CLICK HERE to listen to our special podcast from Friday. Topics include MLB.com Fantasy Preview Rankings, the recently unveiled List of 12 and our slow mock draft.
CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress
Studying expert mock drafts is a great way to prepare for your real drafts. Studying expert real drafts is even better. Last night, LABR kicked off its 2015 draft season with the mixed league draft (AL and NL auctions still to come). Mixed LABR is a 15-team league with 29-man rosters (6 bench), and it’s safe to say that this draft did not follow the book in terms of the pick-by-pick results, the most prominent example being the #3 overall selection. CLICK HERE for the complete results. And as always, feel free to chime in with your own comments. Unfortunately, as a member of the Tout Wars Mixed Auction league, these results don’t do a whole lot for me. Oh well.
CLICK HERE to listen to our special podcast from Friday. Topics include MLB.com Fantasy Preview Rankings, the recently unveiled List of 12 and our slow mock draft.
CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress
Zach back with you,
The long anticipated 2015 List of 12 has arrived! If you’re not familiar with the principles of the List of 12, check out the opening portion of this post from a few years ago.
Now I’ll hand things over to Cory:
The List of 12 comes out to 14 names this year. See the attached spreadsheet for career stats on the entire gang. Here’s how I rank them for 2015:
Darvish, Yu – Assuming his elbow checks out healthy he should be a top-5 fantasy pitcher again in 2015. Keep an eye on his rapidly increasing fly ball rate though; that could portend a few more homers in hitter-friendly Arlington and a mild bump in his ERA.
Cobb, Alex – A variety of injuries have limited his innings over the past three seasons, and may make him a little under-the-radar, but none are arm-related. In his last 56 starts going back to August 23, 2012, he has a 2.78 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 321-106 K-BB ratio in 353 IP. That’s not just fun with selective end dates, that’s a borderline ace in fantasy. Strong buy.
Iwakuma, Hisashi – He slumped at the end of last season but his overall numbers were exceptional once again. He has a 2.97 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 417-to-91 K-BB ratio in 493.2 IP since joining the Mariners rotation in July of 2012 and there’s no reason to expect any sudden decline this year.
Alvarez, Henderson – His ERA’s done seem to match his relatively pedestrian strikeout numbers, but it doesn’t hurt at all that he’s extremely stingy allowing walks and homers. The truth is probably somewhere in between his last two seasons, with an ERA in the low 3’s and a WHIP around 1.15. Only the weak strikeouts keep him from being a #2 in fantasy.
Collmenter, Josh – In his last 22 home starts going back to June 22, 2012, he is 9-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 89-24 K-BB in 131.1 IP. He’s not that good of course, but let this serve as your reminder to not forget him on Draft Day… and particularly in Pitch-or-Ditch friendly formats!
Chen, Wei-Yin – His ERA dropped by a half run last year, but the home run and strikeout rates suggest to next expect a repeat. He’s end-of-rotation material, but useful.
Simon, Alfredo – Started out surprisingly well, and faded somewhat predictably, in his first full season as a starter. Moving from Great American Ballpark to Comerica Park will help mitigate his gopheritis somewhat, but the deeper AL lineups won’t do him any favors. Don’t expect a repeat.
Medlen, Kris – Remember him? He looked like a budding ace in 2012-13 before needing Tommy John surgery; the Royals think he’ll be able to contribute by the second half of this season. Keep that in the back of your mind.
Nova, Ivan – He’s expected to return from Tommy John surgery at some point in the first half, and hopefully will show the form that led to a 3.10 ERA in 139.1 IP in 2013. If the strikeout rate holds, don’t rule out some end-of-rotation value.
Milone, Tommy – He pitched exceptionally well in 16 spot starts with the A’s last year but was awful after coming to the Twins. He’s a homer-prone soft-tosser who can be useful when he’s on his game, but there’s probably no upside to look forward to.
Lyles, Jordan – He’s on this list by virtue of crossing the 500 IP mark last year, not by virtue of his 5.09 career ERA. He might be worth a few Pitch or Ditch looks though if and when the matchups are friendly enough.
Estrada, Marco – His 2013 and 2014 seasons were very similar, except for the spike in his HR/FB rate last year that resulted in his banishment to the bullpen. Working long relief in the Rogers Centre homer palace won’t lead to a rebound.
As we move along in our 12-team, 23-round industry slow mock draft, I just wanted to share with 411 Nation the e-mail responses to a draft-related question that Cory posed to the group. Below is Cory’s original question followed by replies from a number of the participants.
Strategy question for the room. I’ve noticed a couple of teams that took “elite” SP’s early on, then waited a bit to take their SP2, particularly:
EMack: Kershaw (1), Harvey (10)
Zach: Price (4), Shields (10)
Ray: Hamels (5), Archer (10)
Compare that to a couple of other teams who clearly went the “dual aces” route:
Jeff: Sale (3), Cueto (5)
Gonos: Darvish (4), Waino (6)
Seems to me that taking the former route somewhat defeats the purpose. If you take an early SP, but then wait for your SP2, doesn’t that somewhat “dilute” the ace? Whereas in the second approach, you essentially get two guys who, in the sum, are comparable/better than the diluted approach.
In other words, if you don’t back up the ace with a strong #2, does that somewhat defeat the purpose, and argue in favor of waiting to take two less expensive but comparable starters, more of a 1a/1b approach?
You can probably tell which way I lean based on how I’m framing the question, but I’m curious what the group thinks. I was the last team in this draft to take my SP1, and still only have that one, so obviously my approach is the outlier…curious what is viewed as the optimal approach based on a more traditional approach to drafting SP.
And the replies:
David Gonos says: My preference is to wait a round or two from the top starters, then get a couple — since they’re NOT the very top — and then I benefit from two very good starters, while also using that very early pick for a very good hitter.
Todd Zola says: I don’t think you can look at SP in a vacuum as CL add more to a fantasy staff than many realize — especially now with top-to-bottom stats being bunched tighter and a few closers providing off-the-chart ratios. That said, I don’t think you can do the draft equivalent of Pedro and 6 $1 starters but you don’t have to necessarily follow up with your second SP the first 5 rounds either. It also depends on how many pitching points you want versus hitting points. A winning team can be constructed an infinite number of ways but I do feel your margin of error is lessened when taking an ace in the first two rounds. You can still assemble a staunch offense without a top pick, but you can’t miss on too many of the following picks.
Zach Steinhorn says: I used to be of the mindset to wait as long as possible (like Round 7-8) to draft my SP1 but have gradually shifted towards drafting one elite SP if I can get him at a fair cost. It just protects me against possible SP mistakes later on. As for the SP2, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get an impact bat (like Fielder in Round 5) to draft a 1A type SP (like Zimmermann) after already spending my previous pick on an SP. I guess I go more by the “spread the risk” philosophy. But like Todd said, I don’t think you can go into any draft with a set plan.
Jeff Erickson says: It somewhat depends for me. For the NFBC, it’s really difficult to get two aces unless you’re willing to take them in the first three rounds. Last year, my top tier had 12 pitchers, and they were all gone by the 40th pick – 3.10. I wimped out on Kershaw in the first round because the draft came after his first start in Australia and his subsequent injury. I then opted against taking the second starter in the draft at 2.4. By the time I picked again at 3.12, they were gone. In this format, it was purposeful for me to grab two aces. But Lester fell all the way to 8.12, and he is in my first tier, so that sort of backfired.
Ray Flowers says: For me, it’s more about the team you construct. I also try to build my rotation in the middle. I don’t target a top-10 arm. Instead, I like to have 3-4 of the top-35 arms. I often find myself going heavy pitchers in the 7-13 rounds. At that point, others tend to be targeting some positional weaknesses as the hitters grow scarce, an issue I don’t have to deal with since I’ve been adding bats while others were going pitching. As Todd said, it’s always league dependent. I also think that predicting success with arms isn’t difficult. In a few leagues last year, I had Cueto, Ross, Kluber – two of the three – as my outside the first 10 round selections. Add the right guys and you don’t have to go super early for starters. I like to try and find the value.
Tim Heaney says: I think you still can have an ace, then wait to find someone that could put up ace-like numbers. But as Ray said, you have to be confident the middle-rounder’s journey up toward acehood is a near lock. And with the top-end pitching numbers standing out more and more for those with a track record, that gap is actually widening a bit. I considered Lester the last of SP1s for whom I’d reach, and to land him as a SP2 in Round 8 was enjoyable. I hold Cobb, Teheran and Gray in a similar tier and planned to grab one a bit later — more than probable because it’s a 12-teamer. The flow of this draft made it possible; I can’t guarantee it would be like this elsewhere.
Lawr Michaels says: I guess my taking Madbum/Greinke 3/4 (with only your two picks in between, Cory) slipped your eyeballs? I do always bust up when asked not just what my strategy is going into a draft, especially the first rounds. The truth is, I don’t have a clue what I am going to do 99% of the time (#1 pick, when a Trout or Pujols or a healthy Miggy are out there makes up the 1% balance). However, I do know that first pick largely dictates what direction I take from there. We all know that pitching is deep this year, so waiting on starting pitching is not only fashionable, but it makes sense. Well, one thing I do try to do when drafting is select based upon what the guys in the league give/leave for me. Since I knew, or suspected that for a large part most of you guys would indeed fade pitching, I decided to grab two aces right there for a baseline, then pick a bunch of hitters, and then go back to pitching (which I kind of have been), then fill out. As to Cory’s point, I think it does seem to split the two (eg Kershaw 1, Harvey 10) defeats the purpose. Though again, pitching is so seemingly abundant that it is hard to wreck a pitching strategy up aside from taking everyone thinking of Marco Estrada in 2013, and getting Marco Estrada 2014.
Eric Mack says: I pick players when it makes sense based on their value…re: average draft position. I tend to pick pitchers very late in analyst leagues, because analysts don’t pick pitchers. I decided Kershaw was better than the alternatives when I picked, also the case in Chapman and Harvey. I think I picked the best three pitchers in baseball—Kershaw, Chapman and Harvey—regardless of where I picked them. Suggesting Harvey should drag on Kershaw is a farce. Unless you are a tiny cell in Harvey’s elbow that knows it’s not going to prove healed or you have some super advanced pitching metrics that suggests Harvey isn’t the pitcher he had shown before surgery. I know of neither. To me, he is an ace, albeit on a Mets team that might not have enough offense to win yet.
Well, that does it. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts.
CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress
Just in case you missed it (and it’s kind of hard to miss it via the homepage), the 2015 MLB.com Player Preview has officially launched, with outlooks, projections and rankings for over 800 players. So even if you’re in a 20-team AL-only league, chances are there’s a profile to read on someone you might be thinking about drafting in the 23rd round. Also note that you can sort by position ranking, team ranking and projected stat. There’s also a link on the top panel that will take you to a separate page of prospect rankings.
So delve right in. Pitchers and catchers begin to report in 16 days.
CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress
Zach back with you,
There was a time when first base was a deep fantasy position. Not anymore. This year, even the top-tier guys come with varying degrees of risk. Is Miguel Cabrera healthy? Is Paul Goldschmidt healthy? Can Jose Abreu repeat what he did last year? Should we be concerned about Freddie Freeman’s disappointing 2014 home run total of 18, this after it was looking like he had 30-home run upside? Honestly, I have yet to decide how I will go about addressing this position. As of now, I’m leaning towards targeting someone in that 6-10 group. I think the profit potential is greatest there, but of course a lot depends on how the individual draft plays out. After all, it is important to be flexible.
OK, let’s now turn our attention to the specific players.
It was only one year ago that Fielder was a borderline first round pick. It looked like a return to the 35-plus home run level was well within reach now that he would be playing half of his games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball, this after posting a somewhat disappointing 25 homers in 2013. But unfortunately, a neck injury that required season-ending surgery ruined his 2014 campaign. And even before being shut down, Prince was struggling, batting .247 with three homers and 16 RBI through 42 games. That said, all of this will deflate his draft day price tag to the point where he could be an absolute steal. Fielder is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training, and he will still be playing half of his games in Texas. Sure, drafting Prince is far from a risk-free move, but the reward is first round caliber production that you can get much later. I grabbed him at 5.10 in our 12-team mock, an absolute steal in my view.
Power is hard to find these days, and Trumbo has a lot of it. Like Fielder, Trumbo is coming off an injury-plagued season, but he’s not injury-prone, having averaged nearly 151 games played from 2011-2013 before being limited to 88 games last year. Plus, he did launch 14 longballs in those 88 games. Also like Fielder, Trumbo will benefit from a cozy home park. The batting average might be ugly, but he’s the cheapest 40-home run candidate you will be able to find. Don’t sleep on him this spring.
There’s no way around it. Morales’ 2014 season was an absolute disaster. After holding out until June in hopes of landing a more lucrative contract, Kendrys got off to an awful start with the Twins and never quite recovered. He improved a bit following his trade to Seattle, however, swatting seven homers in 59 games. Getting such a late start to the season certainly played a role in his struggles, and I really like this signing for the Royals. Kauffman Stadium won’t do him any favors, but Safeco Field isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise and Morales put up a fine .277-23-80 line for the Mariners in 2013, with 12 of those home runs coming at Safeco. There’s plenty of upside in drafting Morales as your CI in a deep mixed league.
Will Hosmer ever reach the superstar status many had predicted? At this point, I have my doubts. Don’t let his impressive postseason fool you into overpaying for him on draft day. The reality is that Hosmer’s 2014 was a big time disappointment, even taking into account the missed time due to injury. The Kansas City first baseman recorded career-lows in home runs, RBI, runs scored and steals while seeing his OPS drop by 85 points from its 2013 level. At 25 years of age, Hosmer still has time to get his big league career back on track, but the bottom line is that it’s going in the wrong direction. In a 12-team mixed league, I’d let him be someone else’s problem. Instead, give me Morales at the cheaper cost.
Perhaps the most puzzling free agent signing of the off-season, Butler somehow managed to parlay a .271-9-66 season into a three-year, $30 million contract with the A’s. I think it’s safe to say that Billy Beane places a high value on OBP. The only problem is that Butler registered a career-low .323 OBP last year. Look, it’s obvious now that his 29-homer 2012 campaign was an outlier, so what does this guy really bring to the table, other than a Country Breakfast? (Lame joke, I know.) Not much. The newfound 1B eligibility helps a little, but outside of deep mixed leagues (greater than 12 teams), Butler should be off your radar.
Duda is what he is, a low batting average/high strikeout hitter who has power. He does walk quite a bit, so in an OBP league, I’d be more open to drafting him. But in a standard 5×5, he will need to approach 30 home runs again to maintain 12-team mixed league value. I could be wrong here, but with just one season as an everyday player under his belt, I’m not ready to pencil him in for another 30 longballs. Look, I wouldn’t completely avoid Duda if the price turns out to be reasonable, but simply assuming that he can duplicate his 2014 stat line in 2015 would be a mistake. In other words, be careful.
CLICK HERE to continue following our 12-team expert mock draft in progress
This is just a quick post to direct you to a solid and thorough article written for the site this week by my Tout Wars league mate Fred Zinkie. Fred discusses a handful of pitchers who are making their way back from Tommy John surgery and gives his take on their fantasy outlook for 2015.
A lot depends on the setup of your league. Is it a shallow mixed, a deep mixed or a non-mixed? How many bench and DL spots are there? But my personal preference is to avoid drafting too many of these guys. Maybe I’d take a chance on one from the mid-tier group, but be careful not to reach for them in a snake draft or get caught up in an auction bidding war.
Anyway, give Fred’s piece a read and stay tuned for my 1B position preview, which I’m aiming to post at some point tomorrow.
***UPDATE: We are done! CLICK HERE for the finalized google spreadsheet, which includes the draft grid along with the complete team rosters. And of course, analysis for every pick is included in the results below.
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
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
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.
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.
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) – Dr. Smooth operated on his swing and then went out and surgically assaulted pitching with a line drive approach that led to a 20/20 season with a .327 average. A 20/20/.300 season is very repeatable for him and he may cross the 100 run plateau as well. If he were in another market, he’d be more universally loved.
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.
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.
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) – I was going to take a pitcher here, but my top 3 choices all went in front of me. Not that I don’t love Stras, but was really eyeballing Sale or Scherzer here figuring Sporer was not going to let Kluber go by. In three full seasons, he’s yet to break that sub 3.00 ERA floor, but he’s never been above 3.20 either. The ratios are there, the strikeouts are there, but maybe this is the season all four categories blossom at once.
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.
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.
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.
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) – Through three rounds, I’m low on speed after taking a slugger and a pitcher, so I’ll go with the most well-rounded speedster on the board. He’s a lock for 30+ steals, he’ll be in the mid-teens for homers, and he’s a good batting average contributor with some upside there. This year’s Brantley? Perhaps.
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.
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) – He gets his steals on skills rather than speed. A repeat 20/20 season is unlikely, at least the steals part is. He can hit 25 bombs in that park and enjoy pitchers being disrupted with Hamilton over on first. He may even score 90+ runs if Votto swings more (right Marty??!!) or Bruce turns it around.
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.
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.
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.
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.
7.03 – Starlin Castro (Sporer) – Bounced back nicely from the ugly 2013 and it would’ve gone even better had he not injured his ankle. With five full seasons under his belt, it’s hard to forget he’s just 25. We may not have seen his best.
7.04 – Jeff Samardzija (Collette) – 2015 will be the first time he wins double-digit games as he’ll have a strong offense behind him. He’ll finally have the wins to go along with the above average K rate and good WHIP. Home runs are a risk, but he minimizes that risk with a strong GB rate these days.
7.05 – Ian Kinsler (Zola) – Granted, this is isn’t the same guy that was first/second round material but I don’t think he’s seventh round fodder either. I considered Kinsler last time but wanted Gordon’s steals. This time I’ll take a guy that will give a taste of everything, hitting at the top of a very potent order.
7.06 – Jason Kipnis (Flowers) – Was it really just a year ago that this fella hit .284 with 17 homers, 30 steals, 84 RBIs and 86 runs scored? Yes it was. Know how many second sackers reached all five of those marks last season? Zero. With health, Kipnis will rebound in ’15.
7.07 – Billy Hamilton (Mack) – Hoping for some offensive improvement with experience. There is huge steal potential and I hate having to find those. I’ll take the hit if he can reach base at a .330 clip and steal 75 bags.
7.08 – David Ortiz (Gonos) – Sure, Big Papi won’t get me as many steals as Billy Hamilton, but the Red Sox lineup is lethal once again, and Ortiz will be at the heart of it. Power is thinning … and Ortiz’s 88 home runs over the past three seasons ranks him 10th in the majors in that span. Yet, he hit them in 1,585 plate appearances (which ranks 96th).
7.09 – Matt Holliday (Van Riper) – Maybe he’s falling simply because of the number in the Age column, but Holliday still has a stable skill set, and favorable lineup around him to support his counting stats. Maybe it’s the gradually declining home-run totals, but Holliday averaged the longest true distance on his home runs (min. 18 HR), which suggests that the raw power level is still pretty high. I don’t think .270-20-90-90 is a stretch for him.
7.10 David Robertson (Steinhorn) – Robertson handled the transition to the ninth inning with ease and now boasts a career 2.81 ERA and 12.0 K/9. I’m not expecting anything different now that he’s with a new team. I have him as the #5 RP on my board and that’s where I’m taking him.
7.11 – Leonys Martin (Michaels) – Well, this pick (7/11) suggests speed (remember when 7/11’s were called “Speedee Marts?) so we are making a speed play with another fave flychaser, Leonys Martin. I think as a third-year player he can build on the .274-7-40 season. Texas is looking for their center fielder to run more, in fact they are looking for 50 swipes. As for pop, Martin did hit 12 big flies over 231 at-bats at Round Rock in 2012, so the power is there.
7.12 – Chris Carter (Schwartz) – I REALLY hate locking up my DH this early in a shallow mixed league, but when I said I wanted a big power base, I wasn’t kidding. Carter’s power was never in question, but if you cut his 2014 exactly in half (before and after July 4), the improvements are startling, most importantly the .268 AVG (on a reasonable .315 BABIP) in the second half. To paraphrase Jason Collette, a .268 hitter today is like .285 five years ago, so even if Carter backslides a bit, he’ll still be extremely valuable. But I’ve done enough homework on him to be satisfied that his improvements are real.
8.01 – Melky Cabrera (Schwartz) – This may be a bit of a reach, but he fits needs for me and I don’t want a third pitcher this early. Even if you factor in his injury-plagued 2013 season – perhaps as a counter-balance to his BABIP-fueled 2012 season – his four-year averages show solid five-category production: .309-12-62 with 76 runs and 10 SB’s. But, that’s only per 124 games… assuming he’s healthy again this year, in a strong lineup and a great hitters’ park, I think he can even exceed last year’s numbers. Best of all, that .300 average hedges me against serious regression from Carter.
8.02 – Lucas Duda (Michaels) – I am not sure why I even feel I have to defend, let alone explain this pick, but, last year Josh Donaldson had a line of .255-29-92 at age 29, while Duda hit .253-30-92. Duda’s K/BB was 69/135, while Josh 76/130. Yet Donaldson is a no-brainer top-three rounder, while Duda is given the respect of 10-12 in my experience, and valued almost $10 less. Phooey.
8.03 – Jonathan LuCroy (Steinhorn) – I don’t usually take a catcher this early but after Posey and LuCroy, I see a significant drop at the backstop position, so I figure I’ll address an open roster spot with an elite guy while he’s still available. I doubt he will be available for much longer. At the very least, I’m expecting a stat line in between last year and 2013, which would be roughly .290-16-75. That’s fine with me.
8.04 – Ryan Zimmerman (Van Riper) – He’s a third baseman the same way that a hot dog is a sandwich. As of mid-December, his hamstring was apparently healed and while the list of injuries throughout his time as a big leaguer is pretty exhaustive, when was the last time he was available this late? Even without Werth to begin the season, I expect that Nats to have one of the better lineups in the NL, affording him plenty of RBI chances. Much like Holliday, I can’t help but wonder if there was a chance he would have fallen to Round 9, but I feel as though at least one of the other players I was considering here will make it back.
8.05 – Alex Cobb (Gonos) – The Rays won’t be what they were last year — but even last year they weren’t the Rays they should’ve been. Cobb is in line for his first season of 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings — all with a sub-3.00 ERA and a decent K/9 and K/BB. Cobb in the eighth round is a nice discount for a team ace in a pitcher’s park.
8.06 – Dustin Pedroia (Mack) – He says his power is going to come back. I’ll buy it in the 8th round. What I really need is the Red Sox offense to come back, so he can rack up runs and RBI.
8.07 – David Wright (Flowers) – I got sniped by Gonos as Alex Cobb was lined up to be mine. Third base is about to get ugly so I’ll follow DVR’s and Eric’s lead and add a veteran that I hope will rebound a bit. It was just a year ago that Wright went 18/17 in just 112 games.
8.08 – Sonny Gray (Zola) – Pushed pitching long enough. I’ll take Gray as my anchor. He reached the past plateau I need for my ace last season, tossing 219 innings. I’m lagging a bit behind those that took an arm earlier but I have seven more spots, plus in-season managing to close the gap. Gray has a shot at a 200 K season, I’ll take that. Though to be honest, I wanted McCracken until I realized it was Quinton and not Voros, I think I can fade Voros a few more rounds.
8.09 – Mark Melancon (Collette) – Was hoping one of Cobb or Gray would fall here, so I’ll go the other way and take Melancon. The skills finally get the opportunity to open the season as the closer, which obviously means he’ll flop and lose the job before Memorial Day.
8.10 – Julio Teheran (Sporer) – I think 2015 is a situation where we could see the skills sharpen while the ERA fades back a bit toward the 2013 mark or slightly beyond (3.20-3.30). He has the stuff for a bigger strikeout rate (24-25%) and has shown as much in long bursts, but we’re still waiting for the full season’s worth of it. Wins are of course unpredictable, but I’d be thrilled with another 14 given the makeup of the 2015 Braves.
8.11 – Jon Lester (Heaney) – Lester’s K/9 was too good but reflective of an overall growth, which should stick because of his move to the NL. His strike-zone aggressiveness and curveball took him to another level. Thought I would be done with SP for a bit because of Scherzer, and I never thought the day would come when I’d take two in the first eight rounds of a mixed league. But here we are.
8.12 – Cody Allen (Erickson) – I always complain about not timing the closer run properly, so instead of settling for The Next Jim Johnson, I’ll take the two best remaining closers. Allen’s component numbers in 2014 couldn’t have been more similar to his 2013 numbers. So much for the notion that the ninth inning would change his results.
9.01 – Steve Cishek (Erickson) – Cishek’s skills were already great, and his team is going to win more games this year, if for no other reason than they get to face the Braves and Phillies a ton. He also does a great job keeping the ball in the yard – no more than three homers allowed in any given year.
9.02 – Evan Gattis (Heaney) – No other positional edge stood out to me at this spot as much as Gattis’. I can deal with the horrid BA in exchange for the potential for 30 homers and nearly a full season of at-bats from a backstop-eligible player moving to a better hitting environment. I feel compelled to take the Chris Carter of catchers considering this opportunity may last only one more year. El Oso Blanco. Muy bien.
9.03 – J.D. Martinez (Sporer) – I don’t expect him to touch the .315 AVG, but I’m fine with that. If I believed in that, I’d have drafted him rounds ago. I’m buying the power surge. I’m looking for another 20+ HR season and his counting stats should jump too. Remember, he did his 23-76 in 123 games.
9.04 – Rusney Castillo (Collette) – I love Cubans and wildcards. He’s both. The difference between his Steamer projections and his Fans projections at Fangraphs is for all of the lulz. http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=17016&position=OF
9.05 – Mark Trumbo (Zola) – Trumbo is a bit of an enigma. He’s a much better fantasy hitter than MLB hitter and that could cost him at bats since D-backs have decent support in the outfield. I can see losing AB for defense, etc. But, 30+ HR hitters are as rare as a funny balls joke so I’ll gamble on the upside.
9.06 – Shin-Soo Choo (Flowers) – He was terrible in 2014 as an ankle issue weighed him down. Still, the last four seasons in which he’s appeared in 140 games he’s gone 20/20 three times, and he still owns that impressive slash line (.282/.383/.453) at 32 years of age.
9.07 – Manny Machado (Mack) – After taking a has-been last round, I need some more soon-will-be in my lineup. Machado, 22, has a high ceiling I hope he starts to approach this year. After hitting 12 homers in 82 games, perhaps this is the year he comes through with 25 in 140. He should be healthy for the start of the season, but I have a ninth-round gamble he stays that way.
9.08 – Trevor Rosenthal (Gonos) – Thought about taking Alex Gordon here, as he does a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of nothing (that should be a song!). Give me a young player in his second full season of closing, as opposed to his first, every time. I would like an order of 40-plus saves, please.
9.09 – Mookie Betts (Van Riper) – The Red Sox need to make another move or two, but I feel as though they’re more likely to bench guys like Allen Craig and Shane Victorino than bury Betts if their roster is unchanged when Opening Day gets here. My roster needed SBs too, which along with runs will likely be the two biggest sources of value from Betts this season. There were a handful of more established players I considered, but they either had lower ceilings, or enough questions regarding health and playing time to take the chance here instead.
9.10 – Alex Gordon (Steinhorn) – And I’ll take the aforementioned boring guy who does a bit of everything. Maybe he will never reach the superstar status that many predicted, but he’s still a solid contributor with a relatively high floor. He’s also a fine compliment in my outfield to the higher risk/higher reward Matt Kemp.
9.11 – Kolten Wong (Michaels) – At this point of the draft, it is literally who is the next best fit for what I have, not necessarily how many saves or steals can I get. So, I am going with a potential 20/20 guy in Wong, whose .242-12-42 with 20 steals last year was fairly steady through the year. He does come back with a full campaign under his belt, so I’m thinking he takes a step forward.
9.12 – Gerrit Cole (Schwartz) – I nearly took him with my last pair of picks so I’m very glad he lasted to this point, especially since two of my other options (Cobb and Gray) didn’t. It might be a year early before he makes the jump into the ace category — he threw only 138.0 IP last year so the jump to 200 seems out of reach this year — but on performance he’s almost there. He averages a strikeout per inning, controls the walks and homers, and gets a ton of ground balls. Build, ballpark, defense, run support, bullpen support…all the markers are there for a big year.
10.01 – Alexei Ramirez (Schwartz) – Like his mock draft and new real-life teammate Melky Cabrera, Alexei does a little bit of everything without being great in any one category. He’s extremely durable, and though the shape of his value has fluctuated over the years, he’s a very consistent across-the-board contributor. He enjoyed a nice power resurgence last year, but I won’t count on that again, and instead use his three-year average as a reasonable expectation for this year: .274-10-65-22 with 70 runs, with some upside in an improved ChiSox offense.
10.02 – Alex Wood (Michaels) – Grabbing a third starter in the Braves southpaw, who should now be ensconced in the rotation. He has 247 whiffs as a Major League hurler over 249 frames, with a 2.89 ERA, and after truly being inserted into the rotation permanently in the second half of 2014, was 5-4, 2.20 over 86 innings with 88 strikeouts and a 1.081 WHIP. Happy to have on the old roster.
10.03 – James Shields (Steinhorn) – Eventually, his streak of 200+ IP seasons, which is now up to eight, is bound to come to an end, but I’m betting against that happening in 2015. Not a fantasy ace but still a solid #2 who routinely posts elite K/BB ratios. He’s whiffed at least 180 batters in five straight seasons and has done a better job of keeping his home run rate at a reasonable level in recent years. If he signs with an NL team, all the better.
10.04 – Kris Bryant (Van Riper) – I think the Cubs will have him on their roster, and installed as their third baseman approximately two weeks into the season. Once they ensure he doesn’t accrue a full year of service time, everything is gravy. The thing that has impressed me the most while researching Bryant is his ability to use his top of the scale raw power to all fields — truly a rare talent. I’m looking at 25 home runs with that volume of playing time, and a shot at 80 RBI with a prominent spot in the order along with a first-year average in the .250-.260 range as he’ll almost certainly have some adjustments to make in order to cut back on the swing-and-miss in his game.
10.05 – Josh Harrison (Gonos) – Some power, some speed, decent batting average, position versatility, can barely go on roller coasters you-must-be-this-tall to ride, what’s not to love?
10.06 – Matt Harvey (Mack) – He was as dominant of a pitcher as we’ve seen in the post-steroid era before tearing his elbow ligament. We probably shouldn’t expect him to reach 200 innings but the fact he will have had almost a year and a half to recover, we probably should give him fairly decent odds of coming back strong this year.
10.07 – Chris Archer (Flowers) – It’s all about the walks. If Archer keeps them under control, an All-Star birth is possible. He’s shown an ability to strike out a ton while forcing batters to beat the ball into the ground, two traits that everyone should be attracted to.
10.08 – Tyson Ross (Zola) – I’ve played chicken with pitching long enough, I’ll grab my SP2. Ross reminds me a bit of Carlos Gomez in that you have an expectation ingrained into your conscious and he needed to do that much more to make you change your mind, and Ross has done that for me. I believe in the skills, I like the 4th outfielder in Petco and the squad will score some runs.
10.09 – Jorge Soler (Collette) – Was hoping Bryant would make it back to this spot, but alas, I’ll stay on the north side and select his talented teammate. Haven’t taken a pure power guy since the first round, so time to do that again.
10.10 – Howie Kendrick (Sporer) – One of the steadier investments in the game (high-teens/low-20s value each of the last six seasons) which seems to make him boring for most, but I’ll gladly take him here. Might’ve lasted longer, but plenty of teams still need a 2B so I’ll jump now. Oh and using Saberhagenmetrics (every-other-year) means he’s due for a power boost! 12.2, 6.9, 16.5, 8.9, 15.7, and 6.5 HR/FB rates over the last six…time for a 20 percent in 2015!! OK, fine I’ll take a 10 percent mark and 10-12 HRs.
10.11 – Jean Segura (Heaney) – Segura’s skills sit somewhere between his seasonal outputs in 2013 and 2014. He dealt with a family tragedy last year, and as unfortunate as that was, his mind being back on baseball should help. I’m banking on him moving back toward 30 stolen bases. His batted-ball profile hardly changed yet his BABIP dropped 51 points. A push up toward .300 likely would bring him to about a .260 clip — acceptable, in my book, accompanied by about 10 home runs. That’s a fine combo for an MI and a Reyes insurance policy.
10.12 – Justin Morneau (Erickson) – Morneau might get dealt away at some point, but so long as he he’s at Planet Coors he’s a good option for average with decent counting stats. I think that this is a bit of a bargain.
11.01 – Yan Gomes (Erickson) – The third catcher on my board, Gomes held up pretty well in his first go-around as the Tribe’s full-time catcher. I like how he had an .847 OPS after the All-Star break to boot. This is my first scarcity pick – there still remain plenty of interesting 2B and a few useful shortstops, so I’ll wait there.
11.02 – Glen Perkins (Heaney) – Reportedly, he’s over the arm injuries that halted yet another showing of elite skills. Over his first four full seasons as a reliever, Perkins boasts a 2.80 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. As we move closer to the season and “for real” draft days, I might have to adjust my wheelhouse in which to draft him depending on his spring showing, but as of today and at this spot, I’m buying.
11.03 – Gio Gonzalez (Sporer) – The forgotten stud. Relatively speaking of course. He is still regularly drafted in the top 30 but he might actually belong closer to his teammates. A couple more beatdowns (5+ ER) than normal inflated his ERA. Big Ks, improving BBs, and a firm track record.
11.04 – Devin Mesoraco (Collette) – I almost made this pick last time around, but I have a feeling my options at catcher will be more scarce the next time my pick comes up. There are a few 20-25 HR catcher options still on the board, and I’ll go with the one I feel is safest, even if the Reds plan on running him into the ground this season.
11.05 – Jake Arrieta (Zola) – I’m putting trust in my industry colleagues that are better than me at this sort of thing and contend last season for Arrieta was more fact than fluke (with some regression on HR/FB). Strategically, not drafting a top-5 ace and then pushing my SP2 and SP3 makes catching up in strikeouts a priority and for that you want someone with 190 IP potential with a whiff an inning – that may be optimistic but it’s certainly plausible. And if Arrieta falls short, I’ll just blame my industry colleagues.
11.06 – Salvador Perez (Flowers) – Backstops are starting to go, so I’ll grab my first. Perez led all AL catchers in games and at-bats, and 17 homers and 70 RBIs are totals only five catcher-eligible players for 2015 can match. The .260 batting average could easily improve for the career .285 hitter as well.
11.07 – Matt Wieters (Mack) – It’s a run on catchers in Round 11! With offensive numbers merely catcher-like elsewhere, might as well score my second one on a guy with .275-20-80-65 potential. He will get time at DH, too, because he is very important to the Orioles offense when he is not behind the plate.
11.08 – Masahiro Tanaka (Gonos) – Would’ve preferred to land Salvador Perez here, but Ray Flowers hates me. Rather than continue on the catcher run (four this round already), I’m going with Tanaka as my fourth starter — and hope that thread of an elbow ligament stays together for four months of the regular season at least.
11.09 – Jonathan Papelbon (Van Riper) – Most places he’ll land via trade would want him to close, and his three-year averages are outstanding: 2.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 35 saves, 9.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9. Even with his declining strikeout rate, his other skills appear to be stable enough for him to remain a top-12 reliever.
11.10 – Elvis Andrus (Steinhorn) – Coming off a rough season but the Rangers lineup was ravaged by injuries last year, which surely had something to do with the disappointing 72 runs scored. His SB total plummeted from 42 in 2013 to 27 last season, but keep in mind that he was caught 15 times, so it wasn’t for lack of trying! 85-95 runs along with 30-35 steals seems like a reasonable expectation, and that’s pretty good value for a SS at this stage in the draft.
11.11 – Andrew Cashner (Michaels) – Oodles of talent, on an improving team, in a pitcher’s park are the plusses for Cashner. The fact that he can barely outlast Rich Harden on the active list is the minus. Still, I am thinking he has 200 innings out there one of these year’s, and I am willing to gamble that this will be the year. But, if he can make those innings, 150 whiffs and a sub-1.20 WHIP (he has posted 1.13 the past two years) are certainly within the stars.
11.12 – Koji Uehara (Schwartz) – My roto mentor John Benson taught me to find value by being contrarian, so with 26 starters taken in this draft so far but only nine closers (not including my picks), I’ll take Koji Uehara. He turns 40 on Opening Day Eve, and slumped down the stretch last year, but no matter…his career numbers are insane: a 2.44 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and cartoonish 412-46 K-BB ratio in 350.1 career IP. That’ll fit perfectly as my third closer.
12.01 – Gregory Polanco (Schwartz) – Although he hit only .235 in his half-season debut last year, Polanco showed a solid batting eye (30-59 BB-K in 312 PA and 4.07 P/PA), decent pop (seven homers), and good wheels (14-of-19 SB). I expect growth across the board this year as he acclimates himself to MLB, even if he doesn’t reach his potential superstar upside…something like .275-12-65 with 25-30 SB.
12.02 – Yordano Ventura (Michaels) – This is the part of the draft that is the most fun, the most challenging, and the most frustrating. It is fun simply because I can target the best possible player relative to what I need. The challenge is hoping those picks slip back through to me. The frustrating is that as often as not they don’t. For me, Ventura makes a killer fifth starter. His first full MLB season, as a 23-year-old, we got 14-10, 3.20 with 159 whiffs over 183 frames. A lot though was Ventura was wilder earlier in the season, and though his WHIP increased a bit second half, his strikeout-to-walk numbers improved. Ventura is on a good young team, in a pitcher’s environ, can hit 100 MPH, and has nowhere to go but up.
12.03 – Drew Storen (Steinhorn) – Before the closer pickings get too dicey, I’ll grab my #2. Storen was outstanding last season, especially in September when he went 10-for-10 in save chances while posting a 0.00 ERA. Following the trade of Tyler Clippard, there’s no doubt as to who will open the season as the Nats closer, and after already establishing himself as a high-end closer back in 2011 (43 saves), I have little doubt that he will once again thrive in the role.
12.04 – Huston Street (Van Riper) – The health is always a concern, but his ERA and WHIP marks are often elite. Fewer strikeouts than most of the high-end closers, but there are no job security issues to worry about.
12.05 – Matt Adams (Gonos) – Fat guys are awesome — it’s also awesome calling a guy “fat” when he’s about 80 lbs lighter than you are. He’s entering his power years, can hit for a decent average and I’m hoping he can hit lefties a little better in 2015. I’ll follow him up with another first baseman shortly — just in case.
12.06 – Charlie Blackmon (Mack) – He is coming off an age-27 breakthrough, so I will hope he doesn’t get traded and can advance further into his prime. He hits for some power and steals some bags. I hope fantasy analysts keep gathering all those stats that say 27-year-old players aren’t that good and everyone buys it, so more of the right ones will fall to me.
12.07 – Zack Wheeler (Flowers) – I was tempted to take either Fister or Iwakuma here, but the fact is I’m looking for strikeout upside at this point. Hence the Wheeler selection. More than a K per inning with a 54 percent ground ball rate last season. The last piece he needs is the reduction in his sky high walk total. Wish I had something witty to say like everyone else does in their writeups. I’ve got nothing.
12.08 – Zach Britton (Zola) – As I’ve alluded to, I believe a closer contributes more than saves but in this instance, saves are 99.9 percent of the reason I chose Britton. He should be ingrained in the role, which is what I want. There’s a ton of variance inherent to his ratios but I’m not too concerned about a complete blow-up. Regression for sure. But landing point is still more helpful than hurtful.
12.09 – Ben Zobrist (Collette) – One more year in the sun for a top of the order batter with double-double skills. I don’t think he gets to 15 HRs or steals, but he’ll get the PA’s, the runs, and will be better than average for the position. 33 is the new 27.
12.10 – Michael Wacha (Sporer) – Health is my only real concern here. He was being overdrafted last year based on the small sample as he didn’t have a reliable breaker to go with the FB/CH, but then he came into 2014 with both a CB and SL and he might’ve earned that lofty draft position with health. He should be a stud this year.
12.11 – Joaquin Benoit (Heaney) – His age and injury history aren’t concerns at this point. His skills are well-established and he should have a better team behind him. While the impact of a team’s success on save opportunities hardly is set in stone, it doesn’t hurt that this Padres team should win more games this year. My plan to snag two lesser valued yet highly skilled saviors succeeded; he’s a nice partner for Perkins.
12.12 – Neil Walker (Erickson) – Chuck D don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin’, and I don’t take hitters for the sake of middlin’. But I’ll take my first middle infielder here with Walker, who should get back a little extra power for the position that I gave up by taking the likes of Freeman and Morneau in the name of batting average earlier.
13.01 – Ben Revere (Erickson) – And then my stolen bases will come on a little horsey named Ben Revere.
13.02 – Brandon Belt (Heaney) – I’ll probably be deciding between Adams and Belt in many drafts, so I guess I can thank Gonos for making things easier. These are prime targets for that corner infield spot in deeper leagues. Belt’s shaky health and batting average skills notwithstanding, he has 30-homer power if he can play a full season. I’m taking that chance at Pick 146.
13.03 – Brandon Moss (Sporer) – Looks like the hip won’t be a major issue (I mean, it won’t preclude him from starting ST; beyond that we have no clue) and so let me get on that power! He has 76 HRs in the last three seasons, one of which saw him play just 84 games! He doesn’t even need a full season for 20+ HRs, but if he does stay healthy, his new park could help push him to a new career-high north of 30.
13.04 – Steven Souza Jr. (Collette) – Is this a reach? Likely – but he’s going to play every day and has 20/20 potential with big MILB numbers. The projections for him are all over the place with BP and HQ on the high end and Steamer on the low end. In short, he could be what the guy he is replacing was supposed to be, as a Myers 2.0. Or, he could be Myers 1.1. I am more confident in the counting category production than I am the batting average, but that’s a risk I will take.
13.05 – A.J. Pollock (Zola) – So many choices at this turn – I feel like I’m at a Vegas buffet. I know I should have stayed in my room and ordered the Chicken Caesar from room service. Sort of like supporting Kershaw with other decent arms, you can’t draft a steals specialist (like Dee Gordon) and not add on more bags. There’s a chance Pollock loses some time to David Peralta and Ender Inciarte, especially if Yosmany Tomas doesn’t stick at third, but he should still get a ton of at-bats leading off. Having three D-Backs isn’t really an issue considering Chase Field is a good park and they are all hitting in the upper half, so there will be some runs. As an aside, I think some are too worried about Goldschmidt and run production — the top of the order is fine.
13.06 – Doug Fister (Flowers) – Well, since I almost took him last round, why not this round? He’s not a big strikeout arm, and he’s not going to repeat the 2.41 ERA or 1.08 WHIP from last season, but the last four seasons he’s averaged 13 wins, a 3.11 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. I’ll take that as my SP4.
13.07 – Jered Weaver (Mack) – I like the Angels, so Weaver should be a consistent winner again for fantasy owners. He hasn’t hurt anyone in any category either, so I hope I am buying some consistency here. I don’t like the fact he is 32, but he has always been more of a command guy anyway, so perhaps he won’t have a blow out for me here.
13.08 – Brian McCann (Gonos) – Just 30 years old, coming off a power-happy season, with a dip in average, in his first year in the AL. Hoping in his second year, he’ll hit over .250 at least, and keep taking advantage of Yankee Stadium from a power perspective. If anyone can do it, Brian mcCan.
13.09 – Daniel Murphy (Van Riper) – Is he Dustin Pedroia without the hardware, grit, and name recognition? Murphy does a little bit of everything, and his counting stats may benefit from the improved lineup around him — a healthy David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda against righties, etc. — or a trade out of New York.
13.10 – Adam LaRoche (Steinhorn) – Sure, he’s old, and kind of boring. But we’re talking at least 20 home runs in nine of his last ten seasons (the exception being 2011, when he was limited to 43 games due to injury). U.S. Cellular is hitter-friendly and the fact that he will be used mostly as a DH should keep him fresh.
13.11 – Mike Zunino (Michaels) – Time to plug a catcher’s slot, and thus Monsieur Zunino. It is good enough for me that he hit 22 big flies last year, meaning 26% of his hits were homers, but Zunino is also alphabetically the last active player in the Majors, meaning maybe he is an afterthought to some? Yes, just 87 hits for a full timer is crappy (.199 batting average), and his K:BB rate (17:158) is beyond scary. But, as a catcher in the Bigs, his first priority is managing the pitching staff, and hitting is secondary. However, as a catcher, and just a 24-year-old one, I am betting that comfortable as a starter, with a great season of pitch management behind him, he will learn and improve. For as a catcher, he obviously understands the strike zone. I am not looking for any huge jump in totals, but I do think a .240-20-60 base is a decent start and with a little luck, he can pull a Tim Laudner, who jumped his average from .191 to .251 from 1987 to 1988.
13.12 – Wilson Ramos (Schwartz) – Health is a skill and Wilson Ramos doesn’t seem to have it, but he does have the hit skill, averaging .268-24-90 per 162 games over the past four seasons. This is probably a couple of rounds too early to take him given the injury risk, but I’m in love with the thought of what he might do in a healthy season and willing to reach a little bit to get it despite the injuries, since he’s in his age 27 season and has to stumble into one healthy season eventually, right? And it’s not like Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon are going to steal at-bats from Ramos, either.
14.01 – Marcus Stroman (Schwartz) – Stroman posted a very solid 3.29 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 20 starts last year, with an impressive 103-27 K-BB ratio in 120.1 IP. He’s got a broad repertoire for a pitcher his age, generating a ton of grounders and yielding very few homers, both of which are critical for a pitcher who calls the Rogers Centre home. Like my “ace” Gerritt Cole, Stroman probably won’t reach 200 IP this year, but I’ll definitely take 180 IP or so of this quality over a greater quantity of lesser performance.
14.02 – Alcides Escobar (Michaels) – Need a shortstop, and Escobar adds to my speed arsenal as well as ideally helping offset lower averages (I am looking at you Mike Zunino). He is durable and steady, so I am looking for a .270-4-55-25 line out of him. That would be great!
14.03 – Jacob deGrom (Steinhorn) – Can he repeat last year? Probably not. But at the same time, it’s hard to see him falling off a cliff. Pitching in a favorable park, an ERA in the low 3’s, a WHIP of around 1.20 and roughly a K per inning seems like a reasonable expectation. A fine #3 SP in my book.
14.04 – Yadier Molina (Van Riper) – Even with a more likely home-run total in the 10-12 range, I like Molina as a steady source of average and favorable runs scored and RBI counts. The Cards may rest him more frequently, but it’s also possible that he’ll get the Lucroy/Posey treatment and see those days off at first base against lefties when the Cards want to sit Matt Adams.
14.05 – Joc Pederson (Gonos) – Has room to run and play in L.A.’s outfield now, is a hoot to follow on Twitter, has power and speed — once he actually strikes the ball — and he spells his name funny. A “d” in Pederson, come on!
14.06 – Wil Myers (Mack) – One good half of the season and one awful half season. Hopefully, a change of scenery can help this former talent find his stroke. I hate his strikeout rate, but there is still 20-homer potential here. He is on the right side of the age equation, too, so Round 14 is not a horrible gamble here.
14.07 – Hisashi Iwakuma (Flowers) – This is why I have no issue waiting on pitching. The last two years, Iwakuma has a 3.05 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. The ERA is 13th in baseball while the WHIP is 4th. Toss in a better than 7.5 Ks per nine, and a walk rate of 1.82 (career numbers), and the guy is a dynamite 5th starting pitcher.
14.08 – Hector Rondon (Zola) – My objective in a 12-team mixer is to roster 2.5 closers. The half closer is floated in when my starters have tougher matchups. I realize you can troll waivers for saves in a league of this depth but often those saves come at a cost (and I believe a closer does more than get saves). The cost can be poor ratios. The cost can be wasted FAAB on choices that don’t work out. The cost can be a huge bid to make sure you get your guy. The cost can be having some weeks where you don’t have 2 closers to use, falling behind in saves. So I like to leave the draft with two trust-worthy closers. Given that come March the inventory will be fleshed out more, if I were to end up with Rondon in this spot I would not complain. He’s not uber-dominant but a whiff an inning is just fine. I usually like a pitcher to repeat a gain in control before I say he owns it, but am willing to take the chance last year’s drop in BB/9 is mostly sustainable. There will be some HR regression but I’m drafting him in the 14th round, it’s factored in. Rondon isn’t ingrained in the spot but my sense is the Cubs would like him to be the guy and are focusing assets elsewhere.
14.09 – Ken Giles (Collette) – I’m banking on the Phillies trading the $13M closer they do not need any day now. If that trade happened today, I feel this is where Giles would be picked. He’ll save 25+ of the 70 games they win while striking out a bunch of guys with at least one good ratio.
14.10 – Russell Martin (Sporer) – Inseparable and in each other’s heads. I was hoping for Giles in the 15th. I’ll get my first backstop instead with 11 already off the board. A repeat of just his 2013 in the new park would no doubt raise that .226 AVG and make him more than useful, while anything resembling last year with the park upgrade could be huge. As the 11th C off the board, I feel like I’m getting a bargain.
14.11 – Pedro Alvarez (Heaney) – The agony of slow drafts: finding out an early pick — in my case, Victor Martinez — is having knee surgery and may miss regular-season time. Calling an audible, I decided to lock down another corner infielder with power. Alvarez has it in droves. He may not face some tough lefties, but if he’s given 500 at-bats, reaching 30 home runs looks like a sound bet. I’ll deal with the other warts because, for now, he’s only my utility player. Fingers crossed V-Mart doesn’t miss much time.
14.12 – Yasmany Tomas (Erickson) – I gave up on a Cuban earlier with Rusney, but now seems like the time to pounce on another with Yasmany Tomas. I’m not sure whether he’ll end up at OF or 3B, but I can fit him in either way.
15.01 – Mike Fiers (Erickson) – I know about the low BABIP, but his K-rate supports good ratios, and I’m buoyed by Eno Sarris’s recent piece on him.
15.02 – Brett Gardner (Heaney) – There are a few other intriguing outfielders I could roll with here, but it was hard to refuse the value of Gardner’s 20-plus steals (I needed another thief); late-blooming power (which is a smidge realer than many believe); and ability to score around 90 runs atop a lineup that should improve from last season.
15.03 – Brett Cecil (Sporer) – I know the latest news has Cecil v. Sanchez for the closer’s role, but I’m betting on the lefty. His last two years in the bullpen have seen him pair elite strikeout and groundball rates, both of which help him overcome his still-lofty walk rates. I think TOR would be smarter to use Sanchez as a more-than-1-IP guy in the 6th-8th innings. That would also make his transition back to starting easier. Alas, I doubt they give a crap what I think.
15.04 – Drew Smyly (Collette) – This could go either way during the season, because there’s some concern about the jump in workload from 2013 to 2014. After the trade, his swing and miss rate jumped up nearly six full percentage points and his indoctrination into the Rays Way of doing things is not yet complete. The next stage is going to be the changeup, and there will be some bumps there as we saw last year early with Odorizzi. Once he is comfortable with the cambio, there’s still upside here.
15.05 – Ian Kennedy (Zola) – Waiting on pitching means you have to catch up. Kennedy is my fourth starter and gives me a chance to narrow the gap in whiffs since he should fan more than almost all of your SP4s. I like having Petco at his back since he isn’t an extreme ground ball guy. Speaking of which, his BABIP seems out of whack with his GB/FB rate so I see some latent WHIP upside there which may domino into fewer walks since he could be working from the stretch a little less.
15.06 – Adam Eaton (Flowers) – Eaton scored 76 times and hit .300 last season. He also posted a .362 OBP and stole 15 bases in a season in which he was dealing with health woes for a good portion of the campaign. In the outfield last season there were only three men who hit all four of those marks: Andrew McCutchen, Michael Brantley and Eaton. A full season of health, at the top of a potentially dynamic White Sox lineup could lead to huge production from Eaton.
15.07 – Xander Bogaerts (Mack) – I’ll take the upside here with a 22-year-old former top prospect who can still elevate his game to a fantasy level. I think a whole turnaround in Boston should make everyone a bit better than they showed a year ago there.
15.08 – Eric Hosmer (Gonos) – At just 25 years old, Hosmer seems to be already written off as a non-power threat, and with nine homers last season, it’s tough to argue against that. But at 6-foot-4, with a revamped swing that helped him to a solid September, I like him as a late-pick, corner infielder with a high ceiling. He’s tall. He needs high ceilings.
15.09 – Cliff Lee (Van Riper) – Here’s to hoping that his struggles last year were the result of pitching through the injury that eventually shut him down. Lee still had excellent control last season, and his three-year averages in the ratio categories are excellent even with his 2014 struggles built in. If he’s broken, I’m not out much pick-wise this late.
15.10 – Anibal Sanchez (Steinhorn) – His injury-plagued 2014 season will scare off many, but Sanchez was coming off four straight seasons with at least 29 starts, so it would be unfair to label him as injury-prone. He pitched well upon his return last year and should be fully healthy for Spring Training. Maybe he will never duplicate his elite stat line from 2013, but he’s a quality pitcher with a proven track record who will be pitching in a favorable environment. As my #4 SP, I’ll gladly take him.
15.11 – Derek Norris (Michaels) – This is actually my favorite point of drafts, although not without paradox. I do tend to get a lot of the guys I target: it is more a question of whether my sense that these guys are any good and/or under-appreciated is correct or not. Of course, the beauty is we are all in the same sort of wonder purgatory, at least until the season begins. With that quasi-intellectual pre-ramble, I will take the Padres starting catcher. Norris obviously can get on base, and he has some pop, and is even a pretty good base stealer. He is 26, and now likely has a chance to bag 400-plus at-bats, and if he does, I see no reason his numbers from last year (.270-10-55) won’t be replicated, at worst.
15.12 – Brett Lawrie (Schwartz) – He’s going from a great hitters’ park to a great pitchers’ park, has played successively fewer games in each of the past three seasons, and stole all of zero bases last year. But, Lawrie’s skills haven’t really deteriorated, and in some cases, have actually improved. After three years of being hugely overvalued, he could be undervalued if this is the year he actually stays healthy. Career averages per 162 games: .265-20-74-14 with 78 runs… a boy can always dream.
16.01 – Matt Carpenter (Schwartz) – No one expected him to repeat his 2013 numbers, but he still established a career-high walk rate and hit a ton of line drives, and scored 99 runs. I expect the BABIP and HR/FB to bounce back slightly this year, giving me another high-average hitter to balance out Carter, and he should again be among the Major League leaders in runs, which will offset the plodding Ramos. Career averages per 162 games: .293-9-68 with three steals and 100 runs. Sounds fair to me.
16.02 – Lorenzo Cain (Michaels) – I know there are those who are dismissive of Cain, saying he is living off his World Series performance, much like Hosmer. I actually did have Cain on two rosters all of last year, so I got his .301 average and 28 steals. It is true Cain’s major league whiff rate is high, but he was a .290 hitter in the Minors with a .366 OBP. Now 28, Cain should be a full-timer, and he can add to the mix with a .280-5-55 line with 80 runs and 30 swipes, that adds to the mix just fine.
16.03 – Oswaldo Arcia (Steinhorn) – I’m lighter in power than I wanted to be at this stage of the draft, so I’m hoping that Arcia can help me make up some ground. The AVG might not be pretty but I already have enough solid AVG contributors to absorb the blow. With a full season of everyday at-bats for a rebuilding Twins club, the 23-year-old could approach 30 homers, and since he’s still very young, there’s reason to believe that he can raise his AVG to the point where it will no longer be a liability.
16.04 – Carlos Carrasco (Van Riper) – Carrasco went crazy down the stretch last year, and he certainly gets an on screen credit if I ever document my 2014 Tout Wars season with a Tecmo Super Bowl style montage. More importantly, he’s always had good stuff, and the Tribe have a decent track record of developing pitching, so I am at the point where I think a low 3.00s ERA and 1.15-1.18 range WHIP are something he can deliver with plenty of strikeouts over a full season.
16.05 – Travis d’Arnaud (Gonos) – d’Arnaud in Round 16? More like d’Ar-YES! Better contact in the second half last year and didn’t drop in power. Is a 20-HR/65-RBI season too far away? Hopefully, it’s in Year 3 of his career.
16.06 – Justin Verlander (Mack) – I have heard of Verlander. No, he doesn’t throw 100 mph any longer, but he can still be a 15-game winner with a 3.50 ERA, 175 strikeouts and 1.200 WHIP. Not bad for a back-end fantasy starter. There is a slight chance he can still prove to be better than that, too. (This is coming from a guy who held on to Tim Lincecum two years too long. I’d argue Verlander’s stature gives him a better chance to regain some power.
16.07 – Fernando Rodney (Flowers) – There are issues with Rodney, but the facts are the facts. Over the last three seasons, he’s posted at least 37 saves each year. He and Craig Kimbrel are the only men in that exclusive group. Rodney has also struck out 10.14 batters the past nine, helping to remove some of the walk concern (3.42 per nine). At this point of the draft, as my first closer, I’ve got no complaints.
16.08 – John Jaso (Zola) – I have a couple of batting average drains, so I’ll look to a catcher that won’t be catching to help buffer the damage. Jaso could be in the two-hole, so while the Rays may not score a ton of runs, he’ll be in the middle of a few rallies.
16.09 – Denard Span (Collette) – Zola got payback on me as I was going to take Jaso here. I’ll zag and take an outfielder that could potentially lead the NL in runs and steal 25-30 bags while setting the table for a very potent lineup to fill my Utility spot.
16.10 – Avisail Garcia (Sporer) – It’s a bet on the come with Garcia, but the potential is there for a solid power-speed season in an improved lineup. I even got a little discount, too. He has been tracking a bit higher than this pick and I do worry that his cost could blow up by peak draft season in March, but for now I’ll gladly take him here.
16.11 – Wilin Rosario (Heaney) – I’m…Wilin to take Rosario here. He’s turning 26; still plays his home games at THE hitters’ paradise; and while he does lean on Coors Field, he’s not terrible against RHPs. Hopefully they go through with the plan to play him at first base to keep his bat active — nice advantage for a C-eligible player. I wouldn’t want Rosario as my No. 1 backstop, but in this fantasy role, he costs peanuts for a potential 20-homer season.
16.12 – Lance Lynn (Erickson) – Not an exciting pick, but a pretty good bet to deliver 180 K’s and a better-than-average ERA, though he walks too many to provide much WHIP help. But he’s also on a good team, and while I’m not necessarily chasing wins, I’m not turning them down, either.
17.01 – Michael Pineda (Erickson) – It really wasn’t a plan to go pitching-heavy with three SPs in a row here, but that’s where I think the value is. Pineda is risky, but there’s a pretty high ceiling too. And at pick 193, and SP5, I’m willing to gamble.
17.02 – Mat Latos (Heaney) – Health problems stand to jeopardize his abilities, but his trade to Miami makes him too intriguing to pass up if he’s a full go. Not a strikeout ace anymore, but he’s efficient and could see some of that return with injuries healed.
17.03 – Yasmani Grandal (Sporer) – I was buying when he was still with SD (not just theoretically, I took him in the BaseballHQ draft at AFL), so I like him even better in the improved park and lineup. I really like this catcher combo with Martin and Grandal. It would be amazing in an OBP league, but it will be more than useful in an AVG league.
17.04 – Aramis Ramirez (Collette) – An oldie but goodie who isn’t as good as he once was, but still has a pretty high floor in terms of skills. Health? That’s another issue and he really should be aging gracefully as a DH instead of painfully as a third baseman.
17.05 – Adam Lind (Zola) – Nothing fancy here. I like Lind in Miller Park and need a corner. There’s a chance Milwaukee uses LuCroy at 1B against southpaws and I prefer not to use platoon players in a 12-team league, but I consider this spot fungible, so if someone better emerges I’ll make the upgrade.
17.06 – Alex Rios (Flowers) – Just 34, he was terrible in 2014. No way around it. Working on a one year deal with a team that loves to run, I can see an easy rebound for Rios. His 2014 numbers versus his career levels in AVG, OBP, K-rate, swinging strike percentage, GB-rate, FB-rate, BABIP…they were all “normal” for Rios last season despite the awful fantasy season. Even if he rebounds to 2005 levels (.262-10-59-71-14), Rios would still be a solid fifth outfielder would he not? Don’t forget he’s just one year removed from a 18-81-83-42 campaign.
17.07 – Neftali Feliz (Mack) – This used to be one of the sexiest arms in fantasy. He turns 27 this year and is in a contract year. Hopefully, he stays healthy for this one.
17.08 – Jenrry Mejia (Gonos) – We’ve seen closers come back from Tommy John surgery a bit later than everyone had hoped. Here’s to Bobby Parnell’s slow return, much like Jason Motte last year.
17.09 – Carlos Beltran (Van Riper) – Beltran tried to play hurt last year, and it didn’t work. The Yankees will likely move him between right field and the DH spot this season, but I think he’s still a threat to go .270-20-90-80 in that park and lineup.
17.10 – Jose Quintana (Steinhorn) – Through his first three big league seasons, Quintana has steadily improved his ERA, strikeout rate and walk rate. Plus, the White Sox beefed up their offense over the winter, so I’m thinking he wins more than nine games this year.
17.11 – Chris Tillman (Michaels) – Not sure why Tillman gets so little respect these days, but he had a pretty good season last year (15 wins, 178 K) and was even better if you consider his second half, going 6-1, 2.33 over 14 starts. Sold.
17.12 – Garrett Richards (Schwartz) – Richards was one of only six MLB pitchers last season with an ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP under 1.05, ranked 2nd among qualified pitchers in average fastball velocity, and allowed the 12th-lowest opponents’ slugging percentage in MLB history. He’s expected back from his knee injury by the end of April, but believes he can be ready for Opening Day, so as with my other SP’s I’ll take the expected quality over quantity.
18.01 – Danny Salazar (Schwartz) – Salazar rediscovered some of his lost fastball velocity in the second half, cut the walks, and got some better luck on batted balls, resulting in strong mid-rotation stats: a 3.50 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 73-18 K-BB in 69.1 IP. I can’t see Gavin Floyd or T.J. House keeping him out of the rotation for long, if at all, so he should manage to provide 170-180 IP of near-elite K-rates. Quality over quantity.
18.02 – Nick Castellanos (Michaels) – I have been doing a lot of 12-team mocks, with just a couple of 15-teamers, and for sure, there is indeed a HUGE difference. Pitching, while still abundant, is none-the-less not nearly as bountiful in a 15-teamer. Same with outfield. And, well, the issue gets forced with trying more youngsters, which kind of makes the exercise fun. Hence, I am taking a shot at the corner with the Tigers third sacker. Castellanos was fairly steady with his .259-11-66 line in 2014: I am banking he can up those totals by just 10% to become a serious selection.
18.03 – Jimmy Rollins (Steinhorn) – He’s been on everyone’s “do not draft” list for what, three years now? Granted, J-Roll is no longer a fantasy stud, but he still offers some power and some speed, and while he might hit a few less homers with his move from Citizens Bank to Dodger Stadium, his runs total should benefit due to the upgraded supporting cast. Rather than focusing on what he can’t do anymore (the batting average has been in free fall), let’s accept him for what he is, a fine starting MI in a 12-team mixed league.
18.04 – Chase Headley (Van Riper) – I like the steady supply of playing time, major upgrade in home park, and that he should be healthier after a long list of injuries slowed him last season. He was coming back from a torn meniscus in spring training, strained his calf, had a sore knee, suffered a biceps strain, took a DL stint for the calf, got hit in the knee by a pitch in June, was diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back, and then got hit in the face by a pitch in September. Even with that, he still hit 13 home runs and stole seven bases. Maybe there’s another 20-homer season in his bat?
18.05 – Andrew Miller (Gonos) – Not a fan of young, dominant middle relievers stepping into a closer’s role as a high Fantasy draft pick. So I’ll bet on the lefty (which I also don’t like as a closer), as the cheaper Fantasy option to be the Yankees closer.
18.06 – Jedd Gyorko (Mack) – He is going to be my middle infielder and team with Albert Pujols on the all-Plantar fasciitis team. Hopefully he can regain some juice as a run-producing middle infielder. The round is right.
18.07 – Addison Reed (Flowers) – I was going to grab my MI this round but Zach snagged Rollins, so there went that plan. Reed is solid if unspectacular. All of the homers last season hid the fact that Reed struck out 10.47 batters per nine with his lowest walk rate (2.28 per nine) since he tossed 7.1 innings in his first season. He’s also one of seven men with at least 29 saves each of the past three years.
18.08 – Dalton Pompey (Zola) – May as well just get it over with…Zola likes pizza and drafting Dalton Pompey late. As opposed to pizza, which I’ll eat no matter what, if Pompey struggles, I’ll toss him to the curb and find someone else. The steals potential is huge.
18.09 – Homer Bailey (Collette) – I still believe in the skills here and hope that the off-season recovery is going as well as it is reported to be going.
18.10 – Sean Doolittle (Sporer) – We got good news on Doolittle last week with the consensus being that he wouldn’t miss a ton of time. At this point, the risk is virtually nil, but the upside is incredible. He was an easy scoop here.
18.11 – Shelby Miller (Heaney) – Well, now that Bailey is gone, I’ll go with another underappreciated arm primed to rebound. Miller’s 2014 was going south with hangover effects from shoulder issues. But after St. Louis acquired Justin Masterson last year, he helped Miller tweak his two-seam fastball. Miller turned things around with a 2.93 ERA over his final 10 starts. Atlanta was a fine place for him to land; they’re one of the best organizations at maximizing pitchers’ skills, and Miller should be their next revival project. I’ll take him at this price every day for the chance that he creeps back toward 2013 production.
18.12 – Danny Santana (Erickson) – How often do you see a player qualify at those two positions? In the non-Zobrist world, I bet it’s pretty rare. Santana is the classic regression candidate, but as always, the question should be “regress to what?” I’ve got him projected for .275/ 22 SBs / 72 Rs. Even if he doesn’t play shortstop full-time, I’m not that afraid of Aaron Hicks and Jordan Schafer holding him out. Of course, Byron Buxton could kill it in spring training and in Double-A and wipe all of that out by June, but I think this is the right price to take that chance.
19.01 – Chase Utley (Erickson) – I often argue that safety in fantasy sports is an illusion – Prince Fielder is a lock to play 160 games until he isn’t, Brandon Phillips will hit 18 homers a year in perpetuity until he doesn’t – but as far as 19th round middle infielders go, this looks reasonably safe. I might regret not taking two shortstops instead of two second basemen given how risky Santana is, but in a theoretical reserve round at least one pick would be a shortstop.
19.02 – Rougned Odor (Heaney) – Odor was thrown into the MLB fire without having much time above Single-A, but he survived. A marginal improvement in batting average — possible considering his small growth as 2014 went on — would add some punch to his likely double digits in homers and steals. Would be awfully similar to Chase Utley’s numbers, in fact.
19.03 – Curtis Granderson (Sporer) – Popped 20 HRs last year despite giving away two months (Apr and Aug). They moved the fences in again at Citi and I think he’s got a 25-HR season coming.
19.04 – Martin Prado (Collette) – He’s projected to hit in the 5th spot for the Marlins behind Stanton and Morse and could end up hitting cleanup as Morse is far from durable. Prado also has 2B & 3B eligibility giving me another guy to move around the lineup.
19.05 – Brad Boxberger (Zola) – Short and sweet – to compete in saves you usually need two closers and someone to spot. I’ll take the chance Boxberger starts the season with the gig and be very conservative with streaming until I get a better feel for where my arms are at. And you never know, I may have a regular closer. But if I don’t, I’ll find one in a league of this size.
19.06 – Miguel Montero (Flowers) – Down goes Utley to Erickson and Prado to Collette. Tempted to go up the middle but a lot of mediocrity there at this point. Catcher is about to get really spotty, so I’ll grab my second backstop. Do you know how many catchers have three seasons of 72 RBIs the past four years? Three men have had three seasons of 72 RBIs in four years. Those men are Posey, Carlos Santana and Montero.
19.07 – Joakim Soria (Mack) – Skills over role. I am buying that with the Tigers’ closer situation, which might be Joe Nathan’s job to lose. If Nathan and Soria both pitch like last year, Soria will be the Tigers closer. This could be a good team to have as a 19th-round pick of a closer. He is my third closer behind Aroldis Chapman and Neftali Feliz. They have not been pillars of health, but they do have good numbers in ERA and WHIP.
19.08 – Javier Baez (Gonos) – There’s no disputing his power — just ask all that wind he displaces when he swings! I waited too long for a second baseman, so I’ll roll with Baez and hope he can improve his batting eye, while not losing any power.
19.09 – Hyun-Jin Ryu (Van Riper) – The thing I like most about Ryu is that he’s really just Ken from Japan on Street Fighter. I would have taken Baez here if he were still available.
19.10 – Jayson Werth (Steinhorn) – This would look like a much better pick if “days in jail” was a category, but regardless, despite being a health risk, Werth continues to be a consistent run producer, averaging 21 homers, 82 RBI and 85 runs scored to go along with a combined .304 batting average over the past two seasons. After undergoing shoulder surgery in January, he appears on track to be ready by Opening Day, but even if he misses the first couple of weeks, he’s a fine gamble here as my OF5 in the 19th round.
19.11 – Angel Pagan (Michaels) – Injured for big chunks of the past pair of seasons, gambling Pagan can stay healthy. If so, he adds a nice potential 15/15 boost from my fifth outfielder slot, plus decent average, and as a lead-off hitter, can score some runs to boot.
19.12 – Carl Crawford (Schwartz) – Crawford caught fire down the stretch last year, hitting .373/.411/.520 in 47 games in August and September, with four homers and 10 steals. Past results are no guarantee of future performance, but pro-rating those numbers over a full season shows that Crawford still has plenty of production left to offer. Matt Kemp is out of town, Joc Pederson is still unproven and Andre Ethier got only 80 at-bats in the entire second half last year, so playing time should not be an issue for Crawford in 2015, either.
20.01 – Steven Vogt (Schwartz) – Vogt will be Oakland’s primary catcher against righties this year, so I’m expecting something like .265-12-60 in 425 at-bats. That’s awful production for a first baseman, where I have to put him for now since he only got 15 games behind the plate last year, but I’d be able to move him to catcher after about three weeks in most formats, and then pick up a replacement-level first baseman. In this league, that probably means Mike Napoli, Billy Butler or Joe Mauer, which is decent value for my first baseman considering I have Chris Carter at UT.
20.02 – Brandon McCarthy (Michaels) – McCarthy got himself together after some tough years adjusting to a nasty injury (I was at the game where he was beaned by a liner, coming off the mound, and it was not pretty). But, his 7-5, 3.01 mark over the second half with a 1.124 WHIP and 6.58 K:BB total indicates McCarthy is back. He is just 31 going into Opening Day, and need be only a reliable #4 starter on a good team that has traditionally been good with pitchers.
20.03 – Derek Holland (Steinhorn) – After spending the majority of the season on the DL, Holland returned to action late last year, pitching to a 1.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 25-to-5 K/BB ratio over 37 innings. And don’t forget about that breakout 2013 season! Every year, there’s a group of SP’s that can be had at the price of a back end of the rotation guy but who can perform at the level of a #3 mixed league SP. Holland belongs in that group for 2015.
20.04 – Jhonny Peralta (Van Riper) – Health-wise, he’s got a pretty good track record and I think the 18-22 HR range is where he’ll stay. He also has a good lineup around him, with minimal threats to playing time. Even if the three-year average .264/.330/.424, 15 HR, 64 RBI (which is lowered by a 50-game PED suspension) holds, he’s worth the pick here.
20.05 – Jake Odorizzi (Gonos) – Hoping the K-per-IP continues into 2015, while his command issues get better with more Jim Hickey time. He’s probably a bad pick …Od- Or Iz He?!?
20.06 – Desmond Jennings (Mack) – The good news is I have heard of this guy before. He used to be a 20-30 prospect. He is healthier now than a year ago, but hoping he goes even .270-15-60-90-20 looks like a pipe dream. I will hope his healthier legs will lead him to run some at least. The upside is .280-20-75-100-30. Cross my fingers.
20.07 – Santiago Casilla (Flowers) – Snaked by E-Mack…oh, Desmond Jennings. I’m not the biggest Casilla fan, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Sergio Romo, but as my third reliever I can stomach Casilla easily. Santiago had 19 saves last season and over the last five seasons since he became a Giant, his ratios are pretty impressive: 2.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP.
20.08 – Rene Rivera (Zola) – Another LABR pick but there’s no better catcher on the board and he’s the last of the lot I take before holding my nose. Rivera will play regularly, run into a couple of homers and not kill my average.
20.09 – Jake McGee (Collette) – I’ll take the other Jake in Tampa Bay — McGee. Like my kid brother’s earlier pick of Doolittle, there’s nothing to lose in taking McGee this late, even if he misses six weeks.
20.10 – Erick Aybar (Sporer) – His trait is just how unspectacular he is. Better said, he is one of the more reliable assets in the game. It’s not a special line, but it’s a near-guarantee with 2010 being the lone exception. There isn’t a ton upside in my three MIs w/Castro and Aybar’s former double play partner Kendrick joining him, but it’s a stable group and I prefer that at these positions.
20.11 – Carlos Martinez (Heaney) – Finally with a rotation gig all but locked down, his drool-inducing stuff and arsenal make up just the type of chance you want to take at this juncture.
20.12 – John Lackey (Erickson) – I passed him up in LABR in error, but a full year in St. Louis should be a good thing, last year’s small sample notwithstanding.
21.01 – Mike Napoli (Erickson) – Cured of his sleep apnea, should be a pretty good source of power and RBI.
21.02 – Dexter Fowler (Heaney) – Given his OBP prowess and possible role atop a potentially dangerous Cubs lineup, there’s a good chance he’ll pay off at this price in four categories, finally delivering on some of that long-lost hype. Maybe 29 will be his magical age.
21.03 – Matt Cain (Sporer) – I don’t even need a full rebound at this cost. There are still some solid skills here, including a career-high groundball rate last year. We were all kinda waiting for that HR/FB rate to catch up to him, but last year’s 14% was an over-correction. I’ll take the 3.74 ERA from Steamer as a useful baseline and hope for more.
21.04 – Josh Phegley (Collette) – I’m suppressing the Vogt.
21.05 – Danny Duffy (Zola) – I’m not as high on him as others. There was a lot of Lady Luck helping him last season but he’s also capable of taking his skills up a notch to help mitigate the regression. I like Kauffman at his back (slightly positive for runs but saves homers, which is what you need for a fly ball pitcher). He’s my SP5 so I don’t need all his starts, just the good ones.
21.06 – Joe Mauer (Flowers) – Empty average. Still, the guy is a career .319 hitter and has hit .319 in two of the last three years. Could he repeat his 2012 effort (.319-10-85-81) at just 32 years of age? May not be great odds but it’s conceivable, maybe, sorta kinda. Hey, it’s the 21st round.
21.07 – Alex Rodriguez (Mack) – Do I think A-Rod is going to be good? Not really, but I do think .270-25-90-70-5 is possible. That is enough for my DH spot. If anything, he is going to be motivated to flip the middle finger to his critics and cynics this season. I like motivated players…and there is still a home-run crown to chase.
21.08 – Marcus Semien (Gonos) – Finally has a starting gig, unfortunately, it’s in pitching-friendly Oakland as opposed to hitter-friendly Chicago. But he has some power, patience and a little bit of speed, and he’ll add SS eligibility in the first week or so of the season.
21.09 – Wily Peralta (Van Riper) – If he can develop a better feel for his changeup, I still like him as a possible breakout arm. At the very least, he’s a streaming option in a 12-teamer and this is my last pitcher spot anyway.
21.10 – Tyler Clippard (Steinhorn) – With Sean Doolittle sidelined, Clippard is the overwhelming favorite to open the season as the A’s closer, and even if he only gives me a two- week dosage of saves, he could be worth holding onto regardless thanks to the elite ratios. If Doolittle takes longer than expected to return, all the better!
21.11 – Billy Butler (Michaels) – Last position player, Butler has a good resume, and is certainly capable of .280-14-70 totals with a lot of doubles. And he is still just 28, so no reason to think he is over any hills.
21.12 – Luke Gregerson (Schwartz) – Gregerson has been one of the most consistent relievers in the game over his six-season career, with a 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. He gets plenty of grounders and isn’t homer-prone, so I don’t think the move from San Diego to Houston will hurt him at all. I’m going on the assumption here that Gregerson will win or at least share the Astros’ closer gig, making him a low-cost, high-upside fourth reliever on my team, and if not, I cut him in favor of a Pitch-or-Ditch selection.
22.01 – Mike Minor (Schwartz) – Minor tried to pitch through a sore shoulder last year, which combined with some moderately bad luck on batted balls (.323 BABIP) and fly balls (12.9% HR/FB) to yield some ugly results (4.77 ERA). But, his strikeout and walk rates weren’t out of line with his career marks, and he actually improved his ground ball rate at the expense of fly balls, leading to a much more palatable xFIP (3.90). I’m assuming he’ll be healthier this year and perform more like he did in 2013, and if not, I cut him in favor of a Pitch-or-Ditch selection.
22.02 – Joe Nathan (Michaels) – Yeah, he was awful last year. But, he still copped 35 saves, and well, name another season in which he was terrible, if you can. True, he is on the Tigers–the kiss of death for bullpen skills, cosmically–but Nathan is being paid as a closer, and my guess is he gets every opportunity to prove he is not worthy. Meaning for now, he gets the ball. Name a closer in a better position than that?
22.03 – Austin Jackson (Steinhorn) – Not a particularly exciting fantasy player, but hitting atop an improved Mariners lineup could result in 90-plus runs to go along with 20 steals and an AVG that won’t hurt you. (career .274 hitter even after last year’s .256). I’m surprised he’s still available in the 22nd round.
22.04 – J.J. Hardy (Van Riper) – Looking for the usual cheap power 15+ HR, and fair number of RBI from him again after he was returning from an injury early in 2014. Basically, I’m leaning on all of his struggles last year being health-related, as opposed to skills loss.
22.05 – Josh Hamilton (Gonos) – Ummm, did you know he was the No. 1 overall pick once for the Rays!?! Thumb and shoulder problems made his 2014 season smell funky, but as my fifth outfielder, he’s a bargain. He’s still an if-he-stays-healthy candidate for 20 HR and 75 RBI, as he’s just 33 years old. (In reality, with former drug-abuser math, that becomes a 41-year-old, but still.)
22.06 – Rick Porcello (Mack) – I am not sold he will be as good in Boston, but I love his durability and pitchability, fronting a staff that might get some run support. He is on the right side of the age curve and he should improve on missing bats, something he frankly hasn’t been that good at.
22.07 – Asdrubal Cabrera (Flowers) – Tempted to go with Everth Cabrera here but I’ll go with A-Cab instead. He qualifies at SS and 2B and has, rather surprisingly, hit at least 14 homers with 60 RBIs, 65 runs scored and nine steals each of the past four seasons. Some players up the middle who didn’t reach all four of those numbers last season: Jose Altuve, Chase Utley, Daniel Murphy and Hanley Ramirez. Cabrera is no star, and the batting average is a concern, but he’s a stable counting category guy.
22.08 – J.A. Happ (Zola) – Happ’s K/9 and BB/9 basically defined league average. As a fly ball guy in Rogers Centre, his HR/9 was worse than league average. Put him in Safeco and hopefully that makes it better than league average. Or at least at league average, and since fly ball guys usually have better hit rates, the total package is a little better than league average.
22.09 – Matt Shoemaker (Collette) – Despite “meh” stuff, he has an above-average strikeout rate and a top 20 K%-BB%. He also had a higher overall swinging strike rate than Alex Cobb, David Price, and the guy he replaced, Garrett Richards. Ratios are sustainable but he’s not pulling 16 wins out of his ass again. End-game starting pitcher with a high floor? You betcha.
22.10 – Kevin Gausman (Sporer) – He is one of my favorite breakout candidates this year and in a 12-teamer, I have no problem jumping him as my last pitcher, knowing that if he doesn’t quite pan out as expected, I can definitely find a viable replacement. Of course, that’s just worst-case scenario. I think the upside is substantial for the 24-year-old. The slider needs to come along for the huge breakout (low-3.00s, K-per-IP) to come to fruition, but even a full season of last year’s mid-3.00s work would be more than OK as my last pitcher.
22.11 – Collin McHugh (Heaney) – Of course, I’m not expecting a 2.73 ERA again from him (hello, inflated BABIP and LOB%), but a solid foundation for strikeouts still exists for the right-hander. At this price and expectations of a SP6, I’m pleased.
22.12 – Drew Pomeranz (Erickson) – Debated between the boring but reliable Kyle Lohse or gambling on Pomeranz’s upside and volatility. Decided to go the upside route – plenty of guys like Lohse still available for the make-believe reserve round (as opposed to the “real” part of this mock construct of a make-believe game). Health is a concern, of course it is, especially for this late in the draft. I would have happily selected Shoemaker, Gausman or McHugh here had they not gone sequentially before this pick.
23.01 – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Erickson) – The law here requires a second catcher. Salty is a catcher. I shall comply with the law.
23.02 – Aaron Sanchez (Heaney) – There’s speculation about him as a starter or, more beneficial to my plan at this point, a closer. His stuff is nasty and would play well in either role, but more immediately in the latter. His relief work last year — while not quite dominant — was a fine preview.
23.03 – Rajai Davis (Sporer) – Easy speed.
23.04 – Drew Hutchison (Collette) – I like the second half growth he showed. Kinda surprised he’s still sitting out here. I just assumed he was gone when I took Shoemaker last round.
23.05 – Jose Peraza (Zola) – I’m going to assume there’s a reserve list in this league and draft Peraza with the intent on stashing him until (if?) he comes up. There’s openings at second or center – I suspect Peraza will get at least half a season, maybe a couple weeks more in the bigs. I’m taking him as my middle infielder in deeper leagues since I can easily backfill (second may not be quality but it’s quantity). I was willing to push him to utility here. Trading is hard, you need an asset to deal without hurting your squad. Peraza could provide me with that asset in the form of swipes.
23.06 – Francisco Rodriguez (Flowers) – With so many pitchers left on the board, there’s no reason not to take a shot in the dark at this point. If K-Rod doesn’t end up signing with the Brewers or another club that will let him close, I’ll just hit the waiver-wire up for one of the plethora of solid arms that are still on the board.
23.07 – Phil Hughes (Mack) – Remember when he was the second coming of Greg Maddux? Me neither. But he did have a breakthrough at 27 last year, winning 16 games, getting his ERA and WHIP in the respectable range and striking out a career-high 186 batters. I considered taking a shot at Clay Buchholz here, but decided Hughes would be a safer pick. Not a bad guy to fill out a pitching staff with.
23.08 – Nathan Eovaldi (Gonos) – The fourth-year starter should eclipse 200 innings for the first time this season, and while I wish he was pitching in Marlins Park still, he has good potential. Great stuff from a 25-year-old righty, with the fourth-highest fastball velocity in the Majors last season — and he makes for a great final pick of my draft.
23.09 – Alex Avila (Van Riper) – Reluctantly, I’ll take Avila. Health is a major issue here given his concussion history, but it sounds like there’s a chance he’ll get to hit second against right-handed starters, while the Tigers will likely give him 2/3 of the playing time this season as long as he can avoid lengthy absences.
23.10 – Jason Castro (Steinhorn) – Castro could be pressed for playing time this year by Hank Conger should he get off to a slow start, but even in a disappointing 2014 season, he managed 14 homers and 56 RBI. That’s good enough for my final round #2 catcher.
23.11 – Kevin Quackenbush (Michaels) – Great name, lots of whiffs, chance to close, and who else would take a name like this. Well, ok, Cory, but who…ok, Todd, but other than….oh you get the point. Irrespective, this shows just how unstable/speculative closer has become. I took a potential has-been (Nathan), and a wanna be (Quackenbush) and am ok thinking I can adjust as the season progresses.
23.12 – Chris Iannetta (Schwartz) – I’m going to cut him after three imaginary weeks, and pick up a better-hitting imaginary 1B, once Vogt imaginarily qualifies at catcher. In the meantime, Conger is out of town so Iannetta should get the bulk of the imaginary catcher at-bats, and while he’s not very good, the Angels have a road trip to Texas and Houston so I’m just hoping he runs into a few imaginary dingers before I drop him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.