THE DRAFT: As with last year’s magazine, the mock draft was held in December, using the draft room at Mock Draft Central (www.mockdraftcentral.com). The early draft date produces a number of constraints, the most obvious being that some of the offseason movement of players hadn’t been completed. Prince Fielder remained unsigned, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey hadn’t been traded yet, nor had Carlos Quentin. Early drafts also take a lot of the confirmation bias out of drafting – there aren’t fully fleshed out ADP’s, nor have we as Touts played out the draft scenarios (if I take hitter “X” now, will pitcher “Y” be available later?, etc…). There are positives and negatives to this – there’s a lack of industry group-think on where a player “should” slot, but it also creates more outliers, as certain players are more likely to slip through late that won’t necessarily do so in your March draft. Take these caveats in mind when you review the results.
We also did one thing differently with this article – instead of asking everyone the same question, we asked questions tailored specifically to each Tout’s draft. I also had Derek VanRiper ask me my two questions from the draft. Here are the results.
You took Jose Bautista first overall. Would you have done so if he didn’t have third-base eligibility?
Without third-base eligibility, I would not take Jose Bautista first. But with that position paper thin, he needs to be picked in the Top 5 somewhere. I’m not dug in on him at #1 - I could easily have taken Matt Kemp or Albert Pujols or a few other players. Had Ryan Braun’s suspension not happened, I probably would have selected him.
You have just two relievers and one full-time closer in Carlos Marmol. Was this by design, or a function of the going rate on closers?
If we were supposed to design our mock team with the idea that we can never make adjustments, I’d have more closers on my club. Otherwise, I refuse to pay reactionary prices for saves in the middle of the draft. If I like the prices, fine. If things get out of hand, I’ll devote my resources to other things. And if you really want to light your money on fire, pay the designer price on closers-in-waiting. They’re traditionally a horrendous investment. You’ll do a lot better at the midseason flea market.
During the draft you commented that you were unhappy with your team. After having a chance to look at the rest of your draft and the results as a whole, has that opinion changed? Is there a pick in particular that you regret?
This is what happens when you’re asked to do a draft last minute (ed. note: we had a late dropout and Ray graciously stepped up as a replacement) and don’t have your own rankings set up. You end up being at the mercy of the website’s rankings of players and as a result you draft Paul Konerko, admittedly the best first baseman left on the board, over the all-around talents of Shin-Soo Choo or B.J. Upton. The same thing could be said when I then took Michael Young over Choo/Upton in the 5th. I should have gone with one of those vets and one of the outfielders. At least I was able to roster a killer staff of arms even though I basically waited until the middle of the draft to attack that position.
Dee Gordon was your eighth-round pick - what sort of season are you projecting for him?
Dee Gordon has elite level speed, something that was on full display last season when he exploded for 24 steals in just 56 games. He’s certainly not a .300 hitter at this point, and 50 steals is expecting too much, but there’s enough talent here that he could be an Elvis Andrus-lite at a much cheaper Draft Day price.
In the past when we’ve done draft format leagues together, you’ve been willing to go out on a limb on players with breakout potential, even in the early rounds - most notably Michael Stanton in the fourth round in a 14-team mixed league last year. Does anyone fit that profile for you this year?
There were two: Starlin Castro in Round 3 - not that I think he’ll take a huge leap, but he doesn’t have to. He’s easily a .300 hitter in a lot of at-bats, 20-plus steals and probably 15-plus HR as he hit eight of his 10 in the second half and should continue to develop power. Plus he plays shortstop. And Mike Trout, who got 123 major-league at-bats last year at age 19 and could easily go 15-30-.280 in a full season of major-league at-bats. Mostly, though I went with a “last year’s bums” strategy with Ichiro, Geovany
Soto, Joe Nathan, Adam Dunn and Justin Morneau.
As the main guy behind the NFBC, you probably have done more mock drafts than anyone else at this point. How did this draft differ significantly from those you did earlier?
In our NFBC pay leagues, the top starting pitchers seem to be going a bit earlier than they went here. Getting Tim Lincecum at 34 was a nice surprise for me considering he’s gone 28-32 in most NFBC leagues. Getting Yovani Gallardo at 6.12 was also very good value, as he’s going a round earlier in NFBC drafts. Catchers surprisingly went fast and furious here – 9 went in the first 5 rounds –and I didn’t chase them. Maybe I should have.
You went after Yoenis Cespedes in the 16th round. I’ve always had a hard time projecting Cuban defectors - what should we expect from him this season?
I obviously don’t know anymore about Cespedes than the next guy, but the outfield position isn’t as deep as in past years and I felt this could be good value. He’s been going in the 17th-18th round in NFBC leagues, so I jumped on him early. I think he will sign with the Marlins or Nationals and start in center field. Once that happens and people learn more about him his stock will rise. Reports say he’s a Raul Mondesi-like player, which has me excited. Again, it’s a bit of a gamble but not a very big one from all of the reports. I trust his stock will rise above the 16th round once he’s signed, sealed and delivered on TV highlights.
You got Carl Crawford at 2.11 - a significant discount compared to last season. How early would you have been willing to take him? Why do you think he tanked so badly last season?
Crawford was an interesting choice since the very next pick was Andrew McCutchen, a player that profiles similarly. Long story short is I am not a fan of the second round inventory in this season’s player pool. I don’t see a huge delta in talent between guys typically going in the second and guys going in the third or fourth. So my way to deal with this is swing for the fences in the second round and Crawford is a perfect example. I would not take him over the infielders selected in this range, but would take Crawford over fellow outfielders like Granderson and Stanton. I think the main issue last season was actually Jacoby Ellsbury. The hope was Ellsbury gave the Red Sox a reason to drop him to ninth, but instead, he almost was the MVP. Aside from his injuries, Crawford was unable to get in a comfortable groove as he was bounced around the order. This season, he will either be put back up near the top or be better prepared to accept hitting further down, my guess is the former.
You drafted sixth overall - I’ve found that typically this is the spot where the variance in mock drafts begin with this year’s draft pool. Were you locked in on Evan Longoria, or was it a tough choice to go with him?
Actually this pick was a toss-up between Longoria and Votto (who went with the very next pick), so I’m not certain that I made the best choice. Simply put, 3B is a more-rapidly depleted position than 1B, I think Longoria’s BA will rebound from last year’s bad luck, and that his power could really blossom. In contrast, 1B is particularly deep in terms of both elites and qualifying flyers – fortunately for me on the latter, since I was repeatedly beaten to my 1B picks throughout the draft.
You took two catchers (Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters) in the first five rounds. Are you usually a big proponent of positional scarcity in snake drafts, or at least someone who believes in getting elite catchers?
Positional scarcity entered into my thinking here, but these choices were as much a combination of the specific players, their health / ages and how I view them in 2012.
Both are age 26, were completely healthy in 2011, and stepped up big-time in the second half last season. I think both have a shot at 30 HR in 2012, and if you’ll notice, Santana already qualifies at 1B as well. In fact, CLE has already announced that Santana will again spend a lot of time at 1B, which helped sell me on his ability to remain healthy.
You took Daniel Murphy in the seventh round, 97th overall, well above his ADP.
I’m less concerned what his ADP is, however - tell me more about the player. What prompted you to take him then?
1. Middle infield was pretty slim at that point.
2. Murphy is eligible at first, second and third for 2012. How do you even put a value on that flexibility, especially early in the draft?
3. Citi Field’s fences are moving in.
4. If Dustin Ackley slashed .320/.362/.448 in almost 400 at-bats last year, how would you feel about him?
You took Justin Verlander in the second round and then waited until the 10th round to take your second starting pitcher in Josh Johnson. Was that by design, a function of the draft order, or some other circumstance?
I usually prefer to wait on drafting pitchers to take advantage of the depth, but with Halladay going right ahead of me at pick 22, Verlander seemed like the best value on the board. In retrospect, it looked like a pretty timely move since Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee were taken in the next six picks. My strategy in this draft was to build a well-rounded offense with players who can hit for power and steal bases. With the players available when my turn came around in the later rounds –Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo and Drew Stubbs – I felt that offense was the way to go. Johnson gives me a potential ace (if he’s healthy – and it looks like he’ll be ready for spring training) in the 10th round so I felt like I could afford to focus my attention elsewhere, including a pair of closers in Rounds 8 and 12.
You left the draft with one full-time closer in Andrew Bailey and a speculative one in Jonathan Broxton. Are you expecting Joakim Soria to collapse or get traded? Were you planning on this sort of roster breakdown, or was it a function of happenstance?
I’m not expecting Soria to collapse, but I think he *could* get traded, and since there wasn’t much left on the closer front near the end of the draft, I thought I’d take a flier on Broxton. He was my top-ranked closer heading into 2011, so I guess I got a little nostalgic.
Ian Stewart is your only third baseman. Was he a late-round target of yours, or someone you settled on late after getting caught by the run on third basemen?
The latter. The third basemen are shaky after the first dozen or so. After the 12th round I didn’t see much difference between the guys who were left, so I decided to wait and fill other needs. Stewart has upside, but I can probably find someone decent on the wire if he doesn’t work out.
By the fifth round, you had addressed catcher, second base, shortstop and third base already. Is it safe to say that positional scarcity is an important consideration for you in snake drafts? If so, is there a position that’s a priority for you to fill early this year?
The top tiers at second base, shortstop, third and catcher are all pretty small this year, and in a 15 team league it is important to try to get as many of these top performers as you can. I went into the draft expecting to take CarGo, who I didn’t expect to last until my second-round pick, and then wanted to go after the hitters with the most impact until we ran out of them. With so many good starting pitchers available I decided to push for hitters in this draft, from the 10th hole, and fill in my primary spots at all positions with productive guys. I focused on pitchers later.
During the draft you said you felt “forced” (or something to that effect) to take Jose Reyes at 2.5 when he came to you. Who would you have rather taken in that spot, having already drafted Robinson Cano in the first round?
I would have taken Mike Stanton in place of Reyes with the fifth pick of Round 2. Position scarcity pushed me into Reyes, however, and the more I have thought about it, the value of securing power early exceeds Reyes’ speed-driven skill set and overwhelming supply of injury risk.
You took the first two closers in the draft (Craig Kimbrel, Mariano Rivera), in the sixth and seventh rounds. Is it typical for you to attack the closers early in snake drafts? Were you happy with the results of your draft by doing so here?
After passing on Stanton, I intentionally waited before filling out my outfield spots. I saw a window to grab two elite closers in Round 6 and 7, likely sealing up 70-75 saves and excellent ratios. It’s not a strategy I consistently employ, but because of the value I was able to get in the following rounds (Ike Davis, Andre Ethier, Brandon Belt and Ubaldo Jimenez), the move didn’t have a negative impact on the quality of my roster at other positions.
This is the obvious question - for the entire draft, really - why did you take Ryan Braun in the third round?
Even with Braun scheduled to miss perhaps 50 games, his production in the rest will likely be so prolific it’s really not much of a risk at all. How many players won’t reach 25 homers and 90 RBIs - not to mention steal say 20 bases - over all six months? Braun’s still a top 30 player to me, still preferred to brittle folks like Josh Hamilton and Chase Utley. We know when Braun will be out and can replace him. I was surprised he lasted as long as he did.
After taking CC Sabathia in the fourth round, you didn’t take another pitcher until the 12th round in Chris Carpenter. Do you feel this strategy of waiting on the pitchers paid off overall? Would you go this route in other similar-sized leagues?
It’s supply and demand this season and there just isn’t enough offense in comparison with pitching. Plus, I find it easier to fake it with pitching. In retrospect I shouldn’t have used any picks in the top 10 rounds on pitching. At least Sabathia is safe (well, there’s always a first time he won’t be!) for many wins and strikeouts and strong peripherals. You must get a strong offensive base, and then build on it and build some more. It’s easier to predict the safe hitters. In most leagues, regardless of size, I select only one starting pitcher among my top 10 picks, then look for undervalued choices. They’re always available. In this draft the rotation worked out well; it’s not always about upside. Chris Carpenter and other older fellows always slip too far.
You drafted Yu Darvish late in Round 9 (9.13), were you happy to see him available after 130-plus players were gone? What are your expectations from him in his first year in MLB?
It’s a gamble in the ninth round, but I think it’s the type of high-upside gamble that could pay big dividends. Typically the first year over has been among the best for Japanese pitchers, though I think many have been poisoned by the Dice-K experience. Darvish isn’t your typical import, though –he’s coming over in the prime of his career, and he throws with a more “traditional” (by MLB standards) delivery. That and his performance has outpaced all that of the other pitchers coming over. When we drafted, the Rangers hadn’t yet won his negotiation rights. While I don’t like the ballpark, I do like the coaching staff there, especially in regard to what they’ve done with their pitchers. I expect him to be a solid #2 fantasy starter.
Strategically, did you plan on taking just one closer in this draft? When you usually tackle an NFBC-style draft, what’s been your most successful approach with regards to picking up an adequate number of saves?
Not really – in fact, this was a mistake given the format. Lately I’ve been on a kick in my auction leagues to refuse to pay sticker price on closers, with good results.
But that doesn’t apply in snake drafts and especially not in the NFBC or other no-trade leagues. If we re-drafted, I’d make sure to address closers earlier and more often. For what it’s worth, I think I have 1.5 closers –Aroldis Chapman theoretically is going to try to transition to starting in spring training, but given his false starts with his shoulder in the AFL, I don’t see it lasting. He has a better chance of contributing in the bullpen, and if he’s already there, why can’t he close? Sean Marshall, right now, is the guy, but he might be better suited than Chapman to go multiple innings in an outing. The Reds might add another reliever to the picture in the offseason, but even then, Chapman is so lights-out when he’s on that I could see him taking over the ninth inning by midseason.
You took the plunge on Adam Wainwright in the seventh round. What sort of numbers do you expect from him?
I’m more bullish on him than most. His timetable gives him a chance to contribute at least 170 innings, with 200 easily in range. Sure, they might protect his frame count a little, but I’d pass over the huge lot of fantasy quasi-aces for stanzas from an elite control freak. Something around a 3.50 ERA and 8.0 K/9 is well within reason, even if he walks a few more per nine and it takes him a few months to straighten himself out. Since he’ll have the preseason to do so as well, I’m more confident in selecting him as a No. 2 complement to Zack Greinke. Waino was pitching with a torn ligament for 10 years.
Imagine what he can do once it’s fixed.
I believe we’ve already done three mock drafts together this winter, and you’ve taken Hanley Ramirez in all three. Where does he sit on your draft board overall? What numbers should we expect from him?
Well, I do think that taking Hanley was largely a function of where I picked. In the RotoWire magazine mock I was #15, and in the Kreutzer magazine I picked ninth each time. If I had a higher pick in either I could well have selected differently. And, Hanley did have a down year in 2011, no question, but after five straight seasons where he hit
.292 or over, and never played in less than 142 games, never stole less than 27 bases, never got less than 163 hits (.300 that year), never hit less than 17 homers, and never scored less than 92 runs, going into ostensibly his peak production years (Hanley just turned 28 in December), I have every reason to think he will pick it back up. Hanley has clearly established himself as a five-category player, and writing him off after one off year (that would be a good year for most players) would be a mistake.
Neftali Feliz is making the transition from closing to starting - and with the Rangers signing Joe Nathan, this time it counts! Do you think that he’ll be able to correct his worsening strikeout and walk rates while transitioning?
Joe Nathan or not, I see Feliz keeping the closer job over the long haul. It seems with very little exception (Smoltz, maybe) that every time teams muck around like this they wind up going back to the original plan. Add in that Nathan is coming off his worst year, was coming off arm surgery, and will be 37 on Opening Day, I still have to bet my bucks that Feliz will wind up as the closer whether anyone likes it or not. So, I don’t think it is really a case of strikeouts and walks: it is a case of a solid closer simply keeping the role he earned and has been successful in (the worst is he becomes the AL Carlos Marmol, which is not so bad).
||Victor Martinez (C)
||Paul Konerko (DH)
||Michael Young (1B,3B)
||Michael Cuddyer (1B)
||Martin Prado (3B)
||Mark Reynolds (1B)
||Adam Dunn (1B)
||Sean Rodriguez (2B,3B)
||Emilio Bonifacio (3B,OF)
||Mitch Moreland (OF)
||Carlos Santana (1B)
||Ben Zobrist (OF)
||Jed Lowrie (3B)
||Mike Morse (OF)
||Howie Kendrick (OF)
||Daniel Murphy (2B,3B)
||Carlos Lee (1B)
||Lucas Duda (1B)
||Mike Napoli (1B)
||Lance Berkman (1B)
||Brandon Belt (1B)
||Ryan Roberts (2B)
||Edwin Encarnacion (1B,3B)
||Josh Willingham (DH)
||Jason Kubel (DH)
||Alexi Casilla (SS)