Fantasy Baseball: Expert Mock Draft

Jason Sarney Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2008

Last Thursday, the crew over at Mock Draft Central invited me to participate in their Expert’s Dynasty Mock Draft.

Here are the particulars. 12 teams, 5x5 scoring and a starting line up of C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, five OF’s, MI, CI, DH and nine P’s (starting or relief).

I drew the fifth overall pick, and the moment I was given that selection, only one name jumped into my mind; David Wright, the New York Mets third baseman.

I figured that starting out my Dynasty with a .320+ average, 30-30 potential and well over 100 RBI and runs was a perfect first pick.

Then I realized that this year’s draft (especially the top five picks) could go in a number of different directions. With five legitimate contenders for the No. 1 overall pick, I was crossing my fingers hoping that I would land the 25 year old, future National League MVP; perhaps much sooner than later, like in 2008. Oh, by the way, that is my official NL MVP prediction. And I am sticking to it!

Unfortunately, I had to go to my contingency plan two picks before I heard those four words, “now…it’s your turn!”

Now…it’s baseball season!

Hanley Ramirez was the first player off the draft board, followed by Alex Rodriquez. The next pick was Wright, followed by his Mets teammate, Jose Reyes. Now what? No worries.

Round 1, pick 5 - Matt Holliday: OF/ COL I could do a whole lot worse at No. 5 calling Matt Holliday a back-up plan. I have him as the clear cut top OF in fantasy. With a starting set of five OF’s, I had to lock up the best in the business. Playing at Coors Field gives a major boost to Holliday’s power numbers, as the vast majority of his long bombs come at home. No fear about road woes for Holliday, since he hit above .300 away from the friendly confines of Colorado. Home or away, I see him hitting closer to 40 bombs than 30 this season , and if he gets a few more steals, we can be looking at next season’s No. 1 overall fantasy pick.

Round 2, pick 20 - Jake Peavy: SP / S.D

I had Johan Santana targeted on the queue, although I knew in this draft room, no one would pass up on Johan a pick or two into the second round. He was selected 14th overall, and once again I found myself settling for my second choice. Let me ask if settling for the 2007 NL CY Young is a bad thing? Peavy led the NL in all the major pitching categories in 2007, notching 19 wins, posting a 2.54 ERA and utterly embarrassing 240 strikeout victims. I really don’t see a significant falloff in any of these numbers, although I can guarantee he won’t run the table in leading the league in all three. National League, welcome Mr. Santana.

Round 3, pick 29 - Alex Rios: OF / TOR

My next selection was a tough pick. I could have gone a number of ways, maybe a strong corner infielder or middle infielder, maybe another ace pitcher. I delayed picking pitchers, temporarily, knowing I have an anchor to my fantasy staff in Peavy. I had to build on offense early, recognizing I had targeted some mid-draft, high value pitchers. I’ll admit I was close to taking Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels. Although there are not many better young keeper aces out their, I saw another young keeper ready to maximize his potential this season, but on the offensive side. Rios is a “do it all” fantasy player, and will get me close to a .290 average and a very realistic chance at a 20-20 season. A good line-up, a good hitter’s park, and the fact that Rios is turning that magic age of 27 in a few weeks, makes him my No. 3 choice.

Round 4, pick 44 - Travis Hafner: DH / CLE

Don’t judge Hafner on his sub-par 2007 season. The question is, will this year be more like his 2006 campaign when he knocked out 42 home runs and drove in 117 runs, or closer to his last season’s stat line? I would bank on over 30 home runs, with a possibility of 40 well in reach. I’m not going to chalk up a .300 average at this time, but I certainly well expect huge RBI numbers.

Round 5, pick 53 - Ian Kinsler: 2B / TEX

A number of factors led to this selection. First and foremost, I need some more speed. I liked where my power numbers were heading with Holliday, Rios and Hafner, so I wanted to focus on steals without sacrificing power. You can never have enough power. I have a proclivity for 20-20 hitters. Can you blame me? My second reason was that the time to draft a 2B was now, especially since this is a very thin position after the top five or six rounds. The third reason was that a 25 year old middle infielder who puts up a healthy mix of power and speed is a perfect Dynasty selection. Average Warning - The only drawback to Kinsler. This could even cost him a round or two in some leagues.

Round 6, pick 68 - Brad Hawpe / COL This was an admittedly questionable pick. I know I am reaching a round or two here, but Hawpe’s power is too good to pass up now. With Holliday, Garrett Atkins, and Troy Tulowitzki hitting in front of him, the RBI number can be huge. His average of about .280 won’t hurt me, and if he can knock out 30 home runs again, this was a worthwhile selection at six. In addition, having three very strong starting outfielders six rounds deep is rarely a bad thing when starting five.

Round 7, pick 77- Carlos Guillen 1B/SS / DET

I am a big fan of flexibility. There is only one thing better than players with multiple position eligibility, and that is, Good players with multiple position eligibility! I drafted Guillen as my 1B, but that SS/MI option is huge. He is getting up there in age, but the Tigers lineup is ferocious, to say the very least. The runs and RBI number alone could prove his worth in spades. Decent steal potential, solid average, that massively potent line-up and his position eligibility make Guillen a solid, yet safe choice in the seventh.

Round 8, pick, 92 - Nick Swisher 1B/OF / CHI (AL) I love this pick. A new team and a new ballpark is just what Swisher needs to reach the level many expect him to be at. At 27 years old, it is Swisher’s time to prove he is the prospect many thought he could be. Over 30 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBIs will certainly silence critics, and more than certainly make owners very pleased with his value anywhere past the seventh round. Like Kinsler, that average is nothing to celebrate about, but the rewards greatly outweigh the risk.

Round 9, pick 101 - Shane Victorino OF /PHI Did anyone draft Victorino earlier than the 15th round last season? If you say yes, you are either a fantasy baseball prophet, or you are simply lying. Victorino officially arrived as a fantasy gem in terms of steals. In a lineup that includes Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell, Victorino should be running across home plate quite often in 2008. Draft him for his speed and run potential. With the flexibility of Swisher as either a CI or an OF, Victorino could be my 5th outfielder.

Round 10, pick 116 - J.J. Hardy SS/ MIL

I will be one of the first to tell you that Hardy’s surge of power at the start of last season was uncharacteristic for the Brewers shortstop. You can safely expect close to 20 home runs this season, but hopes of 30+ are a little too far fetched to bank on. I see Hardy as an adequate MI whose reward is much greater than the risk. Besides, anyone who is holding a bat in Milwaukee’s line-up has a great chance to knock in plenty of base runners and cross the plate themselves.

Round 11, pick 125- John Maine SP /NY (NL) I know what you are thinking…Where are the pitchers? Let me explain my logic. Peavy in the second round is almost like having two mid round pitchers. You can always find a pool of talented young arms in the middle rounds. Lucky for me, there was still a decent crop left. I decided to start with building the rest of my staff with Mets youngster. The question is, which John Maine did I draft? Did I select the lights out Maine from the first few months of the season? Was it the post all-star break Maine, who’s ERA nearly doubled from the first half of the season? Or...maybe, just maybe I drafted the Maine who was gutsy and gritty enough to toss a no hitter two outs into the seventh inning, in a must win game for the free falling Mets in September. Maine did his job. Tom Glavine did not. Thanks Tom. Which Maine is it, you ask? As objectively as possible, I am going to say somewhere in between the 1st and 3rd version. Maine as a keeper pick in the 11th? Oh, yea. I’ll take that alright. And another thing…Maine could be the 4th starter in the Mets rotation, and that would take a lot of pressure off of him.

Round 12, pick 140– Chad Cordero RP /WAS My initial strategy was to “punt” saves, and draft young middle relievers very late, in hopes they would start closing later this season or at the start of 2009. I looked at who was available, and I looked at who I already had. I was happy with my power/speed combination, so guys like Michael Bourn for steals or Jim Thome for power were not that appealing to me. So I decided to go for it, and get some saves under my belt. Cordero is a mid-tier closer who should get me 30 plus saves. His other pitching numbers might hurt a bit, but I couldn’t see sacrificing an entire stat category. Besides, I had two others closers queued up to round out the standard trio of “save” guys.

Round 13, pick 149 – Jeff Francis SP/ COL

At 27 years old, this season can catapult the lefty into upper echelon status, or inversely, can make him labeled as just another Rockies pitcher you would be better off avoiding on draft day. I am putting my faith on the former. The Rockies are a great offensive team, coming off a National League Championship, so that will translate into upper teen win totals. Francis needs to up his K total and lower the WHIP and ERA numbers if he is to be known as a reliable fantasy starter, but as my No. 3 in a deep keeper league, I will take a shot on him.

Round 14, pick 164 – Jeremy Bonderman SP /DET I admit that Bonderman burned me last season. I drafted him in a league or two, and traded for him in another league. Last year he followed up a 9-1 start with a 2-8 stretch that had many swan diving off the Bonderman bandwagon. I have one foot off the wagon, and I am holding on for dear life. I will happily accept Bonderman as a high risk/reward keeper in the 14th round. The potent Tigers offense will be scoring runs in bushels, so Detroit pitchers can breathe a lot easier than others. If Bonderman can get back to his 2006 performance stature, then the value of this pick is through the roof, and I will be in great shape with my starting staff.

Round 15, pick 173 - Kelly Johnson 2B/ ATL

After a moderate run of pitching picks, I wanted to start adding depth to the offense. With my middle infield slot open, I wanted a young high rising player with that power/speed combo I covet. Johnson is the guy, and in the 15th round, I love this value in a dynasty league. Over 20 home runs and 15 steals is a very optimistic outlook to the young Brave’s second baseman, yet very obtainable. Lots of runs and a decent .278-.285 average are nice bonuses to Johnson’s fantasy value.

Round 16, pick 188 – Kevin Gregg RP /FLA OK, back to the pitchers. Gregg, who is entering the season as the Marlin’s closer, is a steal at 16th, at least I think. We are talking 30 saves or more, potentially, and with the Marlins loving to trade, he can find himself closing for a contender. Gregg’s value is not as high as other closers due to his higher than normal ERA and WHIP. Thankfully, Gregg is a closer who struck out more batters than innings pitched…So much on the “punt” strategy. Now if I can just find a third closer.

Round 17, pick 197 – Rich Harden SP OAK

I was thinking about waiting it out, seeing if Harden would have slipped down to the later rounds, say 20th or 21st. I decided the upside potential of 2008, and the keeper value alone for 2009 and beyond was way too enticing to pass up. I can’t guarantee that he stays healthy all season, but if he returns to form when he was considered a CY Young candidate a few seasons ago, many owners will be thrilled. If you see Harden in any league available this low, I implore you to draft him without hesitating.

Round 18, pick 212 - Pedro Martinez SP/ NY (NL)

This pick was as easy as the previous. Pedro, who is not even the Mets ace anymore thanks to Johan Santana’s arrival in the Big Apple, will have a respectable year in 2008. The Mets are the clear team to beat in the National League, and it appears their pitching staff is going to power them through the season. Having that offense can’t hurt.

Round 19, pick 221- Casey Blake 3B /CLE I noticed that I did not draft a third basemen yet…a little late, right? Maybe not. Watch out for Casey Blake this season. As one of my sleepers of the season, Blake is in a stacked AL Central lineup and is a much better hitter than most other 18th round CI’s. Think .285 and 23 home runs, depending on his number of at bats.

Round 20, pick 236 – Zack Greinke SP /KC

What can I say about this kid? All the talent in the world was outweighed by some mental issues that led to a disastrous 17 loss 2005 season. This was a far cry from his respectable and promising rookie season. After working his off-field issues out, with a stint in the Royal’s bullpen in 2007, I am truly hoping for Greinke’s arrival as a force in the game. It would be a great story for him to turn things back around, and get his career on track. A 24 year old who is looking to get his career back on track? Could be worse, right? He could be 28.

Round 21, pick 245 – A.J. Pierzynski C/ CHI (AL) It was definitely time for me to draft a catcher, especially since we start two. I have never been the guy to take Joe Mauer in the third, or Russell Martin, Brian McCann or Victor Martinez for that matter. I have nothing against any of them, but it’s just not my style. Outside of the top few catchers, it is really a crap shoot. Pierzynski delivers consistent numbers. I could have gone with the consistent Jorge Posada 14 rounds earlier, but value -wise, I did not think it was the right call. I just need to find a decent No. 2 catcher. There are not many left at this point in the draft.

Round 22, pick 260 - Nate McLouth OF/ PIT At this stage in the draft, I tried to get some depth, sleeper potential and long term keeper value. I like McLouth to cover at least two out of three here. Look beyond the putrid batting average and see a guy who can deliver double-digit home runs and steals. Give him a season with a full time job, and if he improves on his batting average he could be a nice deep sleeper pick.

Round 23, pick 269 - Mike Cameron OF/ MIL

I know Cameron starts 2008 of with a 25 game suspension, but I see nothing wrong with stashing him on my bench “just in case.” As I referenced earlier, any Brewer is a safe fantasy play, depending on the round you select him of course. Like McLouth, Cameron can provide spot play value, and he is a nice source of cheap speed and power. Another batting average risk, but with the OF I drafted earlier, all Cameron is on this team is a back up. . . A good one at that too, at the fifth OF or DH slots.

Round 24, pick 284- Chris Duncan OF/ STL

Give Chris Duncan a full season, and give him a spot on your roster. The last two seasons, Duncan knocked out more than 20 home runs, while never reaching 400 at bats. Imagine a starting Duncan, getting 500 at bats, while hitting in between Albert Pujols and Troy Glaus. Simple math says that 500 at bats at Duncan’s last two-year HR per AB ratio means 30 home runs for my 23rd pick.

Round 25, pick 293 - Jamie Walker RP /BAL

I had him queued up for 10 rounds, and no one took him. I like Walker as this season’s Kevin Gregg. He is looking to start the season as the O’s closer, and a steady job could equal 20 saves. That steady job is no certainty, but I’m not afraid of the risk.

Round 26, pick 308 - Heath Bell RP/ SD

An aging Trevor Hoffman could lead to an open door for Bell, who is already a standout middle reliever for the Padres.

Round 27, pick 317 – Mike Jacobs 1B /FLA

Home run potential at the backend of the draft is always nice. Jacobs can turn out to be a score of a deep sleeper.

Round 28, pick 332 – Johnny Estrada C/ WAS This pick is nothing special. I simply waited too long for that second catcher slot. Maybe Estrada can make the most of a Ted Yost-less dugout.

Round 29, pick 341 – Ian Stewart 2B /COL If Stewart can stay the Rocks’ 2B the entire season, this could be the keeper gem of the later rounds.

Round 30, pick 356 – Joe Saunders SP/ ANA

I have picked up Saunders at the end of each of the last two seasons and he was decent, and at times very solid. The Angels equal wins, and I could have done a lot worse with my Mr. Insignificant.

Well that’s it, the first of many, many mock drafts as we head into the 2008 Major League Baseball Season. If you are curious to see how the entire draft played out, please click here. Thanks again to the guys over at MDC. Happy mock drafting!

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