Last Thursday I participated in a 15-team mixed league mock draft with industry experts (Paul Sporer, Cory Schwartz, and Derek Carty to name a few) and I came away feeling fantastic about my team. On Saturday I was on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy and I said, "I feel like Mike McD from Rounders, I sat with the best in the world and I won." In the rest of this space I will try to keep the braggadocio to a minimum as I break my team down pick-by-pick.
Before we get to my amazing team, though, allow me to rant about why I don’t love playing in mixed leagues. First off, there are just so many players. Too many. When you get a steal or good value on a player in an AL-only league the impact can be much greater because there simply aren't as many alternatives for the other owners to catch up. To continue to quote Rounders, I think "only" leagues are the only pure game left.
1.15 Jacoby Ellsbury
2.16 Adrian Beltre
The impact of the deep player pool is felt almost immediately in mixed leagues as once the top-four players come off the board (my top four: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, and Paul Goldschmidt), there isn't a big drop off from picks five and six to picks 15 and 16. In this draft, Carlos Gonzalez was taken sixth. Personally, I'd rather have Ellsbury anyway and I was able to get him nine picks later. I also have Ellsbury ahead of Ryan Braun, Bryce Harper, and Adam Jones and all of those players were already selected when I first picked.
Having the last pick really played to my advantage because I was able to grab two players that I believe will return top-10 value. Don't sleep on what Ellsbury could do in Yankee Stadium. I don't think it would be crazy to see him hit close to 20 home runs with a .300 average, 100 runs scored and 50 steals. Beltre has played 161 and 156 games in the last two seasons respectively and his team just added Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. Given the state of third base and with other top guys battling injury problems (David Wright and Evan Longoria), I am all aboard the Beltre train.
The Double Dip
3.45 Jose Fernandez
4.46 Chris Sale
Here were the pitchers already gone when I double dipped on starting pitching:
1.5 Clayton Kershaw
2.17 Yu Darvish
3.33 Stephen Strasburg
3.38 Cliff Lee
3.44 Max Scherzer
In a mixed league if you're really worried about who your best pitcher is then you aren't asking the right question. Everyone is going to have at least one fantasy ace in a mixed league with pitching as deep as it is now, and that's why I decided to grab two aces and forget about starting pitching until Round 17 (!). With Fernandez and Sale in the fold, I had locked up almost 450 strikeouts and great ratios.
Also, as much as I like Max Scherzer, I would've selected both of my guys ahead of him. Scherzer is coming off of a career year with 240 strikeouts, but it was also the only season he's ever thrown over 195 innings or posted an ERA below 3.50. Fernandez and Sale are bright young aces whereas Scherzer is entering his age-29 season and Cliff Lee is 35.
5.75 Alex Gordon
6.76 Jose Altuve
Someone saved me from myself as Billy Hamilton was already off the board when I picked, and looking back I think I'd rather have Gordon anyway. His average fell to .265 last year after hitting .294 and .303 in 2012 and 2011. We didn't expect him to BABIP in the .350s forever (which was the case in 2011 and 2012), but I expect him to improve on his .310 number from last year and at least get his average back in the .280s. Moving down to fifth in the order this year should boost his RBI total and Gordon has hit at least 20 home runs in two of the last three seasons.
Speed is tough to come by in fantasy these days and I was happy get Altuve here. He's still young (23) and there could be some improvement at the plate in his average and run total, but this pick was about being able to pencil in 30-plus stolen bases in the middle infield. Everth Cabrera was selected by Tim Heaney a few picks before I took Altuve. Cabrera is basically Altuve minus 20 points of batting average and he plays shortstop.
7.105 Evan Gattis
8.106 Andrelton Simmons
Double Barves! We did it! Not only is speed scarce these days, so is power. Both of these players will provide home runs from positions where you can't always count on getting power. Gattis hit 21 home runs in 105 games last year and with Brian McCann in the Bronx he'll be the primary backstop in Atlanta.
Simmons was moved down in the order after a brutal first half that saw him post a .282 OBP. His putrid .246 BABIP didn't improve much in the second half (.249), but his walk rate ticked up and he had a .316 OBP in the second half. I will be absolutely stunned if Simmons has a .247 BABIP for a full season again. He's not a slow first baseman, and I don't believe in that BABIP as his baseline at all. With improvement in that regard, Simmons' batting average will come up this year. The power Simmons displayed last year, however, is real and 17 home runs from a shortstop is spectacular. Simmons can also steal more than six bases, he showed that skill in the minors. I was ecstatic to get have these two guys fall in my lap while other teams started the closer run and continued to take starting pitchers.
9.135 Brandon Moss
10.136 Victor Martinez
Moss was a target of mine here because he was the last guy on the board with even a chance of hitting 30 home runs this season. It's also nice to pair him with a good average like Victor Martinez. With Prince Fielder in Texas, Martinez will clean up and serve as lineup protection for Miguel Cabrera. Another year removed from his 2012 season-ending knee injury, I expect Martinez to improve his average (.301) and RBI (83) total from a year ago.
11.165 Steve Cishek
12.166 Coco Crisp
I view closers as a necessary evil. You'll never see me with Craig Kimbrel on my team, but you have to take at least two closers in this format. Not doing so is no way to live, but in a deep mixed it just doesn't matter who has Kimbrel. He simply won't throw enough innings compared to the bottom end starting pitchers in a league this size.
Crisp became my third outfielder as I continued to systematically fill out my offense with good players everywhere. In a league this deep, I know other teams are going to end up with dead spots in their offense. There's a team here with Kole Calhoun as its second outfielder. There is a team starting Juan Uribe at the corner-infield spot. There's a team starting Josh Rutledge at middle infield and Junior Lake at utility. My team doesn't have these problems.
13.195 Neftali Feliz
14.196 Torii Hunter
I'm not worried about Feliz coming off an injury. The Rangers' offense is revamped, if the pitching holds up there'll be plenty of leads for Feliz to preserve. Fernando Rodney was taken a few picks prior, but I'd rather have Feliz.
As for Torii Hunter, a complete repeat of his production might not be in order for the 38-year-old, but he'll likely hit second in front of Miguel Cabrera again and you have to like that.
15.225 Jarrod Saltalamacchia
16.226 Michael Brantley
Oswaldo Arcia, Angel Pagan, and B.J. Upton all came off the board before I picked here and I'd rather have Brantley anyway. He had a career-high 73 RBI last season and he's solid everywhere else. If Brantley is your worst outfielder in a league like this, you did just fine.
17.255 Jonathan Villar
18.256 Bartolo Colon
This is when I first started to really feel like I was nailing it. Villar might be the steal of the draft as there's definitely nobody else available at this point with the potential to steal 50 bases in the middle infield.
Colon, as the first pick of the 18th round, was my third starting pitcher taken. Did I mention it's the 18th round? That's how deep mixed league starting pitching is. Colon is old, sure, but he probably shouldn't be available here. He was and so were other good pitchers like Justin Masterson.
19.285 James Loney
20.286 Joe Kelly
Nick Castellanos, Will Middlebrooks, Ike Davis, and Mike Moustakas all came off the board before my selection and guess what? I'd rather have Loney anyway. Loney will hit in the .280s with 13 home runs or so. How much more power are those other guys going to provide and at what risk to your batting average? It's not worth it. The choice was made easier for me by taking Beltre early because I didn't need to take a third basemen at this point. Loney is a nice fit at the corner spot for my team, which would likely win batting average if we played this out.
I went with Kelly over available guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Ivan Nova, and John Lackey. I definitely think there's value to be had here with Kelly. He's obviously a hard thrower, but that hasn't translate to missing bats at the major league level yet. Still, I think he could improve his strikeouts and he'll be a good WHIP pitcher regardless.
21.315 Jose Quintana
22.316 Ervin Santana
As long as Big Erv signs with a team before the season, this was a really nice last turnaround. Santana will look like an absolute steal here, I'm thinking 3.50 ERA with <1.20 WHIP and 160 strikeouts. As for Quintana, what can I say? He's another guy that can be a 3.50 ERA and 1.20 WHIP pitcher. He's also 25 and threw 200 innings last year. Sign me up.
23.345 Tim Hudson
The last pick of the draft and I get another pitcher who brings good ratios with him. I liked Hudson just fine before, but moving to NL West and making half of his starts in San Francisco makes him even more appealing.
Five of my last six picks were pitchers and I was fine with Colon, Kelly, Santana, Quintana, and Hudson to round out my staff. The point I want to make here is that with pitching as deep as it is now, you should pay for aces, but you really shouldn't pay for the next tier down. Once guys like David Price, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, and Cole Hamels are off the board, there's little sense in diving into the next wave of starters or taking closers while the last power hitters come off the board. Power is scarce, but that doesn't change the rules of the game. You have to get your power.
Dave Gonos followed a similar strategy taking only three starting pitchers (Felix Hernandez, Shelby Miller, and Jon Lester) in the first 16 rounds and he ended up with the next best team here. He started off the draft by selecting Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, and Buster Posey. Then he grabbed King Felix and followed that up with David Ortiz, Domonic Brown, Shane Victorino, and Desmond Jennings. He also added Norichika Aoki and Kendrys Morales, who could be a really nice pick if he signs with a team before the season starts. These picks give his offense a good mix of speed and power.
Gonos was able to balance his team with two closers (Grant Balfour and Jonathan Papelbon) and filled out the rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Martin Perez, and Alexi Ogando. I happen to prefer my pitching staff overall, but his strategy worked for the most part as his offense would likely be my main competition.
Cory Schwartz also put together a nice offense as he selected just four starting pitchers in the first 15 rounds. His starters (Jordan Zimmermann, Julio Teheran, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jarrod Parker) aren't as good as mine, but he made some good choices on offense. He took Jason Castro in Round 13 when I was hoping he would fall to me. His offense doesn't have many weaknesses, though Daniel Nava and Justin Ruggiano are starting and I think he jumped the gun on Eric Hosmer a bit (3.36, ahead of Buster Posey).
Thanks to Paul Sporer for inviting me to participate – how comfortable are you waiting to build depth on your pitching staff in mixed league formats this season?