The Verdict: don’t mock the mock draft (part 2)

Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training last week, so fantasy baseball season is officially here. That means you are likely preparing for one or more drafts within the next month and a half. Last year, I wrote about the benefits of doing mock drafts as part of preparing for your own fantasy baseball league drafts. You can read that article here. Recently, I participated in a 12-team, 5×5 roto mock draft hosted by THT Fantasy that made me think of another benefit to doing mock drafts.

Hundreds of resources are available for fantasy baseball drafts. Whether it is a magazine, web site, radio show, podcast, or other medium, you can count on getting commentary and analysis of a mock draft done by some industry experts. These are very helpful to the hundreds of thousands of fantasy baseball players who crave as much information and insight as possible. But a mock draft’s intrinsic value is lost in translation with the typically generic and milquetoast analysis provided by industry insiders (myself included). That is why I wanted to step outside of the proverbial box and discuss another angle with mock drafting.

When registering for this mock draft, I selected the 12th pick because that is my draft position in an 18-team, head-to-head points league I run. I wanted to get in some practice drafting at that position, so right off the bat I had a specific purpose for what I was looking to learn. What I was most curious about was what choices would be around after the first 11 picks. I feared that my top hitters would be off the board.

Sure enough, that is exactly what happened after Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Prince Fielder were taken before me.

Before continuing, I need to provide some background on my preferences and drafting strategy. I have never given much credence to the position scarcity theory—drafting a player at a particular position simply because there are so few viable options. When I drafted Cano with the 13th overall pick in my 18-team league in 2012, it was only the third time I had ever taken a second baseman before the fifth round of that draft since 1999. I am also relatively conservative when it comes to making early-round picks on players with significant injury histories.

That being said, I decided to try something new. I selected Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Hamilton with my wrap-around picks in the first and second rounds. I realize nothing seems overtly outrageous about that. But given my history, this was new territory for me. Tulowitzki is very talented and certainly worthy of a top-two pick. But he gets injured every year and is extremely streaky.

I also have significant reservations about Hamilton, which put me completely out of my comfort zone. First, he is also injury prone; he has played more than 150 games only once in his career. I realize he stayed relatively healthy in 2012 and put up tremendous numbers. But he was in a contract year and I am skeptical about players who perform like that immediately before cashing in on a lucrative long-term deal. Finally, we all saw the struggles Pujols endured during his first season in Anaheim. Perhaps Hamilton won’t have as big a problem adjusting since he is still in the same league and division. But if a hitter like Pujols needs a year to acclimate himself to a new environment, then I have to think Hamilton may suffer the same fate.

The point is that Tulowitzki and Hamilton represent two choices that I would normally not make in a real draft under these circumstances. We all tend to get caught up in ADP (average draft position), expert projections, and popular trends. But drafting a fantasy baseball team is an art form because it is unpredictable. You may think you know what is going to happen, but a lot of times you will be wrong in your assumptions. That is why it is so beneficial to do mock drafts so you can practice thinking on your feet and improvising.

But even more important than that, doing mock drafts allows you the freedom of testing different strategies without any consequences. I honestly don’t know whether I would actually select Tulowitzki with the 12th pick in a real draft. My preconceived notions and historical tendencies lead me to believe I would go in a different direction. But in a mock draft, I had nothing to lose by employing a new strategy. In addition, because this mock draft was composed of experts and would be written about on web sites and blogs, I thought it would be interesting from an analysis perspective to go in this direction.

So what does all of this mean to you? Basically, I would encourage you to participate in mock drafts as part of your own preparation for the real thing. You can read as many magazines and articles as you want breaking down other people’s mock drafts. But every draft is different and you have to be prepared to go to Plan B before the clock runs out. The best way to do that is by doing mock drafts and trying out different scenarios. If by the end of the draft you have a team that is a lock for last place, then you have at least learned some valuable lessons on what not to do.

Remember, don’t mock it until you try it.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: Trapped in the minors
Next: Weird scoreboard facts »


  1. DrBGiantsfan said...

    As far as testing theories in mock drafts, aren’t you really preparing for next year’s draft?  You won’t get to see whether your theory plays out positively or negatively before your real draft this year.

    I’m just wondering if, instead of picking over the scraps of what’s left of the hitters by pick #12, you might be better off cutting against the grain and taking an ace pitcher or two at that point?  Coming out of the turn with 2 out of Verlander, Kershaw or Strasburg would be a heckuva throwdown on the pitching side of the ledger.

  2. chuck said...

    how is it a REAL mock draft if you take players you would not normally take?  i dont understand the reason and you totally make the mock draft invalid if you just take random players.  while they may be decent players, youre just screwing up things for someone who is actually taking the draft seriously.

  3. DrBGiantsfan said...


    I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s taking random players.  He’s testing a theory of how to construct a fantasy team to see what he ends up with.  That is a valid use of a mock draft.  I’d much rather he do that than what most people do which is grab 2 or 3 big name players then split and put it on autodraft.

  4. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...


    He specifically selected Tulo and Hamilton because of their injury history, so that is hardly random.

    Also, he’s just giving you one example.  His point is that if you draft differently in the mocks than you always do in drafts, you get to see how things play out differently.  Maybe your strategy isn’t the best for the group of players available this year.  And he’s not saying that you can’t draft like you normally do, he’s saying that you should mix it up, see which strategy works for you.

    If the other people in the MOCK draft is taking it seriously, then this behavior is actually GOOD for them.  In a draft, unless you know all the other GMs well enough to draft for them, there will always be someone who makes that wild left turn of a pick that happens to ruin your plans.  You need to learn how to bounce off that in real time and adjust on the run.  Doing the mock helps with that.  And that is his point:  “But every draft is different and you have to be prepared to go to Plan B before the clock runs out. “

    I did as DrB noted when I was in a real draft and when it was my turn, all the big hitters I had on my draft list was gone (I was last in a snake draft), so I went for Johan (this was a while back when he was still good) and Lincecum, then added a number of other good pitchers to build a stellar staff.  I didn’t win (it was a keeper league, so I was focusing more on the future with my picks, for example, I picked up Nelson Cruz before he became a regular) but did well with my team and I thought I had it set up nicely for the future (but it died after a season and a part, basically…).

    I’ve never actually done a mock before, but I believe in the power of trying out your draft ideas ahead of time (my first real draft, I ended up with almost every starter on my favorite team, even though I knew the team was mediocre; lesson learned!), just didn’t know whether there was a place that did mocks for free or not.

  5. Chad said...

    As long as he is following a somewhat sensible strategy it will be one that the other participants could possibly be facing when they do a real draft.  He took picks that are out of character for himself but not that would be outlandish picks at that spot.  If you are just throwing out really outlandish picks or going with a truly bizarre strategy then it definitely throws things off but that wasn’t the case.

  6. Rusty said...

    At the turn, I would have taken Bautisa and Beltre.  Both are studs and (assuming Joey Batts is ok) are durable.  Tulo and Hamilton are very high risk picks given their injury histories at the end of round one.

  7. Michael A. Stein said...

    When doing mock drafts, they should all be taken seriously by everyone participating.  If you do not intend to take them seriously, then you are doing a disservice to everyone else and wasting your own time.

    My point was that I normally do not take riak-averse players, especially early in a draft.  But given what was left for me at #12 and 13, I decided to take a different approach then I normally do.  By doing this, I could gauge a new strategy and see how it played out.  Then I would have this knowledge to consider in a real draft and think about it more so than I normally would have.

    The idea in doing mock drafts is not to screw someone else.  It is to see what trends are developing and also practice thinking on your feet in the event things do not pan out the way you anticipate.  If presented with this scenario in a real draft, I would have to deviate from my plans since my top 11 choices were off the board.

  8. Kevin Wilson said...

    Unless you are mocking with your actual leaguemates, mocks are worthless IMO. You aren’t drafting in a vacuum, so however something plays out for you in one draft does not even remotely carry over to any other draft you might partake in.

    One wrinkle changes everything. There is nothing to learn, other than the software of the league if you are new.

  9. Jason B said...

    Rusty: “At the turn, I would have taken Bautista and Beltre.”

    Bautista was already off the board.

    That 12/13 pick combo is a tough one IMO; if you really want a 2nd-3rd round talent (ADP 15-30) then you may have to stretch and take them comparatively early, because it’s a loooong wait until pick 36 rolls back around.  For example, if you don’t take one of the super aces at the end of the first (part of the Kershaw-Verlander-Strasburg triumvirate) you know you won’t get one at all, because they’ll all be gone at #36.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>