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February 10, 2014

Fantasy Experts Mock Draft

Recap and Analysis

by Paul Sporer


On Thursday evening, we hosted our first mock draft with a 15-person group of industry folks going 23 rounds deep to fill out a standard roster of C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, CI, MI, 5 OF, DH, and 9 P of any kind. Couch Managers hosted the event. I randomized the draft order just before game time and here’s how it came out:

Brent Hershey [Baseball HQ]

Paul Sporer [Baseball Prospectus]

Jason Longfellow [Razzball]

Nick Raducanu [FantasyTrade411]

Ryan Carey [Mastersball]

Cory Schwartz [MLB]

David Gonos [Sports Illustrated]

D.J. Short [Rotoworld]

Alex Kantecki [Baseball Prospectus]

Jake Ciely [RotoExperts]

Tim Heaney [KFFL]

Derek Carty [DFSEdge]

Zach Steinhorn [MLB]

Jeff Zimmerman [Fangraphs]

Nick Shlain [Rotowire]

I’m worried I’m using all of my good draft order luck in mock season!!! This is my second draft with a top-two pick and third straight with a top-four pick. I just know that once they count, I’ll be saddled with a bunch of sixth and eighth slots. The ideal spots for me this year are top three or bottom two—I just want to stay out of the middle. I was able to get Paul Goldschmidt with the fourth spot in that one draft, which is exactly who I wanted, but he’s moved up as the consensus no. 3.

The First Round

1.1

Brent Hershey

Mike Trout

1.2

Paul Sporer

Miguel Cabrera

1.3

Jason Longfellow

Paul Goldschmidt

1.4

Nick Radancu

Andrew McCutchen

1.5

Ryan Carey

Clayton Kershaw

1.6

Cory Schwartz

Carlos Gonzalez

1.7

David Gonos

Robinson Cano

1.8

D.J. Short

Hanley Ramirez

1.9

Alex Kantecki

Ryan Braun

1.1

Jake Ciely

Bryce Harper

1.11

Tim Heaney

Adam Jones

1.12

Derek Carty

Chris Davis

1.13

Zach Steinhorn

Prince Fielder

1.14

Jeff Zimmerman

Jason Kipnis

1.15

Nick Shlain

Jacoby Ellsbury

The top four was chalk and I’d be surprised if there was much change (outside of maybe the order of Trout/Cabrera or Goldy/Cutch as pairs). It gets really interesting at five and Carey wasted no time making a statement with Kershaw. The timing couldn’t have been better as I had just spent the day on an email discussion with the Flags Fly Forever crew regarding Kershaw as a viable pick in the 5-7 range. My main point regarding the situation is that the opportunity cost to your offense is nowhere near as great as it was 5-10 years ago, so you can get a significant leg up on your pitching without severely damaging your offense.

The glob of offensive talent from the middle of the first round to, say, the fourth (maybe even fifth) round just isn’t that disparate. Meanwhile, Kershaw—even accounting for the fact that he’s unlikely to throw down another 1.83 ERA—is still a reasonable amount better than his peers and perhaps more importantly, he’s also markedly more stable. Betting on pitching is scary, I understand that, but we’re talking about a guy with five straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERAs. First round picks are suspect as a whole with their success rate. Baseball HQ showed in the fantasy forecaster that just 36 percent of first round picks have delivered top-15 value that season since 2004. Starting pitchers are 3-for-3 in the last three seasons with Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Kershaw.

Moving on, the rest of the first round contains some names you’ll see in every first round (Cano, Ramirez, and Davis), but also ones that are part of that amalgam of talent I was talking about so they are just as likely to be mid-second rounders (Fielder and Kipnis) depending on the preferences of your leaguemates. If there is one thing I would have changed, it’s that I would’ve taken Edwin Encarnacion ahead of both Davis and Fielder at first base. Expanding it out to all positions, I would’ve taken him ahead of Jones, Kipnis, and Ellsbury, too.

Draft Trends
The first trend I noticed was how consistently starting pitchers went in rounds three through seven. I used to consistently wait until the seventh or eighth round to get my first pitcher years ago, but that is no longer a strategy that can work unless you just hit on every sleeper you select. By the eighth round, every team had at least one starting pitcher while eight had a pair, including me (The Coles: Hamels and Gerrit).

The last one to join the party was Schwartz when he took Jordan Zimmermann at 7.96 (first number is the round, second number is the overall pick). Zimmermann was actually as his second pitcher, as he took Trevor Rosenthal the round before. Compare his staff to Carey, who selected the first pitcher with the fifth-overall pick.

1.50

Clayton Kershaw

6.85

Trevor Rosenthal

6.86

Greg Holland

7.96

Jordan Zimmermann

9.13

Mike Minor

9.13

David Robertson

11.16

Hyun-Jin Ryu

10.15

Julio Teheran

14.21

Danny Farquhar

12.18

Hiroki Kuroda

15.22

Drew Smyly

15.22

Jarrod Parker

18.27

Alex Wood

17.25

Tyson Ross

19.28

Dan Straily

19.28

Jose Veras

20.30

Kevin Gausman

20.30

Jonathon Niese

Whose do you like better?

***

Next I noticed that my cohorts were catcher crazy! Or maybe I was just catcher lazy. I believe the position is deep, so I didn’t mind waiting a bit, but all of a sudden nine were gone after seven rounds. Five more—including two of my favorites, Wilson Ramos and Yan Gomes—would go before I finally got in on the action and took Josmil Pinto, a guy who could start the season in Triple-A, something I was unaware of when I took him. At least I don’t do this for a living.

***

Schwartz and his longtime podcast partner Mike Siano have long advocated the power-closer route, a strategy that encourages getting in early on the position and even breaking the seal if necessary. With Schwartz and MLB colleague Steinhorn in the draft, it was all but guaranteed that one of them would get Craig Kimbrel. Steinhorn made the move at 6.78 and the floodgates opened up. I was prepared to jump in that same round with Rosenthal or Greg Holland, but the latter went right after Schwartz took Rosenthal. With my two favorites off the board, I decided to wait.

Eleven closers would fly off the board in a 50-pick span in the sixth through ninth rounds, plus another eight in just the 10th and 11th rounds alone. After seeing Glen Perkins sail by in the eighth, I knew I could wait a while until I finally landed Addison Reed at 11.152. True to form, Schwartz had two of those first 10, landing David Robertson at 9.126.

***

Outfield is not deep. At all. I feel like it’s mischaracterized as such yearly because those doing the ranking underestimate the effect that every team needing five will have on the pool. I can definitely see it evolving into a steady position and possibly even a deep one, but as it stands right now, it’s thin on bankable talent. After the top 30-35, there are a lot of question marks. Here are a few among the next 20 OF selected:

These are just the second- and third-outfielder types.

Best/Worst Picks by Team
You can go here to look at the draft as a whole or here if you prefer the color-coded board. Instead of listing everyone’s team here, I will just cover some of their finest and not-so-hot moments. I didn’t invite a bunch of my friends to draft just to cut up their work, but there are some spots where I just wouldn’t have picked a guy for whatever reason. Obviously if we all agreed on everything, this game wouldn’t be any fun.

Hershey

  • Best: Brian McCann (7.91): I have him as the fourth-best
  • Worst: Jim Johnson (10.150): There were closers available that I liked more, including my own, Reed, selected two picks later

Sporer

  • Get real, I don’t make bad picks. Unless you count your top catcher possibly starting the season at Triple-A as bad. Oh, you do? Well okay, then.

Longfellow

Raducanu

  • Best: Jose Bautista (3.34): Bautista is a good example from the glut of bats I was talking about earlier
  • Worst: Michael Wacha (7.94): I just need more to make him the 20th SP off the board

Carey

  • Best: Aramis Ramirez (10.146): He was the 14th third basemen off the board; Carey got more than an adequate discount for the huge upside
  • Worst: Danny Farquhar (14.206): I think he might’ve missed the Rodney signing by Seattle

Schwartz

  • Best: Hunter Pence (4.55): The upside of first-round (finished 13th last year) production with the downside of a fifth-round pick; insane value here
  • Worst: Zimmermann (7.96): I’m actually a huge JZ fan, but I’d have preferred someone like Mat Latos (7.100) for his ace

Gonos

Short

Kantecki

  • Best: Joey Votto (2.22): I’d have taken both second-round 1B (Encarnacion went a pick before) over the late-first guys (Davis and Fielder)
  • Worst: Brandon Phillips (7.99): I like the next six 2B more, especially Chase Utley at 9.121

Ciely

  • Best: Latos (7.100): Easily a fantasy ace, possibly an MLB one, taken after four less-deserving pitchers, including my pick of Gerrit Cole (but I’m betting big on Cole and didn’t see him getting back to me)
  • Worst: Clay Buchholz (18.261): I’ve just never been a fan

Heaney

  • Best: Alex Rios (3.41): Another example of the talent glob—with three $30 seasons in his last four, would it be outrageous to take him in the late first?
  • Worst: Jered Weaver (10.140): Less about Weaver and more about several names drafted after

Carty

  • Best: Alex Cobb (10.139): Why isn’t his stock through the roof? He was better than Wacha in more than two times the innings, plus he has five times his count for his career
  • Worst: Matt Wieters (9.132): Sinking value as he insists on switch-hitting at a deep position

Steinhorn

  • Best: Alfonso Soriano (12.168): Age scares the fantasy community
  • Worst: Tommy Hunter (17.253): Super nitpicky because I liked most of Zach’s draft; just don’t see Hunter closing

Zimmerman

  • Best: Brian Dozier (16.227): A repeat is fine, but upside is available with even modest improvement versus RHP
  • Worst: Koji Uehara (7.104): Maybe I should be heartened because Jeff is an injury guru, but I don’t trust him to stay upright again

Shlain

  • Best: Tim Hudson (23.345): Nice gamble with the last pick in the draft
  • Worst: Evan Gattis (7.105): I don’t see enough upside for a seventh-round pick and a repeat certainly doesn’t earn that slot

This draft doesn’t even count, it’s a mock so I should probably wrap this up, but I’ll close with a look at my team by itself:

C

Josmil Pinto

C

Welington Castillo

1B

Adrian Gonzalez

2B

Aaron Hill

3B

Miguel Cabrera

SS

Ian Desmond

CI

Chris Johnson

MI

Alcides Escobar

OF1

Jay Bruce

OF2

Leonys Martin

OF3

Austin Jackson

OF4

Will Venable

OF5

Dayan Viciedo

DH

Marlon Byrd

P1

Cole Hamels

P2

Gerrit Cole

P3

Andrew Cashner

P4

Chris Tillman

P5

Corey Kluber

P6

Nathan Eovaldi

P7

Addison Reed

P8

John Axford

P9

LaTroy Hawkins

Now, that is a squad.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

22 comments have been left for this article.

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