round out my bullpen, so I took Eric Gagne. Here’s hoping in 2008 we see the Texas Ranger Gagne and not the Red Sox model. Again, the chase for pitching continues, with nine more pitchers taken this round.
Round 19 – The end is drawing near. It was time to bolster my rotation and I was sitting there with Zack Greinke ready to roll, when Ray Flowers grabbed him right in front of me. Nice scoop, Ray; that one hurt a bit. I went with option two, and Mark Buehrle was mine. It was the outfielders’ turn to be taken from the board, with six going this round.
Round 20 – It was time to gamble on some youth, so I went with Evan Longoria to fill out the corner infield slot. If one is going to roll the dice, these are most certainly the rounds to be doing it in.
Round 21 – It was time to go with a very steady and conservative play to fill out the middle infield slot, so I grabbed Freddy Sanchez. My speed/power base is pretty decent so that .300 BA this late works. There were more late gambles in the starting pitching as the elderly trio of Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, and Curt Schilling all went this round.
Round 22 – We’re down to those last two slots, and I needed a back-up catcher for McCann and one more starting pitcher to round out the rotation. About this time, Kate was pulling a fresh load of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. The cookies won this round without a doubt, as I ended up with Johnny Estrada filling out my catcher slot. You did it to me again, Andy, grabbing Hiroki Kuroda as we head for home.
Round 23 – I needed one more starting pitcher to round out my effort and Wandy Rodriguez it was. If Wandy can ever figure out how to pitch on the road this could be a very nice addition to my rotation. Those 150 or so Ks will certainly be an asset.
You can find the complete draft results here.
Overall, I’m rather happy with the results. I was a bit light on my usual five or six former NPB players, but nonetheless, I wound up with a good balance of power and speed with what could be a decent batting average. I managed to build a nicely balanced team even after taking four outfielders in those first four rounds. Sure, it was a bit of a different strategy, but one that I think merits a close look as the outfield does get a little short heading into those later rounds.
As far as pitching is concerned, this draft just reinforced the fact that in a mixed, 12-team, 5×5 format, building the offense early and using the mid to the later rounds for the pitching is a solid play. I took my first starting pitcher in Round Nine, and believe I have at least a mid-level rotation.
In conclusion, my thanks to all the many skilled participants and the fine folks over at Mock Draft Central; great job as always. Kudos to both Paul Greco and Lenny Melnick for both the live podcast of the draft itself and the follow up analysis. Just remember Lenny, Freddie’s the Man!