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Fantasy 411 Slow Mock

Zach here,

Our annual 23-round industry slow mock is underway! Below you will find the draft results along with commentary by the participants for each of their picks (some commentary might be delayed but I’ll insert it when it comes in). I will be updating this list regularly throughout the proceedings.

You can also follow the results live by CLICKING HERE

The participants (in draft order):

1. Jeff Erickson – Rotowire

2. Tim Heaney – USA TODAY

3. Paul Sporer – Rotowire/PaintTheBlack.com

4. Jason Collette – Rotowire

5. Todd Zola – Mastersball

6. Ray Flowers – SiriusXM/Fantasy Alarm

7. Eric Mack – Bleacher Report

8. David Gonos – SoCalledFantasyExperts.com

9. Derek Van Riper – Rotowire

10. Zach Steinhorn – MLB.com/Mastersball

11. Lawr Michaels – Mastersball

12. Cory Schwartz – MLB.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                 ROUND 1

1.01 – Mike Trout (Erickson) – No need to get too clever with the first pick. Even with the stolen bases falling and strikeout rating climbing, he’s still the clear top hitter.

1.02 – Andrew McCutchen (Heaney) – Not a Trout clone, but he’s the closest alternative when it comes to annual five-category consistency on offense. He fell just short of his fourth straight 20-20 season in 2014 and is showing no signs of fading in his peak years.

1.03 – Giancarlo Stanton (Sporer) – Is this the worst spot in the draft this year? Sure, you have Stanton, Goldschmidt, Cabrera, and Abreu available to you, but all four have a substantial wart staring you in the face. Stanton’s is his face, of course, Goldy has the hand, Cabrera has the foot, and Abreu has the thin track record plus the 2H power outage. They have all gone 2 in an NFBC draft this year and I imagine they’ve also all gone 3, it’s really just preference at this point. OK, so maybe it’s not the *worst* spot, but it’s a tough choice because there is no clear option. At this moment, I’m preferring Stanton. 

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers

1.04 – Jose Abreu (Collette) – This time last year, projections on him were all over the place, with mostly a right of center pessimistic view of what he will do. You did not have to spend $20 to roster him in an AL-only league, even when the hype machine got rolling in March once people saw him crush the ball in the Cactus League. In the end, he hit 36 home runs, drove in 107 runs, batted .317, and scored 80 runs. In a power-starved era of baseball, that 80 grade power is absolutely a first-round pick. Abreu played through pain for two weeks with ankle tendonitis early in the season before missing time on the disabled list. If we parse his data at that point, we get a guy that batted .260/.312/.595 prior to his DL stint and .342/.413/.574 after it. When he came back from the disabled list, he had a 10% walk rate and a 19% strikeout rate – both better than the league average. The 36% HR/FB ratio he had pre-injury settled down to a 24% after the injury. The 5% walk rate and 26% strikeout rate pre-injury screams that this is a guy adjusting to major league pitching and the strong skills after the stint on the disabled list show how quickly he adapted to the game. I’ll put this out there now – I’ll take Abreu before I take Cabrera in 2015 with the information we have on hand with Cabrera’s foot.

1.05 – Paul Goldschmidt (Zola) – Before breaking his hand Goldschmidt was on pace for another stellar season, albeit with a few more doubles and a few less homers than 2013. Some may be worried about an initial drop in power but Goldschmidt was swinging last September and should be 100 percent come spring. There’s some concern about less production that normal as the Diamondbacks offense is lacking as compared to previous seasons but the top of the order has some on-base potential that should keep Goldschmidt’s counting stats bountiful.

1.06 – Miguel Cabrera (Flowers) – It’s a risk taking Cabrera at this point given that there is still some concern about his foot allowing him to be ready for Opening Day. There is also some concern as he’s coming off his worst season since, when, his rookie year? I’ll throw out the ole’ mulligan and hope he slightly improves on last years effort.

1.07 – Clayton Kershaw (Mack) – I hate being the one to take a pitcher in the first round, but Kershaw is a dominant one and I like his four-category impact over the other options in this spot. He can lead all starters in wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. He is also smack dab in his prime at age 27.

1.08 – Carlos Gomez (Gonos) – Glad I didn’t have to make the decision on a pitcher here, so I’ll take a power/speed guy that will get me 20+/30+. I’ll take the fourth-best outfielder over the fourth-best first baseman just eight picks in.

1.09 – Edwin Encarnacion (Van Riper) – This seems to be a point where there isn’t a clear-cut top available player on my board, which is fine. With 112 homers since the start of the 2012 season and a very low strikeout rate for a player with that level of power, Encarnacion should remain a solid foundation for rosters in the back half of Round 1. I’m not banking on a rebound in the SB category (20 over 2012-13 combined), so he’s really a four-category guy at this point.

1.10 – Adam Jones (Steinhorn) – Jones sports a combined .284 AVG over the past three seasons to go along with averages of 31 homers, 95 RBI and 97 runs scored, so he’s an ultra-safe four-category contributor who is still in his prime. The steals have fallen off but he could at least get back up to double-digits.

1.11 – Josh Donaldson (Michaels) – I do think Billy B swapped Donaldson at his maximum value in Oakland, but…in Toronto, with E5 and Joey Bats covering, its a whole new, uh, ballgame. Donaldson had been the team’s best hitter the past two years. No reason that should change now. Not sure if 30 homers is out there, but a .285-25-95 line is. Sold.

1.12 – Jose Bautista (Schwartz) – I want power early: Jose Bautista is the best option left on the board, with both Encarnacion and Stanton gone, and both C.Davis and C.Carter represent major question marks. Bautista ranks 5th in MLB in HR/PA (min 500 PA) over the past three seasons, and he played in 155 games last season, so hopefully the injury concerns of 2012-13 are behind him.

ROUND 2

2.01 – Robinson Cano (Schwartz) – Cano slipped in the power categories last year, and not unexpectedly, but his unusual home/away splits and the improved Mariners lineup have me hopeful he’ll bounce back into the 20/90 range this year. He’s sixth in MLB in AVG over the past three years, which will help offset Bautista’s so-so average, and getting an elite MI early is an added bonus.

2.02 – Anthony Rendon (Michaels) – I changed the name here three times, flip flopping, but am going with Rendon. Covers second with some flexibility, power, speed and serious upside. What is not to like about this guy?

2.03 – Jose Altuve (Steinhorn) – No, I’m not expecting another .341 AVG, but even a .300 AVG with 40 steals from the 2B position is plenty valuable. The up and coming Astros lineup should help keep his runs total in the neighborhood of last season’s 85 even with the expected AVG drop.

2.04 – Felix Hernandez (Van Riper) – I like him slightly more than the other non-Kershaw elite pitchers, and I am rolling the dice on getting one of the hitters I thought about in this spot near the end of Round 3. The track record and home park here are as good as any (sans Kershaw) over the past five seasons. Will the gamble pay off? Can the Dynamic Duo bring the Penguin to justice? Tune in next week.

2.05 – Troy Tulowitzki (Gonos) – Not an ideal risk-averse pick, of course, but 100 games from Tulo plus 60 games from replacement-level shortstop should equal a top-10 player. (Math doesn’t lie!) Now, the problem lies when the equation turns out to be 60 games from Tulo and 100 games from replacement shortstop. But how could that possibly happen!?!

2.06 – Anthony Rizzo (Mack) – I’ll take the upside here. Wow, it was a real down year for hitters last season. I already have a pitcher, so I have to dip into young power potential here. Assuming the Cubs offense improves around him and Starlin Castro doesn’t shoot anyone, Rizzo can break through to the elite with a .285-35-105-85 season. Not too many of those guys on the board.

2.07 – Ian Desmond (Flowers) – Three straight years of going 20/20 as a shortstop for Desmond. Only two others at the position have ever done that (A-Rod in 1997-99 and Hanley Ramirez 2007-10). The strikeout rate is horrible and limits the batting average, but this all-around game is elite for the position.

2.08 – Hanley Ramirez (Zola) – This is way more anecdotal than I like to be but a happy Hanley is a motivated Hanley and a motivated Hanley is a productive Hanley. Big Papi and Ramirez have a father-son type relationship that I hope feeds into the whole happy thing. In a shallow mixed league, I’m much more amenable to taking an early risk of this nature.

2.09 – Michael Brantley (Collette)

2.10 – Jacoby Ellsbury (Sporer) – Oof, snaked by Ray and Jason. Felt really good about one of ‘em making it back to me, but it wasn’t to be! So I shifted to Ellsbury. Back-to-back 630+ PA seasons alleviates some of the injury concern, but just because he has stayed off of the DL doesn’t mean he has avoided injury. He wasn’t playing down the stretch in either of the last two seasons, but expanded rosters kept the Sox and Yanks from DL’ing him during that time. I love the 91% success rate on the bases the last two seasons. A repeat of either of these last two seasons or even an average of the two would be more than acceptable here.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals

2.11 – Ryan Braun (Heaney) – Given the state of offense, these tiers of hitters hardly make you as comfortable as they did in previous years. While there are a number of starting pitchers; a talented but not fully developed outfielder; and a certain scarcity-driven player I could grab here, I’m embracing risk and opting for another asset I believe could be the fantasy MVP if all goes right.

Braun still boasts a giant track record; has had time to heal from his thumb procedure that should ease his bat grip; and probably has spent enough effort working through withdrawal from any old pharmaceutical help. As of today, I’m expecting Braun to produce around 25 homers, maybe pushing 20 swipes, with second-round-level BA and RBI production — with that once-elite form looming. Check back with me in March, though.

2.12 – Yasiel Puig (Erickson) - I get the critiques of Puig – he’s immature, manager Don Mattingly doesn’t love him, he hasn’t hit 20 homers in a season yet, etc… But he’s only 24, clearly has the raw power, an improving batting eye and a more secure spot in the order with Matt Kemp gone. He’s going to blow up one year, and I want to be there when it happens.

ROUND 3

3.01 – Chris Sale (Erickson) - It was close between Sale and Scherzer for me at this spot, but with 24 picks before my next pick, there’s a good chance that none of the top-tier starters would be available for me if I didn’t snag one here. Sale will have a better lineup and bullpen supporting him this season, so long as he can make it through intact, the wins should follow everything else that is already good.

3.02 – Max Scherzer (Heaney) – Appears Jeff and I had similar plans. On my table, Scherzer ranks a hair above the rest in a wide group of starting pitchers that are left, and his move to the National League and Nationals club  plus a largely offensively decrepit NL East affirms his status as a starting pitcher worth this sort of investment. Thanks to his elite K ability, a possible ERA climb probably wouldn’t be enough to remove him from the top five at his position.

3.03 – Corey Kluber (Sporer) – I’m sure several SPs will go between now and my next pick, so I’ll jump in and get my ace. Nothing in his Cy Young campaign stands out as ripe for regression, but even if he does slide back some, there is plenty of room for him to remain an ace.

3.04 – Stephen Strasburg (Collette)

3.05 – Yoenis Cespedes (Zola) – Runs and RBI are an overlooked fantasy entity. I’m trying to make an effort to focus on hitters in the upper half of strong lineups. Cespedes should be in the heart of a Tiger order that shouldn’t have any trouble putting points on the board. Health is a concern but not enough to sway me off this pick.

3.06 – Justin Upton (Flowers) – Upton is boring, I get it. He’s also solid in the counting categories and offers something so many of the modern day ballplayers don’t, which is stability, as he’s appeared in 149 games in four straight seasons. Don’t forget he’s only 27 years old – still squarely in his physical prime.

3.07 – Buster Posey (Mack) – I hate being the first to take a pitcher and now the first to take a catcher. I am not being a trend setter. I just don’t like the alternatives. Posey is going to get more and more time at first base with the emergence of Andrew Susac, so Posey should play more than more catchers and make good on a third-round pick.

3.08 – Adrian Beltre (Gonos) – Sure, he’s wicked old (36 in April), but he has been one of the best bets over the past few seasons. I thought about him one round ago and am happy to see him drop to me here. He also gets a healthy Prince Fielder in front of him going forward.

MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants

3.09 – Bryce Harper (Van Riper) – I like the value that Beltre offered in Round 3, but even if he were still on the board, Harper is the guy I was hoping to get. For a player his age (he’s younger than Kris Bryant), the per-game production is outstanding. The thumb injury last season almost certainly tanked the slugging percentage (career-low .423), and I’m confident he’ll push 25+ HR, with 8-10 SB and plenty of R/RBI supported by a .270-.275 average. Of course, the added bonus is that he could do more across the board.

3.10 – Matt Kemp (Steinhorn) – This is unlike me to take a gamble like this in Round 3 but I’m too intrigued by the value. The move to Petco isn’t a good thing but Kemp stayed healthy last year and is coming off a monster second half to 2014. I can see him go .285-25-85 (and possibly beter) in a much improved Padres lineup, and maybe he gets back up to the 12-15 SB range.

3.11 – Madison Bumgarner (Michaels) – Pitching is so deep that it is tough to just take a hitter here. But, hitting is also pretty deep right now as well. And, I am kind of surprised Madbum fell behind Strasburg, but no way would he be there for the next round (five and six, essentially, since I pick again right away). But, I love the guy and though I am not sure how much better he can get, but I don’t think he will get worse. And, for sure, he is an ace, in a great ballpark (with the best defensive shortstop in the league behind him).

3.12 – Carlos Gonzalez (Schwartz) – I know there are risks here but I’ll take the gamble on this 29-year-old erstwhile first rounder, who averaged .311-27-91-22 from 2010-2013 in only 129 games per season. I don’t expect him to run much anymore, but with his knee feeling better than ever, I fully expect the power and average to rebound to his peak levels.

ROUND 4

4.01 – Evan Longoria (Schwartz) – I know there are risks here but I’ll take the gamble on this 29-year-old erstwhile first rounder, who has averaged .271-31-107 per 162 games throughout his career. Even though he slumped to only 22 homers last year, he has a Saberhagen/Posey-esque odd-year thing going, topping 30 homers in each of the last three odd number years.

4.02 – Zack Greinke (Michaels) – I guess the beauty of not being wedded to any specific strategy is that it takes me at my whim. Todd and I drafted 7th in the FSTA thing (also 23 rounds) and did not take a starting pitcher till round 9. Well, I see enough depth at the stuff I still need to go with the killer one-two pitching punch of Madbum and Greinke.

4.03 – David Price (Steinhorn) – I was planning on waiting another round or two before drafting my ace, but I’m not even sure if some of the slightly lower cost guys I have in mind will still be on the board by the time my next pick comes around. So I’ll grab Price now and enjoy the 200-plus strikeouts along with the elite ratios. He should also benefit from a full season pitching in spacious Comerica Park and from a strong lineup that will give him way more run support than he had in Tampa Bay.

4.04 – Hunter Pence (Van Riper) – Maybe it’s because he looks goofy doing everything on the baseball field, and even while standing still. The steals may be in decline since he’s on the wrong side of 30, but I could see more RBI with Aoki and a healthy Pagan in front of him in the order. Even if he’s closer to 90 runs scored than 106, the gain in RBI and steady power output should be enough to get a decent return on him at this price.

4.05 – Yu Darvish (Gonos) – Strikeouts are the name of the game, and Yu better believe he’ll rack them up again this season. Hopefully, his elbow inflammation is behind him and at just 28 years old, he still has some great seasons ahead. (I was hoping to get Price here.)

4.06 – Albert Pujols (Mack) – He isn’t the no-brainer he used to be, but returned to health enough to play 159 games. Having the DH certainly helps, too. If he hits .280-30-100-80, I will take it in a declining era for power numbers.

4.07 – Corey Dickerson (Flowers) – Considered going with Starling Marte here, but Dickerson’s home park and all-around game intrigue me. He was much better than many thought as his 131 games of action put him on the cusp of a .315-25-75-75-10 season.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

4.08 – George Springer (Zola) – Houston is assembling an interesting squad that should put some runs on the board. Springer may whiff too much but when he makes contact, good things happen. There’s 35/20 upside here but I’ll take 30/15. The days of always wanting two years for a foundation are over. You need to pick and choose, but occasionally you need to bet on the come. Here’s mine.

4.09 – Starling Marte (Collette)

4.10 – Nolan Arenado (Sporer) – I really wanted Dickerson or Marte, but maybe Ray & Jason did me a favor because then I’d have three OF’s before a single infielder. There are two other 3B’s who almost certainly have higher floors and I considered both, but I really like Arenado’s ceiling. He may be a bit of a Coors Creation right now (2 HR, 16 RBI on the road), but he still plays there, so I’m not really that worried about it!

4.11 – Jose Reyes (Heaney) – There’s a litany of corner infielders to choose from, and I need some pop, but Reyes is the last of the shortstops worth snaring this early per my rankings. He’s 31 with a spotty health history, though this is the cheapest you could land him in a healthy preseason in a long time. Toronto’s new turf should ease the pain on his body and allow him to produce something close to his typical output atop this elite order (something like .280-10-50-90-30).

4.12 – Freddie Freeman (Erickson) – The team context around Freeman got worse, but even taking that into account he slipped considerably in this draft. Batting eye improved last year, as did the line drive rate.

ROUND 5

5.01 – Johnny Cueto (Erickson) – How long will it take for fantasy players to put Cueto in the first-tier of starting pitchers? His health woes in 2013 were scary, to be sure, but he put in full seasons in both 2012 and last year, and his strikeout rate improved to boot. Maybe he’ll get traded midseason, but it will almost certainly be in a friendlier pitcher-environment; it’s not as if Colorado will be getting him.

5.02 – Victor Martinez (Heaney) – In 2014, V-Mart ranked 19th in average fly-ball distance, per Baseball Heat Maps. The 36-year-old likely won’t hit 32 homers again, but I doubt his ability to leave the yard will magically erode the very next season. This remains a fantastic run-production situation for a top-notch contact bat. Even if his HR total drops closer to 20 than 30, he’ll come out a $30 player again — a steal at this spot. Why not take a younger David Ortiz that actually boasts 1B eligibility in every league?

5.03 – Adrian Gonzalez (Sporer) – There isn’t too much flash with this pick, but that doesn’t make it bad. Gonzalez hasn’t played fewer than 156 games as a full-time player and he’s all but a shoo-in for 25-100. His first sub-.300 BABIP since 2009 left the AVG a little light, so there’s even some upside to get back into the .290s there.

5.04 – Todd Frazier (Collette)

5.05 – Kyle Seager (Zola) – I’ve seen some comment the third base pool is deeper this year. Well, I’m of the opinion there’s a handful of good players at the top but if you wait too long you get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity. Seager’s skills are pretty consistent – I’ll take his baseline at this spot. But one of these years he’s going to get some BABIP luck and hit .290. I want him the year he does it ’cause I’m not paying the inflated price for the year after.

5.06 – Cole Hamels (Flowers) – I was gonna go Frazier or Seager. Thanks to Collette and Zola that’s a no go. There are still some fellas at both corners that I wouldn’t mind starting, so I’m taking my first pitcher. Don’t down Hamels for his record the last two years. He’s one heck of an arm still operating at near peak levels.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins

5.07 – Aroldis Chapman (Mack) – First to draft a pitcher. First to draft a catcher. First to draft two first basemen. Now, first to pick a closer. Yes, I suck. Good thing Chapman doesn’t. He’s better than Craig Kimbrel. I will eventually pick position players. For now, I will have to be satisfied with having a 100-strikeout, 40-save closer with dynamite ratios. Oh, he just happens to be 27 this year, too, along with Clayton Kershaw.

5.08 – Nelson Cruz (Gonos) – Outfield is drying up quickly, as is players that can hit for power and not strike out 150-plus times, so I’ll go with the discounted HR leader from 2014. I wouldn’t be upset if spacious Safeco Field drove him to start using PEDs again.

5.09 – Craig Kimbrel ( Van Riper) – With Chapman off the board, Kimbrel is the easy second option. I think the benefit of getting an elite closer is two-fold. First, extra strikeouts will help offset a slightly lower strikeout rate from a second or third starting pitcher. Second, the most firmly entrenched closers will only lose their job in the event of an injury. As enticing as Dellin Betances’ skills are, I don’t think that latter statement holds up on him just yet.

5.10 – Prince Fielder (Steinhorn) - Prince was a borderline first round pick at this time last year, but concerns over how he’ll respond to the season-ending neck surgery have lowered his price to the point where I think he could be a steal. There’s some risk involved here but there’s also 35-homer potential for a guy who will be playing half of his games in Arlington. At pick #58, I’ll take my chances.

5.11 – Kole Calhoun (Michaels) – Not sure if outfield is getting thin, but I don’t remember waiting this long in a draft before grabbing one. There are still a lot out there I fancy, but none more than Calhoun. Now going into his third year, at age 26, I feel he can now do 150 games and put up a .280-22-85 line with ten or so swipes. Would like him to up the 38 walks from last year, but if he can do that and hold the 104 whiffs, woo hoo. (Nowhere to go but up?)

5.12 – Greg Holland (Schwartz) – He’s essentially been the AL version of Kimbrel the last two years, converting 93 of 98 save chances with a ridiculous 1.32 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 193-38 K-BB ratio in 129.1 IP. I’m not worried about a postseason hangover, either, since he wasn’t worked too hard during the season and threw only 11.0 innings in October. He’s as close to a sure thing as any closer can be.

ROUND 6

6.01 – Kenley Jansen (Schwartz) – He overcame a BABIP-fueled ugly first half to post lights-out numbers last year, with 44 saves and a 101-19 K-BB ratio in 65.1 IP, and should be able to post even better numbers this year. Stacking closers on back-to-back “wheel” picks is a classic Fantasy 411 strategy, so I’m very happy to have two of what I believe to be the four elite closers in the league.

6.02 – Marcell Ozuna (Michaels) – Ozuna had a pretty good year for a 24-year-old thrust into the fray. Would like him to cut down on the whiffs (164 last year), but I think he can build on the .269-23-85 totals as part of the best young outfield in baseball.

6.03 – Pablo Sandoval (Steinhorn) – Finally, Panda will have the benefit of a favorable home park! His numbers should improve across the board, that is as long as he stays healthy, which is no guarantee. But he’s a flat-out good hitter, and I’m not at all impressed with the depth at 3B this year. In other words, I don’t want to settle for Chase Headley. Maybe I could’ve waited another round or two for Sandoval, but we’ll never know.

6.04 – Jordan Zimmermann (Van Riper) – He’ll either stay in Washington, or end up on another good team via trade, so team context should be favorable. More importantly, his swinging-strike rate continues to point toward the possibility of another level coming with his strikeout rate. Even if it doesn’t happen, he pairs well with Kimbrell’s extra boost in that category, and goes a long way to fortify the elite ratios from Felix Hernandez in Round 2.

6.05 – Adam Wainwright (Gonos) – Still on pace to be ready for Opening Day after having some elbow cartilage shaved in October. As my SP2, he’ll be the foundation for my wins, ERA and WHIP. The surgery will scare plenty, driving down his price, but cartilage injuries are much more manageable than more ligament damage.

6.06 – Jason Heyward (Mack) – Surprised he, and Marv Throneberry (brilliant, Gonos!), was still on the board. Remember when Heyward was a perennial 30-100-20 candidate? The Cards do. Still just 25 and heading into a potentially legendary free agent year, I will gladly take the potential here. He’s no Throneberry of the ’62 Mets, but he is the J-Hey Kid!

6.07 – Joey Votto (Flowers) – Reports are positive about his health, and far too much gets made about his lack of power or RBI production. It was a mere season ago (2013) that Joey hit .305 with 24 homers, 101 runs scored and a .926 OPS. Last season, Miguel Cabrera hit .313 with 25 homers, 101 runs an a .895 OPS.

6.08 – Dee Gordon (Zola) – Nothing magical here – I need some speed and even though there’s some I like later, I thought I’d address it now leaving me more options later. I don’t really know how Gordon will do in Miami, I just know you don’t trade for him and not let him run.

6.09 – Brian Dozier (Collette) – Skills growth and taking walks is leading to more SB chances. Hitting in the .240’s is the new hitting in the .270’s.

6.10 – Dellin Betances (Sporer) – I’m not just expecting last year with 35 saves, because closers don’t throw 90 IP, but I think 70 IP with 110 Ks and 35-40 saves is very much in play and then we are talking one of the top closers in the game.

6.11 – Jay Bruce (Heaney) – Time to load up on some power. I thought about taking another Cincy outfielder, but Bruce meets my current needs. He had hit 30-plus homers and driven in 97-plus runs three years in a row before a knee issue sapped his power and his typical plate discipline problems boiled over. For this cost, I’m banking on at least 25 taters (maybe with 10 steals again) while hoping he revisits 2011-2013 at age 28.

6.12 – Chris Davis (Erickson) – Let’s go on a run on left-handed hitters that have trouble with the shift! But this time, he’s using Adderall legally. I want my players pushing every envelope possible – I appreciate what he’s doing for the team. And he qualifies at 3B to boot, which is where I’ll go ahead and slot him.

ROUND 7

7.01 – Christian Yelich (Erickson) – Steady improvement each season, scored 94 runs last year, now has a better lineup behind him. #Want.

7.02 – Carlos Santana (Heaney) – My plan was to pick Davis or this Tribesman, so now I won’t need the help of a Black Magic Woman. Santana flashed a top-end BA over the summer to go with his excellent power; in fact, he hit the ball harder as the season went on. With his excellent batting eye and competent contact rate, his BA looks primed for a significant jump — OK, likely only to .260, but that helps. His loss of catcher eligibility hurts, but he’s a Smooth pick in the dangerous middle tiers of corner infielders.

FSTA Draft Results

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

Hey everyone,

Last night, representatives from 13 different prominent fantasy sites gathered in Las Vegas for the annual FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association) baseball draft. Here are the results.

The FSTA league is a 13-team mixed league that uses the standard 5×5 categories with 29-man rosters (6 bench). Among non-keeper industry leagues, the FSTA draft is usually the earliest one, and it’s always educational to have non-mock results to analyze in January. Of course, the downside of a January draft is that two months from now, some of the picks will seem very outdated, as a number of impact free agents have yet to sign, roles have yet to be determined and jobs have yet to be won. And as in any draft (especially industry drafts, as these guys rarely draft “by the book”), there were plenty of surprises, the first major one being Anthony Rizzo at #7 overall!

Anyway, have a nice time studying these results, and feel free to share your thoughts.

-Zach

2015 Catcher Preview

Zach here,

In the first installment of my positional preview series, let’s take a look at the Catcher position, a position that I usually devalue on draft day, opting instead to take one of the guys towards the back end of the top-10. While you don’t want to be stuck with Tyler Flowers as your No. 1 backstop, investing in an elite catcher within the first few rounds when there are so many other needs to address probably isn’t the best way to go. Catchers are more prone to injury due to the wear and tear of playing the position, and since they receive frequent days off, the influence of a catcher’s stat line on the overall stats of your fantasy team is more limited than the other positions.

OK, let’s get on with it.

2 UP

Matt Wieters

Yeah, there’s some risk in drafting Wieters. The latest word is that he might not be ready for Opening Day as he approaches the finish line in the long Tommy John surgery recovery process. But chances are he won’t miss more than the first two weeks or so, and this is a guy who is still just 28 and launched a combined 67 homers from 2011-2013. Plus, he did get off to a strong start last season before hitting the shelf. His power might take some time to fully return, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages 18-20 home runs regardless. Oh, and if you’re a believer in the contract year theory, Wieters will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season. He’s a potential top-5 fantasy catcher who can be had at a steep discount. In my mind, the reward is well worth the risk.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves

Wilson Ramos

I’ll just keep drafting Ramos until I’m finally right. One of these years, he’s going to stay healthy, deliver a .280-20-80 line and make me look good. Maybe it’ll happen in 2015, his age-27 season. In all likelihood, enough owners have given up on him that he will be there for the taking outside of the top-12 catchers. If you decide to wait awhile before drafting your No. 1 catcher, there’s nothing wrong with choosing Ramos.

2 DOWN

Yadier Molina

Molina is still a fine fantasy contributor. The problem I have with him is that he’s currently being valued as a no doubt top-5 and borderline top-3 option. Yadier missed a good chunk of the 2014 season as he underwent thumb surgery in mid-July, which explains the disappointing counting stats, but that should not hide the fact that his OPS has been in steady decline ever since he posted a career-best .874 mark back in 2012. At 32 years of age, it is fair to wonder if more injuries, even of the nagging variety, are on the horizon. Give me Wieters or Ramos several rounds later.

Russell Martin

Who would’ve thunk it? Arguably the biggest fantasy surprise among catchers last season, Martin registered his highest batting average since his career year of 2007 while posting his highest RBI total since 2008. That said, his .290 batting average was at least partially aided by a higher than normal .336 BABIP, and considering that he was coming off four straight seasons with a sub-.250 AVG, expecting a repeat performance in 2015 is a lot to ask. I wouldn’t mind drafting Martin as my No. 2 catcher, as his move to a hitter-friendly ballpark in Toronto could result in a home run total in the high-teens. But signing with the Blue Jays has also heightened his perceived value to that of a borderline top-10 catcher. At that price, I’ll pass.

Upcoming Mock Draft and More

Zach here,

Happy 2015 to all. It’s been awhile but it’s time to get this blog back up and running with regular new posts. A couple things:

-Keep an eye out for our annual full 23-round industry slow mock draft. The draft will be a 12-teamer with mostly the same participants as our October mini-mock. We’re waiting until next Monday to begin in order to allow the owners who are involved in this week’s FSTA Conference to devote their full attention to the mock draft! I’ll be posting the pick-by pick results along with short commentary from the various participants at the end of each round or two and there will also be a link here to the live google spreadsheet.

-Beginning this week, I’ll be posting positional previews (figure one or two per week) which will follow a players who I will target/players who I will avoid format.

Well, that’s it for now. And as always, feel free to post your questions and I will get back to you.

Saves vs. Holds

Zach here,

Every off-season, Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman), who plays a huge role in organizing the Tout Wars drafts and overseeing the leagues throughout the year, opens the floor for rule change suggestions. The Tout Wars LLC has final say in whether or not to implement a rule change, but most of the time, proposals do not even reach that stage, as the majority of owners tend to favor the status quo. The most recent exceptions have been the switch from AVG to OBP and the change from a modified Vickrey FAAB system to a straight Vickrey format.

Anyway, here’s one category-related suggestion that Ray Flowers of SiriusXM shared with the group (in his own words):

“Replace saves with Solds (saves + holds). Chasing saves on draft day or on waivers gets tiring. Why not try to set it up to reward the talent of the relievers versus the role the manager puts them in?”

Cory was quick to second this idea, but I had to chime in with this:

“The only time I want to hear the word ‘Sold’ is at the auction. I hate holds as a category as all you need is one out. There are enough instances where a save is not deserved (1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER etc.) Holds are even worse. They are simply too easy to get.”

After a few more owners added their input, Cory answered:

“Zach’s original reply, and subsequent replies from others, got me to thinking about the relative value of Saves vs. Holds. My initial reaction was in favor of Ray’s suggestion to use SV+HLD, because I don’t think chasing saves demonstrates any meaningful skill as a fantasy player. But, I’m a numbers guy, so what do the numbers say?

Well, it’s a mixed bag. In looking at 2014 MLB regular season stats, pitchers who earned Saves did in fact pitch longer and better than those who earned Holds, so there is definitely some higher level of skill reflected there.”

CAT      NO.        OUT/G   ERA       WHIP     K/9

SV        1264       3.03       1.02       0.80       10.33

HLD      2309       2.56       1.34       0.90       8.94

(OUT/G is outs per game, or IP*3.)

“This fairly well dispels the notion that adding Holds would allow us to reward skills more than roles. On the whole, those earning the Saves were also the better pitchers, performance-wise.

Also, I divided up all Saves into three roughly equal groups, ranked by the Bill James game score (minus the bonus for complete innings after the fourth, and the 50-point base), then did the same for all Holds, then compared the bottom thirds in each category. These results clearly support the notion of a “cheap” Hold being much cheaper, and more damaging, than a cheap Save.”

CAT       NO.        OUT/G   ERA       WHIP     K/9

SV         422        2.84       3.23       1.76       6.95

HLD       771        2.03       5.02       2.13       5.26

“This seems to me to argue against another motivation for adding Holds, that doing so would dilute the value of lower-tier closers. Lower-tier relievers earning Holds are far more damaging.

(Admittedly not every save nor every hold would be “rostered”, but I think these numbers are still instructive.)

On the other hand, as noted above there were almost two Holds earned for every Save, so presumably the cost of acquiring relievers in general would be diminished as a result, allowing Tout owners to spend more of their draft and FAAB money elsewhere rather than in the bullpen. That may be a good thing.

This last point still carries my vote, but I’m not as firmly committed as I was a couple of hours ago. Take these results with the usual grains of salt and do with them what you will.”

Zach back with you:

Since Cory conducted his study, there have been plenty more e-mails regarding the issue, and it’s looking like we’re going to stand pat with the current 5×5 setup (with OBP again replacing AVG), but this is one of many examples of the Tout Wars off-season discussions.

The 411 welcomes your comments!

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/30)

CLICK HERE for the complete results of our mini-mock draft for 2015 plus pick-by-pick commentary from the participants

This is the final installment of my Postseason Musings series, where I shared my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep!

World Series Game 6 – Giants @ Royals

-Yeah, Yordano Ventura (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 4 K) was given plenty of run support, but that shouldn’t take away from this gem. In fact, following his rough relief outing in the AL Wild Card Game, Ventura registered a 2.52 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across four postseason starts, capping off a strong rookie campaign in impressive fashion. His control could still use some fine-tuning, but there’s little reason to doubt that the 23-year-old can continue to improve going forward. If you’re a Ventura owner in a long-term keeper league, you have every reason to be pumped up.

-Mike Moustakas (2-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) was one of six Royals with multi-hits in this game. Although Moose wrapped up the postseason with a mediocre .231 batting average, he did launch five home runs while posting a .558 slugging percentage. Unless he can significantly improve his plate discipline skills, Moustakas will remain a batting average liability, but there’s 25-plus home run potential here. At a weak third base position, he’s well worth a late-round gamble next season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              World Series Game 7 – Giants @ Royals

-If it weren’t for a certain pitcher on his team, Pablo Sandoval (3-for-3, 2B, 2 R) would have been the obvious choice for World Series MVP, being that he finished the seven-game series with a .429 average, four RBI, six runs scored and a 1.002 OPS. The impending free agent will surely attract many suitors, though it would be nice to see him remain with the Giants, the only organization he has ever played for. Should you miss out on the elite third basemen next spring, Kung Fu Panda makes for a fine consolation prize.

MLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

-The more I think about it, the more I think that there’s no way Madison Bumgarner (5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, SV) lasts until the fourth round in a 12-team mixed league draft, like he did in our October Expert Mock. In seven postseason appearances (six starts), Bumgarner went 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, two complete game shutouts and Wednesday night’s five-inning save. As crazy as it sounds, Madison’s historic postseason performance might have done more harm than good when it comes to his 2015 fantasy appeal. Whereas a month ago, I considered him a legitimate fantasy ace who could be had at a back end of the ace tier price, you will now certainly need to pay full price for his services. Also, his 270 total innings this season is a somewhat concerning number. But even if the heavy workload wasn’t an issue, the increased cost would at least cause me to think twice before drafting him. Be prepared to spend a top-35 pick.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/27)

CLICK HERE for the complete results of our mini-mock draft for 2015 plus pick-by-pick commentary from the participants

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

World Series Game 3 – Royals @ Giants

-Alcides Escobar (2-for-4, 2 R) rebounded in a big way following a disappointing 2013 season, raising his batting average by more than 50 points and his OPS by more than 100 points while swiping 31 bags. And he’s carried his regular season success into the postseason, collecting a number of clutch hits along the way. So what about 2015? I think the real Alcides Escobar is closer to the 2014 version than the 2013 version, and if you’re an owner who prefers to wait awhile to draft a starting shortstop, Escobar is a fine choice.

-Sergio Romo (1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 3 K) sports a 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 through seven postseason innings this year. After getting off to a rocky start to the regular season, which ultimately led to him losing the closer job, Romo was lights out following the All-Star break (1.80 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 10.4 K/9). He’s a free agent this winter and it remains to be seen if the Giants will decide to re-sign him. But I’m fairly confident that Romo will return to the closer role in 2015, whether it’s with the Giants or another club. We all know that Sergio can thrive in the ninth inning, so if he does end up closing, I would not at all be shy to take a chance on him next season. He won’t cost nearly as much as he did a year ago.

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              World Series Game 4 – Royals @ Giants

-Although Joe Panik (2-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R) is hitting only .242 this postseason, he does have one homer, eight RBI and seven runs scored in 15 games, this after batting .305 in 73 regular season games during his 2014 rookie campaign. Panik’s minor league numbers hint at a productive big league career, and he carries some fantasy sleeper appeal heading into 2015 for those in deep mixed/NL-only leagues. Don’t expect a whole lot of power, but he could turn out to be a solid contributor in the batting average and stolen base departments.

-Maybe I was too quick to anoint Brandon Finnegan (1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K) as the next big thing, but this is the kind of inconsistency we should expect from most young pitchers. Remember that he’s only 21. Don’t let this brutal outing dissuade you from targeting Finnegan in long-term keeper/dynasty formats, especially if the Royals decide to move him into the starting rotation, which is a legitimate possibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              World Series Game 5 – Royals @ Giants

-Brandon Crawford (2-for-4, 3 RBI) will be only 28 on Opening Day 2015, so he’s still in his prime years, and he did drive in 69 runs this year, a solid total for a shortstop. Crawford is a terrific fielder but he’s also a career .242 hitter who doesn’t excel in any particular offensive category. Feel free to ignore him entirely in the vast majority of mixed leagues, and the only reason why he would be relevant in NL-only leagues is that he’s an everyday player at a thin position.

-Madison Bumgarner (9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) was taken at 5.04 (#52 overall) in our 12-team mixed mini-mock, which is looking more and more like an absolute steal. Drafted after Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, Bumgarner has certainly improved his stock this postseason (1.13 ERA, 0.67 WHIP in six starts) to the point where a case could be made that only Kershaw deserves to be taken ahead of him. Regardless, owners who were targeting Bumgarner as a guy who could be had towards the back end of the ace tier who could return top-5 SP value might need to rethink their strategy.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/23)

CLICK HERE for the complete results of our mini-mock draft for 2015 plus pick-by-pick commentary from the participants

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

World Series Game 1 – Giants @ Royals

-Ever since he broke into the big leagues back in 2007, Hunter Pence (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the game, and his performance this year added yet another positive data point to his already exceptional track record. Expect 20-plus homers, 180 R+RBI and double-digit steals and you won’t be disappointed. Guys like Bryce Harper and Yasiel Puig might carry more upside, but there’s nothing wrong with waiting another round and taking Pence instead. In baseball, nothing is for certain, but Hunter Pence is about as close as it gets.

MLB: World Series-San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

-Salvador Perez (1-for-3, HR) wasn’t quite as productive this season as he was in his breakout 2013 campaign, but any fantasy owner would be pleased with 17 homers and 70 RBI from their No. 1 backstop. Yeah, his .260 batting average was a bit disappointing, but a rather low .278 BABIP is at least partly to blame. Keep in mind that Perez’s career AVG is .285, so we should see an improvement in that department in 2015. Still just 24 years of age, Perez has plenty of time to take his overall game to the next level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              World Series Game 2 – Giants @ Royals

-Billy Butler (2-for-3, 2 RBI) is coming off the worst full season of his career, which was preceded by the worst full season of his career. Can Butler reverse this troubling trend in 2015? Who knows, but I find it hard to believe that a player who put up a .313-29-107 line as recently as 2012 can all of a sudden fall off the map like this, though the 29 homers were most certainly a fluke. If I can get Butler for less than five bucks next spring, especially in an OBP league, I might just take the plunge, assuming that he has a starting job. But I’m not overly excited about him. Note that the Royals hold a 12.5 million dollar club option on Butler for 2015, which it’s safe to say they will decline, so there’s a decent chance that Country Breakfast will be donning a different uniform.

-Omar Infante (2-for-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI) is a better real-life player than fantasy player, but in a deep mixed league or preferably an AL-only, you could do worse for your starting MI slot. At least there’s double-digit home run and stolen base potential. He’s more of a last-ditch option though.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/17)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLCS Game 5 – Cardinals @ Giants

-Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off homer is the one that will be remembered ten years from now, but the game-tying pinch-hit home run by Michael Morse is what made Ishikawa’s heroics possible. Morse has grown quite familiar with the DL over the course of his big league career, as he was limited to 131 games this year after playing only 88 games in 2013. But when healthy, he’s a nice cheap source of power for fantasy owners. Although expecting him to repeat his 2011 career season (.303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI) might be too much to ask, 25 homers and 75-plus RBI is well within the realm of possibility provided he avoids the infirmary. He’s a worthy late-round lottery ticket.

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants

-Last postseason, Michael Wacha was the talk of baseball. Last night, Wacha again made the postseason headlines, but for the wrong reasons (1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). The promising righty was limited to just 19 starts this year due to injury, but he still managed to post a stellar stat line. Yeah, it was an ugly outing, but keep in mind that Wacha had not pitched in nearly three weeks, so he deserves a mulligan. Whereas heading into this season, Wacha might have been a little overrated in fantasy circles, I think he will be underrated at the 2015 draft table. Most fantasy owners have short memories, so don’t forget about this guy.

Zach’s Postseason Musings (10/16)

CLICK HERE to follow our mini-mock draft for 2015 (in progress)

Throughout the postseason, I’ll be sharing my fantasy-angled thoughts on a variety of noteworthy players from each game with the goal of helping you get a jump start on your 2015 draft prep! So keep checking back here every weekday for new posts.

NLCS Game 4 – Cardinals @ Giants

-Buster Posey (2-for-3, 3 RBI) will head into next season as the undisputed top fantasy catcher, and I’m not saying it’s wrong to spend a top-25 pick on him. But I tend to shy away from investing too heavily at catcher, due largely to the wear and tear of playing every day at the position. The good news is that the Giants did a nice job of mixing in some games at first base, 35 to be exact. I could turn out to be completely wrong here. Just a personal preference.

-Gregor Blanco (1-for-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R) isn’t exactly a fantasy force, but he has averaged 19 steals over the last three seasons and owns a career .344 OBP. As a fourth or fifth outfielder in an NL-only league, you could do a lot worse.

ALCS Game 4 – Orioles @ Royals

-Jason Vargas (5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K) has been a popular Pitch or Ditch choice for several years now. He’s more than just an innings eater. Rather, he’s someone who you can pick up and start in favorable matchups and then drop when the schedule gets tougher. Vargas isn’t worth drafting in mixed leagues, but chances are he will find a spot on a roster at various points during the season.

MLB: ALCS-Baltimore Orioles at Kansas City Royals

-Miguel Gonzalez (5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) is another Orioles starting pitcher (I discussed Wei-Yin Chen yesterday) who I consider very underrated. Bet you didn’t know that through his first three big league seasons, Gonzalez sports a career 3.45 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. In a deep mixed league, I wouldn’t have an issue with drafting him to round out my starting rotation.

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