It is a dark time of year for the fantasy sports enthusiast. Week 17 capped off a fantasy football season that was chock full of first round busts (Rudi Johnson), surprise studs (Ryan Grant), and ultimately major re-evaluation of the age-old fantasy adage that running backs are more consistent than wide receivers. In the wake of the fantasy football season’s end, many owners find themselves looking for ways to fill the void. Some will choose the crapshoot that is playoff fantasy football, still others will choose college bowl season pick ‘em pools. Some misguided people may even turn to fantasy basketball (shiver). I say nay nay. This time of year is when I say, “Man, only two more months until fantasy baseball!”
It is in that spirit that I am writing this article – an outrageously early mock draft. This is not the be all end all 2008 fantasy draft, and I expect to revise it many times before my own draft day. I will post the draft in two four round chunks with analysis for each round. In writing this I just hope to evaluate how the hot stove moves to date might have affected the draft status of many MLB studs, as well as provide advice to newcomers to help them avoid draft day pitfalls. So lace up your cleats because here we go!
(Note I assumed a standard 10 team 5×5 Head-to-Head scoring system for this draft.)
(Beginner’s Primer: When I speak of multi-tool talents, I refer to players that contribute to multiple categories- like home runs AND stolen bases)
Team 1: Alex Rodriguez
Team 2: Jose Reyes
Team 3: Hanley Ramirez
Team 4: David Wright
Team 5: Albert Pujols
Team 6: Chase Utley
Team 7: Prince Fielder
Team 8: Matt Holiday
Team 9: Ryan Howard
Team 10: Miguel Cabrera
- In my opinion two questions dominate this year’s first round:
1. Reyes vs. Hanley at #2 overall – Both have solid 5-tool capability and are legitimate 20-20 threats. They should battle it out for the #2 ADP behind ARod. Right now I give Reyes the SLIGHT edge here both because I trust Reyes’ more proven track record, and because Reyes plays in a better lineup so he will score more runs (Cabrera’s departure is a cause for concern for the Marlins offense).
2. Where does Pujols go? Just who is Albert Pujols? Is he the top pick of a year ago, or is he the second tier talent we saw for much of the year? I think the former is closer to the truth so owners who pass on him in the mid to late first round will likely get burned by a resurgent 2008 for Phat Albert. Even so, I have a hard time taking him ahead of the potential 30-30 guys that currently sit atop my draft board, so I have him at fifth overall, rounding out my first tier.
- The first round is divided into two tiers. Picks 6-10 are almost all interchangeable in my opinion, as they are all great players with upside. The main difference between the early and late first round will be the absence of elite multi-tool threats late in the round. Don’t be surprised if Jimmy Rollins inches into the first round by draft day.
Team 10: Jimmy Rollins
Team 9: Alfonzo Soriano
Team 8: Carl Crawford
Team 7: Johan Santana
Team 6: Ryan Braun
Team 5: Jake Peavy
Team 4: David Ortiz
Team 3: Vlad Guerrero
Team 2: Grady Sizemore
Team 1: Ichiro Suzuki
- The main question of the second round is when does the first starting pitcher’s name get called? Every hitter taken in this round is an elite talent so it can be difficult to draw the line. I have put the first starting pitcher right after the remaining elite multi-tool talents (Rollins, Soriano, Crawford) are off the board.
- Ryan Braun is sure to be one of the most intriguing and most hyped picks on draft day. Only ARod had better per-game average fantasy numbers than Braun. He is a great pick late in the second round, but the problem is by draft day his hype will have ballooned him to a first round pick. Personally I think taking him ahead of proven second round talents like Guerrero or Sizemore is an unnecessary risk. Let someone else in your league take it.
- Carlos Beltran is conspicuously absent from this round despite a 30-20 season last year. The issue here is not his undeniably impressive 2007 stat line; the issue is how he got there. His season was mired by slumps and injuries, and the players ahead of him on my board come with much less baggage. Draft him if you like drama during the season.
- Potential Beginner’s Pitfall: Notice that Team 8 selected an outfielder in both the first and the second round. This raises an important concern in fantasy baseball drafts: In the early rounds, do not draft by position, simply take the best player available. Taking a lesser player at a needed position might very well be necessary in the late rounds, but you should not concern yourself with rounding out a roster in the first 5 rounds.
Team 1: Carlos Beltran
Team 2: Josh Beckett
Team 3: Lance Berkman
Team 4: Carlos Lee
Team 5: Brandon Philips
Team 6: BJ Upton
Team 7: Curtis Granderson
Team 8: Erik Bedard
Team 9: Justin Morneau
Team 10: Magglio Ordonez
- Round 3 saw the end of the true top tier starting pitchers. Taking a pitcher in the top 3 rounds this year may not be a winning strategy, as there is a much bigger drop-off after the third round for hitters than there is for pitchers. There is great SP value to be had in round 4 or later- CC Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, and John Lackey to name a few. Still taking an elite SP here frees up one of your middle round picks for when the SP crunch truly hits (more on position rushes later when we get to catchers).
- The hitters taken in this round are all good, but almost all of them carry significant risk. Most of them are young unproven players or aging sluggers. Still grabbing 20-20 guys or Lance Berkman in round 3 is never a bad thing.
Team 10: Mark Teixera
Team 9: Travis Hafner
Team 8: Adam Dunn
Team 7: Chone Figgins
Team 6: Manny Ramirez
Team 5: Aramis Ramirez
Team 4: Brian Roberts
Team 3: Russel Martin
Team 2: Victor Martinez
Team 1: CC Sabathia
- Several things stand out about round 4:
1. The last of the big names on offense are off the board, with massive value to be had here. I like Aramis Ramirez and Travis Hafner here especially, as both are likely to produce on par with some second round selections.
2. Only one starting pitcher was taken, again underscoring the depth in the middle at SP in this year’s draft. No one seems to be in any hurry to draft one.
3. The first catcher will likely go in this round. The catcher rush began in this mock. Potential Beginner’s Pitfall: Don’t get caught up in position rushes. In particularly scarce fantasy positions (Catchers and closers in baseball, Tight Ends in football) as soon as the first of that position is taken, there is a natural tendency to grab one before everyone else can. This strategy usually leads to irrationally grabbing players at that position several rounds to early. It is much better to land Sabathia or another fourth round hitter here than grabbing Joe Mauer (especially when catchers like McCann will be available two rounds later). My humble advice is to sit back and ignore the rush. Instead just wait for the bargains to fall. This will come up again with closers in part two of this article.
Team 1: Arod, Ichiro, Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia
Team 2: Reyes, Sizemore, Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez
Team 3: Hanley, Vlad, Lance Berkman, Russel Martin
Team 4: Wright, Ortiz, Carlos Lee, Brian Roberts
Team 5: Pujols, Peavy, Brandon Philips, Aramis
Team 6: Utley, Braun, BJ Upton, Manny
Team 7: Fielder, Johan, Curtis Granderson, Chone Figgins
Team 8: Matt Holiday, Carl Crawford, Erik Bedard, Adam Dunn
Team 9: Howard, Soriano, Justin Morneau, Travis Hafner
Team 10: Cabrera, Rollins, Magglio Ordonez, Teixera
Thoughts on Rounds 1-4:
- Only half of the teams have starting pitchers at this point. This is not to downplay the importance of the position, but as we will see, there is value to be had at the position in rounds 5-8. Such studs as John Lackey, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Chris Young are all available to be your fantasy ace, so don’t panic if you find yourself pitcherless going into the middle rounds.
- Looking at each roster you can clearly see the importance of multi-tool players. Every team in the league has a player that has 20-20 potential, some have more than one. The trend in fantasy baseball is grabbing these talented players ahead of more traditional sluggers like Pujols, Howard, and Fielder. I used to undervalue these multi-tool threats, but in 5×5 scoring formats they are certainly the better pick.
- Not one closer is off the board. There are certainly good closers out there, but the first four rounds are chock full of talent, so to waste an early pick on a closer in this year’s draft is madness. Studs like Francisco Cordero are not even going until after round 8, so again, don’t join the hype if someone calls Papelbon early (there’s always someone, right)?
- I personally think teams 2 and 9 did the best at this point in the draft.
I will post part 2 of this article within the next week. In the meantime feel free to email me questions, concerns, or hate mail to email@example.com. Happy New Year and stay strong, baseball is but a few short weeks away.
Erik Blomain is a 20 year old college student at Cornell University. He has been playing fantasy sports for the better part of a decade and has insight into common mistakes beginners make. You can catch Erik on the Cafe Forums where he posts as cyberer.
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