I knew what I was going to do.
As soon as I agreed to participate in the first official 2014 Mastersball mock draft, organized by Pasko Varnica and hosted by Real Time Sports, I decided that I would try something new. I would transform myself into an entirely different type of drafter: A drafter who could care less about safe picks. Instead, I would focus mostly on upside. I would pay no attention to injury history or bust potential. If I saw value in drafting a certain player in a certain round, I would take advantage. I would assemble a roster that could just as easily finish in last place as finish in first place. Middle of the pack would be out of the question. This was totally not my style, but I thought it would be fun, and even if it turned out to be a disaster, well, at least it would make for an interesting article topic.
Picking out of the #8 slot in this 15-team mixed league draft, here’s the squad I ended up with:
1.8 – Ryan Braun – What does the stat line of a PED-less Ryan Braun look like? No one knows for sure, but I’m confident that the guy is still a pretty good baseball player. But I’d feel a lot more comfortable taking him towards the back end of the first round. And, since that probably won’t be possible, there’s a good chance I won’t be owning Braun in any leagues this year.
2.8 – Jose Reyes – His fondness for the DL is well-documented, but last year’s injury was of the fluky variety. He continued to run upon his return, and a relatively healthy 2014 could easily yield 15 homers, 30 steals and an average in the .300 neighborhood. Considering the lack of high-end options at SS this year, this is around where you will need to take him.
3.8 – Yu Darvish – Another thing that is not my style is drafting a starting pitcher in the third round, but since stepping out of my comfort zone was the whole point of this exercise, I did it anyway. And, if you are going to draft a starting pitcher in the third round, it might as well be the reigning MLB strikeout champ.
4.8 – Albert Pujols – Perhaps the most notable risk/reward pick this year, but fourth round? At this price, I might be willing to take the plunge in a real draft. If Albert can stay healthy for a full season, this could prove to be a steal.
5.8 – Hunter Pence – Opting to take a brief break from my daring plan, I snagged one of my longtime favorites. Pence never disappoints, though it remains to be seen if he can approach last year’s 22 stolen bases considering that he swiped a combined 13 bags over the previous two seasons.
6.8 – Kenley Jansen – Could challenge Craig Kimbrel for No. 1 fantasy closer title but with Brian Wilson looming, Jansen is one prolonged cold stretch away from setup duty. Probably won’t happen, but it’s at least a possibility.
7.8 – Ian Kinsler – How will the move away from Texas affect his power production? Should we be concerned about his steadily declining stolen base totals? At No. 98 overall, does all of this really matter?
8.8 – Jose Altuve – I’m a fan, but last year’s OBP drop is a bit concerning.
9.8 – Jered Weaver – Could deliver an ace-level stat line, but he can’t do it from the DL. Oh, and where did all of the strikeouts go?
10.8 – Nolan Arenado – Tons of potential, but for now it’s just potential.
12.8 – Addison Reed – Should be fine, but the Diamondbacks do have other ninth inning options.
13.8 – B.J. Upton – At first, the elder Upton was way off my radar, but the more I think about it, the more I’m intrigued by the idea of scooping up the 25-30 threat if the price is right. And I like this price. Recent news of his revamped swing is encouraging.
14.8 – Kendrys Morales – Low risk at this juncture, but he needs to find a job first.
15.8 – Miguel Montero – What happened last year? Strikeouts went up, walks went down and his average dropped by more than 50 points. A lingering back injury was partly to blame, however, though it’s hard to believe he will return to top-tier catcher territory. Still nice value as a low-end C1/high-end C2 in deeper mixed leagues.
16.8 – C.J. Wilson – High walk rate is unsettling, but Wilson is a guy who you know will give you 200 quality innings to go along with 170-plus strikeouts. I think he’s a bit underrated this year.
17.8 – Steve Cishek – Thrilled to get Cishek this late, but there’s no way I’ll be able to repeat this feat in any of my real drafts. Quietly put together a top-10 closer season last year, but his 5.25 April ERA shows that he is prone to rough stretches, and he doesn’t boast the track record to earn him a long leash.
18.8 – Corey Hart – One of my top bargain targets this spring. Averaged 29 homers per season from 2010 through 2012 before missing the entire 2013 campaign following dual knee surgeries. Will get more than enough at-bats to make a legitimate fantasy impact, health permitting.
19.8 – Justin Masterson – Not sure if he can repeat last year, but the drastically improved strikeout rate is plenty promising.
20.8 – Chris Carter – The homers are great. The batting average is not. And, considering his MLB leading 212 strikeouts last season, I don’t see that part of his game getting better anytime soon.
21.8 – Neftali Feliz – Has emerged as the favorite to close games for the Rangers in 2014, but we likely won’t know his fate for at least another month. Once named the closer, Feliz will rocket up the draft boards.
22.8 – Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Should produce enough to serve as a viable fantasy option, especially as a C2, but moving to Miami no doubt hurts his outlook.
23.8 – Logan Morrison – I sort of took him by accident. OK, I took him by accident.
I knew what I was going to do. But would I do it again, in a non-mock setting? To be honest with you, I haven’t decided yet.
Even though the Real Time Sports site projected me to finish in first place.