At Least It Was Only A Mock Draft

Fellow RotoGraphs contributor Howard Bender was kind enough to allow me to participate in a mock draft yesterday afternoon. What follows is pick-by-pick breakdown of the team I ended with. I’m a pretty tough critic on myself, but I really do think this team would not have played out very well for me had this been a real draft. It was a standard non-keeper 5×5 roto league. It had 2-catchers, no bench, but corner and middle infield instead, making them 23-man rosters. The full draft results can be found here.

Round One, Pick Five
Carlos Gonzalez

Gonzalez has gone 20-20 for four straight seasons, which is even more impressive given that he has averaged just 130 games per season. Health is always a question mark when it comes to fantasy baseball, but with CarGo, that question mark is in bold, italics, and underlined size 72 font.

Round Two, Pick 20
David Wright

At this point Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre, and Evan Longoria were already off of the board, as was Miguel Cabrera of course. I consider Wright to be in top echelon of third base players, along with those already listed. Looking back and seeing Manny Machado fall to the twelfth round (!) I probably should have waited to fill the hot corner. As a famous writer once said, “So it goes.” Third base is surprisingly deep and one could probably find someone like Brett Lawrie, Kyle Seager, etc. at a later pick and maximize your early picks.

Round Three, Pick 29
Ian Desmond

Unlike third base, I see shortstop as a fairly shallow position. Desmond gives me another solid batting average is coming off of two straight 20-20 seasons. Going in the top 30 is a bit of reach, but I think there is a sharp decline in shortstop tiers after Desmond.

Round Four, Pick 44
Matt Holliday

Why yes, I will take another .300 average with 20 home runs and 100 RBI upside for my fourth round pick, thank you! I was very happy to see Mr. Consistency still available to me here. In this league format, the only thing Holliday doesn’t offer is steals, and even then he’ll end the season with a few bags.

Round Five, Pick 53
Anthony Rizzo

At a glance, it may appear as though I broke my arms trying to reach for Rizzo here, however the context of this particular draft is important. At this point the top first baseman were already (unsurprisingly) taken. The names already claimed were Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, EE, Freddie Freeman, and Albert Pujols. Other first eligible players like Joe Mauer, Mark Trumbo, and Allen Craig were all taken within 10 picks of me grabbing Rizzo, so I feel somewhat vindicated about this pick. The projection systems once again love Rizzo’s power, but looking at the flaws of the other remaining first baseman, I like — but certainly don’t love — this pick.

Round Six, Pick 68
Jason Heyward

Heyward’s value in 5×5 leagues isn’t the same as it is in on-base percentage leagues, however I was still happy to take him here. Pencil in another 20 home run player for me. He’s playing his age-24 season this year and I’m betting big on Heyward.

Round Seven, Pick 77
Ben Zobrist

I took Zobrist as my primary second baseman here. He posts a solid average and contributes in all five fantasy categories. He doesn’t contribute a massive amount anywhere, but 15 home runs here, 12 steals there, while sprinkling in 80 runs and 70 RBIs is nothing to scoff at. He gives a ton of lineup flexibility as well, something that has been sorely lacking on my team up to this point.

Round Eight, Pick 92
Gio Gonzalez

The price of paying for so much offense is that my first pitcher wasn’t added to my team until here. A 12-team, 23-man roster league is fairly shallow in my eyes, so I wanted to grab as many bats as possible. Pitching will be available on the waiver wire, but that doesn’t mean I want to finish with 1.0 point in both wins and strikeouts. Gio’s WHIP won’t ever win any awards, but he generates plenty of strikeouts, is durable, and has a solid offense to back him up to give me wins.

Round Nine, Pick 101
Mike Napoli

I got inside my own head here. I kept thinking that I over-reached on Rizzo and wanted another 1B or CI guy. Not my finest moment here, especially considering I could have taken Brandon Moss 20 picks later.

Round 10, Pick 116
Michael Wacha

I’m buying like the Duke Brothers told me to. I’m shoving all-in with both hands on my chips. Wacha may have been the second pitcher I took, but he’s probably number one in my heart. Well, probably second after Andrew Cashner.

Round 11, Pick 125
Francisco Liriano

I was still in need of wins, strikeouts, and I wondered about where I may fall on the ERA point scale by streaming so many guys throughout the year. Liriano doesn’t do any favors to my WHIP either, but he makes for the third pitcher of mine to average around a strikeout per inning.

Round 12, Pick 140
Shelby Miller

And I continue to break my rule of not taking too many starters. I couldn’t pass up Miller here, not with his strikeouts and his great ratios. I had a vision of posting a 1.35 WHIP and finishing with one measly point in that category, and made a knee-jerk pick. That being said, for a reaction pick, I can’t complain about Miller.

Round 13, Pick 149
Michael Bourn

Finally I get back on track to drafting position players. I had five starting outfield slots — plus the utility spot — to fill and at this point I only had two. Bourn gives me steals that I needed and his spot as a leadoff hitter should give me enough runs to offset his lack of production elsewhere. He’s a two category contributor, but in the middle rounds it is hard to ask for much more than that.

Round 14, Pick 164
Jason Grilli

Ahh, the inevitable run of closers had to start sometime, and I figured I may as well get someone while I could. Normally the closers go much earlier, but every draft is different. I was very pleased to take Grilli where I did, even with his health concerns.

Round 15, Pick 173
Ernesto Frieri

So the closer run didn’t happen just yet. I still needed saves, and while I normally believe that saves can usually be found on the waiver wire, having at least two guys who are named the closer going into Spring Training usually isn’t a bad idea.

Round 16, Pick 188
Angel Pagan

Strong average, cheap steals. Injuries derailed him in 2013, but prior to his short season last year, he put up three consecutive seasons of  37, 32, and 29 steals while hitting .290, .262, and .288 respectively.

Round 17, Pick 197
J.J. Hardy

More power for my middle infield, but again, at the cost of batting average. Ideally I’d swing a trade for one of my power-heavy guys and grab someone who gets me a few more runs and a higher average. I found Hardy’s 20+ dingers from his shortstop/MI position too tempting to pass on at this point.

Round 18, Pick 212
Mike Moustakas

Late round upside! As of just over a month ago, Moustakas is the starting third baseman for the Kansas City Royals. Spring Training may change that, but that is mere speculation. For now, Moustakas’ playing time is safe. Why not roll the dice on him?

Round 19, Pick 221
Rajai Davis

See Davis. See Davis run. Davis runs fast. Run Davis, run!

Round 20, Pick 236
Miguel Gonzalez

Technically I drafted “SP PLACEHOLDER2” however I told Bender that I wanted to take the Phillies’ Cuban import. How he handles MLB hitters is yet to be known, but at this point in the draft, I felt comfortable rolling the dice on him.

Round 21, Pick 245
Travis d’Arnaud

My first catcher taken! At least I stuck to my guns of “not drafting a catcher early.” Of course since this was a two-catcher league, it left me scrambling for a second catcher, something that I ultimately didn’t draft. Catchers play the least and get beat up the most. If I’m spending my picks/draft dollars on a player, I want him to contribute. Streaming catchers from the waiver wire while building my team up elsewhere is just a personal philosophy of mine. I do like d’Arnaud, even if he’s another player that will torpedo any hopes of me being competitive in AVG.

Round 22, Pick 260
Edward Mujica

I know this wasn’t a league that values holds, but Mujica still has value. Over the past two years he has pitched over 130 innings and has allowed 19 unintentional walks, including two HBP. His 93 strikeouts and near 50% ground ball rate since 2012 make for a solid late round pick.

Round 23, Pick 269
Sean Doolittle

I had to take at least one current A’s player. That he may post a sub-3.00 ERA and fan over a batter per inning this year is just a bonus.

All things considered, I made some big mistakes and had some solid picks. I’d grade my offense as a B/B-. My counting stats should be great, but this team might finish with a .245 batting average. My pitching is something that could use work, but that is a product of not having a bench and focusing on my batters so much early in the draft. Overall, this team is probably a C+, good for a low-to-middle of the order standings if I don’t make any moves. Drafting a team and immediately saying “well, this could be a good team if…” is never a good position to be in. At least this was only a mock draft.

You can catch David spouting off about baseball, soccer, esports and other things by following him on twitter, @davidwiers.

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I see Josh Hamilton went nearly two rounds before Billy Hamilton. I’m not going to say that’s wrong, just mildly surprising to me is all.