A number of years back, my late friend Jim Vail organized a sort of roto league amongst a cluster of friends.
This league was a simple one, designed with the minimum of effort, for in it we each simply picked the three batters we thought would hit the most home runs in the coming year. Entry to the league was a meager $10.
The year was 2000, when both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the big hitters, and while I did pick Sammy, I also went with Barry Bonds and Vladimir Guerrero. That was unlike everyone else in the league, each of whom took McGwire and Sosa, but all took Bonds as well.
Well, Vlady hit 12 more dingers than Big Mac that year, so needless to say, I won. In fact I remember telling Jim to keep the money, and we used it to have a great Chinese dinner when I visisted Phoenix the following spring.
Over the course of talking that winter, Jim did ask me why I took Vlady instead of McGwire, like everyone else. I answered I did not really know why Vlady of all hitters, but that I had a feeling McGwire would have a tougher year, and that Guerrero was that good. But, mostly I did it because I was pretty sure all the other players would not take him and that meant either I would win, or not. But, at least there would not be a potential ten-way tie making the season good for nothing.
When I said that Jim paused and thought for a moment, and then looked at me and said, "so, playing the game out is really kind of like a big laboratory for you then?"
I thought about it for a moment--for no one had ever suggested such a thing to me before--and nodded, saying "yes, that I guess it was."
Well, in the course of the pretty fun and wonderfully paced (its slowwwwwwwww) MLB.com experts draft, I got into a fun exchange with my bud Cory Schwartz from MLB.com. Cory took Eric Hosmer pretty early (third round) and also took Desmond Jennings in the fourth, Madison Bumgarner in the eighth, and Jason Kipnis in the tenth, after bagging Troy Tulowitzki with the fourth overall selection of the Mock.
Now, I will admit that all of these picks might have been early in the world of ADP, but I thought a couple of things.
First, these are all guys I would be happy to have on my roster at one point or another. They are all young. They are all good. And, they all likely have improvement ahead of them, and if Cory plays a roster with these guys and one or two of them have a break out, he has a seriously dangerous team.
In fact, Cory plays percentages a couple of ways by taking so many up-and-comers, the first being these are all touted young players, the second being that the more guys he gives a chance to, the greater the odds he will indeed hit the break out nail on the head.
Because, as we all know, there will indeed be break out players this year. And, we also know that if say Bumgarner, Tulo, and Hosmer simply repeat last year, should Kipnis and Jennings bust it out, that is indeed what makes his team look like a winner.
I sent a note to Cory telling him how much I liked his picks and team, and he did reply back a couple of things. One was that these were some of "his guys" which I understood meant he had been tracking them and maybe even drafting them as ultra picks for a few years, and he was watching his choices grow into full blown major league players and enjoying the rewards of both powers of observation and his faith in them.
I also asked Cory how much differently he drafted in a mock as opposed to the real deal, however, and he replied "I do things a little bit differently in mocks because I want to experiment, but it’s also a chance to practice my gameplan so I don’t go off the reservation **too much**. For instance, in a typical draft I would not take as my first three players a trio of guys who might combined for maybe 20-25 steals, tops. But, it’s a worthy exercise to see how that plays out over the full draft."
Ture enough. Of course the risk in taking Kipnis say over Neil Walker is that Kipnis could turn into Gordon Beckham (who himself had better become Alex Gordon or his career will be in jeopardy) hitting .240-10-50 or so, while Walker goes a steadier .285-12-70 on an unfortunately dull team. Cory said, the reason he did take Kipnis was "...in any case I’d rather reach a little here for Kipnis’ power/speed upside, acknowledging the average risk, than to take the known mediocrity of a Neil Walker."