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If it is February and there is snow on the ground (cram it, people who live in the bottom part of the United States) that means it is mock draft season. While articles on player valuation and rankings can help immensely, there is nothing quite a mock draft to help you prepare for live, on-the-ground conditions as you get ready to go do battle…er, play in a fun and relaxing league with your friends.

With the LABR Mixed Draft only five days away, Bret Sayre and I assembled 13 other Baseball Prospectus’ staffers together this past Monday evening so that we could have a practice run before we go and do battle with some of the industry’s best and brightest in our title defense. Since this was a LABR prep auction, we mirrored the format of LABR: a 15-team, mixed league, snake draft with 23-man rosters. In the interest of time and everyone’s sanity, we did not have a reserve round. This league will not play through, but it is important for me to let you know that Bret drafted the best mock team last year.

The auctions were hosted online using CBS Sports’ draft room feature.

The Draft Order

  1. Doug Thorburn
  2. Scooter Hotz
  3. Mike Gianella
  4. J.J. Jansons
  5. Jeff Quinton
  6. George Bissell
  7. J.P. Breen
  8. Ben Carsley
  9. Bret Sayre
  10. Andrew Felper
  11. Greg Wellemeyer
  12. Matthew Trueblood
  13. Dan Strafford
  14. Matt Collins
  15. Rian Watt

General Observations
In order to fill the draft room with 15 Baseball Prospectus staffers, we extended an invite to some of our non-fantasy staff as well. This led to some slight variations on the “typical” expert draft, but since we all have extensive knowledge of baseball this wasn’t a situation where a fantasy beginner was trying to draft Derek Jeter in the 12th round. The first few rounds were pretty tight and fairly consistent with the current NFBC ADP rankings.

The first round of the draft had a few minor bumps in the road, but was fairly predictable. One of the biggest differences between this draft and most expert drafts I have participated in was that closers were drafted much later than they typically have been drafted in the last few years. Wade Davis at the 69th pick was the first closer drafted, which is fairly consistent with his ADP, but with the exception of a mini-closer run in the sixth round, the market for relievers with soft.

On the other hand, the Baseball Prospectus staff was as aggressive as the expert market and NFBC has been on starting pitchers. With the exception of Jose Fernandez as the 49th pick, most of the starting pitchers taken in the Top 100 were drafted very closely to their ADP or even a little higher.

My Team
I landed the third pick through the draft randomizer and was pleased to get Paul Goldschmidt, who I had ranked second. I had to wait until the 28th pick overall for my next player but I was fine grabbing an elite ace in Chris Sale. I followed this up with three outfielders in Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gomez, and Carlos Gonzalez. Some drafters worry about loading up too early on outfielders, but I knew from experience that in a 15-team league the room would adjust and start drafting outfielders. Sure enough, I didn’t lock up my utility slot until the end of the draft, and it wasn’t with an outfielder.

The draft’s aversion to closers led to me making the mistake (in hindsight) of drafting two closers relatively early in the sixth and seventh round. Jeurys Familia and Mark Melancon are high-quality relievers and I was happy to get them, but based on my rankings relievers were consistently at the top of my draft queue for most of the evening. I would have been better off simply drafting Familia, passing on Melancon, and waiting for lesser relievers later.

This gaffe had more of an impact on my pitching than it did on my offense. Sale was a great start to my rotation but waiting until the 10th round to draft my second starting pitcher (Jordan Zimmermann) left me with a staff that looks soft in both wins and strikeouts.

As I often do, I drafted a lot of stolen bases simply because the room allowed me to do so. Besides Blackmon and Gomez, I also drafted Ben Revere (ninth round), Elvis Andrus (11), and Billy Burns (13). There is nothing wrong with any of these players individually, but I probably would have been better off with someone like Jhonny Peralta instead of Andrus or Jay Bruce instead of Burns. I do project fairly well in steals and runs. It is often forgotten that stolen base first players contribute to other categories.

Through 11 rounds, this is what my roster looked like

  • Goldschmidt, third-overall pick
  • Sale, 28
  • Blackmon 33
  • Gomez 58
  • Gonzalez 63
  • Familia 88
  • Melancon 93
  • Salvador Perez 118
  • Revere 123
  • Zimmermann 148
  • Andrus 153

At the halfway point of the draft, I had a lot of outfielders, an infield with a lot of holes, and a pitching staff that needed a lot of arms and innings. For the most part, I liked the back end of my draft with one or two notable exceptions.

Pos

Player

Round

C

Salvador Perez

8

C

Wilson Ramos

19

1B

Paul Goldschmidt

1

2B

Brett Lawrie

17

SS

Elvis Andrus

11

3B

Matt Duffy

12

CO

Mark Trumbo

15

MI

Jonathan Schoop

18

OF

Charlie Blackmon

3

OF

Carlos Gomez

4

OF

Carlos Gonzalez

5

OF

Ben Revere

9

OF

Billy Burns

13

UT

Ben Paulsen

20

P

Chris Sale

2

P

Jeurys Familia

6

P

Mark Melancon

7

P

Jordan Zimmermann

10

P

Jaime Garcia

14

P

Kyle Hendricks

16

P

Jason Hammel

21

P

Mike Leake

22

P

Fernando Rodney

23

One nice thing about drafts as opposed to auctions is that there is zero risk of high prices across the board either pulling you into a boring, balanced-roster strategy or low prices pushing you into Stars and Scrubs.

The across-the-board discount on relievers meant that I knew I was taking a reliever in Round 23. Rodney makes everyone groan, but he is extremely likely to close and grabbing three closers in a mixed league is a way I like to go when I can (especially in real drafts when I can speculate on starting pitchers in the reserve phase).

The rotation looks uninspiring and will turn far more on how healthy Garcia can be and whether or not Hendricks manages to stave off a possible challenge for a rotation spot from Adam Warren. Hammel and Leake are boring innings eaters. I would stream both liberally if this league were playing through.

Besides Burns, Duffy is the other player I might have reached on somewhat. His draft slot was fairly close to his ADP, but he isn’t the kind of player I have much passion for in a mixed league. Fortunately, I was able to get plenty of power at the back end of the draft. Ramos, Lawrie, Trumbo, and Schoop all provide the power I was worried about when I took Revere and Burns early. This resulted in the kind of balanced offense I like to draft and is similar to the formula that won LABR last year for me and Bret Sayre.

But that pitching…

The other rosters from Monday’s draft can be found in their entirety here.