Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: Projecting First 10 Rounds of AL-Only Drafts
In an AL-only league, the draft becomes even more important. This mock will serve as a guide for where you'll have to make moves to ensure you end up with the perfect squad.
This is where the men are separated from the boys. Where snagging Brandon Allen to man your corner infield slot can actually be cause for celebration. Where the competition for the closer's role in Kansas City actually matters.
The draft is paramount in an AL-only league. Here's your guide to not screwing it up based generally on ADPs from Mock Draft Central.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels 1B
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It's hard to argue with Albert Pujols as the top overall pick.
Moving from the National League to the American League generally suppresses a hitter's value, but Pujols is the type of player that transcends such piddling concerns. He'll make quick work of AL pitching and deliver at the elite level he has for the past 10 seasons.
If anything, his move to the AL might end up helping. With ample options at first base, Mike Scioscia will be able to give Pujols plenty of rest as a designated hitter, which should combat the nagging injuries that have plagued him over the past few seasons.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 1B/3B
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Assuming that fielding percentage isn't counted in your league, Miguel Cabrera is a fine choice as the No. 2 pick.
I have him ranked at the top of my board, but as I wrote on the previous slide, ain't nothin' wrong with Albert Pujols.
Still, I'd rather have the man in the middle of the Tigers' order. His impending third base eligibility will boost his value, making his predictably outstanding four-category production that much more beneficial to your team.
Cabrera hit just 30 home runs last season, but don't doubt his power. He's slugged at least .537 in every season since 2005.
3. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays 3B/OF
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Jose Baustisa regressed to only 43 home runs last season, but he's still well worth the No. 3 pick.
The slight decline in homers and RBI must have been a bit of a disappointment to his owners last season, but a jump in batting average along with a flat-lining slugging percentage (still above .600) means there's no cause for concern.
He's the real deal, ladies and gentlemen, but if you don't believe me, take the word of American League pitchers. Bautista walked in over 20 percent of his at-bats last season, a full three percentage points more than any other player in baseball.
4. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers SP
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In my mind, this is a little bit high for Justin Verlander.
Pitching performance is notoriously difficult to predict from year to year, and with so many enticing options remaining (Dan Haren, CC Sabathia and Jered Weaver, to name a few), I'd rather focus on hitting at this spot.
Verlander earned all of the accolades he received last season, but a career-low BABIP and a career-high strand rate had a lot to do with his 24 wins and sparking 2.40 ERA. He'll be the same pitcher this year as he was last year, but without 2011's fortuitous circumstances, he won't deliver the same numbers.
5. Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox OF
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Jacoby Ellsbury is a difficult case.
He's not going to hit 32 home runs again, but he probably isn't going to hit nine (his previous career high) either. Somewhere in that wide and unpredictable middle lies the true power production of the Red Sox outfielder.
Ellsbury's .452 career slugging percentage bodes well, but I'd be floored is he made it past 25 bombs this season. Yet even with that regression, he's still worth a first-round draft choice.
It's not easy to find hitters that can smack 25 homers, let alone ones who couple that with a .301 lifetime batting average and a real shot to top 50 stolen bases.
6. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox 1B
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Adrian Gonzalez spent last season recovering from a nagging shoulder injury, yet he still managed to hit .338 and knock in 117 runs. With a clean bill of health entering 2012, his power numbers are set to explode.
Gonzalez hit 40 home runs just three seasons ago, and that was when he was still playing his home games in the cavernous confines of San Diego's Petco Park. With the green monster looming only 304 feet from home plate, I'd wager that Gonzalez can reach that number once again.
7. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees 2B
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Fun fact: "Cano" means "consistency" in Spanish.
OK, it doesn't, but given Robinson Cano's recent production, it probably should.
In each of his last three seasons, Cano has hit no less than .302, popped no fewer than 25 home runs and scored at least 103 runs.
There's risk with any player, but nobody minimizes it quite like Robbie Cano. Second base is deeper this season than it's been in the recent past, but Cano is still an intelligent investment in the first round.
8. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays 3B
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A cruel .239 BABIP knee-capped Evan Longoria's batting average in 2011, but in 2012, a bounceback is on the way. Prior to last season, Longoria's BABIP had never dipped below .309.
That, combined with the career-high walk rate he posted and a finally healthy start to the season, bodes well for a career year this season.
He's clearly third at third behind Cabrera and Bautista, but he's still well worth a first-round pick.
9. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers 1B
Prince Fielder has changed teams, cities and leagues, but his situation really hasn't changed much.
Fielder's new division is almost as bad as his old one. Instead of hitting behind Ryan Braun, he's hitting behind Miguel Cabrera. He's moving from a slightly friendly home ballpark to slightly unfriendly one.
His move to a more difficult league and location will depress his power numbers a bit, but for the most part, he'll be exactly what he used to be. Fielder will still get on base and produce a ton of runs, making him a very fair value at No. 9.
10. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees OF
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Granderson is a fantastic hitter in a fantastic situation, but this is too early for him.
Most of his value lies in his home run power, and he won't reach 40 homers again this season. Heck, he might not even reach 30.
Last year, nearly 21 percent of Granderson's fly balls left the yard. In the five seasons prior, he'd never posted a HR/FB rate of even 15 percent. That's an aberration, not a trend.
Granderson will still be a very productive player, but with Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler both still on the board, he's not the pick here.
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11. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox 2B
12. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners SP
13. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers 2B
14. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees SP
15. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels SP
16. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees 1B
17. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers OF
18. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays SP
19. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians C/1B
20. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 3B
The 10th slot is a lucky one in this draft. Dustin Pedroia would have been well worth a first-round pick. He's a true five-category contributor whose outstanding batting average allows his owner to take some liberties with the rest of the team.
The pitchers start to come off the board here, but I can't help but think I'd rather wait for Dan Haren than spend a pick on Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia, Jered Weaver or David Price. All four are great options, but I'm inclined to add at least one more elite hitter before I start to fortify my pitching staff.
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21. Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox OF
22. Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels SP
23. Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers SS
24. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox 1B
25. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers C/1B
26. Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers OF
27. Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays OF
28. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox SP
29. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians OF
30. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals 1B
At first, Carl Crawford feels like fair value here, but with a wrist injury looming, he's just not a smart investment.
Desmond Jennings, though he seems risky, is actually the safer play. His projections are more wide-ranging than most, but the consensus has him around a .265 average with 15 homers and 35 steals. With no specific timetable for Crawford's return, those numbers actually seem a bit generous for him.
Poor Paul Konerko. Nobody ever wants to draft him.
But if you missed out on a first baseman in Round 1, I'd much rather grab Konerko here than spend my second-round pick on Mark Teixeira. Konerko won't score as many runs, but the rest of his numbers will be right on par with the Yankee first baseman.
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31. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays 3B
32. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals OF
33. B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays OF
34. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees 3B
35. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays SP
36. Michael Young, Texas Rangers 1B/3B
37. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles OF
38. Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays SP
39. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins C/1B
40. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox SP
It's interesting to see B.J. Upton go so far after Crawford and Jennings.
His batting average output should drop him a bit, but this is just too far. Upton has at least as much speed upside as those two and the greatest power potential of all three.
This is far too high for Ricky Romero. His 2.98 ERA and 15 wins were nice last year, but his 4.20 FIP exposes an unpleasant underbelly.
Romero's K/BB rate continues to hover around 2.00, which just isn't enough for a top-tier fantasy starter. Until he can cut down on free passes, his fantasy value is at the mercy of luck, which likely won't be positive two years in a row.
41. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays 2B/OF
42. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians SS
43. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox 1B/3B
44. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees OF
45. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels SP
46. Michael Pineda, New York Yankees SP
46. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees RP
48. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox DH
49. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles C
50. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners OF
I can't believe Brett Gardner is still on the board for this round. He's money in the bank for at least 90 runs and will lead the American League is stolen bases.
Sure, Gardner won't reach double-digit home runs, but at this point in the draft, that kind of speed is a (pardon the pun) steal.
C.J. Wilson's success last year was a result of strong positive gains in both walks and strikeouts rather than any sort of luck. If he can keep those trends moving in the right direction, his relocation to pitcher-friendly Anaheim will deliver (another) career year.
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51. Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels 1B/2B/OF
52. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays SP
53. Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers C
54. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles 1B/3B
55. Nick Swisher, New York Yankees 1B/OF
56. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals 1B
57. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees SS
58. Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles OF
59. Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers RP
60. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays SP
I'm very surprised to see Matt Moore last this long.
It's true that the first few rounds of an AL-only draft are all about managing risk, but Moore's major league results and minor league pedigree speak for themselves. He is going to miss a ton of bats regardless of who's holding them.
After the top six, no pitcher has as much upside.
Mark Reynolds is a fantastic fit here.
He lands on the same team as Robinson Cano, which mitigates the impact of his atrocious batting average. That's the great advantage of protecting batting average early on; it allows a player like Reynolds to provide value without completely ruining one category.
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61. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles SS
62. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners 2B
63. Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels OF
64. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels 1B/OF
65. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays 1B
66. Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays OF
67. Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels SP
68. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins 1B
69. Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers SP
70. Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics OF
Mark Reynolds got the ball rolling, and in Round 7, the flawed power hitters continue to come off the board.
Adam Lind has proven to be incredibly unpredictable from year to year, but this late in the draft, 30-homer pop is quite a luxury.
Matt Joyce doesn't have quite the same power potential, but he does have an average that won't hurt at all.
Justin Morneau is the most intriguing option in this round. There's no way to know whether he'll be able to make it through a full season, but given the caliber of players going behind him, Morneau's MVP upside makes him a worthwhile risk.
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71. Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians SP
72. Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels SS
73. Jemile Weeks, Oakland Athletics 2B
74. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics OF
75. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers P
76. Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox SS
77. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians 2B
78. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers OF
79. Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels RP
80. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels OF
In the early rounds of an AL-only league, owners have to prioritize dependability over risk. That's why Yoenis Cespedes lasts this long.
There's a very real chance that he completely flames out, and if that happens, Andy Dirks isn't going to offer much comfort from the waiver wire.
Somehow, Jordan Walden makes it all the way down here.
I know that he presents some WHIP risk, but with an improved LA offense and one of the best fastballs in the big leagues, I don't understand why he's going two full rounds after Jose Valverde.
He's the American League's answer to Craig Kimbrel.
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81. Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox RP
82. Derek Holland, Texas Rangers SP
83. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners DH
84. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays C
85. John Danks, Chicago White Sox SP
86. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers SS
87. Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays RP
88. Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers RP
89. Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers SP
90. Brandon League, Seattle Mariners RP
It's surprising that Jhonny Peralta goes so much later than J.J. Hardy.
Most projection systems have them producing almost identical numbers, yet because he reached 30 dingers last season, Hardy goes nearly two rounds earlier.
Peralta is a great value here. His batting average will regress a bit, but the power is real, and he'll score and drive in plenty of runs as a part of the potent Detroit Tigers offense.
Why Andrew Bailey has lasted this long is beyond me. Food and beverage choices aside, the Rex Sox are going to be one of the best teams in the AL, and Bailey is firmly entrenched as their closer.
His injury concerns can't be overlooked, but I'd argue that just about every relief pitcher is a ticking time bomb, just one throw away from a date with Tommy John. Bailey's risk isn't much greater than any other AL closer; grab him here if you can.
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91. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins OF
92. Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians RP
93. Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers SP
94. Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays SP
95. Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians SP
96. Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics SP
97. Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals OF
98. Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins SP
99. Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays OF
100. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels OF
I'm aware that his recent history doesn't provide much ammunition for this claim, but I believe in Colby Rasmus.
He has plenty of power and he's beginning his first full season in the sixth-best home run park in baseball, according to ESPN's 2011 park factors. He's going to strike out a bunch, but he's also going to take a good amount of walks.
He's a perfect fit on the Blue Jays, who should henceforth be known as "Team Three True Outcomes." In 2011, Toronto was the only team in the AL to finish in the top five in home runs, walks and strikeouts. Why don't they just complete the puzzle and sign Adam Dunn already?
While we're on the subject of the Blue Jays, I love Brandon Morrow here.
Inducing swings and misses is one of the most difficult and important skills for a starting pitcher to master, and Morrow does it better than most. One of these years, the rest of his numbers are going to catch up.