The #2Early Mock Draft: Reaches and Steals

A little while ago, a bunch of industry dudes participated in a way-too-early slow mock draft aptly dubbed the Too Early (#2Early) Mock. On Tuesday, I dissected the team I drafted with some limited analysis for each pick. Some people find this helpful, entertaining, what-have-you. Personally — and while a particular owner’s strategy is certainly interesting to ponder — I prefer a more macro characterization of the draft.

There are several ways to approach something like this, the most prominent of which, in my mind, being to comb through each round or to comb through each position. I’ll take the latter route here, identifying a “reach” and a “steal” (or plural) at each position.

I rely heavily on my own projections and rankings come draft day. Alas, I must apply a caveat to this analysis: these reaches and steals are more of, uh, feelings. Like, it feels too late or it feels like a great price. I hope I can support some of these feelings with evidence. I typically hate relying on feelings, given I’m all about doing away with emotion, biases, and impaired thought processes to exploit market inefficiencies. But, hey. Let’s give this a shot.

View the draft results here.

Catcher

Reaches: Salvador Perez (6th), Wilson Ramos (5th)
Steals: Evan Gattis (8th), Devin Mesoraco (22nd)

I didn’t own any shares of Gattis, nor did I watch much Houston Astros baseball, so it surprised me to discover the dude legitimately qualifies at catcher, and this isn’t just some quirk of Couch Managers‘ website. Gattis is a superior option to Perez and Ramos, having equally suboptimal batting average to them but unmatched power at the position. (Sorry, but Ramos is not a .300 hitter, and he’s expected to be out until at least May, from what I understand.) As the 22nd catcher off the board, Mesoraco doesn’t qualify really shouldn’t qualify as a steal but deserves a little bit of love if he stays healthy and even sniffs his 2014 production (man, that was so long ago). That late in the draft, you’re not risking a whole lot.

First Base

Reach: Brandon Belt (11th)
Steal: Wil Myers (9th)

Recency bias fascinates me. Myers finished the season a top-5 first baseman, but it’s his miserable second half that resigned him to the No.-9 pick; meanwhile, Jose Abreu’s miserable first half seems forgotten as he secures the No.-6 pick despite finishing the season outside the top-10 first basemen. I mean, there’s a reason why recency bias prevails: a player’s most recent performance is likely more indicative than less-recent performance. But when we’re talking about relatively small sample sizes, it’s hard to discern what’s talent erosion (or improvement) and what’s simple ebb and flow around the mean performance.

With that said, I think you have to give Myers a little more credit for hitting 28 home runs and stealing 28 bases. We hadn’t seen a 28-28 season since 2012. Also, y’all tolerate “streaky” hitters anyway, so I don’t see any reason not to tolerate Myers — unless this is actually an argument of skill versus luck. Which, then, becomes a discussion of why people so quickly latched onto his post-hype breakout (as skill) half only to dismiss that narrative (as luck) when it no longer fit.

Stepping down from my soapbox… Belt is not very good for fantasy purposes. I don’t know if he has ever finished comfortably among the top-15 first basemen. I’m guessing this is a homer pick. Otherwise, it’s just not a good pick.

Second Base

Reach: Brian Dozier (2nd)
Steal: Dustin Pedroia (16th)

I just… I just don’t know about Dozier there. I think the power regresses in a big way, which will kick the leg out from underneath his batting average, too. That resigns him to more of the back end of the top-10 second basemen — and even if he did repeat, or came close to it, I still don’t know if it would merit 2nd-round consideration. Pedroia, on the other hand, posted a vintage Pedroia season, yet got no love in the mock. With other flashier options available, I get it. But I think we’re underrating the value of Pedroia’s batting average while not falling miserably behind in the home run column. No reason to think he can’t crack the top 10 (again).

I’m realizing now that most people will consciously side with one of two camps regarding the 2016 power surge: you think it’ll continue, or you think it’ll regress. (Duh.) And I’m realizing that I fall into the latter camp, making guys who sustained value without unpredictable power spikes more appealing in terms of volatility/safety.

Shortstop

Reach: Carlos Correa (3rd)
Steals: Jonathan Villar (5th), Trea Turner (6th)

Correa didn’t finish among the top-10 shortstops. That’s a testament to the depth at the position. But it also attests to Correa’s production. He fell short of 2015’s home run and stolen base totals despite 228 extra plate appearances. And you know what? Steamer was a lot closer to Correa’s actual home run total than the fans were. Fantasy owners are fallible; they don’t have quite the memory or encyclopedic knowledge of projection systems that have seen rookie outbursts such as Correa’s that crater during the anticipated sophomore “slump.”

Food for thought, then, because I promise you, I promise you, we will see similar regressions in 2017. They happen every year. Whether it’s Turner, Trevor Story, Gary Sanchez, or all three, someone will fail to even sniff the unreasonable expectations he established in his rookie season.

It’s hard to call any of these guys reaches and steals, given they were all drafted among the first 50 picks. Villar’s surprising home run total fits the power surge narrative, with the elevated hard-hit rate (Hard%) to boot. Whether his power regresses (with or without the league), 12 home runs, 45 stolen bases, and a .270 batting average — he has a career .347 batting average on balls on play (BABIP) — does the job. (For the record, anyone who kept tabs on Villar since 2013 knew he could be capable of putting it all together like this.) That’s Starling Marte territory at an 18-pick discount, which is crucial in the early goings. Turner may not steal 60 bases and he certainly will not hit 20 home runs, but 10/50/.285 will certainly get the job done and could make him better than Villar. (Turner went 14th and 16th at industry drafts a couple of weekends ago — which, who knows, might actually be too early — so the point is moot that some experts think he’ll be really, really good.)

Third Base

Reach: Jake Lamb (6th)
Steal: Justin Turner (16th)

In the most limited of analyses, Eno Sarris and I tabbed Lamb as a 2016 very-deep sleeper, and sleep (or, uh, wake up?) he did. His end-of-season line wouldn’t tell you he suffered through a 2nd-half swoon, which actually says a lot about his 17th-place finish among third basemen. We saw what he’s capable of — perhaps more than what we should reasonably expect from him — and yet it didn’t really hold a candle to the rest of the hot corner. He’s a poor man’s Kyle Seager, which still makes for a great hitter, but that means he should not be drafted before Seager. Turner’s my guy, and I would have taken him before Maikel Franco, Jung Ho Kang, and maybe even Anthony Rendon, the third baseman I took before Turner. Legitimate power and good plate discipline makes for solid, albeit modest, contributions to all categories.

Outfield

Reaches: Carlos Gonzalez (9th), David Dahl (27th), Andrew Benintendi (30th), Byron Buxton (36th)
Steals: Jose Bautista (21st), Billy Hamilton (23rd), Mallex Smith (93rd)

Full disclosure: I think all my outfielders are steals. So I won’t go there. I’ll go elsewhere.

You can find CarGo’s production elsewhere for cheaper. Dahl looks like a 15-15 or maybe even a 20-20 guy, but he was drafted here like his .404 BABIP is legit. Also, I’m as a big a fan of Benintendi as a next guy, and I think he’ll do great things, but I won’t burn a mid-round pick when someone like Odubel Herrera can assuredly give me roughly the same expected production 40 picks (and seven outfielders) later. And I know Buxton posted a 165 wRC+ in September and all that (which, FYI, is literally ONE MONTH), he still posted a 33.6% strikeout rate (K%). He walked more, but he will still be a batting average liability, no matter how good his batted ball skills may or may not be.

Bautista finished 29th overall in 2015. Let’s not forget what this guy can do. Y’all still have faith in Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton. Granted, they’re much younger, and Bautista missed some time last year. But the upside here is appetizing. (Sorry, I talked about one of my guys. No more!) Let’s not have the Billy Hams discussion again… Shout-out to Smith, who should stick in a full-time role next year and should shape up to be a better version of 2015 Billy Burns. Eight home runs, 40 steals? Maybe if you’re unable to get your Turner/Villar fix…

Starting Pitcher

Reaches: Jacob deGrom (11th), Lance McCullers (31st), Carlos Rodon (32nd), Alex Reyes (41st)
Steals: Kenta Maeda (33rd), Aaron Nola (45th), Tanner Roark (52nd), Rich Hill (53rd), Robbie Ray (72nd), Tyler Anderson (83rd)

OK, this time I will talk about my pitchers (and a few others). But first, the reaches. deGrom is good, don’t get me wrong, but the 11th-ranked starting pitcher? I don’t know about that. One thing he does really well: he strands runners. That seems to be a legitimate skill through almost 500 innings. But I don’t know if he’s quite an almost-top-10 option. This isn’t an egregious misstep by any means, but I think there are superior and safer options.

All aboard the McCullers and Rodon hype trains. Rodon improved, but I don’t know if he merits a top-30 pick; McCullers is a more extreme version of Rodon’s rookie year, which still a very flawed pitcher, albeit one with potential. Both could take the necessary steps, but I wouldn’t gamble a mid-round pick on finding out. Also, I get the hype with Reyes, but he is a base-on-balls machine. And he benefited from an unsustainably-suppressed strand rate (LOB%) and ratio of home runs per fly ball (HR/FB). Don’t think he’ll be in my top 50 for redraft purposes.

As for the steals: these are xFIP darlings. Maeda should easily exceed his draft value. Nola, at 45th, probably would have lasted much longer had I not scooped him up; he posted the 4th-best xFIP among pitchers with as many innings as him. If you like Kyle Hendricks, you have to like Roark, who has the same dang talent but comes way cheaper. Hill seems to have somehow resurrected his career, so if you can stomach the idea of him missing time, he’s an absolute steal. (You can Frankenstein the rest of his innings if he hits the disabled list anyway.) Anderson is another xFIP darling and, alongside Jon Gray, will make pitching in Coors Field sexy again. And Ray, ohhhh Robbie Ray — man, if he somehow harnesses what the hell he has going on and turns it into something real… Let’s just say if I had the chance to draft the poor man’s Yu Darvish outside the top 250, I’d jump at it.

Relief Pitcher

Sorry, it’s too early in the offseason, and I’m tired.

* * *

Shout-out to Justin Mason, David WiersRyan Bloomfield, Mike Werner, Matt Thompson, Justin KleinSky _______, Scott Bogman, Phil Naessens, Ralph Lifshitz, the mysterious The Welsh, and the remaining participants.

Looking forward to your thoughts and critiques!

We hoped you liked reading The #2Early Mock Draft: Reaches and Steals by Alex Chamberlain!

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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Reigning FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Now a Tout Wars competitor.

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I love nitpicking other people’s drafts. Thanks for the exposition!

Tiny nitpick about lumping in Ramos with Gattis and Perez in batting average: Ramos in 2016 sprayed the ball all around the yard, hit few fly balls and fewer infield flies, hit the ball hard, didn’t strike out much and poked homers. Basically every single indicator of a high batting average except speed. He deserved every bit of that .300 average. That said though, I agree that 5th is way too high for a someone who could easily miss half of the season.