Mock Madness Recap
Late last week, in honor of the start of March Madness, MLB.com gathered a group of fantasy writers, reporters and show hosts in addition to longtime 411 fans Neighbor Steve and Scott to participate in a 10-team mixed league blitz of a mock draft. The picks were coming in so fast that I actually had to charge my phone multiple times during the Thursday afternoon to Friday evening period, as I was constantly checking my e-mail inbox in order to update our Google spreadsheet and tweet the latest picks.
When it was all over, I asked each of the participants (or at least one representative from the team) to answer the following:
-General strategy going into the draft
And here’s what I got. Teams are listed in order of draft position.
***Also note that the Jurickson Profar pick was made before he tore his right shoulder muscle. At the time, getting Profar at 17.6 looked like a fine value pick for Todd Zola.
ZACH STEINHORN (Fantasy 411 blogger/Mastersball writer) @ZachMLB
General strategy: The classic Fantasy 411 approach of loading up on bats early and waiting on starting pitching. I figured that this strategy would be even more effective in a 10-team mixed, as there would be plenty of high-upside starting pitching options available in the mid to late rounds. I ended up drafting five hitters before taking my first pitcher and was quite pleased to find that Justin Verlander was still available at 6.10. This is a guy who is just two years removed from a Cy Young and MVP season, but injury concerns combined with a somewhat disappointing 2013 campaign have dropped his price tag to a level that makes him an excellent value pick. Another longtime 411 mantra is to draft at least one and preferably two elite stoppers. Rosenthal and Perkins fit that description and getting Cishek as my third closer rounds out what looks to be a dominant bullpen trio.
Best pick: Yeah, the ninth inning sample size is rather small, but from a statistical perspective, Glen Perkins has pitched at a top-5 closer level ever since taking over stopper duties for the Twins midway through the 2012 season. So to get him as my #2 closer in the 11th round seems like a steal.
Worst pick: I like Matt Wieters this year and do consider him to be a tad underrated. But, as many of my league mates will point out, waiting as long as possible to draft your first catcher in a 10-team mixed, one-catcher format is probably the smarter route. Instead of drafting Wieters in the 14th round, I could have gone with Jason Castro in the 21st.
DYLAN HIGGINS/STEVE ADAMS (MLB.com fantasy writers)
General strategy: Steve and I are both pretty happy with our team. We prioritized hitters, especially power and corner bats, waiting until the middle rounds for pitching and the later rounds for middle infielders and closers.
Best pick: Our favorite picks were Zack Greinke in the 9th, Gerrit Cole in the 10th, and Sergio Romo in the 13th, all of which we felt give us elite upside at their positions despite being drafted much later than their talent peers. Our best pick might be Jose Abreu in the 11th, however, as he brings big power upside to our roster late, sliding into our utility slot after we already put solid bats at 1B and CI.
Worst pick: Our weakest pick might be Everth Cabrera in the 12th, despite being a very solid player that we both liked at that value. We were waiting on middle infielders and while we don’t think we overpaid on him at all, there were other perfectly solid shortstops and middle infielders that we could have waited even further on and been happy with.
DAVID LAHTI (MLB.com fantasy writer)
General strategy: Started out wanting to go with best available offense early (got my target guys in Goldy/Kipnis), filling in pitching in the mid-to-late rounds. But I decided to change course in the 3rd/4th rounds with Darvish and Wainwright still available. I had them as the #2 and #4 overall SPs, respectively.
Best pick: Yu Darvish, K leader in 3rd round.
Worst pick: Starling Marte, possible reach in 6th round.
BILL PASSONNO/EVAN BRUNELL (MLB.com fantasy writers)
General strategy: Waiting was the name of the game for us — especially when it came to starting pitching. With no shortage of pitching depth this season, including a treasure trove of young arms still floating around in the later rounds, we focused on securing our position players first. Our top four picks have all recorded at least 30 homers and 95 RBIs in a season at least once in their careers and remain heavily entrenched in their prime. Sure, Troy Tulowitzki is a constant injury risk, but it’s hard to pass up arguably the top player at his position, which is notoriously one of the thinnest in fantasy baseball. We planned to continue building the offensive side in the fifth round. However, Price was simply too good to pass up at that spot. Now healthy, he should have no problem returning to his Cy Young-caliber numbers from 2012, and is a lock for 200-plus strikeouts and possibly 15-plus wins. We returned to shoring up the everyday lineup in the next five rounds, grabbing three guys with eligibility at multiple positions in Zobrist, Santana and Prado to give us additional flexibility. And Mauer will add first-base eligibility in the first week of the season. Afterward, we turned our attention to power arms, grabbing Latos — who is still only 26 years old and has four consecutive 180-strikeout seasons on his resume — and Cobb. Adding Cashner, a popular breakout candidate, in the 15th round was a symbol of the tremendous depth on the mound this year.
Best pick: Carlos Santana
Worst pick: Fernando Rodney
ZACH FINKLESTEIN/FRED ZINKIE (MLB.com fantasy writers)
General strategy: Team Zink/Fink drafted Clayton Kershaw (first round) and Craig Kimbrel (fifth round), arguably baseball’s No. 1 starter and reliever, respectively. Around those selections, we mostly prioritized hitting. In a 10-team league, we thought we could build a formidable pitching staff late in the draft. With that said, getting Kershaw and Kimbrel provides us with a pair of impressive pitching-staff anchors.
We felt we were able to capitalize on this strategy, scooping up Sonny Gray in the 18th round and Lance Lynn with our 21st pick. It is much tougher to acquire high-level hitters late.
One hitting position we waited on was catcher. In a one-catcher league, we felt we could be patient on the backstop position, as there is not much difference between Wilson Ramos (our pick in the 16th round) and some of the receivers who went several rounds before.
Best pick: Team Zink/Fink picked Billy Hamilton in the 10th round of the draft. This is the pick we are most excited about, as Hamilton has a chance to produce first-round-pick value. Keep in mind Hamilton stole a professional-baseball-record 155 bags in 2012. And though he swiped “just” 88 bases during a 2013 season spent mostly in the Minors, the speedster is the only player in baseball with the ability to win an entire fantasy category by himself.
Hamilton is highly unlikely to hit as well during the regular season as he has during Spring Training, but even a .300 on-base percentage would give the speedster ample opportunity to run.
Worst pick: Matt Carpenter probably has the best chance of underperforming his draft spot. He doesn’t have much power or speed, and two of his best skills – hitting doubles and drawing walks – tend to play out better in real baseball than rotisserie fantasy.
Also, if the Cardinals regress in terms of their ability to hit with runners in scoring position in 2014, Carpenter will be all but ensured to watch his runs total drop from its big league-best mark in 2013 (126).
TODD ZOLA (MLB.com/Mastersball writer) @toddzola
General strategy: Balanced hitting, two top SPs to avoid middle tier and top-5 closer.
Best pick: Mark Trumbo – Needed to address power and should have 35+ HR in the desert.
Worst pick: Brian McCann – No need to take a catcher in a 10-team league until the end — NONE. I panicked a little thinking I needed just a little more pop.
MATTHEW LEACH/DEAN CHIUNGOS (MLB.com fantasy writers emeritus)
General strategy: I’m basically a best-available guy. Fairly conventional strategy – hitters before pitchers, unless there’s a pitcher you just can’t pass up.
Best pick: Might be our first one. Getting Braun at #7, to me, is great value. In my previous draft, I had the No. 3 pick, and I almost took him. I would definitely take him at 4. So 7 is a win.
Worst pick: I’m not crazy about taking a closer as high as we took Uehara, unless it’s somebody really elite, and he makes me a little bit nervous. I don’t hate that pick, but I don’t love it either.
CORY SCHWARTZ/MIKE SIANO (Fantasy 411 hosts) @schwartzstops, @thecapt23
General strategy: Our shared Fantasy 411 strategy is governed by three basic principles: get as many big bats as you can, get a killer bullpen, and downplay starting pitching. Check, check and check.
Best pick: We love getting Kenley and Holland back-to-back, especially with the injury to Aroldis Chapman thinning the ranks of the elite closers. We’ll have the best bullpen in the league with this tandem, setting the stage for an above-average pitching staff in general.
Worst pick: We really loved each of our picks!
PETE McCARTHY (MLB.com studio host) @mlbpetemccarthy
General strategy: I try not to pigeonhole myself into having a strategy for the draft. I have my ranked list and I’m going to take the best player available and the structure of my teams will vary from league to league. Generally, I like to find starting pitchers late and don’t take more than one above average closer. If pitchers are flying off the board, it’s possible I’ll fill my entire lineup before drafting a single pitcher. But that’s not the way this draft turned out, as I grabbed Felix Hernandez in the 4th and Jose Fernandez in the 6th.
Best pick: Love me a late-round high risk/reward selection and Josh Hamilton in the 11th round is my kind of gamble. 2013 was a rough year for him but he still hit 21 HRs with 79 RBIs and a .250 average. In the 11th round, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed in those numbers and his ceiling of AL MVP candidate makes him a potential bargain. That’s how you win leagues.
Worst pick: It’s a bit difficult to say already but I was pretty conservative with Adam Jones at #12 overall. While Jones has been mighty consistent to begin his career with the O’s, he might have passed the point where we can expect that major jump in HRs or SBs. Was very tempted to take Hanley Ramirez, who would have been more boom or bust. I suppose having a steady player like Jones allowed me to take some chances with Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Hamilton later, but he’s not the kind of home run pick that can win a league.
STEVE COZZOLINO/SCOTT GILROY (Fantasy 411 fans)
General Strategy: Always go for a balance of power and speed early and five-category contributors where possible. By the end of the first 10 rounds, draft three pitchers: 2 SPs and 1 RP. During the mid to late rounds, address needs and go for high upside late in the draft.
Best pick: Matt Holiday 6.01. Never the sexiest pick, but very consistent and reliable. A great value that late in the draft where OFs of equal or lesser value such as Pence, Heyward and Bruce went more than a round or two earlier.
Worst pick: Overall, we’re very pleased with our draft, but the reach for Kung Fu Panda was our worst pick. A bit of a panic move with how thin 3B was getting plus our target, Kyle Seager, was already nabbed. A-Ram was our other option. Hopefully a major weight loss translates to a major increase in production reminiscent of his 2011 days.
General strategy: Get several elite players at several positions to start and one top-10 SP and get several guys from the 2nd tier later. In a 10- teamer, we knew the #5/6 SP would be easier to fill with a solid option.
Best pick: I was happy to get Harper at 10 but Holliday in the 6th I felt was solid value.
Worst pick: Jose Reyes could turn out to be a bust again but was hard to pass at that spot. I guess Allen Craig concerns me more. I’ve been staying away in most of my drafts.