December 22, 2011
Resident Fantasy Genius
I Cannot Tell a Lie
Mock drafts represent a great source of joy for fantasy players, the first of which often symbolizes the start of preparations for a new season. However, for a fantasy baseball pundit, mock drafts present themselves as double-edged swords—especially when the results of the mock draft are to be made public. You see, for us pundits, we’ll usually be participating in these mock drafts with those who we’ll be playing in real expert and high-stakes leagues with. And even if one particular mock is low on experts you’re in line to play against for real, the results will be available for all to see.
The problem here is that, given our druthers, we don’t want to tip our hands on players we like during a draft that doesn’t count for anything. Of course, as fantasy pundits, it’s our responsibility to engage in these drafts to give readers a barometer for player value. We also have a responsibility to our readers to tell the truth about which players we like and don’t like—or at least be transparent about it if we’re not going to be completely truthful with our mock drafting. Three years ago, I actually gathered a group of fantasy pundits together to see how they felt about this dilemma, and some of the responses were quite interesting.
Last Tuesday, I participated in a mock draft for USA Today’s fantasy baseball magazine that will hit newsstands in a couple months (Rob McQuown also participated and showed you his team earlier this week). Below, you’ll find my team:
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that this isn’t necessarily a team I would draft if this were a league that was going to count for something. One of the biggest reasons why we, as fantasy players, mock draft is to prepare for the season. We like to try out different strategies and different approaches to assembling a team, using the final result as a guideline as to the worthiness of the utilized approach. In this case, I went with a strategy that entailed selecting players who might contribute a lot in one or two categories as opposed to players who help across the board. I might not buy into Cameron Maybin as a seventh-round pick in a vacuum, but when using a strategy like this, the pick makes sense.
Another reason we engage in mock drafts is to see how everyone else values the players we really like. If I really liked Jose Bautista last year (I did), it wouldn’t have done me any good to mock draft him myself. It wouldn’t have provided me with any new information about his market value, since I’d have been the one setting the market. Sometimes, it makes sense to avoid the guys you like so you can get an idea of where everyone else likes them. (In case you’re thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t that create a lot of confusion if other people are avoiding the guys they really like too?” you’d be absolutely right.) Naturally, this can create an ethical dilemma for experts too, since abstaining from drafting the players you really like means, well, the readers don’t know who you really like.
I bring this all up today, first, to be transparent and to put my most recent mock draft into perspective, but also so that you know the kind of thinking that a fantasy pundit puts into a public mock draft. There are definitely some pitfalls that we can fall into, even if only subconsciously, which is something you should keep in mind as you scope out the various mock draft results that get released leading up to the season. To get the best gauge of how experts value players, real drafts are the best way to go. The FSTA conducts the earliest non-keeper draft each year, taking place during their January conference each year. USA Today’s LABR takes place at the very beginning of March, and CardRunners held their draft early in March last year as well (no word yet on when it will happen this year). Most other leagues, like Tout Wars, hold their drafts closer to the start of the season, after a lot of your leagues have already drafted, but if you league waits until the last minute too, these late expert drafts are often the most useful since they have more information to work with (playing time battles, pitcher roles, etc.).