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).
Before moving on to the analysis of the final rounds of the mock draft, I’d like to mention that, like Jeffrey Gross, I will be a “celebrity commissioner,” for FanGraphs and Ottoneu’s brand spankin’ new fantasy baseball game. The league that I’m leading will be of the classic 5×5 roto scoring format. Those who wish to join my league may do so by searching for the private league, “THT Fantasy-Josh Shepardson.” The top secret password to join is a doozy—it is: baseball. The cost of joining from now until March 1 is $9.99, first-come, first-served, so sign up now!
This pick was made purely for roster depth. I’m banking on Geovany Soto as my starter but if anything would happen between now and Opening Day, I didn’t want to be caught without a catcher. It can be argued that Buck enjoyed a career season in 2010 not likely to be replicated (unless his high BABIP fortune continues) but with his power profile, I figured he’d make a good insurance ticket.
Ka’aihue thoroughly proved that he can embarrass Triple-A pitching (.322/.465/.601 24 homers and an 88:69 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 416 plate appearances), and finally earned some major league playing time. In 206 major league plate appearances he did little to distinguish himself, but considering the small sample size, I’m willing to give him a pass and see what he can do with a full-time gig at first base or designated hitter to start the season. His patient approach at the plate should yield solid pitches to drive, but what he’s able to do with them remains to be seen.
He’s a bit of a plodder, and he strikes out a fair amount, so James’ projected average seems fair in spite of an average that exceeded .300 in Triple-A last year. I do believe there is more power potential than the projected 22 home runs, though the floor is also substantially lower. At this point in the draft, everyone has question marks, so I’ll take my chances with a potential power source who has a lineup in which he can be in the middle of the order.
Another useful bench bat the autodrafter has gifted me. While it’s safe to say that Ibanez won’t return to his 2009 form, he’ll provide some padding in RBI, likely hitting fifth in a still very good Phillies lineup.
I had left at this point in the draft. I will say I’m impressed with Slowey’s 2010 campaign, especially that he had an ERA close to 4.50 in one of the most extreme pitcher-friendly parks (Target Field) playing for the Twins. I’m trying to think of a league where it would be fine to draft Slowey and the only format I can think of is one that gives you points for innings pitched and K/BB ratio, and doesn’t have an innings limit. Otherwise, if you’re going to draft a Twins starting pitcher not named Francisco Liriano, draft Brian Duensing (who for some reason managed to go undrafted in this league.
Pick No. 5 (269 overall): Chipper Jones
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 13 HR, 3 SB, 64 R, 74 RBI, 487 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
This was clearly a “category B” flier. On the one hand, there isn’t a chance in the world that Jones stays healthy all year, and if he actually steals three bases I’ll be shocked. My feeling on Jones is that (a) he really, really wants to go out well, and (b) when he does play, his numbers will be solid. Chipper usually has a good first month before his annual injury cycle kicks in. I figure maybe between him and Carlos Lee I can get an upper-quartile season at corner infield. Maybe it’s a little bit of a sentimental pick, too—I’ve always stayed away from Chipper when he was an early-round draftee because I was always worried about injuries (I was right, too), so this is my last chance to own him. And it’s only a mock draft, right? I’d hate for poor Chipper to hear that he went undrafted in the THTF fantasy mock. Imagine what it would do to his self-esteem.
With the draft winding down, I like to grab a couple of starting pitchers who I’m confident won’t hurt me, yet give me enough upside to warrant a draft pick. Cueto usually isn’t one of those guys, and I was surprised he was still available at pick 260. He took some good steps last season, and I’m willing to give him a chance to do it again.
Matusz was once heralded as the best pitcher in the Orioles’ system. That designation may belong to Zach Britton now, but Matusz flashed that elite prospect skill set toward the end of the 2010 season. His ERA, FIP and most of his peripherals improved. He looked more comfortable on the mound, and 2011 success could be the next step in his progression. His only risks are seen in his BABIP regression, and he still pitches in the AL East. I love his upside. That’s what these picks are meant for.
I just missed out on Cueto, Slowey and Matusz, but can the word “missed out on” actually be valid this late in a draft? Probably not. Porcello has done nothing in his major league career to make me want to own him, yet the possibility of the 22-year-old living up to the hype surrounding his major league draft pick carries on. It’s not normal to make a pick that isn’t based on stats for Fantasy Phenoms, but in round 23, for one pick, it’s all right. I already wish I had taken Bud Norris, who went two picks after we took Porcello.
Chamberlain will be the poster child for post-hype sleepers in 2011. Joba has fallen from grace since his Carlos Marmol-like debut in 2007. Last season saw him relegated to the bullpen, where his fastball velocity returned to form (94.6 mph) and he regained both his control (2.76 walks per nine innings) and inner Tim Lincecum (9.67 strikeouts per nine). Despite the Yankees’ desperate need for fourth and fifth starters, it seems that Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are intent on keeping Joba in the bullpen for 2011 (probably a mistake they will regret).
While this will keep Chamberlain from being a top fantasy talent this year, he should still provide solid enough ratios and strikeout numbers to make him worth owning to balance out a roster. With Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano maintaining death grips on the eighth and ninth innings, Joba should get a good shot at vulturing wins from what should prove to be a shaky back-half rotation for New York. Though he won’t come close to the 100-inning plateau, eight to 10 wins and a few savers are entirely attainable for the man who found all of the weight that CC Sabathia lost this offseason.
Pick No. 10 (274 overall): Bud Norris
Preseason projection: 8 W, 4.52 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 186 K, 187 IP
Drafted by: Tim Heaney,KFFL
Boasting a high-upside power arm, Norris had a relatively strong post-DL performance last year: 4.17 ERA with a 8.51 K/9 that built back up throughout the second half. At this point in the draft, I’m overlooking his control issues and hoping they improve.
The numbers Lowrie produced from a part-time role last season are stunning. Look them up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Another offseason, and playing time is still Lowrie’s issue, stuck behind the sneakily valuable Marco Scutaro. I expect Lowrie to receive an increased share of at-bats, but it is also important to keep your expectations in check and not derive them simply by doubling his numbers from last year. Still, I like Lowrie as a late upside pick once all of the guys with more stable playing time go off the board.
It was the tale of two halves for Polanco, who was batting .318 with a .433 slugging percentage from the beginning of the season until an elbow injury derailed him in the middle of the season. After that, his line fell to .280/.331/.345, with little change to his on-base percentage but nearly a 90-point drop in slugging, indicating that the injury sapped his power. While he’s never posted big power numbers, I think he can get 10 homers with decent run and RBI numbers and something in the .290 average range, making this a fairly decent late-round pick
This is about steals, plain and simple. However I plan to get a nice batting average out of him as well, as last season’s atrocious .253 was way off his career average of .283. He never hit below .300 in the minors and .294 in the majors so you can bank on a bounce-back. With a higher batting average and on-base percentage should come enough runs to make him a great value this late.
In a five-outfielder league, DeJesus is the type of player I envision will occupy my fifth outfield spot. I may drop him at some point in the year, but then again I expect to have somewhat of a carousel with five outfielders. Last season I used Cody Ross, Jonny Gomes, and various others as fifth outfielders and was fine with them. DeJesus can hit for average and I feel might surprise people a bit this year playing for a new team. I hope he will run more with the A’s and could make a nice late selection.
With all that said, I should have taken Ryan Raburn here.
Scrounging for power, I came across Sanchez, who had a nice breakout 2010 campaign after a long farm career. His contact rate and flyball percentage solidify his pop. His upside window is probably small given his long climb to the bigs, and getting a 20-homer stick here isn’t bad.
Ryan Raburn absolutely went nuts in the second half of last season, hitting 13 home runs and batting in 46 base runners while hitting .315 and crossing home plate 39 times over 273 plate appearances after the all star break. Raburn is a sleeper worth owning, but hardly worth gambling your team upon. Both Bill James and Oliver expect him to follow up last year’s numbers with roster-worthy production, and while I would not make Raburn my primary second basemen in any league (at least without a plan B), he could prove to be one of baseball’s best middle infielders this season.
This is a pick I like a lot. A year ago, he was ranked as a top seven shortstop. One bad run-in with Bobby Cox and he was traded to the Blue Jays because of his attitude. He’s still young and The Rogers Centre offers a friendly park for hitters. As a middle infielder, you could do far worse than selecting Yunel late in the draft. Fifteen to 20 homers is still highly possible.
Suzuki marks my first defensive pick. He provides me with the eighth best catcher on my board, and an insurance policy to Joe Mauer. He also gives me the opportunity to block my competitors from grabbing him on the super cheap. Normally I don’t roster two catchers in this deep a league, but with Mauer and such a deep league, one could never be too cautious. His lineup ought to be improved, and he gets a lot of plate appearances and RBIs. Closer to the season, I could see Hank Conger slipping up on Suzuki in my rankings. Mike Scioscia just confuses me.
Drabek is still very young and a little raw, but he already has what it takes to be a big league starting pitcher. The Blue Jays have mentioned that they won’t keep too close an eye on his innings, but I’d bet they slow him down in the last month or two if they are out of the playoff picture. Pitching in Toronto isn’t ideal, but Drabek’s strong groundball tendencies should shine through.
Pick No. 8 (284 overall): Freddie Freeman
Preseason projection: 274 AVG, 15 HR, 3 SB, 65 R, 72 RBI, 544 PA (13 HBP)
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
So this is my first “category A” flier. I don’t think Freeman will be the next Justin Heyward, but people seem high on him, and given who else is available I figured “why not.” I have to laugh when I look at the projection line for Freeman. I mean, the guy has like 16 major league at-bats. I know the prognosticators have rigorous methodologies for translating age, minor league performance, hair color, etc. into a projection, but let’s face it, no one has a clue in the world what Freddie Freeman’s 2011 line is going to look like. I especially liked (and highlighted) the projection that he’ll be HBP 13 times, which ranks him fourth among first basemen behind Kevin Youkalis, Brett Wallace (??!!) and Prince Fielder, and tied for 10th in all of baseball. I can’t wait to see him win the coveted ROYHBP award. You heard it here first.
I had left the draft at this point and yet Rolen still managed to be my utility player. What’s wrong with that picture? If this were a real league I’m dropping Rolen for the first heartbeat in free agency to hit a home run.
As if I didn’t need another veteran outfield bat, the autodrafter insisted on one: Johnny Damon. I think that now that Damon is in Tampa, he could steal more bases (15-20), since Joe Maddon tends to fall under the Mike Scioscia philosophy of getting on base and being aggressive on the base paths. Damon still has decent speed, and coupled with the dozen home runs, he should have a good run total leading off for the Rays.
Coming into the 2010 season, Rzepczynski was a favorite sleeper of mine. Unfortunately, he did nothing to live up to thatr. He once again finds himself among my end-game favorites thanks to the Blue Jays opening up a rotation spot by dealing Shaun Marcum, and Zep’s ability to rack up strikeouts while keeping the ball on the ground. He does lose the strike zone more than occasionally (4.32 BB/9 for his career), but his ability to punch out hitters and induce ground balls should limit the damage. He’s a solid gamble for strikeouts, likely at the expense of WHIP to some degree, due to the higher average on balls in play of ground balls and his high walk rate, but he’s a decent specialist with some potential upside. My perfect world projection would be a final season line that mirrors Jonathan Sanchez‘s 2009 campaign with the potential for a couple more wins.
It’s obvious with his high flyball profile that Cincinnati was never a perfect fit. Now that he misses fewer bats, any advantage he can get, park-wise, could be quite beneficial. Many projection models do see a positive upswing for Harang in 2011 in San Diego, so his implied-value was too good to pass up.
Pick No. 1 (289 overall): Dan Bard
Preseason projection: 6 W, 0 SV, 2.72 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 90 K, 76 IP
Drafted by: Vince Caramela,The Hardball Times
With my final pick in this draft, I figured I’d go after a lottery ticket. I know the nearer we come to spring training the more likely the Red Sox seem certain that Jonathan Papelbon will be their closer (of course, there wasn’t much doubt) but… just in case.
LaPorta is my first base- and outfield-eligible draft pick version of Alex Gordon: a former blue chip prospect who has proven his worth in the upper minors, but been unable to translate that into major league success. With the Indians in full fledged rebuilding mode, LaPorta should get a full season to sink or swim. While he slugged only 2 home runs in 425 plate appearances for the Indians last year, he has been described in the past as having plus power, so if he’s able to turn the corner, I’d expect to see better returns than the 22 home runs James’ has projected. An unstable and developing lineup in Cleveland should allow LaPorta the opportunity to work his way into a prime run producing spot, which is an underrated perk of playing on a bad team.
A hit-or-miss flyball hitter, Lopez could be a good fit hitting half of the season at Coors Field. Lopez’s second base defense might leave something to be desired and Eric Young Jr. figures to split time with him, but if given the playing time, Lopez could be an asset. Lopez is also a decent third base bench option to leverage with should Ian Stewart struggle.
Is this a contract year for Burnett? No? Then don’t draft him. I will say, though, that if you drafted Burnett last year thinking you were going to get the 2008/2009 Burnett, then you’re going to get him for a steal in 2011. I agree with Bill James that Burnett will get his Yankee wins and settle fine into that rotation again as a No. 3 starter. I expect that his 2010 year was an outlier for him and Burnett will be back to being Burnett. Unfortunately, that’s not that good and there are many better options for you.
Pick No. 5 (293 overall): Clayton Richard
Preseason projection: 10 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 148 K, 205 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, THTF Competition Winner
Richard is a pretty good, relatively young pitcher—he was terrific the first two-thirds of last year, then faded, which is not surprising given that the Padres stopped hitting and he was in uncharted territory in terms of innings pitches. He’ll be a year older and stronger, and you’ve to love a lefty pitching half his games at PetCo.
I am again wondering about how these projection systems work—Richard was 9-5 in his first full season two years ago, and 14-9 last year, so unless the projection system is factoring in that San Diego traded Adrian Gonzalez (which maybe it does, but I doubt it), I don’t know how it extrapolates to a 10-12 won-lost record for a maturing Richard in 2011.
In that spirit, let me leave everyone with this thought: remember the time in middle school when you were taking that history test and you weren’t sure about your answer, and you glanced to your left at the smart girl’s paper, and changed your answer to hers, and then it turned out you were right in the first place? Well, that’s what “experts” and projections can do to you. You start thinking they know more than you do, and listen to them, and change around your ratings—and screw yourself up. I remember last year, on the morning of my main draft, reading some expert who said that Joey Votto’s BABIP was unsustainable, and that he expected real regression in 2010, and when I had a chance to take Votto in Round three I almost didn’t do it (but I did—my best pick in the draft). I am still waiting for Grady Sizemore to have the monster season he’s been supposed to have every year since he came into the league. And just because some system “projects” Chone Figgins to knock in 70 runs this year, it doesn’t mean he will come close.
So as your draft approaches, study the numbers and the facts, draw your conclusions, make your lists—and once you do, believe in them. Resist the temptation to modify what you think based on some magical pronouncement by an “expert.” The truth is, “experts” are just guys like you and me, who to their credit love baseball, probably have a day job, are operating on a deadline, and have to write something to meet it. Don’t win or lose your league on someone else’s thinking. Win or lose it in on yours.
Moreland was great for the Rangers last year, and even with the acquisitions of Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, Moreland should get ample playing time at first base. While he probably won’t hit dingers at the same rate he did last year, he’s still worth having around on your bench in case he does. Even if/when he doesn’t, he’s going to have some value if his BABIP correct itself.
Wait, I didn’t have a middle infielder. I wanted Ryan Raburn, and I missed on him. I tried for Neil Walker, but again I failed. Left with little other option, Uribe fell into my lineup. Banking on 20-plus homers and tons of eligibility is about all you can do at this point. Uribe has very little upside. What you see is what you get, but he reveals a certain flaw in my team. My batting average could be awful. Thank God for Mauer and Votto, but they’ll have to carry me because we all know Uribe, Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui won’t.
Much like the Francisco pick, I took Meek hoping he’d win the closer’s gig, which was recently given to Joel Hanrahan. There is still a chance Meek manages five or 10 saves this year, but as of now, this pick looks awful. No big deal; I’ll just drop him after the first game of the season.
As time passes, my colleagues continually convince me of John Axford’s ability to keep the closer role in 2011. I still have my doubts, however, and that’s why I drafted the Brewers’ plan B, one of baseball’s best relievers when healthy, as my saves-source speculation. Even if Saito does not get many saves (and he’s got that “invaluable closing experience” should Axford falter), his ratios alone make him worth owning.
Hardy tried to come back early from his wrist injury last year, and it cost him. Target Field exacerbated people’s willingness to abandon this former 20-homer bat. Look at where he is now: He’s spending his contract year in Camden Yards. Not a bad place to resurrect your stock. I took notice.
No one on the A’s roster is really breathing down Pennington’s neck for playing time, which you can consider a good thing. If I feel my team is light on steals coming to the end of a draft, I’ll have no problem adding Pennington and his surprising 30-steal potential to my squad. There is value in playing every day and he seems lined up to do so.
Now we come to Mr. Irrelevant, Miguel Tejada, who will be joining the World Champion San Francisco Giants for the 2011 season. He gives me more depth in the infield and some decent counting stats, though at 37-years old I’m not exactly sure he can live up to these projections. I’m actually surprised at what he’s been able to do the last few years, averaging a line of 82/14/74/5/.288, but I wouldn’t plan on him sticking around on my roster too long were we to play this out.