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From the middle rounds, we segue into the tail-end of our early bird mock draft. The 12-team draft was done by RotoBaller’s MLB writers with order as follows: Chris Zolli, Harris Yudin, Troy Klauder, Kevin Luchansky, Pierre Camus, Max Petrie, Nick Mariano, Max Brill, Connor McEleney, Kyle Bishop, Mario Hernandez, and Andrew Le.

As mentioned in commentary for Rounds 10-15, Rounds 16-23 could disproportionately impact teams’ early-season performances. Early rounds are for high-floor studs, with pick variation dependent on manager preferences and biases. Middle-to-later rounds require extra TLC. The player pool gets incrementally diluted with each selection and managers must weigh volatile upside picks with commoditized players that may contribute towards only one or two categories. Both options might bust entirely, but the choice matters. Managers that passed over Aaron Judge for Carlos Gomez last year know the swing factor of these later rounds.

The format for this draft consisted of a 23-player team with nine pitchers, two catchers and no bench spots. Unlike most drafts, players picked need to provide immediate returns and that likely prevented excessively hoarding of unproven youngsters or potential May or June call-ups.

Editor's Note: Our friends at RTSports have best ball leagues with no in-season management. Just draft your team, and that's it! Use your phone for this casual draft by getting emails or texts when you're on the clock. Sign Up Now!

 

RotoBaller Mock Results

Round 16

Leading off, Zack Cozart and Scooter Gennett were two surprising sources of MI slugging last season. The anomaly in Cozart’s numbers last year was his 0.79 BB:K compared to a career mark of 0.40. His newfound patience led to career highs in ISO, BABIP and wOBA by a wide margin. One risk was his high 15.6% HR:FB but if he can retain his grasp of the strikezone another shot at 20 HRs seems realistic. Gennett went pull-happy last season (42.4% vs. 35.7% career). Great American Ballpark is a friendly confine for lefty power hitters, putting Gennett in position to follow-up his breakout year. Pull the trigger on Archie Bradley if you buy the bearded closer philosophy, the guy looks the part. 2017 was by far his best season (1.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) helped by major improvements in fastball and curveball effectiveness.

Round 17

Despite being Top-13 NL starters last year with over 140 IP, there’s skepticism surrounding Gio Gonzalez and Chase Anderson. Gonzalez has started over 30 games in every season but one since 2010, averaging almost a strikeout per inning. He also plays on a team that puts him in position for wins. Haters can point to the lucky BABIP and LOB% last season but Gonzalez has been a winning pitcher his whole career, supplying Ks and staying around the plate. Anderson is a tougher sell considering his irrelevance until the 12-4, 2.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.47 K:9 line last season. Doubters may believe the 8.6% HR:FB is low but Anderson appears a low-risk backend fantasy starter on a competitive Brewers squad. Andrelton Simmons is baseball’s best defensive shortstop by a mile and last year turned in his first strong offensive campaign (.278 AVG, 14 HR, 77 R, 69 RBI, 19 SB). Simmons pulled the ball more last year resulting in a jump in Hard% from 23.4% to 29.2%. Playing daily, he is a relatively cheap option as a set-and-forget SS.

Round 18

Kyle Schwarber loses catcher eligibility in 2018 and his resulting fantasy value plummeted. He may not start daily and strikes out a ton, but crushes the ball when he makes contact (36.4% Hard%). Schwarber is a near lock for over 25 HRs if he surpasses 400 PAs. Sean Manaea and Blake Snell look like younger iterations of Julio Teheran. All three are satisfactory streaming options but their K:BBs are unflattering and solid-contact rates too high to be regular fantasy starters. Mike Zunino is a whiff-machine (36.8% K%) and didn’t play enough (124 games) but went yard 25 times last year. Basically, he’s a prototypical catcher whose value should be buoyed by slugging ability. Zunino could return Schwarber-esque power numbers without requiring a precious OF slot.

Round 19

No one drank the Yonder Alonso koolaid and he fell to Round 19. Compared to a 9.2% career HR:FB, the ridiculous 19.4% rate is a red flag but notably his plate approach was more swing-happy in 2017. Owners burned by Jonathan Villar last year may bury him too deep in the doghouse. The unsustainable .373 BABIP masked a 25.6% K-rate in 2016. Heading into 2018, owners should reset expectations of Villar as a source for SBs and occasional pop. If he moves up the order, upside in runs is also a reasonable forecast. Dinelson Lamet debuted with a 10.94 K:9 last season and could be a popular sleeper. He struggled with consistency but should have a long leash in San Diego. Jake Faria is less flashy (8.72 K:9) but allowed four or more runs only twice in 14 starts last season. Compared to Lamet’s power style, Faria is a solid three-breaking pitch guy. It’s a tossup and both kids could make a run at double-digit wins while offering strikeout potential.

Round 20

In 5x5 leagues, it makes sense to anchor your pitching with rock steady ratios and Dellin Betances achieves exactly that (career 2.29 ERA, 2.42 xFIP, 1.04 WHIP), logging over 15 K:9 and 22 bonus saves the past two seasons. Luis Gohara is a prodigal power pitcher; the RotoBaller team recently discussed his promise. Mark Trumbo remains a perennial power hitter and still managed 23 HRs in 2017 despite a collapse in Hard% and ISO. Aaron Hicks was on the verge of a breakout until an oblique injury steamrolled his season. Hicks was on pace for a 20 HR, 20 SB year but managed just an .715 OPS after the All-Star break. He will try to get back on track if he finds playing time in the crowded Bronx outfield.

Rounds 21-23

The final rounds of the long draft mostly consisted of filling mandatory slots with players like Brandon Phillips and Chris Owings or making homer picks like Tyson Ross (courtesy of yours truly). Blurred vision had firmly set in at this stage so we did our best to finish strong by layering our teams with depth or young lottery picks.

Cole Hamels may be a bargain if you believe the bulls (unlucky 70.2% LOB% in 2017) or value trap if you buy the bears (career-worst 1.98 K:BB). Zach Davies struggled early last season with an ugly 5.03 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by July, but bounced back to end the year with 17 Wins and a 3.90 ERA. Davies won’t miss a ton of bats (6.55 K:9, 7.9% SwStr%) but should be a serviceable backend starter. David Peralta is an underappreciated player in a good offense. He hits for average (career .293 AVG, .340 BABIP) and could threaten double-digit HRs and SBs if he plays regularly. Gleyber Torres is the No. 5 MLB prospect whose debut last year was stalled by injury. He hopes to crack a roster spot but the starting Yankees SS position currently belongs to Didi Gregorius. Pressed into service last season, Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro hit 5 HRs with a .874 OPS in 29 games, but a BABIP of .420 screams negative regression unless the 24-year-old cuts down on the 28.9% K-rate. Russell Martin will end up on half the teams in your league this year, again.

The lack of bench spots in the mock supported the idea that player turnover is a common occurrence in fantasy. Holding and hoping usually doesn’t pay off in fake baseball and this format encourages a higher degree of scrutiny on a regular basis. Most players outside of the first three rounds will probably face a degree of cut risk throughout the season and that’s normal! Baseball is a marathon in both real and fantasy versions and will take steady doses of patience and swift decision-making to achieve victory.

 

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