Recently I took part in a The Â FantasyFix.com ExpertsÂ mock draft with fantasy baseball writers. While this was probably a bit different from your average fantasy baseball draft, given the participants, it can shed light on how certain players are valued.
The below represents the most interesting picks and players.
Ryan Braun (Round 3, Pick 4) â€“ This is, perhaps, a bit late for Ryan Braun. Even allowing for 105 games, he will be a .300 hitter with real 20-20 potential. Basically he is what Shin-soo Choo was before 2011, and Choo was a top 30 player. Add the fact that you know when Braun is going to miss time and can supplement his stats with a fourth outfielder and you arenâ€™t missing a ton of production. The draft room largely agreed with this selection.
David Wright (R3, P6) â€“ Wright was the fourth third baseman off the board (shortly behind Adrian Beltre). This is another solid value. Wright is the only third baseman that can be a five-category contributor. Wright could bat .290 and, with full plate appearances, hit 25 HRs and steal 20 bases. There is upside on almost all of his numbers. He might fall short of 100 runs/RBIs, but he should be right around 90 (at the worst) for each.
Brett Lawrie (R3, P11) â€“ This illustrates the love for Lawrie â€“ this wasnâ€™t some Toronto Fanboy league draft, but included writers who have followed fantasy baseball for some time. Lawrie is a legit talent, capable of becoming the top overall 3B this season. Of course, there is real risk, given he has only 171 plate appearances, and, after a stellar August, struggled in September/October (.246/.361/.443). While this pick might be a tad early, if you want to secure premium talent sometimes you have to reach. It appears unlikely that Lawrie will last much later than the 6th round in any drafts. According to Mock Draft Central, Lawrie is going around 53rd overall.
Desmond Jennings (R4, P2) â€“ Another snag of a young promising player perhaps a little early. That said, one-category king Michael Bourn went off the board a few picks earlier, so the argument can be made that Jennings can put up similar numbers. Thereâ€™s a good chance Jennings is within 15 SBs of Bourn, but hits 10 more HRs. The batting average will be key, as a 15-40 season with a .265 average looks more like Drew Stubbs (who went R8, P3) than a top 50 talent.
Carl Crawford (R4, P5) â€“ News of Crawfordâ€™s injury has sent his value plummeting. Taking Crawford here, after Jennings and Bourn, is a proper gamble. He could out-steal both of them and provide similar power numbers as Jennings. Obviously, with that reward comes the risk, as Crawford was horrible last year and we donâ€™t know how the injury will affect him to start the year. It might have been a bit early for Crawford for a risk-averse drafter, but if youâ€™re willing to take a chance, there are few better players to roll the dice on in the fourth round.
Yovani Gallardo (R4, P8) â€“ This pick demonstrates that Gallardo is being viewed as an elite starting pitcher, especially as he went before C.C. Sabathia. That said, itâ€™s a worthy pick based on talent and a good reminder that if you want a player and believe he has fourth round value, you better take him instead of waiting, hoping, and praying that heâ€™ll fall to you in a later round. Gallardo is capable of 220 Ks, a 3.35 ERA, and 1.20 WHIP.
Stephen Strasburg (R5, P10) â€“ It is incredibly informative to see how fantasy baseball writers view players like Strasburg â€“ great upside but massive risk as well. Given Strasburg has the potential to finish in the top five Â the appropriate risk is around a top 70 pick. You can miss on a pick at this point in the draft if the other side of the coin is getting a top 20 player (if things break (or not break) the right way).
Zack Greinke (R6, P9) â€“ Greinke, a potential top 10 starter, going around pick 80 is darn good value. Itâ€™s possible heâ€™ll end up being the steal of drafts. Greinke can anchor a staff. In his first stint in the National League, Greinke looked like CY Young: 4.47 K:BB rate and 201 Ks, Of course, his mainstream ratios (3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) made him look like a second tier option. Thatâ€™s not the case, as his BABIP was a tad inflated and his strand rate (69.8%) was near criminal (his FIP was 2.98). In addition, his HR/FB rate was much higher than his career rate and significantly worse than anything since 2009. Greinke will have a 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 215 Kâ€™s.
Aramis Ramirez (R6, P11) â€“ While 3B might not be as shallow as it was last season, it appears you might have to use a top pick to ensure you get one of the top performers anyway. After Kevin Youkilis and Pablo Sandoval came off the board earlier in the round, the last solid option at third was claimed. This should serve notice that you have to watch the position closely. There are a good amount of solid options but they are being valued as such. In addition, once they are gone, youâ€™re left with Edwin Encarnacion and worse.
Madison Bumgarner (R7, P5) â€“ This pick was pretty much universally lauded. Coming off a tremendous 2011â€”during which he was possibly a bit unlucky (2.67 FIP)â€”Bumgarner is potentially the next Clayton Kershaw. Bumgarner, who wonâ€™t turn 23 until August, should duplicate his efforts last year with a few less Kâ€™s. He is clearly someone to watch in your leagues and perhaps pounce on a rounder earlier than you previously thought apt.
Jason Heyward (R8, P6) â€“ Heyward is similar to Strasburg. Both have immense talent and upside with real risk and downside. Seeing him come off the board in the top 100 demonstrates how significant the upside is. A healthy Heyward is a top 40 player. In general, gambling a pick double that potential is a smart move.
Cameron Maybin (P8, R8) â€“ Like Bumgarner, everyone seemed to love this selection (and it potentially makes the Jennings and Bourn picks look a tad early). Maybin hit nine HRs and stole 40 bases in just 137 games for the Padres last season. He still strikes out a lot, but he hit more balls soundly last year than ever before. Maybin will hit .270 with 13 HRs and 40 SBs.
Yu Darvish (R9, P4) â€“ One of the great resources of this draft is that it gives a roadmap for when to gamble on a player. We can see starting around pick 90 that high upside guys with massive question marks are coming off the board. You can miss at this point in the draft without it destroying your chances. Consequently, Darvish here makes a ton of sense.
Matt Moore (R9, P8) â€“ Another gamble pick, as Moore has just 9.1 regular season MLB innings to his name. Of course, he was brilliant in them and the play-offs. Still, he has only thrown over 144 innings in a season once, so itâ€™s unclear how much heâ€™ll pitch. If he doesnâ€™t get more than 160 IPs, he could look a lot like Jaime Garcia. Of course, if Moore throws 200 innings, he could end up with 190 Kâ€™s. However it is more prudent to pencil him in for 160 Kâ€™s.
Jesus Montero (R10, P2) â€“ This pick reflects the chance that Montero gains catcher eligibility. Otherwise, there isnâ€™t much difference between Montero and Billy Butler (who went R11, P8). Montero is a top five catcher and there appears a decent chance the Mariners will try him there enough this season. Still, with Alex Avila on the board, Monteroâ€™s upside play might not have been the best value.
Cory Luebke (R10, P3) â€“ Even with a darn good 140 innings in 2011, Luebke is an under-the-radar starter for 2012. He has demonstrated good control throughout his career, keeps the ball in the ball park and strikes out a good chunk of batters. You donâ€™t have to squint to see him posting a 3.40 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 180 Kâ€™s in 2012. That said he hasnâ€™t consistently posted a K-rate around 9 K/9 above A ball and hasnâ€™t thrown many innings in the majors. There is some risk.
Michael Pineda (R11, P3) â€“ While most reactions to the Pineda-Jesus Montero trade were that it did little to affect Pinedaâ€™s value, folks seemed hesitant to call his name. Certainly the unknown of his splits last season and how shifting to a tough environment with an unfriendly ballpark are cause for concern. However, he should stumble to a good amount of wins for the Yankees.
Kenley Jansen (R12, P2) â€“ The more people investigate the Dodgers bullpen situation, the more you hear Jansenâ€™s name. Jansenâ€™s 2011 stats pop: 16.1 K/9 rate, 2.85 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.69 K:BB rate. Jansen has the repertoire to win the closer job and bring a lot of stats. Heâ€™ll strike-out 90 or so batters and post a 2.15 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. This pick demonstrates Jansen can be viewed as an elite closer option.
Yoenis Cespedes (R15, P9) â€“ Unlike some of the previous risk/reward players, Cespedes has gone roughly 60-70 picks later. We donâ€™t know where he will play or how much time heâ€™ll spend in the majors. In addition, there should be a learning curve when it comes to the MLB game. Cespedes, by all accounts, could put up 20-20 pace numbers, but the unknowns are too many to pick him any higher than this.
Bryce Harper (R16, P7) â€“ Like Cespedes, Harper has an added question mark that the other lottery tickets donâ€™t have: playing time. Harper, just 19, isnâ€™t guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster and it makes a lot of economic and possibly baseball sense, to leave him in the minors a bit. However, if he breaks camp with the squad, this becomes a great value pick.
Ben Revere (R18, P3) â€“ Revere went two picks before Alejandro de Aza, and both represent good late round speed targets. The reason their speed is so much cheaper than Maybin, Bourn, Jennings and others is a lack of guarantee. While Revere doesnâ€™t strike-out much, he also doesnâ€™t walk a lot, so he puts the ball in play a ton. Heâ€™ll need to bat .275 with a .300 BABIP to get on base enough to reach 40+ steals. Itâ€™s possible, but certainly not bankable.
Mike Trout (R19, P3) â€“ This pick is fascinating, as Trout went later than Cespedes and Harper, yet there is a better chance of Trout breaking camp than the other two (we donâ€™t know where Cespedes will play and Harper is probably a year away). In reality, itâ€™s incredibly hard to peg players with scant amount of Major League experience. When we look back on this draft (because everyone rereads a mock draft analysis from February), Trout will be seen as a steal, relative to Harper and Cespedes.
Adam Dunn (R19, P4) â€“ No one knows what to expect from Dunn, although people tend to agree that there are two likely outcomes: a return to form or the end of his career. This late in the draft itâ€™s a reasonable gamble to make. In fact, in retrospect, Dunn probably could have gone a bit higher.
Addison Reed (R19, P7) â€“ Like Jansen, Reed has massive upside. However, Matt Thornton seems to be a bit of a bigger block to closing than Javy Guerra is. That said, Reed went before Thornton and a lot of drafters confessed to having Reed queued up to select with their next pick. Heâ€™s a great value judging by his 2011 minor league line: 78.1 IPs, 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.8 K/9 and 7.93 K:BB rate.
Mike Minor (R20, P2) â€“ When Minorâ€™s name was â€œcalled,â€ several remarked that he could end up with the most innings on that Braves staff. At first, you think of Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran and Jair Jurrjens, but this statement is by no means off base. Minor seemed to have an unsuccessful 2011, however, his 2.57 K:BB rate shows promise. While his BABIP (.350) seems unlucky, he did have a 27.4% line drive rate. People were hitting him hard. That said, Minor is capable of making progress and you shouldnâ€™t be surprised with a 3.90 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 180 Kâ€™s.
Justin Morneau (R20, P8) â€“ While this might be a tad low for Morneau given his upside, it certainly shows how far heâ€™s fallen. When healthy, Morneau was a top 60 player. However, he has played just 285 games over the last three seasons. He will be 31 in May, so itâ€™s possible he lost a good portion of his peak years. Itâ€™s a good gamble this late in the draft, but, apparently, no one wants anything to do with Morneau.
Lorenzo Cain (R21, P11) â€“ Cain torched AAA last season (.312/.380/.497) and with Melky Cabrera out of the way should be the starting CF for the Royals in 2012. He is a nice sleeper in the run and SB departments. If he bats at the top of the order, heâ€™s a lock for 80 runs, with a chance at 100. In addition, he could steal 20-25 bases, making him a solid late round value.
Edinson Volquez (R21, P12) â€“ It appears some of the buzz from the Padres-Reds trade has died down and Volquez is almost an afterthought. However, Volquez should benefit mightily from the move to Petco as his HR/FB rate has been dismal in Cincinnati. A subtle change in the right direction for his HR/FB rate paired with a slight uptick in his command and we could see Edinson Volquez with an ERA right around 4.00, 160 Ks, and a not unusable 1.35-1.40 WHIP.
Stephen Drew (R22, P4) and Jed Lowrie (R22, P6) â€“ The shortstop position might be deeper than you thought. If Drew and Lowrie can play 140 games, both could be top 10 guys at the position. To see them going so late suggests you can avoid reaching for Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez and play the waiting game. This mock draft shows that you should pounce on 3Bs, while waiting a tad on shortstops.
Grady Sizemore (R25, P6) â€“ Sizemore has fallen out of favor and for good reason. Seeing him go way below someone like Morneau indicates there is even less faith that Sizemore could stay healthy and be productive. Heâ€™s a fine late round flier, but will likely end up on the free agent pile quickly.
Zack Cozart (R25, P10) â€“ Cozart represents a solid sleeper at short, perhaps batting .260, hitting 15 HRs and stealing 17 bases. That said, he has some upside to the .280 or so range and a handful more HRs and SBs. He has some risk, given injury concerns and lack of track record; however he also has some upside. As a flier, late in drafts, Cozart makes a fantastic gamble.
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