Breaking down the mock draft: rounds 1-3

On Sunday, Jan. 16, 12 baseball analysts from around the web mock snake-drafted fantasy baseball team for 2011.

They assumed 25-player rosters, using the standard 5×5 categories and a 1,500 innings-pitched limit. Using Mock Draft Central, teams were constructed with three starting pitchers, two relief pitchers, four “generic” pitchers (starter or reliever), three bench players, five outfielders and one of each of catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, middle infielder and corner infielder.

We have broken this draft into four parts—rounds 1-6, 7-12, 13-19 and 20-25—and over the next four weeks, each of the participants to the draft will provide insight into each of their picks. All preseason projections below are courtesy of the Bill James projections available on Fangraphs.com. Please post comments below.

Round 1

Pick No. 1 (1 overall): Hanley Ramirez
Preseason projection: .312 AVG, 25 HR, 33 SB, 108 R, 80 RBI, 658 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela, The Hardball Times

I came into this draft really wanting to shore up my middle infield (especially with the shortage of quality shortstops) and figured since I wouldn’t be picking again until No. 24, I should grab an elite player at a scarce position. I’m confident that Hanley should post an excellent BA and swipe 30+ bags but I am a little worried about his decrease in power. His isolated power score has been dropping for three straight seasons (.239 in ’08; .201 in ’09; .175 last season). This season I don’t see him hitting quite as many ground balls (51 percent last season); his previous flyball and line drive numbers should return as he enters his age 27 season.

Pick No. 2 (2 overall): Albert Pujols
Preseason projection: .327 AVG, 43 HR, 11 SB, 120 R, 126 RBI, 694 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

As the owner of the second pick, I was going to select whomever wasn’t taken between Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols. As it turned out, Vincent Carmela selected Ramirez, leaving me the player I’d have selected first overall if I had the pick. An argument can be made for position scarcity making Hanley more valuable, but it’s not one I’m going to buy. Lately, those leading the position scarcity argument will say something like, “Ramirez, paired with the 12th best first baseman will outproduce Pujols and the 12th best shortstop.” To which I’d reply, when did selecting Pujols prevent an owner from selecting a player at a scarce position in the upcoming rounds? What’s wrong with a pairing of Pujols and Jose Reyes, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Youkilis, or another upper-echelon talent at a scarce position?

Assuming Pujols stays healthy, he is going to demolish Ramirez from a strictly statistical standpoint at season’s end, and to me, that’s the important thing with your first round pick. Quietly under-appreciated is the fact that in the last two years Pujols has swiped a combined 30 bases, 14 last year, and 16 in 2009, adding to what is already an explosive line likely to include gaudy runs and RBI totals along with 40+ home runs and an average well north of .300. Sign me up for those totals as my team anchor.

Pick No. (3 overall): Miguel Cabrera
Preseason projection: .322 AVG, 37 HR, 4 SB, 105 R, 126 RBI, 685 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

This was a very straightforward pick for me. Pujols, Ramirez, and Cabrera are top three locks as far as I’m concerned. I would have preferred Hanley to solidify my shortstop spot with the head of the class at that position, but was more than content with settling for Cabrera instead. Like Pujols, Cabrera has been a hallmark for first round consistency and he posted his best season in his age 27 year in 2010 (111 R, 38 HR, 126 RBI, .328 AVG, .294 ISO). A year older, there’s no reason to believe Cabrera won’t produce first round worthy numbers, at the very least.

Pick No. 4 (4 overall) Evan Longoria
Preseason projection: .295 AVG, 31 HR, 13 SB, 102 R, 115 RBI, 570 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game Of Inches

I was torn between Longoria and my boy Troy Tulowitzki (who ended up going the pick later). I “accidentally” drafted Tulo in my snake league first last year over Chase Utley (because I thought Utley would have been picked before I got to him and I was trigger happy on Tulo) but it was a blessing in disguise. I sort of regret this Longoria pick (mainly because of who I ended up with at shortstop and my other third baseman) but throughout this draft I just thought, “Who will end up higher in that Player Rater?”

As much as I love the Rockies shortstop and as deep as I think third base is at this year, I just think Tulo is too much of a risk (especially because of his health) and Longoria is just rock solid and started stealing bases last year as well. Along with the fact that he excels at the other four categories), that makes him my top pick.

Pick No. 5 (5 overall): Troy Tulowitzki
Preseason projection: .300 AVG, 31 HR, 15 SB, 98 R, 102 RBI, 631 PA

Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition

I was happily surprised that Tulo was available at the five pick—I figured I’d end up with Longoria, which would have been fine, but I was delighted to get Tulo; I might have even taken him at No. 3. I think shortstop is by far the weakest position in this year’s draft—after Hanley, Tulo and Reyes, you drop down to Rollins and Drew, which is a huge statistical (and risk) dropoff in my book. So position scarcity ruled the day.

I like to make sure my first round pick will do something for me in all scoring categories, and Tulo will give me solid across-the-board numbers, with about 100 runs and RBI, 30 HRs, a .300 average, and 10-15 steals. I am a little concerned that he will get pitched around to some extent—the Rockies lineup didn’t improve much over the winter, and I expect CarGo to regress a bit statistically this year. And Tulo may not have one insane month like September last year (which elevated his overall stats), but he is so solid overall it was an easy choice. At the tender age of 26, Tulo actually has upside from his outstanding line of 2010. And who can argue with your top pick playing half his games at Coors?

Pick No. 6 (6 overall): Robinson Cano
Preseason projection: .308 AVG, 24 HR, 3 SB, 95 R, 99 RBI, 669 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders, Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Once I found out I had the sixth pick in the draft, I immediately targeted Cano. I locked in my selection, but that came at a price: Joey Votto. Soon after clicking the “draft” button, I wished I’d been paying more attention and taken Votto, whom I had a couple spots higher on my draft board. No matter, because Cano is still a top-level talent. Cano’s in his peak seasons, and has a great lineup spot while playing for a great Yankees’squad.

Pick No. 7 (7 overall): Joey Votto.
Preseason pProjection: .319 AVG, 33 HR, 13 SB, 96 R, 105 RBI, 640 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times

My selection of Votto was simply a personal preference. I only considered Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, and Votto at this selection. CarGo had an amazing season in 2010, but those strikeouts scare me. He’s still 30/30 capable. I think Braun is going to progress in 2011 to new heights. He’s my preseason NL MVP. So why did I choose Votto? He’s is safe and consistent and just what I like with a first round pick. He will hit for average and home runs, and even showed a slight ability to steal even though he’s not extremely fast.

Pick No. (8 overall): David Wright
Preseason projection: .295 AVG, 27 HR, 20 SB, 99 R, 104 RBI, 683 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

I believe that your first round pick needs to be reliable. David Wright is just that. You may not know exactly what you’ll get, considering how injury- prone his teammates have been, but he’s a five-category player. I was targeting either Wright or Longoria, depending on which one fell. Third base is a very weak position this year, so locking up one of the top four (which include Zimmerman and Alex Rodriguez) was my goal once I was given the eighth overall pick. Wright struck out a career high 160 times last year, but he was also asked to “do it all” without Jason Bay, Reyes and Carlos Beltran around for different portions of the season. He was probably pressing too much. A return to a .300 average could occur with a reduction in strikeouts. A 30-100-100-25 line is certain attainable as well.

Pick No. 9 (9 overall): Chase Utley
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 26 HR, 13 SB, 99 R, 95 RBI, 625 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

I was hoping to get Wright. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky, so I took Utley, my highest ranked second baseman for 2011. Despite his having a down seven months since the start of September of 2009, I expect big things from him this season. Even last year, when injuries limited him to 115 games and his worst ISO showing since his first season in the majors, Utley still hit 16 bombs and stole 13 bases while getting caught only twice. That amounts to a rate of 21.5 home runs and 17.5 stolen bases per 155 games. Utley has played 147, 160, 132, 159, 156, and 115 games over the past six years, and I do not expect him to play less than 145-150 games in 2011.

Some might call Cano the best second basemen for 2011, but given Utley’s comparable power, comparable R/RBI expectations and superior stolen base abilities (Utley stole more bases in 2009 than Cano has in his career), the difference in batting average between the two (Utley has a career .293 mark, Cano .309) seems less important than most tend to emphasize. Sure, Cano is on the better side of 30 (Utley’s 33), but that does not mean Utley does not return to his 2007-2009 form this season. Call me crazy for taking Utley here, given the availability of superior “totals” guys like Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday. I draft based on scarcity and the difference between Utley and the next tier of second basemen warranted the “reach.”

Pick No. 10 (10 overall): Adrian Gonzalez
Preseason projection: .285 AVG, 33 HR, 0 SB, 92 R, 102 RBI, 687 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL

Best available infielder. Unfortunately, the likes of Wright, Cano and Utley weren’t available, which wasn’t a surprise. I considered Mark Teixeira, but I’m more confident in the batting average A-Gon will provide. I acknowledge that I’m picking a first baseman in a deep class and taking on the risk involved given his shoulder surgery, but in his setting and lineup‐and with another selection in five picks to back myself up‐I took the chance on someone who approached or reached 40 homers even when he played home games at PETCO Park. I’m not saying he’ll approach 60, but opponents will find it hard to pitch around him now. Plus, first base isn’t cavernous. It has its limits. Power early. Power early.

Pick No. 11 (11 Overall) Carlos Gonzalez
Preseason projection: .308 AVG, 28 HR, 22 SB, 101 R, 101 RBI, 626 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

I was not here for the first four rounds of the draft because the Jets surprising victory over the Pats just before the draft caused unexpected celebrations, so these first five picks were MDC’s and not mine. Nevertheless I’ll add my thoughts on the players handed to me. CarGo is certainly a controversial player this year with a lot of attention drawn his way due to his gaudy 2010 and the expectation of regression. I already covered Gonzalez in this article early in the offseason and I stand by my conclusion that you are probably overpicking him in round 1, with Wright or Braun as better options.

Pick No. 12 (12 overall): Josh Hamilton
Preseason projection: .324 AVG, 26 HR, 7 SB, 80 R, 91 RBI, 525 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini, Bruno Boys

I couldn’t believe Gonzalez fell as far as he did, but my hopes were squashed when he was taken right before me. Coming so close to getting the five-category stud hurt, but picking the 2010 AL MVP in Hamilton wasn’t a bad consolation prize. Injury is the obvious concern here, but when he plays there’s no doubt he is one of the elite hitters in baseball. He batted an absurd .380 and rocked 28 home runs over 424 at-bats from May 1 until he went down with fractures in his rib cage in September. The .390 BABIP likely means his average will drop some, but considering his career average in the “luck” category is .344, it won’t be much of a falloff. Factor in a much improved ISO, a high-powered lineup and a homer-friendly ballpark and you have a guy who I think will exceed these projections and post closer to 30 bombs and 100 RBIs while maintaining a high batting average.

Round 2

Pick No. 1 (13 overall): Ryan Howard
Preseason projection: .276 AVG, 43 HR, 2 SB, 98 R, 133 RBI, 682 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini — Bruno Boys

While I would have liked to have locked down some talent at thinner positions, I decided to stick with power and took Howard at the turn. The Philadelphia Phillies’ first baseman’s average line was 102/50/143 over his first four full seasons but an ankle injury sustained at the beginning of August marred what could have been a fifth big year with an even better batting average‐he was at .292 before going down. He wasn’t the same after that, hitting just .231 in the last 38 games after his return, but he still managed to contribute eight homers to reach the 30-plus plateau. Now that he and the rest of the Phillies lineup is healthy again, you can expect a return to the 40 home run, 130 RBI range and perhaps even a .280 average to go with it.

Pick No. 2 (14 Overall) Mark Teixeira
Preseason projection: .282 AVG, 36 HR, 1 SB, 106 R, 120 RBI, 698 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

The next player assigned to my team by MDC’s rankings was Teixeira, who is someone I certainly would not take at this point. 2010 was an uninspiring year for Teixeira, undergoing his typical early-season slump that he never fully came out of. Certainly I would expect his batting average to climb back into the .290s this year as his BABIP regresses, but his mid-30s power doesn’t make up for his lack of contribution in steals. He is a fairly safe pick, but I would rather take the more impactful Carl Crawford in this spot.

Pick No. 3 (15 overall): Alex Rodriguez
Preseason projection: .284, 35 HR, 10 SB, 95 R, 116 RBI, 621 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL

I considered Zimmerman here, but I chose the player in the better lineup and with a more stable power history. A-Rod needed a surge to get to 30 last year, and yes, he’s slowing down, but he still takes advantage of his home park.

Rodriguez’s lineup placement will keep his RBI potential high, but his power is less certain. Despite the groundball increase and shaky BB/K, he clubbed 19 homers after June. He doesn’t rely on Yankee Stadium. Groin and calf injuries earned most of his 2010 slump blame. He still mashes right-handed pitchers. Reaching double-digit steals would be a bonus, but with his clean bill of hip health, it’s more possible than it was recently. In this risky positional class, A-Rod, even in decline, remains a top hot corner option.

Pick No. 4 (16 overall): Ryan Braun
Preseason projection: .304 AVG, 33 HR, 15 SB, 108 R, 114 RBI, 689 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

In my opinion, outfield is the best source of five-category studs. While the top tier of outfielders always seems deep, the availability of five-category guys is less than 12 players deep and in a five outfield, 12-team league, outfielder scarcity is deceptive. Unless you are comfortable sitting on multiple two or three category only guys like Juan Pierre who hurt you in the categories they do not help, it is essential to grab one or two elite outfielders early in the draft.

I have Braun ranked as my No. 1 fantasy outfielder for 2011, so you must understand my surprise when he was available with the fourth pick of round two. CarGo and Hamilton were drafted ahead of Braun, which I disagree with in light of the inevitable batting average regression due to CarGo (he’s a .285-type hitter, which is still strong, but not first round material) and the health concerns with Hamilton (don’t forget what happened the last time Hamilton was a first round fantasy pick). The early rounds of a baseball draft are about consistency, where Braun reigns supreme. You can’t win in the first few rounds, but you surely can lose if you stomach too much risk.

Pick No. 5 (17 overall): Carl Crawford
Preseason Projection: .300 AVG, 14 HR, 42 SB, 93 R, 71 RBI, 610 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

If Wright and Longoria were gone, I may have considered Crawford in the first round. He’s been a first rounder for nearly his entire career and is now moving to Boston, a team that scored the most runs in the AL last year. They’ve also added Adrian Gonzalez and should have a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury as well. I would have had a hard time not taking Braun instead. He slipped pretty far but was taken a pick before I took Crawford.

Crawford had career highs in runs, RBI and homers last year while playing for a contract. I don’t think anybody is expecting that again this year, but he’s always a reliable source for 45+ steals, which he’s done seven times in his career. A .300 average with 110 runs scored is almost certain while leading off for Boston. The short porch in right field could allow Crawford to come close to 20 home runs again and his RBI should be somewhere between 80 and 90.

Pick No. 6 (18 overall): Joe Mauer
Preseason Projection: .338 AVG, 15 HR, 3 SB, 93 R, 87 RBI, 615 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times

Going catcher this early is not normally the strategy I like to use, but I was heartbroken when Braun and Crawford fell off the board the two prior picks. So I used the best player available route and pulled the trigger on Mauer. I believe the power gains in 2009 were real. I’m not saying he’ll hit 28 home runs, but I like Bill James’ stat projection for Mauer and would be pleased if he put those kind of numbers up.

Pick No. 7 (19 overall): Matt Holliday
Preseason projection: .313 AVG, 28 HR, 11 SB, 103 R, 109 RBI, 670 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders, Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Holliday has always been a favorite of mine, and he seems to be undervalued on draft day. He may not hit the most home runs, steal the most bases or have the highest average, but Holliday is an all-around fantasy force who contributes to every category. I actually had Holliday as high as seventh on my board entering the draft, so locking down your seventh rated player in the middle of the second round is fantastic. Also, seeing that we were drafting (the ungodly number of) five outfielders, I thought it was important to get one early. Looking back, I regret not going with one of the mashers at first base, but I couldn’t pass on getting a top-10 player in the second round.

Pick No. 8 (20 overall): Ryan Zimmerman
Preseason projection: .297 AVG, 29 HR, 5 SB, 96 R, 102 RBI, 663 PA 

Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition

Substitute Zimmerman for Tulo in my first round pick analysis. Solid player; you know what you’re going to get from him. A year more mature‐almost exactly the same age as Tulo (they are actually born 12 days apart). Similar numbers both in terms of last year’s actual and this year’s projections. I believe Zimm has not yet hit his peak, and that there is actually upside to the projections, without tremendous downside risk.

I see third base as weak this year‐I think there are for really solid “sure thing” third basemen, and with Longoria, Wright and A-Rod all gone, I wanted to get one before the dropoff. By the way, I’m now looking at my lineup after two rounds and thinking (a) Ipassed on Prince Fielder‐the last real first base bopper‐to get Zimm, so I’d better get a good one before they’re all gone; and (b) I’m a little light in the stolen base category already, and going need to make that up somewhere. I’m already thinking about what round I can get Pierre or Michael Bourn.

Pick No. 9 (21 Overall) Roy Halladay
Preseason projection: 18 W, 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 190 K, 245 IP
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game Of Inches

As deep as pitcher is (and I think it is the deepest position this year sans AL-only leagues) I couldn’t pass up the best pitcher out there. Even if he doesn’t end up being No. 1 on the Player Rater, he’ll be top five and absolutely worth a high draft pick. Essentially every single time (excluding injuries) the No. 1 player at every position in every fantasy sport will be worth the pick. Because even if that player isn’t the best , he’s still not risky because he’ll always put up good fantasy numbers and not bust.

Pick No. 10 (22 overall): Prince Fielder
Preseason projection: .276 AVG, 41 HR, 1 SB, 100 R, 112 RBI, 706 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores Fantasy Baseball Cafe

I was a couple of picks away from snagging Zimmerman to fill in the scarcer corner, but landing Fielder was a nice consolation prize. If small size patterns are to be believed, Fielder has his best seasons in odd years, which makes 2011 a good omen for Fielder to post superb numbers and for good measure, this is Prince’s contract year. Weight issues and annual inconsistency aside, Fielder still managed to slug 32 round trippers and his low RBI total seems to be on the wrong side of fluky, given that Braun had a bit of an off year while the likes of Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Casey McGehee blossomed.

It might seem like overkill to be drafting two elite power-hitting first basemen with the first two picks, but I felt like Fielder was the best remaining player on the board and had to be drafted. On the low end, I see Fielder hitting .270, 30-35 HR, 100 RBI and while I believe he won’t replicate his 50-homer season, I can also see him having a similar season to 2009.

Pick No. 11 (23 overall): Kevin Youkilis
Bill James Preseason Projection: .294 AVG, 25 HR, 5 SB, 103 R, 93 RBI, 649 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

After selecting Pujols with my first pick, the plan was to fill the hot corner with an upper echelon player. My hope was that Zimmerman would still be on the board. Unfortunately for me Dave Chenok scooped him up at pick eight, leaving me moving on to plan B, which in this case was selecting Youkilis. To open the year, Youk will not have third base eligibility, but given that he is the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox this year, it won’t take long for him to gain that eligibility. He was the last player in my upper tier of third baseman, meaning it was select him, or take a gamble on a riskier option later in the draft.

While it remains to be seen where Youk will be penciled into the heart of the Red Sox order, one thing is for certain: His tremendous average (over .300 each of the last three seasons) and superb on-base skills will lead to hearty run and RBI totals in a loaded lineup. A safe bet for 20 or more homeruns if he ‘s able to accumulate 550 plate appearances, Youkilis’ final stat line will almost certainly place him in the top five at his position. The biggest knock on him is that it isn’t certain he will reach that many plate appearances—he tallied only 435 last season, and in 2009 reached 588 in a season that saw him miss significant time as well. But the possibility of getting elite numbers at a top- heavy position was too much to pass up over durability concerns.

Pick No. 2 (24 overall): Shin-Soo Choo
Preseason projection: .299 AVG, 20 HR, 19 SB, 88 R, 85 RBI, 625 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela, The Hardball Times

From this position, I wanted Fielder, but when that didn’t happen it came down to either Choo or Matt Kemp. Usually in the second round I like to grab a high power/decent batting average guy or one of the few remaining high batting average, decent power with speed guys. I like Kemp and thought he got a bad rap last season from the Dodgers front office, but I’m not sure if he is a .250 or a .290 hitter. I feel much more confident with Choo in terms of acquiring a 20-20 outfielder with a decent batting average. I just wish he had a better supporting cast around him.

Round 3

Pick No. 1 (25 overall): Rickie Weeks
Preseason projection: .257 AVG, 21 HR, 11 SB, 94 R, 61 RBI, 589 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela, The Hardball Times

After taking the conservative route in my Choo over Kemp pick, one would think I would, again, play it safe and grab Dustin Pedroia over Weeks, since I was determined to get my middle infield in place. However, my unconscious disappointment in not choosing to gamble on Kemp made me reach for Weeks as the third overall second basemen taken. Don’t get me wrong: Pedroia is a fine pick and should be healthy in ’11. His .300+ batting average and double-digit home run/steals will make a fine addition on any fantasy team but (and this is probably No. 2 among all fantasy no-no’s, so take note!) I FEEL AS THOUGH RICKIE WEEKS OWES ME!

Since 2006, I have aggressively targeted Weeks for my teams. Last season was the first time I ignored his services and you can imagine my disappointment when he started raking over the summer while staying healthy. I know Weeks does have a slight strikeout problem, but I am worried about his decreasing speed—something I suspect occurred when he sustained a major knee injury in ’08. Weeks is still young (entering his age 28 season) but for him to stay healthy he may have to conserve his legs while hoping to avoid the occasional freak hand injury. I’ll admit to being closer to selecting Ian Kinsler here than Pedroia but I am (like many) excited about the upcoming Brewers season and, in retrospect, my decision-making may have not been optimal.

Pick No. 2 (26 overall) Ian Kinsler
Preseason projection: .275 AVG, 20 HR, 21 SB, 98 R, 74 RBI, 609 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

This pick was one of the most difficult of the draft for me. I was torn among three players: Kinsler, Reyes and Pedroia. Each player presents his own set of risks, so I opted for the player I felt had the highest ceiling and the best blend of power and speed. It should also be noted that Kinsler’s floor is fairly high as well, considering he’s put up upper-echelon numbers for his position even in seasons where he has missed significant time. While drafting Kinsler means one should anticipate on him missing some time, the thought of a fully healthy season, much like Weeks had last season after years of missing time frequently, is reason to salivate.

Like my pick before him, Youkilis, Kinsler’s lineup slot remains a bit of a mystery going into the season. Regardless of where he hits, he’ll have an opportunity to pile up solid counting stats while being a near lock, assuming 120 or more games played (a feet he’s accomplished every year except last year) to total 40 plus home runs and stolen bases combined (he compiled an eye-popping 31 homers and 31 steals in 2009) in a loaded Rangers lineup that plays half its games in one of the more favorable hitters parks. Assuming Kinsler’s 2009 batted ball profile is an outlier (54.0 fly ball percentage), I’d expect him to hit over .280 (at the expense of his career high 31 HR’s).

Pick No. 3 (27 overall): Matt Kemp
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 27 HR, 24 SB, 98 R, 95 RBI, 671 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

I was in a bit of a quandary with this pick. Had this been an actual league draft, I would have taken either Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez, but as an experiment, I decided to forgo both and see what kind of pitching staff I could come up with in later rounds. This left me mulling over three players: Kemp, Pedroia and Reyes. I felt that while Reyes is an above-average shortstop, his upside is tempered if his baserunning attempts are limited (I see him going 40 steals tops). While Pedroia should pick up where he left off before his injury last season, my inner Dodgers fan provoked me into taking Kemp instead.

Kemp underwhelmed in 2010, namely in his sub-par batting average (.249) and a relatively low stolen base count (19), but that belies the fact that Kemp had posted a career-high 28 home runs and a .201 ISO. Historically, Kemp had generally been a high average, but in 2010, he hit a sub-standard .295 BABIP. To a Dodgers fan, it seemed like Kemp was a bit unlucky in some well-hit fly balls not falling as extra base hits. In addition, it seemed like he was caught stealing on a number of borderline calls. I can’t say for certain if his speed score declined, but I would expect Kemp’s stolen base total to take a bounce up (25, reasonably). Couple this with a positive correction to his batting average and a rebound seems in order for the 26-year-old Kemp.

Pick #4 (28 Overall) Dustin Pedroia
Preseason projection: .297 AVG, 17 HR, 16 SB, 108 R, 77 RBI, 702 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game Of Inches

In fantasy, guys who steal bases, hit home runs, have a high average and play on a great offense are a great commodity. Pedroia’s health doesn’t worry me at all and he’s my No. 2 second baseman (behind Robinson Cano). Sure, nothing he does is flashy and he’s not really “great” at any one thing, but he’s above average in all categories (except maybe RBIs). At a position that’s decently scarce, Pedroia poses little to no risk and can help you in all five categories- two things that make me happy with my third-round selection.


Pick No. 5 (29 overall): Jose Reyes
Preseason projection: .286 AVG, 11 HR, 36 SB, 85 R, 52 RBI, 572 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition



This was an opportunistic pick. I was sitting on Pedroia—both because I think he’s in store for a monster year, and because I like to fill up on middle infielders early because of position scarcity. Wouldn’t you know it: Adam Kaplan grabbed him with the pick before mine. My heart sank. I’m still needing that bopper first baseman, and I thought about Justin Morneau, but he’s kind of a wild card coming back from a concussion, and I don’t want to lose with a high upside/high risk pick in an early round. I also considered Nelson Cruz, but there are so many outfielders to be had, and I worry about Cruz’s ability to stay healthy.

It suddenly occurred to me that with Reyes, I could potentially have a lot of what I’d have with Pedroia—at best similar production overall, and at worst I’ve kept up on runs and steals. I feel that last year it took a while for Reyes to ease his way back into things—his second half splits were better than his first half—and he still has a lot of potential upside at age 27. He has shown power in the past, and could have upside in the power categories (though I’ll probably take the under on his stolen base projection just because of hamstring health). But I figure his hamstring and other health issues are mostly behind him. I figure the Mets are embarrassed by how last year went, and they are a talented team that will get serious under new management. Reyes is an emotional guy, and I think he got caught up in the lethargy that characterized last year’s team. Again, I feel that shortstop is the weakest position this year, and with Reyes I’ve now locked up two of the best three, which means most everyone else is going to be weak at that position.

Pick No. 6 (30 overall): Brian McCann
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 24 HR, 4 SB, 68 R, 94 RBI, 579 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders, Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

When I made this pick, I felt like one of those guys in the movies who’s asking out a women at first glance: “I never do this, but…”

I rarely take a catcher early, usually waiting until most of my roster is filled. However, looking at the available talent pool, I didn’t see anything else that caught my fancy. I decided to just go with McCann so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a catcher later. Plus, McCann is still just 27 when the season begins and is as consistent as they come. Adding Dan Uggla to their lineup should help McCann’s RBI or run opportunities, depending on what the Braves do with their batting order.

Pick No. 7 (31 overall): Tim Lincecum
Preseason projection: 15 W, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 233 K, 207 IP
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times

Again, this is not a typical move I would have made in a draft. I usually will wait on pitching. Seeing as this is an expert draft and most experts like to wait on pitchers, I adapted. Getting Lincecum in the middle of the third round felt like grand larceny to me. After struggling at the beginning of the season, he showed control gains, still struck out 200+ batters and looked amazing in the playoffs. I’m a little worried about the innings load, but he is the “Freaky Franchise” or is it “Big Time Timmy Jim”?

Pick No. 8 (32 overall): Justin Morneau
Preseason projection: .294 AVG, 27 HR, 0 SB, 81 R, 101 RBI, 573 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

I was hoping to get Weeks, Reyes, Pedroia or Kinsler. None of those four made it to me. Morneau, assuming he returns healthy from his concussion, is a safe bet for 30 HR and 100 RBI. He’s a career .285 hitter, which I will take in 2011. He normally scores between 85 and 95 runs and had driven in 100+ in four consecutive seasons before getting injured last year. Morneau was batting .345 with 18 homers in half of a season in 2010. I’m expecting a return to normalcy.

Pick No. 9 (33 overall): Nelson Cruz
Preseason projection: .297 AVG, 28 HR, 18 SB, 74 R, 88 RBI, 523 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

With Reyes and Kinsler off the board, I did not want to have to reach too much for a starting shortstop or quality middle infielder. I also had no shot at a legitimate top tier third basemen with Zimmerman and A-Rod off the board. I suppose an argument could be made for newly minted Ranger Adrian Beltre (though, as I have said, third base is not a particularly shallow fantasy position). Had incecum come my way, I would have likely drafted him. However, the best all-around player just happened, again, to be an outfielder, Nelson Cruz. While Cruz is certainly a health risk, he produces enough counting stats when on the field, like Kinsler, to warrant an early round pick despite the risks he poses.

Though Cruz has played only a combined 236 games over the past two seasons, he has also hit 55 home runs and stolen 37 bases. Even last season, playing 108 games, Cruz was one of fantasy’s most valuable outfielders. I view him as capable of a .280-.285 batting average with 25 home runs and 15 stolen bases next season, even if perpetually injured like last year. Just imagine what he might do if healthy. Yeah, he’s just that good.

Pick No. 10 (34 overall): Jimmy Rollins
Preseason projection: .266 AVG, 15 HR, 25 SB, 87 R, 61 RBI, 605 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL

The positional scarcity continued to kick in. Would I rather take my chances that Stephen Drew finally gives us a little extra … or that a 30-steal player can recapture the rest of his offensive game? Is Rollins that much of a drop-off from Jose Reyes? Reyes’ value is almost solely based on steals. We’ve seen Rollins consistently contribute in three other categoriess (batting average is not among my safe bets for him, admittedly.)

But Rollins’ physical ability hasn’t diminished much, and his offseason workouts focused on health and flexibility. With this year’s positional class, why not grab above-average counting stats from a shortstop?

Pick No. 11 (35 overall) Victor Martinez
Preseason projection: .298 AVG, 19 HR, 1 SB, 69 R, 88 RBI, 572 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

In the third round I got another player I likely would have passed up in favor of Felix Hernandez or Dan Uggla. Martinez has been an incredibly consistent catcher over the last six seasons and has shown little signs of slowing down (other than doing less and less catching). Still I feel there is little upside to this pick and tons of potential downside, and in a 12-team mixed league with one catching spot it almost always is wise to wait for a catcher late.

Pick No. 12 (36 overall): Brandon Phillips
Preseason projection: .270 AVG, 20 HR, 17 SB, 88 R, 76 RBI, 658 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini, Bruno Boys

At this point I felt I needed to fill one of the scarcer middle infield positions and went with an established veteran. It seems like he has been around forever, but he actually will turn just 30 years old this year, and since he isn’t an NFL running back this is far from a declining stage from an age standpoint.

Some will point to his falling ISO percentage and batting average as indications that he is on the downturn, but a closer look at his 2010 game log shows he was doing just fine hitting at a .290 clip until a pitched ball injured his wrist in late August. He was never the same after that, batting .198 over the last month of the season with only two home runs and admitted in late September that “It still hurts real bad.” People shouldn’t overlook that he posted a career-high contact percentage last season, and now that he is healthy he should regain one of the top two spots in the order and a top-five rank among his position.

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Comments

  1. Vince Caramela said...

    Okay, Josh, your argument is sound regarding position-scarcity followers like me – and, for the record, this another reason why I hate having the number 1 pick -

    However, my plan would have worked if Ray Flores decided to not double-dip and grab two 1B’s with his first two picks… I’m still haunted by that pick.  Hanley and the Prince? If only that could have happened… what a combo!

  2. Sal said...

    Attention span fail:

    “I wished I’d been paying more attention and taken Votto, whom I had a couple spots higher on my draft board.”

  3. Sal said...

    And then I get to the guy that auto-drafted…good to know this was being taken seriously.

    I’ll wait for the next mock draft to read the analysis. Thanks.

  4. Dave Chenok said...

    Hey, Tim-I don’t think Rollins was a bad pick, but I don’t think comparing him to Reyes holds water.  It is true that Rollins had a couple of crazy years where he contributed in several categories, but he’s regressed so much that I wondner if PEDs were involved.  At this point I would take the over on Reyes vs. Rollins in every category except HRs.  And given that they are leadoff guys, with lots of ABs, the significant BA difference is a real potential drag.

  5. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Sal,

    I think we took this all very seriously. The analysis of some may be a little coy, but we spent a long time during the draft. 2.5 minute pick times allowed for plenty of deliberation. Oversight is just something that happens in all drafts. It sucks when it happens, but it happens. It is a fact of life.

  6. Adam Kaplan said...

    Lame, my original opening to my entire piece was cut out. Can it at least re-edited so it comes before my Longoria analysis?

  7. The Baltimoron said...

    Interesting.  Judging by the comments of the drafters, it seems like there’s a dropoff once you get around player #30.  Lots of guys wanting Reyes and Pedroia—glad to know I have both of them returning to my team in 2011 (and Pujols…and Tulo…and CarGo…and…)

  8. Blotto for Votto said...

    Thanks for the mock analysis guys. 

    Weeks at the start of the third round!  Less than optimal may not necessarily be strong enough language for that sort of decision making. 

    Braun at 16!  Crawford 17!  Explanation mark.

  9. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Braun at 16, as my explanation shows, was ridiculous. He should not fall that far. He’s a top 9-12 option.

  10. Coop! said...

    If this line for Reyes is correct
    .289 AVG, 29 HR, 42 SB, 100 R, 62 RBI, 668 PA
    shouldn’t he be a top 10, maybe even top 5 pick?

  11. Jeffrey Gross said...

    There was clearly a misprint, which as been fixed.

    Reyes Preseason projection: .286 AVG, 11 HR, 36 SB, 85 R, 52 RBI, 572 PA

  12. Zach Sanders said...

    Sal—This was my first time mocking with the MDC software. It wasn’t good, and you’ll see that I had a little more trouble with it in one of the last couple rounds.

    Not an excuse, just an explanation.

  13. AquaMan said...

    Hanley had an off year last year and SS is becoming thinner and thinner each season. Reyes is being overdrafted in most cases based on past performance and after him the pickings are incredibly slim anyways. It’s less about getting the 12th best first baseman to match with Hanley as it is having solid 1B options to match him up with as the early rounds progress. You can’t say the same for shortstops to match with Pujols. If Ray hadn’t gone with Fielder, a Hanley/Prince combo (which is totally possible considering where Fielder and sometimes Howard are falling on different draft boards this year) would have been a best case scenario for any drafter.

    I’d still draft Pujols, but the case to take Hanley #1 is probably stronger this year than any other I can remember.

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