Early 2016 Expert Mock
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DRAFT RECAP ARTICLES
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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