Fantasy Baseball 2011: Mock Draft & Analysis
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It doesn’t take Warren Buffett to know that the best investment strategy is to buy low. When the price of your stock is tanking and the company has staying power, don’t sell it, hang on to it because there are better days ahead. If the same sort of company’s price is tanking and you’re looking to buy shares, this is the perfect scenario to buy. Buying when the price is at its lowest is the most profitable way to go, not buying when the price reaches an all time high. This strategy is all too applicable to fantasy baseball, where the draft position of countless guys is either inflated by unsustainable numbers in the previous season, or deflated by a year lost to injuries or underperformance. The key to having the best draft is by getting the right guys at the right price, which is why mock drafts come in handy, so you can determine just what guys and price levels are right. In this article, I’ll be focusing on my own selections in a 10 team Head-to-Head mock draft lobby, in which I own the 9th selection. Without further ado:
Round 1, Pick 9: Carlos Gonzalez (Other options: Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez)
For the most part, this pick was very simple to make. Good outfielders come a dime a dozen, but there are still two of them who merit being taken in the first round: Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez. After his 2010 season, Gonzalez showed that there is real 30-30 potential here, and Ryan Braun was off the board. At this position it was just a tad too early for both Cano and Gonzalez, but I didn’t hesitate to snag Car-Go, one of those franchise building block-type players.
Round 2: Roy Halladay (Other options: Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman)
At this pick, I was really pressuring myself to make the right decision to complement my first pick. Since it is my belief that you really don’t need to take pitching, this pick was contradictory to what I’ll tell you, but there really weren’t any bats aside from Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman on the board that I even gave serious thought to. With the second pick in the second round, it was too early in my opinion for Prince Fielder, and with Gonzalez in the fold it would not be prudent to take a second outfielder in Carl Crawford. In the end, I decided neither Howard nor Zimmerman were as compelling as having a pitching staff anchored by Halladay, who has a definite chance of repeating his 21 win, 2.44 ERA, 219 strikeout season from a year ago.
Round 3: Kevin Youkilis (other options: Adam Wainwright, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler)
At this pick Wainwright was very tempting because of his gaudy numbers, but good pitching is easier to come by than people think, so I went with the offense here. Ian Kinsler’s health has been too much of a question mark lately to allow me to settle on picking him, and even though Nelson Cruz is a stud I’m still trying not to get a too outfielder-centric roster. I settle with Kevin Youkilis, who is quietly one of the best corner infielders in the game. Upper 20-home run power with a high batting average, a ton of RBI opportunities, and eligibility at first and third base? Yes, please.
Round 4: Buster Posey (other options: Dan Uggla, Justin Upton)
Catcher is a notoriously thin position in fantasy baseball, so unsurprisingly Giants phenom Buster Posey has found his way near the top of the draft queue. For now obvious reasons I decided to stay away from Justin Upton, although he is a huge bounce-back candidate with upper 20-home run, 15-20 steal potential. I put real consideration into picking Dan Uggla, but ultimately took Posey. You can’t beat his level of projected productivity compounded with catcher/first base eligibility.
Round 5: Jason Heyward (other options: Brandon Phillips, Brian McCann, Rickie Weeks)
Again, I’m trying not to take too many outfielders too early, but I just can’t pass up on Jason Heyward. His raw power is huge, his speed is promising, and he has the tools to hit for a good average along with it. Regardless of if you’re trying to avoid getting too heavy at one position, Heyward is one of those guys that you just take; he’s too valuable. Although with no infield positions filled aside from Youkilis, I seriously thought about going with Rickie Weeks instead. Brian McCann was also good value, but with Buster Posey in the fold I ultimately decided I didn’t have the need. However, if one were to feel lucky, they could take McCann anyways and use the trade market after the draft to turn him into a more practical asset.
Round 6: Rickie Weeks (other options: McCann, Josh Johnson)
Again, McCann made for some very nice value at this position, but since it’s a mock draft and not a real one, there’s not really any upside in using this pick on him and trading him. With only one starting pitcher after five rounds, I did look at what starting pitchers were at the top of the player list, but found Rickie Weeks a more interesting option. He hit 29 home runs last year, and at second base there aren’t many guys who give you production like that. In round six, there aren’t many guys at any position who can give you that sort of production, so the pick is a sure thing for me.
Round 7: Neftali Feliz (other options: Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria, Drew Stubbs)
I know round 7 sounds too early to start taking closers, but when you pick early in round 7 and not again until late in round 8, you have to just suck it up and make sure you can grab one of the elite closers while you have the chance. Mariano Rivera was already taken, and it was tempting to lean towards Brian Wilson, but the best way to describe Neftali Feliz is “electric,” so I go with the younger kid.
Round 8: Mat Latos (other options: Drew Stubbs, Francisco Liriano, Yovani Gallardo, Pedro Alvarez)
My offense is nice, and I have my lock-down closer, but now I really need another starting pitcher, despite being presented with the perfect opportunity to land Stubbs, whom you can read me gushing over in my preview of sleepers and prospects who look to break out or repeat big seasons they had in 2010 here. It’s tempting to go with Stubbs even though I don’t really need him, and even Pedro Alvarez looks like a solid pick. I decided to put Stubbs and Alvarez on hold and ride them down the board a little bit to maximize value, and go with Latos over Liriano and Yovani Gallardo.
Round 9: Pedro Alvarez (other options: Matt Cain, Mike Stanton)
Once again, I am tempted to take another outfielder with the very promising Mike Stanton, and I almost want to take Matt Cain to add a third dominant hurler to my starting rotation. But because I waited too long to get Drew Stubbs, I decide to take Alvarez to be safe. It’s too frustrating to have your eye on one guy for a few rounds only to watch him slip away a few picks before you planned to take him, so I didn’t expect Alvarez to make it very far past my selection.
Round 10: Elvis Andrus (other options: Heath Bell, Stanton)
Heath Bell was an intriguing idea, I mean why not go for another shut down closer who posts up a minuscule ERA and racks up a ton of saves? I once again thought about taking Stanton, but because my lineup was almost exclusively built on powerful hitters and didn’t have much speed, I reached a few names down the draft board for Elvis Andrus, who I didn’t terribly overpay for (actually, Round 10 is solid value for him) but filled a big need with. Here I have found a shortstop who is productive with the bat, who also gives me a bunch of stolen bases.
Round 11: JJ Putz (other options: Shaun Marcum, Colby Rasmus)
At this point every guy I’ve thought about making my second closer (Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon, to name a couple) is gone and JJ Putz is surprisingly at the top of the player queue. I don’t agree with this valuation, but I need saves and with every other promising closer seemingly off the board, I won’t argue and settle for Putz. He’s not too bad of an option, at least.
Round 12: Chad Billinglsey (other options: Rasmus, Brandon Morrow)
Still desperate for pitching, and at this point of the draft, after wading through all the no-upside guys with a high draft position because of their name recognition, it seems everyone I find gets taken before I have a chance to get at him. After missing out on a few high upside starters (namely Brett Anderson), I take Chad Billingley, who is actually a little undervalued. He may not be living up to some previous expectations, but he’s still a solid, dependable pitcher. I’ll take his numbers any day.
Round 13: Brett Gardner (other options: John Axford, Michael Bourn)
I finally cave in on my urge to round out my outfield and further bolster the speed of my lineup by picking up Yankees speedster Brett Gardner. As I learned last year, Gardner can almost win stolen bases for you on his own, and he doesn’t kill you with his batting average. Any power production he gives you is a bonus, though, as his power virtually doesn’t exist. Basically, if he pops a hamstring or is injured in a way that hampers his speed, he loses all fantasy value, which is why he can be had late despite his 40+ steal potential.
Round 14: Gio Gonzalez (other options: Ian Desmond, Axford)
I liked John Axford as a third closer, but rode him too late and ultimately lost him just three picks before mine. I will never be able to put into words how frustrating it is to lose out on guys you’ve been watching, but it happens to everyone. I like Ian Desmond as a potential utility starter and backup infielder, but it’s too early for backups. My roster has bigger holes, namely the troubling lack of starting depth. Finally I have the opportunity to nab a guy I like, this time it’s Oakland stud Gio Gonzalez.
Round 15: Josh Beckett
In my opinion the Beckett pick epitomizes the whole investment anecdote I provided as my intro. He may not ever return to that dominant 2007 form, but nonetheless his value is at an all-time low and there’s no way he can pitch as bad as he did last year, when he was battling back injuries and ineffectiveness from jacked up mechanics. Reports have said Beckett has actually been working out this winter (he has almost never reported to Spring Training in shape, so this is a big deal), and Beckett is one of those talented but inconsistent guys who can perform as well as anyone when they’re motivated. There’s no arguing Beckett is motivated this year, so watch out.
Round 16: Madison Bumgarner (other options: Ryan Dempster)
Still building up starting pitching depth, this time taking the promising Madison Bumgarner. He was very helpful down the stretch last season, and as a graduated prospect with a full season ahead of him, Bumgarner should only get better. I’m thrilled to add him this late in the draft. If somebody else beat me to Bumgarner, I would have gone with Ryan Dempster, who is an undervalued but steady source of wins and strikeouts, with a respectable ERA.
Round 17: Adam Jones (other options: Dempster, Neil Walker)
Again I considered Ryan Dempster but I decided that I was starting to put too much of an emphasis on building up my pitching. Adam Jones offers very solid potential as a power/speed player, and you can never argue against a player with speed and pop.
Round 18: Neil Walker (other options: Daniel Hudson)
With all due respect to Gio Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner, but there was one graduated prospect I set my sights on in particular: Daniel Hudson. I thought for sure that I would be able to snatch him up around round 20 to round out my pitching staff, but some jerk made a reach for him when he switched into his “there’s-only-a-few-rounds-left-so-I’m-only-taking-prospects” mode. Instead of adding Hudson to my queue for later selection here, I curse the heavens and take Neil Walker, a quietly productive second baseman/third baseman who can back up two infield spots in one. Not a terrible consolation, but I wanted Hudson.
Round 19: Jose Tabata (other options: David Ortiz, Desmond Jennings)
I already have 4 outfielders in the fold, but I was trying to ride David Ortiz all the way down the furthest he would go. Because of his terribly slow starts the past few years people are all too willing to let him slide down the board, but the guy who beat me to Ortiz is smart. You have to draft anyone who can hit you 30 home runs and drive in 100 when it’s round 19. In all too familiar fashion, I missed Big Papi by a few selections, so I take a fifth outfielder as insurance to Brett Gardner. I end up with Pirates leadoff man Jose Tabata, a speedy young guy who could steal a boatload of bases.
Round 20: Colby Lewis (other options: Jennings, Jonny Venters)
I figured I would round out my pitching staff with one more guy, and Colby Lewis was the most talented and most valued guy left. I wasn’t going to reach down the list for a guy with upside just for the sake of filling out my roster, so I went with Lewis because he was at the top of the player queue, and if he can repeat his 2010 season, he’s more than worth the investment. I thought about taking Jonny Venters as a third closer, but I’m not excited about him splitting saves with Craig Kimbrel, who was already off the board. They’re both promising relievers, but save the headache of having platoon closers for someone else.
Round 21: Leo Nunez (other options: Jennings, Gavin Floyd)
Finally found my third closer, Leo Nunez of the Marlins. He was the safest guy left on the board, and since Jonny Venters had just been taken, one could argue the most talented as well. I thought about Desmond Jennings again as a swing at the fences, but there’s no need to carry six outfielders. Using the same logic, I drew the line at seven starters and decided against Gavin Floyd.
Round 22: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (other options: Jennings, Floyd, Austin Jackson)
Still not compelled to break my self-imposed limits on outfielders or starting pitchers, although both Desmond Jennings and Austin Jackson are sitting on a ton of untapped potential which they should cash in on in the next two seasons. I instead opt for Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who’s prowess at the dish is raved about. In the second to last round and with a need for a backup shortstop and second baseman, he’s worth the shot.
Round 23: Matt LaPorta (other options: Jordan Zimmerman, Ike Davis, James Shields)
With the very last pick I always swing for the fences with a high ceiling prospect who figures to see a bunch of playing time in the upcoming season. I liked Jordan Zimmerman and Ike Davis, and he’s not a prospect but James Shields caught my eye and made me hesitate. Shields may have been worth the pick here, but I stuck with my prospect strategy anyways, opting to fill a need and swing for the fences with Matt LaPorta. LaPorta is at a frustrating phase where he eats up minor league pitching but struggles at the major league level, but many think that this will be the year he figures it all out. With no backup first baseman, why not? If he ends up putting it all together, he’ll end up as a great injury fill in or an even better trade chip.
SP- Halladay, Latos, Billingsley, Gonzalez, Beckett, Bumgarner, Lewis
RP- Feliz, Putz, Nunez
Bench- Walker, Nishioka, LaPorta