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January Expert Mock Draft Analysis - Round 1

We at RotoBaller love to draft. In fact, we love it so much we couldn't wait until March or even February to start drafting! So we decided to share the results of our latest fantasy baseball mock draft, taking place on RT Sports, accompanied by a series of articles analyzing each round. Here's the complete rundown:

Round 1 
Rounds 2-4 (coming Sunday, Jan. 28)
Rounds 5-9 (coming Monday, Jan. 29)
Rounds 10-15 (coming Tuesday, Jan. 30)
Rounds 16-23 (coming Wednesday, Jan. 31)
Sleepers/Busts/Values (coming Thursday, Feb. 1)
Snake Bitten (coming Friday, Feb. 2)

It’s hard to nitpick too much in the first round, as everyone will have different views of the top 12-15 players, but here’s a pick-by-pick breakdown of how things started:

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!


RotoBaller Mock Draft Results - Round 1

Pick 1

Chris Zolli picked first and grabbed Mike Trout, who, BREAKING NEWS, should be the No. 1 overall pick in every league. EVERY. SINGLE. LEAGUE. He paced all hitters in wOBA (.437) and wRC+ (181) last season, slashing a modest .306/.442/.629 with 33 homers, 92 runs scored, 72 RBI and 22 stolen bases despite missing 48 games. Of course, Trout is not a lock to finish as the top fantasy contributor in 2018, but a healthy Trout has both the highest fantasy ceiling and the highest fantasy floor. Don’t get cute, just take Trout and grab a drink as you wait 15 minutes for your next selection.

Pick 2

Next, I went with Jose Altuve, who is not only the No. 2 player on my board, but also the player with the widest gap above the next best player at his position (not including catcher). Among middle infielders (at least 50 percent of plate appearances), he finished tied for sixth in home runs, second in runs, ninth in RBI, fourth in stolen bases and first in both batting average and on-base percentage (both by a pretty wide margin). Altuve was a top-10 fantasy player in all formats last year (top-five in most), and is one of the safer bets to repeat his 2017 success.

Pick 3

Troy Klauder made what was probably the surprise choice of the draft, yanking Nationals shortstop Trea Turner off the board with the third pick. The 24-year-old speedster appeared in only 98 games, but still managed to finish third in baseball in steals, behind only Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. Prorated over a full, 162-game slate, Turner’s 11-75-45-46 stat line would give him 18 HR, 124 R, 74 RBI and 76 SB. Although his .284/.338/.451 slash line was simply pedestrian, he did hit .342 with a .937 OPS in his first real taste of the bigs in 2016. However, while his fantasy potential is through the roof, spending a pick this early on a guy with just 815 plate appearances under his belt is a sizable risk.

Pick 4

Nolan Arenado went fourth overall to Kevin Luchansky. The degree to which Coors Field inflates Arenado’s number are irrelevant in fantasy-- the man flat-out produces. Over the last three years, he sits second in home runs, sixth in runs scored, first in RBI and in the top 20 in batting average. He is among the leaders in fly ball rate, and boasts well-above-average marks in home run to fly ball rate and hard hit rate. Arenado has only missed 10 games over that three-year span, and is a near-lock to be an elite fantasy contributor in 2018.

Pick 5

Pierre Camus swooped into the draft room at the last minute and plucked out Bryce Harper with the fifth pick. At the time of his injury in mid-August, Harper was fourth in baseball in wOBA and fifth in wRC+, and was one of just four players with 25 homers and a .400 OBP. His rate stats at season’s end were still incredibly impressive, and while he doesn’t seem to run as much as he did when he first came up, he did swipe 21 bags in 2016, so a five-category contribution is not out of the question. He is just now entering his age-25 season, and a healthy Harper should easily return first round value.

Pick 6

At sixth overall, reigning Rotoballer Experts League champion (I announce, begrudgingly) Max Petrie selected first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Entering September, Goldy owned a massive .319/.428/.607 line with 33 HR, 100 R, 109 RBI and 17 SB, and had a real shot at the top spot for 2017. However, an uncharacteristically cold final month -- .171/.250/.305 with three homers and 11 RBI -- plagued fantasy owners down the stretch and ruined his MVP chances. Despite the late-season disappearance, Goldschmidt remains one of the top five-category contributors, and deserves a spot in the front-half of the first round for 2018.

Pick 7

It’s pretty difficult to hit 50 points lower than your previous career average, not reach 30 homers or 30 steals, and still end up as a top-10 fantasy hitter. That was the case last year for Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who was drafted seventh by Nick Mariano. Betts nearly doubled his walk rate (10.8 percent) while maintaining his already stellar strikeout rate (11.1 percent) as he put up a modest .264/.344/.459 slash line with 24 HR and 26 SB. He also scored 101 runs and knocked in 102 more. Betts’ abnormally low BABIP (.268) and improved hard hit rate (35.7 percent) indicate some bad ball-in-play luck last year, and I expect a full bounce-back in 2018.

Pick 8

Max Brill ended the run of hitters by taking Clayton Kershaw next. Kershaw was a top-four pitcher last season despite throwing just 175 innings, and should once again be viewed as the top arm on the board in 2018. While I have him 13th and will almost never draft a pitcher in the first round, eighth overall is perfectly reasonable -- and actually a steal in others’ eyes -- for the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Pick 9

Charlie Blackmon went ninth, taken by Connor McEleney. Blackmon’s 2017 ADP sat well outside the first round, yet somehow he finished as the top overall fantasy player. By “somehow,” I mean with massive career highs in home runs (37), runs scored (137), RBI (104), batting average (.331), on-base percentage (.399) and slugging percentage (.601). He sat in the top 15 in each of those categories, tacking on 14 stolen bases for good measure. A .371 BABIP and 19.6 percent home run to fly ball rate scream regression, but Blackmon is a five-cat dynamo who should once again post a staggeringly robust stat line in 2018.

Pick 10

With the 10th pick, Kyle Bishop chose Manny Machado. Machado endured a down season overall, posting just a .259/.310/.471 slash line, but still managed to crush more than 30 dingers for a third consecutive year. His 39.5 percent hard hit rate and .265 BABIP were the highest and lowest, respectively, of his career, so it’s reasonable to expect a significant improvement in his rate stats going forward-- especially if he can get his line drive rate back around his career average. Machado’s ADP currently sits in the second round, but at just 25 years old, he still possesses the upside to become a top-five fantasy player.

Pick 11

Mario Hernandez followed with Max Scherzer, the second pitcher off the board in the first round. The National League’s Cy Young Award winner each of the past two years, Scherzer boasts baseball’s best strikeout rate, fourth-best ERA and second-best WHIP over that span. Despite approaching his 34th birthday, Scherzer continues to display remarkable consistency, both with his process and his performance. As mentioned previously, I will almost never take a pitcher in the first round, but with 200 innings in each of the last five seasons, Scherzer is an ideal workhorse around whom to build your staff.

Pick 12

Andrew Le capped off the first round with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Last year, the then-22-year-old slashed .325/.402/.577 with 20 long balls, 62 runs scored and 65 RBI in the first half before missing six weeks with a thumb injury. With only two steals on the year, it appears he has stopped running, but even as a four-category guy, Correa has a chance to make a real impact from a relatively weak shortstop position.

I’ll let Chris Zolli take it here from here with the next few rounds, but just know that Andrew’s 12/13 turn has made me want the last pick in every draft.


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