Fantasy Baseball 2018 Mock Draft: Cheat Sheet for 12-Team Format

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 25, 2018

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge waits to hit before Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The wealth of talent spread across Major League Baseball benefits fantasy owners faced with the daunting task of competing in 12-team leagues. 

Astute players will always go into the fantasy draft with a plan, though it only takes one overaggressive owner to ruin everything. There is no reason to panic, regardless of the situation, because there are numerous strategies that can be put in place to account for any issues that may arise. 

Here's a look at our latest first-round fantasy mock draft for 12-team leagues, as well as some bits of information to follow that will help you to stand tall when the season ends. 

                    

12-Team Fantasy Mock Draft

1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

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2. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

3. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

5. Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies

6. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals

7. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

8. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox

10. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians

11. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

12. Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

         

Beware Players Coming off Historic Seasons

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Everyone loves New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, and why wouldn't they? He won AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in AL MVP voting after leading the league with 52 homers and 128 runs scored.

For a player with just one full season under his belt, a fair assumption for Judge would seem to be he can get better.

But will he even be able to duplicate what happened in 2017?

FanGraphs projects Judge will hit .253/.366/.535 with 41 homers, 106 RBI and 99 runs scored this season. It's an excellent year for fantasy owners, though not quite what they would expect after what happened in 2017.

There's a reason to doubt that Judge will come close to doing what he did during his rookie season, as ESPN.com's Ron Shandler noted:

"Maybe Judge's output is real -- or at least real enough that we have to inflate his historical track record to match the balls. His home-run-to-fly-ball rate was 18 percent in 2016; it, too, almost doubled to 35.6 percent in 2017.

"However, is that level repeatable? No player has sustained a 35.6 percent rate over a full season in 12 years. The most recent one to do so was Ryan Howard, who hit 58 home runs with a 39.5 percent hr/fb rate in 2006."

Of the 15 players with a batting average on balls in play of at least .350 last season, Judge had the highest strikeout rate (30.7). He also had the highest walk rate (18.7), so there is a possibility he can be the one player to sustain such a high BABIP despite not putting the ball in play nearly one-third of the time.

But betting on one historic season is an easy way to get in trouble. Shandler also noted the recent example of Chris Davis' 53 homers for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, which he followed up with 26 the next season.

Davis might be a good starting point for Judge because he had never hit more than 21 homers in the big leagues from 2008 until 2011 before his breakout season. He also strikes out frequently, including 199 times in 2013.

Judge is going to be a valuable fantasy asset, but his average draft position of 14.6 makes him an early second-round pick. Joey Votto, Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman are all being selected after him.

There's better value on the board where Judge is being selected, making it easy to pass on him.

                     

Focus on Team Stats

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

In one of the famous scenes from Moneyball, Jonah Hill tells Brad Pitt that "people who run ball clubs think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn't be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins."

Fantasy baseball often works in those terms. Fans are the ones in charge of building and running these teams, so naturally they want to add their favorite players.

There's some validity to this line of thinking, as long as it's kept within reason. The rest of your energy should be devoted to thinking in terms of the bigger picture.

For instance, per CBSSports.com's Chris Towers, there are specific pitching benchmarks to keep in mind when building your staff.

"So, there are your targets: 105 wins, 104 saves, 1,520 strikeouts, a 3.51 ERA and a 1.178 WHIP were what you needed to win each pitching category last season, on average," Towers wrote. "You don't need to be in first place in all five categories, of course, but it's good to know what you're aiming for."

The goal for your team isn't to have the biggest star at one or two positions but to stretch your draft resources far enough so you can come close to reaching those statistical benchmarks Towers pointed out.

If you think in terms of what your team needs instead of trying to "win" the draft, it will serve your roster better when the season begins.

                   

Pay Attention to Player Adjustments

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

This category applies specifically to young players in their first or second go-around in the big leagues, though it can also work for veterans who made some notable change to their swings or added new pitches to make their resurgent performance stand out.

The perfect example of a young player who has appeared to figure things out even though his overall stat line last season doesn't show it is Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton.

There's not much to be excited about with Buxton when you see he hit .253/.314/.413 with 16 homers and 29 stolen bases in 140 games. Digging into those numbers, though, it's clear an adjustment happened along the way.

After the All-Star break, Buxton posted a .300/.347/.546 slash line with 24 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases in 57 games. He's only 24 and is just two years removed from being Baseball America's No. 2 overall prospect in MLB.

Going back to Judge, even though he closed the regular season with a strong September (1.352 OPS), he was overmatched in the playoffs with 27 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. He won't be facing pitchers the caliber of what he saw in the postseason every game, but that did give teams a formula to get him out with ease.

Another Yankee who had a breakout 2017 season was Luis Severino, which can in part be attributed to increased use of his slider and changeup to complement his power fastball. That is a legitimate change in approach, suggesting the right-hander will be among the AL's best starting pitchers again.