Either many mock drafters work in education or people are finally past fantasy football because there have been a lot of baseball mock drafts going on of late. When I went into MockDraftCentral to see how many drafts have been run over the past two weeks, I found 188 qualifying drafts worth of data. Pitchers and catchers are just over 40 days away from reporting and some drafts start up shortly after that, so it appears people are finally getting serious about preparing for their upcoming season. Let’s take a look at how those people are drafting so far.
Over the past two weeks, there have been a few players sliding down the ADP scale. Ryan Braun still is being drafted as if his suspension is going to be overturned as his ADP has only dropped one spot. Matt Capps has dropped from 264 to 309, and this comes after the Twins brought him back and said he would likely be the team’s closer in 2012. Raul Ibanez remains unemployed, and it has hurt his draft status as he has dropped from 220 to 245, but employment doesn’t always mean that much to drafters. You see, Ramon Hernandez, despite signing with Colorado, has dropped from 235 to 257 over the past two weeks. At 257, Hernandez is the 26th catcher coming off the board, behind… Miguel Olivo? I will take that bargain all day long.
On the flip side, several players have made significant moves up the ladder. Two weeks ago, Alfredo Aceves and Dayan Viciedo could were not even being drafted, and now both have ADPs of 211. Aceves had a strong season in relief last year, but the secondary skills—including a large gap between his ERA and FIP—point out the risk there. Viciedo’s popularity revolves around the fact the White Sox cleared a spot for him by trading away Carlos Quentin. The power has shown up in Triple-A, but he slugged just .314 in 113 plate appearances last season. Viciedo is the 56th outfielder coming off the board just after Jeff Francoeur while just ahead of Alex Rios, putting him in between potential regression and likely disappointing players. Tyler Clippard has seen his stock rise 42 spots while not seeing his role change in any way, while mentions of Sean Marshall as closer in Cincinnati has taken him from being undrafted all the way up to 255. The potential closer tag has also affected Addison Reed, who went from 322 two weeks ago up to a current ranking of 213. While I like Reed, he is going 23 spots ahead of Matt Thornton and ahead of established closers Kyle Farnsworth and Brandon League.
Assuming you are in a 15-team mixed league that utilizes two catchers, the current 25-30 catchers are Hernandez, Chris Snyder, John Jaso, Yorvit Torrealba, and Taylor Teagarden. Keep that in mind if you are one of those players that likes to spend $1 on your second catcher or one of your final picks on that role. The upside from that group is slim outside of what Hernandez could do in Denver, unless you are looking for Chris Snyder to recapture some of his old power. Sure, Jaso could also recapture some of his OBP magic from 2010, but who is going to drive him in so he can score runs?
First base ADP is still a bit wonky considering that mock drafters have a huge unknown in Kendrys Morales going before Ike Davis, Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, and James Loney. Loney’s ADP is 44 spots after Morales, and while Loney has disappointed many of the past three seasons, people are still assuming a lot of health from Morales, who has not seen the field since May of 2010. I first outlined my thoughts on Loney in late September; if he is still sitting around at 253 in March, I have no problem making him a corner pick in the late teen rounds as there is upside in that kind of pick. Lee’s unemployment status along with a mix of concern related to how he hit in Baltimore last season has him at 267—just ahead of Dan Johnson, who is unlikely to have a job in baseball in 2012. Lee has value in that slot, but his rankings will likely rise once he lands a job in the next week or two.
Second base finds Ben Zobrist with an ADP of 102 and being drafted as the eighth second baseman. This coming off a season in which our Player Forecast Manager valued him as fourth-best at his position and 30th overall. Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler all finished ahead of him last season, and now Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, and Brandon Phillips are going 36 spots or more ahead of him. Throw in the added positional flexibility that comes with Zobrist, and taking him two plus rounds after the last three on that list presents serious value. Overall, 10 different second baseman are being drafted in the first eight rounds of a 15-team league, but only 21 are being taken in the top 300 picks.
Shortstop has just eight players going in the first eight rounds with J.J. Hardy and Derek Jeter just missing the list as both are going in round nine. Only 14 shortstops have ADPs below 200, as many people are holding off on filling that or their middle infield slot until the later rounds. Alex Gonzalez and Sean Rodriguez have ADPs in the mid-250s, and both present power upside and, in Rodriguez’s case, steals and power. Stephen Drew coming off an injury going 19 spots ahead of J.J. Hardy is wrong on so many levels. I do not feel Hardy repeats a 30 home run season, but I still do not see the business case for him going a full round later than Drew.
Only one third baseman is going in the first two rounds, and that is Evan Longoria. It seems weird to look at Alex Rodriguez going after Longoria, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, and Ryan Zimmerman, but all great things do eventually decline. Nine third basemen, including Brett Lawrie, are going in the first seven rounds of the draft. After Lawrie, there is a 50 spot gap until David Freese comes up at 136 with Mark Reynolds right behind him. Ty Wigginton is the 15th-ranked player at this position, which speaks to its shallowness because Wigginton has displayed major issues against right-handed pitching, hurting his batting average and leaving all of his value in his run production.
Outfield has 32 players being taken in the first eight rounds with Matt Kemp heading up that list and Nick Markakis bringing up the rear. Ten outfielders are going in the first two rounds, but 2011 stud Jacoby Ellsbury is only fifth on that list behind Kemp, Braun, Jose Bautista, and Justin Upton. Obviously, that Braun situation will change very quickly once his appeal is heard. Carl Crawford, coming off a brutal 2011, is going early in the third round ahead of Jay Bruce, Matt Holliday, and Hunter Pence. If Crawford can rediscover the skills he apparently left in Tropicana Field, he could end up as a top-20 player and present strong value, even as a third round pick. Despite what seems like rather obvious top 30 to 40 players, every season there are players in this group that fall off the table and others that show up out of nowhere. A full season of Desmond Jennings excites mock drafters who have him going more than a full round ahead of his teammate B.J. Upton. Josh Willingham poses value at 189 as a run producer for the Twins, especially given that people are drafting Brandon Belt ahead of him right now.
Starting pitching has 30 players going in the first eight rounds, including seven from the AL East. You know the baseball landscape is changing when the Nationals have three pitchers—Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez—going in the first eight rounds. That is as many as the Rays have as David Price, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson are all going before pick 120. Speaking of the Rays, Matt Moore’s hype has him at 164 on the latest ADP rankings, ahead of pitchers such as John Danks, Wandy Rodriguez, Trevor Cahill, and Hiroki Kuroda. He and Yu Darivsh (180) are a strong test of drafting potential over known quantities. Moore presents the ultimate reach pick as he has gone as high as 43 in a mock draft already. Pitchers with ADPs over 200 include Cory Luebke, Brandon Morrow, Chad Billingsley, Brandon McCarthy, and Ivan Nova. If you wait on pitching, recent mocks show that values can be found late.
Nine closers are going in the first eight rounds with Craig Kimbrel leading that list and Joel Hanrahan sneaking in at the end. None of them are going before the fifth round, but expect values to change. Ryan Madson is currently 16th on the list at 173, but his skills are better than this, and employment as a closer should skyrocket his ADP. Addison Reed, Jim Johnson, and Rafael Betancourt all have ADPs higher than 210 at present and represent three pitchers with either excellent potential or underappreciated skills.