Mock Draft Central Experts Baseball Draft – 12/3/07
By David Regan, RotoWire Staff Writer
It’s right about this time each year that the Hot Stove action, the winding down of the NFL regular season, and the cold weather combine to get me itching for the baseball season to ramp up. That said, when I had the opportunity to represent Rotowire in a DECEMBER mock draft over at Mock Draft Central, I couldn’t refuse. Sure December 3rd was early for this sort of thing and of course things are going to change (trades, free agent signings, injuries, etc.) between now and when most normal fantasy leagues get drafting, but it was a fun exercise nonetheless. If anyone if paying attention to fantasy baseball this early, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some insights from the draft.
Number of participants: 12
Format: Mixed League 5 X 5, 23 rounds – 2 C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, 5 OF, UT, 9 SP/RP
I had the ninth pick in the draft (snake format).
For the full draft results, go here. Believe it or not, from that link, you can also link to what I believe could be the first ever play-by-play of a fantasy draft, at least that I’ve heard of.
Round 1: My Pick – Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI
Considering I had Rollins in my top 6 (after A-Rod, Ramirez, Reyes, Pujols, and Wright), I was thrilled to get the NL MVP and a 30 HR / 40 SB guy at #9. While I don’t expect another season quite like that in 2008 (94 RBI in ’07!!), Rollins still just turned 29 and should be good for another huge 2008. I considered Miguel Cabrera here (he went #10), but felt Rollins’ production across all five categories was too much to pass up.
Round 2: My Pick – Johan Santana, SP, MIN(?)
Santana with the 16th overall pick would be considered a steal last year (I saw him going top 5), but a so-so 15-13 season caused him to slip to me. Some experts advise waiting until later in the draft to start stockpiling pitchers, but I felt Santana was the safest bet among starting pitchers here and that the added enticement of him in a Boston or New York uniform made this a good pick. Sure, if he goes to Boston or New York, he’ll have to pitch against one of those high-powered offenses, but consider this: over the past three years, Santana has a 2.66 ERA versus the Yankees and 2.63 against Boston. On the other hand, he is 3-7 against Cleveland in that time. Something to ponder. I strongly considered Grady Sizemore and Mark Teixeira here, but Santana was the pick.
Round 3: My Pick – Justin Morneau, 1B, MIN
With an ace in tow, it was time to start loading up on some bats. Morneau lost 50 points of batting average off his MVP season of 2006 (.321), but a .271-31-111 season still isn’t too shabby. Morneau was awful after the All-Star break last year (.243-7-37), but a minor back injury may have been to blame. He’ll be fine this year and should benefit from the presence of Delmon Young. B.J. Upton was very tempting in this spot, but I felt I needed a little more pop.
Round 4: My Pick – Brian McCann, C, ATL
With Martin, Martinez, and Mauer having gone off the board ahead of me, I felt McCann was by far the best remaining catcher (Kenji Johjima went next – in round 7) and since we start two, he was the easy pick. McCann slumped to a .772 OPS last year after 2006’s .960, but a .271-18-92 line is still quite good for a fantasy catcher and considering he’ll turn just 24 in January, there’s still a lot of upside here.
Round 5: My Pick – Torii Hunter, OF, ANA
The first pick that I regret. In a league where you start five outfielders, I felt the time had come to grab my first one, but this move in hindsight appears to be one of panic. Sure, Hunter had a very good 2007 - .287-28-107 with 18 SB’s and if he repeats that, this will be a solid pick, but how often do we see guys nosedive after signing a big-money free agent contract? Hunter turns 33 in July and has a .324 career OBP, so expecting a repeat may be a stretch. I should have grabbed Robinson Cano here.
Round 6: My Pick – Vernon Wells, OF, TOR
I actually feel better about this pick than Hunter. .245-16-80 was not a typical Vernon Wells season, but Wells admitted in August that a shoulder injury bothered him for much of the year. He’s expected to be 100% in 2008 and could be a nice sleeper. Also keep in mind that Wells’ walk rate and contract rate were right at his normal levels in 2007 and combine that with some bad luck on balls in play (.265 BABIP), there’s some value here.
Round 7: My Pick – Justin Verlander, SP, DET
I was targeting a starter here, and after watching several of them go off the board in front of me, I’m happy with this pick. The thing to like most about Verlander last year is that his excellent stuff translated into strikeouts as his K/9 rate jumped from 6.0 in 2006 to 8.2 last year. While wins are impossible to predict, it’s hard to see Verlander dropping too much from last season’s 18 considering the offensive upgrades the Tigers made this offseason.
Round 8: My Pick – Brad Hawpe, OF, COL
Adding power here. In hindsight, I might have grabbed Eric Byrnes here (he went the pick after this one) for his stolen bases, but .291-29-116 isn’t too shabby either. Unfortunately Hawpe continued to struggle versus lefties (.214) last year, but he’s no longer considered a threat to be platooned.
Round 9: My Pick – Takashi Saito, RP, LAD
My first closer. I actually have Saito ranked above Mariano Rivera who went a few picks before me and despite turning 38 in February, Saito shows no signs of slowing down. He should be a lock for 35-40 saves, a miniscule ERA, and solid strikeout numbers.
Round 10: My pick – Rickie Weeks, 2B, MIL
I really like this pick here. Don’t forget that Weeks was the #2 overall pick in the draft behind Delmon Young a few years ago and though he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, there have been some injuries and growing pains worth noting. Weeks hit just .235 last year, but still possesses the skill-set to be a top five fantasy second baseman. He showed very good plate discipline with 78 walks to just 409 at-bats and the power (16 home runs) and speed (25 steals) were evident as well. Just think where his .374 OBP would have landed if he’d made more frequent contact. Weeks could be the Brewers’ leadoff man this year and how would you like to have a guy hitting in front of J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder? Love this pick.
So as not to make this a 3,000 word post, I’ll start the lightening round now:
Round 11: My Pick – James Loney, 1B, LAD – The nine homers in September were an aberration, but he clearly has more power than he showed in the minors. I can’t wait to see what he can do in his first full season. .310 with 20-25 home runs and 90-100 RBI seems possible.
Round 12: My Pick – Jeremy Hermida, OF, FLA – I’d love to see what a healthy Hermida could do over a full season. All he did was hit .340/.401/.555 after the All-Star break last year and if that knee is 100%, it’s easy to project 25 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases.
Round 13: My Pick – Jason Isringhausen, RP, STL – Got caught up in a mini-closer run here, but Isringhausen has proven the hip is no longer an issue. Still, I could have grabbed Joakim Soria who went two round later.
Round 14: My Pick – Chien-ming Wang, SP, NYY – Looking back, I should have grabbed Francisco Liraino here (he went four picks later). Still, with Santana and Verlander, I can afford the strikeout hit with Wang.
Round 15: My Pick – Philip Hughes, SP, NYY – Somewhat of a risky pick, but I like Hughes’ mammoth upside more than the vets (Pedro, Schilling, and Pettitte) that went between this pick and my round 16 selection. Don’t forget that Hughes’ uninspiring 2007 was impacted significantly by a hamstring injury.
Round 16: My Pick – Joe Borowski, RP, CLE – 45 saves last year despite a 5.07 ERA. He’ll open as the closer, but I’d be sure to be ready to pounce on Rafael Betancourt or Masahide Kobayashi if I’m a Borowski owner.
Round 17: My Pick – Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, SD – Getting my first third baseman in round 17 wasn’t what I had planned, but the guys I wanted earlier just seemed to keep coming off the board before my pick. .275-18-74 is a modest line for a third baseman with over 500 plate appearances, but Kouzmanoff settled in quite nicely in the second half, hitting .317-11-37. Kouzmanoff needs to improve his 6% BB/PA rate to take the next step, but he should be able to bump that up a notch going forward. I’m just not sure the Padres have enough offense for Kouzmanoff to have more than 80 RBI this year, however.
Round 18: My Pick – Paul LoDuca, C, WAS – I wonder what LoDuca thinks of the Mitchell Report? If I had known a suspension was possible at the time I made this pick, I probably would have gone with Carlos Ruiz.
Round 19: My Pick – Scott Rolen, UT, STL – Rolen probably will never return to his previous high level of performance, but this is a low-risk pick this late. Still, he’s only 32 and did hit .296-22-95 as recently as 2006. Let’s just hope September shoulder surgery did the trick.
Round 20: My Pick – Kelly Johnson, MI, ATL – A .375 OBP and 16 home runs represents a successful first season I’d say. Unfortunately he didn’t run much in the second half (just two of his nine stolen bases came after the break), but this is a solid round 20 grab, particularly considering lesser options like Iguchi and Wigginton went just after this pick.
Round 21: My Pick – Jon Lester, SP, BOS – Debated between Shaun Marcum and Lester but went with the lefty on the better team. Of course Lester could wind up in Minnesota in a Santana deal, but I felt this was a safer pick than the likes of Rich Harden.
Round 22: My Pick – Josh Hamilton, OF, CIN – What he did last year was one of baseball’s better stories, but what will Hamilton do for an encore? Big things are possible if he can manage to stay healthy this year, as Hamilton showed tremendous power to all fields and very good plate discipline after essentially a four-year layoff. This late, it’s all about risks and sleepers and here’s a big one.
Round 23: My Pick – Homer Bailey, SP, CIN – I think the whole Dusty Baker factor is being overblown a bit here. Bailey struggled last year, but keep in mind he’s just 21, has a world of talent, and was set back significantly by a groin injury last year. A healthy Bailey could be fantasy gold this late and considering no-upside guys like Dave Bush, Doug Davis, and Mike Mussina went before Bailey, I’m pleased.
C – McCann, LoDuca
1B – Morneau
2B – Weeks
SS – Rollins
3B – Kouzmanoff
CI – Loney
MI – K. Johnson
OF – Hunter, Wells, Hawpe, Hermida, Hamilton
UT – Rolen
SP – Santana, Verlander, Wang, Hughes, Lester, Bailey
RP – Saito, Isringhausen, Borowski
Overall impression: It’s a pretty balanced team. Speed in the form of Rollins, Weeks, and Hunter. Perhaps a little light on the power as there’s no real masher here, just a bunch of guys capable of 20-35 home runs. Batting average should be fine, though Weeks is a bit of a risk there. Despite waiting until the fifth round to draft my first outfielder, I like the fivesome I would up with. On the pitching side, a Santana/Verlander 1-2 punch is the best in the league, and though there’s quite a bit of youth on the back end of my rotation, the upside made it worth it. Bullpen is solid assuming Borowski hangs on again. For what it’s worth (very little really), the projections contained in the draft software put me as finishing in third place with the above roster.