Today I did a mock draft online, which was quite an experience. First, I’d like to thank Mark Healy of http://www.going9baseball.com/ for inviting me to participate. It was fast and fun – we used http://www.mockdraftcentral.com to hold it, and it was configured to allow at most 60 seconds per pick. Healy hosts a weekly radio show on SiriusXMFantasy, and he and co-host Jay Ferraro were picking teams in the draft, and then talking about it after.
Compared to the 9 or 10 hour baseball auctions I’m used to, this was lightning-quick: a shade under 3 hours to pick 276 players. The time savings is a big plus, but then an auction is more fun, especially for top-end players. As soon as the draft kicked off, I was on the clock with the fourth pick, as triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera, phenom Mike Trout, and NL slugger Ryan Braun were a quick 1-2-3. I was hoping one of them would slip to 4, but when none did I decided to go with the best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. I got to talk more about that pick after the draft ended, as Healy and Ferraro called to get my thoughts. They seemed to think it was a reach, and asked about whether Robinson Cano might not have been better. Also on the board were 5 category threats Matt Kemp and Carlos Gonzalez, not to mention sluggers Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, and Prince Fielder.
Now pitchers are riskier than batters, because a single season isn’t long enough for many of their stats to stabilize (like ERA and WHIP), and also because wins is an especially fluky stat. Add in a possible higher injury risk for pitchers compared to batters, and I can see why most drafters go for offense early – it’s more predictable and reliable. But pitching is still half the points, and this is a 5×5 league, where strikeouts are a category. So I’m comfortable with taking Kershaw in that spot. Time will tell if that was the right call. He was the only pitcher taken in the first round, and Justin Verlander, whom I also considered at #4, was the only pitcher taken in the second, with the 18th overall pick.
Things moved along quickly, and I was trying both to make picks and record them in real time at my own site. With a 60-second time limit, though, and many owners taking much less time, this proved to be an overly ambitious job. I’m embarrassed to admit that didn’t get my 2nd pick made – the computer auto-selected it for me, as Bryce Harper. Harper has a lot of upside, so I’m not *THAT* mad at myself. I often like to bet on young guys continuing to improve. But Harper in round 2 was a reach relative to the projected stats systems I have. He’s likely to be a great player for a long time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit by a sophomore slump. For 2013 I like Josh Hamilton or Giancarlo Stanton, who went shortly after, better, among other picks.
For my 3rd round pick, I went with Felix Hernandez. Yeah, the fences are coming in, so his rate stats may drift up, but the run support should also get better, too. And I love those strikeout totals in 5×5. Amazingly, King Felix hasn’t yet turned 27. I was considering him in round 2, so I eagerly grabbed him two spots after Stephen Strasburg went. Strasburg is indeed alluring – the Nats apparently want him to go 200 innings, and they’re looking to go deep in the postseason as well. But Felix is more established, so I got the pitcher I wanted there.
It was around this time I realized that I’d missed a pick in my recording of the draft order, and I was trying to figure it out and get the draft back into the right state. It turned out I had forgotten to mark Kemp as taken, so everyone after that was going to the wrong team. I was trying to undo all the picks back to Kemp and see if I could catch up to real-time at the same time, and that wound up not working at all. Indeed, I would up missing my next pick, too, so the auto-draft feature gave me Yadier Molina. I wouldn’t have done this on my own, either, if only because I still have a mental block about him basically being a good-glove catcher, despite me owning him for his breakout offensive year in 2011. Molina is a great fantasy catcher, but this 5×5 format only starts 1 per team, so round 4 was too early to take the second catcher in my opinion. NL MVP Buster Posey went just after Verlander in round 2.
Did I mention that when the clock runs down at Mock Draft Central, they also turn on auto pick? I did notice that the first time, and remembered to turn it off so I could take King Felix, but this time their computer took my 5th round player also, Chase Headley, as I was still trying to do catch-up data entry to get my site back in sync with the draft, if only because I had been counting on using my site’s Free Agent search function later in the auction, to know who was already off the board. Headley finally lived up to long-time expectations last season. And in round 5, he was the 9th 3B off the board, so while I didn’t make that pick myself, I did like it. I might have taken Jered Weaver instead, but I did already have two ace starters, and you do need to score runs, too.
At this point I simply gave up on trying to catch up in recording the draft order at RotoValue, and I tried to put all my focus back on the draft. At this point I had just three offensive players, and little speed, so I opted for Michael Bourn. It was probably a reach, but he probably stands as good a chance as anybody not named Trout to lead the majors in steals. I usually play 4×4, but in 5×5 runs count, too, so I thought Bourn would help balance my relatively weak offense.
My next two picks went for power – Paul Konerko, and Ryan Howard, whom I sure hope is now fully recovered. I’d been dithering between the two when I took Konerko, and then figured what the heck, try both. This way unless they both bust, I should at least get one mashing 1B. There’s definitely age risk, but also upside potential, as either of these guys could hit 40 HR, and having gambles like these pay off can win you a league. And 7th/8th round is late enough that if one of them busts, I could perhaps survive it. So I like the risk/reward ratio there.
So I had a speedster and some power if my aging corner guys hold up, but still no saves. So for my next pick I went to the bullpen for Fernando Rodney. Sure, he won’t come close to duplicating his 2013 ratio numbers, but if he remains a top tier closer, I’d be cool with that.
Round 10 I went with Torii Hunter, with my main concerns being his advancing age and the move to spacious Comerica Park. He did hit over .300 for the first time in his career, albeit with a by-far career-best BABIP of .389. And he’s no longer really a threat to run much. But mid-range power and runs is useful.
For round 11, it looked like a run on closers had just begun, as Joe Nathan and Aroldis Chapman went just before my turn. Rather than risk not having a good one at my next pick (with the 4th pick in a snake format, my long wait was after odd numbered rounds), I grabbed John Axford, and in retrospect I’m glad I did, as 5 more closers went before I picked again, with the remainders all ones with bigger question marks.
At this point I had filled 7 offense and 4 pitching slots, and while my offense wasn’t great, I thought that in a 12 team mixed format, the waiver wire might be passable in certain situations. So I made a conscious decision to focus on starting pitching. This league starts 8 pitchers, 2 starters, 2 relievers, plus 4 of either, but I wanted my extra 4 all to be starters. And if possible, I wanted some usable starters for my bench, too, for both depth and to give me lineup flexibility (nabbing 2-start weeks or trolling for favorable matchups). I still needed middle infielders, but thought I could get something passable later. My next three picks were all starters: Hiroki Kuroda, Dan Haren, and Homer Bailey. Kuroda has the perennially strong Yankees lineup behind him, which should give him plenty of chances to win, while Haren is a high strikeout pitcher moving to a new league with a contending team. So while last year was a down one for him, I like the situation this year quite a bit. Bailey is a once highly touted prospect who now at last might be starting to live up to the hype. He’s been in the majors seemingly forever, but won’t turn 27 until May.
My offense still seemed weaker in speed, and I had an OF slot to fill, so Coco Crisp was my next pick. He’s brittle, and on the wrong side of 30, but his 39 SB in just 120 games last year suggest that he could be quite a nice source of steals.
I was happy to get Alexei Ramirez in round 16 – a nice mix of power and speed at a position I had been neglecting. Next I went for Tim Hudson, who is getting older, and is no longer a high strikeout guy, but as a late round pitching flier is a pick I was happy with. Next I filled out my starting offense by adding Dustin Ackley. Youth combined with an absurdly low .265 BABIP give me hope he will be a breakout candidate.
At this point it was just the bench left to fill. I’ve noted that I think pitching is more volatile than offense, so one way I like to reduce that risk is by diversifying. I wound up taking 4 more starters for my bench: Edinson Volquez, Tom Milone, Tommy Hanson, and Derek Holland. Sure, each of these guys have question marks, but they also all have upside. Carlos Quentin was my only bench offensive pick. He was hurt last year, but if he can make it through a full year he could provide 30 HR/90 RBI power, which for a next-to-last pick would be quite fine.
It was a fun draft, and has given me a lot to think about for the year!
Oh, and since I’ve uploaded it to the RotoValue site, you can take a look at projected standings, choosing from any of the projection sources on the site. And yes, I did cherry-pick the source which had my team projected to win for the link.