For Those About to Mock
The middle of December in The Great White North brings us two feet of snow, minus-40 degree temperatures and, most importantly, an opportunity to take an early look at the 2009 season with some very astute and knowledgeable fellow bloggers. My thanks to both Jason and Geoff over at Mock Draft Central for inviting RotoRob to partake in the festivities as the early MLB Mock Draft season kicked off.
The established format was 12 teams, 23 rounds, 5X5 roto scoring that includes a full starting lineup made up of: one 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI and UT, two Cs, five OFs and nine pitchers. The draft order was predetermined and went as follows:
1. Todd Zola, Mastersball
2. Nate Stephens, Rotoworld
3. Alex Cushing, MLB.com
4. Scott Swanay, Fantasy Baseball Sherpa
5. Mike Kuchera, The Fantasy Man
6. Doug Anderson, RotoExperts
7. Brian Pelowski, Rotowire
8. Tim McLeod, RotoRob
9. Brandon Funston, Yahoo!
10. David Gonos, OPEN Sports
11. Chris McDonnell, FantasyBaseball.com
12. Nicholas Minnix, KFFL.com
My plan going in was to hope that Grady Sizemore fell to me with the eighth pick and then focus on building a solid power base at the corners and up the middle. In the event Sizemore was gone, I was going to target either Miguel Cabrera or Ryan Howard early and attempt to build a strong balanced offense, foregoing starting pitching until the middle rounds. A solid closer was a must this year with so much uncertainty in that category. Normally, I’m a huge proponent of securing stolen bases early and in abundance, but for this exercise I wanted to try a more balanced approach. With Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez sure to be gone by my pick, I didn’t want to be forced into one-dimensional speed later in the draft.
Round One – Ryan Howard, 1B: Grady and Miggy are gone, it’s time to get me the best pure power bat available, so Howard it was. The low batting average is a bit of a concern, but hopefully I can gain some of that back in the later rounds.
Round Two – Ian Kinsler, 2B: I was a bit surprised that Kinsler fell to me, but couldn’t pass on this opportunity. I don’t think that a 25-25 season is out of the question for Kinsler, with a .300 BA and at least 110 runs hitting in front of Josh Hamilton in Texas.
Round Three – Justin Morneau, 1B: I’ve now procured a second slugger at the corner in Morneau, and between him and Kinsler, I’ve managed to salvage my slow start in the batting average category. In a bit of a surprise, Jacoby Ellsbury went in this round with the 31st pick overall. Ellsbury has a ton of potential, no doubt, but with Ichiro Suzuki, Brian Roberts, Alex Rios and Shane Victorino still on the board, this pick was a bit too high risk for my liking.
Round Four – Brian McCann, C: I wanted a top-tier catcher and probably moved a bit early here. Hindsight says I could have waited a round and built on the stolen base category with a Victorino or Rios pick. With 14 picks before my next selection, I paid a heavy price for nabbing potentially the best player at a relatively shallow position, but on the other hand he’s now locked up. Carl Crawford went with the No. 40 pick and it looks like the early verdict suggests that this perennial first rounder has taken a serious plunge.
Round Five – Nick Markakis, OF: Surprise, surprise, surprise! I certainly wasn’t expecting Markakis to fall into my lap in Round Five, but I have no complaints here whatsoever. If he can up those stolen bases just a tad I’ll be a very happy camper.
Round Six – Nate McClouth, OF: McClouth is one of the few Pirates that I want on my team for the ’09 campaign. I like the power/speed mix and this pick fits in well with my overall plan.
Round Seven – Jon Lester, SP: There was no shortage of quality pitchers out there, but I really like Lester heading into 2009 and wanted what I consider to be a top-tier pitcher to anchor my staff. Mission accomplished! A potential 20-game winner with great peripherals was just too tough to pass on.
Round Eight – Joe Nathan, RP: It was now time to find that top-tier closer and Nathan fits the bill to a “T.” The number of question marks entering Spring Training in the closer role leads me to believe that a solid base is a necessity in the saves category.
Round Nine – Edinson Volquez, SP: A quick glance revealed a solid group of starting pitchers still on the board, including the likes of Carlos Zambrano, Scott Kazmir, Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Daisuke Matsuzaka. However, I went with the 25-year-old former Ranger Volquez. Those 206 punchouts in 196 IP in 2008 were just too enticing.
Round 10 – Matt Cain, SP: Eventually the Giants will score some runs for this guy, won’t they? Cain just turned 24, and with three seasons under his belt, I think the odds of just a few more wins to go along with those overall solid numbers makes him a good risk/reward pick at this stage of the draft. For those hoping to scoop a late-round bargain at catcher, it should be noted that it probably won’t be with Matt Wieters, who went this round with the No. 119 overall pick.
Round 11 – Adrian Beltre, 3B: Those of you that know me realize I have a serious man crush happening here, but the reality of the situation is that Beltre posted 25 HR and 77 RBI in 556 at bats while playing hurt for the bulk of 2008. Again, he fits my requirements — power and the potential for modest stolen base numbers.
Round 12 – Mike Aviles, SS: Shortstop was getting just a tad thin, so I made the move on a player that I have high hopes for in 2009. Those 10 HR, 51 RBI combined with a .325 BA and eight thefts in only 419 at bats that he put up are more than credible numbers to be building on heading into 2009. The remaining group of shortstops at this stage were Orlando Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Theriot, Khalil Greene and Edgar Renteria. It does get lean fairly quick at shortstop, doesn’t it? Nelson Cruz left the board in this round, as did one of the top-touted rookies in David Price.
Round 13 – Jose Valverde, RP: Normally I’d already be in vulture mode, looking for those cheap end-game saves, but I just couldn’t pass on this one. This dude had 40-plus saves in back-to-back seasons with better than a strikeout per inning and he’s taken after Brian Fuentes? This should give me a fairly strong position in saves and allow me to toss out a gamble in the last couple of rounds. There is no shortage in closer gambles in a mock this early in the offseason, well before roles have been established.
Round 14 – Xavier Nady, OF: What’s not to like with a guy that hit to the tune of a .305 BA with 25 HR and 97 RBI in 2008? The move to New York was a definite positive and the former Pirate should be able to sustain those numbers heading into 2009.
Round 15 – Adam Jones, OF: Up until the leg injury, Jones was enjoying a fine 2008 campaign in Baltimore and is one of my picks to make that next move up the ladder in this coming season. A 20-HR, 15-SB season should be a lock for Jones in 2009.
Round 16 – Denard Span, OF: In 2008, Span managed six homers, 47 RBI and 18 SB in only 347 at bats in a lead-off capacity for the Twins. Given a full season, the possibility for 20 to 25 thefts is high; throw in his modest power potential and that makes him a solid pick at this stage of the draft.
Round 17 – Wandy Rodriguez, SP: In 2007 it was the road woes, in 2008 it was the health issues, although the ERA was a solid 3.54. In 2009, he will put both of those problems where they belong — behind him — and will manage both double digit wins and 180 strikeouts.
Round 18 – Joe Saunders, SP: The ERA is due for a bit of an increase from that solid 3.41, but I’ll take a 17-game winner this late in a draft and be very happy. The closer gambling commences with Matt Lindstom, Brian Wilson (actually that’s a nice pick this late) and Heath Bell going in this round.
Round 19 – Kevin Kouzmanoff, CI: I just couldn’t pass on the Kouz, coming off that 23-HR, 84-RBI season in 2008. More closers (or closers in waiting) disappeared off the board this round with Joey Devine, Frank Francisco, Jose Arredondo and George Sherrill all going in this round. There is not a lot of faith in Sherrill, but those doubts are fully justified with former Oriole closer Chris Ray on pace to be ready for Spring Training.
Round 20 – Jesus Flores, C: The 24-year-old former Rule 5 pick did a commendable job in a half-season in 2008 with eight homers and 59 RBI in only 301 at bats. This pick also saves me from that last-minute rush to grab one of the half dozen Ranger catchers still on the board (oh, what’s that? They traded Gerald Laird? Okay, make that “near-half dozen”).
Round 21 – Mark Buehrle, SP: Getting a 15-game winner that managed to get his strikeouts up into the 140 range at the bottom of the draft is a nice safe pick.
Round 22 – Scot Shields, RP: It’s either Arredondo or Shields who will close for the Halos at this stage of the game, and Shields — even with Francisco Rodriguez breaking records — has always managed to pick off a few saves here and there. I think this represents a safe pick in conjunction with Nathan and Valverde that potentially has big upside. Speaking of how the mighty have fallen, Travis Hafner was finally chosen this round. Those who believe in a Pronk resurgence are obviously few and far between, but this late it could turn out to be a very nice bargain.
Round 23 – Mark Ellis, MI: It’s Round 23 and there were several options available with Ellis providing the best opportunity for 10 to 15 thefts, again fitting my team’s needs.
Overall, I’m happy with the results achieved in this early glance at the 2009 season. I would have loved to have snared Sizemore, but he wasn’t there so you move on and build based on the best options available. As a rule, I’m very big on moving early on the stolen base category, but took a different approach this time and believe it was successful.
I ended up with three guys in Kinsler, McClouth, and Span that should provide 20-plus thefts each and with Jones, Aviles, Markakis, Ellis and Beltre contributing in that category I should be able to finish mid-pack in stolen bases. The power potential for this team is very solid (probably top three in this mock), although the batting average could be somewhat of a concern. I like my starting pitching, although strikeouts, with both Saunders and Buehrle, could be a bit low.
The bullpen is anchored by two stud closers and one decent gamble.
Shortstop and first base thin out rather quickly this year, but that is offset by the outfield options being deeper than I’ve seen in a few years (hence, I steered clear of my “all outfielder, all the time” strategy from last season). Starting pitching is plentiful and seems to again be again continuing its fall in the pecking order. A solid starting pitcher can be found in the middle rounds heading forward into this spring’s drafts, and don’t forget to find a stud closer with all of the current uncertainty surrounding that position.
In conclusion, I’d like to thank all the skilled participants, Lenny, Paul and the crew over at Melnick and Greco for the live analysis, and to the fine folks over at Mock Draft Central for both the opportunity to partake in this mock and doing another great job in hosting the event. The 2009 season is not all that far down the road (WBC participants have to report in seven and a half weeks — speaking of which, keep your eyes peeled for our exclusive WBC Preview) and here’s hoping that this very early glance at it provides some insight into what is in store just around the corner.