Industry Mock Draft Analysis
March 10, 2016 | Zach Jacobson
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On Tuesday night Greg Smith and I hosted a mock draft filled with 10 other fantasy writers. Most of the names will appear familiar if you’re an avid frequenter of The Fake Baseball, but a number of first-rate RotoBaller writers were also involved. 12 teams, 5×5 roto with QS replacing wins, with the roster composition being C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 4 OF, 1 UTIL, 2 SP, 2 RP, 5 P, and 5 B. The bench spots were probably superfluous, but hell, we wanted to stay true to the format of an actual league.
I generally adhere to two rules when drafting: take hitters early and avoid the top tiers of closers. While I believe these guidelines will lead to a successful draft, they make for a somewhat boring mock. So instead of setting the pre-draft goal of finishing with the “best” team (to which there’s a degree of subjectivity in determining; hence the quotation marks), I decided to deviate from my tried-and-true strategy. Tuesday’s objective was to take three starting pitchers in the first six rounds and three relief pitchers by round 15. The results were…interesting.
Even with the restrictions I imposed, I couldn’t bring myself to take a pitcher in the first two rounds. Clayton Kershaw was gone by pick #6, and you’re not going to catch me taking a risk on a non-Kershaw hurler in round one. I ended up taking the diminutive Jose Altuve at #9. Giancarlo Stanton was still available, but reports of minor knee issues scared me away. I followed up with Mookie Betts in the second round. Betts’ peripherals show that 2015 was no fluke, and he carries the kind of upside that’s characteristic of a 23-year-old player who plays 81 games in a hitter-friendly park. I usually draft power early, but Altuve and Betts provide some much-needed batting average to balance out my ensuing low-avg. picks. Plus, ya’ know, it’s a mock. We’re trying new things here.
I entered unfamiliar territory in the third round when I began to test my new strategy. Madison Bumgarner, David Price, and Jon Lester were the pitchers that fell to me, and I’m completely content with that outcome. Bumgarner and Price are consensus top-10 pitchers who are pushing the top five, and Lester is currently 14th in my rankings. They were the fifth, 10th, and 20th starting pitchers off the board, respectively. Sandwiched in the middle of my personal run on pitchers was Miguel Sano. The sky is the limit for Sano, and I think that up to this point I established a high enough team floor to warrant taking a risk on his immense potential. Other available power hitters at this time included Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
The beginning of the closer experiment is the next point of interest here. Due to the newfound set of rules I was abiding by, I took Ken Giles in the eighth round, Hector Rondon in the 12th, and Brad Boxberger in the 15th. Having three closers by the time I usually draft my first one was an odd feeling. It was unsettling actually. In spite of this self-betrayal of my golden rules, it was relaxing having my relief pitching wrapped up this early. Usually I’m scrambling for speculative saves in rounds 23-26.
Despite being pleased with my experimental picks, I’ll admit that my last 10-ish rounds were weak. Outside of Kenta Maeda–whom I love and will maintain is a complete steal at pick #232–and Drew Smyly, none of these guys provide great value for where they were drafted. Justin Turner in particular was a bit of a panic pick. Greg and I were continuously talking during this mock for a draft analysis video he was recording, and because of it I was a victim of the 60-second timer and not queuing enough players. I do like Turner overall; just not in the 17th. If you were wondering, that video was lost when the program crashed on Greg’s computer, so the Turner pick wasn’t the only Tuesday-night tragedy.
I also got caught being a little inattentive to my shortstop position, though I feel I responded fairly well there with the late Alexei Ramirez and Didi Gregorius picks. You won’t catch me celebrating those selections, but their blemishes should be somewhat covered by my strengths in other areas. I’d love to blame this one on Greg distracting me, but in actuality it was just poor drafting.
This draft is a convincing testament for mock drafting with a specific objective in mind. Don’t just relax and do “the usual.” Experiment. Be bold. I tried something new and deviated from my quintessential Zach strategy. Outside of the complete questioning of my fundamental belief system, drafting three elite pitchers and three quality closers worked out well. With some improved mid-late round drafting this could be a viable winning strategy, especially in leagues such as this where the other participants wait on starters and relievers. I’m not sure having a quality fantasy roster is worth the resulting identity crisis, though. I could really do without the uncontrollable nighttime crying; it’s a weird and unwelcome side effect.