Fantasy Baseball 2014: B/R Experts' Final 25-Round Mock Draft, Version 3.0
The title indicates that this article features another mock draft—but this time, it counts. That's because your friendly, neighborhood Bleacher Report MLB writers and editors gathered to pick players for a fantasy league that actually will be carried out going forward.
By now, many of you have presumably had your draft already, but some are still hearing that internal countdown tick-tocking in your head, keeping time so you know exactly how many hours it is until you and your leaguemates start making picks.
Either way, this round-by-round review of the Bleacher Report experts' league will give you a little extra insight into how those of us who cover baseball—both the real and fake kind—are evaluating players and making selections from a fantasy perspective.
To that end, in addition to the usual analysis from yours truly, each of the participating owners has submitted two bonus elements—the "pick I wound up stealing" and the "pick that left me reeling"—that will run as part of the breakdown. Those super-clever rhyming components should be pretty self-explanatory, no?
If you followed along with the 15-team, 23-round mock draft back in February and then the 12-team, 25-round mock earlier this month, you know by now that the point of mock drafting is to learn something while having fun.
That said, nothing beats making selections when that internal tick-tocking eventually transforms into a very real countdown, when the picks actually matter. That's what happened when 10 Bleacher Report baseball writers and editors gathered over cyberspace to embark on a virtual journey to try and out-draft, outwit and generally outdo each other.
What follows is a look at how everything shook out.
Scoring and Settings
Before we get to the picks, here's some background.
This draft was held on March 22 via Yahoo Fantasy Baseball and is set up for a league with a weekly head-to-head, two-division format that uses 6x6 category scoring: BA, R, HR, RBI, SB and OPS for hitters; W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV and K/BB for pitchers. Because Yahoo is the host site, all positions will be listed based on their database.
There were 25 rounds, and the lineup positions are as follows: one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, middle infield, corner infield and utility; three outfielders; three starting pitchers; two relief pitchers; four pitcher spots (starters or relievers); and five bench spots.
Got all that?
Here's a list of the 10 Bleacher Report MLBers who are involved in the league, listed in alphabetical order by division, along with their site bios, Twitter handles and team names:
"Nuke" LaLoosh Division
- Karl Buscheck (@KarlBuscheck): Karl's Team
- Jason Catania (@JayCat11): Trout Wars
- Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports): Team Giglio
- Stephen Meyer (@StephenMeyer_BR): Betances with Wolves
- Mike Rosenbaum (@GoldenSombrero): The Mighty Sombrero
"Squints" Palledorous Division
- Andrew Gould (@AndrewGould4): Ya Heard with Perd
- Joel Reuter (@JoelReuterBR): New York Knights
- Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer): Allan Travers 4ever
- Jason Soukup: Paul Assenmacher
- Rick Weiner (@RickWeinerBR): Upton No Good
Oh, and yours truly scored the No. 9 overall pick, which allowed me to fill out a certain portion of my starting lineup right quick.
Let's get to the picks already, shall we?
|Allan Travers 4ever||1||Mike Trout||OF|
|New York Knights||2||Miguel Cabrera||3B|
|Paul Assenmacher||3||Paul Goldschmidt||1B|
|Upton No Good||4||Clayton Kershaw||SP|
|Karl's Team||5||Andrew McCutchen||OF|
|Betances with Wolves||6||Hanley Ramirez||SS|
|Team Giglio||7||Bryce Harper||OF|
|The Mighty Sombrero||8||Carlos Gonzalez||OF|
|Trout Wars||9||Robinson Cano||2B|
|Ya Heard with Perd||10||Adrian Beltre||3B|
My Pick: Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Some have soured on Cano a bit—not only because he is no longer a Yankee but also because he is now a Mariner.
There's likely to be a little dip in his counting categories (namely runs and RBI), but he's still the top second baseman—a position with few other high-end options and little depth—and a first-rounder in my eyes, so getting him at No. 9 overall is about right. Plus, Cano's yearly consistency, as well as the fact that he's basically a lock for 150-plus games, carries a little extra weight in head-to-head leagues (H2H), where every week counts.
Upon finding out the draft order—and seeing Zachary D. Rymer, unabashed lover of Mike Trout, atop the picking order—the question of which player would go first overall was answered before the draft even began. Then again, given that most everyone in B/R's MLB crew is a Trout-a-holic, it probably wouldn't have mattered who pulled the top spot, even when the extra offensive category—OPS—should favor Miguel Cabrera.
Taking a pitcher in Round 1, let alone fourth overall, is always tricky when there are arms aplenty available later on and with hitters being so valuable up front. But in H2H play, Rick Weiner can now say that Clayton Kershaw is his pitching-statistics anchor each week.
Hanley Ramirez, Bryce Harper and Carlos Gonzalez are all first-rounders based on talent, but each is also a serious injury risk, which can tank a team in this format; losing a star player for multiple weeks means your team might lose for multiple weeks. Hope Stephen Meyer, Joe Giglio and Mike Rosenbaum have contingency plans.
|Ya Heard with Perd||11||Chris Davis||1B|
|Trout Wars||12||Prince Fielder||1B|
|The Mighty Sombrero||13||Ryan Braun||OF|
|Team Giglio||14||Joey Votto||1B|
|Betances with Wolves||15||Yu Darvish||SP|
|Karl's Team||16||Evan Longoria||3B|
|Upton No Good||17||Troy Tulowitzki||SS|
|Paul Assenmacher||18||Adam Jones||OF|
|New York Knights||19||Carlos Gomez||OF|
|Allan Travers 4ever||20||Edwin Encarnacion||1B/3B|
My Pick: Prince Fielder, 1B, Texas Rangers
If you've followed me throughout this fantasy rankings season, you know full well that I'm buying Fielder bouncing back in 2014, especially now that he's in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the game and hitting in the heart of what could be the highest-scoring lineup around.
Ryan Braun, who went with the very next pick, was my second choice—I'm buying a bounce-back season there, too.
There's plenty of risk with Chris Davis, but man, for Andrew Gould to to land that kind of potential power production (40-50 homers and 120-plus RBI) with his second selection is pretty crazy.
Joey Votto in the middle of Round 2 in a league that uses OPS? Nicely done, Giglio. Nicely done.
The Yu Darvish choice was made prior to the news that he will miss his Opening Day start due to a neck injury, per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, so don't get too worked up if you were questioning that one. If Meyer is right, Darvish's ability to whiff 10-plus hitters in any given start will give his team an arm up in strikeouts most weeks.
Adam Jones' inability to take a walk (25 walks in 2013) hurts him in this format, because his OPS tops out around .830 (.839 in 2012, .811 last year). However, he also plays every day, hits in a very deep lineup and comes up big (or at least chips in) in every other category. Ultimately, if that continues, he's a strong value for Jason Soukup at No. 18.
I have to say, Rymer's take of Edwin Encarnacion to round out this batch looks even better in hindsight for one very underrated reason: he's eligible at third base! Yowza.
|Allan Travers 4ever||21||Adam Wainwright||SP|
|New York Knights||22||Felix Hernandez||SP|
|Paul Assenmacher||23||Jason Kipnis||2B|
|Upton No Good||24||Max Scherzer||SP|
|Karl's Team||25||Stephen Strasburg||SP|
|Betances with Wolves||26||Dustin Pedroia||2B|
|Team Giglio||27||Giancarlo Stanton||OF|
|The Mighty Sombrero||28||David Wright||3B|
|Trout Wars||29||Justin Verlander||SP|
|Ya Heard with Perd||30||Cliff Lee||SP|
My Pick: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
I wasn't expecting to take a starter when this round began, but after Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg went off the board within five selections, it was clear there was a run going on.
I don't normally recommend joining in on a run if you're not getting a guy you absolutely love, but in this case, that's how I felt about Verlander. He looks healthy and back to normal this spring, following offseason surgery on his core that should help him fix his mechanics that were all discombobulated in 2013. I'm choosing to trust the talent, and I think it's within the range of outcomes that he could return to being the game's top fantasy pitcher by season's end.
I can also justify this take because, in H2H play, having at least one starter capable of domination is a little more important than it is in rotisserie-style scoring, where it's easier to load up on quantity and still get the job done. H2H is more about efficiency, especially if you want to keep those ratios (ERA, WHIP, K/BB) looking spiffy over a seven-day period.
Apparently, my league mates felt the same way I did, as six of the 10 choices in this round were starting pitchers, none of whom were selected out of line with expectations. The same goes for the four hitters. In other words, there were not many nits to pick here.
Pick I Wound Up Stealing: Joe Giglio (Team Giglio)
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals (Round 3, No. 25 overall)
Years ago, I stopped participating in multiple fantasy leagues. Between the time, effort and (sometimes) league fees involved, the fun was weighed down by the work.
This year, I jumped back into two leagues: the one longtime league that I've been a part of and this B/R MLB bonanza. When draft prep rolled around for both, I wanted one pitcher: Stephen Strasburg. Not only could this be the breakout season for the 25-year-old star, but the idea of him having a legitimate NL Cy Young battle with Clayton Kershaw isn't out of the question.
To be fair, I passed up on him twice (in both leagues) and banked on nabbing the Nationals ace in the third round. For the second time in as many drafts, I was thwarted by a forward-thinking owner—in this case, Mr. Buscheck—who must have had a premonition of Strasburg's name being called quickly.
Pick That Left Me Reeling: Stephen Meyer (Betances with Wolves)
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox (Round 3, No. 26 overall)
I let the name woo me when there was much better value at second base later on. Matt Carpenter went in the fifth round, and a motivated Ian Kinsler went in the seventh.
Jumping early at Pedroia made me lose out on my starting-pitching targets before my fourth-round pick came up, as both Justin Verlander and Jose Fernandez were off the board. This created a domino effect that had me take a risk on Jose Bautista at No. 35 overall, with my original plan for the pick now lost.
|Ya Heard with Perd||31||Jacoby Ellsbury||OF|
|Trout Wars||32||Shin-Soo Choo||OF|
|The Mighty Sombrero||33||Freddie Freeman||1B|
|Team Giglio||34||Jose Fernandez||SP|
|Betances with Wolves||35||Jose Bautista||OF|
|Karl's Team||36||Madison Bumgarner||SP|
|Upton No Good||37||Chris Sale||SP|
|Paul Assenmacher||38||Yasiel Puig||OF|
|New York Knights||39||David Price||SP|
|Allan Travers 4ever||40||Buster Posey||C/1B|
My Pick: Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
Just to make it crystal clear how much I like the Rangers offense this year, I went ahead and doubled down by snatching up Choo. As an on-base machine (.389 career OBP, .423 in 2013), he'll have a robust OPS. And hitting atop Texas' one-through-nine, he could come close to matching the 107 runs he scored while leading off for the Reds last season.
Oh, and another 20-20 campaign is possible, considering he's done that three times in the past five years.
Jacoby Ellsbury dropped about a round below where he usually goes, which was due in part to his built-in OPS ceiling (.781 in 2013) as well as the calf injury that cropped up right around the time we drafted.
Every other selection in this round was more or less chalk, meaning B/R's MLB folks weren't yet doing anything out of the ordinary or inadvisable. If there was one pick to call out, it would be Buster Posey, simply because taking a catcher in the first four rounds is risky—their counting stats can be limited by not playing every day.
Posey, though, will see time at first base, so he could play 140-150 games in total, and he unquestionably has the highest upside at the position, especially in regards to his power. If Rymer was targeting him specifically for those reasons, he almost certainly would have had to take Posey with one of his book-end picks, as it's unlikely Posey still would have been available 19 turns later.
|Allan Travers 4ever||41||Ian Desmond||SS|
|New York Knights||42||David Ortiz||1B|
|Paul Assenmacher||43||Zack Greinke||SP|
|Upton No Good||44||Albert Pujols||1B|
|Karl's Team||45||Justin Upton||OF|
|Betances with Wolves||46||Kenley Jansen||RP|
|Team Giglio||47||Jose Reyes||SS|
|The Mighty Sombrero||48||Allen Craig||1B/OF|
|Trout Wars||49||Jay Bruce||OF|
|Ya Heard with Perd||50||Matt Carpenter||2B/3B|
My Pick: Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Because he's still only 26 (OK, 27 in April), it seems as though there's another level of production that Bruce reaches with his bat each year. That may or may not be the case in 2014, but I'm willing to find out if he's better than or "merely" .260-30-90 in Round 5, especially since I actually was debating Bruce or Choo with my previous choice.
With only three outfield spots to fill, I wanted to stock as much talent there as I could squeeze in. Again, this is another durable, reliable, power-oriented hitter to add to my growing stable of such players.
David Ortiz at No. 42 overall might be a bit steep...in a standard 5x5 league that doesn't tilt the edge to sluggers like ours does with OPS added in. Further adding to his value is that we are playing in a format where he is at first base. This was a sneaky smart take by Joel Reuter, methinks.
Did you notice what happened in this round? I bet you did. The top reliever taken was not, in fact, Craig Kimbrel but rather Kenley Jansen. Meyer took the Dodgers closer and 100-strikeout stud around where the first RP usually goes—No. 46 overall—but it raised at least my eyebrows that he went against everybody's No. 1 closer. Then again, how likely is it that the same guy winds up leading the most volatile position in the sport yet again at season's end? Eventually, Kimbrel's reign at the top will end.
|Ya Heard with Perd||51||Matt Holliday||OF|
|Trout Wars||52||Eric Hosmer||1B|
|The Mighty Sombrero||53||Jordan Zimmermann||SP|
|Team Giglio||54||Joe Mauer||C/1B|
|Betances with Wolves||55||Adrian Gonzalez||1B|
|Karl's Team||56||Craig Kimbrel||RP|
|Upton No Good||57||Wil Myers||OF|
|Paul Assenmacher||58||Gerrit Cole||SP|
|New York Knights||59||Hunter Pence||OF|
|Allan Travers 4ever||60||Jason Heyward||OF|
My Pick: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
As I said in the chat room right after drafting Hosmer, I could see him entering the MVP discussion this season, the 24-year-old's fourth in the majors. Hosmer is the heart of the Royals young, ever-improving order, and following a slow first two months, he went bonkers from June on: .318 BA, 68 R, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 8 SB and .862 OPS in just over 100 games.
I can hope on that level of production throughout the entire season in 2014, rather than across only four months. If that happens, Hosmer will be a fantasy force. Even if it doesn't and Hosmer is merely good to very good again, I love him as my corner infielder.
After the surprising Jansen-over-Kimbrel preference last round, there were a couple other pitcher picks that stood out from their typical average draft positions (ADPs): Jordan Zimmermann and Gerrit Cole.
The former will provide a boffo ERA and WHIP—and a boost in the additional K/BB category (4.03 in 2013)—but his strikeout total (161 last year) is less than average. That could leave Rosenbaum wanting more from what is his first pitcher.
The latter, meanwhile, offers all kinds of K-related upside. But at No. 58 overall, there's almost no room for Cole to turn a profit for Soukup, unless he actually becomes a top-15 fantasy SP in his first full year. Cole has the goods to do that, but maybe not just yet.
Pick That Left Me Reeling: Zachary D. Rymer (Allan Travers 4ever)
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (Round 6, No. 60 overall)
Um, let's just say I may or may not have gotten my nerd interests crossed here.
I'm of the mind that Heyward is Atlanta's best player and one of the National League's elites when he's healthy, but that's because I love his defense and baserunning ability. I'm going to need him to be a 20-20 guy with an OPS of at least .800 for this pick to pay off. I like his odds of doing so, but I don't love them.
|Allan Travers 4ever||61||Homer Bailey||SP|
|New York Knights||62||Anibal Sanchez||SP|
|Paul Assenmacher||63||Alex Rios||OF|
|Upton No Good||64||Ian Kinsler||2B|
|Karl's Team||65||Matt Cain||SP|
|Betances with Wolves||66||Starling Marte||OF|
|Team Giglio||67||Carlos Santana||C/1B|
|The Mighty Sombrero||68||Jose Abreu||1B|
|Trout Wars||69||Gio Gonzalez||SP|
|Ya Heard with Perd||70||Mat Latos||SP|
My Pick: Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals
I had one eye on Carlos Santana and one on the idea of finding my second starting pitcher in Round 7. Had the OPS-friendly catcher-eligible Santana dropped merely two more spots, I would have gone for him. Alas, Giglio got there first.
Far from discouraged, I turned both eyes to the top available SPs and focused my gaze upon Gonzalez with the second-to-last pick of a round in which half the players selected were pitchers. His value is nicked a tad in our league, because he walks enough batters to keep his K/BB down—even if he whiffs 190-plus, like he has the past three seasons. Still, Gonzalez is one of the arms I like more than most, so I went with my gut.
The front half of this round was littered with players that I'm not a big fan of. In fact, Anibal Sanchez, Alex Rios and Ian Kinsler went in succession and at reasonable prices. While the last of that trio now has to deal with a less hitter-friendly park and is a constant injury concern, I see the former two as regression candidates—even after Sanchez led the AL with a 2.57 ERA in 2013 and Rios swiped a career-high 42 bases at age 32.
No matter how hard I try, I just can't get behind Starling Marte, who is too much of a free-swinger (25 walks in 2013) to provide OPS help or for owners to expect an outstanding level of production in anything but stolen bases. He's not a bad take in Round 7, by any means, but I just don't expect to own him on any of my teams this year.
On the contrary, I do like Jose Abreu—and I do own him on a few teams—but this is the earliest I've seen him go. In my opinion, he's one of a handful of extreme wild cards in fantasy in 2014, and Rosenbaum obviously sees him as an ace rather than a joker.
|Ya Heard with Perd||71||Jean Segura||SS|
|Trout Wars||72||Ryan Zimmerman||3B|
|The Mighty Sombrero||73||Xander Bogaerts||3B/SS|
|Team Giglio||74||James Shields||SP|
|Betances with Wolves||75||Yadier Molina||C|
|Karl's Team||76||Pablo Sandoval||3B|
|Upton No Good||77||Manny Machado||3B|
|Paul Assenmacher||78||Koji Uehara||RP|
|New York Knights||79||Trevor Rosenthal||RP|
|Allan Travers 4ever||80||Billy Hamilton||OF|
My Pick: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals
A second straight National shows my faith in them on both sides of the ball, with Zimmerman's 25-homer bat following Gonzalez's 200-strikeout arm.
With no third baseman having been picked since David Wright in Round 3—Matt Carpenter went in Round 5, but he's a fantasy 2B—I like the value of getting a guy who could match Wright's production in every category except for stolen bases 44 picks later.
I like even more that my take kicked off a bit of a run on hot cornermen, with Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval and Manny Machado leaving the board before the end of the round.
Speaking of those other third basemen, I didn't quite get the appeal of Sandoval and Machado this early. I do like them, but both are injury concerns—especially Machado now that he's starting the season on the DL. Plus, there were still other 3B options to pick and choose from—remember that whole gap from Wright to Zimmerman I just mentioned?—meaning a choice didn't have to be made just yet, unless those were the two names Karl Buscheck and Weiner were targeting all along. And if so, they might have been able to wait another round, or maybe even two, to select them.
On the plus side of value, I thought Jean Segura in Round 8 was a nice move by Gould (see below). I know Segura's second half in 2013 was flat-out frightening (.241 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI), but, as I noted on Twitter, he has the skill set to approach the level of Rafael Furcal in his prime—a 15-homer, 30-steal shortstop with a batting average in the .270-.290 range.
Similarly, James Shields might be Mr. Underrated in fantasy. He always throws 200 innings and always strikes out close to (or more than) 200. And in this K/BB format, his 3.54 ratio should have gotten more love from us. Frankly, I'm not sure I shouldn't have picked him over Gonzalez.
Koji Uehara and Trevor Rosenthal were also strong takes at this point by Soukup and Reuter, respectively. They have super K/BB numbers that will pump up that category for those owners.
The jury's out: Billy Hamilton could win the SB category for Rymer half a dozen times—or more—all by himself. Alas, he could be dead roster weight, especially with our scoring system, if he can't hit or get on base enough to have an OPS that is at least in the .650-.700 range.
Pick I Wound Up Stealing: Andrew Gould (Ya Heard with Perd)
Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 8, No. 71 overall)
Like the rest of the draft room, I wouldn’t be surprised if the free-swinging Segura struggled to maintain a .294 batting average considering his second-half struggles last season. That’s fine, however, because I’ll gladly take a shortstop who hits .275-.280 with 10 homers and 35-40 steals. He showed pop in the minors and has always been known for his blazing speed, so I’m not too worried about those numbers dwindling.
Pick That Left Me Reeling: Jason Catania (Trout Wars)
Xander Bogaerts, 3B/SS, Boston Red Sox (Round 8, No. 73 overall)
This wasn't a particular pick so much as it was a particular owner: our resident prospect maven, Mr. Mike "I Like to Draft Rookies Way Earlier Than Their ADPs" Rosenbaum, who took three middle-infield options I was hoping would drop in Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar (Round 14) and Brad Miller (Round 17).
That left me with dwindling options to plug my vacant MI spot later in the draft, and while I was able to snag Anthony Rendon and Andrelton Simmons—both of whom I like to take steps forward in 2014—there was no way to know with any certainty when the next youngster was about to go with Rosenbaum constantly on the prowl for his prospect reaches.
|Allan Travers 4ever|