This time of year gets to be big fun. I have indeed finished all my magazine pieces and player profiles for 2014, and though the cycle of weekly pieces is rapidly picking up, these days it is Mock Draft City. And, that usually means a league with a bunch of guys who have been my friends for years now.
Add in the Roto Tour 2014, which starts next week when my mate Lord Z and I defend our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Baseball title (Z previews in The Return of Zen and Now) in Las Vegas. Then First Pitch rumbles through the Bay Area in February, and right after that is LABR in Phoenix. The wild ride culminates with Tout Wars in the Big Apple at the end of March. And, sure the drafting is fun, but just as wonderful is seeing my league mates: those same pals I am at present mocking with.
Earlier this week, Zach Steinhorn, who doubles as a Mastersballer when he is not driving the MLB.com Fantasy 411 Blog, kicked off their annual Mock Draft.
I really like mocks, partially because it gives me a sense of how my peers value players, but more because mocks are a time we are truly free to draft on the fringe.
As we are almost through seven rounds of the Fantasy 411 Mock, I thought I would relate some of my thoughts, on top of what my league mates included, for the first cluster of picks:
#6: Jason Collette – Clayton Kershaw – As if taking Gomez 5th overall in our last draft wasn’t crazy enough, I’ll take Sandy Koufax Jr. I cannot remember a starting pitcher being taken this early since the days of Pedro Martinez. Kershaw is surely good, and pretty healthy so far, and if he sets the tone for strikeouts and WHIP for a team, as Jason seems to think he will, more than worth the high choice.
#15: Derek VanRiper – Ryan Braun – Can’t pass him up here. Braun hit .306/.396/.579 with 8 HR, 26 RBI in his first 32 games last season (40 HR pace) before a thumb injury surfaced in mid-May. I am attributing his pre-suspension power outage to playing through that injury rather than some post-PED issue. Contact trends even during that early-season stretch of production hint at potential decline in AVG. He can hit, for sure, and I think he will have something to prove. I agree with Derek: Can't pass him up here.
#28: Tim Heaney – Matt Kemp – Abundance of options for my next pick. Ample risk, yet the waning pay-off of top-flight bats justifies this gamble. A healthy Kemp should go 20-20, or at least 20-15. I dream of his stud upside, though. Success in fantasy is largely stilted to gambles paying off. If Kemp is healthy for 150 games, this is as good a gamble as it gets (though the truth is, this is so for all of our picks, mock or not).
#35: Nando DiFino — Albert Pujols – I’m chalking up his 2013 shortcomings to playing a full season with injury, after pushing too hard, too fast to get back for the early part. I do think Albert returns to some form, but somehow I don't think he will ever be what he was. I am guessing .280-25-85 which is fine, but, do I think he can outproduce Eric Hosmer (#67 to Ryan Carey) or Adrian Gonzalez (#76 to Derek Van Riper)? Not any longer.
#62: Lawr Michaels – Ian Kinsler – New park, new season, new division, and Miggy hitting behind him (I am guessing). Dude is due to play full and healthy season. Just please deliver. I have really been having fun grabbing Jedd Gyorko around now in all the other mocks I have done so far, but this time Kinsler was still there. A major drop from last year, when Kinsler was a second round favorite, but I like the risk here.#70: Joe Sheehan – Billy Hamilton – I punted speed (and protected against downside) for four rounds, so while I probably can wait a little longer, the downside risk of doing so is high. I took Hamilton here in the October mock, and the Reds have done nothing to dissuade me from the idea that he’s going to play, and probably bat leadoff. If he plays, it’s 80 steals and 100 runs, even at a .300 OBP. If Hamilton can get on to the tune of the .300 OBP Joe suggests, he should indeed bring 15 SB points and be a boost to runs as well. I am not so sure he will get on base enough to justify a job. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the world values Hamilton going into the 2014 season.
# 83: Todd Zola - Jose Dariel Abreu - Need some power and since I've been quite conservative so far and it's time to let what's left of my hair down and take a chance. Especially with the help of The Cell, Abreu's power should translate, so it comes down to contact and patience. There's some other intriguing options at this point but I'll refrain from dropping names. Such an interesting pick. As noted, not that far down from the likes of A-Gone and Hosmer, and this for a guy who has yet to see a Major League pitch. A bold pick by partner Todd, and the kind that makes for success.