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 these picks. All preseason projections below are courtesy of the Bill James projections available on Fangraphs.com. Please post comments below.
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).
This is a slightly ridiculous pick, plain and simple (and, yes, I did sneak in the word “slightly.” Remember rule No. 3 in Fantasy Sports Competition: Never admit defeat during an auction/draft).
You know what… I blame three things: (1) the wine I was consuming before round one and talked about earlier in my mock draft analysis. For those of you scoffing, just know that alcohol consumption is one of the great mainstays and equalizers in any live draft. (2) The pre-ranking provided by Mock Draft Central. For some reason, Holland was ranked very high and since this was the first time I used MDC, I found myself relying a bit too much on its rankings. (3) I do see a lot of promise in Holland, despite some knee and shoulder issues last season. His command has been improving and coupled with his ability to miss bats, special things could be in store. Also, word is that he has been working on change-up this offseason.
Oh well, I’ll either look like an idiot or a lucky fool if this hits. On second thought, I probably should have grabbed Chris Sale since Holland will, most likely, be sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues.
Remember June 2009? That would be the time that everyone in the fantasy baseball world, namely David Ortiz owners, were going all Chicken Little claiming the sky was falling and Ortiz was done, never to be heard from again. While there was reason for concern at the time, to say that was a slight overreaction would be a gross understatement. While he’s not posting the gargantuan numbers he did from 2004-2007, Ortiz was able to slug 32 home runs last season and pile up 102 RBI, all with a tolerable .270 AVG. With the additions the Red Sox made in the offseason, and the return to health of prominent players, it’s safe to say their lineup is loaded from top to bottom. That means Ortiz should have opportunities to both drive in and score runs regardless of his place in the batting order. Those able to make daily changes can really properly use Ortiz by taking advantage of his gigantic split difference and starting him only against right-handed pitchers, against whom his slash was .297/.416/.643—he he slugged 30 home runs in 403 plate appearances against righties. Looking back on the draft, I feel Big Papi was my best value pick.
I came to the conclusion that, aside from Matt Kemp and B.J. Upton, my team was lacking in speed. I wasn’t too enthused about this pick, but the projection seems realistic if Torres can stay healthy. That said, the persistent scrolling issues I had with MDC’s user interface played some part in fooling me that the likes of Rajai Davis was on the board; Davis would have been the better pick for a boatload of stolen bases.
I love to have at least three closers on my team- no matter if I’m doing roto or head-to-head. I’ve seen guys in H2H blow off saves and it’s worked wonders in their favor, but the problem with any scrapping strategy is that you better be darn sure that you’re awesome at the categories that you try to win. So I try to win every single category, even saves. Admittedly saves are by far the most fungible fantasy statistic and the one most easily attainable in free agency. Because of this, fantasy owners tend to blow them off, but on the flip side, it’s because of this that you can easily do well in that category. To make a long story long, I drafted Lyon because (1) all I care about is that he gets saves, (2) I think he will be the closer all year and (3) I needed a third closer and he was the most stable for saves opportunities.
Pick No. 5 (197 overall): C.J. Wilson
Preseason projection: 14W, 3.71 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 164 K, 192 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
I still need a few starting pitchers, and as usual at this stage there are plenty out there to choose from. I had Wilson in a couple of leagues last year, and I really enjoyed watching him pitch. He is generally regarded as having among the best stuff in the game. At 30, his arm is mature, but doesn’t have a lot of wear-and-tear on it because of all the years he spent as a reliever. I figure that he has upside because of his stuff, and because he is still really learning to be a starter. I think he’ll end up on the favorable side of every projection, especially the ERA projection—I have him at 16 wins, 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, the big difference being my theory that the lesson of last year was to trust his stuff a little more and nibble a little less.
Because I absolutely needed a little more power from my corner infielder, I decided to go with what I would consider to be a safe bet. Lee may be getting older, but playing in Baltimore should be a nice treat for the first baseman and his fantasy owners. He’s not the stud he once was, but he still has something to offer.
Danks marks my second White Sox pitcher. That’s not something I usually like doing. Grabbing multiple pitchers from a ballpark that favors hitters doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but I like Edwin Jackson to grow and even break out in 2011. Danks is proving be quite the consistent player. With the front-end talent I have with this staff, a consistent pitcher is all I need with this pick.
A career bust, Myers had managed only 70 innings pitched IP in two of his previous three seasons as a Philly. One was as a closer, but it wasn’t like he was dominant. His 3.15 ERA and 1.24 WHIP last year caught us all off guard. Since he was “supposed to” do this years ago, his 2011 rank reflects our opinion that he can sustain this kind of success now that he’s “figured it all out.” Cliff Lee took a similar path to stardom. We aren’t calling Myers the next Cliff Lee; rather, we’re comparing the lack of surprise at their respective late-blooming success. Myers struck out 180 batters and made 33 starts over 223 innings. If he can repeat, he’ll be worth the price tag he’ll require in 2011. We think he can do it. Last year, he became just the fifth pitcher since 1920 to last six or more innings in 32 consecutive starts.
Like the Rays, I got great value getting Manny in the 17th round. Even in an down season last year, he managed to hit .298 with nine home runs in half a season. Now that he’s a DH, there should little excuse for him not playing daily. and if his downside is a 20 home run season, given Manny-being-Manny’s upside, that is a gamble worth taking. Everyone needs a utility player and Manny just might be a dirty-cheap Big Papi. I expect a batting average north of .290 with a belly full of RBI to go along with a 25-30 home run season. How often do you get good power from a late-draft pick without hurting your team batting average?
Continuing Operation Fill My Outfield with Speedsters (guess I’m not one for brevity). Fowler stumbled out of the gate in 2010 but found his offensive footing later on, crossing the plate 55 times, hitting .280, posting a .357 on-base percentage and swiping seven bags dating from his from his June 29 return to the majors.
He needed the Triple-A seasoning, and alterations of his left-handed swing lit a fire under him. The last skill is what I’m banking on for an expansion, as long as platoon splits don’t haunt him again. His 30-plus swipes potential called my name. I answered.
S-Rod was a nice late-round middle infield flier until Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez
walked hobbled into town. Not sure how many at-bats Rodriguez will see in 2011 now, so I’d rather target the second baseman I drafted two rounds later, import Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Danny Espinosa or even Neil Walker.
This is a lazy pick, plain and simple. I’m shocked that James has him projected for such high numbers. His batting average fell badly as soon as he joined the Padres last August: He hit .211 with a .330 slugging percentage compared to .281 and .484 with the Cardinals. Depending on where he bats in the Padres order, he could put up those projected run and RBI totals, but I just don’t see how he could hit 23 home runs considering he has done that only once in his career, and that was in 2008 when he hit 37 on a fluke 20 percent HR/FB ratio. Since he’s my fifth outfielder I guess I’m not awfully upset about it, but I would have rather gone with some young upside here instead of a mediocre 33-year old.
Pick No.1 (205 overall): Philip Hughes.
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.56 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 166 K, 177 IP
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini,Bruno Boys
Hughes had a much inflated win total last year due to the Yankees’ offense, which will lead to him being overvalued in many drafts. Not here though, as the 18th round is a great place to grab the 24-year-old, who will have to be huge if the Yankees are to be respectable in their rotation. He had some trouble midseason with his curveball, which was awful against right-handers; if he can fix that he’ll get close to this projected 3.56 ERA. I also think he’ll pick up more than 12 wins due to that offense. I’m pretty excited to have the Yankees’ second starter as my sixth pitcher.
Kuroda is a pitcher I don’t fully understand; to do so, I would have to be a huge Dodgers fan and watch all the team’s games. That said, I can’t argue with his results. Don’t be afraid to be the one to scoop him up.
I tapped the Rockies once again, this time for groundball skills and dominance. Mr. James doesn’t see the hope here— probably blinded by DLR’s homer allowance, his home park and his injury-shortened season. Luckily, I saw that in the second half, he sacrificed a little dominance for BB/9 gains—a potential solution in the long run. More early-count aggressiveness will help him put it together. He was overvalued last year; now, undervalued.
When you get to late round draft picks, almost everyone left is a liability insome respect. You do not draft your “front end” types late, but the category fillers, trying to construct a balanced roster. In choosing what to draft for, I try to avoid batting average. BABIP luck tends to be the least predictable, so I value counting stats over empty batting average.
Alas, I digress. While Carlos Pena is likely going to be a big batting average liability and while you do not want to roster too many of those (at least not without both Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki on your roster), Espinosa was just too enticing to leave undrafted in light of my middle infielder need. From a counting stats perspective, Espinosa has a strong minor league record Over the 275 games he has played over the past three seasons across various minor league levels, Espinosa has hit 40 home runs and stolen 54 bases, while walking at a good clip (11 percent). His minor league batting average is not awful (.270), but given his strikeout tendencies, Espinosa is likely to be a batting average liability in the majors. His Major League Equivalent, per Oliver, last season was a .235 batting average with 28 home runs and 21 stolen bases.
Oliver forecasts a 19 home run, 15 stolen base output this season (599 PA) to go along with a .245 batting average. Espinosa is likely a 15/15 lock with 20+/20+ upside. I view him akin to drafting a balanced Adam Dunn with shortstop eligibility. If you want batting average, which is volatile, go with Mike Aviles. If you want the counting stats, which are more a byproduct of playing time, Espinosa should be your man. How he fell to me so late is beyond explanation.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That phrase goes out the window for the boy who cried wolf. It took him a long time, but he’s arrived. Aaron Harang is no longer a member of the Reds rotation and Bailey should replace him. The ignorant will see a final line of a 4.45 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. The keen eye noticed a 9.00 K/9 ratio and a 3.55 ERA over his final 10 starts of the year, which totaled 60 innings. Bailey has the pedigree to support this kind of success and while many have soured on him, we suggest you give him one more chance.
I like Ian Kennedy, but I don’t know how good the D-backs will be in 2011, and that will factor into his success. There will be days when Kennedy will need a decent amount of run support, but his peripherals point to a solid fantasy starter one day. We all love his pitching mate Dan Hudson, but Kennedy could even outperform Hudson in 2011.
I’ll reiterate the thoughts that I’ve echoed throughout my comments: I decided to bulk up on speed due to the lack of available power. Thus, Rajai Davis.
Pick No. 8 (212 overall): Jorge Posada.
Preseason projection: 267 AVG, 18 HR, 2 SB, 69 R, 76 RBI, 502 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
I generally draft catchers late. As good as Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez and Brian McCann may be, they are not going to have the plate appearances that other position players are. Put another way, a .300 average from a catcher contributes much less to your overall stats than a .300 average from anyone else. So I usually “settle” for a Carlos Ruiz type catcher rather than a McCann. Maybe it’s wrong, but it’s what I do.
Round 18 seems late enough to take a catcher. I notice that most of the other teams have drafted their, so I could probably wait a few more rounds, but I’ve gotten killed in leagues a few times when someone decided to take a backup catcher early and I got left with Rod Barajas or something. I notice that Posada is still available. On the one hand, he is another old guy—he’ll be right at home with Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Lee and Bobby Abreu. On the other hand, he still has pop for a catcher, even at the age of almost 40. I understand the Yankees are going to DH him this year, which should save a bunch of wear and tear. There are still a bunch of catchers out there, and if Posada doesn’t work out I can probably get a decent catcher off the waiver wire at some point. So I take Posada hoping that I’ll get a few homers out of him, and that his body holds up one more year.
At this point, I looked at my team and realized I needed an outfielder. I purposely drafted two elite outfielders in Alex Rios and Jason Heyward and when drafting for middle infielder depth I drafted Ben Zobrist, who also has outfielder eligibility. I technically have Coco Crisp as a fourth outfielder, but not really. So I needed to get more. Because I had not done any research by mid-January and I didn’t want to give away my few outfield sleepers, I went to Jeffrey Gross’s top 60 outfielders and drafted the highest guy on his list. I never have any problems finding outfielders in free agency.
To make amends for the Johan Santana pick, I was pleased to have landed Vazquez as my No. 4 starter (not counting Santana). Now that Vazquez is back in the National League, he’ll be one of my main pitching targets late. The loss of nearly 3 mph off his fastball is a turnoff, but I think a late-round throw of the dice isn’t too bad a price to see if an offseason of rest will lead to a rebound in velocity and a subsequent rebound in performance. Vazquez has historically posted fine peripherals and it seems last season was a one-off. While I wouldn’t expect the 35-year-old Vazquez to revert to anything close to his career-best 2009 campaign, I would have him down for a 3.80-4.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 180 K, with a chance of lowering that ERA a bit (3.50-3.60).
Considering Colorado’s log jam for playing time at third base and second base that features Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton, Ian Stewart and Young,. I’m not thrilled with this pick. That said, there was little available in terms of middle infield help at this juncture, and I wanted someone with upside. Boy, does Young possess that. He had an off year plagued by injury in 2010, but is just one year removed from stealing 58 bases and posting a .387 OBP in Triple-A. While it would be foolish to just throw out his 2010 as if it didn’t happen, it would be even more foolish to look past his previous 50-plus stolen base potential that was on display in the high minors before last year. If he’s able to accumulate over 500 plate appearances, I’d be thrilled with this pick. If not, he’s cast aside for a middle infielder out of the free agent pool (who not coincidentally is likely to perform about as well as any of the middle infielders I could have selected at this draft slot).
After second-guessing myself on the previous pick, I felt I needed to hedge my bet and go after a solid starter. He isn’t an extreme fly ball pitcher, although his stats tend to suggest otherwise. I do like the trends he has been showing command-wise and if he can get a few more decimal points added to strikeouts-per-nine, he should be solid.
Santana tends to be a two-pitch pitcher, relying mostly on his four-seam fastball and slider. This exposes him to a few fly balls finding their way over the fence as well as limiting his effectiveness against left-handed batters. It’s not ideal, but at this stage of the draft I’ll take anyone who can deliver close to 180 strikeouts and whose range in wins is anywhere from 11 to 18 with a decent ERA.
I would love to grab another arm, but the gap between this pick and the next is too wide. I was locked on what I needed position-wise, and I didn’t want to kick myself and watch someone grab a high upside middle infield pick like Brignac.
This was also another hedge pick, since I didn’t want to be caught with a middle infielder starting the season in Triple-A (read: Dustin Ackley). Brignac’s batting average could be a bit grimacing but he should get the chance to start and his plus defense will give the organization enough reasons to be patient. He will have to be platooned against lefties and could be special if used in the right situations.
With a number of pitchers vying for the No. 4 and 5 five spots in the Reds rotation, it appears Chapman will be helping the Reds this year by pumping up his triple-digit pitches in a relief role. While the Reds may have Chapman get some work in Triple-A as a starter, I believe that’s unlikely, and that you’ll see him ultimately wrestle the closer gig away from Francisco Cordero (or more likely Cordero cough the gig up all by his lonesome). Possessing a hellacious fastball/slider combination as well as the ability to induce a ton of groundballs (73.1 percent groundball rate in his 13.1 innings in the majors last year), he can be a dynamic reliever who’s capable of helpful ratios and big strikeout numbers in the bullpen while he waits to pick up saves.
Needing a middle infield stopgap, I take Marco Scutaro off the scrap heap. Scutaro was a decent source for runs and average last year, although Jed Lowrie could wrestle some playing time away from him in 2011. This was my last pick before having to leave it on autopilot.
For some reason James thinks that Floyd will have a career lows in 2011 in wins, ERA, Ks and WHIP. I do not understand why. Last year Floyd posted the best FIP of his career (3.46) and the second best xFIP (3.83—his best was in 2009 with 3.69).
Floyd was one of my sleepers last year and because I am a White Sox fan, I watched him pitch all last season last year. He struggled out of the gate, and I’m sure essentially every Floyd owner but me had dropped him by June. That would have been a shame, because then you missed his 2.58 ERA in June and his 0.80 ERA in July. Sadly Floyd did regress in August, September, and October, but for two months Floyd was the best pitcher in baseball.
Pick No. 5 (221 overall): Edinson Volquez
Preseason projection: . 11 W, 4.13 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 152 K,145 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
I still need use another starting pitcher. There’s still a bunch of good ones out there—you really can always find a good one out there on waivers. So that being the case, why settle on a “safe” pitcher at this point—some guy who will go 14-11 with a K every two innings—when that guy will always be available on the waiver wire? Why not use a pick to try to WIN.
I notice that no one has taken Volquez. That’s not surprising, given his past TJ surgery, and his suspension for PEDs. Who knows if his 2008 season was a fluke, or the result of PEDs, or what? But he has the potential on a good Reds team, assuming he is healthy, to get me a ton of strikeouts and wins. I kind of discount the projections because they incorporate 2009, when Volquez was hurt and needed the surgery; and 2010 when he was rushed back because the Reds were in the playoff race and wanted to go for broke.
My guess is that Volquez is now fully healthy. Whether his velocity is where it once was, or whether he can find the plate after his debacle in the playoffs last year is anyone’s guess. But if astute picks in Rounds 13-18 are one way to win a fantasy league, gambles that have real potential in Rounds 19-25 are another way to win. Guys like Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, who are still available, are not going to win the league for me. Volquez, if he returns to form, might.
Madson was an absolute beast last season, and I don’t believe Brad Lidge will be able to hang onto the ninth inning job for all of 2011. Even if he doesn’t get a shot at closing games, Madson should wind up providing enough strikeouts to make him a valuable reliever.
I hope I picked the right Oriole. At draft time, there was still doubt as to who will close, Koji Uehara or Gregg. Jeffrey Gross will tell you the job is unequivocally Uehara’s. I will debate that. Gregg has been paid a lot of money to be just a set-up man, and he has closing experience. Gregg has earned his shot in Baltimore.
Minor had an ERA close to 6.00, but struck out 43 batters in 40 innings. He also struck out 140 batters in 115 Triple-A innings in 2010. The Braves have a great organization to turn him around. He’ll have the fifth spot in the rotation and could be a nice surprise to round out your pitching staff.
The way I look at it, the closing gig is wide open and Uehara has the better shot of getting the job than Gregg and keeping it long term. Uehara is the better pitcher (better career ERA, WHIP, K/BB, BB/9) and proved quite capable in the closer role last season, blowing only two of his 15 save opportunities while posting a season ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.00.
After last season, Uehara is not without his experience, though experience clearly favors Gregg. Manager Buck Showalter has not assigned anyone the closer job and plans to give it to the “better man” come spring training’s close. As I see it, Gregg was enticed by the prospect of both a two-year deal and a strong chance at closing if Uehara could not stay healthy. Uehara signed a one-year deal with a vesting second year that becomes guaranteed based on both health and performance. Essentially, this puts Uehara in a “it’s your job to lose” position, with Gregg hoping for the worst and the Orioles having a strong backup plan if Uehara’s health falters. Mike Gonzalez still looms, and, if healthy, he too would probably make the better ninth inning option in a competition with Gregg. .
Feel the excitement! Franklin’s skills are trying to take the job from him even if Tony La Russa isn’t. Saves were running thin, and at this point, I guess getting someone who has a job counts for something, but I probably could’ve speculated instead since I already had Joakim Soria and Huston Street. Jason Motte is near the top of my imaginary free-agent target list.
Pick No. 11 (227 overall) Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Preseason projection: .299 AVG, 7 HR, 31 SB, 66 R, 56 RBI, 623 PA
Drafted by: Paul Singman, The Hardball Times
James doesn’t offer projections of international players, so I was gracious enough to provide you with Oliver’s projected line. If he puts up those numbers you’re golden. But even if he doesn’t, just be happy to own a guy with a clear shot at playing time, which is not a given with the other second baseman drafted around him.
Another rather boring pick for me; it’s actually scary how similar the projections are for LaRoche and Ludwick. While he’s a rather average player overall, what I am getting with LaRoche is consistency: He’s hit a minimum of 20 home runs every year since 2005 and 25 each of the last three. I am also likely to get a minimum of 70 runs and 80 RBIs. His batting average and ISO are in decline, which is concerning, but perhaps he can rebound and put together something more respectable, in the .270 range. Overall, though, this a pick I would have rather spent on young upside.