411 Expert Slow Mock Results + Commentary

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The 2016 List of 12 is here!

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. Paul Sporer – Fangraphs

7. Todd Zola – Mastersball

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) – Hard to argue with using a third-round pick on a starter who pitched at a historic level in the second half of last season. Arrieta belongs somewhere in the top-five starters. He could belong as high as No. 2 or as low as No. 5, depending on an owner’s faith in his ability to hold most of his recent production.

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) – This is pretty much a classic buy-low pick. Puig was going somewhere late in the second round in many drafts last year, and even went in the first round in my NFBC Main Event league last year. He’s now free of Don Mattingly, he’s still young and presumably hasn’t eaten away all of his talent.

7.06 – Prince Fielder (Sporer) – Yeah, it’s DH-only pretty early, but first off I think the notion of having to leave that UT open for later is pretty overrated in addition to the fact that Fielder is really good and might’ve gone a round or two earlier just with 1B eligibility and also there are a lot of DH-only guys who will be going relatively early, so less of the league is getting that “advantage” of having the spot open late for flexibility.

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) –  I needed to see a full year from Salazar. I wasn’t buying in last year due to lack of track record, but I was really impressed with his first full season. The home runs remain an issue that keep him out of legitimate ace consideration (though it’s a fixable problem, especially with his stuff), but even if he’s more low-to-mid 3.00s instead of high-2.00s, he is still a quality #2 because of the big strikeout totals, strong WHIP, and of course the upside for more. I backed him up with Wacha, who is less volatile and I feel great about a Carrasco-Salazar-Wacha trio.  

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) – I waited too long for relief help, and when you’re on one end of the draft, each reliever taken after your pick is like an arrow to your Fantasy heart. Between my ninth and 10th rounders, seven or eight prospective closers were taken. Perkins has 102 saves in his past three seasons, so I’ll take that and hope he holds off Kevin Jepsen.

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) – Forced to take a reliever with back-to-back picks, Tolleson is on the upswing of his career. Last season, he improved on his command and control, and he enters this season as a 35-save candidate again.

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.

12.10 – Jordan Zimmermann (Flowers) – Price, Cueto now Zimmermann. Folks may not be impressed with that trio, but all three should throw 200-innings with strong WHIP’s and certainly an ERA that won’t hurt me at all. Zimmermann slumped a bit last season and now heads to the AL which won’t help, but he’s a solid innings eater that will allow me a chance to take some bigger arms, with more risk, in the coming rounds.

12.11 – Jake Odorizzi (Gonos) – The pattern for success for young Rays pitchers usually goes like this: a promising rookie season is followed by a relatively disappointing sophomore season, before a big breakout year in his third season. Of course, Odorizzi is entering his third season in Tampa Bay’s rotation, or else this whole writeup would be senseless.

12.12 – Marcus Stroman (Michaels) – I guess Stroman is sort of Jose Fernandez lite, with a little lower ceiling his first year, with pretty much a year gone following surgery, and then pretty much a triumphant return over four starts and 27 innings of 4-0, 1.67 ball. On a killer team. he will hopefully spread his wings (and not break one) and become the dominant force anticipated.

ROUND 13

13.01 – Lance McCullers (Michaels) – It is really fun taking gambits on so many of the great and talented youngsters peppering Major League rosters. McCullers, along with Stroman, give me back-to-back first round pick hurlers to flesh out spots three and four, offering similar profiles of strikeouts and low WHIP, while both hurling for contending teams. These guys could give me 400 innings and perhaps 425 whiffs if they can stay healthy all year. Truth is, that is not that big an “if” all things considered. And, if they can do this, the wins and WHIP and ERA will surely follow.

13.02 – Russell Martin (Gonos) – I normally steer clear of catchers until the middle rounds, so getting Martin here is great. He was the second-best Fantasy catcher of 2015, with more HR and runs scored than Buster Posey, despite playing in 21 fewer games.

13.03 – James Shields (Flowers) – Was hoping Stroman would fall to this round, but I’ll take the much less exciting Shields instead. Coming off a career best 9.61 K/9 rate, Shields also walked a career worst 3.60 batters to offset the goodness. The K/9 rate will plummet, but I’m hoping the walk rate will too. His GB/FB ratio last season was the same as the previous two years and he has thrown 200-plus innings nine straight seasons. I’ll take a shot on him as my fourth starter.

13.04 – Elvis Andrus (Zinkie) – We have moved past the point where we expect Andrus to take his production to another level. But his inclusion on my team protects my pick of Desmond. And he should be a safe source of 25-30 steals.

13.05 – Brandon Crawford (Erickson) – I keep coming back to Crawford as my shortstop option after missing out on the first two tiers. I don’t need him to hit 21 homers for this to pay off. Even if he reverts to 15, this will still be a profitable pick, barring a complete BA dropoff.

13.06 – Jung Ho Kang (Sporer) – I’m gambling on his health, but if we get to Spring Training and his expected start date gets nailed down in mid-April (or earlier), then we’ll see his ADP jump from here so I’ll take the discount. The health aside, I trust the skills. The pop was there as he hit at a 20-HR pace. I’m not sure how many steals we’ll see at 5-for-9 success rate, especially because he was only a 65% base-stealer in the KBO, but even a few bags will help with the pop and AVG.

13.07 – Jeff Samardzija (Zola) – Last time I mentioned I was considering pitching but there were a lot of interesting arms I was looking at, with the choice being as much narrative as expectation. Or maybe I didn’t say it but I was thinking it. Shark would have been my pick but I was too chicken to make the call. I think it’s a real interesting comparison between Jordan Zimmermann and Samardzija, the two I was debating. You guys made the choice for me, it must be fate. Honestly, none of us know what Samardzija will do – we all saw how he fell apart last season and is now moving to perhaps the best place to bounce back. I prefer to be able to leave my SP4 in regardless of match-up but hoping worst case is he’s benched at Arizona and at Colorado. I can live with that.

13.08 – Alex Gordon (Schwartz) – Despite missing a third of the season due to a groin strain, Gordon was essentially the same player in 2015 as he was in the past four seasons, even setting a career-best in OBP. He doesn’t run much anymore, but all of his other indicators suggest he’ll provide another season in 2016 that looks very much like his recent work: .275, 18 HR, 150 R+RBI, and a handful of steals. He’s a better “real” baseball player than fantasy, but still a very reliable OF3.

13.09 – Daniel Murphy (Van Riper) – Regardless of whether his flashes of added power after returning from injury last season (not just the playoffs) are a sustainable result of work with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy’s ability to pile up steady run and RBI totals with a good average makes him a nice wait-at-2B option. He should continue to hit in a prominent place in the order with the move to Washington, and the Nats should have a better supporting cast around him than the ones he’s played with during most of his time in New York.

13.10 – Raisel Iglesias (Heaney) – It took Iglesias a bit to adjust, but once he found his groove, his second half (3.82 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) hinted at big things to come. His diverse swing-and-miss arsenal puts him on the cusp of a major breakthrough. He’ll do well at keeping the ball down, as well, at Great American Ball Park. Happy to land him as my fourth starter.

13.11 – Mike Moustakas (Steinhorn) – It’s kind of weird that Moose hit for a high average in the first half of last season before slugging 15 homers to go along with a modest .269 AVG in the second half, but the end result was a career year. Now if only he could put those halves together, we’d be onto something! Considering the overall improvement he showed last year, I don’t see him taking a significant step backwards in 2016, and at 27 years of age, maybe there’s even some room for further growth. At 13.11, I’m willing to find out.

13.12 – Salvador Perez (DiFino) – I’ve never been hot on catchers early (and this is early for me, as far as catchers go), but Perez shouldn’t have dropped this far and d’Arnaud has the potential to hit .260 with 20-25 home runs. I also want to start another run from the turn here, and — in all seriousness — no other position really leapt out and grabbed hold of me. These are two value picks at this point in the draft.

ROUND 14

14.01 – Travis d’Arnaud (DiFino) – See above.

14.02 – Huston Street (Steinhorn) – A boring pick, but I need a second closer and from a performance level/job security standpoint, I view Street as the safest of the available bunch. Sure, there’s injury risk, and the strikeout rate isn’t elite…wait, am I talking myself out of this pick?

14.03 – Yasmani Grandal (Heaney) – This spot might not be wise for him in a late-March draft if his shoulder recovery doesn’t go as planned. But as of Feb. 9, I’m willing to take the chance in a mock to make a point. Grandal’s first half (.282-14-36) was stellar for a catcher, and progress in a slow but promising growth curve for the former top prospect. However, shoulder inflammation sapped him of useful offense down the stretch. I’m not hoping for a true extrapolation of his pre-break numbers, but a 20-homer season could be well within reach if he shows no signs of struggle in spring ball.

14.04 – Lucas Duda (Van Riper) – What’s up with his reverse platoon split last year? With a two-year baseline of a .240+/.340+/.480 slash line, he should be firmly positioned as a run producer for the Mets again in 2016. I’m not wild about him in keeper formats, but my team is lighter on power anyway with the Pollock-Cutch-Three SP foundation in the first five rounds.

14.05 – Scott Kazmir (Schwartz) – Kazmir is like the Ian Kinsler of starting pitchers…not as good as he used to be, but not really an injury risk anymore, either, averaging 31 starts over the past three seasons. His strikeouts and walks have gradually declined over that time but he’s still on the right side of the line in both measures, and now he gets to spend his home games in an NL pitchers’ park for the first time in his career. The 32-year-old introduced a cutter last year to positive effect, so hopefully that new weapon will help offset some of the effects of aging.

14.06 – Brad Boxberger (Zola) – I realize I have an unhealthy attraction to a guy that walks too many but man, those strikeouts. Without Jake McGee in the picture, the closer gig is Boxberger’s to lose. I like his chances not to lose it. Boxberger has morphed into a fly ball pitcher, which will hurt him elsewhere in the AL East, but so long as he’s in the Trop, he should be protected at home. Did I mention the strikeouts?

14.07 – Francisco Liriano (Sporer) – Liriano doesn’t really get discussed among guys with the nastiest stuff in the game, but he belongs there even when he isn’t at his best. Over the last three years, his 13.8% swinging strike rate is tied with that Kershaw dude for baseball’s best. Of course, Kershaw’s walk rate is half that of Liriano’s in the same timeframe, but I’m not trying to say they’re 1:1 comps, not at all. You’ll probably need a replacement for a spell each year with Liriano, but the Ks and ERA are worth it. He feels older because he’s been around for a decade, but he is just 32, which is hardly ancient.

14.08 – Jorge Soler (Erickson) – There’s plenty of variance in this pick. 30 homers is possible, so is hitting .220 and getting benched and/or sent down. I’m betting on the homers.

14.09 – Denard Span (Zinkie) –  Hard to know at this point if he is going to be healthy in ’16. But the Giants clearly believe in his health, and when in the lineup he is a productive player who can hit .300, score 90 runs and steal 25 bases.

Matt Wieters

14.10 – Matt Wieters (Flowers) – Wieters has three seasons of 450 at-bats. In those three years, he’s hit at least 22 homers with 68 RBI and 59 runs scored. Only two catchers in baseball – Brian McCann and Russell Martin – matched all three of those numbers last season. Only 30 years old, coming off two partial seasons which haven’t done anything to harm his legs, I have no issue with Wieters being my first catcher and neither should anyone else.

14.11 – Justin Verlander (Gonos) – The veteran had a pretty good season, especially toward the end, returning healthy from a triceps injury. As my fourth SP, he’s worth a look, even though I generally like to fill the back end of my rotation with youthful upsiders.

14.12 – Ender Inciarte (Michaels) – Call it manlove a la Kole Calhoun, but I suspect the D-backs will regret letting Inciarte go. True, he doesn’t walk much (26 last year), but neither does he whiff much (58), meaning a good contact hitter, with the potential to swipe 40 bags (accomplished in the minors in 2012-13) ideally hitting atop a rebuilding lineup in a nice hitter’s park. What is not to like?

ROUND 15

15.01 – Brett Lawrie (Michaels) – At this point, against these guys, we are playing roto-chicken, trying to pick spots and speculate who might still be there when the picks come back. I have a lot of possible choices, but I do need to fill third base, so I am going with Brett Lawrie, who has never really lived up to being the next Evan Longoria, but neither has he become the next Gordon Beckham. He plays second and third so I get some flexibility, and a line like last year: .270-15-70 or so, would be great as well as making me feel better about taking Lawrie out of the middle of the highway.

15.02 – Michael Conforto (Gonos) – Seems like a good spot to roll the dice on the soon-to-be 23-year-old, who’s coming off a pretty good audition late last year. He has potential to hit for both power and average, and who can’t use that!?!

15.03 – Mark Trumbo (Flowers) – Trumbo qualifies at outfield and first base, and I like that flexibility. In need of power – I rostered Yelich, Eaton and Revere in the outfield – Trumbo is the perfect addition at this point. I can handle the batting average drain that he will be, and there’s a very reasonable expectation of 30 homers and 90 runs batted in hitting next to Chris Davis and Adam Jones in Baltimore.

15.04 – Yu Darvish (Zinkie) – Round 15 feels like the right time to take a shot at Darvish and work around his absence for the first 6-8 weeks of the season. If completely healthy, he has the potential to be a mixed-league ace because of his high strikeout rate. So, I feel like he is worth the risk as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.

15.05 – Hisashi Iwakuma (Erickson) – The health risk is obvious, but at least Iwakuma landed in a good park where he’s had considerable success over the years. At the very least, I should get a good WHIP from Iwakuma with the likelihood of a strong ERA as well.

15.06 – Sean Doolittle (Sporer) – Finished the season with the velocity up to 92-94 (touching 96), not quite his peak (94-96 w/98 highs), but enough for me to gamble. He was one of the best closers going before last year’s health meltdown. Relievers are inherently risky, though, lemme get that upside.

15.07 – Carlos Santana (Zola) – Almost 30-years-old, Santana is what he is – better for OBP leagues with his power capped due to a low fly ball rate. The past couple of seasons, he’s hit .231 as his BABIP has plummeted. A lot of that is you really don’t want big guys hitting ground balls but he’s also been snake bit a little. He’s my corner – all I need is 20-80-80 and I should get that. I think I can cover an average in the 0.230s but just have a feeling there’s a .260-20-90-90 season in there somewhere.

15.08 – Gerardo Parra (Schwartz) – To put it mildly, I’ve made a mess of my imaginary “team” by failing to properly track the available player pool, compounded by a few ill-timed misreads of other teams’ needs. Whether in a mock draft or a “real” draft, you need to stay focused or someone else will drink your milkshake. LZ and Ray in particular have been doing that to me in this draft, so there’s a good lesson here. In any case, I’m going to do a little dart-throw and take Gerardo Parra. Ideally he’d by my OF5 rather than OF4, but I’m already in the deep end with this draft, but I want to make a little bit of a “statement” pick with this guy. He’s established a very decent floor of .280 with 10-12 homers and a dozen SB, plus 125 R+RS, with consistent indicators that support his steady performance. Now, moving into Coors Field, I think there’s maybe a 25% chance that his strong GB/LD profile and low-walk, decent-contact skills could combine with some BABIP luck to yield a random .325 season, with an accompanying spike in the R+RBI numbers. It’s a mock draft, so I can dream, right?

15.09 – Jonathan Papelbon (Van Riper) – The Nats surprisingly kept Papelbon in the fold for 2016, after he attempted to fight the face of the franchise in the dugout during a game late in 2015. Papelbon’s contract, and likely his reputation, kept GM Mike Rizzo from sending him packing, leaving Washington to flip Drew Storen to Toronto in the Ben Revere deal. Fortunately, clubhouse chemistry doesn’t matter for us as fantasy players, and the trade of Storen clears Papelbon’s path for all of the save chances in Washington. The K% may flirt with the 20.0% mark, but Papelbon’s low walk rate and job security make him a viable option as I believe I have enough strikeouts amassed with my first three starters.  

15.10 – Jake McGee (Heaney) – “Closers” are dwindling. The fact that Colorado traded for the talented southpaw probably means they’ll slot him in the ninth. His elite reliever skills will finally get to add consistent saves. Despite his fly-ball tendency, I’m less frightened of Coors Field’s impact on closers because of the smaller windows in which they need to perform. McGee could creep toward the top 10 at this position — and, perhaps most importantly, erase nightmares of Rex Brothers speculation from fantasy players’ memories.

15.11 – Julio Teheran (Steinhorn) – After a shaky first half, Teheran righted the ship in the second half last season (3.42 ERA, 1.24 WHIP). Judging from his career numbers, both in the minors and the majors, I think last year’s 3.3 BB/9 will prove to be the exception, and with better control will come better overall results. While he might have been a bit overrated heading into last season, he could turn out to be a nice value pick this year.

15.12 – Carlos Rodon (DiFino) – The third overall pick two years ago, Rodon had a 3.75 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, with a 9.0 K/9 in 139 1/3 innings pitched last season. The WHIP is ugly, no doubt — but if you isolate August and September, he produced a 1.11. That is a pitcher who maybe figured out how to stifle the wildness in his rookie season. Big things are on the horizon for Rodon — a maintained strikeout rate with lower ERA and WHIP. If he hits 200 innings (which is well within reason), we’ll likely see 200 strikeouts.

ROUND 16

16.01 – Dustin Pedroia (DiFino) – I actually believe Pedroia when he speaks frankly about his conditioning this offseason. He worked on flexibility and endurance and wants to steal more bases. We know he can hit for average — even at his “advanced” age of 32 — and he hit 12 home runs in 381 at-bats last season, which is a good sign that his power is back after wrist and thumb issues sapped that element of his game from him in 2013 and 2014.

16.02 – Delino DeShields Jr. (Steinhorn) – Not thrilled that he will provide me with next to nothing in terms of homers and RBIs, but DeShields should be a very reliable producer in the stolen bases and runs departments,  especially if he remains in the leadoff spot. And his AVG, while not great, will not hurt me either.

16.03 – Starlin Castro (Heaney) – Always been a fan. Now a fan of the fact that he’ll have a full-time role to capitalize on his big late-season revival. The experienced soon-to-be 26-year-old again has a great lineup and will enjoy the park effects improvement. He’ll hit near the bottom of the order, but that doesn’t matter in the AL. So he could start attempting more steals. His hit tool should put him at a .270-plus BA, with the run and RBI benefits that come from this club. If he can learn to poke more big flies to the opposite field at Yankee Stadium, his first 20-homer season could be next.

16.04 – Jhonny Peralta (Van Riper) – Based on necessity, the Cards will likely keep Peralta near the heart of their order for another year. With that, Peralta should pile up a good number of RBI while pushing the 15-17 HR range and hitting for a tolerable average. In the simplest of terms, Peralta is the steady floor, low ceiling player often available at this stage of the draft.

16.05 – J.T. Realmuto (Schwartz) – Showed a rare combination of power and speed for a catcher, and in fact may end up being more valuable (relatively speaking) on the bases, as he averaged 13.5 steals a year over his last four minor league seasons. Of course, “power” is also a relative term for him, as he hit 10 homers in 467 at-bats with a .147 ISO, but a double-double season from a catcher is always fun.

16.06 – Wei-Yin Chen (Zola) – Even before the fences were brought in (and lowered), Marlins Park wasn’t a pitchers park in terms of runs – but it crushed power. It will still hurt power but not as much. This doesn’t bode quite as well for the fly ball leaning Chen, but it’s certainly better than his old haunts. As my SP5, I won’t leave Chen in all 26 weeks, but with series against the Phillies and Braves, there will be a lot more chances to use him on the road as well as the Aquarium. I really want to make that nickname stick.

16.07 – Taijuan Walker (Sporer) – Sniped a lot in these last few rounds, including Chen, so I’ll venture toward the other end of the upside spectrum and go for Walker. Power arm still oozing with talent and coming off the heels of his first full season which had some big bumps (including that wretched start), but also plenty of good (3.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 24% K rate in his middle 19 starts). The same base skills with fewer HRs allowed gets the ERA under 4.00; skills improvement (particularly the Ks) can help tap into his potential as a low-3.00s ERA arm.

16.08 – Blake Swihart (Erickson) – I’ve been playing catcher-chicken long enough. I’m sufficiently impressed with what Swihart did in the second half, love the Red Sox lineup, and have a smidgen of hope that he’ll run a little bit.

16.09 – Kendrys Morales (Zinkie) –  I know that he is unlikely to match his ’15 production, but nabbing a player in round 16 that collected 106 RBIs last year feels like a solid decision. I’ll hope for 20 homers and 85-90 RBIs this year.

16.10 – Dellin Betances (Flowers) – Shields and Zimmermann both have some uncertainty with their ratios heading into the ’16 season. Betances should help with that (1.78 ERA, 0.95 WHIP career). Also, the dude is a monster in strikeouts. Amongst pitchers with at least 100 appearances the last two seasons, Betances leads all hurlers with 266 strikeouts. The next closest is Aroldis Chapman with 222. I mean, Betances has one more K than Hisashi Iwakuma, six more than Andrew Cashner and 19 more than Michael Wacha the last two years. Seriously.

16.11 – Mark Teixeira (Gonos) – Teixeira had a great year last season shortened by a stress fracture in his leg, but not before he smacked 31 homers in close to 400 at-bats. So the power is still there, but his batting average is a drag. He is a former .400-OBP guy, though.

16.12 – Marco Estrada (Michaels) – Somehow, drafting against these guys does get into one’s head a lot more than in most other leagues (especially because it doesn’t count, I suppose) but obviously, there is no sneaking anyone, anywhere, and largely success is rooted in balancing smart picks with speculative picks. At this point, Estrada might seem like speculation, but I think not. Over his career, Estrada has maintained a fine 1.150 WHIP over 722 innings, with a solid enough 8 whiffs per nine frames average. Oh yes, he pitches for a very good team, so stability should be there to assist.

ROUND 17

17.01 – Brandon Finnegan (Michaels) – The Royals #1 pick in 2014 is likely more on the speculative side. But after shooting from college to post season in ’14, and then going to Cincy last year as part of the Johnny Cueto spoils, Finnegan certainly has a resume, and has a whiff an inning average over 55 frames in the Show, along with a solid 1.182 WHIP. He might take some lumps in his first full year in the Reds rotation, but I am similarly betting the end result will be just fine.

17.02 – Devin Mesoraco (Gonos) – The Reds catcher will not be getting drafted in round 17 in your draft, but experts know that many catchers are mix-and-match after a certain amount are drafted. His hip surgery will be something to watch all spring, and his durability might be in question. But let’s not forget the batting eye and power he flashed in 2014, when he broke out with 25 HR and 80 RBI in just 114 games.

17.03 – Brad Miller (Flowers) – Per 550 at-bats, Miller has averaged 15 homers, 64 RBI and 66 runs scored. Boring numbers? Sure. But only four shortstops in baseball reached all of those marks last season: Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Crawford, Ian Desmond and Jhonny Peralta. That’s it. Add in the 11 steals that Miller has averaged and the list would shrink to just Ian Desmond.

17.04 – D.J. LeMahieu (Zinkie) – I’m expecting a high batting average and 20 steals. If he gets the chance to hit high in the lineup for chunks of the season, I may get a nice bonus in runs.

17.05 – John Lackey (Erickson) –  Lackey always seems to be there for me, as he is again here, falling outside of the top 200 despite turning in a fantastic season last year and sticking in the NL, with another team that should give him good support. His park isn’t as friendly as Busch Stadium, where he thrived last year, but it’s not so scary to steer away at my perceived discount.

Jonathan Schoop, J.P. Arencibia

17.06 – Jonathan Schoop (Sporer) – Shark-infested waters have me popping Schoop early, but I’m OK with it. He’s become a winter darling, but even with the rise in price, his ADP still lives in an area where you don’t really need him to succeed for your season to pan out. The power potential is sky-high. I also don’t think we’ve seen it all with his batting profile. The 3% BB and 25% K combo are a far cry from his minor league track record (8%, 16%, respectively) and I don’t think it’s just a sell out for power. I think he can mix some of the refined MiLB approach with the power output we saw last year. Still just 24 years old, too.

17.07 – Leonys Martin (Zola) – One of the nice things about a 12-team mixed league is there should be adequate waiver wire fodder, so it’s fine to take a couple of shots at this point of the draft. I’ll throw a dart at a guy with a couple of 30-plus steal campaigns under his belt. Martin may not play every day but he should be on the good side of a platoon. After all, you don’t give up Tom Wilhelmsen for a guy you’re not going to play, right? RIGHT?

17.08 – Derek Norris (Schwartz) – Norris apparently traded plate discipline in an attempt to generate more power last year, but it was not a success, as his walk rate dropped by nearly half and his strikeout rate was a career-worst, while he bumped up his ISO by only 20 points. Still, 14 homers and 65 RBI aren’t bad for a catcher who won’t kill your batting average, and he’ll turn the magic age of 27 on Valentine’s Day this weekend.

17.09 – Byron Buxton (Van Riper) – The missed development time due to injuries probably didn’t help his chances of making a smooth transition to the big leagues last season. Even if he spends a few weeks back at Triple-A, the overall ceiling is too high to pass up at this point. Moreover, I think he can be a viable source of steals right away even if the power takes more time to develop.

17.10 – Yordano Ventura (Heaney) – As my fifth starting pitcher, Ventura won’t hurt as much with his shaky control. Couldn’t pass up the shot at 200 K’s and the hope he builds on his 3.56 ERA from the second half, when he seemed to fix a lot of flaws in his game.

17.11 – Jay Bruce (Steinhorn) – Bruce’s decline from being a mediocre batting average contributor to a serious AVG liability is concerning. But I’ll take the 25-plus homers and 85-plus RBI from my fifth outfielder and hope that the 2016 version of Jay Bruce looks more like the player who batted .251 in the first half last season as opposed to the guy who batted .199 in the second half.

17.12 – Yasmany Tomas (DiFino) – Tomas is part of that new wave of Cuban slugger coming over — younger (he’s 25) and without a long track record of success from which we can gauge his power potential. But after essentially taking 2014 off, and a short PCL stint, Tomas put together a very good MLB campaign last year, with a .273 average, nine home runs and five steals. This all happened while bouncing between four positions (left/right field, first base, third base) and not having the most regular of playing time. A more regular role, an extra year of development, and a season in MLB under his belt should all combine to make Tomas a wonderful surprise in 2016.

ROUND 18

18.01 – Santiago Casilla (DiFino) – I like carrying three closers — if they stay healthy, you have a nice trade chip for later in the season. I like Casilla because he had 38 saves last year compared to Sergio Romo’s two. It seems like the Giants have stopped with the back and forth, and anointed Casilla the stopper. The career-high K/9 is either a cause for worry (that kind of jump usually brings some kind of arm trouble with it later on) or celebration (maybe he finally got comfortable with his job and brought the K rate). But I like him here as I fill out my staff.

18.02 – Stephen Vogt (Steinhorn) – I have yet to draft my first catcher, and there are two other teams still without a catcher, so I cannot wait any longer to address this position. I consider Vogt to be the best available backstop. He’s a safe bet for 15-plus homers and will not hurt my batting average. Vogt faded down the stretch last year but I think fatigue was largely to blame as it was his first full season in the big leagues. His ability to also play first base should help to keep him fresher than most catchers.

18.03 – Yan Gomes (Heaney) – Pleasantly surprised Gomes is the 15th catcher off the board. He tanked in 2015 but in 2014, he hit 21 homers and drove in 74 runs. He hit .294 and .278 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. If he could get back to almost 20 homers with something close to his career .262 BA, this will be a win.

18.04 – Mitch Moreland (Van Riper) – I’m not expecting much more than a .250 average, but a low-20s home run total, and a good number of RBI should be bankable.

18.05 – Brad Ziegler (Schwartz) – The D-backs seem content to open 2016 with Ziegler as their closer so I’ll continue to load up my bullpen. As an extreme ground-ball pitcher with a very low strikeout rate, he’ll be prone to some stretches of bad BABIP luck, but then again he doesn’t hurt himself with walks, and hardly ever gives up homers. Here’s a great bit of research from this past week on Ziegler’s changeup, the Hardest Pitch in Baseball to Lay Off: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-hardest-pitches-in-baseball-to-lay-off/

18.06 – Welington Castillo (Zola) – I’m still struggling with how to handle catchers this season as the scarcity bump is the largest I can remember so I want to take advantage – that is grab a couple before their price intersects with the market price. I didn’t really do a great job of it here though I do like Castillo in this spot. My squad feels light on pop and while high teens homers isn’t a game-changer, it’s certainly welcomed from a fade-the-position catcher.

18.07 – Wil Myers (Sporer) – Big risk, big upside. He has struggled to stay on the field, but he’s still just 25 and still shows plenty of power/speed upside. Given the backend drop-off of 1B, his eligibility there is a nice little bonus, too. I’d take 140 games at this point (though that may even be aggressive with a career-high of 88), but there’s 20 HR/10 SB potential here on the high end.

18.08 – Justin Bour (Erickson) – It’s not that I’ve set out to make Justin Bour the cornerstone to my 2016 season, but he’s ending up on all of my teams anyway. Bour’s power is legit, and he appears to be ensconced in the middle of an improved Marlins lineup with a ballpark that should be friendlier towards his strengths.

18.09 – Dexter Fowler (Zinkie) – I drafted at a point in time when the Orioles were a rumored team and not a lock. I think this is a good landing spot for him. Camden Yards should help his numbers, and he will hit in front of three talented hitters. With good health (always a big “if” for Fowler), he could hover around 15 homers, 100 runs and 15-20 steals.

18.10 – Shelby Miller (Flowers) – I thought I was going to get the steal of the draft in Dexter Fowler, but Zinkie grabbed him right before my selection (I kept holding off since I already had a full outfield). Shoot. I will double up on the Miller love by selecting Shelby after taking Brad last round. Miller struck out 171 batters, posted a 3.02 ERA and had a 47.7 percent ground ball rate. I’ll take all that again at this point of the draft.

18.11 – Patrick Corbin (Gonos) – Grabbing a decent pitcher two years removed from Tommy John surgery in round 18 is always a good thing. Initially, I had hoped Shelby would drop to me, but he went one pick earlier. Corbin posted a 3.60 ERA last season, despite returning from injury.

18.12 – Roberto Osuna (Michaels) – In a 12-team league, the closer position has become like kicker in a Fantasy Football draft for me. Since there are 30 closers, if we each grab a pair, that means I can cherry pick from the pits. However, closer is the most volatile job in baseball, as we know (and, well, some teams in the draft loaded up on stoppers). I am going to take the plunge now, at the wheel, with some big potential guys, starting with Osuna, who held the job to “close” last year, and in whom I have enough faith to get some more calls this year.

ROUND 19

19.01 – Brandon Maurer (Michaels) – Maurer was my bet to close in San Diego (before he was my bet to close in Seattle). Even if Maurer starts as a rotation possibility, the pen seems the place best suited for him. I can take the crap shoot, swap out from the free agent pool, etc. After all, my league mates snatched up the bulk of the big time closers, so even if one falls to free agency, my percentages of filling a hole and upgrading with the FAAB round are simply greater due to supply and demand.

19.02 – A.J. Ramos (Gonos) – We’re dipping into the relievers that are likely going to pick up saves as their team’s closer, but have someone snipping at their heels. That’s the case here, as Ramos should get the first look in Miami, with setup man Carter Capps right behind him.

19.03 – Andrew Miller (Flowers) – I really wanted to be cute and go with Andrew Miller, which would give me three straight Miller’s, which would force me to drink Miller until the start of the season. I already have Betances and he’s a setup man, so adding Miller would be a risk (especially since they are teammates at the moment). My only other closer is K-Rod, so I was tempted to go with Drew Storen, who I think has a better chance to close than Miller (in fact, I expect Storen to gain the 9th inning role in Toronto). Ultimately, I went with Miller. I can find saves later, and there is no debate that Andrew Miller is a top-10 reliever in terms of skill set. Miller/Betances gives me massive upside in K’s, ERA and WHIP to augment my less than stellar starters.

19.04 – Luis Severino (Zinkie) – I was surprised to see him available in round 19, but that’s likely a testament to the depth at starting pitcher. I don’t expect him to reproduce his ’15 ratios for a full season, but I believe that he can post solid ratios and a high strikeout rate. I like that Joe Girardi is willing to let him pile up innings this year.

19.05 – Kenta Maeda (Erickson) – I’ve held off a couple rounds on Maeda, but typically the top SPs that come over from Japan do well in their first couple of years here in the U.S. There’s some concern about the elbow irregularities found at the time of Maeda’s physical, but this isn’t a keeper league. Maeda hasn’t walked more than 43 batters in a season over his last five, and has been durable over the last five seasons, elbow irregularities notwithstanding. I love the team context, too.

19.06 – Francisco Cervelli (Sporer) – Catcher is drying up so I’ll take a solid #2 behind Posey. He definitely beat expectations in 2015, but the breakout wasn’t a complete surprise as he’d shown some hitting acumen before, just in small samples. Health has been a big concern throughout his career and remains so at age-30, but I’d even take 450 PA of .280 AVG and figure it from there. There’s a non-zero chance he repeats 2015, too.

19.07 – Jaime Garcia (Zola) – Instead of whining about how he always gets hurt, let’s focus on what he does and that’s pitch well between DL stints. So he gets hurt, so what. I’ll have Tyler Lyons or Marco Gonzales on reserve, no big whoop. Garcia is good enough to start against almost everyone — especially since half the Senior Circuit is in rebuild mode. I can spot him just at home if necessary, since home is one of the best pitcher’s parks in the league.

19.08 – Andrew Cashner (Schwartz) – Had his first fully healthy season as a starter, and spiked his strikeout rate thanks to increased use of his slider. His walk rate went up, but his HR/FB rate, BABIP and LOB rates all slumped, leading to a deceptively high ERA. Hopefully an improved defense and better luck will yield some upside as a #4 starter.

19.09 – Miguel Montero (Van Riper) – There’s nothing exciting about Montero, other than his opportunity to contribute to a very good lineup in Chicago. I’ll take it, however, given how long I waited to address the position.

19.10 – Marcus Semien (Heaney) – The two dudes behind me have an empty MI spot, so I want my choice right here. Semien was a preseason darling last year. He had an OK season, but not the breakout campaign many expected. Still, .257 BA, 15 HR, 11 SB wasn’t too shabby. He’s just 25, after all. There’s more speed hiding in his frame, and this could be the first time he truly threatens the 20-20 mark. He’s basically a much cheaper Ian Desmond.

19.11 – Gio Gonzalez (Steinhorn) – Gio is coming off a 2015 campaign in which he posted his worst ERA and WHIP since becoming a full-time starter. The reality, however, is that most of his stats were in line with his career averages, the exception being a bloated hit rate. And the search for the root of the bloated hit rate begins and ends with our good friend, BABIP. Gio’s BABIP last season was .343, this compared to his .298 career mark. I’m hoping it’s that simple and Gonzalez can at least return to the level of solid mid-rotation fantasy starter. I have him as my SP5, which I consider to be pretty nice value.

19.12 – Steven Souza (DiFino) – The .225 average wasn’t pretty, but 16 home runs and 12 steals in an injury-marred rookie season is a great base on which to build. I’m torn on his average improving — he didn’t have the big numbers Joc Pederson did in the minors (I’m far more bullish on Pederson upping his average to .270 than I am Souza), but Souza did get better at almost every level, and increased his batting average as he went up through the minors (with three straight years of .930 OPS as he rounded out his minor league career). Injury free and with a year under his belt, Souza could be a really nice surprise this season.

ROUND 20

20.01 – Jimmy Nelson (DiFino) – With 177 1/3 innings pitched last year, Nelson had a big enough sample size — he put up a 4.11 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and had a 7.5 K/9. I think there’s major room for improvement here, most notably in his K/9, which hovered over 9.0 in the minors. Nelson was remarkably in tune with his underlying stats last year — his ERA, FIP, and xFIP were all between 4.06 and 4.11, so I’m banking on the upside here not coming from anything beneath the surface — I think he’ll tap into his talent and simply improve. It was him or Matt Moore here to round out the staff, so we shall see!

20.02 – Jean Segura (Steinhorn) – With six other owners who will pick twice each before my next turn still needing a middle infielder, now is the time for me to grab one. There are a lot of Segura haters out there, and maybe they’re right. But then again, maybe it’s time to simply accept this guy for who he is. Segura is a yearly lock for 20-plus steals and the move from the Brewers to the Diamondbacks should result in an improved runs total, especially if he hits near the top of the order. I’m not so sure I’d trust him as my starting SS in a 12-teamer, but I’m fine with him as my starting MI.

20.03 – Joe Ross (Heaney) – Joe boasts a strikeout-grounder profile similar to his brother, Tyson of the Padres. Though his work around the plate could improve, he already shows better potential there than his more experienced sibling. Ross’ innings probably will be limited this year, but even if they are capped at around 170, the result will be excellent production from my sixth fantasy starter.

20.04 – Wilson Ramos (Van Riper) – ‘If only he could stay healthy’ yielded a .229/.258/.358 line last season in a career-high 128 games. Ramos managed to hit 15 homers and drive in 68 runs, but I’m not expecting more than 12 homers and 50 RBI from him given the surge in strikeouts and back-to-back seasons with a modest ISO (.132 in 2014, .129 in 2015).

20.05 – Logan Forsythe (Schwartz) – Adding special guest commentator Jason Collette to please comment on the wisdom of this pick. Collette says “He still has some upside if he begins sabotaging first pitches.”

Ketel Marte

20.06 – Ketel Marte (Zola) – OK guys, real funny. Which one of you jokers got everyone not to draft Marte to see how long I’d let him fall before grabbing him despite already having a decent amount of speed? I thought you guys were my friends. I suppose that as a full-time shortstop in Seattle he’ll hit for a nice average with 20-something steals and if he happens to work his way into one of the first two spots, a ton of runs too. I suppose he could have a sophomore slump and lose time to Chris Taylor. Nah, the joke’s on you all.

20.07 – Collin McHugh (Sporer) – He slid back from his electric 2014, but remained a useful fantasy asset, particularly with his 204 IP workload. A one-month lull really impacted his bottom line: 3.23 ERA in first six starts, 6.86 in next seven, and then 3.12 in the final 19. A couple of super-meltdowns (7, 8 ER) were behind the lull. It’s easy to look at the K decline and think ’14 was the fluke, but his SwStr% dropped just 0.7% so I see some growth potential in ’16, maybe not back up to 25%, but 22-23% would work. Collette was right, we should’ve taken him in LABR, though we would’ve had to get him in that Kang, Grandal, Russell, Piscotty block and I really like those four hitters.

20.08 – Matt Duffy (Erickson) –  I may not be the biggest fan, but he’s hung around long enough. I’ll fill my UT spot with the best available hitter on my board.

20.09 – Adam Lind (Zinkie) – Let this be a lesson to you, kids — draft a first baseman prior to the late rounds of your draft or else you will be doomed to owning Adam Lind at a position that is full of powerful sluggers. If we were drafting benches, I would likely have paired him with a high-upside prospect such as A.J. Reed.

20.10 – Drew Storen (Flowers) – I anticipate that Storen will end up the closer for the Jays. Since I was tempted to take him last round, I’m obviously more than happy to find him still available. Storen had a 1.11 WHIP last season, 67 punchouts in 55 innings, and racked up 29 saves despite being deposed late in the year for Jonathan Papelbon. Storen should crest 30 saves for the Jays in 2016.

20.11 – Joakim Soria (Gonos) – The Royals are sure to win a lot of games again, which makes their closer pretty valuable. However, Wade Davis could easily fall out of that spot as easily as he fell into it, and drafting a proven closer behind a new closer is usually a smart idea in Fantasy. The Royals brought him in, I expect, as a better backup option than Kelvin Herrera.

20.12 – Hunter Strickland (Michaels) – Well, I still need some saves–especially if Maurer winds up a starter–and I am willing to gamble that the best long-term Giants bet is Strickland. The guy is lights out (well, was last year) with a whiff per inning (97 MPH fastball) and his 0.84 WHIP over 58.3 frames tells me it is just a matter of time (Santiago Casilla’s erratic nature) before Strickland gets a shot.

ROUND 21

21.01 – Danny Valencia (Michaels) – I have always been a fan of Valencia, who would show his skills in the Majors, only to see them dissipate. Well, his .290-16-66 line last year says maybe he is there, and as the third baseman in Oakland (with some position flex) I think Valencia comes into his own. First, he is a perfect fit for the A’s with a smattering of skills to exploit (OBP, power, plays corners and outfield). Second, playing with Oakland did not hurt his power (11 dingers over 47 games). Third, Oakland is so good at sucking the most out of such players. Note that the last third base reclamation project the team had was Josh Donaldson.

21.02 – Kevin Kiermaier (Gonos) – Expected to bat leadoff for the Rays, which should help my runs and steals. His defensive prowess guarantees plenty of at-bats, but that batting average needs some help. Hmmm, now I’m starting to talk myself out of it.

21.03 – Nick Hundley (Flowers) – He’s not great, never racks up 400 at-bats, but he hit .355 at Coors last season and his home park helps to make him an ideal late-round second catcher.

21.04 – Kyle Hendricks (Zinkie) – I’m not too worried about him winning a rotation spot during Spring Training. He pitched well last season, he typically keeps his WHIP down and he has boosted his K/9 rate. With a rotation spot, he should be a useful rotation member in standard mixed leagues.

21.05 – Rich Hill (Erickson) – Because why not? It’s my last pitcher slot, I’m probably going to stream him at home, and if it doesn’t work, he’s an easy cut. If it does work, then I’ve got a good strikeout source for cheap.

21.06 – Odubel Herrera (Sporer) – Pretty solid season last year and he’s just 24. I’m not sure there’s much more power coming – maybe a jump into the double digits – but the real appeal is that he could push for 25 SBs. He stole 30 per 600 PA in the minors with Texas before Philly Rule 5’d him.

21.07 – Evan Gattis (Zola) – I need some power and if this were played out, I could replace Gattis until he’s recovered from his hernia surgery, which shouldn’t be too hard in a league this shallow. Plus, the player pool isn’t all that deep either.

21.08 – Nathan Eovaldi (Schwartz) – Eovaldi is living proof that it takes more than velocity to be successful, allowing more than 10 hits per 9.0 innings for the fifth time in six seasons despite a fastball averaging over 97 MPH. However, he has decent command and isn’t homer-prone, and that 14-3 record counts just fine in 5×5. He cut his ERA by nearly a run in the second half last year after improving his split changeup, so he could take a step forward this year.

21.09 – Matt Moore (Van Riper) – Maybe he’s another Gio Gonzalez, maybe he can still be something better. Even if it’s the former, he’s a streamer to begin 2016 in 12-team mixers and I’m never shy about taking the chance on the Rays’ ability to develop pitching.

21.10 – Rusney Castillo (Heaney) – Could use a bit more speed in the outfield. So for my fifth, I’ll buy low on the hyped Cuban. With a full season, he could steal 20 bases and hit at least 10 home runs. His batting average won’t be great, but it won’t hurt. Would love to see him put the ball in the air more, but he’s in a good offensive situation for a late-round speculation.

21.11 – Mike Fiers (Steinhorn) – I’m surprised that Fiers is still available here considering his proven strikeout ability (408 K’s in 404 career IP) and impressive stint with the Astros last year (3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 59 K’s in 62 1/3 IP). Even if he regresses a bit from those levels, there’s zero downside in drafting him​ at this stage of the proceedings.​ Yeah, there’s a chance he doesn’t open the season in the rotation, but I’m not buying that manager talk.​

21.12 – Avisail Garcia (DiFino) – I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people by stealing 12-15 bases this season. He’s only 24, has developing power, and can hit for average. For my fifth outfielder, I’m willing to take the risk. Gone are the days of Miguel Cabrera comparisons, but I do think Garcia has some great, unrecognized upside this season.

ROUND 22

22.01 – Andrew Heaney (DiFino) – The 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 18 starts were tremendous last year; the 6.6 K/9 was low (it was 8.9 in the minors). But this probably had more to do with arm preservation (he hit 180-plus innings last year) than with the sudden loss of a skill. Rookie pitcher, top prospect, jewel of a trade — I’m guessing Heaney was given a pitch-to-contact edict for his first go-round in the majors and will be free to chase strikeouts again this season. And if that sounds crazy to you, check out Gerrit Cole’s 2013 — not exactly the same, but a similar concept.

22.02 – Yadier Molina (Steinhorn) – Not an exciting pick by any means but this is what happens when you wait until the 22nd round to draft your second catcher. If Molina comes back healthy on or shortly after Opening Day (“if” being the key word), he could provide a decent batting average while contributing in the RBI category. At least he is assured close to regular at-bats thanks in large part to his elite defensive ability.

22.03 – Ryan Zimmerman (Heaney) – I’ve chosen another corner infielder dealing with foot issues. Still, this is a bargain, considering how he looked more like himself after his DL stint last year: 311 BA, 11 HR and 39 RBI in 135 second half AB. While I won’t blindly extrapolate that, 20 homers per 500 AB is a ratio I expect. Heck, I’m banking on only 350. But I’m fine with hoping for more and making him my Pujols insurance in round 22, especially since he’s two years removed from 25 (2012) and 26 (2013) home runs. Thankfully, his price has finally normalized to account for his flaws.

22.04 – Jose Berrios (Van Riper) – If you look at the Twins’ roster, the lack of quality starting pitchers stands out as the biggest weakness. After taking a conservative approach with his development in 2015, Berrios seems primed to spend the bulk of the 2016 season with the big club. I would be surprised if he’s not up by mid-May, and it seems as though he has a good chance to break camp with a rotation spot. Just 21 years old, Berrios has shown good control throughout his time in the minors, while mixing four pitches to miss bats at a steady clip.

22.05 – Aaron Altherr (Schwartz) – Altherr improved both his walk and strikeout rates in the high minor last year, and maintained a strong walk rate in his 39-game sample with the Phillies, even though the contact problems returned. The power growth has been consistent as he’s moved up the ladder, and he’s been a threat on the bases at every level, so I think he’s a reasonable candidate to go 15/20 this year. Hopefully he’ll make enough contact that he won’t kill my batting average while doing it.

22.06 – James McCann (Zola) – I pushed catcher last round since three of the ensuing four teams had their duo so at most there’d only be one taken before this turn for me. As it turns out, I have McCann ranked a smidgen higher than Yadi so it worked out well. McCann has become my go-to late catcher since he’s the ideal “won’t hurt you” guy and may even help since he’s in a lineup that should turn over plenty – especially if the expected Nick Castellanos break out comes to fruition.

22.07 – David Wright (Sporer) – Yeah, the fact that he can only max out at 130 games isn’t great, but it could be a less-is-more situation where the curated playing time keeps him fresh and he maintains strong rates.

22.08 – Josh Harrison (Erickson) – At this point last year, I was pretty much aggressively fading Harrison. I didn’t think it was possible that he would hit .315 or anything close to his 2014 breakout season. And he didn’t! But he also did better than I gave him credit, while maintaining his ability to steal. Now that Neil Walker is gone, second base will pretty much be his to hold, plus he’ll add 3B-eligibility if I need it in a pinch. There’s plenty of MI’s I still like here in the second-to-last round of the draft, so if we were to take reserves, I would have taken one more MI. It’s a good lesson for those of you in 12-team leagues – there’s a lot of late depth at the position.

22.09 – Jason Hammel (Zinkie) – With a 2.86 ERA in the first half and a 5.10 ERA after the All-Star break, Hammel was as volatile as any pitcher last season. If his off-season of rest allows him to enter this season at full strength, hopefully he can get off to a good start again this year. I’m skeptical that he has what it takes to be a six-month workhorse, but it’s round 22.

22.10 – Chris Carter (Flowers) – I love my outfield, but Yelich/Revere/Eaton might hit a combined 20 homers. I need power. He’s not the best player left by any means, but Chris Carter is 8th in baseball in homers the past three seasons, so he’s the selection here to help round out my club. It’s not always about selecting the “best” player. Sometimes it’s about finding the correct fit.

22.11 – Alex Rodriguez (Gonos) – The slugger had a solid comeback season (especially the first half), and his climb to become the all-time leader in home runs continues in the Bronx. Drafting a DH-only player is tricky, but taking one this late is easier to swallow than much earlier, where you have to build around him.

22.12 – Brandon Phillips (Michaels) – What did Philips do to upset roto owners so much? Coming off a .290-12-70-23 season, he is 34, but those are pretty good numbers for a MI. Phillips might not be shiny new, but he is still pretty good it seems.

ROUND 23

23.01 – Robinson Chirinos (Michaels) – A 35-point jump in OBP last year and ten homers over 78 games suggest the best possible scenario for a #2 catcher: Chirinos is unlikely to hurt me too much, and with 400 at-bats could maybe supply 15 dingers and a .250 average. That would actually help. As my 23rd round pick, I can dump him pretty unceremoniously if the inverse proves true.

23.02 – Joe Panik (Gonos) – I think most Fantasy owners will find that their MI will come from the back end of the second base rankings more than the shortstops. Panik isn’t a great power hitter, but he should bring a good average (he hit.312 last season), and — for H2H and DFS owners – he consistently played well week in and week out.

23.03 – Asdrubal Cabrera (Flowers) – Needing a middle infielder, I was tempted to take a shot on Javier Baez, but he doesn’t have a role with that crowded Cubs team. Instead, I’m going with a boring selection in Cabrera. But is he as boring as you think? His average effort the last five years includes the following numbers: .259-17-69-73-10. Do you know how  many shortstops matched those 5×5 numbers in the 2015 season? The answer is zero. He’s boring but stable, and solid.

23.04 – Steve Cishek (Zinkie) – I’ll be honest — I don’t know if Cishek can keep his closer’s role all season. But, he was a solid mixed league closer from 2013-14, and he could recapture that form. In a 12-team league, anyone who is in possession of an Opening Day ninth inning gig should have a roster spot.

23.05 – Jason Castro (Erickson) – The law requires us to draft two catchers. Jason Castro is a catcher. Actually, I kind of like him for a bounceback this year, and he’s in a pretty good lineup with the opportunity to play a little more after the Astros dealt away Hank Conger.

23.06 – Ian Kennedy (Sporer) – I think this is another case of KC getting someone that perfectly fits their team. His HR issue is calmed some by the park. The outfield defense will chase down the fly balls that don’t leave the yard. And the bullpen will allow him to go 5-6 IP and still get the W on a lot of days. This looks like a better version of the Chris Young/Edinson Volquez situations they’ve had the last couple of years as Kennedy has even better component skills.

23.07 – Erasmo Ramirez (Zola) – I always struggle with my speculative pitchers since I’m more synced with 15 team leagues but I feel Ramirez is worthy of a dart throw in this format. I like his chance to get back some whiffs based on his swinging strike percentage. With any sort of control at all, we’re talking about a guy that’s more than a streamer but I still have that parachute of just using him in The Trop.

Trea Turner

23.08 – Trea Turner (Schwartz) – Since my last pick is for my UTIL spot, I will go on the assumption that this will be the first and easiest player to cut in this imaginary shallow mixed league and buy a lotto ticket on Trea Turner. The Nationals’ depth chart on MLB.com lists Danny Espinosa as the starter at SS but I ain’t buyin’ that. Turner is only 22 but has put up ridiculous numbers in his two minor league seasons, hitting .322 with 13 homers and 52 steals in 185 games. I think my imaginary team needs more speed, so even if Turner hits .260 with 25 steals, he’ll be a useful fit with this pick…and if he doesn’t win the job, I’ll go to the imaginary waiver wire and pick up the best available imaginary player.

23.09 – Daniel Norris (Van Riper) – This time last year, Norris was hailed by some as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He pitched well in September after being included as the key piece in the trade that sent David Price to Toronto, and the Tigers will almost certainly write him into their rotation all season. Norris revealed at season’s end that he was scheduled to begin treatment for thyroid cancer during the offseason, which likely contributed to the fatigue he felt at various points last season. As a four-pitch lefty on a good team, Norris has intriguing breakout appeal in his first full season in the big leagues in 2016.

23.10 – David Hernandez (Heaney) – Probably a bit earlier than I’d normally take him, but this mock is all about showing off, so here goes. This once enticing reliever has been done in by bloated ERAs (4.48 in 2013, 4.28 last year) with Tommy John surgery mixed in between. He boasts career rates of 10.64 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9 as a reliever, and he even bumped up his grounders a bit last year to combat his homer allowance. With health, he should hold off the dart throws Philadelphia has thrown into this “competition.” The rebuilding Phillies may eventually flip him at the trade deadline. But before that, they’ll stuff him full of save opportunities. I’m predicting at least 25 conversions.

23.11 – Arodys Vizcaino (Steinhorn) – Jason Grilli plans on being Atlanta’s closer this season. Whether or not the front office and manager feel the same way remains to be seen. Vizcaino has the ability to be a dominant ninth inning man, and he pitched very well in the role when given the opportunity last season. I think the rebuilding Braves will ultimately decide to go with the young guy. Regardless, it’s worth a 23rd round pick to find out.

23.12 – Javier Baez (DiFino) – Call it a hunch, but with a surplus of players on the Cubs in all the positions Baez can play, I feel like a trade will give his talent the proper stage. If I’m wrong (and this were a real league), I can just drop him and grab Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias. Baez was a pre-2014 top 10 prospect, he has 25/25 potential and he’s only 23 years old. This doesn’t scream “super-utility” — it points to a full-time role somewhere…at some point.

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31 Comments

Zach,

I have a dilema. We keep 5 in my league. It’s a 7×7 with xbh and k’s for offense and losses and QS for pitching. I don’t have any pitchers that are keeper worthy and because I won last year I have last pick in the draft. It’s a 10 team league. My keepers are Trout, McCutchen, Miggy, Arenado and Posey. My dilema is that another owner is really trying to get me to trade Trout and any one of my 4 other keepers for Scherzer and Sale. Both are great pitchers but I’m not sure that I’d be getting fair value if I trade any of the 4 with trout for those guys. Trout is less valuable because he strikes out so much but I’m still thinking it’s not a good idea. What do you think?

Zach,

It looks like Kluber and Carrasco may be available at my pick in the draft. Do you think either of them will be a top 20 pitcher this year?

Dmenz

Forget top-20. Both are top-15 SPs and carry top-10 upside.

Zach

I’d hang onto the hitters, especially in a 10-team league where the waiver wire will be full of quality starting pitchers throughout the season. The only trade I’d consider would be Posey for Scherzer, but I doubt he would do that.

Zach

Zach,

Yeah he’s only pushing because he wants trout in a bad way.

Dmenz

Hey Zach,

Looking forward to another season!!! It’s about time to select my 3 keepers! 12 team 7×7 (R,HR,RBI,AVG,K,Net SB, BB) & (QS,W,L,ERA,WHIP,SV,K).

Any FA picked up but not drafted can be kept for last round pick. If more than one it would move up a round each time. (I.e. 2 in drafted players kept would use rd. 20 & 19)

N. Arenado 5th rd. (Almost 100% sure)

Need to pick 2 of rest:

Cespedes (6)
Heyward (8)
Kemp (7)
C. Seager (20)
R. Odor (20)
W. Davis (20)

I’m leaving towards Davis & Seager! But Heyward in Cubs lineup is a juicy 8th! Cespedes?

Appreciate all the help as always!
Josh A.

Just my opinion but I’d keep arenado in 5th, seager in the 20th and wade is an elite closer for a 20th is a STEAL. I’m not sold on Hayward as a fantasy star so I think a 20th for seager is better value and he might even give better numbers.

Dmenz

Im leaning same way, just wanted outside agreement!

Arenado was a definite choice! Thanks

I agree with dmenz here. I think Heyward is a bit overrated heading into 2016. 8th round is great value of course but not as great as the value of Seager and Davis, who could very well be the top fantasy closer this year.

Zach

What are you thoughts in Chris Archer? He seems to go in the mid-teens for SPs- after the elites, but before the Lester’s, Cueto’s etc.- it’s almost like no one knows which group to put him in. Is this guy an ace to you heading into 2016? I kind of like the idea of holding out as long as possible and landing Archer as your #1, allowing you to build up an impressive offense. But I can’t say how I’m leaning on him yet. I like to target these types of SPs. Last year I typically drafted Cole or Arietta as my number 1, around where Archer is going this year, and that worked out great.

I view Archer more like an excellent #2, but he’s definitely someone I’d look for as a cheap ace if following a heavy hitting draft day approach. Favorable home park, a lot of K’s and still fairly young. I think fatigue was a major factor in his late season struggles last year.

Zach

Zach,

After you mentioned that you would trade Posey for scherzer I offered it to him and today he took it. Thank you. Now I don’t feel like I’m going to be fighting my way out of a hole. I still have Trout, McCutchen, Miggy and Arenado on the offensive side of the ball so I think I’m good. The biggest loss with Posey is that he doesn’t strike out often and hits for a good avg. You still feel like this was a good deal?

Dmenz

Wow, that’s kind of surprising, but yes, I’m ok with the trade. I’d still rank Posey 5th among that group of hitters and now you have a legit ace to diversify your keeper core.

Zach

In a 8 team AL only roto 5×5 vanilla league.. I can get either Bogaerts for $20 or Donaldson for $44.. who should I take? I can also trade for Chapman $15 Britton $12 or Robertson $10.. opinion on who I should go after there? Lastly.. Keep Smyly for $3 or Salazar for $14.
.
Its been 1 year since 2015 list of 12.. any word on when 2016 L12 is coming?
thank you
pepsi

Donaldson ( I may be in the minority here but owning a top-5 guy at what isn’t a crazy price in a non-mixed keeper is a big plus), Britton and Salazar.

List of 12 will be posted this week.

Zach

oh.. Salary cap is $300 if it matters

Zach-

Interesting debate on value versus rank in my selection of keepers…please help.
5×5 roto 16 teamer 22 man roster. 3 keepers [round]. I have 2 of the 3 set;
Harper [10th]; Bryant [16th]. 1 of each position player, 1U, 4OF, and 8 P each day
The dilemma is in choice of the third keeper:
Rank – Cole [6th]; Hosmer [10th]; Granderson [11th]
Value – Verlander [13th] Odor [17th]; CMartinez [22nd];

Cole and Hosmer offer the most secure floor, ranking well in any ADP. Odor and Martinez have the highest ceiling and potential gain in potential profit but are unproven with; 2B is a morass of similar type players beyond Cano, Altuve, Gordon; and SP pretty loaded overall. Keepers move up 3 round every year

It’s close, but I think I’d take the win now approach and go with Cole. 6th round is still very good value for him in a 16-teamer and I would not be surprised if he ascends to high-end ace status this year.

Zach

8 team roto, auction draft.7 keepers league. in a vacuum please pick final keeper.Kluber $4. Arrieta $16. Cruz $14 Rendon $4. The 6 I have picked so far are.Cris Davis $14. Donaldson.$16. Votto $13. Bogaerts $5. JR Martinez $4.Marte $12. Thanks

Kluber at $4 is too good to pass up. I expect him to return to legit fantasy ace status this season.

Zach

Kluber at $4 is too good to pass up. I expect him to return to legit fantasy ace status this season.

Zach

Zach,

I was offered trade in keeper league. He’s interested in Salazar, Seager, Cespedes or Heyward.
Out of that group I only considered Seager or Salazar both 19th round picks.

Only 3 of interest from his teammate below.

Who do you think is better value:
Price (2nd)
Cargo (6th)
Carrasco (10th)
C. Seager (19th)
Salazar (19th)

I can keep 3 and already have decided to keep Arenado(5) & W. Davis(20).

Thoughts sir?
Thank you as always!

I expanded potential pool of targets:
Betts (6th)
Bogaerts (14)

I like both but outweigh Carrasco in 10th or others listed above?

Appreciate it as always

I’d still opt for Corey Seager due to a combination of ceiling and current cost.

Zach

Although it’s a little risky to choose the guy with the thinnest big league track record, Seager was impressive enough in his limited time with the Dodgers last year and is so highly regarded as a prospect that I’d go with him at that price.

Zach

NL 8 team 5×5 2 Catcher league can keep 8

Rizzo 21
Rendon 10
Polanco 1
Peralta 1
Grichuk 2
Familia 9
Fernandez 7

Those 7 are my thoughts

Last spot if these 7 are correct

Wong 11
Wellington Castillo 2
Rafael Iglesias 3

Figuring Rendon over wong at same basic price

Wellington and his 25 hr in a 2 Catcher league is why I am thinking abt him a lot

Igelsias is a good #3 or #4:NL starter with potential to be great keeper.

Your thoughts are welcome

Thanks

I’d go with Iglesias. His ceiling is considerably high and that price would be too good for me to pass up. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that Castillo will hit 25 homers based on a half-season’s worth of data last year. His career numbers suggest that he’s just as (if not more) likely to hit 15.

Zach

Zach,

How do you feel about going with closers back to back at the end of 6th beginning of 7th round in a 10 team league? As you know im starting with Trout,McCutchen,Miggy,Arenado and Scherzer so I was thinking about taking maybe Jansen and Kimbrel with the last pick in the 6th and 1st pick in the 7th if they are available which i believe they will be. other options might be to take Kipnis, Kluber,Carrasco,Tulo,Agon. I dont know for sure yet that any of these guys will be available but looking at other teams needs I am thinking there is a chance most of them will be.

Dmenz

I’m not opposed to doubling up on closers in a shallow league where there should be plenty of quality SP options on the waiver wire throughout the year. It will likely be tougher to beat your league mates to waiver wire closers, so securing two elite guys definitely takes the pressure off.

Zach

How does Trevor Plouffe not get drafted before the 24th round?

You’re right, Plouffe probably deserved to be drafted here, and he has been flying under the radar in many drafts thus far. But the poor AVG is a concern and there’s also legitimate skepticism as to whether he can match last season’s 86 RBI. Note that his AVG with runners in scoring position last year was .316. But still, for cheap power at a position that is top heavy, he’s not a bad option if you choose to punt third base.

Zach

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