The first Hardball Times Mock Draft was conducted last week, if that isn’t already abundantly clear from analysis articles written by participants Derek Ambrosino, Michael Stein, and Ben Pritchett. The draft results can be found here, and my team:
1B Eric Hosmer KC R4 P2
1B Paul Goldschmidt ARI R11 P11
2B Ian Kinsler TEX R2 P2
2B Jason Kipnis CLE R9 P11
3B Brett Lawrie TOR R5 P11
3B Brent Morel CHW R24 P2
SS J.J. Hardy BAL R12 P2
C Carlos Santana CLE R3 P11
C Ramon Hernandez COL R26 P2
OF Justin Upton ARI R1 P11
OF Adam Jones BAL R8 P2
OF Logan Morrison MIA R13 P11
OF Lorenzo Cain KC R15 P11
OF Brandon Belt SF R19 P11
OF Carlos Lee HOU R20 P2
DH Edwin Encarnacion TOR R17 P11
SP Stephen Strasburg WAS R6 P2
SP Matt Garza CHC R7 P11
SP Dan Hudson ARI R10 P2
SP Max Scherzer DET R14 P2
SP Doug Fister DET R16 P2
SP Mark Buehrle MIA R21 P11
SP Edwin Jackson FA R22 P2
SP Ricky Nolasco MIA R23 P11
SP Brett Anderson OAK R25 P11
RP Rafael Betancourt COL R18 P2
In no particular order…
Ramon Hernandez, 26th round, second pick (302nd overall)
In two catcher leagues, the strategy is often either one of two: invest heavily in your backstops—and draft two highly regarded catchers in the single-digit rounds—or bottom-feed for “the guy who will hurt you the least.” Ding, ding! Hernandez may be the best dollar catcher you can find (we’ll call the 26th round equivalent to the dollar-player point in auctions), providing home run value without low batting average. Where a guy like Rod Barajas will kill you in batting average with what seems like a nightly 0-fer, Hernandez will provide an above-average batting average with the same power potential. Yes, he was a 12-team mixed league catcher last year, clocking in at No. 20 overall in catcher value (thank you, Baseball Monster), and add Coors Field to the list of pros. I know… enough about my second catcher, already.
Stephen Strasburg, sixth round, second pick (62nd overall)
Somewhat embarrassing love for Strasburg aside, I feel as though he’s is an excellent value in the early sixth round. Pitching is extremely deep this year, and it’s comforting to know that I had the choice among Strasburg, Yovani Gallardo, and Madison Bumgarner here. Ultimately, if you have an innings cap, it’s a no-brainer—Strasburg may not give you 180 innings this year, but you won’t be able to tell, in all likelihood, from his strikeout totals. His WHIP and strikeout upside is immense (like you need me to tell you that), and acquiring Strasburg gave me the freedom to select a Doug Fister type later in the draft without worries of his strikeout shortcomings.
Brandon Belt, 19th round, 11th pick (227th overall)
Curse you, Aubrey Huff. Belt, a preseason favorite after his excellent Triple-A season and spring training, was teased with irregular playing time, demotions and promotions, and unwise managerial decisions all while gathering 209 underwhelming plate appearances. I say the injustice is over! Huff was incredibly inept per a number of metrics (a negative WAR, a sub .300 wOBA, a below-average .306 OBP, and a .246 batting average), and Belt is itching to break out just as he was a year ago. He might get time in whatever part of the outfield not being occupied by Melky Cabrera, and Aubrey Huff will yield more plate appearances to him, all contributing to what will surely be his breakout season. If he has a clear-cut job and a way to 500+ plate appearances, my money’s on him being a top-20 first baseman option. Couple that with his outfield eligibility, and you have a downright steal in the 19th round.
Lorenzo Cain, 15th round, 11th pick (179th overall)
All aboard the Cain train! He may not know how to take a walk, but Cain has the potential to be an asset in all five categories, depending on whether his Triple-A power output was smoke and mirrors. Cain will beat out enough infield hits to maintain a high batting average, and, if given the green light, easily has the speed to steal 20+ bases. Perhaps Bill James is bullish, but a 10/73/58/22/.284 line from Cain would be robbery if acquired in the 15th round.
Edwin Encarnacion, 17th round, 11th pick (203rd overall)
He has a lot going for him, including tri-position eligibility. The ninth ranked third baseman last year (thanks again, Baseball Monster) can be found in the 17th round. He’s hitting in an offensive juggernaut, perhaps, based off of RotoChamp speculation, behind Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, with Brett Lawrie providing protection. I bet he gets more than 480 at-bats this year, and last time he hit the 500 at-bat threshold, he hit 26 homers. Just sayin’.
Rafael Betancourt, 18th round, second pick (206th overall)
After a relief-pitcher binge in the 16th and 17th rounds, in which question marks such as Andrew Bailey, Brandon League, Jordan Walden, and Chris Perez were taken, I was ecstatic to get Betancourt near the end of the closer wave. Just because Betancourt has never held the closer job before doesn’t mean he is incapable, and he’s a far superior pitcher to many of the incumbents who went before him. Home runs didn’t ruin his first two (and a half) seasons in Colorado, so why assume that to happen now? Top 10 closer potential.
Ian Kinsler, second round, second pick (14th overall)
Pitching is so deep I didn’t even consider one of the elite bodies in the first two (nay, four) rounds. Kinsler clocked in as the 12th best position player (I love you, Baseball Monster), trailing slightly my first round pick Justin Upton only because of his .253 batting average. His BABIP was nearly 40 points below his career mark, and with just a .260 batting average, he would’ve been a top five-position player last year (trailing Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun and Curtis Granderson).
Adam Jones, eighth round, second pick (86th overall)
Risky call, but if Jones can take a step forward from his fairly excellent (in fantasy terms, at least) 2011 campaign, he could be a huge steal. As it is, he’s a good value pick; he returned mid-sixth round value in a 12-team league last year.
Matt Garza, seventh round, 11th pick (83rd overall)
More fun with numbers: If Matt Garza had won two more games last year, he would’ve been the 18th ranked starting pitcher in terms of fantasy value. If he had 13 wins instead of 10: the 15th ranked starter. One more than that, and he would’ve been the 10th ranked starter. Maybe he gets a trade out of Chi-town, or maybe there is a fire lit under the collective bum of the Cubs by new manager Dale Sveum, but Garza’s a steal in the seventh round, and if the wins go his way, he could be propelled to ace-status.
Carlos Santana, third round, 11th pick (35th overall)
Here I’m torn. Santana is a huge asset in three categories (runs, runs batted in and home runs), yet may be a batting average liability even with a bit more luck. His strikeout rate rose and caused the dip in batting average more so than his BABIP did, and owners might have to live with a sub-.250 average. He was only the fourth most valuable catcher last season, though, and Victor Martinez is gone and Alex Avila isn’t such a stud as it seems. Thus, the top drafted catcher will be a fight between Santana, who is younger and therefore possessive of some untapped upside (in theory) and Mike Napoli, who will never have a better season than his 2011 one. I’d rather have Miguel Montero in the 10th, I guess…
Paul Goldschmidt, 11th round, 11th pick (131st overall)
Upton, Kinsler, Santana, Hosmer, Lawrie, Jones and Kipnis all might hit 20 home runs next year (perhaps Kipnis’ inclusion on the list is too bullish, but it’s more for illustrative purposes), so Goldschmidt’s selection here was pretty silly, in retrospect. I needed speed and starting pitching more than I did power, and already had my first baseman drafted. Still, in the 11th round, Goldschmidt has some value. I suppose, in a legitimate league, I would’ve been happy to have Goldschmidt as an asset to sell in later trading.
Eric Hosmer, fourth round, second pick (38th overall)
I’m as big of an Eric Hosmer fan as any, and he has the chance to be a five-category asset unlike any other first baseman (he’ll likely lead all first baseman in steals). That said, first base is fairly deep, and seeing Freddie Freeman taken at the end of the 10th round bummed me out. Freeman won’t steal more than a handful of bases, but he has otherwise similar numbers and perhaps some batting average upside beyond .282. Additionally, a guy like Michael Cuddyer put up similarly valuable numbers to Hosmer and now plays in Colorado. He was taken in the late eighth round. I wouldn’t call myself disgusted, but I’d take back this pick in a minute.
Doug Fister, 16th round, second pick (170th overall)
Definitely underestimated the Fielder signing domino effect, and also overestimated his 2011 season (uh, don’t forget, Nick, that he put up 4.00+ ERAs in back-to-back years… with a stout defense behind him, in a pitcher’s park). Would rather have Shaun Marcum in retrospect.
Ricky Nolasco, 23rd round, 11th pick (275th overall)
In 2008, he was the 12th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2009, he was the 53rd most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2010, he was the 68th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
In 2011, he was the 238th most valuable fantasy pitcher.
I’ve shamed myself. I’ve shamed myself. I’ve shamed myself.
Mark Buehrle, 21st round, 11th pick (251st overall)
Yikes. What was I thinking here? Well, I’d been looking at Buehrle’s WAR numbers a lot to dissect his signing with the Miami Marlins, and realized he was quite a solid pitcher. I guess it snuck into my head during the proceedings and I had the devil on my shoulder saying, “Go for it! You have Strasburg and Garza and Scherzer! No need for strikeouts!) Little did I know that Marky Mark barely cracked the top 70 starting pitchers? Can I use my mulligan?
Brent Morel, 24th round, second pick (278th overall)
It was the 24th round, so I can cut myself some slack. That said, I should’ve burned this pick on a player with more upside than Morel. Maybe he’ll go 15-10 with a little bit of luck, but better fliers would have been: Pedro Alvarez, Jason Kubel, Casey McGehee, or even Yonder Alonso if you wanted another hitter, and David Robertson, Daniel Bard, and Rex Brothers if you wanted another pitcher.
J.J. Hardy, 12th round, second pick (134th overall)
If Hardy plays in 150 games, then I’ll take back this disgust and have a more neutral attitude towards this pick. Still, how could I have been so blinded by his resurgence? A good player by all means, Hardy was worth a lot last year in real life (fWAR of 4.8) and in fantasy (30 homers), yet still lagged just behind Jhonny Peralta in value. I bought him on a bit of a power binge, but didn’t need another 25-home run hitter at this juncture. I did deserve it for taking Daniel Hudson before Dee Gordon, expecting the latter to be there for me in the late 11th. He was taken, of course, with the next pick.
What did I learn?
Pitching is deep, but don’t be blind…
Just because pitching is deep doesn’t mean you need to load up on position players in the single-digit rounds. I took Jason Kipnis, for example, in the eighth round, which strikes me as somewhat unnecessary in retrospect considering the offensive juggernaut I put together in the first five rounds. I was coming off of back-to-back starting pitching selections, but I wasn’t quick enough to self-critique; If I said pitching was deep, and therefore waited heavily on pitching, it’s okay to select three in a row. I let my subconscious rule the day, and missed out on Jordan Zimmerman, Brandon Beachy or Anibal Sanchez because I couldn’t scrape the thought that pitching was deep. Shame.
Don’t have a quick trigger finger…
Also known as “study the draft board before you pick.” Perhaps it was an aberration, but it did not even occur to me that Ryan Zimmerman was on the board in the beginning of the fourth round, and I would have at least considered Zimmerman over Hosmer, which would’ve altered the entire course of my draft. It was a silly mistake—and we all make them—and there are no extra points for drafting your guy after 23 seconds of consideration instead of a minute and 23 seconds.
I made the mistake of chatting with co-drafters and watching basketball during the mock draft, and the nature of online drafts is such that the Internet might distract you, as it would during your day job. I should’ve, in retrospect, been constantly tweaking my “wish list,” targeting sleepers, and looking at strengths and weaknesses in my roster at various points in the draft, and I should’ve been studying my competition for points of weakness and demand in the market.
Draft who you want, when you want…
Gosh, how many times have you heard this one? I’m reminded of it every single time I draft, though, and Dee Gordon was taken one pick after I made an ill-advised bet that he’d be on the board for an entire go-round, and I missed on Jason Motte because I thought the early 16th round was a reach for him. That’s nonsense. In context, you can justify most any borderline decision in one of these drafts, and a Jason Motte, who has never had a full-year of closer experience anywhere, may be a reach if he’s drafted in the early 16th on average (again, I use the phrase “may” because he could very well provide great value at that draft position). But you are not the mean; you are a random value that feeds into the mean! Reach away (within logical limits).