Breaking down the mock draft: rounds 10-12

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.

Other round analysis: Rounds 1-3 || Rounds 4-6

Those who wish to follow the rounds in which players were selected by their respective owners should check out Mock Draft Central (a free Mock Draft Central account will be required to view this).

Round 10

Pick No. 1 (109 overall): Torii Hunter.
Preseason projection: .272 AVG, 23 HR, 11 SB, 81 R, 92 RBI, 622 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini, Bruno Boys

This is a pick most mock drafters hate; the 36-year old Hunter doesn’t exactly scream “upside,” to the point where you can pretty much guarantee a dip in average and stolen bases. We saw this in the second half of last season, when he batted .261 compared to .298 over the first half. He also had trouble against lefties, batting just .236 against them. Most troubling is that he was caught stealing 12 times compared to only nine successes, which all but eliminates him as a decent stolen base option anymore. Still, the counting stats and home runs have remained strong, which is why I took him as my third outfielder. If we were to actually play this league out, I would let Hunter get off to a strong start and try to sell him to an owner who, well, didn’t read his own mock draft’s analysis.

Pick No. 2 (110 overall) Aaron Hill
Preseason projection: .260 AVG, 22 HR, 3 SB, 76 R, 73 RBI, 572 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

Finally, a pick I can be proud of. Hill had a disappointing last season but it seems likely his batting average will regress most of the way back to the .260s as his BABIP rises from BABIP Hell (yes, it exists). Like all Blue Jays these days, Hill excels at hitting bombs and easily projects for mid-20s homers. He might not be Dan Uggla, but in 2011 I think Hill can be Uggla Lite and I’ll take that at pick 110.

Pick No. 3 (111 overall): Chris Young
Preseason projection: .246 AVG, 25 HR, 22 SB, 86 R, 78 RBI, 637 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL

In the middle rounds of a mixed snake, few things beat a 30-30 upside combo with a terrific home park and a blossoming batting eye. Okay, maybe all that with a useful batting average would be better. I’m not counting on Young repeating his clip, but as counting category filler, you can’t go wrong with him.

It’s hard to doubt an established skill set. Sometimes you must overlook batting average poison for the other gems a commodity offers. I’ll admit, my clip is looking weak, but at this point and with this value of a power-speed profile, I’ll take my chances that a frequently fluctuating offensive category moves in my favor. Even if he sustains last year’s average—bully.

Pick No. 4 (112 overall) Desmond Jennings
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 6 HR, 54 SB, 92 R, 50 RBI, 581 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

This pick was somewhat of a reach when I made it, and now that the Rays have signed Johnny Damon, which may shift Jennings’ role with the Rays to their Triple-A affiliate (Durham) to begin the season, it’s even more so. On the positive, I strongly like Jennings as a young Carl Crawford-type with less power and more health, though scouts claim that Jennings has power upside. If given a full season, I believe he would be .290 capable with 10 home runs and 50+ stolen base potential. That would make him an elite Juan Pierre type, a stolen base machine who will not hurt you in the power department (though I think Jennings’ prospective RBI totals would be limited).

On the negative, however, I was planning to draft Gordon Beckham or Aaron Hill to fill out my middle infield slot, but both were drafted by other teams in the six picks following my Sandoval selection. Perhaps I panicked slightly and should have drafted Mike Napoli (which I would do if given a second chance, in light of his trade to the Blue Jays), but Jennings was the best overall hitter left on the board and with three elite pitchers already on my roster, I did not particularly need a fourth. Jennings may not have been the best pick, but I was not overwhelmed by anyone else available and reached for upside rather than settle with a lower-tiered player (e.g., Shane Victorino or Vernon Wells).

Pick No. 5 (113 overall) Shane Victorino
Preseason projection: .279 AVG, 16 HR, 30 SB, 97 R, 66 RBI, 664 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

Okay, he batted .259 last year and scored only 85 runs after having scored 102 in each of the last two seasons. His strikeout rate was up a bit last year, but not enough to explain his .259 average when compared to an average above .290 in each of the last two seasons either. The average should improve in 2011 and hover around .280 at least. Many people overlook the career high in homers and RBI coupled with nine more steals than a year ago. Victorino will accumulate stats one way or another in an aging, yet still powerful Phillies lineup and is a great value in the 10th round.

Pick No. 6 (114 overall): Carlos Marmol.
Preseason projection: 6 W, 42 SV, 3.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 105 K, 83 IP
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

I think his stuff is so nasty that it will always lend itself to be called a ball. His K/9 ability is stellar and can almost act like another starting pitcher’s strikeout contribution. I can deal with the WHIP issues as long as he continues to strand runners, strike out batters, and save ball games. He is my ace closer, and I’m pretty comfortable with that.

Pick No. 7 (115 overall): Ian Desmond
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 13 HR, 21 SB, 69 R, 66 RBI, 599 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders ,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

I have Desmond projected for a worse line than James does (big surprise), so this pick wasn’t a great value. However, I was worried that I could run out of good shortstop options before my next pick, a fear that may have realized since Starlin Castro was taken just two picks after Desmond. Desmond may not play for a great team, but he’s an up-and-comer who has good potential in non-OBP leagues. I’m not the biggest fan in the world, but Desmond felt like he had enough upside for this selection.

Pick No. 8 (116 overall): Nick Markakis
Preseason projection: .299 AVG, 19 HR, 7 SB, 95 R, 96 RBI, 687 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

While the system is listing Carlos Lee at outfield, I’m thinking of him more as a corner infielder, which means I still have a few outfield picks to make. Two guys I really like, Chris Young and Shane Victorino, were taken just ahead of my pick. I’m looking for a reliable pick with some upside. There are a few speed guys still out there, notably Michael Bourn, and I don’t have any big stolen base guys yet other than possibly Jose Reyes—but I prefer to use middle infielders rather than outfielders for speed, since I’m not going to get other category contributions from a middle infielder at this point in the draft.

I am looking at Markakis, Corey Hart,Delmon Young, Nick Swisher and Adam Jones as possible picks. My first instinct is Hart, who was a monster last year, but a quick check reminds me that he dropped off badly in the second half and he strikes out a lot. His BABIP was about 30 points higher than it had ever been in the past. Swisher is inconsistent. Young has upside, but no plate discipline. Jones hasn’t actually done it yet, and I have a rule about not extrapolating potential beyond what a player has ever actually done.

That leaves Markakis. He had a very disappointing season last year, but is a disciplined, professional hitter. The Orioles have upgraded their lineup this year, so he should have more RBI opportunities. I think manager Buck Showalter gets a lot out of him. Markakis is a good example of a guy who has done it before, and there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again. I think people tend to overweight the prior season’s performance; every player has variation in his career. Who knows, maybe Markakis ate too many hot dogs and drank too much soda pop, and that explains his bad last year. Markakis is quietly effective, and I figure he gets back to the 90/100 level in runs and RBIs, with around a .300 batting average. If he hits 25+ homers, it’s a bonus

Pick No. 9 (117 overall): Kelly Johnson
Preseason prediction: .286 AVG, 19 HR, 10 SB, 83 R, 65 RBI, 589 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

There’s a certain point in every baseball draft where you look at your team and who’s available and you think, “Wow, I can wait a round or two and still get the players I want.” I hit that point in the draft right about now. I probably should have drafted a closer but the elite closers run had gone a round or two earlier and at that point in the draft (when the closer run occurred) I needed to fill positions more than get the most fungible position in the game. Plus I ended up getting a closer whom I think is elite and two others guys who will get me saves and don’t seem likely to lose their jobs. I could have gotten a starting pitcher, but this league didn’t seem to value starting pitching and because of the way Mock Draft Central’s poor rankings were set up, there seemed to be great, solid and consistent guys available even if a starting pitcher run came.

So in the end I drafted for depth. While at this point I didn’t have a catcher (and yet still got the catcher I wanted two rounds later), I had a full infielder, a corner infielder two outfielders and two elite starting pitchers. So I went after my middle infield spot and picked the best guy on the board. After taking Asdrubal Cabrera I went only after second basemen, so I picked Kelly Johnson.

Pick No. 10 (118 overall): Starlin Castro
Preseason projection: .310 AVG, 4 HR, 15 SB, 68 R, 60 RBI, 604 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

Much to my surprise, I was able to snag one of my fallback shortstop options in Castro. I would have preferred Ian Desmond, who has better raw overall upside this season than Castro, but couldn’t complain with how far I had to go to get some cover at shortstop. Castro is a more polished product than Desmond, at least in terms of his plate discipline, which makes him a decent bet for a .280-290 average. His stolen base upside is a bit limited, given that his success rate for steals is far from impressive. Nonetheless, a 10th-round pick to take a punt on Castro exceeding a .280-290 BA, 20 steals line isn’t too bad a price to pay.

Pick No. 11 (119): Delmon Young
Preseason projection: .306 AVG, 19 HR, 8 SB, 77 R, 93 RBI, 566 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

After I neglected the outfield with my first six picks, Delmon Young became my third outfielder selected with my top-10 picks. It’s not hard to see why fantasy owners glance at Young’s 2010, “breakout” with a questioning eye after years of watching him underachieve on his vast raw talent. A great deal of his 2010 value lay in his large RBI total, which is largely a product of a player’s lineup, not his own skill. That said, much of the Twins lineup is back for the 2011 season. The return of Justin Morneau likely means Young will be lower in the order, but also means many of the same high on-base faces will be out on the bases for him to drive in this season.

As is the case with most of my last few selections, Young is a player I view as having untapped upside. Historically a worm burner, he has seen his flyball rate rise each of the last two seasons from an embarrassingly low 27.8 percent rate in 2008 to a much more acceptable 39.8 percent rate in 2010. As one would expect, as his flyball rate has increased, his ISO has trended upward as well. With a plus power tool, and one year closer to his peak power years, Young’s new-found loft should yield more home runs. Projecting anything more than 25 would be foolish, but 20-25 homers is a more than reasonable expectation in 2011, along with a .290-plus batting average and solid run and RBI totals, making him a fantastic third outfielder. And he’s another option to help prop up my batting average if a low average solid contributor becomes a value later in the draft.

Pick No. 12 (120 overall): Corey Hart
Preseason projection: .272 AVG, 24 HR, 11 SB, 86 R, 88 RBI, 603 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

Now my focus is on shoring up my outfield. With many solid options already picked up, I figured Hart is still good for some decent numbers among the relevant categories. I understand that he comes with some considerable risk since 43 percent of his home runs last season qualified as “just enough,” according to HitTracker. But I’m expecting some special things to happen in Milwaukee this season, and last season he showed above-average skills in isolated power (.242) so I’m hoping some of those “just enoughs” could be dismissed as small sample noise. Putting it another way, if Hart can hit numbers close to his preseason projection, I’ll be happy.

Round 11

Pick No. 1 (121 overall): Vernon Wells
Preseason projection: .269 AVG, 25 HR, 7 SB, 81 R, 85 RBI, 635 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

Be warned, when I made this pick Vernon Wells was still a member of the Blue Jays and any thoughts about some other team trading for him and his gargantuan contract just seemed ridiculous. I understand that Wells does have some heavy home/road splits, .844 OPS in Toronto vs. .767 on the road. I know I’m picking Wells after a bounce back-season and at the age of 32, there will be some degree of risk. But at this point I think he should have enough in the tank to post numbers similar to his projection.

Pick No. 2 (122 overall): Ryan Dempster
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.83 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 192 K, 214 IP
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

Twenty-five 25 picks after selecting Chad Billingsley, I selected a player I view as his near clone. Dempster is an innings horse, having thrown in excess of 200 each season since returning to starting in 2008. For a guy with a 8.69 K/9 rate in 2010 and a mark above 8.00 K/9 in two of his three seasons since his return from the bullpen, that means quite the haul in strikeouts when coupled with his high inning pitched totals at pick 122. What he lacks for in upside, he makes up for in consistency (3.74 xFIP in 2008, 3.81 xFIP in 2009 and 3.84 xFIP in 2010) making him an ideal third starter for my squad. With a 1-2-3 of Cole Hamels-Billingsley-Dempster in place, my team had a solid foundation in strikeouts, which allowed me some freedom later on in the draft should a pitcher with a less than ideal strikeout rate, but otherwise solid peripherals, become a steal.

Pick No. 3 (123 overall): Roy Oswalt
Preseason projection: 16 W, 3.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 176 K, 221 IP
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

After taking Cliff Lee and Ubaldo Jimenez as my first two pitchers, I might have concentrated one pick too many on plugging holes in my offense. Oswalt would have been my ideal No. 4 starter, but I was delighted to scoop him up for a more than reasonable value. While Oswalt is bound for some correction, a season removed from his best statistical campaign (2.76 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .253 BABIP), I could live with Bill James‘ preseason projection at an 11th-round discount. The former Astros ace can be relied on for 200+ efficient innings and is still a top-20 caliber starter.

Pick No. 4 (124 overall): Ben Zobrist
Preseason prediction: .269 AVG, 13 HR, 16 SB, 66 R, 61 RBI, 503 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

As I said for the round earlier, I was at a point where I was looking for depth and I still had my screen set on second basemen, so I again picked the best one available.

However, the main reason I selected Zorilla was because of his multiple position eligibility. Now, just because Zobrist is available to play multiple positions means nothing. Heck, John McDonald has multiple position eligibility and no one should ever draft him. But the fact that I think Zobrist will win what Mr. Gross calls “The Wiggy Award” (named after the Swiss Army Knife himself,Ty Wigginton) made me want to draft Zobrist.

Pick No. 5 (125 overall): Vladamir Guerrero
Preseason projection: 294 AVG, 22 HR, 4 SB, 73 R, 75 RBI, 555 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

I blew it.

Carlos Marmol has been selected, and there are still a few strong closers left. I am thinking big, thinking about taking Francisco Rodriguez. If not K-Rod, I can still take John Axford or Neftali Feliz, who I love, but who, like Axford, lacks a multi-year track record.

K-Rod is a little like Jonathan Papelbon, huge upside with some risk. He’s been tainted by his personal behavior, but hey, if he can still pitch, that’s Fred Wilpon’s problem, not mine. So I start doing some real-time research on K-Rod. And on Feliz. And on K-Rod again. I check back and see I have 23 seconds to pick, time to do one more look at Axford. I think I’ve left myself time, but when I go to click K-Rod, it’s too late—the system has defaulted Vlad to me.

Yuck. Glad it’s a mock.

Unlike Carlos Lee, I think Vlad is pretty much done. He had a great first half of the year in Texas, but he really slowed down in the second half (slugging .426 vs. .554), and when I watched him he struggled. Playoffs too. He’s listed as a DH, and I’m not even sure he’s position eligible, so I’ve glommed up my roster flexibility with a guy who has very little upside. Well, I figure, it could be worse. Vlad at least has a pedigree. I think the projections will end up being right on, although I think the batting average may dip down into the .280s or even high .270s. I can even envision him ending the year on the bench. Well, there’s a lesson—I should have just taken K-Rod and not worried about the research.

Pick No. 6 (126 overall): Shaun Marcum
Preseason projection: 203 IP, 12 W, 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 168 K
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Moving out of the AL East and into the NL Central is dandy, but getting to move into a better ballpark is just as nice. Marcum has great stuff, and with a move to a World Series competitor in the NL, he should be able to win at least 15 games in 2011. It may be pushing it, but Marcum may even be able to strike out a batter an inning. The Brewers’ defense won’t help him any, but neither his ERA or WHIP should be killed because of it.

Pick No. 7 (127 overall): Adam Lind.
Preseason projection: .281 AVG, 26 HR, 1 SB, 72 R, 92 RBI, 595 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

Hitters were becoming scarce in Round 11. I became a little frustrated that I didn’t do a better job of securing categories earlier. Lind’s 2009 season seems like it could be an outlier. An increase in batting average will be tied to his adjustments to lefthanders. Bill James is quite optimistic with the batting average, but the home runs and RBIs are legit.

Pick No. 8 (128 overall): Rafael Furcal
Preseason projection: .278 AVG, 10 HR, 20 SB, 83 R, 46 RBI, 564 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

There’s nothing sexy about this pick, but Furcal was on pace for one of his better seasons last year before getting hurt. A career .286 hitter, he was hitting .303 and had already stolen 22 bases in only 383 at-bats. I’d take those numbers this year in a full season of health while he plays for a contract. He could approach 100 runs scored as well if he were to lead off for the Dodgers. With shortstop such a weak position, I couldn’t pass him up here.

Pick No. 9 (129 overall) Carlos Pena
Preseason projection: .228 AVG, 30 HR, 3 SB, 73 R, 86 RBI, 553 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

It has been two seasons since Pena mustered a batting average north of .230, but I have a lot of faith that Wrigley Field and the NL Central will be kind to Pena. Though his heavy flyball tendencies and ever-advancing age (33 this year) preclude his prospects of sustaining an elite BABIP (career .279 mark), there is no logical way that Pena continues to post a BABIP south of Adam Dunn’s career batting average for the third straight season. In fact, Pena’s 2010 xBABIP was a robust .322, which would peg his expected batting average for last season at .258.

No one doubts Pena’s power, and the move from Tropicana Field (92 home run index for LHB) to Wrigley Field (120 home run index for left-handed batters) should at least offset the effects of aging and guarantee a return to 30+ home run form for Pena, assuming health. In light of my batting average-heavy team already drafted, I felt that I could roster a bit of batting average risk to boost my team’s home run bottom line. Oh, and Pena is also known to steal a base here and there. Paul Konerko, like most first basemen, can’t say that.

Pick No. 10 (130 overall): Wandy Rodriguez
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 184 K, 206 IP
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL

Not going to lie: Probably should’ve taken Brett Anderson here. The whispers of “more Ks from your No. 2 starter” got to me. Rodriguez probably had the better chance of making it past the short turn than the exciting Anderson.

Oh well. I’m stuck with a pitcher who many left for dead in the first half last year but wound up waving his magic Wandy—there it is—for a terrific post-break performance, thanks to a groundball boost and a change-up rediscovery. Even if his curveball doesn’t come back as fast, he’s one of the few soft-tossing arms I trust to keep up his K/9 at this draft segment.

Pick No. 11 (131 overall) Brett Anderson
Preseason projection: 10 W, 3.53 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 140 K, 171 IP
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

In a real draft I will have a very difficult time taking Anderson. In terms of skill, I believe he is superior to the pitchers taken after him. However, he represents a high injury risk and likely won’t surpass 175 innings even if he stays relatively healthy. He won’t rack up wins or strikeouts at an elite rate, so there is little upside to this pick. There are plenty of pitchers; you’ll be more comfortable with someone else.

Pick No. 12 (132 overall): Mike Aviles.
Preseason projection: .287 AVG, 11 HR, 12 SB, 74 R, 58 RBI, 584 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

This could be a bit of a reach, but I have middle and corner infield spots to take care of and Aviles fills that need nicely; he’s someone I am high on this season. After a breakout 2008 campaign, he lost his 2009 to Tommy John surgery but came back strong last year, batting .304 and swiping 14 bags over 448 plate appearances. He will enter the year as the Kansas City Royals’ every day second baseman and bat in the top two spots in the order. His uniform doesn’t exactly give him tons of upside in runs and RBIs, but you can be assured of double-digit home runs and stolen bases, and at least close to a .300 batting average. Also worth noting are improvements in strikeout and walk rates, coming from a six-point improvement in contact percentage and fewer swinging strikes. That indicates he’s seeing the ball better as he grows accustomed to major league pitching entering what should be his first season of 550+ plate appearances.

Round 12

Pick No. 1 (133 overall): Miguel Montero.
Preseason Projection: .273 AVG, 14 HR, 0 SB, 51 R, 58 RBI, 444 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

I always try to target middle-tier catchers, trying to not overpay for a position with such limited playing time and upside. My two major targets this year are Montero and Matt Wieters. If I could do it again, I might take Wieters as more of a post-hype sleeper, but both provide similar power and average potential, so I am happy with the pick.

Much of Montero’s follow up to a 16-homer, .294 average 2009 was marred by an injury in just the fifth game of the season, which cost him basically the first two months of 2010. He never really put it together after that, batting just .256 but did smack nine dingers anyway. It’s possible things would have been different if he could get those two months back, but whether because of the injury or not, he did struggle with his swing. He whiffed too often and got under the ball too much when he did make contact, indicated by a nearly seven percent increase in his fly ball percentage. I hope that now that he is fully healed he can turn more of those pop-ups into home runs, as he did in 2009. The more I analyze my offense, the more the theme seems to be “rebound from injury.”

Pick No. 2 (134 overall) Neftali Feliz
Preseason projection: 39 SV, 2.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 75 K, 71 IP
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

The fact that I nabbed Feliz as the seventh closer off the board is quite amazing to me in hindsight. He is easily a top-five closer and probably belongs in the top three. I was able to get him in round 12. You won’t.

Pick No. 3 (135 overall): Josh Beckett
Preseason projection: 10 W, 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 155 K, 168 IP
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL

A risk, but not a costly one. Beckett’s FIP (4.54) and xFIP (4.01) help show he should’ve had a better year. Yeah, yeah, another injury surfaced: more back problems, naturally. His velocity and location have been off, but his K/9 and BB/9 haven’t faltered. That newfangled cutter he tried wasn’t working; good chance he either ditches it or refines it.

His offseason workouts? Motivated. His command? Still worthy of an investment. Strand rate and BABIP corrections? Possible with full health and rejuvenated stuff. Mr. James is selling Beckett short some Ws and Ks. Remember his 2007 rebound year? He’s a No. 3 on my squad with a hint of No. 1 potential via a return to a top-notch 2009. It’s not ’07, but it’s enough profit potential to roll the dice.

Pick No. 4 (136 overall) Colby Lewis
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 178 K, 208 IP
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

With pitchers flying off the board since I drafted Max Scherzer in the eighth round, I was shocked to see Colby Lewis’ name still on the board. I understand how and why Lewis was undervalued heading into 2010, but there is little reason he should be equally undervalued for 2011. Last season, Lewis touted a 3.72 ERA, a sub-1.20 WHIP, a strikeout rate greater than 23 percent (8.78 K/9), a strong swinging strike rate (9.5 percent), and a 2.91 BB/9.

If there is one knock on Lewis, it is that he is a flyball pitcher who pitches in an offense-inflating environment. (The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has a three-year, +18 percent home run index and league-leading +11 percent run scored index). However, Lewis induces a healthy rate of infield fly balls (13.7 percent compared to a 9.5 percent major league average) in place of ground balls and his peripherals (3.52 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 3.52 tERA) all support the claim of sustainable success. Lewis is an elite pitcher worth having. I debated taking Jeremy Hellickson with my pick, but Lewis is likely to garner more innings, which should mean better strikeout and win totals.

Pick No. 5 (137 overall) Trevor Cahill
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.67 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 129 K, 218 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

I believe Cahill was sitting atop the queue since the eighth round. I felt it was a longer tenure than he deserved. The 22-year-old mowed down the competition after a 2009 to forget. It appears as if the A’s were intelligent enough (and had the luxury) to let Cahill work through his problems as a rookie. He came on strong as a sophomore. His 2.97 ERA and 1.10 WHIP didn’t go unnoticed and a 2.94 first half and 3.04 second half show that this wasn’t a fluke. Because he doesn’t strike many batters out (only 118), it’s natural to think his ERA will rise in 2011. That may be the case, as two consecutive years of a sub 3.00 ERA is a pretty tough task. Cahill struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors, which leaves us hoping he can improve his K/9 ratio in 2011. Based on his drastic improvement from 2009 to 2010, we consider him a safe pick heading into 2011.

Pick No. 6 (138 overall): Michael Bourn.
Preseason projection: .267 AVG, 4 HR, 51 SB, 89 R, 38 RBI, 632 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

At this point you know what to expect from Bourn. He’s as predictable as a car chase scene in a “Bourne Identity” movie. I’d like to believe he’ll offer more batting average than he did in 2010, but let’s be real: This pick was to chip at steals and runs. If he gains batting average, that would just be icing on the cake.

Pick No. 7 (139 overall): Aubrey Huff
Preseason projection: .269 AVG, 19 HR, 3 SB, 68 R, 75 RBI, 548 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Sure, Huff is old (35 this year). And yeah, he’s coming off something of a career year. But I desperately needed a first baseman, and because of the way my roster was shaping up, I decided that his record was worth taking a chance on. I’d like to think that 2009 was a complete fluke, and not 2010, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself of that. I’m just hoping Huff can hit 20 homers with an average around .280; otherwise, this pick was a waste.

Pick No. 8 (140 overall): Chone Figgins
Preseason projection: .281 AVG, 2 HR, 41 SB, 87 R, 70 RBI, 680 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

This pick was pretty much dictated by my roster at this point. I needed a second baseman, and I needed stolen bases, and I get both with Figgins. I think the projections on him are crazy—if Figgins hits over .270 and ends up with 60 RBIs I would be ecstatic. I’ve drafted him exclusively for steals. My hope is that Seattle moves him back to third base (where he is more comfortable), both to give me position flexibility, and because I think his offensive numbers will improve. I can also hope that whatever the mess was in Seattle last season has now been cleaned up, and that the players really play for Eric Wedge

One interesting thing about Figgins is that while he steals a lot of bases, he is actually not a very good base stealer. He is successful about two-thirds of the time, and that probably means his baserunning hurts his club more than he helps it. On the other hand, a glance at Seattle’s lineup suggests the Mariners are going to have to send Figgins a lot to manufacture runs, assuming he can get himself on base. I’ve watched him pretty closely through the years, and I also don’t think he is a particularly adept batter. Let’s say this: His career average is .287. That means in games I was not watching, he must have hit about .380.

Pick No. 9 (141 overall): Mike Napoli
Preseason projection: .246 AVG, 24 HR, 4 SB, 62 R, 66 RBI, 460 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

Four catchers have been top wight on ESPN’s player rater for the past two years. Three of them are Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, and Brian McCann. Can you guess the fourth? Right! It’s Mike Napoli. Catcher is like the tight end in football: They (overall) produce the least amount of fantasy points for their position and they’re a dime a dozen in the waiver wire. At this point in the draft, why not take consistency? I know Napoli’s going to have power and really nothing else, but he’s a freaking catcher, so who cares?

Pick No. 10 (142 overall): Matt Wieters
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 16 HR, 0 SB, 55 R, 74 RBI, 536 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

In single catcher leagues, I tend to address my catcher position in the middle rounds at earliest. Last season, I targeted Napoli in all of my drafts at this stage; this time I happened to be one pick short of nabbing him. He provides Brian McCann type power (sans the average) for a discount. This season, I’m probably all in on Matt Wieters this late in drafts, as his disappointing second year has led him to be a bit undervalued. Generally, a high BABIP hitter, Wieters hit for just a .287 BABIP while his plate discipline improved some (higher walk rate, lower strikeout rate). Generating better contact will be key for Wieters to take the next step.

Pick No. 11 (143 overall): Jeremy Hellickson
Preseason projection: 11 W, 3.47 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 K, 161
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

I’ll concede that this may be a reach for the man they call Hellboy. Hellickson’s extreme flyball nature is almost certainly going to result in some gopher balls in the ever-challenging American League East, and that’s not even taking into account the normal bumps in the road a pitcher with just 36.1 major league innings pitched should be expected to suffer through. All that said, the upside and talent of the Tampa Bay Rays’ top prospect according to The 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook proved too much to pass up as my No. 4 starter.

In Triple-A last year, Hellickson had a 2.45 ERA (2.73 FIP) with a 9.41 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, and 3.51 K/BB in 117.2 innings. As a starter in the majors last year he threw another 26.1 innings in which he more than held his own, posting a 8.54 K/9, 1.37 BB/9 and an astounding 6.25 K/BB while compiling a 3.41 xFIP. With the ability to limit free passes and rack up strikeouts, Hellickson should be spared a great deal of damage when he gives up the inevitable home runs his high flyball approach will cede. Expecting much more than the 161 innings James projects for Hellickson will lead to disappointment, but 160 innings of Hellickson and a few spot starts from freely available talent on the waiver wire should produce a better final line then selecting one of the other pitchers available at this point.

Pick No. 12 (144 overall): Nick Swisher
Preseason projection: .257 AVG, 27 HR, 1 SB, 87 R, 83 RBI, 614 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela, The Hardball Times

For my fourth outfield spot, I wanted to grab someone with guaranteed playing time (I can gamble on Peter Bourjos, Dexter Fowler and Domonic Brown later). I know I’m grabbing someone who is bound to experience some regression in his batting average, but power and run-producing skills like this probably won’t be available if I don’t grab it now.

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Comments

  1. Adam Kaplan said...

    hahahaha I love taking people’s selection one selection before they plan on it. First D-Ped and now Napoli. Sorry Ray.

  2. chubbyfranklins said...

    Josh – do you ever think Delmon Young starts using that plus speed to swipe more bags like he did in the minors, especially that he should be a little lower in the order this year?

  3. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ chubbyfranklins

    I’m not sure how Delmon’s speed would rate out now, but given his wretched success rate (or more like lack of success) I can’t see him swiping more than 5-8 bags.  He did dedicate himself to getting in better shape last off-season, so perhaps he’ll further that this year.  Also if he hits lower in the order, as he almost certainly will, it would stand to reason he’d get more SB attempts if he were to show off a solid success rate.  Unfortunately for him, looking at his last two season’s combined he’s actually been caught stealing more than he’s successfully stolen bases.

  4. Jeffrey Gross said...

    Not only will Delmon Young not steal bases, but I’m telling you, he won’t hit home runs either….i peg his ceiling at 22

  5. Josh Shepardson said...

    @ Nolan

    While Delmon’s speed certainly isn’t a plus tool anymore, there was a time he was considered a near can’t miss five-tool prospect.  Coming up through the minors, and even early in his major league career he proved capable of swiping bags (he even swiped 14 I believe in his first year with the Twins).  That said, his speed tool has essentially evaporated.  Barring his unlikely regaining speed this offseason, it’s hard to envision more than say five stolen bases.

    @ Jeff

    I think 22 HR’s is a fairly median projection for me.  I think his ceiling lies closer to 26-27, and his floor (assuming he continues to loft the ball at the rate he did last year) closer to 18-20.  Reasons for my homerun optimism:  1- He’s near his prime power years. 2- He’s not hammering the ball into the ground as much as he previously had, a trend that’s been improving the last few seasons.  As a number 3 OF I think a line of 75-22-90-5 .300 would be quite useful, especially considering I think his ceiling may be a bit higher than that.

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