I love drafting. I do it all day, every day. When mock draft season rolls around, I try to participate in as many as I can to get a feel for various sites’ default rankings, learn how opposition values players, and just to have a roster to look at (even if it is for a few precious fleeting moments). You can also use mocks to take chances you wouldn’t normally take (highly advisable) and get a feel for who you want to target once the real deal rolls around. So, you bet when I was asked to join this mock, I finished up the mock I was doing and dove in head-first. Let’s take a look at how I did (SPOILER ALERT: EVERY PICK WAS FANTASTIC.)
Round 1, Pick 1.8: Carlos Correa (SS, Houston Astros) – I was thrilled to snag Correa here, despite his odd and documented love of fedoras. I think after this season you might see him in contention to be selected at #1 overall next year. Simply put, he’s an absolute stud. He rocked a .352 BABIP that was completely supported by an xBABIP of .360. His OUTs were at -.131, which is fantastic. And his xBACON, which measures a player’s affinity toward snacking on delicious cured meats, was just north of .400, +0.70 points above league average. For comparison, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Altuve came in at .363, .369, and .356 respectively. This might be your last chance to buy at “not fantasy’s best player” prices.
Before we continue, I’ll caution that I’ll be frequently referencing xStats. If you aren’t familiar with these juicy analytical nuggets, what are you waiting for? Check out our own Dave Cherman’s excellent primer here.
Round 2, Pick 2.17: Manny Machado (3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles) – I already touched on my “grab corner infielders early” strategy that I typically employ in my last mock write-up and when I joined Nick on our”On the Corner” Podcast. My thoughts on Machado can be found here and here. As it related to this particular draft, I felt less comfortable with the remaining 3b than I did with the remaining 1st sackers. As such, I grabbed the impending free agent knowing I could still get elite talent at 1st base when my pick came back around.
Round 3, Pick 3.32: Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – As I suspected, there was still some good 1B talent left when my 3rd round selection came up. I found myself deciding between Bellinger and Jose Abreu. I normally would err on the side of the more proven commodity this early in the draft, but given that we were mocking and I already selected #GoodGuyJose back in our November slowdraft, I opted for the neophyte. There’s not much in his profile not to like, and even if he regresses slightly, he’ll get about an additional 20 games this year after opening 2016 in the minors. As such, 40 homers should again be within reach. I’m a little wary that pitchers will find a way to exploit his extreme uppercut swing, but I think that is baked into his third round price already. A good building block.
Round 4, Pick 4.41: Kenley Jansen (Megastud Closer, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Here’s where I fully embraced the #MockMentality and did something completely bonkers. I don’t think I have ever selected a reliever this early in any draft I have ever done – I truly view them as fungible. But I wanted to see what my team would look like if I took the BEST one, and I don’t think I need to throw a whole bunch of numbers at you to reinforce that Jansen deserves that title. I’d normally opt for an ace here, but there were a lot of starters left that I liked so I decided to press my luck. Looking back, I probably would’ve been better served grabbing a #1 SP here.
Round 5, Pick 5.56: Dallas Keuchel (SP, Houston Astros) – Five of the seven picks after Jansen were starters, leaving me feeling like I did you-know-what to the pooch. Alas, Keuchel was a decent consolation prize. I don’t view him as a true ace, and by selecting him as your top starter you’ll likely be chasing strikeouts for the rest of the draft. Some regression over last year’s nice bounce-back season should be expected as his FIP was close to a full run higher than his ERA, his strand rate was near 80%, and his xBABIP was about .30 pts. higher than his BABIP. He can’t even be viewed as particularly durable, given that he has missed time over the past two seasons due to various neck and shoulder injuries. All that being said, he’s likely to rack up tons of wins playing for a team that should be viewed as favorites to repeat as WS winners. Not my favorite pick but not a back-breaker, either.
Round 6, Pick 6.65: Robbie Ray (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks) – Ray, like Keuchel, is flawed. His “breakout” last year came with a near .40 pt. disparity between his xBABIP (.304) and BABIP (.267) and also somewhat obscured a truly vile 3.94 BB/9. But, man, those strikeouts. Ray piles on the Ks, and I viewed him as a really nice complement to Keuchel’s worm-burning ways. I expect (perhaps a lot of) regression from Ray, but the blow could be softened by the introduction of the #HUMIDOR at Chase Field. Draft with cautious optimism, preferably as a #2 or #3.
Round 7, Pick 7.80: Robinson Cano (2B, Seattle Mariners) – At this point, I decided to start hoarding players named Rob. As good a strategy as any. Cano clubbed a career-high 39 homers in 2016 due to the second highest FB rate of his career, but dropped back down to 23 last year. I think this number is a bit more reasonable, but it is thankfully reflected in his current price tag. He’s starting to make a little less contact (High 80s down to 82.6, 83.8, and 83.2% in last three years), explaining why you should now expect around a .280 AVG instead of the .300 mark he often reached in his salad days with the Yankees. But, mid-twenties homers with safe batting average and middle-of-the-order counting stats is a great get in the seventh round for your middle infield.
Round 8, Pick 8.89: Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves) – I’ve yet to grab an outfielder, so that’s where I was looking here. I was deciding between Acuna, Chris Taylor (grabbed one pick later by Paul Sporer) and Domingo Santana (a personal fave of mine.) I really wanted to get Lorenzo Cain as my 1st OF, but he was sniped right after my Cano pick by Rick Graham. Again, being a mock, I went with the sexy pick in ROTY candidate Acuna. In actuality, this price would probably be a little rich for me but you’ll probably have to pounce early if you want to grab “Raking Ron”, as only I call him. He hit 21 homers and swiped 44 bags across three minors levels last year, all while cutting his (admittedly high) K% at every stop. He’s ready for his close-up, and the rebuilding Bravos should be able to give him plenty of leash. I’m expecting 25/25 production with a batting average that could either find him trapped at the bottom of the order or stamped for immediate super-stardom.
Round 9, Pick 9.104: Yoan Moncada (2B and Fire Hydrant, Chicago White Sox) – Here’s where we can all learn a lesson that goes deeper than just fantasy baseball. In life, you have to know what you are getting into. You have to know who your friends are. When I was asked to participate in this mock, I came in expecting analysis, friendly competition, and a mix of quick-witted and dim-witted chat banter. I didn’t know I was also signing up for TOMFOOLERY. CHICANERY. DECEPTION. BACK-STABBING. And perhaps even…COLD-BLOODED MURDER. I saw Gerrit Cole sitting atop the queue and viewed him as a nice ninth round bargain. Little did I anticipate the shockwaves that would rock my understanding of the very universe I was about to feel. In an event that will be recognized in history only as “Cole-Gate,” I clicked on the newly acquired Houston hurler and was rewarded with Yoan Moncada. The remainder of the mock will be mocked under protest. Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.
As for the actual player, I’m pretty lukewarm on Moncada for this year. His untapped physical ability is obviously off the charts, and if he makes leaps and bounds of progress this year he could be the type of player that wins you your league. He has power and speed to burn and is built more like Maurice-Jones Drew than a typical MLB second sacker. But he’s really nothing special yet. His OUTs (.086) Poorly Hit Percentage (17.3%) and Value Hit Percentage (6.1%) were all average or below average, and his 32% whiff rate may prohibit him from tapping into his impressive raw power. He’ll be interesting to monitor this year, but I’d advise staying away at this price.
Round 10, Pick 10.113: Luke Weaver (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) – Weaver’s red-hot finish to last year likely has him atop many a sleeper list heading into the 2018 season. I like him as a potential mid-round blow up target, the guy that could perform like an ace at a non-ace price. There are some red flags though, particularly the large disparity between his swinging strikes (lower than you’d like) and strikeouts, which normally are highly correlated. Alex Chamberlain detailed his concerns in a great article over at Fangraphs, and I’d advise anyone who’s keen on Weaver to read it. I’ll post the link here, but by clicking on it you are also implicitly agreeing to either finish reading this write-up first or returning to it after reading said article.
Round 11, Pick 11.128: Alex Colome (RP, Tampa Bay Rays) – I view this pick as a pretty out-of-character one for me- not quite in line with my fourth round grab of Kenley Jansen, but still pretty nuts. But again, use your mocks to try things out. Locking up another near-elite closer now allows me the luxury of not worrying too much about it later when my league mates are scrambling for the “next-in-lines” and high-K hold guys. If there’s a knock on Colome, it has nothing to do with his pitching ability. He’s great. But he’s unlikely to get many save chances on what looks likely to be an awful Rays team. There’s also a chance he’s shipped to a contender in July and lands in a set-up role. His ability combined with his contract situation will likely make him a highly sought after arm around the trade deadline. Be wary of this if you intend on selecting him.
Round 12, Pick 12.137: Trevor Bauer (SP and Drone Pilot, Cleveland Indians) – I was looking for some stability in my rotation and found myself surprised that I turned to Bauer for it. It may sound crazy, but he may be ready to finally break out after years of untapped potential, tinkering, drone piloting, extreme long tossing, free-styling, and finger-bleeding. Still amazingly only 27, Bauer scrapped his ineffective cutter and was flat out nasty down the stretch for the Tribe. If he carries this new mix into the upcoming season, he could be a bargain. He posted the best K/9 and BB/9 of his career last year (10.0 and 3.06, respectively) as well. And with Kluber, Salazar, and Carrasco always seemingly seconds away from their next injury, Bauer may be the most durable starter the Indians have. I’m excited for his 2018.
Round 13, Pick 13.152: Bradley Zimmer (OF, Cleveland Indians) – We’re now at a point in the draft where pretty much everyone has some sort of injury, red flag, lack of track record, etc. It’s a free for all. Grab who you want. There were two guys I was eyeing here – the decidedly not dead and buried Ian Desmond, and “The Machine,” Bradley Zimmer. With Ian Desmond sniped by the dastardly Paul Sporer, my choice was made for me. Zimmer has tons of holes in his game and swings and misses a ton but has speed to burn, a large frame that could grow into power, and clobbers the ball when he makes contact. I think this a nice lotto ticket.
Round 14, Pick 14.161: Jay Bruce (OF, New York Mets) – Dreaming on young’ns is fun, but with Bellinger, Acuna, Moncada (should’ve been Cole), Weaver, and Zimmer locked up, I opted for some boring consistency. I think Bruce is a lock for 30/100, which is pretty nice at this point in the draft. He played to his Texan Man-Strength last year and got the ball up in the air at his highest rate since 2011 (46.7%). The result? A career high in homers. Expect more clubberage in 2018. Don’t overlook him just because he’s boring – sometimes boring pays.
Round 15, Pick 15.176: Taijuan Walker (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks) – Walker has long had a big fastball and not much else. But he’s still young enough and has enough of a pedigree to gamble on a breakout. All he needs is a second pitch to complement that devastating heater – every offering he had other than the #1 were negative by Fangraphs PVal. Perhaps the #HUMIDOR will be the Godsend he needs- alleviating his gopher problem while allowing him to grip the baseball better and develop his breakers. All in all, happy with this pick.
Round 16, Pick 16.185: Austin Barnes (C, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Let’s do a little bit of a blind resumè with two catchers. Because this is Austin Barnes‘ blurb, one of them is obviously Austin Barnes. The other one is Yasmani Grandal. Whoops, no longer a blind resumè. But still:
Barnes: vs. R .321/.444/.459, vs. L .256/.372/.514 (in 109 PA against each)
Grandal: vs. R .250/.305/.486 (352 AB) vs. L .233/.320/.349 (in 86 AB)
Am I missing something here? Grandal is definitely a nice catcher and has a great reputation as a pitch framer. This is a great “problem” for the Dodgers to have. But it looks to me like Barnes is the clear-cut superior offensive option, offering speed, power, and AVG. at a position where all three are scarce. LA may have even noticed this, giving Barnes extended burn in the playoffs. The likely scenario is that the two split to start the year, and perhaps this is a scenario that continues all year long to keep both fresh. But any faltering from Grandal could see Barnes eating more and more into his playing time, and that is something you should be rooting for as a fantasy player. There’s always a chance Barnes is exposed with a starters workload, but he could also develop into a fantasy stud. That’s a nice proposition in the 16th round. If you aren’t selecting Gary Sanchez, you should be waiting on catcher. And if you are waiting on catcher, Barnes should be one of your top targets.
Round 17, Pick 17.200: Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers) – Mazara kind of spun his wheels in 2017, with his final triple slash of .253/.323/.422 looking eerily similar to his final 2016 line of .266/.320/.419. He made incremental improvements in some areas (bumped up his ISO from .153 to .170, walked a little more, lowered his GB/FB from 1.65 to 1.36) but stepped back in others (struck out more as well, gains in FBs were concentrated in popups.) At the end of the day, however, even the fact that he has held his own at the MLB level at such a young age (he’s already played two full seasons and will turn just 23 in the first month of the season) is incredibly promising. Nothing is jumping out to suggest a big step forward, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Round 18, Pick 18.209: Lucas Giolito (SP, Chicago White Sox) – I was pretty happy to get Giolito here, as he flashed some nice potential after coming over from the Nats. He logged a 2.38 ERA across 45 IP to end the year, showing some of the promise that once made him the best pitching prospect in the game. However, that sterling ERA came with a .189 BABIP and a 92% strand rate. Unless he is literally a warlock, those numbers are going to come way, way, up. Or in the case of the strand rate, down? Harnessing his curve could be the key to any potential breakout. The pitch posted a negative PVal for 2017, with his heater, change, and slider all posting positive marks. Also working in his favor is the White Sox strong pitcher-development track record. I’ll be definitely watching Giolito this year and hoping for him to take the step forward into super-stardom. If early returns on his curve are positive, that could mean he is becoming a front-line stud.
Round 19, Pick 19.224: Ian Kinsler (2B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in California) – Kinsler finds himself in a really nice set-up coming into the year, and should be batting towards the mid-back of an Angels line-up that somewhat preposterously is looking kind of stacked. They’re going to pay for continuously mortgaging their future eventually, but that day somehow keeps getting pushed further and further away. Money, it’s a beautiful thing. His counting stats should be safe surrounded by Trout, Pujols, Upton, Ohtani, and Simmons. We know he’s going to give us mid-twenties power and mid-teens steals. His bugaboo last year was his average- it cratered. BUT, it looks like it was on the back of a fluke BABIP (.244) that was unsupported by an xBABIP of (.278.) A likely rebound in average makes Kinsler a great big fat boring value pick.
Round 20, Pick 20.233: Michael Taylor (OF, Washington Nationals) – With the spectre of
former WWE Champion Edge Jayson Werth finally gone, Taylor comes into the season with a secure role for the first time in forever. He strikes out A WHOLE LOT but has easy 20/20 power and speed – he almost reached those marks last year in just 2/3 of a season. He reminds me a little bit of Mike Cameron and his strong defense should keep him in the lineup even if (when) his batting average craters. Even with a .363 BABIP and .316 xBABIP last year, he hit .271. Blech. Be prepared for him to be an absolute ANCHOR here if you select him. He’ll have to hold off stud prospect Victor Robles, but the Nats have WS aspirations and are likely to give the more veteran player a longer leash. In summary: Power, Speed – GOOD. Average – BAD.
Round 21, Pick 21.248: Kyle Barraclough (RP and Baked Treat, Miami
Jeters Marlins) – With Jansen and Colome locked up, I felt emboldened to grab a high-upside closer in waiting over someone like a Fernando Rodney or Brad Ziegler (who, funnily enough, is ACTUALLY the Marlins closer). Ziegler may have the baton to open the year but his putrid skills mean he’s likely not long for the role. I’d rather gamble on Barraclough’s K upside – always bet on K’s when speculating for closers. Plus, bearclaws are delicious.
Round 22, Pick 22.257: Tyler Chatwood (SP and Coors Field Escapee, Chicago Cubs) – Chatwood’s ERA at home was 6.01, and his ERA on the road was 3.49. Wrigley field isn’t a walk in the park, but Chatwood is probably thanking his lucky stars to be out of Denver’s thin air. His personally offensive walk rate will probably keep him from taking a big step forward but his combination of worm-burning prowess (58.6%) and excellent infield defense behind him should make him a decent back-end streaming option this year. He’ll carry value for stretches at a time and be great to use against weaker offenses.
Round 23, Pick 23.272: Alex Cobb (SP, Free Agent) – I would normally be pretty against selecting a player who has yet to sign this late into the off-season, but the value here was too good to pass up with my final pick. Cobb should land on a contender, get a late start on the year and then be a good help in ratios and wins.
And there you have it, a flawless team that could take home the title in any format and any league size. It is completely flawless and objections in the comments will be summarily ignored. In all seriousness, what do you think? Do you like these picks? Where did I screw up? Feel free to comment below!