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What I Learned in My First Slow Mock Expert Draft


Over the years, I’ve done hundreds of mock drafts, maybe even thousands. However, as someone relatively new to formal writing about fantasy baseball, I’ve never been part of an organization that ran a slow mock draft.

I recently took part in RotoBaller’s Dynasty Mock Draft, and boy was it ever SLOW. We started this thing back in early December and we’re just finishing it now. Holiday vacation plans impacted that, plus the fact it went a full 26 rounds and the list extended to every prospect available.

However, the draft allowed time to think and reflect, and it changed how I felt about some of my picks and players. Not only did the time involved make me realize how valuable it was as a learning experience, but it also forced me to recognize certain things about my knowledge and readiness. Plus, in the middle of winter, when there was no baseball in sight, it was just plain fun.

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A Slow Draft Provides a Different Type of Preparation

Most mock drafts move so quickly that you’re usually focused on prepping for your next pick. There’s little time to evaluate your own picks and those of others. Most mock drafts make for fine practice, but they don’t tend to increase your player knowledge or critical insight into the draft. For me, a regular mock draft gives me a sense of the draft landscape and of my decision tree in drafts. The slow draft offered something else.

Case in point, in the 25th round of our mock, I still needed another relief pitcher, and I wanted to pick up a prospect. I felt like I needed to take an RP, but as I looked at the board, I saw that Luis Robert was still available, probably wouldn’t be around by my next pick, and taking an RP immediately or waiting wasn’t likely to change the quality of the pitcher I got. In a regular mock, I would probably have made that pick, stuck by the decision to prioritize my immediate need by drafting a relief pitcher and never looked back. The slow mock gave me a bit of insight into my own thought process.

 

A Slow Draft Gives You Time To Learn

Apparently, I don’t always know ADPs (and my own rankings) as well as I think I do, OR maybe the issue is that my judgments in a traditional draft are relative sh*t. With each round, I had a list of players I was planning to take with my pick. However, in the slow mock, I would sit and do another round of research about the players on my shortlist, or I would go back to doublecheck a player I had originally written off as someone not worth selecting.

Before I took Michael Conforto with the 51st pick, I had dismissed him as older than ideal and too much of a health risk for my fifth rounder, but when I realized he was only 25 (I had thought he was 27) and that he had demonstrated solid health in both 2015 and 2016 before his injury in 2017, I felt much better about selecting him. Having gone through the process, I think he was a steal in the fifth round, and it’s turned around my attitude towards him.

 

Your Opponents Will Teach You Which Players You’ve Undervalued

JB Branson, whom I thought had the best draft in the group, took Jack Flaherty two picks after I selected Patrick Corbin. JB’s pick made me realize that I needed to revise my pitcher rankings immediately.

In dynasty, I’d much rather have Flaherty than Corbin, even though I think Corbin is a strong SP1. Despite that, if you’d asked me outright before that moment, I’d have said that Corbin, whom I value more highly than most folks, was the more valuable pitcher.

Brady Grove taught me a similar lesson about Kyle Schwarber. In a traditional draft, when a guy takes a player like Schwarber before I would, I pat myself on the back and congratulate myself for being smarter than him. Humble, I know. In the slow draft, I had time to go and look at these players: I took time to figure out why my competitors thought they were worth more than I did. The time and prompt for research made me shift my valuations.

 

Completing a Slow Draft with Knowledgeable Competitors is Invaluable

It’s a general truism that you can’t win a league in the first few rounds, but you can lose it. By contrast, the end of a draft has the highest potential for providing a positive return, but in most mock drafts you never get to practice this section. Usually, if you start a 12-man mock draft with a random group in a Yahoo or ESPN lobby, half the guys will be gone by the sixth round. Two or three will drop out before the end of the second round. If you’re really committed to the mock draft, you’re basically drafting against the AI by the end. Unfortunately, when the real draft rolls around, you’ve had no proper practice with this section of the player pool, and you’re usually just throwing darts because all your great “sleepers” have been claimed by round 20.

With the slow mock draft, we completed all 26 rounds, and it prompted me to think more about the players going after pick 200, let alone those going after 72. I’m not saying that Diego Castillo or Sonny Gray or Max Kepler is going to be a league winner, but there’s an argument that each one of those guys could be a useful piece this season. I only realized how that could come to pass by looking at those picks more carefully as we made our picks through the final rounds.

 

An Open Invitation

Given my experience, I want to extend an invitation to do a slow draft to anyone who is interested. Why should the fantasy “elite” get this chance but not others? I don’t know if people will be interested in doing this or not, but just send me a DM @D_Emerick on Twitter. My plan is simply to run it the same way that RotoBaller ran ours: Use Google Sheets to keep a simple draft board. Utilize Twitter DM chat to keep people notified it’s their turn. Then sit back and let the strategizing begin.

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