Breaking down the mock draft:  Rounds 13-16

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 four weeks, each of the participants to the draft is providing 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||Rounds 7-9||Rounds 10-12

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 13

Pick No. 1 (145 overall): Matt Garza
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 171 K, 206 IP
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

Garza moving to the NL Central looked attractive enough for me to grab him as my fourth starting pitcher, but could moving to windy Wrigley negatively impact his numbers? It’s very possible given Garza’s rising fly ball rate (from 39.9 percent in 2008 to 44.7 percent last season) and his home-run-to-fly-ball-ratio has been friendly (or lucky) given his skill set. I do expect Garza to move away from his high usage of his four-seam fastball and balance it out with his two-seamer.

Last season, Garza induced a healthy amount of groundballs via his two-seamer at nearly 50 percent and based on the moderate frequency of this pitch, I don’t see why he can’t use it more.

Pick No. 2 (146 overall): Carlos Beltran
Preseason projection: .274 AVG, 20 HR, 12 SB, 74 R, 74 RBI, 505 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

Not the sexiest pick at this point, and certainly one with question marks, but Beltran presented a decent upside fourth outfielder. Now that he’s further removed from knee surgery, one would hope Beltran is as healthy as he possibly can be, and able to hold up for more than 500 plate appearances. If healthy, he’ll slot in the heart of the Mets’ order, meaning he’ll be in prime position to rack up counting stats.

I’m skeptical of just how often he’ll be allowed to run, but given his fantastic previous success rate, he may not need to run often to rack up 10-15 stolen bases (which is where I see his total settling in; any more would be gravy). With a healthy base, he should be able to drive the ball and rack up around 20 home runs in spite of his home run-supressing home ballpark. Overall, a healthy Beltran presents a solid across-the-board contributor, and as a fourth outfielder, a worthwhile health gamble.

Pick No. 3 (147 overall): Jose Valverde
Preseason projection: 26 SV, 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 64 K, 57 IP
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

I anticipated that I would be left without a premier closer this late in the draft. By the 11th round, I would have expected the likes of J.J. Putz, Huston Street and Jose Valverde to be off the board, but they still lingered in the 13th. I eventually chose Valverde, who I feel is the best bet to keep closing all the way through season’s end. Despite Valverde’s shaky second half, he managed to average a strikeout an inning and induced an all-time best 55 percent groundball rate. Granted that relievers can be volatile, Valverde has the best combination of job security and injury risk aversion of the closers left on the board at the time of this pick.

Pick No. 4 (148 overall) J.J. Putz
Preseason projection: 38 SV, 2.88 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 53 K, 50 IP
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

While the vast majority of “experts” will tell you not to pay for saves, I prefer to pay for at least one guy. Unfortunately, when the “elite” closers run happened, I was in dire need of other positions like middle infield and first baseman, so I was no in hurry to draft an elite closer. (Seems like kind of counter intuitive advice: These experts tell me not to pay for saves so they can snatch up all the great ones…)

Well, joke’s on them because I got an elite closer five or six rounds later than they did. In the past five years, Putz has either been a lights out, shut-’em-down reliever or a pretty bad one. But the one factor between The Tale of Two Putzes: health. During J.J.’s time on the Mets, he was obviously not healthy. Instead of waiting to watch him heal, New York decided to release Putz.

Putz had an average FIP of 2.31 and an average ERA of 2.17 during his year on the South Side of Chicago and his third to last season and his penultimate season as a Mariner. However, in his one season as a Met and his last season in Seattle he had an average FIP of 3.99 and an average ERA of 4.55.

Last year, when he finally got healthy again, Putz had a 10.83 K/9 along with a 4.33 K/BB ratio along with a 2.83 ERA and a 3.53 FIP. He’s back.

Jeffrey Gross proposes the theory that closers on bad teams will get more save opportunities and thus more saves because these teams will still win 60-plus games and most of them will be by three runs or fewer, thereby giving the closer boatloads of save chances. But I would think Rafael Soriano, Mariano Rivera, Neftali Feliz, Jonathan Papelbon and Octavio Dotel in 2010 (and guys like Mo and Papelbon for the past few years) would seem to disprove that theory. Guys like Heath Bell and Brian Wilson showed that they will get saves independent of how well their team does.

I believe that the guys who will get saves are just the closers who will not have their jobs taken away. Trying to find these guys is easier said than done, but I believe Putz will be the Diamondbacks closer all year. Sure, he could have a freak injury and miss half the season, but so could any pitcher. Putz is back to his lights-out closer form and as Arizona showed us last year, there is NO pitcher breathing down Putz’s neck itching to take his job.

Pick No. 5 (149 overall): Francisco Rodriguez
Preseason projection: 35 SV, 3.02 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 68 K, 60 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

If you recall my post from last week, you’ll remember that I was trying to take K-Rod in round 11, but I timed out and ended up with Vladimir Guerrero. Three more closers are off the board, so I decide to go now with K-Rod. Pretty much the same story as with Papelbon: an elite closer who ran into some trouble last year, but who is still a big game pitcher. I feel like something just got into the Mets’ water last year—they are a much better team than they showed, and I figure K-Rod gets a lot of save opportunities even with the weak starters. He has always been an emotional guy, and I figure he has something to prove.

I said in an earlier post that for me, the real draft starts with Round 6, because of the predictability of the first five rounds. There is another sense in which the real, real draft starts in Round 13. If you graph the distribution of draft picks, Round 13 (for a 12-team league) is the round in which the ADP begins to flatten. If you scan the ADP on most fantasy sites, ignoring the players themselves, you’ll see 1.21, 2.21, 3.74, 4.03 or some pattern like that, with an approximate increment that is a relatively straight regression line. At Round 13, the ADPs begin bunching more. There’s a couple of reasons for that, but one is that you are now in an ability range where, for the most part, players are harder to differentiate. I think drafts (in 12 team leagues) are often won between rounds 13-18 for this very reason: It is the fantasy player who makes correct decisions in those rounds who ends up in position to win the league. (I’ve actually mapped this in a couple of leagues from last year.)

Pick No. 6 (150 overall): Jose Tabata
Preseason projection: .287 AVG, 7 HR, 37 SB, 83 R, 52 RBI, 612 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Tabata seems to be overlooked in most drafts, and as I’ve mentioned in previous selections, this felt like great value in a five-outfield league. Tabata is young and highly thought of, which is all well and good, but he also put up good numbers last season. With the draft going the way it was, I figured I’d be best off to load up on speedsters who would help my average, and Tabata does just that.

Pick No. 7 (151 overall): Howie Kendrick
Preseason projection: .295 AVG, 10 HR, 13 SB, 71 R, 73 RBI, 567 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

He’s starting to lock himself in as a double-digit home run and double-digit steal guy. He’s going to hit somewhere near .300. Bad news is that ceiling that was always rumored about might be falling. The chance to be a batting champion still remains. He was a must-grab for me.

Pick No. 8 (152 overall) Madison Bumgarner
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.54 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 137 K, 188 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

As a 21-year-old he burst onto the scene with a 3.00 ERA, but had a 1.30 WHIP. He didn’t strike out many major league batters, nor at the minor league level. This is what separates him from someone like Trevor Cahill, who, despite a low K/9 ratio in the majors, struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors. Bumgarner still has upside, but without a ton of strikeouts and the high WHIP, he doesn’t seem like a safe bet in 2011. This late though, I’ll take a pitcher in a pitcher’s park who has very little pressure to perform well in 2011.

Pick No. 9 (153 overall): Ricky Nolasco
Preseason projection: 11 W, 3.92 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 164 K, 179 IP
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

Nolasco, ranked No. 23 on my top 100 starting pitcher rankings, needs some explanation.

Most believe that at some point, certain pitchers are not under/over-performing their peripherals, just reflecting their true talent—that sabermetrics do not accurately measure all pitcher types. That surrounds my Matt Cain opinions and my love for Nolasco. In 2010, I predicted he would be as good as Jon Lester. I was clearly wrong, but there are still plenty of reasons to believe that if Nolasco’s health holds up, he will be a top tier pitcher in 2011.

How unlucky was Nolaso’s 4.51 ERA last year? Nolasco posted a .316 BABIP-against for the second straight season (career .301 mark, .296 xBABIP-against last season) and his past season peripherals (3.86 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 4.06 tERA) universally indicate an expected ERA well below his 2009-2010 results. Even with all the BABIP-downfalls in 2010, Nolasco had a WHIP below 1.30. Plugging Nolasco’s 2010 numbers into the beta version of the xWHIP 2.1 Calculator, we find that Nolasco’s expected WHIP falls somewhere between 1.14 (using expected innings) and 1.18 (using actual innings pitched).

In addition, his normalized batted ball output represents an expected 3.69 xFIP and 4.19 tERA—slightly higher than his non-regressed 2010 rates, but still solid all around. With Dan Uggla no longer “gobbling up” groundballs in the middle of the Marlins infield, perhaps Nolasco will find better luck in 2011. I’d say it is more likely enough to warrant drafting him as the 150th or so player off the board. I would surely bank on his risk-inherency over lesser known quantities with upside like Daniel Hudson or Madison Bumgarner, and I would certainly rather have Nolasco than a middling closer (K-Rod, John Axford).

Pick No. 10 (154 overall): Huston Street
Preseason projection: 4 W, 35 SV, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 70 K, 69 IP
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL
Injury history aside, Street’s skills are undervalued, even with his scary fly-ball rate; closers can get away with that in dangerous ballparks. Ever since he adjusted his alignment on the rubber when he first came to the Rockies, he has been stellar with a 9.50 K/9 and 1.98 BB/9. Of course, that’s when he pitches. His second-half bounce-back last year solidified his No. 1 closer-capable value—and he’s my No. 2. The only threat to job security is his health.

Pick No. 11 (155 overall): Daniel Hudson
Preseason projection: 14 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 183 K, 201 IP
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

Hudson has impressive minor league numbers and delivered when traded to the D-backs and called to the majors. I can see him having an elite season with his control and ability to miss bats. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him as a top 15-20 pitcher heading into 2012.

Pick No. 12 (156 overall): Jonathan Sanchez.
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.71 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 215 K, 204 IP
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

Grabbing two pitchers from the same rotation feels odd to me, but I couldn’t pass up on this young fireballer who is a near lock for another 200-strikeout campaign. Yes, he is due for a rise in ERA from the fantastic 3.07 he posted last year, as his FIP remains in the four-range due to a high 79.5 left on base percentage and BABIP in the low .250 range. I’ll take the 3.71 projection though, and with a freakish strikeout rate that’s remained consistently high throughout his major and minor league career, he makes for a fantastic fourth starter.

Round 14

Pick No. 1 (157 overall): Andrew Bailey.
Preseason projection: 58 IP, 30 SV, 2.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 56 K
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

If you’ve been intently following my selections, which surely you have, you’ll notice that this is my first reliever. Clearly, saves are not something I value in drafts. In fact, I usually use them as trade bait and rely on the waiver wire for that category. With that in mind, Bailey makes for a fine top closing option for my needs. He has an ideal 3-1 K/BB rate, which includes striking out nearly a batter per inning and a sub-two ERA over 132.1 major league innings. All reports point to him being in perfect health for the beginning of spring training and ready for a great season closing for what should be a much-improved Oakland Athletics’ squad.

Pick No. 2 (158 overall) Travis Snider
Preseason projection: .273 AVG, 16 HR, 7 SB, 46 R, 48 RBI, 340 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

Snider was rushed a little to the majors two years ago as a 21-year-old and hasn’t quite put it together at the majors. A now 23-year-old Snider appears primed to break out and join the Blue Jays’ power display. Oliver loves Snider, projecting him for 30 bombs. He struggles to make contact and whiffs like me in Wii Baseball, but I hope he keeps the Ks under control and lives up to his lofty potential.

Pick No. 3 (159 overall): Denard Span
Preseason projection: .294, 5 HR, 24 SB, 85 R, 58 RBI, 590 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL
The Spanburger was a decent steals grab at this point. I’m not so thrilled about everything else, but a useful clip at least helped to push my shaky batting average upward a little. The Twins’ leadoff batter should continue to add capable runs, too, just as long as his little dings don’t add up.

Pick No. 4 (160 overall): Drew Storen
Preseason projection: 3 W, 32 SV, 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 67 K, 72 IP (Oliver)
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

Those who know me know how little I value closers in fantasy baseball. I altogether punt the category in H2H formats and draft scraps in Roto. In Storen, however, I have high hopes, seeing an undervalued commodity opportunity. In my relief pitcher rankings, I have Storen ranked No. 10 overall. He is a talented pitcher with good stuff and the Nationals, being a team unlikely to compete this year, are likely to let him take his lumps as he learns the ropes of the big leagues. Consequently, I think Storen’s job is much safer than most people give him credit for.

A glance at Storen’s walk rate by month (6.35, 3.86, 3.18, 2.92, 3.00) also indicates that his 3.46 BB/9 for last season is not indicative of his true ability. Storen should post strong K/9 numbers with solid ratios and 30 or more save. That I got him so late, after lesser and riskier pitchers like K-Rod were off the board, is ridiculous in my view. Accordingly, I broke my draft-closers-late rule.

Pick No. 5 (161 overall): Chris Perez
Preseason projection: 31 SV, 3.23 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 72 K, 64 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

Perez was lights-out last year but didn’t receive many save opportunities in Cleveland. I believe he’ll become the next Joakim Soria, being a pitcher on a bad team who sports a good enough ERA and WHIP to be valuable. He will have 20-plus saves and could easily surpass 30 if the Indians play close games.

Pick No. 6 (162 overall): Adam Jones
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 21 HR, 9 SB, 87 R, 77 RBI, 592 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

He’s got loads of skill, but the hopes of a 30/30 skill set have been successfully dashed. The possibilities of a decent average and solid runs and home run totals make the “other” Adam Jones a fun third outfielder for my team. Anything near where James has him projected would be nice for my fake team.

Pick No. 7 (163 overall): Brandon Morrow
Preseason projection: 162 IP, 9 W, 3.78 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 173 K
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

Morrow and I have a strange love-hate relationship. I did not enjoy him when he was with my hometown Mariners, but I plan on drafting him quite often in 2011. Morrow’s ERA was really inflated last year—he was absolutely remarkable from June to August. I’m pretty excited to see if he can sustain his success over a full season, and I’m willing to take a bit of a chance and put him on my roster because of the possible reward involved here.

Pick No. 8 (164 overall): John Axford
Preseason projection: 33 SV, 3.23 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 74 K, 63 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

Now, finally, closers are starting to come off the board. Other players who are being picked are further down on my list, and there are still plenty of good starting pitchers and position players out there. Axford remains—remember, I’d considered him as early as Round 8, and here he still is. I take a quick look at the projections tab on the MDC app, and realize that one more closer will put me in good stead for saves. Hearkening back to the strategy outlined in my winning article, Axford can also help me with WHIP and ERA: He is a terrific young pitcher who made the most of his shot last year, and is closing for an improved Brewers team.

Pick No. 9 (165 overall) Coco Crisp
Preseason projection: .273 AVG, 7 HR, 27 SB, 58 R, 40 RBI, 409 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

Someone jokingly said in the draft, “With your next pick, draft Coco Crisp“. So I did. Do not take Coco Crisp in your drafts.

But I will say one quick thing: The Oakland Athletics are not the same Oakland A’s you read about in Moneyball (although maybe they should be the way the team has been winning games the past four years). These players do run—Crisp swiped 32 bags last year and Rajai Davis has stolen 91 in the past two years. If you really want a speedster in the last round or a waiver wire pick up, then Crisp is your man. But otherwise, don’t draft him.

Pick No. 10 (166 overall) Ian Stewart
Preseason projection: .260 AVG, 26 HR, 7 SB, 84 R, 86 RBI, 595 PA
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

I wasn’t too enthused to be picking from the scraps to fill the hot corner and took the next best third base option with some semblance of upside, Ian Stewart. The numbers for Stewart last year were a bit disappointing: He played some 25 fewer games than the year prior. The silver linings to Stewart’s 2010 season were his increase in batting average to nearly a .260 clip, thanks to a vastly improved line drive rate, and a continued decline in his strikeout rate. The Bill James projection seems slightly optimistic, but at age 25, Stewart is a reasonable proposition to post 20 home runs and a .260 average, with a chance to better that to a line closer to the James projection.

Pick No. 11 (167 overall) Joel Hanrahan
Preseason projection: 24 SV, 4.56 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 73 K, 71 IP
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

The closer I wanted to take here was Axford, but he went a few picks before me, so I had to move on to “plan B,” which was Hanrahan. I got some ridicule for the pick, most of which pointed to how bad the Pirates are as a team, but it’s important to remember that even bad teams provide save opportunities. Also, being that the Pirates are likely to have to scrape out most of their wins, it’s likely that the games they win will provide save chances.

Those drafting Hanrahan are most likely concerned about the possibility of Evan Meek either vulturing save chances or claiming the closer role all by his lonesome. I am not as concerned; Hanrahan’s great strikeout rate last year (12.92 K/9) has me believing he should be the clear favorite. His fastball/slider combo should play nicely at the end of games; his slider was a wipeout pitch last year, posting a 15.0 run value according to FanGraphs data. Toss in consecutive seasons with a K/9 above 10.0 and swinging strike rates above 13 percent, and it looks like the high strikeout totals of last season weren’t an aberration.

Pick No. 12 (168 overall): Joe Nathan
Preseason projection: 6 W, 34 SV, 1.99 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 82 K, 68 IP
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

After a brief run of relievers coming off the board, I figured Nathan would be a steal at this point in the draft. According to the Twins front office, Nathan has been throwing quite a bit over the offseason and no setbacks have been reported. Adjusting for age, I am expecting 35-plus saves. Even with a few notches off his strikeout rate he should still be among the top 10 relievers next season.

Round 15

Pick No. 1 (169 overall): Dustin Ackley
Preseason projection: .239 AVG, 3 HR, 5 SB, 29 R, 19 RBI, 255 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

I’ll admit that when last season ended I was pretty down on Ackley based on what I heard from a lot of prospect mavens, but then I saw enough of his Arizona Fall League games, and it all changed.

I know he isn’t guaranteed a spot, but I am gambling on Ackley performing well enough before the season begins to land a starting gig. If things go right, it wouldn’t be too unbelievable to expect a .280 batting average with 10-15 stolen bases; although he will be a bit streaky it may be best to use Ackley as a trade piece early in the season (preferably during a week where he is hitting .350 and teasing us with a boatload of doubles).

Pick No. 2 (170 overall): Craig Kimbrel
Preseason projection: 25 SV, 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 100 K, 63 IP
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

Notice a theme with the first two closers I selected? No, not that they could be in a committee (though that is a possibility for each), but that they are both strikeout monsters! More so than Hanrahan, Kimbrel racked up an impressive rate of strike threes last year, punching out 17.42 K/9. No, that’s not a typo: He struck out almost two batters per inning pitched. Sure, the sample was small at the major league level, just 20.2 innings, but, he posted 13.42 K/9 in Triple-A in 55.2 innings. The potential for 100-plus strikeouts from a reliever makes up for the possibility of sacrificing saves by not selecting a better-entrenched closer.

Pick No. 3 (171 overall): Jonathan Broxton
Preseason projection: 33 SV, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 77 K, 60 IP
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

One of the intriguing questions I had going in was how far Broxton was going to fall in the draft. Inevitably, his stock was going down by some distance, given a very poor second half and his eventual unseating as the Dodgers’ closer. That said, Broxton is worth the 15th round discount of a gamble. Much has been made about Broxton losing a couple of miles per house off his fastball, but that’s no reason to be so overly concerned as to take less-than-sure things such as Craig Kimbrel and Joe Nathan ahead of him.

Broxton’s command was off, leading him to throw too many pitches per batter, and it didn’t help that manager Joe Torre trotted him out in a few non-save situations beforfe Broxton lost the closing job. Also, keep in mind that Broxton still averaged 95 mph on the gun when throwing the heater, a similar speed to his terrific 2007 season. It’s difficult to pick out the cause of Broxton’s struggles in 2010 (fatigue, injury, mechanics?), but if his fastball is back up to speed, he’s certainly a more than decent bet to regain his usual form.

Pick No. 4 (172 overall) Ricky Romero
Preseason projection: 14 W, 4.31 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 176 K, 213 IP
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

Romero strikes out an average number (7.3 to 7.6 K/9) which would have been all right if he didn’t walk close to four every nine innings. A Minnesota Twins pitcher can get away with a 7.5 K/9 because they don’t allow walks. But something about a guy who barely has a 2.0 K/BB ratio doesn’t sit right with me.

Walks already hurt a pitcher’s WHIP, and if that pitcher doesn’t have the strikeout potential to make sure his walked guys don’t score runs, well, then there goes the ERA as well. Someone in your league probably thinks Romero will turn a corner and be awesome. Don’t be that guy.

Pick No. 5 (173 overall): Brad Lidge
Preseason projection: 34 SV, 3.45 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 72 K, 63 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

It’s a mock, right?

Somehow the guys in this league aren’t valuing saves. Lidge is a Jekyll/Hyde pitcher, but he was fabulous for the latter part of the year last year, posting a 0.73 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP in his final 26 appearances. Even when he stank, he never really left the mix for saves. He’s going to get plenty of save opportunities with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels as the first four starters in Philly. I figure if I grab Lidge, the best that will happen is that I will dominate the saves category and get decent peripherals; the worst is that I’ll end up just dominating the saves category. If Lidge goes south, I can always bench him and I’ll still have plenty of saves. There are still good position players out there, and I am hoping I can set off one last panic (maybe), one last run of closers that will drop a good position player to me.

Pick No. 6 (174 overall): Michael Cuddyer
Preseason projection: .276 AVG, 16 HR, 5 SB, 73 R, 70 RBI, 521 PA
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

What can I say? I needed a third baseman (even though he doesn’t qualify as such on MDC). It appears that Cuddy was hurt by Target Field, or is possibly just undergoing some serious regression. Cuddyer may not be spectacular, but he’s a solid player who isn’t going to hurt you if he plays every day.

Pick No. 7 (175 overall): Alfonso Soriano
Preseason projection: .257 AVG, 24 HR, 9 SB, 68 R, 66 RBI, 521 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

Soriano was my least favorite pick up to this point. I was starting to feel that I was losing some of the power categories so I reached for Soriano. With that said, he can still hit, and I refuse to accept the previous two seasons as the new Soriano. He’s a solid fourth outfielder. I just don’t know if I would take him if I did the draft over again.

Pick No. 8 (176 overall): Tim Hudson
Preseason projection: 15 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 137 K, 226 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

He missed all of 2009 and came back Chris Carpenter-style in 2010. A 2.83 ERA and 1.15 WHIP were spectacular and the 140 strikeouts were a bonus considering the former numbers. We’re not sure he could sustain such low ERA and WHIP totals in 2011. The low strikeouts are probably more fact than fiction and a 3.50 ERA with 140 strikeouts aren’t as enticing as the 2.83 ERA. He was drafted in the 15th round last year after having missed an entire season. This year, after pitching 200 innings of sub 3.00 ERA, he still goes in the 15th round.

Pick No. 9 (177 overall): Matt Thornton
Preseason projection: 4 W, 2 SV, 2.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 68 K, 61 IP
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

Not that I needed the strikeouts (my pitching staff thus far consists of Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, Max Scherzer, Colby Lewis, Ricky Nolasco and Drew Storen), but Thornton is another strong pitcher who I felt was being undervalued in the draft. Even if Thornton were not a closer, his numbers pitching out of relief would warrant high draft consideration. At 35, his fastball averages more than 95 mph. He struck out more than 10 batters per nine each of the past three seasons (career high 12.02 K/9 mark in 2010), kept the walks under control (posting a BB/9 under 3.00), and limited the number of runners on base (WHIP under 1.10 in each of the past three seasons). Thornton has also kept the ball in the yard, allowing a total of only 13 home runs over the past three seasons (200.1 innings, 0.58 HR/9). Having the closer job is just gravy; expect as many saves as Bobby Jenks accrued, on average, from 2006-2009.

Pick No. 10 (178 overall): Jason Bay
Preseason projection: .267 AVG, 21 HR, 10 SB, 75 R, 78 RBI, 534 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL

Just a guess: He’ll hit more than six homers (his 2010 total). No symptoms of post-concussion iffiness, but a run-producing bargain in a cavernous position.

Pick No. 11 (179 overall): Domonic Brown
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 26 HR, 28 SB, 84 R, 94 RBI, 596 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

If you close your eyes and then open them up in a couple of years, that gaudy projection for Brown might make sense. Right now, though, it looks like premature drooling. Rookies don’t tend to enter the league and become Bobby Abreu near his prime. Dude doesn’t even have a clear starting role at the moment. I’m not a big fan of the outfielders drafted around him (Jason Bay, Alfonso Soriano, Tyler Colvin) so maybe I just won’t be drafting an outfielder at this point in a real draft.

Pick No. 12 (180 overall): Tyler Colvin.
Preseason projection: .259 AVG, 24 HR, 9 SB, 76 R, 75 RBI, 549 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

A bit of a homer pick (literally and figuratively), as I’m a Cubs fan and like Colvin’s power potential this late in the draft. His batting average is taxing, of course, and there is the risk that he won’t even be starting when the season begins. Kosuke Fukudome currently holds down right field and the acquisition of Carlos Pena eliminates any chance of Colvin taking over at first base, which was speculated at the end of last year. Still, we know the drill with Fukudome and so do the Chicago Cubs, so a decision to go with one of their top prospects over a post-April lame duck wouldn’t surprise me, or Bill James, apparently. Another year of development should bring improvement in batting average and 25-home run potential. A handful of stolen bases doesn’t hurt either.

Round 16

Pick No. 1 (181 overall): James Shields.
Preseason projection: 11 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 187 K, 204 IP
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys

Shields is in for a major regression in a lot of luck categories, such as HR/FB ratio, BABIP, and left on base-percentage. All of this is exhibited in the full 1.46 run difference between his ERA and xFIP. With these corrections, we could see something closer to the 2007-08 Shields who posted ERA numbers in the range of 3.7. Add in a career-best strikeout rate of 8.28 per nine innings and you have a major bounce-back candidate who will be wonderful for my backend rotation.

Pick No. 2 (182 overall): Alcides Escobar
Preseason projection: .272 AVG, 5 HR, 20 SB, 69 R, 46 RBI, 529 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times

Shortstops this year are an ugly bunch outside of Hanley Ramireznd Troy Tulowitzki. If you don’t get one of them, Escobar doesn’t seem like a bad option. I don’t know where his 46-steals-in-2009 speed went, but I’m willing to wager it returns somewhat this year. Escobar does make contact often and with a BABIP rebound, I see a .280/30 steal season within reach. I’ll take that.

Pick No. 3 (183 overall): Gio Gonzalez
Preseason projection: 13 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 212 K, 212 IP
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL

I missed out on Brett Anderson before. Why not grab a different talented Athletics youngster? His control is spotty, but Gonzalez’s second-half improvements, groundball-iness and budding dominance are worth a shot here. He’ll have a better year than Trevor Cahill, who went almost four rounds earlier in this draft.

Pick No. 4 (184 overall): Angel Pagan
Preseason projection: .289 AVG, 10 HR, 28 SB, 77 R, 58 RBI, 633 PA
Drafted by: Jeffrey Gross, The Hardball Times, Game Of Inches

Pagan, like Matt Murton, was an outfielder I was sad to see the Cubs so eager to give up on, especially considering who replaced them (and their costs): Alfonso Soriano (eight years/$136 million) and Kosuke Fukudome (four years/$48 million). Last season, Pagan got his first shot at a full time job and he did not disappoint, stealing 37 bases and hitting 11 home runs in 151 games, while batting .290. Pagan does not walk a whole ton (career 7.2 percent rate), but he rarely strikes out (16.5 percent rate on the Mets, 1,009 plate appearances), drives the ball well (career 19.3 percent line drive rate), and has excellent foot speed (career 7.2 speed score, 6.9 mark last season). Pagan is what Asdrubal Cabrera or Mike Aviles would be if they played outfield and stole three times as many bases. He is not a flashy brand name, but he will provide strong value as a balanced commodity (four category player). I expect a repeat of last year, only with better run and RBI totals with both Beltran and Bay in the lineup every day.

Pick No. 5 (185 overall): Jhoulys Chacin
Preseason projection: 9 W, 3.75 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 138 K, 151 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms

Bam. He struck out a batter per inning in his first season in the big leagues and while we gave him more than enough respect, the Rockies didn’t. He’s the second best pitcher on the team and the departure of Jeff Francis should open up a rotation spot for the 22-year-old. He finished with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP and sabermetrically should have been slightly better. The sky is the limit.

Pick No. 6 (186 overall): Francisco Cordero
Preseason projection: 38 SV, 3.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 75 K, 73 IP
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett,The Hardball Times

Another pick I wasn’t too fond of. That makes two in a row if you’re keeping track. I grabbed Carlos Marmol earlier in the draft, but all the younger relief pitching prospects I had pegged were gone. Cordero was a best available pick. He’s still good for 40 saves, but his skills are deteriorating, and Aroldis Chapman the Great is waiting. I wanted the Aroldis handcuff, but I couldn’t pull it off.

Pick No. 7 (187 overall): Ted Lilly
Preseason projection: 212 IP, 12 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 180 K
Drafted by: Zach Sanders,Roto Hardball, FanGraphs

One of the advantages of drafting a staff full of strikeouts is getting to take a guy like Lilly late without feeling bad about it. Lilly isn’t a stud, but he’ll help lower your WHIP without killing you in the strikeout department. He’s homer prone, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.

Pick No. 8 (188 overall): Bobby Abreu
Preseason projection: 278 AVG, 17 HR, 20 SB, 82 R, 88 RBI, 628 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner

Well, now I’ve had my fun with closers, and I need to turn my attention to thr outfield. I’m thinking about Jason Bay, but he gets picked up before it’s my turn. I begin focusing on Abreu, hoping he’ll fall to me.

To my thinking, Abreu should have been taken a while ago. He is certainly getting up in years, and I’ll take the under on all his numbers except batting average, but he is still a solid, professional hitter who will be in the middle of a decent Angels lineup. He hit .255 last year after never hitting below .280 since becoming a regular. It’s certainly possible that Abreu has completely lost it, but that tends to happen more to power players than line drive contact guys like Abreu. I figure he’s worth a shot. Jason Kubel is still out there among others, and I can find a replacement-type outfielder if need be. I’m realizing that I’ve now got Vlad, Carlos Lee and Abreu on my team, three pretty old guys who are all injury risks—but, hey, they may enjoy each other’s company playing on my team.

Pick No. 9 (189 overall): Fernando Rodney
Preseason Projection: 18 SV, 4.14 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 67 K, 74 IP
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game of Inches

I am confident that Angels manager Mike Scioscia will name Rodney the closer at the beginning of the season and once that happens, you can be sure that Rodney will remain the closer for the rest of the year. I know the Angels traded away Brian Fuentes right before the trading deadline last year, but as a rule, I love Angels closers because Scioscia is so loyal to his bullpen guys. In 2009, Fuentes led the league with 48 saves (and with 55 saves chances).
In 2008, K-Rod led the league with 62 saves (and 69 save opportunities). In 2007, K-Rod was fifth in the league in saves. Catch my drift?

I understand Rodney isn’t such a good pitcher, but you know what? Neither Punchy Rodriguez nor Fuentes was even close to the best bullpen guy on his team, but their manager was loyal to them and let them close. Now, the one caveat is to see who Scioscia does end up naming as his closer because it’s not a lock that Rodney will be the guy. But for a mock draft done in mid-January, I’m happy with my closer pick.

Pick No. 10 (190 overall): Johan Santana
Preseason projection: 15 W, 3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 181 K, 195 IP (James’ projections were made before it was known that Santana would be missing time to begin the season.)
Drafted by: Ray Flores, Fantasy Baseball Cafe

I’ll say mea culpa on this one, as it is my tendency to draft impulsively and this was the case in a number of earlier draft picks. I think Santana is a worthy 16th-round pick, as he remains an efficient pitcher who can work his way around giving up a good deal of flyballs. That is, of course, if he could actually pitch 170 innings. I didn’t realize until after the draft that Santana might not be able to return until the second half of the season. D’oh. The offseason rust got the best of me here.

Pick No. 11 (191 Overall) Jordan Zimmermann
Preseason projection: 8 W, 3.75 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 120 K, 132 IP
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times

I’ll keep my write-up on Jordan Zimmermann brief here, but for those interested in reading more of my thoughts on him, check out the fantasybaseballcafe for a recent article on Zimm. In short, there is a lot to like about him. He induces ground balls at a healthy clip, has struck out nearly a batter an inning in his major league time (not an easy feat for a starting pitcher), and he limits the free passes. While his innings will be monitored in 2011 because he missed most of 2010 recovering from Tommy John surgery, he was able to return to the mound last year and show off near pre-surgery radar gun readings and control.

I’d be happy with 130-140 innings of Zimmermann pitching to his career xFIP of 3.57 and a WHIP in the 1.25-1.30 range with nearly a strikeout-per-inning. Keeping in mind that he’ll likely be pitched on a regular schedule and shut down early, as opposed to having starts skipped so that he’ll be available to pitch in a playoff chase (he is pitching for the Nationals, after all) you can add replacement level starter stats to those totals at the end of the year as well. (Then, of course, starting pitchers will be facing watered down expanded rosters in September).

Pick No. 12 (192 overall): Ike Davis
Preseason projection: .283 AVG, 23 HR, 3 SB, 78 R, 80 RBI, 598 PA
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times

His final 30 games last season showed us that he has a lot of power and could develop into an attractive corner infielder option. I know Citi Field suppresses the number of fly balls going over its fence: Davis’ home-run-to-fly-ball ratio is much better on the road (10.7 percent at home vs. 13.3 percent on the road). As a slugger, Davis won’t hurt you in the batting average department and if he can spill over 25 home runs, I’ll be happy.

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