Last week, I started to get into the fantasy baseball gear with my first mock draft of the season. In case you didn’t read, the strategy was simple. The league setup was 10 teams, Head-to-Head. The strategy I employed was to target primarily offensive studs, a small handful of stand out pitchers, and I filled out my roster with undervalued guys who are very likely to perform well above their draft position. This week, I am mocking again, this time with a 12 team rotisserie setup and the fourth overall pick. For those who are new to fantasy baseball, rotisserie style leagues pit you against the whole league for the whole season, with your daily stats adding up to a point total. To win the league, your team must accrue the most points over the course of the season, so the goal is essentially to out-manage the rest of your league by having a team that is dominant across the board, in every stat category, so one must take a different approach to drafting for this format. Unlike in Head-to-Head, it is not in your best interest to sacrifice a category or two in an attempt to dominate all others, so the greater emphasis here is on the most well-rounded players, statistically speaking.
Round 1: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers- with the fourth pick, Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, and Troy Tulowitzki were not options, and drinking issues or not, I’ll take Cabrera over Evan Longoria any time.
Round 2: Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners- unlike in Head-to-Head, where you can rely on one or two ace pitchers and then go with fill ins playing against favorable matches the rest of the way, you need to dominate as many stats as possible all year long. With his dominance on the mound, Felix Hernandez will help me do just that.
Round 3: Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians- this was the first pick that made me hesitate, because I couldn’t decide between Choo or Nelson Cruz. Despite the massive raw power and above average speed demonstrated by Cruz, his inability to stay healthy last year scared me off. After hitting 22 home runs and stealing 22 bags last year, and getting his mandatory military service waived, Choo has the green light to keep up good, steady production for the next several years.
Round 4: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Colorado Rockies- there wasn’t much in the way of position players available here, and instead of making a reach I decided to add another dominant pitcher. Ubaldo Jimenez had a fine 2010 season, and while he may drop off a little bit after his shaky second half last year, he is still an ace and will likely post very good numbers next year.
Round 5: CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees- I wanted to stop neglecting my offense and take one of the last hitters from the fringe of being considered elite, but my options were essentially Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, and Andre Ethier. Jeter is vastly overrated to be considered fifth round material, and with all due respect to McCann and Ethier, Sabathia seemed like a much better value for the selection.
Round 6: Drew Stubbs, OF, Cincinnati Reds- I’m not exactly satisfied that my three position players to this point are a first baseman and two outfielders, but I do love the three guys I’ve got. Cabrera and Choo are established beasts, and Stubbs very quietly had an excellent 2010. His batting average may not help, but I’ll take a 90 run, 20 home run, 30 steal guy every time I’m given the opportunity.
Round 7: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates- I wanted to round out my infield, and coincidentally, Alvarez, in my opinion, was by far the best player towards the top of the queue who plays a position other than outfield. Like Stubbs, he may not be the best average hitter nor is he known for being a speedster, but I like his power nonetheless. This guy is supposed to be the next cornerstone of the Pirates and (hopefully) restore the tradition of winning to the playoff-starved franchise. This pick is a swing for the fences, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Round 8: Jonathan Papelbon, closer, Boston Red Sox- with all the other elite closers long gone, I wanted to make sure I had at least one guy who is almost guaranteed to have a big season. His ERA may have been hideous for a relief pitcher last season, but I am more than willing to bet we see a bounce back from the …um, eccentric closer this year. Keep in mind, his ERA may have been 3.90, but it still came with 37 saves.
Round 9: Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals- it’s frustrating when you are trying to avoid taking a bunch of outfielders early, but when you go to look for offense the most productive position players worth drafting at the position are outfielders. Regardless, I still feel the need for a bat and take another outfielder anyways. Colby Rasmus displayed nice power and double digit-steal speed in 2010, so he’s a pretty solid pick here.
Round 10: Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals- with a batting average just under .270, 10 home runs, 17 steals, and 65 RBI, this Nationals youngster did a little bit of everything last year, and should only get better with more playing time. Desmond is one of the more underrated members of an immensely talented base of young players being assembled in the nation’s capital.
Round 11: Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland A’s- at this point, it’s not easy to come across a pitcher of Anderson’s caliber, but given his bout with injuries to his arm last year, I can see why his draft stock isn’t quite as high as you’d think from someone with his talent. Still, he’s a gem. Just wait and see.
Round 12: Angel Pagan, OF, New York Mets- Even though I’ve got plenty of outfielders, I am really happy to get Pagan in this phase of the draft. He may not be a very highly valued player, but guys who hit .290, score 80 runs, hit 11 homers, drive in 69 runs, and steal 37 bases don’t just grow on trees. Like Desmond, but to a greater extent, Pagan does a little bit of everything. Unlike other guys capable of upper 30’s or low 40’s steals totals, like Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury, you can count on Pagan to contribute towards every stat.
Round 13: Jose Valverde, closer, Detroit Tigers- unlike most other drafters to this point, it’s now dawned upon me that I’ve neglected to get a second closer. Because the other available players- Huston Street, Aaron Hill, Adam Jones, and Denard Span-don’t excite me, I’m more than willing to take Valverde, who had a fine season for Detroit last year and by all means should again in 2011.
Round 14: Gio Gonzalez, SP, Oakland Athletics- I drafted Gonzalez for the same reason I drafted his teammate Brett Anderson. This late in the draft, it is really hard to come by high upside starters who have already shown they can perform at the major league level. Gonzalez wasn’t just average last year, he finished with 15 wins, 171 punchouts, and a 3.23 ERA. Pitching may be a volatile position, but you cannot have enough of these guys around.
Round 15: Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates- in need of a starting second baseman and with not much to pick from, I happily settle for Neil Walker, who probably has a mid-teens power ceiling and the capability to hit for a high average. Very serviceable player.
Round 16: Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets- this one is more of a swing for the fences, because it is just flat out impressive that Davis was able to hit 17 home runs as a rookie situated in the Mets lineup at Citi Field. This guy is only going to get better, which should mean a big return on the late-round investment.
Round 17: Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Colorado Rockies- there still are not too many intriguing position players on the board, so instead of making a reach I’ll just keep building up my pitching. Chacin, a Rockies graduated prospect, showed some flashes of brilliance last year and can definitely join Ubaldo Jimenez at the top of the Rockies rotation this year.
Round 18: Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington Nationals- 20 home runs and 100 RBI is very nice production, especially once you reach that point where all the hitters left either have very little left in their tanks or have just too much to prove to be depended on. Given the other types of guys showing up on the draft board, LaRoche is a remarkably sturdy, consistent option.
Round 19: Sean Rodriguez, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays- this one’s a bit of a reach to see if Rodriguez can build on his season from last year, which saw him reach double digits in both home runs and steals. Another year of big league experience under his belt should help boost his batting average, while all that is needed to remedy his trouble with scoring runs from last year is regular playing time. It’s not out of the question to see a breakout from Rodriguez since he’s going to become a full-time player now.
Round 20: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B/SS, Minnesota Twins- Just in case neither Walker nor Rodriguez work out at second base, I take a bit of a see-what-sticks approach and add another guy to the mix. Nishioka, a Japanese import heading into his first MLB season, has a reputation as a very good hitter, so we’ll see this year how that translates over to our side of the Pacific Ocean.
Round 21: Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees- I still need a catcher, and with Jesus Montero near the top of the player queue, now is the time to jump. Most people in this draft lobby overpaid for their catchers several rounds too early, which made acquiring a good catcher for the right price to this point difficult. Because of his MLB-ready bat, I took a swing for the fences on Montero. I have a feeling this pick will turn out as a home run or a strikeout, with no in-between area. We’ll see, but Montero seems to be so talented with the bat that I’m not betting against him.
Round 22: Chris Johnson, 3B, Houston Astros- Johnson had a quiet but productive season for the Astros last year, and depending on how deep of a fantasy league you’re going in to this year, he may even be a fringe candidate as a potential starting player. Still, that speculation on my part is up for debate, but nonetheless Johnson is a very capable fill-in player. It won’t hurt to have guys like him on your bench.
Round 23: Edwin Jackson, SP, Chicago White Sox- With the last pick, Edwin Jackson caught my eye. He had a phenomenal 2009 season, but struggled out of the gate in 2010. After being traded to Chicago last year, Jackson seemed to regain that great form he had demonstrated in the past, so assume he can get back to even being within a shade of his 2009 production, Jackson is well worth the 23rd round pick.