Recently, some of the best minds in the Fantasy business gathered to participate in a 12-team, 5×5 Roto (with OBP instead of BA) mock draft. The Fantasy Industry Mock Draft was certainly a useful learning tool for the experts, and it can be the same for readers. Additionally, Frank Stampfl and I reviewed the draft on a recent podcast, speaking about our teams as well as getting takes and strategies from several other owners in the draft. Readers can listen to the podcast below.
The participants (in draft order) are: David Kerr of Fantasy Alarm, myself, Heath Cummings of CBS Sports, Chris Towers of CBS Sports, Ricky Sanders of Fantasy Draft, Jack of Razzball, Michael Waterloo of RotoExperts, Kyle Roberts of Fake Pigskin, Sky of Razzball, Greg Jewett of Today’s Knuckleball and Garion Thorne of the FNTSY Sports Network.
Round 1: The first round is the most discussed round of all, so I will spend the most time on it. While the top three can be nitpicked, there is a consensus that Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt should go in some order. After that there are more newcomers into the first round than perhaps ever before. Names like Carlos Correa, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and A.J. Pollock were not even considered in the first couple of rounds last year, and yet, here they are. My favorite pick this round was Anthony Rizzo, who has hit over 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, is an on base machine and quietly stole 17 bases last year. Rizzo should be a Top 5 pick in my opinion, and he fell to the 10th spot. Despite the emphasis that many experts have placed on taking starting pitchers early this year, Kershaw, who fell to the last pick of Round 1, was the only one selected.
Round 2: Several first round fixtures from years past, such as Miguel Cabrera and Troy Tulowitzki, fell into the second round and rightfully so. It was also interesting to see the youth run continue with names like Kris Bryant and Mookie Betts going off the board. One pick that stood out was Charlie Blackmon, who owners may be surprised to see go this early, although he certainly profiles as a second round pick. Heath Cummings told RotoExperts that he wishes he could have his pick of Troy Tulowitzki back. He said he did not realize for a few rounds, but he wishes he had taken Buster Posey or George Springer. He is not alone there, as I went with Dee Gordon. Even though I think he could steal 60 bases, I wish I had taken Springer and risked Gordon falling to me in Round 3.
Round 3: The aforementioned Springer was the first pick of Round 3 to David Kerr. Springer is a legitimate 30/30 threat who consistently posts high on base percentages despite a high K rate. Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner and Jose Fernandez went off the board, but the pitcher run didn’t hit as hard as I thought. Fernandez is clearly the name that sticks out. Garion Thorne said he loves Fernandez’s upside, despite the talk of an innings limit. Pairing him with Kershaw gives him the best one-two combo in the league, and will better prepare him in case Fernandez is shut down early. This was a round in which owners were clearly trying to maximize power, as Jose Abreu, Chris Davis, Todd Frazier, J.D. Martinez and Nelson Cruz all went off the board.
Round 4: In this round, owners started taking some chances on high upside players that come with some risk. For instance, we saw Chris Towers select Anthony Rendon, despite a 2015 season in which he only batted .264 with five homers in 80 games. However, if healthy he profiles more as a late first to early second round pick. Other owners chose risky or potentially declining players like Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones and Robinson Cano. However, Frank Stampfl reaped the benefits of David Price falling to the fourth round, which is just crazy.
Round 5: The pitcher round I braced for in Round 3, actually happened two rounds later, as six pitchers were selected (Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Archer, Matt Harvey, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke). At this point, 10 owners have selected a pitcher, with six owners already investing in two aces. This has become a more popular trend as the Top 20 aces provide so much separation from the pack. One owner with two-pitchers, Heath Cummings, said his plan entering the draft was to come away from the first five rounds with two aces. He did a nice job grabbing safe pitchers with a world of upside in Kluber and Strasburg. Greg Jewett, however, was not expecting pitchers to fly off the board as quickly as they did, and said he was “lucky” to have Greinke fall to him this late.
Round 6: This was a round in which owners were clearly addressing some positions that were thinning out. We had four third basemen chosen, as Matt Carpenter, Adrian Beltre, Maikel Franco and Kyle Seager went off the board. Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis were the two second basemen taken. After just six rounds, third base was really drained, with secondary options such as Evan Longoria being the best available.
Round 7: This was another pitcher-heavy round with half the picks being used on hurlers. We saw the first relief pitcher go off the board in Andrew Miller. Unfortunately for Sky, it was just two weeks later that we found out the Yankees would trade for Aroldis Chapman and use him as the primary closer. This round also saw owners address thinning positions up the middle, as two shortstops and a second baseman were selected.
Round 8: With the studs now off the board, the focus in this round seemed to shift towards owners taking reliable players whose price is lower than years past. For instance, Longoria, Adam Wainwright, Matt Kemp, Hunter Pence and Albert Pujols were among the choices here. Michael Waterloo selected Wainwright, who turned out to be his favorite pick of the draft. He believes Wainwright will be a Top-20 pitcher and to get him this late was a steal, he said. Entering the draft, his strategy was to load up on starters early, and he did just that by nabbing Max Scherzer, Harvey, Sonny Gray and Wainwright in the first eight rounds. Despite Michael loving this pick, let’s just say Wainwright would not be happy that he fell into the eighth round.
Round 9-10: A run of relief pitchers took place in these rounds, as Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, Dellin Betances, Trevor Rosenthal, Ken Giles, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Jeurys Familia all went off the board. These rounds are when owners should begin targeting their first closers in most mixed league drafts.
Round 11-12: These two rounds were filled with upside starting pitchers, as Taijuan Walker, Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Luis Severino were selected. I was a part of this run, taking Yu Darvish, who was my favorite pick of the draft. He has elite upside once he returns from Tommy John Surgery. In only 144.1 IP in 2014, Darvish still managed to strike out 182 batters. He could approach 200 if he reaches 160 innings this season.
Rounds 13-14: After owners loaded up on hitting in the early rounds, starting pitchers were once again targeted here. Round 13 began with four starters, and a total of 11 went in these two rounds. A favorite of mine is Patrick Corbin, whom Jack selected. Corbin posted a career-best 8.26 K/9 in 2015. Corbin also flashed elite upside early in 2013, prior to his Tommy John procedure.
Rounds 15-18: Owners who passed up on stolen bases earlier in the draft began to fill in that void in these rounds, with Ben Revere, Billy Burns and Delino DeShields Jr. being selected. These were solid selections, as each has the potential to steal 30 bases, a feat that only seven players (including Revere) accomplished last year. These were also the rounds in which injury-prone and/or aging veterans went off the board, such as Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Zimmerman, Victor Martinez, and Dustin Pedroia going. Lastly, these rounds saw another run on the secondary relief pitcher market, as 13 relievers were taken. Owners should look to have at least two closers at this point.
Rounds 19-22: Clearly, catchers were the priority in these rounds, as seven backstops were drafted. It was also interesting to see a plethora of young starters like Joe Ross, Kyle Hendricks, Matt Moore, Archie Bradley and Jimmy Nelson selected here. These are all nice picks that provide both depth and upside to a starting rotation. Hendricks sticks out, as owners may see his 3.95 ERA and be turned off. However, he pitched to a 3.36 FIP and 3.25 xFIP. He also averaged 9.78 K/9 in the 2nd half, the 12th highest rate among qualified pitchers. I selected Neil Walker in Round 21, as I continued to chase the power I passed up on earlier. Walker’s 39 homers over the past two years ranks third among all middle infielders, behind only Brian Dozier (51) and Ian Desmond (43).
Rounds 23-26: The best pick in these rounds could turn out to be Carter Capps. With the recent report that he will compete with A.J. Ramos for the closers job, he could provide RP1 value with his elite ratios and strikeout rate. Pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery were selected at a discount here, as Alex Cobb and Zack Wheeler went with back-to-back picks to Stampfl and Jewett, respectively. Depending on when each returns (reports indicate July for Wheeler and either July or August for Cobb), they could provide great value. There was a surge of youth at every position, with my favorites being starting pitchers Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, taken by Sanders and Towers, respectively. Both have elite stuff and a shot at cracking their team’s rotation by midseason. There was also a little humor in these rounds, as Ricky Sanders was unable to pick in Round 23 and asked to be auto-drafted. The RazzBall guys came up with the idea of giving any owner that had to be auto-drafted a player with the same first name, which the draft room loved. Hence, Ricky Sanders ended up with Ricky Nolasco, easily the worst pick of the draft.
Rounds 27-29: In the final rounds, owners were mostly looking for upside, and thus took a few fliers, whether it was betting on a bounce back from injury, such as Hyun-Jin Ryu or Cliff Lee (although reports now indicate a comeback may be off the table), or picking a youngster trying to crack the big leagues, such as Nomar Mazara, C.J. Edwards or Jon Gray. There were also a few relievers taken with the hopes of picking up cheap saves in the likes of Jason Grilli, John Axford, J.J. Hoover and Tony Cingrani. These are rounds in which owners are expected to gamble on upside. If the pick works out it’s a steal; if not, you simply cut bait and hit the waiver wire.