On Sunday, Jan. 16, 12 baseball analysts from around the web mock snake-drafted fantasy baseball team for 2011.
They assumed 25-player rosters, using the standard 5×5 categories and a 1,500 innings-pitched limit. Using Mock Draft Central, teams were constructed with three starting pitchers, two relief pitchers, four “generic” pitchers (starter or reliever), three bench players, five outfielders and one of each of catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, middle infielder and corner infielder.
We have broken this draft into four parts—rounds 1-6, 7-12, 13-19 and 20-25—and over the next four weeks, each of the participants to the draft will provide insight into each of their picks. All preseason projections below are courtesy of the Bill James projections available on Fangraphs.com. Please post comments below.
Other round analysis: Rounds 1-3
I got the AL MVP with my first pick, and now I have the AL Cy Young winner as well. Hernandez had a ridiculous season, posting a 2.27 ERA and an 8.36 K/9 ratio over 249.2 innings despite a higher HR/FB percentage. His improvement over the years couldn’t be more regular if you dumped a bottle of Metamucil on it, with his K-rate, BB-rate, fastball velocity, and ERA all plummeting over the past three to four years and his FIP and xFIP following suit. If the Mariners could field anything better than a Little League-quality offense he would have fared much better than the 13-12 record he managed despite the lowest run support of any pitcher in the majors.
It would be insane to expect him to continue on this trend and a small regression is probably coming, but King Felix is still one of the elite pitching talents in the league and a safe bet for 200 strikeouts, making him an ideal ace for your staff.
In the early fourth round, Ichiro was placed onto my team, and overall it is a solid pick. Since he is 37, it is scary to own Ichiro, but so far he has proven himself the “freak-of-nature” type that defy normal aging rules. I tend to reserve outfield for sleepers so I probably would not want to fill my second outfield slot this early in the draft and instead take Dan Uggla or maybe Adrian Beltre (who I got two rounds later).
But in terms of outfielders,if you look at the two taken before him (Matt Kemp and Nelson Cruz) and after (Andre Ethier and Justin Upton), all have more question marks than Ichiro. So if nothing else, it’s a safe pick.
Pick No. 3 (39 overall): Dan Uggla
Preseason projection: .263 AVG, 31 HR, 3 SB, 96 R, 94 RBI, 666 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL
Come on, I know he won’t have that batting average again. Though second base is deeper than many believe, I didn’t mind simultaneously adding to my power base and filling my infield. Uggla has performed well in his small Turner Field sample size, and the Bravos should have a positive impact on his already growing BB/K‐the Marlins hacked and hacked and hacked.
In the three years I have been publicly writing about baseball, it is rare I do not mention how shallow shortstop is. Especially in the post-steroid era, where teams are refocusing on athleticism and defense is in vogue, the offensively capable shortstop is a dying breed. To illustrate this point, check out my top 20 fantasy shortstop rankings for 2011. My sixth highest ranked shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, is projected by Oliver to hit only .239 by Oliver, and Mike Aviles, the last shortstop likely to not hurt you in the batting average category (ranked No. 12), is expected to barely crack the 10/10 plateau.
Accordingly, it was either take Jeter or Alexei Ramirez (who I correctly expected would not make it back around to me) now or be miserable with my draft and hope I nab Elvis Andrus or Starlin Castro as my primary shortstop.
Unwilling to live with the latter, I nabbed Jeter, who I think will rebound some in 2011. Although he’s old and overpaid at this point in his career, Jeter is still a somewhat fleet-footed (5.5 speed score last season), .290/10/20 capable shortstop. Oliver expects a batting average around .280, but Jeter’s 2010 xBABIP pegs him capable of a .299 batting average. Though Jeter likely won’t repeat 2009, something akin to what he did in 1997 (.291 batting average, 10 home runs, 23 stolen bases, 116 runs, 79 RBI) is not implausible because Jeter just doesn’t hit pop-ups and still plays atop one of baseball’s most potent offensive lineups.
I debated between him and Justin Upton, who slipped into the fourth round. Posey may have a year like Upton did last year, but the difference is in the position scarcity. I’m not a scarcity freak, but when comparing two players you have interest in, scarcity can usually end an argument. Posey struck out only 55 times in his first major league season, so an average around .300 is certainly attainable again. He’s comparable to Brian McCann, but at this point in his career has upside in his favor. The ballpark he plays in and the lineup surrounding him will always hinder his counting numbers. At a weak position, he was worth taking when I wasn’t in love with anyone else at this juncture.
Pick No. 66 (42 overall): Andre Ethier
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 24 HR, 3 SB, 86 R, 90 RBI, 644 PA
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times
This was my favorite pick of the first four rounds. I am an Ethier fan for this year. His 2010 season could have played out so much different if he wasn’t playing the majority of it injured. Prior to that injury he was hitting .392 with 11 homers. He’s a legit value in the fourth round. I will guarantee that a .300/30/100 season is here (health permitting).
If you are a big believer in the Bill James projection listed above, then this pick was silly. If you’re a sane, rational human being, then this pick was gold (gold, Jerry!). Lester has racked up at least 200 innings in each of the past three seasons, never winning fewer than 15 games. The Red Sox are stacked this year, so a 20-win season isn’t completely out of the question. Lester also strikes out more than a batter an inning while posting above-average ground ball rates. It’s hard not to like Lester this year, and he’s the No. 2 two pitcher on my board.
Pick No. 8 (44 overall): Justin Upton
Preseason projection: .288 AVG, 26 HR, 23 SB, 92 R, 96 RBI, 632 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition
So much for Justin Morneau falling to me this round. I was a little sad to see Uggla go, as I need a second baseman and I could have used some more homers. I still need that bopper first baseman, and I am beginning to realize that unless I make a play for Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko or Kendry Morales I may end up with Adam LaRoche.
But I’m also noticing that in this league I am going to be drafting ive outfielders, and the better ones are going off the board quickly, so I need to lay a claim—there will be a serviceable first baseman, I’m sure, even if it is Gaby Sanchez, and I can make up for one position with strength at all the others. I’m torn between Upton and Andrew McCutchen. I like them both. I think McCutchen is actually safer, but Upton has more upside and the potential for a more balanced line. (I just took Jose Reyes; do I need another leadoff type guy this early?) So I go with Upton, knowing that if he and his brother spent time over the winter studying and working out with one another they may both strike out 200 times next year.
I had Rios in a net stolen bases league least year, and he killed me with inefficient baserunning. Luckily, I was not mock drafting in a net stolen bases league. The guy steals, hits home runs, is on my favorite team, and should be rock solid again. I looked around for some great power/speed combo guys with high batting averages and Rios fit the bill. While it does scare me that he could have a down “Alex Rios” year like he did his last year in Toronto, I don’t think he will.
Now, after drafting Justin Upton in the second round last year, I should be averse to the power/speed outfielders ranked in the top 10. It seems to me that those guys tend to fluctuate between being studs and being just above average (as 2010 Upton and Matt Kemp owners can tell you). But Rios still plays for a stolen base-happy Ozzie Guillen, he still has a wonderfully homer-friendly home ball park, and he still looks good.
I’ll admit to drafting this pick based off Mock Draft Central’s rankings. Jimenez was the highest ranked player on the board and, as is my tendency, I give at most five seconds to make a pick. In hindsight, Adam Wainwright would have been the better pick, but I would attribute this to offseason rust instead of my personal scrolling issues with the Mock Draft Central player interface.
Regardless, I was intent on taking an ace pitcher, as I felt that at that point of the draft, the quality of starting pitchers outweighed that of the batters (aside from McCutchen and Jason Heyward). Although Jimenez was a tad lucky in the first half of the year, he’s still a bona fide stud. And although Jimenez’s groundball rate decreased and his walk rate increased a touch, his K/9 took a step in the right direction and he was averaging a fastball velocity of 96 mph. With room for improvement, the Rockies ace should have a banner year in 2011.
Santana was a slam dunk selection for me at the end of the fourth round. Since he was coming cheaper than more proven commodities (and rightfully so) Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez and Brian McCann, I was happy to pick up a catcher capable of putting up numbers that may rival the elite established stars, while not paying the premium price for a position that is noteworthy for the risk of injury.
Unfortunately, Santana provides evidence of that risk of injury, missing the end of last season with a knee injury suffered in a collision at home plate. Fortunately for Santana, he suffered no structural damage, just a nasty sprain, that according to reports is healed sufficiently enough to allow him to resume baseball activities. Being that Santana is already one of the most talented Cleveland hitters, he’ll likely that he’ll see ample playing time at DH and/or first base on days he’s not behind the plate. Those who look at Santana’s 2010 stats and assume he’s a typical low average slugger are mistaken. With 500 or more plate appearances, I expect, Santana will top 20 home runs and 170 runs plus RBI and hit for an average greater than .275, making for truly spectacular contributions from a position that’s not noted for production.
During this phase of the draft I will admit to being on my third glass of wine and already bragging (via standard draft chat) to my colleagues about my incredible sense of evaluating pitchers last season, when I targeted both Felix Hernandez and Ubaldo Jimenez on all my teams. (No one seemed too impressed). This season I decided to unveil my latest find: Yovani Gallardo! (What? You’ve all heard of him? Never mind.)
At this moment I feared that a healthy run of very good starting pitchers would be taken and I felt it was a good time to grab one. I gambled in this spot taking Gallardo and his high-ish walk rate over the likes of Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson and Mat Latos.
In my defense, something about Latos’ 2010 usage has me worried, I am expecting him to be elite but I do expect him to struggle a bit since his innings rose from 123 in ’09 to over 184 last season. Chances are good for a hangover effect and I didn’t want to chance that with my No. 1 starter. Greinke is solid and the move to the NL will help but I like to think that the Royals may be messing with Zack’s fragile mind by shipping their slow-footed shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt along to Milwaukee to further frustrate him. Regarding Lee, Johnson and Wainwright, taking Gallardo over them is tough to defend. I’m sure many of my comrades had them ranked ahead of Gallardo and it was possible I could have gotten him on the bounce-back but I do love the high K rate that Yovani offers and I do expect him to make a significant jump this season. Stubborn pick.
This was a panic pick, pure and simple. Before my turn, Carlos Santana (the object of my affections) was selected and suddenly the catcher position looked very bare. I understand Soto had some problems when Lou Piniella was the Cubs manager last season and I’m sure new manager Mike Quade will come to his senses and give the man the proper amount of playing time. It’s funny, immediately after I drafted Soto I asked everyone if I pulled too early and it was pretty unanimous that I did; but I figured that Soto was the last of solid-tier catchers available and I didn’t want to get stuck gambling on Matt Wieters or Russell Martin as my main backstop.
Pick No. 2 (50 overall) Alexei Ramirez
Preseason projection: .280 AVG, 18 HR, 12 SB, 80 R, 78 RBI, 614 PA
Drafted by: Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times
At the time of the pick, I wasn’t a huge fan of it, and in retrospect, I’m still not thrilled with it. While I like Ramirez, and felt it necessary to get both of my middle infield positions locked up early so I’d have flexibility drafting one late to fill the actual MI spot, guys like Stephen Drew, Rafael Furcal and Starlin Castro were available a little later than I expected them to be. Still, looking at the positives, Ramirez has a solid track record that includes a career .283 average, upper teen to low 20s home run power, and low teens stolen base speed while compiling useful run and RBI totals. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have gone a different direction, but Ramirez’ across the board contributions helped me avoid drafting the dreaded one trick pony speedsters and others of that ilk later.
Pick No. 3 (51 overall): Cliff Lee
Preseason Projection: 14 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, p169 K, 216 IP
Drafted by: Ray Flors Fantasy Baseball Cafe
Once again, I let MDC’s rankings have an effect on my drafting and took Cliff Lee (who was top of the rankings) with no hesitation. While one shouldn’t be totally reliant on WHIP as a factor for drafting pitchers, Lee was extremely stingy in allowing baserunners last year with an ultra-svelte 1.00 WHIP (which includes a 1.05 WHHP while with the Rangers) The move back to the Phillies is an exciting one for fantasy owners too, as the former AL Cy Young winner posted a solid 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 74 strikeouts in 79 innings in his first short regular season stint with Philly.
To some degree, Lee is like getting a bargain Roy Halladay: an ace capable of throwing 220+ innings, 190-200 strikeouts by volume of throwing more innings, and excellent ratios. Again, on a normal day, Wainwright would have edged Lee here as my pick, but getting Lee is no terrible oversight, especially as late as the early fifth round. Alternatively, I was tempted to take Jason Heyward or Andrew McCutchen, but as is my custom with my first draft, I let the players I’d like to target in drafts go, just to see how long they’ll last on the board.
Pick #4 (52 Overall) Jason Heyward
Preseason projection: .295 AVG, 22 HR, 13 SB, 101 R, 88 RBI, 677 PA
Drafted by: Adam Kaplan, Game Of Inches
While I think Heyward is over-hyped and he probably won’t end up on any of my real teams, I think I have a disdain toward him because EVERYONE seems to love him. For those of you who play fantasy football, Heyward seems like Ryan Mathews—a guy who is young but seems to be a consensus top guy. These guys scare me. If Heyward has done this for years then I’d be more then delighted with this pick. But something seems off about this and I feel he’s poised for a sophomore slump.
I’d rather have my “feeling” be proved wrong and be told “I told you so” than believe the hype (something Public Enemy told me not to do) and have a crappy player on my team.
I promise you I’m a “stats guy,” but all I had to go off of was Mr. Gross’ rankings and my gut feeling
—which is terrible whether it’s coming from me or Joe Morgan. But as much as you should rely on statistics, don’t overlook “your guys” or your gut feelings. You could have looked at Austin Jackson‘s BABIP all of last year and sold high, and yet he still ended up with a batting average over .300. I know I might be burned at the stake for saying this on THT, but god forbid you don’t rely 100 percent on statistics.
Pick No. 5 (53 overall): Adam Wainwright
Preseason projection: 18 W, 2.81 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 214 K, 229 IP
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition
I almost always draft a starting pitcher in Round five—I want at least one ace to anchor my staff. I watch some of the people drafted earlier in the round—Tier 2 position players—and feel good about my “position scarcity” strategy in the first four rounds; other people are worried about winding up with Yunel Escobar, and I can play for the best pitcher on the board.
And I am shocked that Wainwright is available. He is arguably the second or third best starter in all of baseball. Look at his peripherals from last year—a 1.05 WHIP—-and he pitches for a good-hitting team. He’s a lock to win 16+ games, and he’s never had serious arm trouble. I can’t quite believe that Gallardo (an enigma), Jiminez (inconsistent second half), Cliff Lee (great, but his numbers will take a hit in Philly), and Jon Lester (a very nice pitcher, but no Wainwright) have all been taken before Wainwright. I grab him, feeling like I just found a $20 bill lying on the street.
After perusing the board and realizing I still wasn’t excited about any of the players remaining, I decided to take a second starting pitcher. Unless someone’s projections are entirely too optimistic, it’s rare to see an owner get two of his top six starters in the fourth and fifth rounds. But that’s just what I did. Latos has great stuff, plays in a great park, and will still be only 23 years old when the season begins. Plus, Latos should be allowed to pitch more innings this year after the Padres hampered his total last season.
Bautista is getting no love from anyone. I’ll stand alone on the shoulders of this guy. Read my post “Who’s your Jose?.” Then take a look at his stats and sabermetrics. Now tell me why I shouldn’t draft him to be my third baseman. If your reasoning is that he’s never done it before or he doesn’t spray the ball around, you are only trying to justify some reason to not believe. I’ll spend a fifth round pick to show I believe.
Pick No. 8 (56 overall): Kendry Morales
Preseason projection: .296 AVG, 27 HR, 1 SB, 75 R, 95 RBI, 580 PA
Drafted by: Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms
The decision was whether to take one of the few remaining reliable power sources in Morales and Dunn or to take McCutchen. In the end, I felt that power is harder to come by and that Morales’ batting average puts him ahead of Dunn’s extra few homers. I love McCutchen, and who doesn’t, but with Carl Crawford and David Wright already on board, it was more important to get the power while I could. Morales smacked 34 homers two years ago and drove in over 100 runs while batting over .300. He was on pace to produce similar numbers last year until his walk-off grand slam celebration went awry. I foresee more round-trippers from the Angels’ cleanup hitter this year and unlike many other first baseman, his .300 average is a big plus.
Although most analysts like to point out that quality starting pitching is deep in fantasy baseball—I myself am enamored with most of the top 50 ranked pitchers on my top 100 starting pitchers list—I do not like to gamble half of my 5×5 production. Rather than pick up starters last and patch together a starting staff or work the stream strategy, I prefer to draft two or three stud pitchers with good ratios and strikeout production early. Doing this gives me piece of mind because not only do I have an elite player, but such players enable me to take late-draft starting pitcher risks without having to worry about completely decimating my ratios or having to waste roster space on elite relievers. More importantly, elite starting pitchers get lots of innings, and lots of innings of good ratios allows you to draft an army of bottom-tier closers who pitch fewer innings of poor ratio baseball while racking up saves totals without hurting your bottom line.
I have Josh Johnson ranked as the fifth best fantasy starting pitcher for 2011. I was targeting Jason Heyward, who I expect to hit .300/30/15/100/100 in 2011, in this round, but those plans fell apart early in round five. With Adam Wainwright drafted and my fellow drafters already pulling lower ranked starters on my list, like Ubaldo Jimenez, Cliff Lee and Yovanni Gallardo, I felt it essential to pounce on Johnson to ace my staff. I expect Johnson to outperform Bill James’ K/9 and innings pitched totals in 2011.
Pick No. 10 (58 overall): Andrew McCutchen
Preseason Projection: .287 AVG, 16 HR, 33 SB, 99 R, 63 RBI, 662 PA
Drafted by: Tim Heaney, KFFL
Pleasantly surprised. I wait on outfielders in these formats, and I don’t mind having this five-category stud with an impact stolen base contribution as a complement to my pop. His batting average is on its way up to .300, thanks to boosts in BB/K and contact rate. The Bucs’ lineup will probably limit his runs total, but his legs can make up for the difference there.
I am embarrassed to admit this is the first pick I actually made in this draft since he is not a pitcher I am particularly fond of. I was hoping McCutchen would fall to me, and in the wake of him being snatched up one pick before mine, I picked Sabathia in disgust. He is, admittedly, a true workhorse and despite his non-elite strikeout rate, he does post near-elite strikeout totals given the sheer number of innings he pitches.
However his strikeout and walk rates have been trending the wrong way for the last three years and it will take handful of luck for Sabathia to post a low threes ERA again. Clayton Kershaw and Mat Latos are likely to post better numbers, though Sabathia’s durability does make him not a bad pick in this spot.
Pick No. 12 (60 overall): Clayton Kershaw
Preseason projection: 14 W, 3.13 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 221 K, 213 IP
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini, Bruno Boys
I don’t like to take two pitchers in a row this early, but there’s an odd bubble of pitchers in the ADP rankings around this area and I couldn’t pass on one of my favorite young guns in Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers ace collected 212 strikeouts over 204.1 innings while his walk rate plummeted from 4.8 to 3.6 per nine innings. This vast improvement in his K/BB ratio along with a drop in WHIP for the third year in a row led to a second consecutive sub-3 ERA season despite a rise in BABIP and HR/FB percentage. Oh, and did I mention he was only 22 last year? Any concerns of a falloff from the young arm as the season progressed were proven ridiculous Not only did he lower his ERA and K/BB ratio in the second half, he threw his first career complete game shutout in his third-to-last start against the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants. Considering his age, there’s a chance we haven’t even seen this electric fireballer’s ceiling yet.
Pick No. 1 (61 overall): Elvis Andrus
Preseason projection: .274 AVG, 2 HR, 34 SB, 82 R, 43 RBI, 586 PA
Drafted by: Lane Rizzardini — Bruno Boys
I’m not sure I like taking Andrus this early, but considering my draft slot, the scarcity of the position and my severe lack of stolen bases up to this point I snagged him. The Texas Rangers shortstop had a disappointing sophomore season, batting .265 with zero home runs (though he’s not exactly a power threat anyway) and a poor 68 percent success rate on the base paths. The only real sign of hope was a much improved walk-rate of 9.5 percent and he showed a level of patience at the plate that is uncommon for a 22-year-old. Considering his age there’s no doubt he’ll show some improvement this season. It’s just a matter of how much and whether he’ll justify his top-six ADP rank among shortstops. More success on the base paths and trust from the coaching staff will be the key.
I was very happy to land Beltre at this point in the draft; after the elite third baseman are off the board, Beltre provides great value in the fifth or sixth round. In Arlington, Beltre should post good power numbers and he’s shown he is capable of monster seasons. The third basemen taken after him are Michael Young, Pedro Alvarez, Aramis Ramirez and Casey McGehee. In my opinion Beltre is a definite tier above these guys, and Beltre in round six is much less a reach than one of them in rounds seven or eight.
As planned, there were plenty of stable, K-happy aces available after I built up my offense. The innings are piling up, but he manages his game well in conserving velocity, both during games and throughout the season. He’s a little streaky, but he eats frames and provides dominant starts.
Though it was a close decision between Haren and Zack Greinke with my sixth round pick, I sided with the former because of his record of success in the AL, history of heath, and all-around career success. Though Greinke could be better than Haren in 2011, Haren has less “down” years to his name and the indisputably better numbers over the past three seasons. Not convinced? In the history of baseball, only four pitchers who pitched 1,000 or more innings in their career have posted a higher K/BB ratio than Dan Haren’s 3.86 career mark: Tommy Bond (4.44), Curt Schilling (4.38), Pedro Martinez (4.15), and Mariano Rivera (4.15).
Haren is an indisputable WHIP machine with clear strikeout and ERA upside which make him an elite No. 1 starting pitcher, let alone a superior No. 2 for my team. I expect Haren, like Josh Johnson, to outperform what Bill James expects. Then again, maybe I am just trying to justify my frustration in not getting Beltre.
Not only will it be fun (in my imaginary mock team) to have both Ellsbury and Crawford, but why he slips so far is something I don’t understand. Sure, he was injured for most of 2010, like Morales and Morneau (I think we’re onto something here), but he’s expected back healthy this year. Plucking the value is something hard for me not to do in drafts. A healthy Ellsbury can put up Crawford-like numbers and if they bat 1-2 in that Red Sox lineup, both could score over 100 runs. I believe at this point in the draft, with Ellsbury, Crawford and Wright, I may have locked up the stolen base category. I expect Ellsbury to hit .300, score 100 runs, hit about 15 homers and drive in about 70 runs. Anything above 40 steals will suffice.
Pick No. 6 (66 overall): Zack Greinke
Preseason projection: 14 W, 3.57 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 193 K, 222 IP
Drafted by: Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times
To this point I haven’t really thrown my laptop. Well, until this pick. Jacoby Ellsbury was in my pre-pick queue when Brett Greenfield stole him from me. Disheveled and reeling, I decided to grab a pitcher out of the amazing talent that still remained available. I was enticed only by Greinke, Tommy Hanson and David Price. I choose Greinke because I think he could have great success pitching in the National League for a team I really like to be successful as well. He’s 27 and he’s still a great groundball pitcher. My only concern is the dominance regression. This pick is more of a gut call than anything I can back with statistics.
Like my Holliday pick earlier in the draft, Pence was just too good a value to pass up at this point. The Astros outfielder fills up the stat sheet, and has been a virtual model of consistency over the past few seasons. You can count on Pence to deliver 25 home runs, a batting average over .280, and good counting stats to go with double-digit steals. While he may not be in a great lineup at the moment, he should still put up enough numbers to be a solid No. 2 outfielder.
Pick No. 8 (68 overall): Adam Dunn
Preseason projection: .257 AVG, 42 HR, 1 SB, 100 R, 120 RBI, 667 PA
Drafted by: Dave Chenok, winner of The Hardball Times “Compete Against the Experts” fantasy league competition
I like to say that the real draft starts with Round 6. In the first five rounds, the players who get picked are pretty predictable, and it’s just a matter of how they fall out—someone can get injured, but in good leagues you don’t see dumb picks. Round 6 is where it starts to get interesting; the positions you (and everyone else) ended up with in Rounds 1-5 dictate your Rounds 6-10 picks, and it starts to be possible to make a mistake because ADP becomes influenced by reputation rather than ability (e.g., how old IS Torii Hunter?).
I’m running out of opportunities for that bopper first baseman I had wanted, and notice the projected power stats in my lineup thus far could be a problem downstream—there are few real home run types left. I had hoped to grab Kendry Morales—not a guaranteed bopper, but some upside and not a category killer—but he was taken the prior round. I don’t believe in Carlos Pena, especially not in a new league where he doesn’t know the pitchers well. I figure my choices are down to Paul Konerko—whose career year last year was preceded by a real stinker of a year in 2009, and who is about to turn 35—and Adam Dunn.
I have never taken Dunn in a fantasy draft (real or mock), and I may never do it again. I think the .257 projected average is probably optimistic—Dunn could just as easily hit .230. But I figure I am guaranteed power production with Dunn, and that he’s likely to hit even better in the strong White Sox lineup than in the Nationals’. Besides, he’s now going to be hitting in the AL Central, a weaker (as I see it) pitching division, especially with Greinke now in Milwaukee. And Dunn will no longer lose homers playing a bunch of games at CitiField. I sure wish I could have had Ryan Zimmerman and Prince Fielder, but that’s not how the world works (at least not in a snake draft). So I hold my nose and take Dunn.
By the way, the Dunn pick, I believe, shows the importance of drafting balance in the first few rounds. By taking Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Zimmerman, I establish a hitting base that allows me to draft a specialist like Dunn without getting killed in one category. If I take Mark Teixeira or Ryan Howard early, I don’t have that luxury.
At this point, I drafted another pitcher for two reasons. (1) At the key positions I needed at this point in the draft (i.e., middle infield) I was not impressed with who I could draft so I figured I could wait a few more rounds and not reach here and (2) I’m a big believer in having two elite pitchers by the time the sixth round is over. Carpenter (who was the best pitcher left and one of the last of the elites) along with Roy Halladay could anchor my pitching staff.
After passing on McCutchen, I was hoping for a stolen base threat and was aiming for Ellsbury, but alas was thwarted. I’m one of those eternal optimists with B.J. Upton, who is just coming to realize he won’t likely rekindle his 2007 form with 40+ steals on the side. Pick 70 seemed like an opportune time to gamble on Upton raising his average along with his usual steals and middling 15-20 homer power. Given that I had Miguel Cabrera and a few average boosters in the later rounds, it seemed like I had the team to stomach Upton’s batting average liability.
After spending my first five picks on hitters, it was time to finally nab the de facto ace of my staff. The pick came down to Hamels or Francisco Liriano, and was really a coin flip for me. If I were to do it again, I may go Liriano, but there was a lot I liked about Hamels, and the first difference was league. As is well documented, it is favorable to pitch in the National League as opposed to the American League. Also working in his favor was the fact he didn’t post a 4.55 xFIP and 5.80 ERA in 2009 like Liriano had.
Looking at Hamels’ stats, I was surprised to see both a significant jump in K/9 (9.10 in 2010 as opposed to 7.81 in 2009) and a spike in groundball percentage (45.4 rate in 2010 compared to a 40.4 mark in 2009), an unusual, but favorable combination. Just a quick and dirty projection for Hamels would suggest a safe bet of a mid-3.00s ERA with 185-plus strikeouts and a WHIP under 1.20 and the upside of him duplicating his 2010 stat line. Those numbers put me lagging behind owners who spent higher picks on their aces, but at a certain point I had to pluck a staff anchor, and I came into the draft with the intentions of drafting multiple high strikeout pitchers in the mid-rounds to minimize the risk of spending a higher pick on an elite ace and backing him with some lesser starters.
Pick No. 12 (72 overall): David Price
Preseason projection: 14 W, 3.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 191 K, 217 IP
Drafted by: Vince Caramela, The Hardball Times
I know a few picks ago I talked about avoiding Mat Latos due to Pitcher Abuse Points, and then I select David Price, who seems to be a popular candidate for regression in ’11. Last season, Price saw an innings jump of nearly 50 innings, but I figured I would take the risk for my second staring pitcher. (If Latos had been available here, obviously I would have selected him as my second starter, but that’s life in mock draft city). Maybe I’m reading too much in his last season’s ERA (another fantasy no-no) but I believe in Price and find him improving with each start. It is curious that he has seemed to have abandoned his slider but his two-seamer has been quite successful in inducing more ground balls and keeping his previously high home run rates down a smidge.