Mock Draft Analysis – 12-team, 5×5 ESPN league

Mock drafts are never perfect and will never be able to fully simulate the thrill and indecision of a real fantasy draft. However, mock drafts can paint a broad picture of how the general public views this season’s crop of players. It also allows you to simulate certain decisions you’ll have to make during your actual draft. Do you take the reliability of Andrew McCutchen, or would you rather have the enormous potential of Carlos Gonzalez? Roll the dice on Ryan Braun or bet on Bryce Harper breaking out this year? While mock drafts have distinct problems such as pre-ranked player bias and auto-drafting computers, they also give you a better feel for how to approach the real drafts that are slowly approaching.

I didn’t go into this draft with any pre-conceived strategy, but looking back on it the one real takeaway I have is that you need to grab the good outfielders while you can. Outfield looks extremely top heavy and once you get beyond the top 20 guys there is not a whole lot to like. After the top 30 or so it starts to get ugly. In this draft I went outfield on my first three picks, not out of strategy but just because I liked the players I saw. You can’t really go wrong with Cargo, Harper and Stanton.

However, therein lies the problem with mock drafts. It is very unlikely that I can grab all three of those players again in a 12-team snake draft. But I will try. Here are the results of my first mock draft and my thoughts during each round.

Round 1: Carlos Gonzalez
I was hoping to have a chance at Goldschmidt with the 5th pick but he went with the third pick. I was then hoping to grab Andrew McCutchen over Carlos Gonzalez, but after McCutchen went fourth I was still happy to select Cargo with the fifth pick. Kershaw went 6th overall, followed by Cano, and then Chris Davis. Cano before Davis makes sense to me, Kershaw at No. 6 doesn’t, but he is the top SP and one is typically picked in the first round.

Round 2: Bryce Harper
Joey Votto lasted all the way to the 13th pick, if he continues to last this long I would love to have one of the last picks in the first round. As my pick at No. 20 overall approached, I had a choice of Yu Darvish, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Bryce Harper. I never thought about Darvish, and my choice came down to Braun or Harper. I see Harper as capable of putting up vintage Braun numbers, and with Harper on the way up and Braun seemingly on the way down, the choice for Harper seemed simple. Yu Darvish was the next pick, followed by Dustin Pedroia, followed by Braun.

Round 3: Giancarlo Stanton
For pick No. 29 I again had the opportunity to select Carlos Gomez, who apparently no one in the draft room trusted. I also had the opportunity to select Stephen Strasburg or Cliff Lee, but instead I was lured away by the upside of Giancarlo Stanton. Having both Stanton and Harper in the same lineup was too much to resist.

Round 4: Chris Sale
Seeing Chris Sale at the top of the board made this choice easy at No. 44 after going with offensive players on the first three picks. Sale seems to be undervalued a bit in drafts. He is an elite pitcher and may only continue to get better. There always seems to be an inherent injury risk with Sale as his frame appears fragile and his delivery suggests something is going to go wrong eventually. But after 214 innings pitched last year and a 3.07 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 2.95 xFIP Sale will be a target of mine in every draft. Worth noting with Sale is also his insane 9.49 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 last year. After making this selection I see that Jose Fernandez was also on the board and was selected soon thereafter. Both Sale and Fernandez look like great targets if you want an ace without using a top 30 pick.

Round 5: Eric Hosmer
Eric Hosmer is sitting there at pick No. 44 and I figure I may as well take him. Right now I really like my roster, but there is also downside with three relatively young players like Harper, Stanton and Hosmer. I love the upside potential though, and feel good about these picks. I’ll have to take players that are less of a risk moving forward.

Round 6: Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez is near the top of the draft board and he is another pitcher I’ll be targeting this year, so I take him with the 68th overall pick. With all the attention on Max Scherzer last year, Sanchez was overlooked a bit after posting a 2.57 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 2.91 xFIP. He also nearly matched Scherzer in strikeouts per nine at 9.99 compared to 10.08. I feel he is a safe pick and a good No. 2 on a fantasy staff.

Round 7: Matt Holliday
At pick No. 77 I have a choice between Aramis Ramirez and Matt Holliday. For most this should be an easy choice for Holliday but I have an unhealthy love affair with Aramis Ramirez. If health were guaranteed I’d snatch Ramirez up in a second, because if both players are healthy one would expect similar stats, but with Aramis at 3B he gets the clear advantage. Health is obviously not assumed though and I go with the safety of Holliday. Holliday is another player who appears to be undervalued, maybe due to his age, but he has been the model of consistency and I will gladly take him in the 7th round every draft.

Round 8: Mat Latos
If Starlin Castro is still there in the 8th round I may have to take him. I’ve resisted the past two rounds despite him appearing at the top of ESPN’s draft board. I’ve seen that his ADP has gone past pick 100 on most sites so I figure I can wait, but he goes at pick No. 83 (this could be due to auto-draft, I’m not sure). I’m left with a choice of Mat Latos and Jordan Zimmerman. I really like both pitchers, but Latos has more strikeout upside so this would normally be an easy choice for me. Latos recently had minor surgery so gives me pause, and I may have taken Zimmerman if this was a real draft, but I will assume Latos will be healthy and I’m happy to make him my No. 3 starter at pick No. 92. Zimmerman goes one pick later.

Round 9: Shelby Miller
Billy Hamilton alert. The Reds center fielder with 100+ SB speed goes at pick No. 98. This seems a bit early but it is also the time of the draft that teams are willing to bet on upside. I have a similar situation in front of me as I see Anthony Rizzo sitting there. I want to select the young slugger who has 30+ HR upside, but instead I decide I’d rather wait to see how long Rizzo will last and I select Shelby Miller at pick No. 101. I like Miller a lot assuming health; his usage last season scares me a bit but I’m happy with him as my fourth starter.

Round 10: Billy Butler
If Rizzo is here I’m taking him with the 116th pick. According to NFBC ADP he is being selected around pick No. 106. He goes off the board with the 108th pick. I’m now completely torn and wish I had taken Rizzo with the 101st pick. I consider Trevor Rosenthal but he goes at pick No. 113. I’m not left with very good options here, I could reach for an elite closer like Koji Uehara who I love, but instead I chose the safety of Billy Butler. Butler may never develop into the hitter most hoped he would, but I’ll take a .290 average and 20 home runs as a lock for my Utility position.

Round 11: Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy is sitting atop the draft board and I don’t hesitate. It seems most people dismiss Daniel Murphy off hand. Maybe it’s the name that often gets confused with David Murphy and people don’t want to find out who’s who. Maybe it’s just the fact that people who do know of him assume regression. Whatever the reason, Murphy is undervalued and I love grabbing him with the 125th pick. He can do a little bit of everything and I would gladly have taken him a little earlier. His ADP at NFBC is pick No. 104, and the latest he’s been picked is with the 132nd pick, so I feel much better about my selection after seeing that.

Round 12: Pablo Sandoval
I have pick No. 140 and I’m looking for a closer. Nothing looks appealing though, and I have a hole at 3B so Pablo Sandoval seems like a sensible pick. Similar to Butler, while Sandoval is not a top option, he has a high floor and there is still upside there for him to surprise. I’m very happy the way my infield is shaping up after ignoring it for the first 100 picks.

Round 13: Asdrubal Cabrera
I decide to keep the infield streak going and select Asdrubal Cabrera with the 149th pick. Asdrubal’s best days are likely behind him, but again I feel his floor is relatively high as far as shortstops are concerned and I don’t like the other options available such as Jimmy Rollins and Andrelton Simmons. I will likely look to grab an undervalued player like Jonathan Villar and/or Brad Miller later in the draft.

Round 14: Jason Castro
At this point in the mock draft people have started leaving the lobby, so the rest of these picks have to be taken with a grain of salt. At pick No. 164 I select Jason Castro to be my catcher, something I am very comfortable with.

Round 15: Casey Janssen
With pick No. 173 I take my first closer, the reliable Casey Janssen. I’m very happy to get Janssen this late and will try to do this in future drafts. I feel from this point forward I will have to select closers and then fill in MI and CI with undervalued players who fall.

Round 16: Bobby Parnell
I’m hoping for Huston Street with pick No. 188 but since he’s at the top of the draft board and there are two auto picks are in front of me I instead go with Bobby Parnell, another closer I am happy to have. If I didn’t need closers I likely would have selected Jake Peavy here.

Round 17: Jonathan Villar
I decide to reach slightly to select Jonathan Villar at pick No. 197. Villar will hurt my batting average but has a little pop and should steal 40+ bases as the starting shortstop for the Astros. I’m more than happy to have that kind of a player at my MI position. ESPN has Brad Miller ranked at No. 299 overall, which seems crazy to me, but I will be happy to take him with my next pick if he’s still there. By the time my real drafts roll around I don’t expect Miller to be this freely available but I will cross my fingers.

Round 18: Xander Bogaerts
I see Adam Eaton go right before I pick and I am slightly annoyed…until I see Xander Bogaerts just sitting there waiting to join my team. I gleefully select Bogaerts with the 212th pick and insert him into my CI position. This is the only draft I expect Bogaerts to still be on the board after pick 200, but again, I will cross my fingers that this trend continues.

Round 19: Chris Archer
If I had not selected Bogaerts I would have taken Nolan Arenado with my next selection but I instead use the 221st pick on Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer. Archer has a nice heater and a wipeout slider that gives him solid upside this season.

Round 20: Jose Veras
I take Cubs closer Jose Veras at No. 236 overall, Veras should be decent and while he may not rack up saves on a team like the Cubs, getting a solid closer this late is fine with me.

Round 21: Kole Calhoun
With the 245th pick I select Kole Calhoun to be my 5th outfielder. Calhoun has nice upside and I’m very happy to get him this late in the draft (especially since I forgot I still needed a 5th outfielder).

Round 22: Danny Farquar
With the clock ticking down I select Danny Farquar in a panic with pick No. 260, even though he will likely not be the closer for Seattle. At least I know who to drop after the draft when I see someone I like in free agency (in this mock draft alternate universe).

Round 23: Kolten Wong
With the 269th pick I select Kolten Wong who intrigues me from an upside standpoint. (Edit: I’ve clearly forgotten all about Brad Miller at this point and would have selected him with either of the last two picks). I’ll be happy to let Wong sit on the bench and see what he can do.

Round 24: Brad Miller
Somehow Brad Miller is still on the board at pick No. 288, I assume do to all the auto-picking and ESPN’s silly pre-rank of 299. I’m thrilled with this pick but realize it’s completely unrealistic.

Round 25: Corey Kluber
With my last pick at No. 293 I select Corey Kluber, because well, why not?

Final thoughts: I’m very happy with this team but I also realize that players like Bogaerts, Calhoun and Miller will not fall to me in future drafts. Chris Sale in the fourth round is possibly my favorite pick of the draft. Sale had 226 strikeouts in 214 innings last year with a 4.91 K/BB. There is an argument to be made for Sale being the top pitcher not named Kershaw. Nabbing Daniel Murphy at No. 125 is another one of my favorite picks in the draft. Murphy can give you 10 home runs, 20 stolen bases and a batting average near .300, pretty much a pre-2013 Starlin Castro line at 2B. Overall, I’m very satisfied the way my offense and pitching staff turned out. It will be interesting to see what trends develop in the next couple of weeks. I didn’t go into this draft with any real strategy, but I think I will continue to draft outfielders early and pick up decent infielders later in the draft.

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