What was I thinking?

First of all, if you haven’t gotten the chance to familiarize yourself with the results of THT’s recent mock draft, you can do so by clicking here.

When I took on the duty of organizing and putting together the mock draft, never did it occur to me that I would be forced into the No. 1 pick. I hate drafting first, and not for the reasons you may think. Sure, it’s a nice problem to have. You get your choice of anybody. Who could have a problem with that?

Personally, I really hate the length of time in between picks, which is probably the reason why I am a proponent of the auction draft. I like to pick players on my terms. I enjoy taking the bidding process to decide how much I value a guy. In a snake draft, you are a slave to the draft order and the clock. I digress.

Upon learning of my first pick, I narrowed my selection down to four guys: Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, and Jose Bautista. I labored through several different scenarios. I had it all narrowed down to Pujols, then God and Mike Ilitch gave Cabrera back his third-base eligibility. For me, my decision became clear. Miguel was my man.

Even though third base isn’t as bad as it was last year, that distinction is just enough to set Cabrera above Pujols. Cabrera is old in baseball years, but not in real life. He’s only 29. He’s every bit as capable as Pujols to put up the same stats, but I would much rather my third baseman flourish than my first baseman.

One note I made in my head during our mock draft was that first base isn’t quite as deep as you may think. So I wouldn’t sleep on the middle tier, because once those guys are gone, it gets really nasty.

Here I am, ecstatic with my selection of Cabrera. I was set on drafting another big first baseman like Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira and either Mike Stanton or Ryan Braun during my swing picks. I had underestimated the stock of both Stanton and Braun as they flew off in the second round before I got the chance. I adjusted and grabbed Tex. So I decided the remaining hitters weren’t quite up to the talent level of the starting pitching so I nailed Tim Lincecum down as my ace.

With Lincecum, Cabrera, and Teixeira in my quiver, I aimed my sights on speed and talent. Nelson Cruz was the most talented player on the board, and Michael Bourn was the best source of speed to help offset all the power I was starting to amass. Bourn is a very undervalued commodity even if he loses some of his batting average in 2012. With an assumption that Cruz could stay healthy, I am very happy with the way my team is starting to look.

As we entered round six, I really wanted a studly catcher, but Derek Ambrosino decided he needed to not only draft Brian McCann but also Joe Mauer, a sleeper pick of mine. Ambrosino’s greed forced me to go back to the starting pitching. I struggled with the safe pick of Matt Cain or the riskier, more-talented Adam Wainwright. Anybody that knows how I play fantasy baseball knows the decision I will make here. When in doubt, draft talent, so the result was Wainwright.

I paired him with Kevin Youkilis, who had dropped way too far. I understand the age, health, and production problems he displayed in 2011. But I don’t need him to mash 30 home runs. Throughout Youky’s career he’s been an OBP monster. That’s what he gives me. He also gives me some flexibility at the hot corner if I were to need to trade later. I know this is a mock draft, and it’s silly to prepare for trading, but that’s how you prepare, people!

Okay, here’s where I start taking some chances. Lured in by the two front-end aces and underwhelmed by the hitters available, I paired Yu Darvish with Josh Johnson to complete a solid front four in my rotation. I’m not usually so pitcher-heavy, but I absolutely love the talent of all four starting pitchers I’ve assembled.

Everybody is wrong about their hesitation against Darvish, and I’m tired of saying why. Johnson is ridiculously good when he toes the rubber. How often he toes that rubber is the real question, but I think that’s worth a ninth-round pick to figure out.

I spent the next four picks filling out my positional needs with upside. Andre Ethier will bounce back now that he’s healthy. Ike Davis will benefit from the cozier home park and natural growth. I’m not usually a Dustin Ackley fan, but he was far-and-away the best second baseman available, and he should help my average. Alexei Ramirez gives me a solid shortstop. I have him pegged as an upper-middle-tier option up the middle. He still has potential, but if he continues to do what he’s been doing, then that would be fine for this roster.

I decided to go all talent with the next four picks. Cory Luebke is a stud in the making. For those that don’t know, you should really acquaint yourself with this guy. Part of the reason the Padres were ready to let Mat Latos move on was because Luebke is ready to take that next step and lead that staff.

Yes, I did draft Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes. I literally looked at the players available, and I couldn’t get the scouts’ comparison of his power to Mike Stanton. With a 70-plus scouting grade on his speed, we really don’t know how good this guy really is. He’ll strike out, I’m sure, but I’m all about spending a fifteenth-round pick sheerly on chance, especially in the outfield position.

My next two picks were pretty obvious and easy for me. I still felt like I could add some more speed, and I still hadn’t garnered the services of a closer, hence my selections of Jason Motte and Mike Trout.

I believe Carlos Quentin has the power to still hit home runs in Petco if he stays healthy. That’s a really big “if,” but there’s little risk this late. Quentin will serve as a solid backup to Trout and Cespedes.

I absolutely love Jim Johnson. I’m glad he’s getting a chance to close, but I secretly hoped he would get his chance to start. He’s a special talent that the rest of the baseball world doesn’t know yet.

Round twenty marks a stretch of five out of seven picks I do not like. Gordon Beckham was really the best available middle infielder, but I’m by no means sold on a breakout. I don’t know if I’d draft him on a real team, but he’ll do as a middle infielder. If not for the forcing of Jason Kubel as my last pick (we had to roster an actual DH), I would have drafted Tyler Pastornicky to back up the unstable Beckham.

I learned my lesson that I will need to draft a catcher, earlier than I did especially in a two-catcher league. I drafted Geovany Soto and prayed that Devin Mesoraco would last to me in the next pick. Well, he didn’t, and I settled with Salvador Perez.

Perez hit very well in Kansas City last year, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought he could replicate those stats. However, the full-time gig is his to lose, and Wil Myers has moved from behind the plate to the outfield, so he doesn’t have that talented rookie pushing him. It’s worth a wait-and-see.

I don’t like Francisco Liriano anymore, but I didn’t have much choice. I probably should have drafted Matt Thornton with this pick, but hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

My other two pertinent picks were Yonder Alonso and Jair Jurrjens. I was very excited to get Alonso this late. He has pole-to-pole gap power, and he’ll finally get his chance to show the baseball world his skill set. It’s a shame it’s taken this long.

I’m not a huge believer in Jurrjens, but at some point, the hate has to end. Round 25 is about that time. Jurrjens enters 2012 still recovering from his injuries, but that has been the theme with my pitching staff. Why stop now?

Here’s the final product:

C- Geovany Soto CHC
C- Salvador Perez KC
1B- Mark Teixeira NYY
2B- Dustin Ackley SEA
3B- Miguel Cabrera DET
SS- Alexei Ramirez CHW
CI- Kevin Youkilis BOS
MI- Gordon Beckham CHW
OF- Nelson Cruz TEX
OF- Michael Bourn ATL
OF- Andre Ethier LAD
OF- Yoenis Cespedes FA
OF- Mike Trout LAA
DH- Ike Davis NYM
B- Carlos Quentin OF SD
B- Yonder Alonso OF SD
B- Jason Kubel OF ARI

P- Tim Lincecum SP SFO
P- Adam Wainwright SP STL
P- Josh Johnson SP FLA
P- Yu Darvish SP TEX
P- Cory Luebke SP SD
P- Francisco Liriano SP MIN
P- Jair Jurrjens SP ATL
P- Jason Motte RP STL
P- Jim Johnson RP BAL

I’m not overly impressed, but I’m not embarrassed. I was able to get a lot of my guys, and I missed a lot of my guys. Personally, I felt Paul Singman’s team was the best, but I enjoyed the practice.

I hope that I, along with you, will take this opportunity to refine some of my flawed draft practices. I won’t make a real team this volatile. I know that, but I don’t see where I necessarily would have strayed too far from the guys I drafted. I like eighty percent of my team, and that’s not too bad. I look forward to seeing your opinions and comments.

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  1. Nate said...

    Nice article breaking down your thought process. One thing I’m confused about: You reference Youkilis’ being an OBP monster, but it’s a 5×5 league. Is your thinking that OBP equates to decent average and lots of runs?

  2. Derek Ambrosino said...

    I didn’t expect myself to pull the 2 ace catcher move, but I wanted to see how it would work out. More on my insights from this draft later in the week.

  3. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Nate- You are correct that my assessment of Youk’s OBP history is of the Bill James mindset that getting on base creates runs. In that Red Sox lineup, Youkilis will always have a good fantasy value as long as he regains his career norms. I think he will and it seems the room thinks he won’t. So that’s where you find value.

    @Derek Ambrosino- I echo your Mauer sentiment, but you are dead to me for stealing him…

  4. philosofool said...

    Not sure I get the love for Singman’s team. Not enough pitching and low batting averages. Outside Wright, Sandoval and Votto, that’s a collection of guys that hit .240-.265 and you’d have to trade one of the better hitters for a pitcher to have a winning team.

  5. Paul Singman said...

    @philosofool – In general I agree with you. My round 9/10/11 picks were Lind/Espinsosa/Willingham—all redundant, low avg, power guys. Substituting out Lind and Espinosa for a guy like Howie Kendrick and then another SP would have given my team a lot more balance and probably improved it.

  6. Jthom17 said...

    This mock draft seemed to not value closers very high. I would have preferred another closer to one of your SP. I have very little confidence in either Liriano or Jurrjens.

  7. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jthom17- At the point in the draft that I took Liriano and Jurrjens all of the confirmed closers were off the board. It wasn’t until after the draft that we started hearing that Matt Thornton was the proclamated choice of Robin Ventura. However, I do agree as I stated above I wish I would have taken Thornton even if he’s bound to lose the job to Jesse Crain or Addison Reed.

    There were some other decent set-up guys I could have drafted as well, like Rex Brothers, Mike Adams, and Dan Bard, and I agree that I could have done better with those picks over Liriano. But I wasn’t really thinking middle reliever, my mistake.

  8. DrBGiantsfan said...

    Suggested alternative picks:

    Round 7:  Matt Cain instead of Youk.

    Round 9:  Johson’s injury is a shoulder, right?  What about Gio here?  Drafting Matt Cain in Round 7 frees you up to go position player here:  Montero?  Kipnis?  If you take Kipnis, then you can use Ackley as your MI which looks a lot better than Beckham.

    Round 15:  Cespedes?  Some scouts are saying he’s going to have to start in AA!  If you are going to take a flyer on someone here, why not Rasmus or Harper or Moustakas?  Heck, I’d take Austin Jackson over Cespedes!  If you took Cain instead of Youk, then Moose could be your 3B here. Or you could go back to pitching here and take Derek Holland who is a steal in round 16.

    Round 17:  Angels OF situation is way too crowded to count on Trout for much this year, plus he’s no sure bet to start off with a bang.  There’s not a whole lot exciting out there, so maybe Trout is a good gamble, but you have to consider Pagan.

    Round 20:  What about Ian Desmond instead of Beckham?

    Round 22:  What about Scott Baker instead of Liriano?

    Round 23:  Consider Lucroy, Salty or Hundley over Perez although Perez is not bad here.

  9. Jonathan said...

    I like your offense, but on the pitching side I’d be a little hesitant to put so much risk on your rotation.  Between Johnson, Darvish and Wainwright you could have one of the best rotations in the league, or they could all have issues and you could have the worst.  This is the kind of rotation that I see people bemoaning at the end of the year.  I probably would have targeted a few more solid rotation options along with some of those risky choices.  Wainwright may win over Cain as far as talent, but as currently constructed, I’d rather have Cain to provide solid numbers and stabilize the risk of ruin.

  10. Ben Pritchett said...

    @DrBGiantsFan- I love the analysis. I wouldn’t actually consider Matt Cain over Kevin Youkilis. I may be one of the few, but I think he’ll be a steal in round 7.

    Your assessment of Josh Johnson is more spot-on. With the risk of Wainwright, I should have gone with one of the six or so solid, healthy pitchers that were drafted after him. If I was to do that pick over again and decided to go pitcher, I would have drafted Beachy or Gio Gonzalez. As for the hitters, I like Montero and Kipnis but I still feel like that might be a little high for both.

    No way I’d take Austin Jackson over Cespedes. I like what you’re thinking with Moustakas, but there’s really no risk with a 15th round pick. I also don’t believe a team pays Cespedes the amount of money that he will require and not start him immediately. Look at the Marlins, they are going to want to showcase him from day one.

    Agree on Trout. I hate Desmond. I wouldn’t draft Liriano if I drafted over again. I would have gone middle infielder.

    I don’t see much difference in all those catcher options except I see Salvador Perez getting tons of playing time. I can’t say the same for those other guys.

  11. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jonathan- I love each of those three pitchers a lot. I just don’t like that I drafted them as a trio. If I had to do it over again. I wouldn’t have drafted Josh Johnson, but I would still draft Wainwright and Yu Darvish. I think they have less risk.

    Furthermore Jonathan, I am a risk-taker. We don’t play fantasy baseball to be competive. We play to win. So educated risk can really be used to your advantage. I am a very risky player, and I don’t ever finish at the bottom of leagues. So there may be something to be said for that.

    But a real team, I would need to be slightly more risk averse. This team is as volatile as a Reds/Cardinals series.

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