What Can You Learn from the First Mock Draft of the Year?

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

With Spring Training starting up, it also means that many of the mock draft lobbies across fantasy baseball have opened as well. What can you learn from the first mock draft you do this year?

We've been releasing our preseason rankings all winter long, with the goal of getting you as prepared as possible for your league and your draft. However, another key part of any draft preparation strategy is doing mock drafts. Mock drafts can give you all sorts of vital information, most notably your own draft strategy. Even though I have read lots of fantasy articles (both here and elsewhere), and reviewed a number of rankings and statistics, I like to do my first mock draft essentially blind. What I mean by this is that I don't bring my own rankings or any of the notes I would normally have for drafts with me, and just see how the flow of the draft goes.

The hope with this is that you have a large number of actual drafters, as opposed to auto-drafting. In my first mock draft of the year, six of the ten picks were auto-drafters, which kills off some of the value of the draft as a result. That said, based on the results of the draft it appears that many were actual users with their own rankings which were used to auto-draft. Also remember that there is always a possibility that people will stick to whatever rankings that your host site provides, which means you need to watch where players fall or rise related to their rankings, not your own.

The draft was to represent a standard 10-team mixed 5x5 roto league, with one catcher, two utility spots, and 8 pitcher spots (2 SP, 2 RP, 4 P). The mock draft was done on Yahoo on Tuesday afternoon, and here are some brief notes on each of my picks below. I have included both the Fake Teams consensus rankings, as well as my own personal ranking for each player at the position. In addition, I have added Ray's projected statistics from those rankings. While they may or may not be what I believe the player will do, it is good to see a baseline of projected performance from the same source. Any projection set is fine (PECOTA, ZIPS, or someone else), but remember that if you want a consistent idea of what your overall team performance could be, use the same projections across your team to measure.

Pick 1.7 - Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA (FT:2/JH:1) - .290, 35 HR, 100 RBI, 90 R

I didn't really feel all that great about any of the players here, as Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander were the next four players off the board. I believe in the Pujols we saw from May 15th forward last year.

Pick 2.4 - Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA (FT:5/JH:4) - .280, 45 HR, 100 RBI, 85 R, 15 SB

I absolutely loved getting this much power this early in the draft. Speed seems to be extremely plentiful, so getting two hitters with 40+ home run potential with my first two picks was extremely nice.

Pick 3.7 - Jason Heyward, OF, ATL (FT:10/JH:10) - .280, 30 HR, 95 RBI, 90 R, 20 SB

Other players like Ian Kinsler, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes were still available here, but I love the upside of a true 5 category contributor that Heyward was last season.

Pick 4.4 - Bryce Harper, OF, WAS (FT:12/JH:16) - .280, 28 HR, 85 RBI, 110 R, 25 SB

I debated here between Harper and Starlin Castro (the top shortstop on my board), but the upside of even more power, combined with the potential for a high run total (remember, he scored 98 last year despite missing a month), and speed was just too good to pass over.

Pick 5.7 - Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL (FT:1/JH:1) - 40+ saves, 100+ strikeouts

I kind of zagged here, as many of the names left on the board here were either 1B or OF types, which I had already filled up my roster with. Kimbrel is far and away the best reliever in the game right now, as he could provide 110+ strikeouts with low ratios and a high save total.

Pick 6.4 - Yu Darvish, SP, TEX (FT:14/JH:18) - 19 W, 3.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 235 K

I'm a believer in the potential for Darvish here, and could provide an absolute ton of strikeouts. Is there some risk with WHIP? Yup. Is there a chance he strikes out more than 230 batters this year? Yup.

Pick 7.7 - Chase Headley, 3B, SD (FT:8/JH:6) - .285, 21 HR, 85 RBI, 85 R, 16 SB

At this point in the draft, I liked the value that Headley can provide at the position, as he still seems likely to hit 20-25 home runs along with a high batting average and a decent amount of stolen bases. If he provides the line that Ray projected, I will still be happy with this pick. The fact that there may be upside past this could make this one a slam dunk.

Pick 8.4 - Michael Bourn, OF, CLE (FT:20/JH:15) - .280, 50 RBI, 90 R, 45 SB

Even though I have three outfielders already, I drafted Bourn as a nice speed play. He should still provide excellent speed and runs along with a solid batting average in Cleveland, which should be a very nice complement to Stanton.

Pick 9.7 - Max Scherzer, SP, DET (FT:22/JH:19) - 16 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 240 K

Scherzer was second in the Majors in strikeouts last year, and also first in strikeouts per 9 amongst starting pitchers. I personally love to target pitchers with the high strikeout rates, even if it could be at the cost somewhat of ERA/WHIP.

Pick 10.4 - Wilin Rosario, C, COL (FT:7/JH:10) - .250, 22 HR, 65 RBI

Rosario hit 28 home runs last year, which was the main reason I drafted him. However, it seemed a bit strange to me that Rosario was the 4th highest ranked player remaining according to Yahoo at this point in the draft. (104 players in)

Pick 11.7 - Dan Haren, SP, WAS - (FT:34/JH:33) - 11 W, 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 150 K

I am, and have long been, a believer in Dan Haren. I think that the injury concerns will cause him to drop this year, and can still be a very nice #2 starter for fantasy purposes. I will note that Ray's projection came along with his ranking of Haren as the #52 overall starting pitcher, so my anticipated line would be substantially better than this.

Pick 12.4 - Tim Lincecum, SP, SF (FT:37/JH:41) - 13 W, <4.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

I'll take my chances here, as Lincecum could rebound to the ace form he had shown previously. He doesn't need to for this pick to provide value though, as some of the other names on the board at the time included Matt Garza and Hiroki Kuroda.

Pick 13.7 - Ike Davis, 1B, NYM (FT:19/JH:22) - .250, 36 HR, 95 RBI

I filled my other UT spot with a 30+ home run hitter who should rebound somewhat with regard to batting average. That said, apparently I did not remember that I had ranked Davis substantially lower than the other 1B I drafted later on. It is possible that my view on Davis has changed since those rankings though.

Pick 14.4 - Brett Anderson, SP, OAK (FT:26/JH:27) - 14 W, 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 160 K

The highest options (not the best ones) at 2B and SS could wait for at least another round, so I went for a pitcher. Anderson has a ton of upside, and I don't expect him to be available here in most of my drafts.

Pick 15.7 - Jarrod Parker, SP, OAK (FT:36/JH:38) - 14 W, 3.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 160 K

Another fan-based pick, I like Parker to improve on his totals from last season, and liked him better than the next few pitchers listed (Estrada, Niese, and Burnett, amongst others).

Pick 16.4 - Greg Holland, RP, KC (FT:13/JH:6) - No projection

I still needed another closer at this point to match up with Kimbrel, and I liked Holland amongst the group of them available here the most. It is worth noting that I should probably have drafted a SS or 2B instead of Headley back in the 7th round, as players like Pedro Alvarez and Will Middlebrooks are both still available this far back.

Pick 17.7 - Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC (FT:11/JH:13) - .280, 22 HR, 90 RBI, 75 R, 20 SB

There is no spot for Hosmer currently in my lineup, but he just continued to fall to the point where I felt the value was just too good even as a bench player. Odds are that I would be able to extract a nice trade offer from someone for either an outfielder or a 1B to fill a different need later should Hosmer hit better this year.

Pick 18.4 - Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, SEA (FT:18/JH:16 at 3B) - .270, 23 HR, 90 RBI, 75 R, 10 SB

I needed a 2B and a SS at this point in the draft, and Seager provides both power and a bit of speed (albeit at the potential cost of batting average). He only qualifies at 2B in Yahoo leagues, but I would probably have him in the 11-14 range amongst 2B myself. I had hoped to draft Danny Espinosa at this point (he qualifies at both 2B and SS in Yahoo), but he was taken two picks earlier at this point.

Pick 19.7 - Alcides Escobar, SS, SEA (FT:12/JH:10) - .275, 60 RBI, 80 R, 30 SB

I needed a shortstop, and Escobar was the best of the remaining bunch here. The team seemed a bit light on speed at this point, and Escobar should be good for a solid batting average and 25-30 stolen bases pretty easily.

Pick 20.4 - Wil Myers, C/OF, TAM (FT:61/JH:71) - No projection

Yes, you read that correctly. Don't ask me why, but Yahoo has Myers with catcher eligibility to start this season. If this sticks for the whole season, he could finish the year as the top catcher in Yahoo's game almost regardless of when he arrives in the Majors. I completed this draft on Tuesday afternoon, and at the time he was still eligible for the catcher position. However, come Thursday morning, they had noted that he will "no longer have catcher eligibility", so I still like the pick as a late sleeper, but not nearly as much as I did when he could have been a catcher as well.

Pick 21.7 - Kenley Jansen, RP, LAD (FT:19/JH:23) - No projection

I'm a believer in the idea that he will be the closer in the long term, but even if he doesn't he should provide a lot of value in terms of strikeouts and ratios regardless. I had him ranked as a top 5 closer prior to the League signing, and I think that he has the closer's job by the end of May.

Pick 22.4 - Ernesto Frieri, RP, LAA (FT:31/JH:17) - No projection

It doesn't sound like Ryan Madson will be ready by the end of Spring Training, and I'm not sold that he takes the job away when he is ready. Another high strikeout reliever with a good shot at saves, and potentially a ton of them.

Pick 23.7 - Jonathan Broxton, RP, CIN (FT:20/JH:22) - No projection

Another closer here, and one that I am assuming would not be available here in nearly any draft I am in. The Reds signed him to be the closer, and plan to convert Chapman to the rotation.

So what does this team look like? Looking at the numbers approximately, this is a team that could provide a solid batting average (.260-.265 range at least), 220+ home runs, 800+ RBI, 800+ runs, and 150 stolen bases on the offense side. On the pitching side, I can see 80+ wins, 130 saves, an ERA around 3.65-3.75, a WHIP between 1.25-1.30 and around 1300 strikeouts. There's potential to win a couple categories here, and to be in the top end on many of the rest in a standard roto league.

The question becomes though, what did I learn? Here's some brief thoughts:

- Love me some upside plays, probably drafting them a bit earlier than they need to go. Also love it at the expense of some more "sure-thing" players that were available at other times.
- Went a little bonkers at the end on closers, but I also understand that they aren't likely to be available like that in my real drafts.
- Waiting on 2B and SS in most leagues could leave you high and dry if your team is not built to handle that. In my case, I was able to take players that were complimentary to the team as it was already constructed, so it worked out this time.
- Knowing now that closers could very well be available, taking Kimbrel in the 5th was likely a mistake, although the players taken in between him and Darvish still wouldn't have helped me there.
- I debated between Headley and Ben Zobrist in the 7th round, and had I gone with Zobrist this draft would have looked substantially different. There are a lot more late upside plays at 3B than 2B or SS in my opinion.

Remember, mock drafts are there for one reason only - to provide you with more information so that when you draft your team for real, you are as prepared as you can be. You're not likely to glean anything specific from looking at the results and pushing them directly up against your fellow owners, but there may be things that you see that you couldn't know from reading an article or reviewing rankings.

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