Due to being professional fiends, we here at RotoBaller held our first mock draft of the 2017 fantasy baseball season this week. Mocks are great but constantly ruined by trolling fools who can't commit past two rounds. Luckily, my job grants me access to folks who want to be there. We still troll each other, but the draft's integrity isn't compromised.
We put together a traditional 5x5, 23-round mock with two catchers, a corner and middle infielder, and five outfielders. The pre-draft discussion was centered on how unsettled the default rankings were, which had a say in the weirdness of where some guys went.
You'll see more on that in the bigger piece breaking down the draft as a whole. Today, we simply focus on my saga. Do note that there were zero bench slots, which is always a strange (but fun) wrinkle.
Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
Analyzing My Mock Draft
I was "blessed" with the 10th pick and decided to test my rankings with a “best player available” approach, at least to start. Here's what I came up with:
After the Lindor selection, I had 18 picks until my next choice and had time to step back and appreciate the blend of power, speed and positional eligibility I had gathered. Even if Machado steals zero bases again, Turner and Lindor provide a base while chipping in some pop alongside the power of MM and Cruz.
I'm still unsure how I feel about spending a second rounder on Turner, but my rankings said "jump". I'm buying Cruz and this improved BABIP of the past two seasons thanks to a few more grounders, yet his crazy strength still keeps his homer potential above 40. I'd never enter a draft planning to select those four, but I'll take it at the 10 pick.
Round 5 brought little offensive temptation. Billy Hamilton was on the board, but I didn't need his speed and was swayed away from other infielders by already potentially having three already (I envisioned Turner sticking in the OF considering our five-OF quota, but still). I’m a huge Justin Verlander fan after seeing him post a career-high 12% swinging-strike rate last season, so having him as my SP1 is solid. Stephen Strasburg is polarizing, but I still love his upside. I’ll take his durability fleas over the performance slips of Carlos Carrasco, Jacob deGrom, and Chris Archer – the other pitchers taken in the sixth round.
Earlier, I said I didn’t need Hamilton’s speed, which really meant I didn’t want to pay for what comes with it. He's grown, but still has too many holes in his game. Meanwhile, Dee Gordon was sitting there a little later in Round 7. This was acceptable. This allowed me to push Turner to OF and not have to fret about speed anymore. Gordon’s 2016 was marred by PEDs and an underwhelming .268 average, but he still went 30-for-37 on steal attempts in 79 games (325 ABs). Even Steamer projects his average to bounce back to .278, which would be just fine with me alongside ~90 runs and ~60 steals.
After selections of Zach Britton, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana, I decided to see what going C-C in Rounds 11 and 12 would look like. With Willson Contreras’ name creeping into the draft window, the time had to be now. I believe in the bat skills he’s shown in 2015/16, though that 23.5% HR/FB rate won’t hold. I’m also willing to invest in Yasmani Grandal one last time, as he’s turned in an amazing half of a season in each of the past two years. Maybe he can turn in a full year in 2017? Admittedly, there was likely no need to select him this early, but we’re seeing the plan through.
With so many hitters on the squad, Round 14 was probably time for my SP3. Cue reaching for Sean Manaea, who compiled a 2.44 ERA in his final 14 appearances of 2016. Oakland won’t give him the wins he deserves, but man I love his developing skills in that park. I thought about going pitcher again, but my draft board said Kendrys Morales had slipped too far. Toronto should be kind to his rekindled bat, as Kauffman Stadium’s suppressing ways (fourth-lowest HR park factor in 2016 according to ESPN) have been traded in for Canada’s power-friendly confines.
Next came the reclamation project of Dallas Keuchel, who has to remember how to paint corners. If he takes a few steps back to form, then he should be a strong pick with Houston supporting him. Dellin Betances followed, who I’ll take six rounds after Andrew Miller any day. With his incredible K/9 anchor in tow, Tanner Roark (aka the watered-down Kyle Hendricks) was welcome with his ratio relief and a healthy chance at a winning record.
I had Robbie Ray queued up for my next pick, who I got in Round 20 anyway (a steal with his upside), but realized I needed a fifth outfielder. With an ability to DH and stay fresh in the AL, I love Matt Holliday's chances of 25+ homers. Not only is he in the AL East, but gets to call Yankee Stadium – the park that easily led the league in the aforementioned HR park factor – home. With an ability to drive the ball to right field, Holliday should be a popular late-round pick.
My draft ended with two more power bats and a strong closer. Moose is another late-round target of mine, whose injury-shortened 2016 means he won’t stand out on draft boards when you sort by stats. Before tearing his ACL, he had hit seven bombs in 104 ABs thanks to a six percent jump in hard-hit rate (31.5% to 37.4%). This is a small sample size, of course, but his 2015 looked legitimate alongside a dip in swinging-strike rate to boot (7.1% to 5.8%). He’s never been a high BABIP guy, but I like the tools present here for his age-28 season.
Joseph is yet another late bat who can flirt with 30 homers, especially with Ryan Howard gone. Steamer is projecting him for 28 homers in 496 ABs after his hard-hitting (36.6% hard-hit rate), fly-ball happy (45.1% FB rate) ways of 2016. Meanwhile, Kelley displayed a career-best 15.7% swinging-strike rate and 1.71 BB/9 en route to a 2.11 SIERA last season. He should close for Washington in 2017. Sign me up!
Overall, I was happy with how the draft went. I was thrilled with the amount of pitching and cheap power to choose from in the mid-rounds that I probably took superior players for granted in the middle rounds. I prefer cheap power to cheap speed, mostly because I can bank on power getting a chance to play. I won’t turn away guys like Rajai Davis or Jarrod Dyson, but steals really only lead to runs while power leads to runs and RBIs. As a result, I'll buy store-brand power more readily.
Starting pitchers also plateau pretty hard to me after the top 20 or so, which led to my coasting on them until late. Of course, this isn’t going to work all that well for me in rotisserie formats, but in head-to-head leagues I will be going hitters early and often yet again. I also don’t need to attack infield early, but I feel a lot better with the end results when I do.
Be on the lookout for my next piece, which will include reactions from all participants that’ll illustrate our steals and reaches of the draft.