Last night I participated in my second expert mock of the year and my first expert snake draft, hosted by Mock Draft Central. Let me first say what a pleasurable experience this was. Mock Draft Central had it set up where non-participants could sit in on the draft, watch the picks live, and ask the experts questions throughout the night. I even received a couple of questions from THT Fantasy Focus readers.
In addition, Lenny Melnick and Paul Greco were broadcasting live during the draft to discuss the picks. I had more fun sitting there, reading and answering questions, and listening to Melnick and Greco than I can express. Overall, a wonderful experience, so a big thank you to everyone involved.
So, I’m going to use this article to walk you through my strategies going into the draft and the decision-making process that I went through during the draft.
Early round strategy
With my first mock draft of the year already completed, I was much more at ease going into this one. I, again, used the projections that will be available in the THT Season Preview Book combined with my preferred valuation methods.
My strategy for the early rounds:
- Take the most valuable hitters in the first three rounds
- Take a pitcher and a hitter in the fourth and fifth rounds
If Jake Peavy was there in the third I would have considered taking him and then going with two hitters in the fourth and fifth, but that didn’t happen.
Early round picks
I was randomly assigned the third pick in the draft. When Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez went #1 and #2, most people would take Jose Reyes #3. I, however, opted to take David Wright. The reason for this is that THT’s projection for Reyes isn’t overly optimistic: .284 BA, 10 HR, 60 SB. Wright, on the other hand, had a very nice looking line, and my valuation system said he was the pick: .313 BA, 25 HR, 25 SB.
The funny thing is that Wright wasn’t actually in my Top 3. Johan Santana was #2 and David Ortiz was #3. I knew that there would be plenty of other pitching bargains throughout the draft, so I skipped Santana. In addition, I was targeting Frank Thomas for my utility spot, so Ortiz got passed over as well. That left Wright at #4, and that was the pick.
Since I had the third pick, I had to wait a while for my second round pick. No big deal, though, as my 10th ranked hitter was waiting there for me. With the 22nd pick of the draft, I selected Carlos Lee and his .292/29 HR/14 SB projection.
The third round is where I strayed just a bit from the THT projections. I’m a big fan of Russell Martin this year. It’s not often you will find a catcher who can steal over 20 bases. If that’s not enough, though, he has a high contact rate and very good plate discipline. His HitTracker chart is very pretty-looking and power growth seems fairly likely, so I was pretty sold on Martin as my third pick. The projections said Victor Martinez would have been a good value pick in this spot, so I took Martin in his place.
By this point, I knew I wanted C.C. Sabathia as my first pitcher. Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I didn’t take him with the fourth round pick, but that and the fifth rounder were only a few picks apart and it didn’t end up mattering much. So in the fifth round of the draft, I got myself a stud pitcher with a fantastic projection: 3.17 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 173 K, 206 IP. That’s what I call value.
With the fourth round pick I got Torii Hunter. This was a straight value pick. I wasn’t targeting anyone specific here, and Hunter was the best non-pitcher left on my draft board.
Strategy outcome: Success
Early-middle round strategy
Looking at ADP reports, I knew I would have to reach in the early rounds for the top middle infielders like Brandon Phillips and B.J. Upton, so my plan was to wait until here to take one or two. Using these ADP reports, I found that Dan Uggla would be a good value in this area, so I zeroed in on him.
Chipper Jones was another guy who looked like a good value in this area. Those were my targets in rounds six and seven, and I’d analyze how the market was playing out to see which I should take first.
After this was where things got a little tricky. I knew I wanted a pitcher somewhere in the 8-10 area, but I didn’t have any specific targets. I also was going to be on the lookout for more middle infield bargains, but if there were none to be found simply go for whatever position offered up value.
Early-middle round picks
A much less concrete plan than the first five rounds, my early-middle round strategy was more of a waiting game to see who would be left over for me.
Uggla was waiting for me as my sixth pick rolled around, so I grabbed him. I waited until the seventh pick for Chipper because guys I had similarly valued (Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena) were still hanging around.
There was a backup plan in place in case I couldn’t get these guys, but luckily I didn’t need it.
My eighth rounder really got me upset. John Smoltz, the fifth pitcher on my board, was still hanging around. I was all set to take him, when Jason Pliml took him the pick before me. I settled for Chris Young, the ninth ranked pitcher.
It should be noted that Jorge Posada, the fifth catcher taken, was selected the pick after Young. He was THT’s 3rd ranked catcher and a great value here. In retrospect, I could have taken someone other than Martin in the third round, but I had no real way of knowing that the top catchers would last this long. That’s one of the reasons I like auctions so much. You can throw out a few catchers early and get an immediate feel how the market values players at scarce positions.
There weren’t any obvious middle infield values with the ninth pick, so I took Jermaine Dye instead. I had him rated as a fourth round value, so getting him and his projected .279 BA and 30 HR in the ninth wasn’t bad at all.
Strategy outcome: Success
Middle round strategy
In here, I had certain positions I wanted to fill, and would play the value game to fill them. I wanted at least one pitcher, maybe two. I wanted at least one middle infielder, maybe two. I would consider filling my second catcher spot if enough catchers had already been taken. I was also targeting Frank Thomas in this area to fill my utility spot. Lastly, if there were any good values at other positions to be had, I would take them.
Middle round picks
I was specifically targeting Orlando Cabrera with my tenth round pick, but thanks again to Jason Pliml, he was taken immediately before me. That left me scrabbling a little bit, and I ended up taking Francisco Liriano. Other starting pitching targets of mine (Matt Cain, Rich Hill, Yovani Gallardo) had already been taken, although I might have picked Liriano over them anyway.
I profiled Liriano back in November, and I think he is a great pick here. Andy Behrens also thought so, as he said he was getting ready to take him. After the draft, he also said that if this were a real league, he’d begin trying to pry Liriano from me. I wanted him with #11, but overall, I like the pick.
With Cabrera gone, a pitcher taken, and the next tier of middle infielders still a stretch, I went with straight value here and took Matt Kemp. There are a few question marks surrounding his playing time, but his projection makes him a nice pick here: 510 AB, .304 BA, 18 HR, 11 SB.
With 12 rounds left, I still needed to fill 6 pitcher spots, 1 outfield spot, 1 catcher spot, my first base spot, my utility spot, and 2 middle infield spots. I had specific targets everywhere except for the middle infield and was pretty sure I could get them all starting with my next two picks, so I went with two middle infielders here.
My choices were Felipe Lopez and Jeff Kent. I’m not sure why everyone is so down on Kent. THT has him projected for a .286 average and 17 home runs, but his HitTracker profile shows that he still has plenty of power, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he outperforms that projection. Even if he simply meets it, he would still be a pretty good value in the 13th round.
I know I said I was targeting Frank Thomas here, but Jim Thome wasn’t taken until the 12th round, and Gary Sheffield was still around. I figured if everyone was that low on these older, injury-prone DHs, that I could wait on Thomas.
Strategy outcome: Success
Middle-late round strategy
By this point in the draft, I always try to have a few guys in mind that I want to get. In this draft, these guys included Frank Thomas, either Geovany Soto orJ.R. Towles, Barry Bonds, and a few pitchers. Jeremy Bonderman was still left, and he would be my first choice, but there were others I had similarly valued.
Middle-late round picks
With my 14th round pick, I decided that Joey Votto was the best first base option left (and the drop off to the next guy was pretty large), even if he has Scott Hatteberg behind him. A 14th round pick isn’t anything I’m going to lose sleep over if I miss on, but Votto could easily end up as a steal here.
The pick before my 15th rounder was Geovany Soto, so I knew I couldn’t wait anymore to get Towles. With that, I was just two players away from completing my offense.
Here’s where I’ll admit the one real mistake I think I made in this draft. While I knew I wanted Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield was still left in the 14th and 15th round. I probably should have taken Sheffield instead of Votto and forgotten about Thomas. I, instead, took Thomas with my 16th round pick as Sheffield was taken a few picks earlier. I had Thomas as fair value in the 9th round, so this certainly wasn’t a bad pick, but I had Sheffield as fair value in the 7th round, so it probably would have been smarter to get him instead.
Now I needed pitching, and with Jeremy Bonderman still out there, the choice was easy. A projected 3.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 143 strikeouts in 176 innings is a fantastic pickup in the 17th round.
Strategy outcome: Success, but with a small missed opportunity
Late round strategy
As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t taken a closer yet. I think it is poor strategy to take a closer much earlier than here. If you want to take a guy like Joakim Soria or Rafael Soriano in Round 15, I couldn’t really fault you too much, but earlier than that and you’re making a mistake. I’ll be talking much more in-depth about this topic later on, but this is where I was planning on starting to look at closers. I wanted to get at least two closers or closers-in-waiting and possibly grab a third.
Late round picks
In the 18th round, I took Troy Percival. There were only a few real closers left, and I knew I could get my starters a bit later. Percival isn’t a guy I’m thrilled to get, but saves are saves, and if he doesn’t remain the closer all year, I’m only using an 18th round pick.
After getting my first closer and knowing I could get Maddux and Baker later, I decided it was time to take Bonds. Even though he isn’t signed yet, I think Bonds is a great pick here. Taking guys with a lot of room for fluctuation is a very good strategy in the end-game of a draft, which is something else I’ll be talking about in the future.
After Bonds, I took Tony Pena. He’s got a shot at the closers role in Arizona, and if he doesn’t get it, no big deal. I use these last few picks to speculate, and if a few hit I’m happy.
Maddux came next, in Round 21. I would have been comfortable taking him much earlier, but his ADP was so low I figured I could get him around here. I probably waited a bit too long, but I was curious just how far he would fall. Check out THT’s projection for him: 3.58 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 97 K in 189 IP.
C.J. Wilson, slated for the Rangers closer’s role, was still there in Round 22, so I took him. That gave me 3 potential closers for a very small investment.
Finally, I took Scott Baker, a personal favorite of mine, with my final pick. His LIPS ERA was 4.36 in 2006 and 4.05 in 2007, and an ERA under 4.00 in 2008 wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
Strategy outcome: Success
Overall, I think this draft was a huge success. I got value with almost every pick and got nearly every player I targeted. If you guys have questions about anything I did, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
I don’t have anymore expert mocks planned, but if anyone knows of any, I’d be more than happy to participate. Once again, thanks to everyone at Mock Draft Central, Paul Greco, and Lenny Melnick for a really fun experience last night.