Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Lessons Learned From the Mock Draft Army

by Howard Bender on February 22, 2014

madbum1While mock drafting is an important part of your fantasy baseball draft prep work, it doesn’t mean anything unless you learn from the experience. You need to take something away from each and every draft you do and that is one of the reasons as to why I’ve created the Mock Draft Army. You’ve got a  little more than two hours of quality time with both a group of experts and a group of equally interested peers, so while the draft itself can be fun and exciting, it’s up to you to ask questions you may have, learn about trends that some of us see developing, and become better at the process than you may already be. Obviously it’s ok to have fun. We encourage that. Hell, some of the banter between those of us who know each other can be pretty damn funny. But you also have to remember that this is work for you. You’re participating for a reason.

So before I get to the results of the Army’s latest draft, allow me to share a few things I’ve taken away from the abundance of mock drafts that I’ve done this season:

1. Build your outfield early — On average, you’re looking at roughly 30-percent of the first 100 picks (six-to-eight rounds depending on the size of your league) being outfielders. In a 15-team league, that means you need at least two outfielders in your first six picks to ensure that you have a pair of guys from the top-30. That may not sound like a lot, but when you’re worrying about position scarcity in the infield and then get nervous because you see a bunch of ace starting pitchers come off the board, you’d be surprised as to how difficult it can be to maintain that quota, especially when others are also loading up on the position whether it’s intended or not. We’ll come back and re-visit this once we start looking at the final results of the Mock Draft Army’s fifth draft.

2. Watch those trendy picks climb — There’s no such thing as sleepers anymore, so get that concept out of your head right now. With the number of fantasy baseball web sites, magazines, podcasts and radio shows out there, rarely is there a hidden gem that remains unearthed. And amongst all of that information you are receiving, the pundits are regularly sharing with you their favorites. Those favorites, because they’re gushed over so often, become the primary draft targets for the masses and suddenly a guy you should be taking in the 14th round is now going to someone else in the 12th. And in two weeks time, that same player will be going in the 10th. The young hurlers such as Gerrit Cole, Danny Salazar, Michael Wacha and Sonny Gray all fall into that category, as well as do hitters such as Jose Abreu and George Springer. Take them too high and they immediately lose a certain amount off their inherent value. Not to mention, the proven talent you’re also bypassing and leaving exposed for your fellow owners.

3.  There are plenty of saves to be had late — Your top five or six closers are coming off the board between rounds six and eight. Your next closer run happens between rounds 13 and 15. Those who dip into the closer pool both times rarely look for a third and those who tap into the pool just once often become ambivalent towards the end of your draft. That usually means there are are usually half a dozen closers available to you late in the draft. They’re not the be-all, end-all of closers, but if you’re just looking for cheap saves, there’s nothing cheaper than a Nate Jones/Tommy Hunter tandem in the 21st and 22nd rounds. I’m a huge fan of drafting elite closers, but I’ve learned this year that you can grab one early and then sit tight until late while building up the rest of your team.

These are just three of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of roughly a dozen mocks that I’ve done between the Army and draft kits for other sites and magazines. Believe me when I say that there are plenty more. These three are just scratching the surface, and that’s why I like to mix up the writers and readers for each mock. It tends to increase your chances of learning something new. That being said, let’s get to The Army’s latest mock draft and see what we can learn from the experience.

The Participants

Writers
Howard Bender RotobuzzGuy.com @rotobuzzguy
Michael Pichan Fantasy Alarm @FantasyNomad
Tim Heaney KFFL @Tim_Heaney
Jason Catania Bleacher Report @JayCat11
David Kerr FantasySquads.com @AskROTObaseball
Andrew Miller The Fantasy Fix @44AMiller
Tony Mauriello DraftLegend.com/RotoGrinders @TheTonyM
Nick Shlain RotoWire @electricsnuff
Rodric Richenberg RotoWire @rdrcrr
Readers
Tyler K. Bone Squad
Byron T. GoldnGreen Elephants
Mark O. Great expectations!
Tom G. GoGiants
Johnny S. Steel Town Buccos
Shawn L. Nats

 

Never to slight any of the other drafts, but this was one of my favorites. We had a real nice crew of writers, as you can see, and the readers were both enthusiastic and knowledgeable as well. Most were active in the chat room — whether it was a question about a particular player or just smack talk between me and Tim Heaney — and those who remained relatively quiet all seemed to chime in at some point to compliment a pick or “laugh” at the friendly ribbing that went on. The draft was as fun as it was educational — the exact goal of the Mock Draft Army.

As I usually do in my draft write-ups, I’ll go through the first 10 rounds of my picks, share some thoughts about them and then give a mention of another pick or two from the round that I either liked or disliked. Remember, these are just my own thoughts and as my granddaddy always used to say, opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one and most of them stink. So if I didn’t like a pick, that’s my personal preference. Maybe the owner had a particular strategy in mind or maybe they were just trying to have some fun. There’s nothing personal involved. I’m just trying to help and share some experience and wisdom here.

So here we go. It was a 15-team, two-catcher, mixed league intended for standard 5×5 roto. By the luck of the draw, I ended up on the wheel with the 15th pick. I like being on the wheel in a 10 or 12-team league, but truth be told, it kind of sucks in a 15-teamer. Twenty-eight picks off the board in between your selections means you spend an awful lot of time watching your player queue get drained. In any event, I thought about a few tweaks in strategy and here’s what went down…

The Draft Board

Round 1

My Pick: Prince Fielder, 1B — From the moment the Tigers dealt him to Texas, I’ve been eager to grab him in every draft I’ve done, both real or mock. He’s been a bastion of health and while his power was down these last two seasons in pitcher-friendly Comerica, his plate discipline remains unchanged. That tells me that we should be in for an explosive year from him in Texas with two fantastic table-setters in front and strong lineup protection behind.

Other Round Thoughts: Pretty tough to criticize a first-round selection when there’s a perfectly sound argument for each and every player taken in the round.

Round 2

My Pick: Jason Kipnis, 2B — I’ve never been shy about my man-crush on Kipnis and considering the fact that he should be the No. 1 second baseman by year end, the pick makes total sense. The position isn’t as thin as it once was, but he’s a rare power/speed combo in the middle infield which makes him tough to pass up.

Other Round Thoughts: Joey Votto at 19th overall looks to be a steal. Even though it’s a two-catcher league, that’s an awful lot of talent to leave on the table when you draft Buster Posey in the middle of the second round. And I’m just not a Yasiel Puig fan; at least not enough of one to take him in the second round. For a more detailed reason as to why, check out my latest on Fantasy Alarm.

Round 3

My Pick: David Price, SP — No matter how many times we say that starting pitching is ridiculously deep – and it is, believe me – people still chase these high-end pitchers in the early rounds. So with the top three already off the board and another 28 picks coming in between selections, I wanted to try something a little different and grab some pitching early. Some might argue with my choice of Price, but I definitely see a rebound coming and after a hot first half, a potential trade and change of scenery.

Other Round Thoughts: How about me not heeding my own advice as seven outfielders came off the board in this round and 19 in total. I should have bypassed pitching completely and jumped on the outfield train before it got too late. Kudos to Michael Pichan for stealing Mark Trumbo from me with an earlier than usual selection of the big slugger and I like seeing Shin-Soo Choo finally getting some respect.

Round 4

My Pick: Madison Bumgarner, SP — I may have made him my selection for NL Cy Young this year, but in the wake of what I just wrote up above, he was not the guy to take here. It’s a phenomenal 1-2 punch for your pitching staff, but it’s also a clear indication of not studying the trends developing within the draft. I made the pick to exaggerate the pitcher-heavy lean, but it also helps to illustrate a lesson that should hopefully be learned. The move wasn’t entirely bad as seven starters came off afterwards, but I know my outfield is going to be weak.

Other Round Thoughts: I know that first base has a pretty substantial drop-off after the top-10, but I still feel like this is too early for Allen Craig. Maybe the power returns, maybe it doesn’t. Bu tthe injury risk alone is something I like to avoid.

Round 5

My Pick: Jason Heyward, OF — He was the top-rated outfielder still on the board and I wasn’t going to ignore the position any longer. I shouldn’t have ignored it as much as I did in the first place. Especially now when my top outfielder can’t seem to find any injury bug repellant and has as much chance of being a bust as he does being a worthy selection.

Other Round Thoughts: I always make a note of when the first closer comes off the board and in this case it’s Craig Kimbrel in the early part of the fifth round. Top two catchers as well, and take notice of Wilin Rosario going ahead of Joe Mauer. I think that’s the first I’ve seen of it this season.

Round 6

My Pick: Kyle Seager, 3B — Similarly to first base, the hot corner also has a significant drop-off after the top eight to ten, so I didn;t want to get stuck fishing for Mike Moustakas later on. Seager may not post the cleanest of batting averages but he is a consistent 20-home run guy and will be batting second in the Mariners’ lineup, just ahead of Robinson Cano.

Other Round Thoughts: Both Gerrit Cole and Jose Abreu lead off the trendy picks here in the sixth round. I don’t mind seeing Abreu here because, not only do I belieeve in his power, but he really only needs to hit 20 home runs and carry a .270 average to make him a worthwhile pick in this round. Cole needs to perform at a much higher level to make himself worthy of this selection. Cole has to emulate the performance of a Chris Sale or Cole Hamels to earn his value here. Abreu needs to hit like Alex Gordon. Guess which one is more attainable.

Round 7

My Pick: Michael Cuddyer, OF — He was the best outfield bat on the board and all I had was Heyward still. Cuddyer has solid power, but he’s also one of the most likely to be traded out of Colorado at some point. Who’s to say that he lands somewhere as hitter-friendly as Coors? He’s probably going to be a solid first half guy but also a sell-high once the All Star break hits.

Other Round Thoughts: Though it was early in the round, the seventh is the lowest I’ve seen Billy Hamilton go so far. Similarly to Puig, I have my reservations as you’ll also find on Fantasy Alarm. Also probably the earliest I’ve seen Nolan Arenado go. I like him, but I think you can get him lower than this, even in a 15-teamer.

Round 8

My Pick: Greg Holland, RP — Kimbrel went in the fifth and Aroldis Chapman went in the sixth. Since then, it’s been all quiet on the closer front. I knoew that now was the time to make a move and who else am I going to move with than Holland. The guy is a beast in the ninth and will rack up mad saves and strikeouts this year again.

Other Round Thoughts: Too early for Xander Bogaerts and maybe too early for Andrelton Simmons as well. In defense of Andrew Miller, his computer froze up on him and auto-drafted Carl Crawford. He didn’t really want him, but he also didn’t want the draft pace to come to a screeching halt. We did pause a couple of times, something we never do in the Army, but Miller wanted to stay the course. An excellent sacrifice.

Round 9

My Pick: Trevor Rosenthal, RP — So here’s where I tried to get cute. I love having the pair of elite closers, but I also want to spur on a closer run of epic proportions. In a 12-team league, the early double-tap at closer is a great move, but not so much in a 15-teamer. The overall value is high, but the it’s just not worth missing out on another round of hitters.

Other Round Thoughts: I probably would have bypassed Rosenthal here had Leonys Martin been available, but Nick Shlain not only sniped him, but he sniped him with the pick right in front of me. Despite being bumped back to the bottom of the order, he should still be a great 30-steal guy to have this year.

Round 10

My Pick: Wilson Ramos, C — Several catchers were already off the board and I wanted to make sure that I landed one lead backstop here in a two-catcher league. Ramos has amazing power potential but is definitely a huge injury risk. I’ll take the chance with injuries down here in the 10th round, so the risk isn’t going to kill me. I’m still light on speed, but I’ll address that soon enough.

Other Round Thoughts: It was just a matter of time before the young hurlers were gone and Doug Fister, Michael Wacha and Danny Salazar all came off in this round. The 10th round is probably about right considering the hype for Salazar and Wacha but I see Fister being the more valuable of the three immediately.

As for the rest of the draft…

As I knew I would, I added some good speed with Ben Revere and maybe Alcides Escobar if he can get on-base more this year. It doesn’t look like enough to be too competitive though, so a trade or waiver wire hunt for speed is going to be necessary. My pitching rounded out well and is probably my team’s biggest asset to date. The addition of Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and a rejuvenated Josh Johnson turn this staff into a first rate group. The team has ok balance, but leans heavy on the pitching and, if we were to play this one out, I’d have to find immediately help via trade.

I don’t have any harsh criticisms of anyone draft as that would prove to be a pretty dickish move. But I will poitn out that, like me, GoGiants, GoldnGreen Elephants and Great expectations!, Nats and Dave Kerr all have pretty weak outfields. Next time I must act earlier.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Ray Flowers took Justin Morneau in the 14th round of our KFFL Experts league today, I would have said that the pick was too high. More and more people are believing in the Coors rejuvenation, but also, those getting caught without a first basemen or corner infielder late.

If Emilio Bonifacio wins a starting job in Chicago, that 17th round pick could prove to be a real bargain when he starts stealing bases.

I think that 20th round pick of Kelly Johnson could prove to be a game-changer at some point down the road. He’s going to be seriously undervalued in drafts and likely to post strong numbers with great position flexibility.

So that’s all from the Mock Draft Army from my end. If you’d like another perspective, then check out what David Kerr thought of his draft over at FantasySquads.com.

And remember, if you’d like to take part in one of my upcoming mock drafts, follow me on Twitter (@rotobuzzguy), like the RotobuzzGuy Facebook page, or just simply email me at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

Good luck and I’ll see you all in the money this year!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave R. February 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

This is very helpful information…thanks. Also reinforces what I have found in several mock drafts so far…that the OF category is a lot more thin than I first realized.

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2 costaricanchata March 13, 2014 at 6:45 am

just found your site , and i must say that i enjoyed this article and your style of writing .
your assessment of seager as “… a consistent 20-home run guy …” seems a bit of a stretch , however .

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3 Howard Bender March 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Thanks very much. Appreciate the feedback.

Seager has two full years in the bigs and has at least 20 homers in each. Pretty consistent, no? ;)

Maybe it’s a bit of wishful thinking as I own him in a few leagues already.

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