On 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 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).
One of the surprises of 2010, rookie Garcia posted an eye-opening 2.70 ERA over 163.1 innings before being shut down in mid-September due to an innings limit. An FIP at over 3.4 means a regression is coming, but of course it would be insane to expect another sub-3 ERA year for this St. Louis Cardinals pitcher. In the 20th round, I’m happy to be getting a young talent with room to improve in his strikeout rate.
Even though Venters and Craig Kimbrel apparently will share closing duties in the beginning of the season, Kimbrel is being drafted earlier so far this preseason. The optimism surrounding Kimbrel is not unwarranted since he (1) is righthanded, giving him the closing edge over the left-handed Venters and( 2) strikes out a ton of batters, 17.4 per nine innings to be exact. Venters also strikes out his fair share, but did experience a huge jump in strikeout rate once being converted to a reliever, one that certainly was larger than you would expect. Kimbrel, meanwhile, has been a strikeout fiend his entire climb up the minor league ladder. So there’s a reason Kimbrel is going five rounds before Venters, but both do have a piece of the closer’s pie at the moment.
One of my favorite bounce-back candidates of the year, he has the job all to himself and still has enough plate skills to maybe add something to his power. Why not take a shot on a cheap backstop with a power pedigree who plays at Coors Field, especially in a one-catcher setup? If he tanks, it’s an easy mistake to fix.
As a big believer in the stud-or-dud theory of drafting catchers, I took my catcher quite late. I was targeting Jorge Posada, now a DH, but he was taken a few rounds earlier, so rather than reach for scraps, I just sat tight. Of the catchers remaining, I took Martin because his expected production is no worse than most not-top-10 catchers, while he offers a fading hope of speed/power upside. If he’s healthy, I would peg Martin as a late-round Kurt Suzuki-type, capable of double-digit production in both home runs and stolen bases. Of course, health is a big “if” here. Martin, recovering from knee and hip surgeries, may start the season on the DL, though the most recent health reports seem positive. I peg Martin as a catcher sleeper for 2011.
Venable is Drew Stubbs from a year ago. His 13 homers and 29 steals in limited time aren’t getting enough respect. I chose him over Austin Jackson because I believe Jackson was a bit lucky last year and Venable has more immediate upside. With another 150 at-bats playing full time for the Padres, 15 homers and 40 steals isn’t so far-fetched. With a 20th round pick, no harm, no foul.
There was no Bill James projection for Chris Sale. This was my first real gamble, but Sale’s talent was just too hard to pass up at this pick. Granted this draft was pre-Ozzie declaring his love for Sale in the bullpen. All reports are still indicating that Sale will be stretched out and should have every opportunity to prove his worth as a starter. If he falters, I may be regretting this pick, but then again, my pitching staff is full of strikeout pitchers. Sale could help lower my averages as a reliever. This is still a wait-and-see pick. I believe he is the best young lefthander in the game.
If Fuentes somehow ends up closing for part of 2011, then this pick will make me look like a genius. Otherwise, it makes me look like an idiot who was trying to draft Luke Gregerson and clicked on another guy by mistake (true story). Have I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of MDC? Fuentes could at least help my WHIP thanks to Oakland’s spacious park and defensive skills, but he won’t be seeing many high-leverage innings in the strong Athletics bullpen.
Pick No. 8 (236 overall): Austin Jackson
Preseason Projection: 278 AVG, 6 HR, 28 SB, 88 R, 58 RBI, 691 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
Assuming I want the flexibility to use Carlos Lee as a corner infielder, I still need another outfielder. A quick check on the draft projections to the moment shows that I am still lagging the field in stolen bases. Jackson is available.
Here’s the thing about Jackson: He is only 23. Well, he’ll be 24 by the time the season starts, but the point is that he had an outstanding rookie campaign at a very young age. That tends to portend well—I remember reading a Bill James analysis once that showed that even a year or two age difference in the first year of solid numbers means a lot in terms of how good a player really is.
Beyond that, most good players improve significantly as they gain league experience, and I think Jackson will be no exception. I predict Jackson works hard on plate discipline this year, which results in more walks, more runs scored, more stolen base attempts, etc. His .399 BABIP is probably high even for a speedster, so that comes down, but I think we see more balls in play from him overall, which balances things out. I’m taking the over on runs, and probably on steals as well; the Tigers lineup isn’t so ferocious at this point, and I’d see manager Jim Leyland running Jackson a lot to get him in scoring position for Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. They have him for six homers—I don’t know if he’ll hit any, but that’s not why I drafted him. Just the same, I’ll bet all comers he hits at least eight.
My lineup was set, I had my core group of pitchers, and I had my three closers. Really all I needed was depth. For some reason I thought Loney hit .300 like clockwork, but he has a career .288 batting average and hasn’t hit over .300 since his rookie season (in only 95 games). At this point in the draft you should just go for huge upside guys and your sleepers. Generally, the guys that I draft in these low positions are going to get dropped anyway, so why not swing for the fences (or make bad baseball puns)?
The auto-drafter gave me Scott Baker, the kind of pitcher I don’t typically find myself drafting. One knows what to expect from Baker, a pitch-to-contact hurler who is stingy with walks at the expense of giving up a good many flyballs. As a No. 4-5 starter this late in the game, Baker is okay. In fact, he should rebound a tad, as that .323 BABIP should normalize and hence, the 1.34 WHIP from last year should come down some. The Bill James projection on Baker seems spot-on with my ERA expectations for him, but is a little pessimistic on innings thrown and wins earned, and I can see his WHIP decreasing a bit as well (1.25 WHIP).
Consider me a continued sucker for Alex Gordon, though his draft cause was also helped by my need for a stop-gap third baseman until Kevin Youkilis gains eligibility there. Gordon is the type of player I love to target at the end of drafts, a guy who has dominated the minors and has a previous blue-chip prospect status. Most people by now have written him off as a Quad-A player: He ripped the ball in Triple-A last year (.315/.442/.577 with 14 homers, seven steals and 51 walks vs. 71 strikeouts in 260 at-bats) but struggled in the majors once again.
This year he won’t be jerked up and down and changing positions, as he’s now strictly an outfielder, but he retains his third base eligibility thanks to his early season playing time there in 2010. He has a fairly substantial career platoon split, favoring hitting righties but being tied up by southpaws (career versus right-handed pitchers: .256/.343/.419 and versus left-handed pitchers: .215/.290/.370) , so his value even if he puts it together next year appears to be capped somewhat. In a five-outfielder format Gordon gets positional versatility bonus points if he’s able to stick.
Even though the Angels organization may be a bit skeptical, I must say I like Bourjos’ speed. I understand the Angels can be fickle regarding some of their prospects, but he is still projected as the starter in center field. Bourjos has plenty of defense and speed and this should be enough to keep him in manager Mike Scioscia’s good graces during the spring. Don’t expect patience from Bourjos this season: His swing is designed for power over simple contact and a low batting average should be expected.
No bullpen has undergone a bigger facelift than the one in Tampa Bay’s. At the time of our draft, Farnsworth looked to be the favorite as the team’s closer. He struggled during his time with the Yankees, but the improvements made to his command along with his ability to stay away from the middle part of the plate look promising.
Recently, manager Joe Maddon has said he’ll use a bullpen-by-committee approach in 2011, which will reduce Farnsworth’s value considerably.
Pick No. 2 (242 overall): Magglio OrdonezPreseason projection: .306 AVG, 17 HR, 2 SB, 70 R, 82 RBI, 550 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times
Magglio Ordonez is your typical, “glue” guy. He’s a solid investment late, a jack of all trades but master of none (though that average is fairly masterful). Last year saw Maggs show off some pop that was missing in 2009. In 2009 his homer-per-flyball rate was just 8.0 percent and he was pounding the ball into the ground at a 51 percent clip, but in 2010 he was able to boost his HR/FB rate up to 13.2 percent (13.5 percent career mark) and reduce his groundball percentage to 46.7.
At this juncture, I was pleased to get a solid contributor as my fifth outfielder. While it’s foolish to expect his ceiling to be that of his peak years, a line of 80-20-85 with a .310 average seems attainable, but if he’s able to put up a line that matches James’ projection, I’d be happy with that out of my fifth outfielder.
As a bench bat to alternate with Andres Torres, Jason Kubel might not be a bad alternative to platoon against righthanders. Kubel’s BABIP came down to earth last year and his power upside is tempered some by Target Field, but if he continues to get his share of playing time, Kubel might fare decently in his contract year. A rebound to the James projection seems to be his ceiling, which would make for a decent return on investment this late.
Gutierrez does nothing well and everything all right. At this point in the draft, just go for your sleepers; Gutierrez seemed like the perfect value in the 21st round.
Pick No. 5 (245 overall): Lance Berkman
Preseason projection: .273 AVG, 20 HR, 4 SB, 80 R, 86 RBI, 547 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
In my main league in 2010, Lance Berkman was taken near the beginning of the seventh round. As everyone knows, he had a horrible year. Not only that, he has hit progressively fewer home runs each year since 2006, and his batting average for the last two years was below any prior year since his rookie season in 1999. He was particularly pathetic in the second half of last year, with a slugging average in the mid .330s.
All that said, picking up Berkman in the 21st round of a draft is like highway robbery. This is LANCE BERKMAN. Says here he can still hit. He got caught up in a woeful situation in Houston last year, tried to carry the team himself, and pressed. Then he got traded to a league he didn’t know at all, and was placed in an unfamiliar role, in New York to boot, and didn’t exactly remind anyone of Roy Hobbes… and people think that means he’s finished?
Says here that Berkman, like Paul Konerko last year, will seriously rebound. If he platoons, it will only keep his stamina up and make his numbers better the days he is in there. He’ll be playing in a good St. Louis lineup where he won’t have to carry the team, and will be back in a familiar division (including getting to hit against the Astros’ pitchers rather than the Cardinals’. I foresee Berkman in a quasi-platoon hitting .280 with 25 homers, 85 runs, and 95 RBI. While those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, presuming I have a slightly-above-replacement value hitter I can play when Berkman is not playing the combined stats I’ll get will look pretty good. This is another “win the league” type pick. It may not work out, but why bother taking David DeJesus or Nyger Morgan when you can roll the dice with LANCE BERKMAN.
Using the Bill James projections, Walker certainly didn’t deserve to go this late in the draft. Walker was even a better value here if you expect him to hit higher than .270, which I do. I didn’t need a starting second baseman, but Walker is a great middle infield candidate in most leagues, and I’d like to see what he can do in a full season of work.
Jackson was my third Chi Sox pitcher. That’s two too many if this were my real draft. I believe he showed some life in Chicago. He was great in August (1.47 ERA), but he struggled in September/October. His early season troubles and his struggles throughout his career correlate to his lackluster control. In the final three months, he did show improvement: 77 strikeouts to just 18 walks. If he brings that control into 2011, he could be the steal of the draft at the 247th pick. He just needs to keep the ball in the park and not throw so many wild pitches (20 in 2010).
This, of course, was a pick made before the Orioles signed Vladimir Guerrero signing. Vlad shouldn’t cut into Scott’s playing time as much as that of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold, but it still hurts Scott’s value unless he’s set to play every day. Scott has averaged 25 homers in about 450 at-bats over his past three seasons. There’s no reason to think that won’t occur again. It’s not easy finding power this late in the draft, but Scott is always there. Scott’s lineup has only improved in each of the past few seasons and should be better than ever in 2011, giving him more of an opportunity to add to his runs and RBI totals.
I really had no reason for another starting pitcher at this poin, but I am buying this offseason’s T-Wood hype. The former second round pick held his own well in his major league debut last season, pitching 102.2 solid innings (5 wins, 3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP 86:26 K/BB). Though Wood’s flyball tendencies might be worrisome in the Great American Ballpark, he has good enough control and induces enough infield flyballs (9.9 percent, compared to a 7-8 percent major league average) to offset that relative disadvantage. If Ted Lilly can consistently succeed in Wrigley, this 24-year-old can rank in my http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/top-100-fantasy-starting-pitchers-for-2011/”>top 50 starting pitchers despite his home ballpark.
I needed some steals, and options were running thin. The Rangers want Borbon to take the center field job so Josh Hamilton doesn’t have to. There’s 40-steal upside here if he can finally take advantage of his strong contact rate and optimize his speed on groundball hits. He was worth a shot at my utility spot.
This draft occurred before the Vernon Wells trade that spurred the Jays to flip Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco. Reports say Francisco has the inside track to the closing job, though this is one closing mess that I’d stay away from. In other words, this pick should not happen now.
Infante enters the season in a new uniform, replacing Dan Uggla at second base for the Florida Marlins. While it’s a significant downgrade in power, Infante does provide a batting average in the range of .300 and figures to bat second in the Marlins lineup. He was considered a journeyman over his nine years in the majors before being named an All-Star in 2010 due to his “Swiss Army Knife”-type defensive abilities. His batting average has come a long way since his early years with the Detroit Tigers; along with his strikeout rate his average has progressively improved since 2007. At 30 years old, his career is far from over, and his multi-position eligibility makes him a perfect bench asset for a league with corner and middle infield spots.
This is the point in the draft where I suddenly thought, “crap, I need to roster two relief pitchers.” That’s how you end up drafting David Aardsma, who is coming off a lame year and, after offseason surgery, figures not to be back till the second week of the season. He’s not exactly a strong selection, but he’ll pick up saves and I hope he’ll get his strikeout rate back into the one per inning range of 2009. That’s what I get for waiting too long for relief help.
That 16 saves is the “Fans” projection for Soriano’s saves total. What is going on here? What do people think the chances are Mariano Rivera gets hurt? Soriano is a great reliever, but he’s not a guy I take hoping to get some sneaky saves. There are Bobby Parnell and Ryan Madson for that.
On the day of this draft, it wasn’t reported that Joe Nathan‘s progress wasn’t as far along as it is now. I figured I’d take a shot on another potential saves source. Even if Nathan gets the job back immediately, he still might have to take some days off. I wouldn’t make this pick here on the day of its publication.
As someone who does not believe in paying for saves, I was pleasantly surprised to see Brandon League still trolling around the player pool past pick No. 250. With Aardsma out for the foreseeable future (he just stopped using crutches), the closer’s job is League’s to lose. League has a track record between the Blue Jays and Mariners as a reliable relief pitcher (albeit, every other year) and his extreme groundball tendencies should play that much better in spacious, defense-filled Safeco Park. With a strong enough start, League could stave off Aardsma’s return to the ninth inning until, if at all, his numbers make him not worth owning at all.
Pick No. 5 (257 overall): Frank Francisco
Preseason projection: 2 W, 0 SV, 3.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 40 K, 35 IP
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms
This pick makes me look smart, for he’ll be closing in Toronto now. At the time, he was with Texas and I drafted him hoping that Neftali Feliz would slide into the rotation. Francisco will compete with the likes of Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch. Each has closed at some point in his career. In round 22, double F isn’t a bad gamble.
He’s an old timer in a pitchers’ park, but there really wasn’t a whole lot of upside talent this late. Hideki could hit .280 with 20+ homers or he could go .250 with 15 homers. Who knows what he has for us in Oakland? I’ll take the chance, but his leash will be shorter than it’s ever been in his career. Chris Carter could press Matsui.
I got lucky when I mistakenly took Fuentes a couple of rounds earlier, as Gregerson stayed on the draft board while I filled another position. Gregerson and a good number of high-K setup men are undervalued most of the time, but their overall contribution rivals that of middling (and better) closers. Gregerson’s filthy slider and home park make him a pretty safe bet later in drafts.
Pick No. 8 (260 overall): Jair Jurjenns
Preseason projection: 12 W, 3.92 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 132K,182 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
I believe that one winning strategy in a snake draft is using the last few rounds on educated fliers—picking guys who have the potential to look like top 10 drafts picks if things break right. If they break wrong, you haven’t lost much because you can always find a replacement-type player on the waiver wires and you are no worse off than you would be if you’d drafted that guy to start with. There are three types of “educated fliers”: (a) prospects who had a good last few months, or are well-hyped and projected as starters (e.g,, Freddie Freeman); (b) older players who had a bad year and everyone assumes are done (e.g., Carlos Lee—wait, didn’t I take him in the ninth round?); and (c) good or elite players coming back from injuries (e.g., Jake Peavy).
This was my last pick before choosing bench players, and because I drafted a number of closers earlier, I need at least one more starting pitcher. Since I already have a number of players in the (b) category, I don’t want to draft an old player; and since gambling on an untested starter is pretty risky—even if they surprise, they’ll tire by year’s end, a la Jaime Garcia last year—I’m looking for an injury comeback type guy. I thought about Peavy, but took Jurrjens instead.
Jurrjens is only 25, and he flat out knows how to pitch—not a big strikeout guy, and he tends to walk a lot of batters, but he has demonstrated an ability to win, and he is still learning. Sometimes you like guys because every time you see them play, they look good, and I’ve had that experience with Jurrjens. He obviously had a tough year last season, but it seems largely because he was playing through injuries, and—and this is important—the injuries were mostly to his legs, rather than his arm. (He did have some shoulder issues coming out of spring training last year, but that’s not unusual.) I see the Braves as a team that has upgraded its hitting and whose bullpen is solid (even given that Kimbrel is untested as a closer). That means there won’t be the need to leave Jurrjens in too long, especially early in the season as he regains his stamina. I see Jurrjens winning closer to 16 games than 13, and am taking the under on ERA and WHIP. I think getting Jurrjens in Round 22 is a terrific value pick.
I know that Montero is No. 3 on the Yankees’ catcher depth chart, but Jorge Posada is going to miss significant playing time (if not the entire year) just because of his age and the position he played for the past 103 years and Russell Martin is really bad, so Montero is going to get his shot. Considering how great a prospect he is, it would not surprise me if Montero earns the starting catcher job by the All-Star break and keeps it for the rest of the year.
Bill James projects Montero to get 442 plate appearances. If Montero can hit 20+ home runs during that time, then I’m elated with this pick.
If only an auto-drafter bot came along that was as smart as Watson when it came to drafting fantasy players. I suppose it’ll take some time for that to happen. Either Johnny Cueto or Brian Matusz would have been my pick here if I hadn’t had to bolt early. Aside from early last year and his first couple of years in Florida, Gonzalez has been a fairly pedestrian fantasy threat. Expected to have a full-time gig again, Gonzalez should be good enough to hit 15 homer runs and a bump up in runs/RBI from the James projection, but otherwise, not quite the low-risk, decent-reward pick I’d typically take here.
An extreme flyball (55.6 percent rate) reliever who got by last year by limiting free passes (1.65 walks per nine) and striking out a healthy number of batters (9.00 K/9), Peralta essentially mimicked Rafael Soriano’s recipe for success last year. Given that Peralta’s record of success includes only last year, it’s easy to see why Soriano was able to fetch more in free agency than Peralta, and why Peralta doesn’t generate the same fantasy draft excitement as the man he may be replacing in ninth inning duty. Toss in that it’s unclear who will be closing for the Rays (assuming it’s a someone closing and not someones, which isn’t a given either), and he isn’t more than an end-game save speculative draft pick.
If I had to make the pick over again, I’d probably select Jake McGee, given his filthy fastball/slider combination and higher ceiling. That said, taking both and hoping to rack up saves from each wouldn’t be a bad strategy for drafters who prefer to pass on paying a premium for saves. While it’s likely Kyle Farnsworth’s name will be bandied about leading up to real drafts, I’ll be passing on him altogether as he was a train wreck in high leverage situations last season.
At this stage in the draft, I was excited to find Lackey still available. Recent reports of his significant weight loss this spring should boost his value a bit, but his above-average command and ability to keep the ball (generally) in the park could translate into better fortune this season.