Even in mock drafts, I make a conscious effort not to “reach” for players, but mock drafts, particularly industry mock drafts, which are used by many as a sort of testing ground for different strategies, tend to be full of these surprising selections. But even though some of the picks might surprise me at first, there’s also something to be said about targeting a certain player, attaching your own value to him and drafting him at that price, regardless of what others may think. After all, there’s nothing worse than passing on a player who you really want just because you are sure he will last until your next turn only to watch him get scooped up by someone else.
Every year beginning in early-January, I organize and oversee a full 23-round industry slow mock draft for MLB.com, along the way posting the pick-by-pick results in addition to commentary on the Fantasy 411 blog. So, with the draft roughly halfway complete, let’s take a look at a handful of players, all drafted within the first three rounds and by coincidence all outfielders, who will no doubt be popular choices among the risk-embracing owners. Note that I placed a heavy importance in draft position when choosing these players, so by no means will I be completely avoiding all of them. Rather, I’d be hesitant to draft them at these prices.
Michael Brantley (Round 2, Pick 9) – If Brantley can duplicate last season’s .327-20-97-94-23 stat line, this would be a steal. But what if he can’t? Since 2014 was by far his best season to date and his counting stats dropped significantly in the second half, I’m not so sure I’d be willing to spend a top-25 pick to find out.
Ryan Braun (Round 2, Pick 11) – Last year at this time, Braun was one of the more debated early-round picks. Nothing has changed since. All in all, 2014 was a disappointing season, but perhaps the thumb injury was mostly to blame. Following an off-season procedure, Braun says his thumb is back to 100 percent. We shall see. His production can range anywhere from top-5 value to last year’s line, which was decent but nowhere near that of a top-25 player.
Yasiel Puig (Round 2, Pick 12) – Puig followed up an outstanding rookie season with a solid sophomore campaign. Although he isn’t exactly a sure thing to improve upon last year’s .296-16-69-92-11 line, the 24-year-old carries first-round upside. My prediction is that this pick will look better and better as the season goes along.
Bryce Harper (Round 3, Pick 9) – My next prediction is that among this group, Harper will either bring back the biggest profit or the biggest loss. I know, I’m really going out on a limb here. An injury-free season is a must, but even with a guarantee of no trips to the DL, I don’t know if I have it in me to draft Harper at this spot. Regardless, he won’t be cheap. Maybe the smart thing to do is pass on him for one more year, hope that he underachieves again and then draft him in 2016 at what could finally be a discount. I’m leaning in that direction.
Carlos Gonzalez (Round 3, Pick 12) – Look, we all know what Car-Go can do when healthy. The only problem is that he’s never healthy. Gonzalez appeared in a career-low 70 games last season and has averaged 111 games played over the past four seasons. And that’s even after rounding up from 110.5! At 36th overall, I’d rather let him be someone else’s problem. Hunter Pence was taken four picks later. Give me him instead.