February 24, 2012 posted by Paul Greco

Mock Me: Rivera, LoMo and Ryan Braun

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Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees Closer

Last night I participated in an 10 team mixed league mock draft with Jason Mastrodonato.  This was my first mock draft of the year because, to be honest, I don’t find them to be extremely helpful.  I play in a few Yahoo leagues with friends every year and I typically mock twice to see where the ranking system has specific sleepers buried.

Every draft has its own flow and mocking really doesn’t help me.  Going with a SP-heavy strategy in a mock draft may very well backfire on Draft Day if your competition values the board differently, for example.

Nevertheless, I want to discuss 3 picks that I made:

Ryan Braun (4) – Round 1

We’re going to be bombarded for the rest of the week regarding the Braun saga’s surprising ending.  In case you tuned sports media out yesterday evening, Ryan Braun won his appeal against Major League Baseball on a chain-of-custody loophole, which overturns his 50-game suspension.

Braun was still valued in the top 40 on most draft boards before last night’s news broke.  With the ban being lifted, the biggest question centers around his full season value.

I was pleased to get him at #4 but I’d go as far as taking him #1 overall.  This isn’t really the right place to get too specific so I’ll try to keep it succinct.  The drop-off from Prince Fielder to Aramis Ramirez (as Braun’s protection) isn’t big enough to make me run away.  He’s locked into 100/100/30/25/.325 which is higher than I project Matt Kemp.  His RBI and run totals should mirror Miguel Cabrera’s and he has the speed that the Tiger’s first baseman doesn’t.  I value Cabrera over Albert Pujols, Troy Tulowitzki, Kemp, and Jose Bautista to begin with so it’s really only a two-player debate in my eyes.

Mariano Rivera (77) – Round 8

Let me preface by saying that I never draft closers high in actual draft scenarios.  I wanted to make this pick, though, for the sake of discussion because I believe that the fantasy community is getting closers wrong this year.

Rivera deserves to be the first reliever off the board.  Too bold?  I don’t think so.

He finished 2011 with a 1.91 ERA, 44 saves, and an 8.80 K/9.  Even though his strikeout rates were down from his average and his ground ball rate was the lowest of his career (46.5%), he managed to post his second highest K/BB ratio (7.5).

There is no reason to believe he’s due for a significant drop-off in 2012. The other closers being drafted consistently higher than Rivera (Craig Kimbrel, Drew Storen, and John Axford) aren’t slam dunks.  If you’re taking a closer this early, he better be as close to a lock as possible.

Kimbrel has Johnny Venters breathing down his neck and played a major role in Atlanta’s collapse down the stretch by blowing 3 saves in the last two and a half weeks.  Oh, and Arodys Vizcaino is filthy and waiting for an opportunity.  And let’s not forget the workload he carried last year.

Drew Storen had his worst month in June and rebounded in a big way.  He has an inferior BB% (6.6% to Rivera’s 3.4%), though, and doesn’t have the experience to back up his results.  If I’m taking a closer early, I’d rather have the dependability of Rivera when Storen doesn’t give you major statistical advantages anywhere.

The same thought process applies to Axford too.  He has a great K% and he will get plenty of save chances but there is no job safer than Rivera’s.  No one will give you his WHIP or dependability.

If you’re set on taking someone this early, go with Rivera.  40 SV, 1.90 ERA, and a .90 WHIP are about as sure of a thing as you’re going to get in fantasy baseball.

Logan Morrison (144) – Round 15

LoMo is one of the sneaky plays for 2012 that will vastly outperform the players in his draft bracket.

Jason Heyward, Drew Stubbs, and even Yoenis Cespedes, who were taken 108, 122, and 123, respectively, went ahead of Morrison in this mock draft.  Cespedes is a massive overdraft and I can say wholeheartedly that he won’t end up on any of my teams.  Why he’s carrying such a lofty draft status right now is beyond me.  Let’s compare LoMo with Heyward and Stubbs, though, as both are being consistently drafted ahead of the twitter addict.

My projections for the 3 are detailed below:

Logan Morrison 85 23 79 3 .272
Drew Stubbs 75 18 77 35 .253
Jason Heyward 80 21 86 11 .260

Our own Jason Mastrodonato took Heyward with the 108th pick, more than three rounds before I grabbed Morrison.  Did he really win with the selection, though?  If we put Heyward’s speed aside, the difference is negligible.  Heyward should be a slightly better run producer but I’m still not sold on his plate approach.  .260 is a pretty safe projection as I could easily see him plus or minus 20 points.  Heyward presents far too many risks at 108 and doesn’t offer anything superior enough to justify the selection gap.

Drew Stubbs is one of the most overrated fantasy players and I can’t justify him on any level this year.  His 2010 season made everyone believe that he would be a 25/35 type player for years to come.  He’s never been better than a .268 hitter from AAA to the Majors and his strikeout rates are unbelievably high for someone who hits leadoff.  His .321 OBP last year was league average and that just doesn’t cut it for someone that needs to be able to get on, get over, and get in at the level you draft him to do.

LoMo isn’t the sexiest pick but he will give you nice production in a much-improved Marlins lineup.

Paul finished the 2011-2012 Fantasy Football season as the #1 Weekly Rankings & Projections winner of the 411Fantasy Expert Challenge. He also finished 2nd in the Expert Draft Accuracy Challenge in 2011. Top 10 Finisher in the FSWA Fantasy Football Draft Projections. Paul is also apart of baseballs elite as a member of Tout Wars. You can follow me on Twitter @PaulGreco

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