411 Expert Slow Mock Results + Commentary

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Paul Goldschmidt

Zach here again,

Our annual 12-team, 23-round expert slow mock draft is underway, and this is where you will find the pick-by-pick results in addition to comments from each of the owners. I will be routinely updating this post, so check back often. Note that the format is standard 5×5 roto.

The participants (in draft order):

1. Lawr Michaels – Mastersball

2. David Gonos – SoCalledFantasyExperts.com

3. Ray Flowers – SiriusXM/Fantasy Alarm

4. Fred Zinkie – MLB.com

5. Jeff Erickson – Rotowire

6. Todd Zola – Mastersball

7. Paul Sporer – Fangraphs

8. Cory Schwartz – MLB.com

9. Derek Van Riper – Rotowire

10. Tim Heaney – USA Today

11. Zach Steinhorn – MLB.com/Mastersball

12. Nando DiFino – FNTSY Sports Network

To track the picks live and view the team rosters as they get filled, CLICK HERE

ROUND 1

1.01 – Paul Goldschmidt (Michaels) – Obviously there are three bats worthy of the top slot. I am going Goldy partly because he is so consistent, and partially because his team is ideally the best among the three players. He doesn’t even need 20 swipes for me if he provides the power numbers we have come to expect.

1.02 – Mike Trout (Gonos) – Trout still remains my No. 1 overall Fantasy player entering this season, even in the face of great love for Bryce Harper. The difference between the two for me is that Trout has posted first-round numbers for four straight seasons, while his NL counterpart has really done it for just one. Harper is a no-doubt type of talent, and Trout’s stolen bases have dropped for the fourth consecutive season, but the speed is always there. Plus, Trout stays healthy (13 missed games in the past three seasons).

1.03 – Bryce Harper (Flowers) – Very chalk I know, but the 23-year-old outfielder is likely to be a top-3 pick in every draft this season. The question may not be how much will he regress in 2016 as it is can he still improve in 2016? An elite talent who found his grove last season – he now has to prove he can stay healthy over the course of an entire season.

1.04 – Clayton Kershaw (Zinkie) – I wouldn’t have any problem with an owner who wishes to take Kershaw with the first overall selection. He is arguably the most stable source of first-round level production. That being said, I wouldn’t have any problem with an owner who would not select Kershaw among the initial 10 picks. I’ll use this mock as a chance to measure what my team would look like without a hitter in the first round.

1.05 – Manny Machado (Erickson) – I really think there are 10 legitimate choices here, but I went with a combination of speed, power and youth versus my other options. Plus, there’s a tiny chance he could end up at shortstop this year if J.J. Hardy continues to bottom out. Ask me again tomorrow, I’ll change my mind.

1.06 – Miguel Cabrera (Sporer) – I totally understand the risk I’m taking with injuries given that he’s now 32, but I also feel that the games I do get (should he get injured) will be elite. That said, he has exactly one DL stint in his career. The idea that you have to ace your first round pick is also largely overstated so I don’t think you’re destined to lose if you only get 125 excellent games from Miggy.

1.07 – Josh Donaldson (Zola) – The Blue Jays scored a historical number of runs last season relative to the rest of the league. That has to come down. It just does. That means even if one of the sluggers does exactly what he did in 2015, his runs and RBI will drop. Of course, injuries can help those runs diminish and of the usual suspects, Donaldson has the best chance to stay healthy, so I’ll risk a drop in run production for a solid power base from a position where I prefer not to be trolling in later in the draft.

1.08 – Carlos Correa (Schwartz) – Over the last few years, I’ve shifted from drafting position scarcity early towards drafting for category scarcity, particularly power. Well, Correa solves both problems. His production last season projects to 36 homers and 23 steals in 162 games, and with his “easy power” and favorable home ballpark, I think he could make a run at 40 homers this year. He’ll also approach or top 20 steals again in the Astros’ aggressive offense, and will do it all while playing a premium position. Correa could be in the mix for the #1 overall pick a year from now, so I think the #8 spot is appropriate for 2016.

1.09 – A.J. Pollock (Van Riper) – I am expecting 14-16 HR rather than another 20 (see the GB%, slight increase in HR/FB), but the lineup around him should continue to fuel R + RBI numbers similar to his full breakout a year ago. The scarcity of steals is leading me to be a little more aggressive with speed threats in the early rounds to avoid leaning too heavily on volatile one and two-category players later on. I had to adjust my rankings slightly upon making this pick, as I previously thought I would prefer Nolan Arenado in this spot. That is not the case, however, in an actual draft scenario.

1.10 – Anthony Rizzo (Heaney) – Rizzo’s climb up the fantasy ladder has put him in the first round following his sequel breakout in 2015, in which he drove in 101 runs in a reloaded lineup, maintained an elite HR and OPS output and threw in 17 stolen bases (great for his position). The only microscopic flaw I find in his near-perfect profile is that he won’t hit .300 without a lot of luck. Thanks to his stout skills and the drop-off after the elite first basemen — one of 2016’s most logical cases for positional preference — Rizzo ranks 5th on my board. I was elated to land him here.

1.11 – Jose Altuve (Steinhorn) – There are at least three power bats still on the board that I’d be more than happy with for my next pick, so I’ll go with an elite AVG/SB middle infielder who can also reach double-digits in homers. 100 runs is a possibility as well with a much improved supporting cast. I also know that Nando is a big fan of Altuve and could very well draft him with one of his next two picks. The nice thing about drafting near the wheel is that you can make these types of calculated decisions, knowing that at least one of your other targets will be there for the taking when you’re up next.

1.12 – Giancarlo Stanton (DiFino) – I don’t think he’s injury-prone, which a lot of people could argue — he’s just had some really bad luck. A broken face from a beaning (which he psychologically ignored last season when healthy) and broken hand are not things that will pop up again in the future. 40+ home runs could happen at least three more times in his career.

ROUND 2

2.01 – Nolan Arenado (DiFino) – In the context of “the turn,” I love this duo. I just got 80 home runs and some great average, along with all the other counting stats (and about 10 total steals). But Arenado could go as early as 6. And Stanton should be top 8. I can now wait and hope I see two high-K studs fall to me at the next turn (Cole, Harvey, maybe a minor reach on Archer), but I am ecstatic about these two players at these spots.

2.02 – Edwin Encarnacion (Steinhorn) – Tough to pass on McCutchen here but E5 is the better fit for my roster coming off the Altuve pick in the first round. I don’t want to come out of this draft lacking power and Encarnacion has now pieced together four straight seasons of at least 34 homers and 98 RBIs.

2.03 – Mookie Betts (Heaney) – I’m passing up a lot of more established names, but rarely have I geeked out this early in a draft for a player this young. Betts bulked up before 2015 and magnified the tantalizing power-speed combo he flashed in his 2014 debut stint. Batting eye, contact, grounder-to-fly, speed, budding pop that hasn’t hit its ceiling — so many plus tools, plus he’s in a stacked lineup. If we’re already anointing Carlos Correa, then we must do the same for an equally gifted pup with a bigger sample size. While hitting near .300, Betts has a legit shot at a 30-30 season.

2.04 – Andrew McCutchen (Van Riper) – Maybe a normal offseason will push Cutch back to the 20-25 range in terms of stolen base attempts, but even if it doesn’t, his 2015 was impacted by ongoing knee injuries and he still hit .292 with 20+ HR pop and 180 R + RBI. Even if this is the start of a decline (and it may not be), it should be a very graceful one since he’s only 29. The plate discipline was intact, as a slight increase in strikeouts was offset by a career-best 14.3% walk rate. He’s been a consistent faller in the early drafts I’ve seen, regularly landing outside the top-10 and typically falling somewhere between 15 and 20 overall.

2.05 – Jose Abreu (Schwartz) – There are other strong options here but I want a high floor in the Triple Crown categories to pair with Correa, and Abreu is the only player in all of baseball to have topped .290-30-100 in each of the past two seasons. I expect greater production from the entire White Sox lineup this year, and Abreu’s overall numbers will benefit from that and approach or exceed his 2014 production.

2.06 – Starling Marte (Zola) – This is a real hard guy to baseline which means his floor isn’t stable. On the other hand, that means his ceiling is very high. I like his dropping K-rate (albeit with a poor walk rate). I’m intrigued by well above average power (HR/FB) despite 81 games in PNC Park, which squashes homers. I actually hope Marte doesn’t change his batted ball profile to take better advantage of his pop. I’m satisfied with teens homers and the better batting average (and steals) that comes with grounders and line drives.

Buster Posey

2.07 – Buster Posey (Sporer) – The best catcher by leaps and bounds, but not just a scarcity play, either. He’s 5 PA short of four straight 600+ PA seasons, delivers an excellent AVG, strong HR/RBI, and solid R totals. He’s just great.

2.08 – Max Scherzer (Erickson) – That’s two consecutive drafts where I’ve selected Mad Max towards the back of the second round, and have been happy to see him there. Maybe I’ve got too much of an NFBC mentality, but he’s #2 with a bullet among SPs to me, with the potential for 260+ K’s and a likelihood of winning more games this year. It will cost me Kris Bryant, which I might regret, but he’s still a big difference-maker.

2.09 – Kris Bryant (Zinkie) – With the potential for 30-plus homers, 100 RBIs and 15 steals, I feel like he’s a fine second-round pick. After taking Kershaw in round one, I decided to go with someone with plenty of potential such as Bryant.

2.10 – Joey Votto (Flowers) – He will never be a big time homer bat, but his batting average is as stable as they come, and his ability to get on base is unmatched. I’ll roster that stability so that I can take some risks moving forward.

2.11 – Jose Bautista (Gonos) – I’ll skip an aging 40-homer hitter in the first round, but he’s much more palatable in the second round. The Blue Jays offense should lead the AL once again, if not the majors, and Joey Bats will be a big reason for that. I might think otherwise earlier in the second, but late in the second, he’s an easy pick.

2.12 – Xander Bogaerts (Michaels) – I seem to have targeted the BoSox shortstop, who is 23 years old building off a third season during which he pounded 196 hits with 35 doubles meaning power could/should increase with age and experience, everywhere. Though Xander only bagged 32 walks, he only whiffed 101 times, meaning he makes good contact. Nowhere to go but up.

ROUND 3

3.01 – Madison Bumgarner (Michaels) – This is very aggressive for me: taking a hurler before the sixth round these days unless he is named Kershaw. But, having a premiere starter is the way to go, and by the time I get another shot at an arm, I suspect the names might be very good, but not top tier.

3.02 – Dee Gordon (Gonos) – Just two seasons ago, Gordon was well on his way to the first 100-SB season since 1987. He proved in 2015 that he can get on base regularly (although, his inflated .383 BABIP should come back a tad, even with his speed), and that his move to Miami was a good one. I won’t need to tend to the SB category again until later in the draft.

3.03 – Ryan Braun (Flowers) – This is a risky selection. Braun’s continued to have issues with his thumb, and surgery on his back is also scary. At the same time, he was one steal from going 25/25 last season and there are only a handful of men in baseball with the talent to do that. I’ll take the risk in the third round and keep my fingers, and toes, crossed.

3.04 – Jake Arrieta (Zinkie)

3.05 – George Springer (Erickson) – I understand the injury and batting average concerns, but I still believe in the power/speed potential and think that the injuries have been fluky. He’s in a great offense and a positive park, and is at a prime age.

3.06 – Charlie Blackmon (Sporer) – When Chuck Nazty isn’t sinking backwards half courters, he’s a killer power-speed combo in the best park in baseball. Late-20s breakouts can be suspect, but I’ll take a high-contact hitter in Coors all day.

3.07 – J.D. Martinez (Zola) – Yeah, what a surprise. The power is real, supported by hard hit data. One reason I’ve been so high on Martinez was the anticipation he hits clean-up. With Justin Upton in tow, that may push Martinez down a spot – which on average costs maybe 15 at- bats. However, his overall production should improve with Upton ahead of him.

Chris Davis

3.08 – Chris Davis (Schwartz) – I’m not gonna get a sore shoulder from patting myself on the back during a mock draft, but I think this is a very nice price for a guy who’s led MLB in homers in two of the last three years. Of course, he hit .196 the year in between, but still showed excellent power, and even with that included, his four-year average is .256/44/114 with 95 runs per 162 games. Back in Baltimore, he should put up similar numbers again in 2016.

3.09 – Chris Sale (Van Riper) – I have him ranked third among starters heading into the season, but it’s a very close cluster with guys that have already been taken in Scherzer, Arrieta and Bumgarner. At this point, I haven’t uncovered a good reason for the significant difference between his ERA (3.41) and FIP (2.73), and it’s hard to imagine that he’ll finish outside of the top-three in K% with health, which should provide a boost in the strikeouts category even if his innings count is a notch below the typical frontline starter.

3.10 – Todd Frazier (Heaney) – After a slight reach last round, I’ll take what falls into my lap here. I’m not scared of Frazier’s batting average troubles or recent second halves. Not when his power predictors remain strong. He’ll be spoiled in his second overly favorable home park. In this possibly elite order, he should deliver 175 or so R+RBI, along with 30 HR and, like my first baseman, probably double-digit steals.

3.11 – Carlos Gomez (Steinhorn) – A clear-cut first round pick last year, injuries ruined Gomez’s season. But keep in mind that this is a guy who recorded at least 19 homers and 34 steals every year from 2012-2014, and he should benefit from a full season hitting in a young and dangerous Astros lineup. I’m expecting a 20/30 season with the potential for more. And for those who subscribe to the contract year theory, there’s that too.

3.12 – Gerrit Cole (DiFino) – I bundled a bunch of power bat stats with my first two picks. I’m bundling power arm numbers with my next two. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to people picking on the ends like this, but things have fallen to me (I definitely wouldn’t employ the power arm strategy here if I didn’t like the two pitchers) and I’m excited to see how things shake out for the next turn — a couple closers? Shore up MI? I’m not a fan of picking on the turn, but it’s at least somewhat exciting when the players you like fall a bit.

ROUND 4

4.01 – Matt Harvey (DiFino) – See above.

4.02 – Justin Upton (Steinhorn) – Maybe he will never be the superstar that some predicted, but there’s plenty of value in a stable floor of 25+ homers and 160+ R+RBI. I’m not expecting 19 steals again, but double-digits will do. Comerica is far from a hitter’s park but it sure is better than Petco, and Detroit’s lineup sure is better than San Diego’s cast.

4.03 – Adam Jones (Heaney) – This former first-round candidate’s reliability has become underrated. Sure, he won’t steal many bags, but the other four categories are rock-solid at mostly excellent levels. He should score more runs with the improved bottom half of this order that now includes a healthy Matt Wieters, new arrival Mark Trumbo and emerging masher Jonathan Schoop.

4.04 – Jose Fernandez (Van Riper) – Maybe it’s a repeat of the Matt Harvey situation a year ago in terms of workload. I can live with that. It’s all about the health of his arm, since there are no remaining questions about his talent and potential. Fernandez, like any player with workload restrictions and/or increased injury risk, seems to be a better target at this point of a 12-team (or more shallow) mixed league than he might be in a deeper one. The hope is that he’ll reach 175-180 innings, and I would have the benefit of shuffling in viable streaming options late in the season, or at other predetermined points where the Marlins skip his turn in the rotation.

4.05 – Lorenzo Cain (Schwartz) – This does feel like a little bit of a reach after his career year last season, but if A.J. Pollock can go in the first round then I think the fourth round is a reasonable gamble for Cain. A big chunk of Cain’s value comes from AVG and SB’s, both of which can be volatile, but he’s hit .304 over his last 1,100+ PA with 28 steals in each of the past two seasons. Besides, after taking a low-average slugger like Chris Davis in the last round, I want to take a complementary player now. Cain is unlikely to hit 16 homers again, but his batted ball profile suggests that another double-digit season shouldn’t be unreasonable, so there seems to be a solid floor here in all five categories, with a nice profit opportunity if he repeats his 2015 performance.

4.06 – Adrian Gonzalez (Zola) – I’ve seen Gonzalez drop in drafts, and who knows, maybe I could have waited another round, but I have plans for the next couple of rounds so I’d just assume lock in a consistent, meat of the order bat that should give me everything but steals. I’m all about roster construct nowadays and this is the best direction to go in for me to end up where I want to end up.

4.07 – Troy Tulowitzki (Sporer) – I think everyone is dying to bury him, but if 147 R+RBI and 17 HR is the downside, I’ll take my chances. The upside is still pretty high, even if the speed is gone for good (and it is). Unlike recent seasons, I’m more confident jumping back in the SS pool down the line to ensure I have someone capable should (when) Tulo get injured again.

4.08 – Robinson Cano (Erickson) – Should be fully recovered this season after playing through a medley of injuries last year. I’m a little apprehensive about going with someone that doesn’t run here, but I want to attack batting average here after taking Springer last round.

Kyle Schwarber

4.09 – Kyle Schwarber (Zinkie) – After taking pitchers with two of my first three picks, I need to take a chance on a hitter with upside. With the possibility of getting me 30 homers from the catcher slot, Schwarber fits the bill for me in this situation.

4.10 – David Price (Flowers) – I just don’t see a standout offensive player at this point. There are only four more players taken before my next selection, and I can easily count five offensive players I wouldn’t mind selecting with my 5th round selection, so I will take the best starting pitcher available in Price, and get that offensive fella in the next round. One Price note. Each of the last four seasons, his WHIP has been between 1.08 and 1.10. That’s pretty impressive.

4.11 – Zack Greinke (Gonos) – We can expect his ERA to climb a bit, but he’s still a top-10 Fantasy pitcher, and since I got sniped on Price, I had to go this route. The reigning NL Cy Young winner isn’t a bad consolation prize.

4.12 – Jason Kipnis (Michaels) – Rebounding from his somewhat disappointing 2014 after bumping to a top three pick following his breakout 2013. i am guessing–well hoping, anticipating–that the keystone guy will settle in with a very good Tribe team and build on the solid numbers of last year, perhaps even pushing back to those breakout totals.

ROUND 5

5.01 – Yoenis Cespedes (Michaels) – Cespe is streaky, for sure, and has a major swing that does not always make contact, but when it does, the results can be scary. He settled in nicely with the Metropolitans when traded to close out last year, and I get the feeling he will have a lot of fun hitting at Citi, where he belted five of his homers (over 27 games and 105 at-bats). I think he will like calling it home.

5.02 – Nelson Cruz (Gonos) – Let’s pair one old 40-HR hitting outfielder with another. Plenty of power and plenty of whiffs, but he’s entering his second season in the same park as a star for the first time in awhile, so maybe that counts for something in that he has less to worry about this offseason and can work on his game even more.

5.03 – Brian Dozier (Flowers) – Dozier isn’t sexy, but sometimes going after sexy isn’t always what you should do. Dozier has batting average concerns, but over the last three years, he leads second sackers in homers (69), is second in runs (285) and is 5th in RBI (214). He also happens to be the only second baseman in baseball who has hit 20 homers with 70 RBI, 100 runs and 10 steals each of the last two seasons.

5.04 – Jason Heyward (Zinkie) – I’ll admit that I’m being a bit cute right here in drafting my fourth Cubs player. But with Kershaw and Arrieta on my team, I need to take a chance with my offense. Many people are predicting the Cubs to have a great offense this year. Hopefully, Bryant, Schwarber and Heyward work together to lead my team.

5.05 – Jacob deGrom (Erickson) – Aces are starting to drop off, and I see a tier falling off quicker there than with the hitting spots. The risk with deGrom is that he’s still in the injury nexus, given that last year was his first full major league season, with added stressful innings in the playoffs. But the upside of pitching in the NL East, piling up good ratios and K’s remains high. So I selected him over 2-3 other pitchers.

5.06 – Carlos Carrasco (Sporer) – deGrom was tops on my list, but Carrasco is a very close second. Everyone was wondering if he could live up to the hype of his insane ’14 finish and even with a 3.63 ERA, he did. He was the 30th SP off the board and finished in the top-15 thanks to a 30% K and 1.07 WHIP. A full year of Lindor (and to a lesser extent Urshela) will only help the >50% GB of Carrasco—Pre-Lindor: 4.38 ERA, With-Lindor: 3.12 ERA. Now, it certainly wasn’t all just Lindor (though he was helping a lot on both sides of the ball), but the factors are in place for a full-season of sub-3.00 ERA from Carrasco.

5.07 – Corey Kluber (Zola) – I don’t think I need to convince anyone in this group that Kluber was fundamentally the same guy he was when he edged out King Felix for the Cy Young – he just didn’t get the same outcomes last season as in 2014. With a full year of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela picking it on the left side, Kluber’s LOB% should normalize and we’re again talking about a guy with an ERA over/under line right around 3.00. As the 13th starter off the board in a 12-team league, pushing pitching a round or two appears to have been the right call.

5.08 – Kyle Seager (Schwartz) –  I’d like to take his little brother Corey, but I already have a pretty good young shortstop, and it’s not like big bro is a slouch, either. In his age-28 season last year, Seager set a number of career highs – 2B and HR, most tellingly – while cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low. As an extreme fly-ball hitter in a good pitchers’ park, he’s unlikely to break through with a big batting average, but his development and production have been consistent enough that he should be able to offer similar numbers in 2016.

5.09 – Stephen Strasburg (Van Riper) – I’ll go ahead and take Strasburg here. The hope is that his ankle injury in spring training caused the shoulder problems (not something more serious and still potentially lurking) and the slow start through April and May was the byproduct of him trying to pitch through the injury. He was crazy good after coming back from the DL in June, and if nothing else, it’s a mock rotation foundation I can dream on putting him with Sale and Fernandez.

5.10 – Dallas Keuchel (Heaney) – Tried something different: waiting for a top-tier arm. Oops. If nothing else, Keuchel offers stability with his one-of-a-kind grounder ability. I’ll account for his less than ideal K/9 with other selections.

Corey Seager, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

5.11 – Corey Seager (Steinhorn) – I usually shy away from paying a premium price for players with such a short major league track record, but I’ll make an exception here. Seager’s transition to the big leagues last season was seamless, and he hits for both average and power with strong OBP skills to boot. He doesn’t run all that much, but I’m not complaining. Hey, he might even return a profit relative to this draft spot.

5.12 – Corey Dickerson (DiFino) – He’s a .300 hitter with 90/90 potential in RBI and runs. He can hit 25+ homers and steal 5-10 bases. I will take that at the end of the 5th round!

ROUND 6

6.01 – Miguel Sano (DiFino) – Sano had a .916 OPS with 18 home runs and 17 doubles in just 80 games. The knee-jerk reaction would be to double his counting stats — and as juvenile and simple as that sounds, I’m on board; so he’s looking at 35+ home runs and a decent average. This is a player who is 22 years old and missed all of 2014. He came back with little rust and almost equaled his 2015 minor league performance (.918 OPS) while with the Twins.

6.02 – Felix Hernandez (Steinhorn) – I would have liked to hold out longer for my first SP but I highly doubt that Felix will be around by the time I pick next at 7.11, so I’ll grab him here and secure one of the few starters remaining who carry fantasy ace ability. Coming off a disappointing (for him) 2015 season, his price is now at the level where I can realistically see myself drafting him in multiple leagues this year. Note that the 3.53 ERA was skewed by four 7+ ER starts and one 10 ER outing. In other words, he was his usual dominant self more times than not.

6.03 – Chris Archer (Heaney) – Enjoyed a breakout 2015 thanks to more first-pitch strikes and a huge jump in empty-hack rate. He carries mild concerns about his late-season swoon, though it was probably fatigue-related and mostly came from two disaster outings. Having the safe Keuchel as my No. 1 alleviates my expectations for Archer, who’s still an excellent SP2.

6.04 – Carlos Gonzalez (Van Riper) – A rankings adjustment (downward) is probably in order, as the possibility of a trade away from Colorado increased with the addition of Gerardo Parra. On the off chance that the Rockies trade Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson instead (or if first base becomes an option for someone in the current outfield mix) and he stays, this could end up being a great value. He’s not going to offer much in terms of steals, and the issues against lefties have been present in back-to-back seasons, but he’s hit 36 of his 77 homers away from Coors Field over the past three years, and any team interested in him would park him in the heart of the order. Even if he’s only a .250, 25+ HR, 90+ RBI guy outside of Colorado, he won’t bury my squad at this point in the draft. Of course, his knees could flare up again and make his team context moot.

6.05 – Wade Davis (Schwartz) – I don’t like taking the first closer off the board, but with 14 picks until my next one it’s entirely possible that the elite ones will all go very quickly and I didn’t want to lose control of the choice. Davis didn’t quite match his insane 2014 numbers last year, but he was plenty good enough to be considered elite. Ask me in a week and I might take Kenley Jansen as the #1 closer, or Aroldis Chapman if I know he won’t miss any meaningful time due to his domestic abuse allegations, but for now I’ll take the guy who was the best reliever in baseball over the last two seasons and will now likely be the undisputed closer on one of the best teams in baseball.

6.06 – Francisco Lindor (Zola) – Next time you have a couple of minutes, rank your second through fifth shortstops. We may argue where Carlos Correa belongs relative to the rest of the hitters but I’m pretty sure he’s the consensus top at the position. After ranking, then figure out where they belong in an overall list. It’s not as easy as it may seem. My general approach so far has been to avoid the insecurity of this group and wait on one of the more boring but reliable options available much later. I do, however, have a point where I’m willing to take some of last season at face value and bet on the come – and we’re at that point with Lindor. Feeding into this is the presumption that most of us will be putting a second baseman in the middle infield spot, meaning there’s a larger inventory of available shortstops that can emerge to back-fill Lindor if he falls victim to the ethereal sophomore slump.

6.07 – Hunter Pence (Sporer) – Limited to 52 games last year after a HBP (I was actually at the game, as were some other draft participants since it was during LABR weekend) in Spring Training cost him the first month and a half and flared up again, costing him another month. And then he missed the final month-plus with a strained oblique. So why am I drafting him? He was his normal very good self when he did play and the offseason is enough time to overcome an oblique (they’re finicky in-season, though). Prior to this, he’d been a lockdown 155-gamer (including two 162s) and I’m willing to bet on a rebound. He should be batting in the top-3 of a solid, deep lineup and I think he gets back to being a five-category contributor.

6.08 – Eric Hosmer (Erickson) – First base is thinner than you think, and Hosmer will be able to do a decent amount of everything, including hit for average, even if he doesn’t dominate one single category.

6.09 – Matt Carpenter (Zinkie) – He didn’t run into 28 balls by accident last year — this was an effort on his part to hit with more power. I’m hoping that he can hit 20 homers in 2016, and also provide the helpful average and 100 runs that he is known for.

6.10 – Anthony Rendon (Flowers) – It was just a year ago that Rendon was a top-20 player according to most pundits. Injuries ruined his campaign but he returns with the same skill set he owned 12 months ago and he still qualifies at two spots (2B and 3B). His 2014 fantasy output is asking a lot, but Rendon is not yet 26 years old and a run to a 15/15 season with a .300 batting average cannot be dismissed as fiction.

6.11 – Jose Reyes (Gonos) – Drafting a 32-year-old oft-injured speedster is never a good idea, but I’ll try to explain why I’m doing so now, with Jose Reyes filling the second middle infield spot in my lineup. Reyes should hit second in a very good lineup, at Coors Field where he posted a solid OPS after getting traded there last season. In the end, I wanted Anthony Rendon, and I hate Ray Flowers because of that. I expect Reyes to hit 15 home runs at least.

6.12 – Kole Calhoun (Michaels) – No question I have manlove for the 28-year-old. True, his whiff total went way up (164 in ’15, to 104 in ’14) but I like to think that was partially growing pains, and partially adjustments. And, I think maybe Calhoun tried to do too much. Essentially, he can give me the same line as last year, with a little boost in average–say .285-25-90–and that will be just fine. Think he can totally do that.

ROUND 7

7.01 – Sonny Gray (Michaels) – Gray is sort of on the “quiet but deadly” side of pitching. He is not a crusher like Gerrit Cole, but a career 1.134 WHIP over 491 frames with 419 whiffs is still very good for a guy going into his peak seasons. He gets to pitch in a good venue for hurlers, and is on a team that uses its parts well. This is the year his win total jumps the 15 barrier.

7.02 – Freddie Freeman (Gonos) – First base (and the Atlanta Braves) ain’t what it used to be. Freeman represents the best of what’s left in both of those groups! We’ll see if he can bounce back from last year’s injuries, but there’s no reason not to expect solid numbers in each category, sans speed.

7.03 – Johnny Cueto (Flowers) – Cueto struggled in the second half last season. He’s still been one of the best hurlers in baseball the last five years. It must be nice to “struggle” and still post a 1.13 WHIP and the best walk rate (1.95 per nine) and K/BB ratio (3.83) of your career. An impressive second option as a starting pitcher.

7.04 – Noah Syndergaard (Zinkie) – He had a great K/9 rate as a rookie, and he threw enough innings in 2015 that he shouldn’t have an innings limit this season. Homers are a bit of a concern, but I’ll take that chance.

7.05 – Yasiel Puig (Erickson)

7.06 – Prince Fielder (Sporer)

7.07 – Matt Kemp (Zola) – Yeah, he’s not the guy he was a few years ago and the Padres aren’t exactly Murderer’s Row, but the 78th overall player? I know the NFBC ADP is right around this point but that doesn’t make it right. It’s a bit ironic we’re now paying more for his floor and less for his upside but I’ll take a .270-20-75-85-10 floor at this point.

7.08 – Rougned Odor (Schwartz) – From the date of his recall from the minors on June 15 through the end of the season, Odor trailed only Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve among MLB second basemen with an .861 OPS. He doesn’t walk much but makes decent contact, and helps maintain a useful OPS by getting hit by so many pitches. This may just be confirmation bias, but for a smallish guy he seems to hit the snot out of the ball, and he only turns 22 this week so there’s plenty of room for growth. I’ll see if I can find another 21-year-old later in the draft to team with Odor and Correa to complete my juvenile middle infield.

7.09 – Kenley Jansen (Van Riper) – For me, Jansen vs. Wade Davis is a toss-up, so I am happy to see Jansen make it back after I thought about taking the plunge on a closer in Round 6 just before Cory took Davis. Skills wise, Jansen improved his walk rate for the fifth consecutive season to a career-low 4.0% BB%, while he continues to miss bats at an elite clip (40.0% K% in 2015, career 39.4%). His combination of talent and top-end job security are available in a handful of closers this year, and the second half of Round 7 feels like a bargain.

7.10 – Craig Kimbrel (Heaney) – I was targeting one of the elite closers here, so I’m pleased. With the uncertain status of another elite stopper, Kimbrel is actually first on my board. Luckily, he’s not being drafted that way, despite his five straight seasons of 13.16 K/9 or higher. The Red Sox bullpen should push him back toward 50 saves again.

7.11 – Jon Lester (Steinhorn) – There’s this feeling that Lester was disappointing last year, and I just don’t get it. Although he did throw in a few stinkers, the end of season numbers were borderline fantasy ace worthy, and the 11-12 record is misleading. He should continue to benefit from pitching in the NL and pitching for a team that has significantly improved an offense that was already dangerous last season, especially in the second half (2nd in NL in runs scored). I’m thrilled to draft him as my SP2.

7.12 – Michael Pineda (DiFino) – I could’ve waited until my next two picks for him, according to ADP (and please correct me if I would’ve been wrong here, friends — speak up if you would’ve taken him!), but I think this is where he belongs, and where he’ll eventually creep up to following a dominant, healthy spring.

ROUND 8

8.01 – Billy Hamilton (DiFino) – I don’t like to quote BABIP too much, but his was absurdly low last year. Even a bump up to near-normalcy would improve his batting average, which would get him on base more, which would increase his steals. If he improves his patience and takes more walks, Hamilton could flirt with 90 steals.

8.02 – Mark Melancon (Steinhorn) – I was targeting a closer for this spot, as a run is certainly coming and with a long wait until my next pick, I don’t want to be shut out from the top-tier guys. I thought about the player that Tim mentioned, the elite stopper whose status is uncertain, but I’ll take the safer route and go with Melancon. After a pair of rough outings in April, Melancon was pretty much unhittable the rest of the way while notching a major league leading 51 saves. Now coming off three straight dominant seasons (one and a half as a closer), there’s no question that Melancon is elite, and another run at 50 saves in 2016 would not be surprising.

8.03 – Ian Kinsler (Heaney) – Some fine offensive values have fallen, and despite his age (33), Kinsler should rebound in the power department. Second base stability matters at this point considering the drop-off that’s coming. And I need the batting average help that Kinsler is known for, and he’ll create plenty of runs atop what should be one of the league’s best lineups. I expect about 175 R+RBI, a .280 BA, and around 30 HR+SB.

Ryan Hanigan, Jacoby Ellsbury

8.04 – Jacoby Ellsbury (Van Riper) – Oblique, hip, knee, and back injuries cost Ellsbury time on the field in 2015. Even with the benefit of playing half of his games at Yankee Stadium, Ellsbury is more likely to hit 8-10 homers than 15-plus. Prior to suffering the knee injury in mid-May, he was hitting .324/.412/.372 with 29 runs scored and 14 stolen bases through 37 games. Buying in *should* come with a prerequisite roster foundation of players with strong track records of health. It may be unnecessarily risky for me with so many pitchers rostered already, along with Cargo and Cutch (if the knee issues from last year are something he’ll deal with going forward).

8.05 – Aroldis Chapman (Schwartz) – The four teams choosing between my last two picks entered that turn with a combined eight pitchers but only one 2B, so I took Odor at 7.8 on the hope that those teams would go for bats and allow Jansen or Kimbrel to fall to me with this pick. Bad read, but Aroldis isn’t a bad consolation prize. His risk factors are clear, with the possibility of a suspension under the new domestic violence policy, and/or that he could share or even lose the closer job to Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances. But, on January 31 I’ll gamble on both of those scenarios playing out in his favor, because the skills are elite: a combined 1.90 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 16.1 K/9 over the past four seasons.

8.06 – Carlos Martinez (Zola) – When you fade pitching, you better be prepared to take some chances. In general, if you want to hit an ERA of “X” — you need about 600 innings with a decent ERA under “X”. The point is, value doesn’t get points. When you’re drafting pitching, you can’t wait until you feel it’s at value or else the value you draft will get you 20 pitching points. I need a guy that can help my ERA with the potential to throw 200 IP – Martinez is that guy. There’s some health risk and he needs to be more pitch efficient but I’ll take a slightly lower K/9 if it comes with a drop in BB/9 and an extra 20 IP so the raw whiffs are about the same.

8.07 – Danny Salazar (Sporer)

8.08 – Zach Britton (Erickson) – The class of reliable closers are thinning, so I’ll take my favorite of the remaining in that tier. I’m especially heartened by the bump in strikeouts that Britton had last season.

8.09 – Gregory Polanco (Zinkie) – I’m not expecting miracles, but I think he can make some improvements in his second full season. I’m light on speed, and I’d rather not wait for a one-category player later on.

8.10 – Christian Yelich (Flowers) – Yelich had back issues last season, but since I already have Braun rostered why not double up (that’s just smart. Maybe not). Yelich was limited last season but also hit .300 and stole 16 bases. For the third straight season, he also posted an OBP of at least .362. He doesn’t drive the ball deep, but if healthy, a .300 average, 20 steals and 90 runs is doable. There aren’t many players you can say that about.

8.11 – Garrett Richards (Gonos) – Hoping a full offseason with a healthy knee enables Richards to get back to his 2014 K//9 form, when he had a little more velocity.

8.12 – Michael Brantley (Michaels) –  I confess that drafting at one side of the wheel or the other is my favorite spot by a long shot because it helps me affirm my direction. And, this pair of picks became tougher as I had my core infield, and a pair of starters, so it is to the outfield I looked. Brantley’s stock has fallen as he had off-season shoulder surgery, but reports are the Tribe’s outfielder is progressing very well, and even shooting for being ready Opening Day. At this point in the draft, how could I not jump on a potential .300-15-80-20 guy?

ROUND 9

9.01 – Jonathan Lucroy (Michaels) – Actually, the Brantley choice was not as hard in retrospect, but my gut feeling was to grab another outfielder to pair with him. That said, there are still a lot of outfield choices out there, but the catcher’s list settles into a sort of backstop free fall pretty fast. With just two catchers off the board as of now, it seems that seizing the moment and grabbing Lucroy, the next best in my view, is the right move. He will ideally be healthy in 2016 and surely will not be hanging around the player pool when I make pick number 10.12, I would bet.

9.02 – Evan Longoria (Gonos) – I should’ve grabbed Lucroy with my previous pick. Once again, Longo ends up on my team. Favorite player aside, Longo’s not the Longo we all knew and loved. In hopes that he reverts back to being a slugger with a good batting eye, I’ll take him as my third baseman. The arrival of Corey Dickerson in the Rays’ lineup should help him, as well.

9.03 – Adam Eaton (Flowers) – A very similar player to Yelich, not much power and some speed, but more batting average stability. Eaton isn’t likely to improve upon last season’s work, but if he comes close to repeating, as my 4th outfielder, there is no way I will be complaining about my my 4th OF ripping off a top-30 OF season.

9.04 – Ken Giles (Zinkie) – Even though Houston hasn’t officially named him as the closer, I feel like it is inevitable. With a high strikeout rate on a winning team, he has the potential to at least sit in the second tier of closers.

9.05 – Cody Allen (Erickson) – Recovered from a horrendous April to end up with 99 strikeouts and 34 saves last year. The team context should be a little bit better this year, so the save count should be up this year. I see two other closers in this tier, and I don’t think I would get one of the three coming back to me. So the question becomes second closer vs. another hitter – alas, I find most of the hitters in this tier to be fungible. So I’ll take my preference of closers in this tier.

9.06 – Joc Pederson (Sporer) – The second half meltdown was brutal and makes him a potential (likely?) AVG sinkhole, but I think a big mistake is assuming that this is just who he is now at age-24. I don’t think it’s impossible to see him ease up a bit on the power in order to cut those Ks (and subsequently improve the AVG) while also showing at least some of the speed we saw in the minors (113 SB in 1953 PA; 35 per 600 PA). This is a much more dynamic skill set than he is being given credit for and honestly, I’ll be using that second half collapse to my advantage for some cheap shares.

9.07 – Tyson Ross (Zola) – Oscillating between a couple of hurlers here, I’ll go with Ross despite the chance he’s dealt out of Petco Park. The main reason is while Petco helps, his peripherals home and on the road are similar. This isn’t surprising since he’s an extreme ground ball guy so he isn’t as vulnerable in homer friendly parks. What I like most is his K/9 and durability. What I don’t like is a BB/9 well above average, especially last season. More walks means fewer innings and reduced whiffs. Talented pitchers with just one wart are intriguing. If they fix their flaw, there’s a cascade effect on everything else. I’ll take Ross as is but part of the pick is there’s some upside with a lower walk rate.

9.08 – Cole Hamels (Schwartz) – 11 of the last 14 players taken were on my scratch list for consideration with my next two picks, including my top three OF choices..can’t we get some dumb people in this draft next time?! Anyway, I figured Hamels would’ve been gone by now too, given his durability (6.1 IP short of eight straight 200+ IP seasons), strikeout volume (six short of six straight 200+ K seasons) and high floor (his 3.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP last year were his worst since 2009). Hamels is productive, consistent and durable, so this feels like a pretty good discount for that package of skills, and exactly what I needed after waiting longer than any other team to pick my first SP.

9.09 – Adrian Beltre (Van Riper) – I wasn’t exactly sure where to go with this pick. Most of the value seems to be with starting pitching, but I don’t want a fourth starter this early. Beltre played through a thumb injury that required surgery and still managed to do enough in the second half (.318/.376/.509, 11 of his 18 HR) to convince me that there’s enough left in the tank for 2016. Thanks to the low K% and strong lineup around him, the AVG, RBI, and runs contributions should be very stable. I’m not expecting a big surge in power after back-to-back seasons below the 20-homer mark, but I think he can be slightly profitable at this stage of the draft.

9.10 – Brett Gardner (Heaney) – Even with his atrocious second half last year, Gardner still clubbed 16 homers and stole 20 bases overall. Batting average won’t be an asset, but the reliable power-speed outfielders are running out, and he’s one of the last few I trust as a foundation piece. Even if his age causes another drop in steals, he should make it up with the pop.I expect much more of what he’s done the last few years: 15-20 HR and 20-ish steals with something close to 100 runs scored.in a sound lineup.

9.11 – David Ortiz (Steinhorn) – This is unlike me, filling my Utility spot so early. But a quick scan of the rosters reveals that I’m lagging a bit in HR/RBI, and age risk aside, Ortiz is perhaps the only hitter still available who can legitimately give me 30-plus homers without draining my AVG.

9.12 – Trevor Rosenthal (DiFino) – Philosophically, this is an odd situation. I feel a closer run coming, so I’m taking two closers here at the turn. However, we’ll never know if that was going to happen, because — by taking these two closers — I may have set off the run myself. This is very deep stuff for a 411 mock. Rosenthal may be one of the more underrated closers (low ERA, 10+ K/9) and Familia checked off Shandler’s closer qualities (talent, guile, opportunity) better than almost any closer in recent memory.

ROUND 10

10.01 – Jeurys Familia (DiFino) – See above.

10.02 – Maikel Franco (Steinhorn) – Third base is going to get scary bad very soon (Chase Headley as my starting 3B really does scare me), and I’m still trying to catch up in power. I did consider another 3B who might have a higher floor, but I’ll take the guy with the higher ceiling.

10.03 – Masahiro Tanaka (Heaney) – Oozes risk: He has multiple dings in the last few years, including offseason bone spur removal and an elbow ligament probably hanging by a thread. He also had a little trouble with home runs last year, which probably involved him leaving his splitter up too much. But as my No. 3 in a 12-teamer, which boasts plenty of apt replacements for this roster spot, Tanaka looks just fine here. Career numbers: 3.16 ERA, 8.68 K/9, 1.49 BB/9, 12.4 swinging-strike%. I’ll take something close to that, even if it’s just for 100 frames.

10.04 – Adam Wainwright (Van Riper) – I didn’t expect him to return from his Achilles injury before the end of last season. The strikeouts are likely going to stay in the sub 7.5 K/9 range…and maybe fall even further. Still, the ratios should be good, and I’m expecting a pretty heavy workload for a guy coming off a season in which he missed a large portion of the year with a major injury. I think there is still a potential for a high 2’s ERA and sub 1.10 WHIP season in his arm.

10.05 – Hector Rondon (Schwartz) – My OF3 scratch list got blown up over the last two rounds so I’ll try to stimulate Nando’s anticipated closer run and complete my bullpen before it’s too late. Not really sure why Joe Maddon ever yanked Rondon from the closer role last year, since he was pretty awesome: a 1.67 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 69-15 K-BB in 70.0 IP, with only four homers allowed. His strand rate, BABIP and HR/FB metrics suggest a little bit of good luck, but we’re not talking Fernando Rodney here, either. I think he’ll be a lot closer to the “safe” category this year and rack up a ton of saves for the fast-improving Cubs.

10.06 – David Robertson (Zola) – Nando’s sense was spot-on, those immediately following his pick had a closer but he was right, at some point before he picked again some decent save candidates would be off the board. I’m just glad he and Cory left me with a guy I feel is in a great spot as the White Sox have upgraded their offense and have enough starting pitching to keep Robertson busy. A busy Robertson is capable or cracking 90 whiffs, which I need since I’m still behind the table with respect to number of pitchers drafted.

10.07 – Carter Capps (Sporer) – Closers are drying up quickly and while Capps hasn’t landed the role just yet, I’m just glad they’ve made it an open competition because he is unreal. Some concern with the health last year, but I’ll take my chances. He probably won’t fan 50% of the batters he faces again, but a 35% rate will be enough to be a top closer (should he win the job). He’s also Betances-like in that he can still be an asset even without the closer’s role. I’d rather not get a middle reliever in the 10th round, but it won’t kill the team.

10.08 – David Peralta (Erickson) – One of the few five-category players remaining, though he might end up being a little light on steals. All obstacles for full-time at-bats are gone, and the team should have an above-average offense to push his counting stats up.

10.09 – Shin-Soo Choo (Zinkie) – I’m not expecting him to repeat his ’15 numbers, but he clearly got his career back on track in the second half and the Rangers’ lineup is quite strong.

10.10 – Francisco Rodriguez (Flowers) – He’s saved at least 38 games the last two seasons with more than a strikeout an inning and the best walk rate of his career at half his career mark (it was 1.74 last season and 3.60 for his career). He should have another solid season in Detroit.

10.11 – Glen Perkins (Gonos)

10.12 – Randal Grichuk (Michaels) – Looking for more pop, and where better than with Grichuk and his .877 OPS of last year? The former #1 pick of the Cards slammed 47 of his 89 hits last year for extra bases (that is 52%, kids). Over his minor league time, Grichuk banged 42% as XBH as well, so the power is clearly there. I would like a little more discipline from the outfielder with experience, but for now I will be happy with the raw tools.

ROUND 11

11.01 – Stephen Piscotty (Michaels) – My mate Brian Walton, who leads the Cardinal Nation, would call me a homer for grabbing two St Louis picks in a row, but if Grichuk has pop, Piscotty, a Stanford grad, can simply rake. Certainly, Piscotty has better command of the zone with a minor league .360 OBP, which is pretty much in line with the .359 on-base totals he managed with the big club over 256 at-bats last year. The Cardinals are arguably the best team on earth at drafting and then filling spots at the highest level with quality up-and-comers, and this duo is just the latest example of said acumen.

11.02 – Shawn Tolleson (Gonos)

11.03 – Ben Revere (Flowers) – This is my third outfielder who is more speed based than power but he’s a .300 hitter who can steal 30 bases, and at this point of the draft there’s nothing wrong with rostering that type of talent. This club now has the baseline to take shots late on power bats with poor batting averages and no speed. Setting up the future is this one.

11.04 – Brian McCann (Zinkie) – A pretty boring selection, but one that should net me 25 homers and 80 RBIs from the catcher position. I used to hope for a solid batting average from him, but I have given up on that expectation. Even with a .235 average, I can live with him in round 11.

11.05 – Billy Burns (Erickson) – Really wanted Revere here, should have taken my chances on Peralta coming back and gone with him last round. Nonetheless, I like Burns here – job security might be a concern, but he’s got a 40-stolen base ceiling.

Michael Wacha

11.06 – Michael Wacha (Sporer) – A lot is made of Wacha’s strikeout rate and it was admittedly weak for his first seven starts (14%), but he offset it with a 52% GB rate and still succeeded (2.06 ERA). From then on (his last 24 starts), he had a 22% K rate and remained successful save a rocky September (7.88 ERA, looked like classic fatigue of a young arm getting through his first whole season). Wacha has been brilliant for sustained runs in each of his three seasons and those peaks suggest the potential for even more than what we’ve seen to date. However, even if he doesn’t really jump forward, this Jordan Zimmermann starter kit has plenty of solid years ahead.

11.07 – Kolten Wong (Zola) – For the dozens that follow my work, this pick is no surprise. Actually, the surprise is it took so long. Wong has double-digit power and speed potential with an average that won’t kill a team but isn’t an asset either. It will come down to the lineup spot. If he hits second for the majority of the season, I chose wisely. If he hits sixth or below most of the time, I chose poorly. The Cards have a lot of moving parts and won’t hesitate to take advantage. As such, I won’t know until the end of the season if I was wight or wong.

11.08 – Brandon Belt (Schwartz) – A little early to be filling my CI spot but my preferred OF3 options are all off the board, so I’ll take my next-ranked hitter. There’s plenty of risk here, given his season-ending third concussion and offseason knee surgery, but his bat has continued to mature and improve, with career-highs in HR, RBI and walks last year, to go with nine steals. Curiously, he’s maintained very high BABIP’s over his career despite high fly ball rates, so his AVG could crater at some point, but I’ll bet on improvement elsewhere to offset that risk.

11.09 – Hanley Ramirez (Van Riper) – He was a disaster in the outfield, but Hanley was hitting a ton before crashing into the outfield wall in early May. Yet another shoulder injury derailed him from there, but with the move to first base, maybe he’ll finally stay healthy for 135 games? There appears to be an overwhelming amount of injury risk on my roster at this point, but it’s at the point now where sitting back and trying to be conservative won’t make much of a difference.

11.10 – Khris Davis (Heaney) – Still some fine power sources left. Khrush might have the biggest upside of all of them. The 21 home runs he smacked in the second half last year came when he inherited a full-time role after an injury and the Carlos Gomez trade. He walks enough to offset concerns about his contact rate. He’ll steal a handful of bases to go along with his 30-homer profile, with the upside for 40.

11.11 – Curtis Granderson (Steinhorn) – I was between Davis and Granderson for this pick, so thank you Tim for making the decision for me! I’m very encouraged by Grandy’s much improved plate discipline last season. While expecting another .364 OBP might be unrealistic, something in the .340 neighborhood would be good enough to give him a shot at another 90-plus run season hitting atop a solid Mets lineup to go along with 20-plus homers and double-digit steals.

11.12 – Addison Russell (DiFino) – He wasn’t supposed to arrive until this season, but Russell played in 142 games last year, and blossomed as the season progressed, with major gains in OPS, average, and power in the second half. Russell can flirt with 20 homers, has multi-position eligibility in pretty much every league, and he should get to double-digits in steals.

ROUND 12

12.01 – Byung-ho Park (DiFino) – He hit 50+ home runs in his last two seasons in Korea and has three straight with a 1.000+ OPS. Jung Ho Kang’s performance last season (15 home runs, didn’t become the starter until the second week of May, bounced between shortstop and third) should quell reservations about the transition…and Kang never had the kind of power Park showed in the Korean League.

12.02 – Jose Quintana (Steinhorn) – There are still a handful of starting pitchers available that I’d be comfortable with as my SP3, so choosing one is tough. But I’d be surprised if any of them are still on the board when I’m up next, so I’ll go with Quintana, who has now posted three straight 200-plus IP seasons with an ERA no higher than 3.51 and a WHIP no higher than 1.27. He doesn’t hurt himself with walks (2.3 career BB/9) and has become a solid contributor in the strikeout department. I’m pretty confident that he will win more than nine games in 2016.

12.03 – Albert Pujols (Heaney) – The (Somewhat Broken-Down) Machine likely will miss a chunk of time as his foot heals after surgery. And his hit skills have tumbled as he’s aged. But since I snagged the 36-year-old at Pick #135 as my corner infielder, I’m hardly worried about replacing his value for a partial season. And he’s obviously capable of going nuts again with the long ball. I’m not expecting the 40 homers he hit last year. 25-plus offers a clear, attainable goal.

12.04 – Neil Walker (Van Riper) – All of the players among my best available are steady floor, moderate-ceiling types. There was little to steer me to Walker over the others, outside of his potential for a return to the low 20-homer range. The Mets should lean pretty heavily on him as a run producer, and the re-signing of Cespedes bodes well as a mark in the favor of the lineup context being something that resembles the offense we saw in August and September, rather than the train wreck of the first half.

12.05 – Drew Smyly (Schwartz) – Smyly managed only 12 starts last year due to a pair of left shoulder ailments, but he was superb when he did pitch, posting a career-best 10.4 K/9 and 3.9 K/BB rate in 66.2 IP without any noticeable decline in velocity from previous seasons. He benefited from a very fortunate strand rate, but that was offset by an unlucky HR/FB, so I think his 3.11 ERA is mostly repeatable.

12.06 – Kevin Pillar (Zola) – Thought about grabbing another pitcher here and may have in a 15-team league, but in the shallower format, I think I can continue to fade arms. Pillar may not be a third-rounder or anything like that but he’s probably better than most realize. I have him borderline top-30 in the outfield and since we’ve drafted 43 fly-chasers so far, it doesn’t take a PhD in common core math to understand why I made the pick. I’d like some more steals without completely sacrificing pop. Pillar’s glove should keep him in the lineup. He may hit towards the bottom of the Jays’ order but they’ll turn it over enough to compensate.

12.07 – Ben Zobrist (Sporer) – Failed to log his first double-double since 2008 and it wasn’t just because of the missed time (126 games played), but all three of his triple slash figures went back up, including a nice boost in SLG. His 20-HR days are almost certainly done at 35 years old, but the allure of Zobrist is being atop that sweet Cubs lineup where he could push for his first 90+ R season since 2011. He only has 2B and OF eligibility to start the season, but now that he’s back with Maddon, it wouldn’t be surprising if he added to that eligibility in-season.

12.08 – Steven Matz (Erickson) – At 12.08, this might be a little bit of a boutique pick, but then again, not according to NFBC ADP, so I’ll grab my guy now just in case I get sniped. I don’t think that the skills are in question, though the health obviously is. But after starting two great workhorses and two solid closers, I’d rather fill the rest of my rotation with high ceiling guys than going with “safer” aggregators. Replacement level being what it is among SP, if Matz gets hurt it won’t cripple me.

12.09 – Ian Desmond (Zinkie) – I don’t know where or when he will sign, but someone will take a chance on him. This pick could be a total disaster, or a steal if he can put together something like a 20/20 year. Overall, the SS options in the second half of drafts are pretty depressing this year.

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FSTA Draft Results + 411 Mock Draft

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Zach here,

A belated Happy New Year to all!

On Tuesday night, representatives from 13 prominent fantasy baseball sites/organizations participated in the annual FSTA draft at the FSTA Winter Conference, held this year in Dallas. Since the FSTA draft is usually the earliest non-keeper expert league draft, it always garners plenty of attention, and it’s always nice to have the results of a real draft to study before the calendar turns to February.

Here’s the link to the draft grid.

Note that this is a mixed league with the standard 5×5 rotisserie categories and standard roster structure with six bench spots. Also note that time constraints ended the proceedings after 22 rounds with the final seven rounds to be conducted via e-mail. When those results become available, I will re-post the link.

In other news, our annual Fantasy 411 Slow Mock is set to begin shortly, like today. As always, I will be posting the picks along with commentary from each of the owners, which I will be updating daily, and we will also be using a google spreadsheet so that everyone can track the results in real time.

Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned.

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Early 2016 Expert Mock

***NOTE: If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to this blog by hitting the Follow button on the right panel. You will then get an e-mail as soon as each new post goes up.

DRAFT RECAP ARTICLES

Gonos looks at Round 1

Flowers reviews the draft

Steinhorn wonders what could have been

Steinhorn discusses some of the notable players who were not drafted

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Zach here,

Well, it’s really never too early to kick off mock draft season, so that’s exactly what we are doing. Over the past few years, we’ve conducted an October mini-mock of five or six rounds. This one is a month later and a bit longer (10 rounds), and you are probably very familiar with most of the participants, as this is pretty much the same group from last year and the year before that and the year before that.

The roster (in draft order):

1. Derek Van Riper – Rotowire

2. Zach Steinhorn – MLB.com/Mastersball

3. Todd Zola – Mastersball

4. Ray Flowers – SiriusXM/Fantasy Alarm

5. David Gonos – SoCalledFantasyExperts.com

6. Jason Collette – Rotowire/Fangraphs

7. Jeff Erickson – Rotowire

8. Tim Heaney – USA Today

9. Cory Schwartz – MLB.com

10. Fred Zinkie – MLB.com

11. Lawr Michaels – Mastersball

12. Nando DiFino – FNTSY Sports Network

Want to follow the draft in real time? CLICK HERE for the google spreadsheet.

And here’s a running list of the pick-by-pick results along with commentary from the owner. I’ll be updating this regularly as the picks and comments come in, so check back often.

Bryce Harper

ROUND 1

1.01 – Bryce Harper (Van Riper) – I’m glad we’re back to the point where Harper v. Trout is a debate, mostly because it is a reminder that we are spoiled by two very young superstars with the potential to battle for hardware and No. 1 roto status over the next decade. My preference for Harper is based on the expectation of a higher batting average going forward — thanks to a lower strikeout rate — and the potential for the currently small difference in stolen-base numbers to level out as Trout’s ceiling in that category has fallen considerably for a handful of reasons. Maybe I am also optimistic about the possibility of the Nats delivering more offensively top to bottom than the Angels can with a healthier Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor (maybe…check out his minor league walk rates, he is not hopeless), and Trea Turner infusing OBP and speed atop the lineup.

1.02 – Mike Trout (Steinhorn) – Speed decline aside, Trout has now pieced together four straight MVP caliber seasons in his first four full big league seasons. Hard to believe he’s still only 24.

1.03 – Paul Goldschmidt (Zola) – DVR is right. Trout versus Harper is a very compelling debate…for the second overall pick. Paul Goldschmidt has leapfrogged both and is now the odds-on favorite to be the top fantasy player. His track record (and durability) is stronger than Harper’s. While it would not be shocking if Trout’s steals returned to match Goldie, at least going into the season Goldschmidt has the edge. The real edge comes from run production as despite being in the lower-scoring NL, Goldschmidt’s run plus RBI potential is superior to Trout’s.

1.04 – Carlos Correa (Flowers) – I’ll be that guy, the one who does something he shouldn’t far too early in a draft. At shortstop, we have the perpetually injured Tulo at the top and then…lots of guys with talents, but none that can match those of Correa. Is 20/20 doable in his first full season? After all, he went 22/14 in just 99 games as a rookie. What about 30/30? Why not. One can only dream.

1.05 – Josh Donaldson (Gonos) – It’s not often you see a hitter arrive in a new city and blow up the way Josh Donaldson did. Although, the disappointing guys are more often than not free-agent signings as opposed to traded players, like JD. I’ll take his power hitting numbers at a thin hot corner and expect the Blue Jays to put up the best numbers in the Majors again next year. (They scored 16% more runs than the second-best team in 2015.) Donaldson turns 30 years old this winter, which is still in his power prime.

1.06 – Clayton Kershaw (Collette) – Because he’s Clayton Kershaw. I was really hoping Correa or JD would slide to me, but they didn’t, so I’ll take the Apex Predator of pitchers and won’t look at another pitcher for a few rounds.

1.07 – Manny Machado (Erickson) – It’s one of life’s little ironies that I just happened to be on a panel where I had to choose between Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado, who are my top choices for this slot. I backed Machado there and I’ll do the same here. I like Machado a tiny bit more because his production is spread across all five categories, he’s two years younger (and thus might have another jump in him) and he improved in his strike zone coverage, whereas Arenado had a small bump in his strikeout rate. It’s picking nits, but that’s enough to push me towards Machado.

1.08 – Nolan Arenado (Heaney) – I watched Jeff on that panel. I agreed with his preference for Machado. Though there’s a solid chance fellow power stud Kris Bryant leapfrogs Arenado this year, today I’ll trust the guy who (1) plays home contests at Coors Field, (2) surprisingly displayed much better road numbers, and (3) dwarfs the alternative in contact rate.

1.09 – Giancarlo Stanton (Schwartz) – I want a slugger in the first round, and while there are plenty of enticing options to choose from (Rizzo, Bryant, Bautista, Davis), I’ll take the guy who was the top choice in that regard last year. It’s not like Stanton didn’t provide power this year – 27 homers and 67 RBI’s in just 74 games – but a fractured left wrist cost him over half the season. That continues an unsettling trend for Stanton, who’s been on the DL at least once in each of the last four years and averaged only 114 games per season during that time. But, when healthy, he’s still the best in his business, averaging 43 homers and 109 RBI’s per 162 games during that stretch. I’ll take my chances.

1.10 – Andrew McCutchen (Zinkie) – He was the most popular No. 2 overall pick in 2015, and his bat met expectations. Yes, we didn’t get the steals we wanted. Without them, he is a solid pick at the end of round one. If they return, he could be a top-five pick once again in 2016.

1.11 – Buster Posey (Michaels) – No question Buster is the best catcher on the planet at this moment in time and space, but he is also among the best and most consistent hitters overall. If Posey gives me a typical .295-18-90 season from behind the dish, fine with moi. And, I know he can do better, so that would all be gravy.

1.12 – Jose Altuve (DiFino) – Sitting on the turn, I was waffling with strategy — the usual pitcher and hitter combo versus power/speed/overall. Altuve has some nice developing power with essentially a batting average guarantee and 40 steals, at the least. I’m banking on 15 home runs and a ton of runs scored in what will probably be a huge run-scoring lineup in 2016.

ROUND 2

2.01 – Miguel Cabrera (DiFino) – Will solidify my average and provide a nice power base. He’ll get RBI opportunities and basically just be his usual reliable self.

2.02 – Anthony Rizzo (Michaels) – Dude is getting better, and I see his team taking the postseason by storm next year, much like the Royals did this year. And Mr. Rizzo will be at the heart of all that fun in the Second City.

2.03 – Kris Bryant (Zinkie) – With minor improvements across the board, Bryant could hit .280 with 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 90 runs and 15 steals in his second season. And of course, there is the potential for massive breakout and a 40-homer season.

2.04 – Joey Votto (Schwartz) – Will provide an excellent AVG (or insanely elite OBP) to offset Stanton while still contributing strong power numbers and a handful of steals. Where he plays next season — and with whom — is a concern, but Votto has posted only one truly poor season in his entire career, so as long as his knee is reasonably healthy, he should provide elite four-category production.

Mookie Betts

2.05 – Mookie Betts (Heaney) – I’ve seen enough over about 1 1/3 seasons to be excited about his upside, and quickly established 20-20 floor with a legit shot at 30-30. The 23-year-old should readily eclipse 92 runs in an improved Boston order and still drive in around 70 runs. His potential for 30 steals also provides fine balance for Arenado’s lack of speed.

2.06 – A.J. Pollock (Erickson) – Suffice to say, I’m a believer. My only concern is that he’ll stop running eventually as the Diamondbacks want to rely on his run production, but I don’t think that happens this upcoming season. In a 15-team NFBC draft, I’d consider a pitcher in the second round, but when I was doing my rankings, I found myself asking “where have all the hitters gone?” Chances are in this draft, I’ll start off with three hitters, pending what happens in the next 12 picks. My only concern with taking Pollock is that I’m likely passing up the remaining hitters capable of hitting 40 homers.

2.07 – Edwin Encarnacion (Collette) – Betts was choice A, so I went with The Edwing once Betts was gone. I think Cory has owned E5 every year we’ve done this mock, so it feels good man. He continues to rake year after year but even I’ll admit I was scared by his slow start out of the gate last season.

2.08 – Jose Bautista (Gonos) – The old man turned 35 in mid-October, and if he didn’t just crush 40 homers for the third time in six years, I’d be more worried about that. While we can’t expect 40 homers again, the 100-plus RBI and 100-plus walks are reasonable to expect, the latter helping him in other categories.

2.09 – Starling Marte (Flowers) – Was one homer from a 20/30 season with 80 RBIs and 80 runs. He’s hit 30 steals in three straight seasons, providing a nice floor in that column, and he’s a .283 batter who has hit at least .280 each of the past three seasons. At 27, perhaps he will learn to lift the ball just a bit. If he does, there is little doubt that a 20/30 season is possible.

2.10 – J.D. Martinez (Zola) – Yeah, I didn’t believe it either when I ran my initial set of 2016 projections and even had to tone J.D.’s line down a tad. Adam Jones isn’t the perfect comp since Martinez fans more but they profile similarly in that both are allergic to walks and both whiff too much. The thing I like about Martinez is his well hit ball percentage supports a high BABIP and HR total. Factor in he’s displaced the other Martinez as clean-up in front of Miggy and I’ll lead the #JDMinthe2nd bandwagon.

2.11 – Jose Abreu (Steinhorn) – He wasn’t quite as impressive last year as in his rookie season but what’s not to like about .290-30-101-88? Plus, it’s not unreasonable to think that he might be able to get the stat line back up to its 2014 level. He was a top-10 pick last spring and he hasn’t lost top-10 potential.

2.12 – Charlie Blackmon (Van Riper) – I was skeptical of Blackmon’s 2014 season because it seemed to be an excellent April, and a lot of mediocrity thereafter. He proved that the final output wasn’t the result of one great month, finishing with 17 homers, 43 steals and more than 150 R + RBI in 2015. Blackmon showed an improved eye at the plate, and the speed is legit. He’s Coors dependent, to put it lightly, as Blackmon’s .890 OPS at home is reduced to a .695 mark on the road, but he actually hit more homers on the road (10) last season. As long as the Rockies don’t flip him this offseason, another season atop the lineup in Colorado should be on tap, with plenty of speed (35-40 SB) stabilizing his floor.

ROUND 3

3.01 – Max Scherzer (Van Riper) – Pitching will slip somewhat in non-NFBC 12-team leagues, but I’m comfortable starting my rotation with the 25th overall pick. The move to the National League (thanks Phillies, Marlins, and Braves!) pushed his strikeout rate to a career-high 30.7% last season, while he delivered a walk rate nearly half (3.8% BB%) of his career mark (7.0%). There are a few other arms in his tier, but I have Scherzer positioned atop the non-Kershaw cluster at the present time.

3.02 – Ryan Braun (Steinhorn) – There’s injury risk here but hopefully the back surgery did the trick. Braun went .285-25-84-87-24 last year despite playing at less than 100 percent for at least a portion of the season. I’ll take this kind of five-category production at pick #26.

3.03 – Dee Gordon (Zola) – The average will come down but when 50 bags are reasonable, there’s plenty of wiggle room. The only pause is second base runs pretty deep, though perhaps not with Gordon’s potential impact.

3.04 – Chris Davis (Flowers) – I grabbed Correa and Marte, giving me a great power/speed combo the first two rounds. Now it’s time to add some corner infield power since Braun was just taken by Steinhorn. It’s either Todd Frazier or Davis for me. Ultimately, I decided on Davis, who also qualifies in the outfield. Two of the last three seasons he’s hit at least 47 homers with 117 RBIs and 100 runs scored. He’s one of the top-3 power hitters in the game. I’ll take that in round three.

George Springer

3.05 – George Springer (Gonos) – Springer dealt with a wrist injury midseason that sapped playing time as well as a little power, but he still posted a good partial season. He didn’t hit as many homers (per game) as some bad projections expected, nor did he post as many Ks. He even put together a nice hitting streak and managed a solid .367 on-base percentage. Love the power-speed combo potential from this 26-year-old.

3.06 – Lorenzo Cain (Collette) – Two consecutive seasons with 28 steals and power numbers finally showed up for him too. Throw in the 101 runs, 72 driven in and the .307 average and you have a solid all-around producer. He’s the safer Adam Jones and I don’t think we’ve seen his ceiling yet.

3.07 – Yoenis Cespedes (Erickson) – Yes, I’m buying high. But he’s one of three remaining high power guys, and I already have a third baseman, and he doesn’t play in Seattle (hopefully). Please sign somewhere hitter-friendly!

3.08 – Justin Upton (Heaney) – Yo, J-Up. Back again. Why wouldn’t I be? You’re 28 and have 25-plus homers in each of the last three years. You even got your stealing legs back. Sure, you actually hit better at Petco Park, but it’d be awesome if you could find another club and a better home field. Still, keep it going. You do you.

3.09 – Matt Carpenter (Schwartz) – Carpenter is no longer eligible at 2B but his bat is plenty strong enough to carry third. He clearly sold out for power in the second half last season, finishing with a career-high 28 homers, but at the expense of a career-low .272 batting average and a career-high strikeout rate. However, he maintained his excellent walk rate and topped 100 runs again, so his skills evolved, rather than deteriorating. Who knows what shape his value will take in 2016, but his three-year average – .288, 109 runs, 16 HR, 77 RBI, 4 SB – seems like a reasonable expectation.

3.10 – Jake Arrieta (Zinkie) – I know most of us don’t like to draft pitchers in the early rounds, but it’s hard to believe that Arrieta will be anything less than terrific next season. Now that we have moved past the top 20 hitters, I think it is time for the aces.

3.11 – Xander Bogaerts (Michaels) – If we can feel ok about Correa as a first-rounder, for sure we can feel just as ok with the now veteran Bogaerts 20 selections later. Still just 23, going into his third full season, Bogaerts banged 196 hits last year, 35 of which were doubles, to go with 10 swipes. I expect with age the power numbers will indeed go up, and well, the shortstop is still five years shy of what should be his peak seasons.

3.12 – Jose Fernandez (DiFino) – I’m a little worried about the arm acting up again, but I think a full offseason and fresh return in 2016 will counter those fears. Tons of Ks, low ERA and WHIP. My guess is he creeps up to late second round after some dominant spring training starts.

ROUND 4

4.01 – Gerrit Cole (DiFino) – He’s pretty much cemented himself as a stud. I usually do these mocks as best player available, but at the turn here, I had the ability to get 400+ strikeouts, with low ratios over 400 IP. I can’t see these two lasting this late four months from now.

4.02 – Zack Greinke (Michaels) – Pick 4.02 is hardly “fortuitous,” with Greinke arguably having among the best individual seasons of anyone in 2015, and one that was in fact statistically better than his Cy Young season of 2009. Greinke is still just 32 so I am pretty ok with him here.

4.03 – Adam Jones (Zinkie) – Jones was regularly selected in the late-first or early-second round in recent seasons, with the expectation for a high batting average, 30 homers, 90 RBIs, 90 runs and a handful of swipes. The fourth round seems like the right time to gamble that he can get back to those levels in 2016. Even if he repeats his injury-affected 2015 production, he will be a decent fourth-round selection.

Corey Seager, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

4.04 – Corey Seager (Schwartz) – There is nothing in Seager’s track record — in the minors or in his ~100 at-bat MLB debut — that suggests he won’t hit for a plus average and power, with strong plate discipline and a few steals thrown in for good measure. In fact, from the date of his MLB debut on September 3 through the end of the season, he ranked 12th in MLB (and led all shortstops) in OPS. I have no idea how the market will value him come March, but in my view he’s clearly the best SS left on the board so I have no problem setting the price for this draft.

4.05 – Brian Dozier (Heaney) – I didn’t want to take an ace yet — there a few more I think fall in the category — and considered an advantage at catcher. But instead I’ll favor the 20-20 guy in the middle infield who already has accomplished a full-season feat. Despite his second straight season showing signs of a second-half drop-off, he’ll again rank among the leaders in home runs among second basemen and middle infielders, and he’ll approach 20 steals and 90 runs again because of his excellent base running. Full seasons of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will help with the latter.

4.06 – David Price (Erickson) – I’ll take Price and hope he lands in the NL so that he can enjoy the Scherzer bump. There’s still about five more aces remaining, maybe more pending your definition, but now seems to be the time to jump in this league.

4.07 – Miguel Sano (Collette) – When you take a pitcher in the first round, you have to make up for the power numbers quickly. Even after coming off a 2015 season when homers made a bounceback, power numbers are still necessary. So, I’m taking Sano in the top 50. He hit 33 bombs and drove in 100 between Triple-A and the bigs last year. Sure, he struck out a ton in the majors, but he took his walks as well. Steamer has him in the top 6 for home runs for 2016 and the top 8 for runs driven in. He’s worth filling a utility spot this early in the draft.

4.08 – Chris Sale (Gonos) – Innings, wins and strikeouts lead my way of thinking for an early- round starting pitcher. While Sale’s wins were low (13) last season, the White Sox are on the upswing, with eyes on improving their offense again. He struck out 274 batters last season, which is a high mark in his career, but so was his 3.41 ERA. I can reasonably expect both to buoy back just a bit.

4.09 – Todd Frazier (Flowers) – The last two seasons Frazier has averaged 32 homers, 85 RBIs, 85 runs and 17 steals. Amongst third basemen, that places him second in homers, fourth in RBIs, third in runs and first in steals. I’ll take all that even if it comes with a .260 batting average in the 4th round of a draft.

4.10 – Kyle Schwarber (Zola) – While we all approach scarcity differently, I think we can all agree catcher deserves some measure of a bump, tempered by injury risk, etc. My engine has this year’s bump as big as I can remember. The catch is all receivers get the bump. As such, the trick is figuring out where you realize an even bigger ROI while everyone else is getting the standard ROI during the inevitable catcher’s run(s) — without giving up opportunity cost at that spot. Assuming my expectation for Schwarber comes to fruition, this is the spot. FWIW – in a vacuum I have him as a first rounder. I KNOW he won’t make it to the 6/7 turn so I need to jump in 4 or 5. I’m more confident there will be an acceptable player in 5 than Schwarber makes it through the turn so I’ll take him here. Probably 100 words and not a peep about the player. I have him at .265 with 29 HR in 525 AB which is aggressive but defensible if he doesn’t just catch.

4.11 – Madison Bumgarner (Steinhorn) – I usually don’t take a starting pitcher this early but grabbing a true ace seems to be more important these days than in years past. Among the elite group, I see Bumgarner as the safest option still on the board. The only concern is that eventually all of the innings might catch up to him.

4.12 – Carlos Gomez (Van Riper) – Gomez is on the short list of players still available that I like as a possible 20-homer, 30-steal player in 2016. Perhaps I am assuming too much in terms of a return to health, but I think the injuries he dealt with through the year ultimately drove down his overall value more than any sort of significant skills erosion.

ROUND 5

5.01 – Carlos Gonzalez (Van Riper) – At this point, I’m all-in on health-risk, but Gonzalez’s second half was completely ridiculous. For the first time since 2012, his strikeout rate (21.9% K%) was in line with his career norms, and while it may be dumb to buy-in after the Rockies finally found a way to get him on the field for a career-high 153 games last season, the 35-40 HR version of Gonzalez with minimal contributions in the SB department actually fits my core very well with Blackmon’s limitations in the power department.

5.02 – Nelson Cruz (Steinhorn) – I didn’t buy into him for 2015 but won’t make the same mistake this time around. At 35, he’s getting a bit long in the tooth, and I’m not expecting another .300+ AVG season. But I don’t see anyone else available with legit 40-HR potential, and Cruz should again be a strong contributor in RBI and runs.

5.03 – Kyle Seager (Zola) – Would have considered MadBum here but will push pitching for a bit – something I won’t do in a 15-team league. The hot corner has added some top end talent but is still weak at the back end so I’ll take Corey’s big brother, still one of the safest options at the spot with a monster year in there somewhere.

5.04 – Troy Tulowitzki (Flowers) – Tulo is just 31 years old, and though no longer with the Rockies, he’s part of the best offense in baseball with the Blue Jays, and Toronto is a great place to hit. Per 162 games played for his career, Tulo’s average effort is .297-29-100-103. It was just two years ago that Troy was a first round selection. I’ll take the shot given his lowest draft cost since 2009.

5.05 – Anthony Rendon (Gonos) – Rendon landed on the DL before Opening Day because of a sprained MCL, and he strained his oblique about a month later while rehabbing the injury. Once he returned, he never seemed to get on track, but that doesn’t erase what he did the previous two years as one of the best power-hitting middle infielders in the game. He’ll have 2B/3B eligibility and a fresh start in 2016, at just 26 years old. Prime time!

5.06 – Robinson Cano (Collette) – The intestinal issue and his grandfather’s death were rough on him last year. Once future Hall-of-Famer Edgar Martinez took over as hitting coach, Cano’s numbers returned to Cano-like status as he hit .317/.369/.523 from that point through the end of the season.

Jason Kipnis

5.07 – Jason Kipnis (Erickson) – I’m very tempted to take a second ace here, but in a 12-team league I’ll take my chances on what comes, as the hitters are already starting to dry up. I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about this pick, as I don’t know if the power is coming back for Kipnis. I think I’ll get a good average, lots of runs, and some production in HR/SB, enough to make him worth this pick.

5.08 – Corey Kluber (Heaney) – Several possible directions, but offensive players are blending together. So I’ll take the recent Cy Young winner who fell into some bad luck last year. A much better defense on the left side of the infield should lead to more wins, adding trimmings to his elite skills. Banking on a sub-3.50 ERA with at least 9.0 K/9 and pristine control, and an improved Tribe club would push his wins into the mid-teens.

5.09 – Aroldis Chapman (Schwartz) – You guys can have your “aces”, you know I’m gonna take the elite closers. There’s a lot to be said for Craig Kimbrel, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see the gradual decline in his performance over the past few seasons, and I’m generally fearful of players moving into historically hostile new homes like Boston (Crawford and Hanley come quickly to mind). Instead, I’ll take the guy who is the new gold standard at the position, having averaged 36 saves and 114 K’s over the past four years, with a 1.90 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.

5.10 – Corey Dickerson (Zinkie) – If injury free, I’m expecting him to provide the numbers that were expected in 2015, when he was a top-50 pick in virtually all drafts.

5.11 – Prince Fielder (Michaels) – I do hate to give up the utility spot so early, but Prince returned to the land of the hitting last year, and at age 31 (32 in May) will probably take a step up from his very good 2015 to the numbers he assembled between 2006-13. And, well, frankly, I need the power.

5.12 – Matt Harvey (DiFino) – in context of my team, I love the fact that I have a staff built around Cole, Fernandez, and Harvey. I can relax for a little bit with pitching. Out of context, I’m getting a pitcher with a sub-2.75 ERA, sub-1.05 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning at the end of the fifth round. I find this to be tremendous value

ROUND 6

6.01 – Yasiel Puig (DiFino) – At this time last year, we were debating the merits of Puig as a first-round pick. He’s now fallen all the way to the sixth. This slippage also happened — to a far less dramatic degree — with Bryce Harper last year. I think Puig, at just 24 years old, still has some developing power, can hit for .280-plus, and can flirt with 15 steals. I’m willing to chalk 2015 up to a lost year. A change in coaching staff could give him new perspective. If he falls short again, such is life. But if he plays up to potential, I just got a top-20 player at 6.01.

6.02 – Michael Brantley (Michaels) – Hard to believe that a .310-15-84-15 year would drop Brantley from a third round pick to a sixth-rounder, but since he fell this far, I feel obliged to grab him.

6.03 – Wade Davis (Zinkie) – Across the past two seasons, he has a 0.97 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. And now he’s the closer on arguably the best team in baseball. I’m not sure if he’s the No. 1 closer for 2016, but he’s certainly in the discussion.

6.04 – Kenley Jansen (Schwartz) – You guys knew this one was coming, right? Jansen overcame an injury-delayed start to his season, and an ERA-inflating career-worst HR/FB ratio, to earn 36 saves with a microscopic 0.78 WHIP and dominating 80-8 K-BB ratio. Here’s hoping the Dodgers’ new manager uses him more intelligently than the last guy, but either way, he’ll pair with Aroldis to give me the elite bullpen around which I like to build my pitching.

6.05 – Ian Desmond (Heaney) – Alongside that ghastly .233 clip, he hit 19 homers, stole 13 bags and hit .262 with 12 dingers in the second half — the power being in line with recent norms. He might even land in a better home park than the Nats’. Sure, he’s streaky, but an established 20-20 threat at shortstop to go with Brian Dozier leaves me with a stat-stuffing middle infield. And batting average at this point in a 12-teamer…definitely not a concern for me.

Jacob deGrom

6.06 – Jacob deGrom (Erickson) – I’m pleasantly surprised to have deGrom available to me here. He belongs in that first tier of starting pitchers, and was a consideration for me last round when I took Kipnis. The NL East is going to be a happy hunting ground again for starting pitchers, with the Braves and Phillies likely tanking again, and perhaps the Marlins again too.

6.07 – Jason Heyward (Collette) – Going with the Jay-Hey kid here. Heyward is going to get a fat contract and he’s going to be in a better park. I think the 2015 GB/FB is the outlier and he’ll get back to the 20/20 days of 2012 but with a better average as he makes more contact these days.

6.08 – Freddie Freeman (Gonos) – A wrist injury this past summer has pushed him out of the first three or four rounds of 2016 fantasy drafts, down into the sixth round. He adds a positive batting average with plus-power to my infield.

6.09 – Adam Eaton (Flowers) – I’ve got oodles of power with the likes of Correa/Tulo up the middle and Frazier/Davis at the corners, so let’s add some speed and average in Eaton. It took him awhile to get going last year but he ended up going 14/18 with a .287 average and 98 runs scored. That’s the level of production we should be expecting from him moving forward, maybe a little less pop given the sudden increase in power, but the soon to be 27-year-old hits atop a good lineup, in a good park, and is just entering his physical prime.

6.10 – Adrian Gonzalez (Zola) – DVR and Zach aren’t reading these, right? Each has a SP and there are still four arms left I can feel safe with starting my staff so unless all four are gone in the next four picks, I’m safe taking another bat here. I’ll choose one of the more reliable and productive hitters year after year in Gonzalez. I’m OK with the lack of huge upside since I’m looking at volume of counting stats – my upside will be in pitching later.

6.11 – Adrian Beltre (Steinhorn) – Maybe the 30-HR days are a thing of the past but Beltre was tremendous in the second half last season (.318 AVG, 11 HR, 61 RBI) and will continue to benefit from playing his home games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Here’s hoping that he has at least one more highly productive season left in his bat.

6.12 – Stephen Strasburg (Van Riper) – Sure, the constant issues with injuries and potential lingering shoulder/lat/back trouble that makes him look weirdly uncomfortable between pitches all too often is a concern. He has already flashed ability to be a top-3 starting pitcher, and the floor is also very high: four straight seasons with a WHIP of 1.15 or better. When he’s on the mound, he’ll provide a strikeout rate that ranks among the league leaders. Among qualified starters, only Kershaw, Sale, Scherzer and Darvish have a higher K-BB% since the start of the 2013 season than Strasburg. Finally, his second half was crazy good: 1.90 ERA, 12.5 K/9 – was he actually 100% healthy at the end of the year? Maybe I’m buying a BMW that runs pretty well even though it was in a flood and has quirky electrical problems. Maybe I’m just buying a BMW at a nice discount.

ROUND 7

7.01 – Noah Syndergaard (Van Riper) – I dare Bobby Parnell to take his lunch again. Syndergaard is one of five first-year starting pitchers in the Expansion Era (min 50 IP) to post a K/BB of 5.0 or better. Strikeouts, control, ground balls and plenty of chances to eat in the NL East. Sign me up. Thor tossed 198.2 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2015 (counting the postseason), so workload restrictions should not be a concern at all.

7.02 – Felix Hernandez (Steinhorn) – Two starting pitchers in the first seven rounds? Have I gone mad? No, I’m just experimenting with something different. Whether or not this experiment extends into my real drafts remains to be seen. For the first time ever, you probably won’t need to spend a top-50 pick on King Felix this year, which is good news for owners who choose to wait on drafting their first SP. He’s my second SP but if I knew he would be available here, I might’ve went with a hitter in Round 4 instead of Bumgarner. Felix’s unusually high 3.53 ERA was heavily influenced by four starts of 7+ ER. They do count, but just saying.

7.03 – Sonny Gray (Zola) – As mightily as they tried to foil my plan, Zach and DVR failed, leaving me one of the hurlers I’ll gladly choose as my first arm in Sonny Gray. His whiff rate isn’t elite but he’ll provide a solid base of punch outs from volume.

Matt Kemp

7.04 – Matt Kemp (Flowers) – Kemp is just 31 years old, and though it wasn’t always pretty, he did hit 23 homers, drive in 100 runs and score 80 times. You know how many outfielders did that in 2015? The answer is five, and that’s if you include Chris Davis (Bautista, Cespedes, JDM). If you add in his 12 steals, Kemp was the only outfielder in 2015 to go 20-100-80-10. Was tempted to grab my first SP here, but I’ll wait since everyone seems to blow their arm out these days.

7.05 – Chris Archer (Gonos) – You knew the homer pick was coming soon, but Archer has developed into the next-man-up ace that the Rays have become famous for producing. He struck out 252 hitters in 212 innings in 2015, and concerns over arm soreness late in the season could be due to a career-high in innings. But in Round 7, the risk is worth the 250-K pitcher reward as my second pitcher.

7.06 – Carlos Carrasco (Collette) – I’ll refer to my First Pitch talking points in the Archer vs Carrasco debate:

-Last 2 seasons, Carrasco better ERA, WHIP, K%, BB%
-Archer has one of the best pitches in the game; Carrasco has better overall arsenal
-Carrasco has better defensive support while Archer enjoys better home park

7.07 – Andrew Miller (Erickson) – Miller now has two consecutive 100+ strikeout seasons and has kept his walk rate below 10 percent for those two years. There’s some injury risk coupled with the risk of replacement by a highly skilled pitcher in Dellin Betances, but that’s already been factored into the cost relative to other closers.

7.08 – Craig Kimbrel (Heaney) – At this point in the player pool, the “big-strikeout closer” idea works. The ever-steady Kimbrel ranked fifth among all relievers with his absurd 36.4 K% and should enjoy his new club’s setup weapons.

7.09 – Jacoby Ellsbury (Schwartz) – He’s been a first-round producer at several occasions in his career and was off to a strong start last year (.324/.412/.372 with 14 steals in 37 games) before a sprained knee undermined his season. He showed that ability again during a two-week hot streak in late August (.348/.392/.507 from August 13 to 30) so I’ll gamble my seventh round pick that he still has the skills to be an elite performer.

7.10 – Hanley Ramirez (Zinkie) – By Round 7, it feels like the right time to take a chance on Hanley. He can’t possibly continue to be as bad as he was last summer…right?

7.11 – Kole Calhoun (Michaels) – I guess if there was ever a lucky pick, #7.11 should be it? Anyway, I was big on Calhoun last year, before he hit .256-26-83. Happy to get those numbers from him again this late, but suspect as a settled regular, the average and doubles and swipes might go up a bit.

7.12 – Rougned Odor (DiFino) – One of my biggest Tout Wars 2015 regrets was trading Odor back to Cory Schwartz in the middle of his hot streak. This is one of those rare instances where we get to see a player develop in the majors. He’s 21 years old, and hit .273 with 12 home runs in the second half of the year. There aren’t minor league numbers to point to here — he’s doing it all at the highest level of play. I can see .280/22 HR and then 6-12 steals being a legitimate line from what looks to be a weak middle infield crop in 2016.

ROUND 8

8.01 – Billy Hamilton (DiFino) – The 57 steals in 114 games look great. The .226 average, not so much. But as much as I don’t like to use BABIP as a crutch, a player with speed like Hamilton’s should be sporting one far higher than .264. Dropping the fly balls (37%) just a little bit and upping the LD and GB% could lead to more beat-out grounders. Easier said than done, especially in the Age of The Shift, but in a worst-case scenario, Hamilton plays 140 games, hits .235 and steals 70 bases.

8.02 – Kolten Wong (Michaels) – Though Wong’s power numbers were down from when he earned a starting gig in 2014, his on-base numbers and contact rate jumped nicely, and well, I do just love those players who are going into their third full season. Now a seasoned veteran, I am thinking Wong knows he belongs and will up the .262-11-61 line with 15 swipes, increasing the counting numbers by a third per category, and maybe hitting closer to .270.

8.03 – Cole Hamels (Zinkie) – I have minor concerns about his first full season in the AL, but I’m still really happy with Hamels as my second starter. I feel like a SP drop off comes around this point.

8.04 – Hunter Pence (Schwartz) – The one thing I hate about early mock drafts is that I am very much a rankings/projections-oriented drafter, so without any such references in front of me for 2016, I have no real sense of whether I’m taking anyone too early or too late. But on gut feeling it seems like a good time to grab Pence, adding him to my “2014 stud, 2015 dud” outfield along with Stanton and Ellsbury. Prior to last year, he was one of the most consistent, reliable producers in fantasy, averaging .280 with 24 HR, 89 RBI and 13 SB over the past seven seasons. A broken forearm and strained oblique limited him to only 52 games last season, but he still managed 9 HR, 40 RBI and 4 SB’s in that time, very consistent with his previous production, so I expect more of the same in 2016.

8.05 – Albert Pujols (Heaney) – Ask me again about this pick in March. Pujols might start the season on the disabled list after foot surgery, and he’s turning 36 in January. Still, he will have plenty of time to rest his foot, which showed signs of hindering him late last year after his torrid 40-homer year. Lower-body strength and precision breed power, after all. Successful recovery from surgery should give him at least one more great year. Even if he hits “only” 25 homers, that’s fine value in Round 8, a price much easier to match via replacement player from the deepest infield position.

8.06 – Mark Melancon (Erickson) – Thank you, Tim. I kept finding reasons to not take Pujols (which means that I need to downgrade him in my rankings), so you took that out of my decision tree. I’ll grab my second closer with Melancon. He’s no flamethrower, to be sure, as we all remember his radar readings in April and May. But then he ended the season just fine. I like having my two closers locked up after 10 rounds, though I’m a little worried about the hitter pool after this. Expect hitter selections for the next 4-to-5 rounds.

8.07 – Ken Giles (Collette) – Bring me your big K rate, your low ratios, and even garbage teams need to have someone to close games out. If he gets traded to Houston, all the better.

Francisco Lindor

8.08 – Francisco Lindor (Gonos) – The attack of the young shortstops began in 2015, and while Carlos Correa got all the hype, and Addison Russell made the playoffs with his Cubbies, Lindor was quietly a solid player in all Roto categories. He’s a .300 hitter that gets on base in multiple ways, with a realistic chance at a 20-20 season in 2016. At just 22 years old, we could see even more power sprout from his bat at any time.

8.09 – Danny Salazar (Flowers) – Salazar had a better ERA than Carlos Carrasco (3.45 to 3.63). Salazar had a better WHIP than Chris Archer (1.13 to 1.14). Salazar had a better K/9 rate than Jake Arrieta (9.49 to 9.28). Salazar had a better BB/9 rate than Sonny Gray (2.58 to 2.55). His talent is immense and he could better the numbers he posted last season.

8.10 – Dallas Keuchel (Zola) – Before I get to Keuchel, I just want to say I love Dave’s Lindor pick and am kicking myself for not taking him in the SIXTH though I’ll take the under on his HR and over on the SB (understanding 20/20 was an upside, not expectation). While I’m not thrilled to start a mixed staff with two AL hurlers, I have them ranked second and fourth in the junior circuit so I’m not losing any sleep over it. Anyone that played DFS knows Keuchel’s strikeout rate really improved over the course of the season and while I don’t expect him to maintain 2015’s 2H rate for all of 2016, I do anticipate an improvement from 2015’s seasonal mark.

8.11 – Jeurys Familia (Steinhorn) – Time to take a closer before the rest of the top tier (I think) will go off the board. By now, it’s safe to say that Familia has earned a spot in the elite group. The one concern about him in drafts this year is that he might carry a postseason tax, but 8.11 seems like a fine time to draft him.

8.12 – Zach Britton (Van Riper) – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 79.1% GB% before. Britton missed bats at a very good clip too (10.8 K/9, 31.2% K%), and seems well equipped to handle another season closing out games for the Orioles. I was slow to the party and missed out entirely last season, but the potential for more K’s was there thanks to the freaky combo of mid-upper 90s velocity and movement he gets on the fastball/cutter/creature he throws.

ROUND 9

9.01 – David Robertson (Van Riper) – Remember when the White Sox won the Winter Meetings? Good times. Between now and March, I would like to take a closer look at his tumbling LOB%, which has followed his plummeting GB% (50.9% in 2013, 44.2% in 2014, 35.6% in 2015), but he should have plenty of job security thanks to the big contract, and I can stomach the suddenly heavy fly ball tendencies with the improved control he showed in Year 1 on the south side of Chicago.

9.02 – Trevor Rosenthal (Steinhorn) – I’ll also double up on closers and go with Rosenthal, who despite being shaky at times last season, still finished with 48 saves in 51 chances, a 2.10 ERA and 10.9 K/9. With Familia and Rosenthal on board, I won’t need to think about closers for awhile.

9.03 – Cody Allen (Zola) – I realize closer is a crapshoot but it surprises (and pleases) me that Allen is here, considering six of the last nine picks have been for saves. Allen started out slow with a couple of April blow-ups but after that was nails. A high walk rate keeps Allen from the overall elite, but his K-rate is right up there – works for me.

9.04 – Johnny Cueto (Flowers) – Cueto wasn’t very good with the Royals last season before he had that dominating playoff start that reminded everyone just who he is. Even in a down 2015 effort, he still posted a 1.13 WHIP with a career best 3.83 K/BB ratio. For his career, the righty owns a 3.30 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and I see no reason to expect his numbers in 2016 to be any worse and they could still be better. His last three healthy seasons he’s also hit the 170-strikeout mark.

9.05 – Garrett Richards (Gonos) – Rather than focus on an ERA that was a full run higher than his breakout 2014 season that was cut short by a knee injury, I’m going to key on a veteran pitcher who has shown great skill in the past. He’s coming off his first 200-inning season, and is beyond the nasty injury from a couple years ago. He walked more than he/we wanted (hasn’t every pitcher?), but working on his command/control is probably atop his offseason to-do list. Also, I like pitchers on teams with former catchers as managers.

9.06 – Brett Gardner (Collette) – Despite the wrist issue, his numbers held up last year until the second half when he once again fell off the face of the earth statistically. Apparently, you’re only allowed three cortisone injections in a season and he used his three lifelines up in the first half. He hit .302/.377/.484 before the break and .206/.300/.292 after it as wrist issues severely impacted his power. He’s a lock for 85+ runs and 20+ steals, even on the wrong side of 30. Ironically, the thing holding down his average these past two seasons is issues vs RHP rather than LHP. He’s done better against them in years past, so perhaps that skill can resurface.

9.07 – David Ortiz (Erickson) – In the “things said every year” department, I hate using a DH slot early, but Ortiz is worth it, especially having taken four pitchers with my first eight picks. The bat is slowing a little, but there’s still 25+ homer potential left.

Jorge Soler

9.08 – Jorge Soler (Heaney) – Time to start stretching. There’s still enough pitching left, so let’s grab some offensive upside. His 2015 numbers didn’t match the hype that came after 2014. But in his abbreviated season, sapped by ankle and oblique injuries, he flashed with a tiny but notable power surge at the end of the year while reminding us how hard he hits the ball in general. Soler, turning 24 before the season, is a tempting “last year’s trash, this year’s treasure” type, with 30 homers possible.

9.09 – Maikel Franco (Schwartz) – Franco made the jump to the bigs last year without leaving any of his skills behind, maintaining a league-average walk rate, a better-than-average strikeout rate and solid power. His fly ball and HR/FB rates might not support 30-homer production just yet, but he should hit 20-25 and drive in plenty of runs, assuming the Phillies are able to build any semblance of an offense around him.

9.10 – Eric Hosmer (Zinkie) – Nothing too exciting, but I expect him to produce roughly .300-20-90-90 as the Royals’ cleanup hitter. And chip in a few steals. Even at a deep position such as first base, that is solid production from a ninth-round selection.

9.11 – Travis d’Arnaud (Michaels) – Amazingly, only two backstops have been taken thus far, and I have one (Buster Posey) with the other–Kyle Schwarber–not even really being a catcher anymore. So, since I am sticking with hitting, why not exploit that to the tune of grabbing the guy I like next best, and that would be the up-and-coming d’Arnaud, who will build on an .825 OPS.

9.12 – Carlos Martinez (DiFino) – In his first full season as a starter (minus those two relief appearances), Martinez delivered on a lot of his promise, finishing with a 3.01 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 9.2 K/9. I’m guessing they let him tease 200 IP this year, and banking on the idea that his rise in ERA and WHIP (and decrease in K/9) in the second half were just due to a young pitcher putting more innings on his arm than he ever had before while dealing with general fatigue issues.

ROUND 10

10.01 – Addison Russell (DiFino) – I didn’t expect Russell to arrive until 2016, so his 142-game stint last year was a great surprise, especially viewed through the lens of this draft. Russell was allowed to play through slumps and met them with, mostly, success. I expect his speed to pop back up to the double-digit level, and I’m optimistically thinking he can hit 17-20 home runs, alongside an average that could hover around .280. I’m really excited to see how his power develops. He’s still 21 years old and just hit 13 home runs while splitting time between two very difficult positions at the major league level. Settling into one spot and having the full year behind him could be huge.

10.02 – Jordan Zimmermann (Michaels) – Interesting how pitching has played out so far in a shallow draft and league where the competition is tight. I have one starter and no relievers. A few teams do have several starters, or a melange of arms, and my mate Cory has done the opposite, grabbing a pair of closers, but no starters, while I am taking Zimmermann as my second starter in round 10. I do think paired with Greinke, the pair make a formidable base, no matter where Zim signs. But, equally interesting is how a lot of us choose to chase pitching over the second half of the draft. As for closers, with ideally 30 available, and with 12 teams, suggesting two is enough for each team, that leaves roughly eight for me to pick through while other teams set at stopper fill other holes. So it is there I would chase saves, maybe grabbing three save merchants (or would be ones).

10.03 – Jon Lester (Zinkie) – I don’t really need another pitcher, but I feel like Lester should be drafted by the end of round 10. After the break last season, he went 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 98 strikeouts across 94 2/3 innings. His monthly splits were inconsistent last year, but he may be more steady in his second season with the Cubs.

10.04 – Dellin Betances (Schwartz) – This is a 12-team mixed league, so I’m going on the assumption that serviceable SP’s will be available throughout the later rounds, and will continue building from the back forward with the most dominant non-closer in baseball last season. Betances led all relievers with 131 K’s, complemented by a 1.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, six wins and even nine saves while Andrew Miller nursed an injury. He’ll either be an elite closer in 2016 or an elite set-up guy, but in either case the combination of Aroldis, Kenley and Dellin essentially gives me the ratios and K’s of the best starting pitcher in baseball, plus 75 or 90 or even as many as 120 saves.

10.05 – Gregory Polanco (Heaney) – Contemplated taking him over Soler last round, so I’ll double-dip here for a better shot at that 40 HR+SB pattern I dig so much. Polanco should be “Pull-anco” the way his swing goes to right field. At 24 with experience and coming off last year’s second-half power improvements, he should propel toward 15 HR. Paired with 30 SB, a la teammate Starling Marte? Sign me up.

10.06 – Shin-Soo Choo (Erickson) – On one hand, I was a little hesitant to choose Choo, because left-handers chew him up (though not as badly last year as in previous years), and because he eschews stealing bases compared to the past. But when he was finally healed from the ankle injury that ruined his 2014 year, we saw what he’s capable of doing. He’s going to score a ton of runs with Texas and hit with a good baseline of power, even if the steals never return.

Mike Moustakas

10.07 – Mike Moustakas (Collette) – Last year was a quasi-breakout for Moose in that he finally learned how to hit to all fields and stopped letting lefties own him like the Patriots own the Bills. He continues to make more contact while his power numbers have gone up (ISO up three straight seasons). Hit .269 and slugged .522 after the break as he began lofting the ball more. Outside shot at 30 homers in 2016.

10.08 – Christian Yelich (Gonos) – Hoping the 23-year-old can fill out his 6-foot-4 frame with some more power potential. Yelich should help me in all categories as my OF3. His early- season slump made a repeat of his 2014 season impossible, but he’s still a promising young hitter in a park that’s moving the fences in a bit for 2016.

10.09 – Dexter Fowler (Flowers) – Fowler doesn’t have a team yet, but whomever signs him will almost certainly bat him at the top of their lineup. Three homers short of a 20/20 season with 100 runs scored, it’s doubtful he will fully match those numbers again, though the soon-to-be 30-year-old has the talent to repeat. Oddly, despite all his success, he posted his lowest OBP since his rookie season (.346).

10.10 – Randal Grichuk (Zola) – Is is too early? Eh, maybe. My numbers say this is the right spot but there’s a good chance the market may be bearish and I could have waited, at least through the turn, maybe longer. Truthfully, I don’t care. I like the player, despite the strikeouts, and if the RedBirds play him 140 or so times, I’ll be fine. If not, I’ll be angry at Dave and Ray for drafting the two guys I had above him on my short list.

10.11 – Ian Kinsler (Steinhorn) – He isn’t a 30/30 guy anymore but Kinsler remains a solid five-category producer who should again rank among the league leaders in runs. After hitting only three homers in the first half of last season, he left the yard eight times in the second half, so maybe there’s still 18-20 HR potential. Just as important, he’s played in at least 154 games in four of the last five seasons, so the injury-prone label no longer applies.

10.12 – Jonathan LuCroy (Van Riper) – Maybe it’s a slight reach, but Luc seems like a great rebound candidate after a year in which he was battling injury very soon after the start of spring training. He should still have a prominent place near the heart of the order, providing a stable RBI + R count along with his good AVG and 10-12 HR. Tactically, I may be more inclined to address catchers in the middle third of drafts as finding value at the position in the endgame is often very challenging.

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Zach’s Final Postseason Musings (11/2)

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2015 All-Fantasy Team  

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Top Bounceback Candidates for 2016

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World Series Royals Mets Baseball

World Series Game 3 – Royals @ Mets

David Wright (2-for-5, HR, 4 RBI) launched his lone postseason home run in this game, and in 14 postseason contests, he managed just three extra-base hits to go along with a .185 batting average. In a Mets season that was loaded with positives, Wright’s year wasn’t one of them, as he missed most of the season due to injury. He put up solid numbers when able to take the field, however, and could turn out to be a bargain in 2016 drafts, even factoring in the injury risk. After going for $15 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars this year, I’m expecting his price to drop into the single-digits.

World Series Game 4 – Royals @ Mets

Wade Davis (2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, SV) got the job done yet again on Saturday, and he will have the Royals closer job all to himself in 2016. Considering his dominant numbers over the past two seasons, fantasy owners should not hesitate to draft him among the top-5 closers, despite the thin ninth inning track record.

Even though it was in a losing effort, the performance of Michael Conforto (2-for-3, 2 solo HR) in this game along with his performance during the regular season (nine homers in 174 at-bats) should get fantasy owners excited about his potential. The power is for real and Conforto hit .308 during his minor league career, so this isn’t a player who will be a batting average liability going forward. Look for Conforto to assume an everyday role in 2016, especially in the likely event that the Mets let Yoenis Cespedes walk in free agency.

World Series Royals Mets Baseball

World Series Game 5 – Royals @ Mets

Salvador Perez (1-for-5, RBI) wasn’t exactly a top performer in this game. But it wouldn’t be appropriate to wrap up this Postseason Musings series without paying tribute to the World Series MVP, who went 8-for-22 (.364 AVG) with two doubles, two RBI and three runs scored in the five games against the Mets. Perez, who boasts averages of 19 homers, 70 RBI and 146 games played over the past two seasons, makes for one of the safer mid-round backstop picks in drafts next spring.

Few players improved their fantasy stock more than Curtis Granderson (1-for-4, solo HR, BB, 2 R) in 2015. This is a guy who went for $3 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars this season. Three bucks! Although Granderson is getting up there in age (he will be 35 in March), his steady production atop the Mets lineup this year is plenty impressive, perhaps the most notable stat being his career-high walk rate. Heading into 2016, I’d be more than happy to draft him as my OF3 in a 12-team mixed league.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/30)

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APTOPIX World Series Mets Royals Baseball

World Series Game 1 – Mets @ Royals

Alex Gordon (1-for-5, solo HR) just might prove to be the biggest difference maker in this series, as his ninth inning homer in Game 1 shifted the momentum away from the Mets, who were on the verge of winning their sixth straight postseason game. While Gordon is unlikely to ever reach the superstar status many had predicted upon his initial call-up to the big leagues, he’s been a steady overall player for the Royals and a useful mixed league contributor in fantasy. Even if he declines his $14 million player option for next season, re-signing with the Royals seems like a very real possibility considering the franchise’s success over the past two years and Gordon’s reported preference to remain with the only organization he has ever known.

Michael Cuddyer (0-for-3, 3 K) is starting to look like the next Jason Bay, a big free agent signing by the Mets that simply hasn’t worked out due to both health woes and underperformance. The good news is that the club’s financial commitment to Cuddyer (two years, $21 million) doesn’t come close to the money and years that they invested in Bay (four years, $66 million). And maybe Cuddyer can bounce back in 2016, his age-37 season. But I have my doubts. Fantasy owners are probably better off steering clear of the aging outfielder on draft day.

World Series Game 2 – Mets @ Royals

After getting roughed up by the Blue Jays in his last start, Johnny Cueto (9 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, W) certainly helped both his free agent and fantasy stock with this gem. Still, he has been very up and down (mostly down) since getting traded to the Royals, and I’m not so sure that teams will view him as a legitimate lockdown ace as he looks for a big payday this winter. Expect a hefty contract, but I’d be very surprised if it approaches the six-year, $155 million deal that Jon Lester signed with the Cubs last off-season.

Jon Niese (1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) tossed a scoreless seventh inning before taking the mound in the eighth and turning what was a fairly manageable three-run deficit into a six-run deficit. Prior to this appearance, however, Niese was pitching well out of the bullpen since moving into a relief role during the final week of the regular season, and he’s proven to be a quality back-end of the rotation starter for the Mets throughout his big league career. But an off-season trade seems likely, as there may not be an open rotation spot for him heading into 2016. And assuming that the rest of the staff remains healthy, there definitely won’t be an open rotation spot for him once Zack Wheeler makes his mid-season return. Depending in part on the team he pitches for next season, Niese could be a viable mixed league option when the matchup is right.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/26)

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2015 All-Fantasy Team  

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ALCS Royals Blue Jays Baseball

ALCS Game 6 – Blue Jays @ Royals

Wade Davis (1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, W) really should have entered this game at the start of the eighth inning. But Ned Yost decided to go with Ryan Madson, who promptly blew the lead for the Royals. Fortunately, Davis was his usual dominant self, keeping the score tied before Kansas City took back the lead in the bottom half of the eighth and then tossing a scoreless ninth to earn the win. After enjoying a breakout season in 2014 as the lockdown setup man for the Royals, Davis was just as good if not better this year, registering a 0.94 ERA and 0.79 WHIP and saving 17 games as the club’s ninth inning replacement for the injured Greg Holland. As it turns out, Holland will almost certainly miss the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so Davis, assuming the Royals exercise his reasonable $8 million club option, will enter next season as the undisputed stopper. He could easily post top-5 closer type numbers, and you probably won’t have to pay a top-5 closer price being that he has yet to do it for a full season.

Ben Revere (2-for-5, 2B, R) swiped a modest seven bags in 56 games following his trade deadline move to Toronto, but I’m not too concerned about this. With a combined 80 steals over the past two seasons, the 27-year-old, who happens to be a career .295 hitter, carries plenty of fantasy value. The problem, however, is that his power is nonexistent. And I mean nonexistent, as in four home runs in 645 career games. If this doesn’t bother you, by all means go ahead and grab Revere in the middle rounds next spring. But this bothers me. With consistent power production so hard to find these days, it’s important to not be left behind when it comes to the HR and RBI categories. I prefer to spread out my speed sources. Relying on one or two players for all of your stolen bases is a dangerous strategy, especially if these guys have a negative impact with respect to the other hitting categories.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/22)

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ALCS Game 5 – Royals @ Blue Jays

Chris Colabello (1-for-4, solo HR) is unlikely to receive everyday at-bats in 2016, so his fantasy appeal will be limited mostly to AL-only leagues. But 15 homers in 333 at-bats should not be overlooked. Colabello will have the benefit of a favorable home ballpark along with an ideal supporting lineup, and for now at least, he’s behind only Justin Smoak on the 1B depth chart. AL-only owners should keep his name in mind heading into drafts next spring, and it’s not out of the question that he could surface on the mixed league radar at some point.

Edwin Encarnacion (0-for-3, RBI, R) has put up decent but not great numbers this postseason, and a bases loaded walk in this game isn’t much to get excited about. However, four straight seasons of at least 34 homers and 98 RBI is a lot to get excited about. I wouldn’t have a problem selecting Encarnacion in the first round of a 12-team mixed league draft next year.

NLCS Mets Cubs Baseball

NLCS Game 4 – Mets @ Cubs

Let’s see, Daniel Murphy (4-for-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) continues to do his best Joe Hardy impersonation, Lucas Duda (3-for-4, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI) finally contributes in the postseason and 24-year-old Steven Matz pitches well before running into trouble in the fifth inning and getting bailed out by 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, who strikes out 23-year-old Kris Bryant with runners on first and second to end the inning. Oh, and the Mets are heading to the World Series for the first time in 15 years.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/21)

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ALCS Royals Blue Jays Baseball

ALCS Game 3 – Royals @ Blue Jays

If anyone other than Josh Donaldson (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI) wins the AL MVP, it would be shocking. The Blue Jays third baseman is fresh off a career year in which he led the AL in RBI and Runs and finished tied for 3rd in homers. Considering that he plays in a hitter-friendly park and will continue to benefit from a stacked supporting lineup, a strong case can be made for Donaldson as a top-5 pick in 2016 drafts.

Sure, it was in a losing effort, but let’s not overlook the solid job that Kris Medlen (5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) did in relief of an ineffective Johnny Cueto. Following his mid-July return from Tommy John surgery, Medlen pitched to inconsistent results down the stretch. But this is a guy who won 15 games while posting a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for the Braves back in 2013. After missing one and a half seasons, some rust was to be expected. Medlen figures to open the 2016 campaign in the Royals starting rotation, and as a late-round flier in mixed league drafts, he could deliver a nice profit.

NLCS Game 3 – Mets @ Cubs

Kyle Hendricks (4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, ND) put up quality numbers in his first full big league season, especially at home (3.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). He wore down in the second half, however, registering a 4.44 ERA compared to a 3.55 ERA prior to the All-Star break. Hendricks is still only 25 years of age, so I’m expecting him to improve as he gains more big league experience. For now, think of him as a decent back end of the rotation starter in deeper mixed leagues.

Being that I already discussed each of the top performers from this game in earlier Musings posts, I might as well devote some space to Miguel Montero (0-for-3, K), who has just two hits in 20 at-bats this postseason. I had high hopes for Montero this year, viewing him as an acceptable No. 1 backstop in standard mixed leagues. And while he was a disappointment overall, batting a mediocre .248 and missing a portion of the season due to injury, 15 homers in 113 games is far from disappointing. I wouldn’t mind drafting Montero as my No. 2 catcher next year. He could perform more like a No. 1.

ALCS Game 4 – Royals @ Blue Jays

Ben Zobrist (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI) is enjoying a stellar postseason, batting .361 with a homer, five RBI, five extra-base hits, nine runs scored and a stolen base through ten games. But despite this impressive showing, Zobrist’s fantasy appeal for 2016 will be mainly tied to his position versatility. Once an elite middle infield option, the 34-year-old is no longer producing enough counting stats to be worthy of a starting roster spot outside of deeper mixed leagues.

After a shaky April and May, R.A. Dickey (1 2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR allowed, L) actually pitched extremely well in the second half, going 8-1 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP across 15 starts. But he’s still prone to the disaster outing, and you just never know when that disaster outing will come. On the other hand, when his knuckleball is working, he has the potential to dominate any lineup. For this reason, Dickey is tough to use as a matchup-based option. If you own him, you’re better off starting him every time. Personally, I’m passing on Dickey. I’d rather avoid the additional stress.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/19)

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Edinson Volquez

ALCS Game 1 – Blue Jays @ Royals

As much as Edinson Volquez (6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, W) scares us due to his inconsistency through the years, the reality is that over the past two seasons, he’s gone 26-16 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. I’m not saying I’ll draft him next year, but let’s give the guy some credit.

In what was a very balanced Royals offensive attack, Alcides Escobar (2-for-3, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R) was the only Kansas City batter with more than one hit. Following a strong bounce back campaign in 2014, Escobar was somewhat of a disappointment this year as he saw his batting average fall from .285 to .257 and his stolen base total drop from 31 to 17. But he’s now hitting .321 with five runs scored and a .867 OPS through seven postseason games. After carrying the draft day price tag of a starting shortstop in 12-team mixed leagues heading into the season, Escobar should be there for the taking when mixed leaguers begin to address their starting MI slot next spring. At that cost, I’d be more than willing to grab him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets back to the 30-stolen base level.

NLCS Game 1 – Cubs @ Mets

Matt Harvey (7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, W) was absolutely dominant in this start after getting by without his best stuff against the Dodgers. It’s good to see that Harvey’s pitching is now the main story as opposed to the whole innings restriction controversy. The Mets righty will enter next season as a clear-cut fantasy ace.

Curtis Granderson (1-for-3, 2 RBI) has been a steady presence atop the Mets lineup this year, and he’s continued to produce in the postseason, going 9-for-24 (.375 AVG) with seven RBI and three steals through seven games. Looking ahead to next season, he’s back in the top-30 fantasy outfielder mix, at the very least.

ALCS Game 2 – Blue Jays @ Royals

After a highly impressive rookie campaign, Yordano Ventura (5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, ND) fell short of expectations this season. That said, it’s important to note that in 15 second half starts, he went 9-2 with a 3.56 ERA to go along with 98 strikeouts in 91 innings. Still just 24, Ventura is an intriguing bounce back candidate for 2016.

Mike Moustakas (2-for-4, 2 RBI) finally put it all together in 2015, hitting for both average and power. His second half power surge (15 home runs) suggests that there might be room for further improvement in that department. He’s certainly elevated himself to solid mixed league starting third baseman status.

Lucas Duda

NLCS Game 2 – Cubs @ Mets

In what has been a magical postseason ride for the Mets, there’s been nothing magical about the play of Lucas Duda (0-for-3, 2 K), who is now 2-for-21 this postseason with 13 strikeouts. Duda has always been a very streaky hitter, so ice cold stretches like this one aren’t uncommon for him. But everything is magnified in the playoffs, and I cannot help but think that Duda’s draft stock next spring could take a hit as a result of his October performance. This might actually present a nice buying opportunity for a guy who has launched a combined 57 home runs over the past two seasons. At least in Roto leagues, streakiness doesn’t matter all that much as long as the numbers are there in the end.

Kris Bryant (2-for-4, 2B, RBI) will enter 2016 as a likely top-5 fantasy third baseman, and that distinction is well-deserved. However, my main concern with Bryant in non-keeper leagues is that there will be someone in every draft that reaches for him, perhaps even grabbing him in the first round. And it might work out just fine, but I won’t be the one who takes on that risk. The track record remains thin, and relative to that price, it’s more likely that Bryant will disappoint. Be careful not to go overboard due to the upside.

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Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/16)

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Daniel Murphy

NLDS Game 5 – Mets @ Dodgers

I’m trying to avoid discussing any one player more than once in this Musings series, but it’s impossible to talk about this game without mentioning Daniel Murphy (3-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, SB), who is the biggest reason why the Mets are moving on to the NLCS. While I still don’t consider Murphy anything more than a decent starting MI in 12-team mixed leagues, it is a bummer that the Mets will likely let him walk in free agency this winter. Expect Wilmer Flores to slide over to second base in 2016 with Ruben Tejada manning shortstop.

David Wright (0-for-4, 2 K) picked up a two-RBI single in Game 1, but that turned out to be the only hit he would record in this entire series (1-for-16, 7 K). I wouldn’t pay too much attention to his NLDS struggles, however, as he was productive down the stretch in the regular season upon his return from injury. He’s actually an intriguing value pick if you wait on drafting your third baseman. There’s obviously injury risk here, but .280-20-85 isn’t out of the question if he can avoid the DL, though that line will be influenced by what the Mets do this winter with their offense.

It’s hard to believe that Jeurys Familia (2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, SV) began the 2015 season on the waiver wire in almost all fantasy leagues. The Mets righty rewarded his owners with a top-5 closer season, and while the case of Familia does support the “don’t pay for saves” philosophy, it’s important to realize that there are plenty of waiver wire closer cases that don’t work out well. Brett Cecil, anyone?

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