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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

 The first thing I do when studying the results of any industry draft, in preparation for my own drafts, is to see if there is any sort of big picture theme. Many times, there isn't. But sometimes, there is. This past Tuesday night, 15 prominent fantasy baseball aficionados, including our very own Todd Zola, gathered online for the Mixed LABR, a 29-round (six bench) snake draft. So, what was the big picture theme of Mixed LABR? Actually, it's a theme that I have noticed throughout the mock draft season as one that I have rarely followed but a theme that I am thinking about incorporating more into my draft day approach. On numerous occasions, these owners chose youth and upside over experience and track record. Let's take a look at some notable examples. For the sake of easier comparison, I am grouping these players by position.

Billy Hamilton (Round 2, Pick 5) and Starling Marte (Round 2, Pick 7) drafted ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury (Round 2, Pick 12)

Hamilton will always be a threat to lead the Majors in steals while the 26-year-old Marte is coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 12 home runs, 30 swipes and a .280 AVG. Still, I'm having a tough time understanding this one. Hamilton has plenty of work to do in the plate discipline department while Marte was outproduced by Ellsbury last season in three of the five standard hitting categories, edging him in the other two (AVG and Runs). Ellsbury is a career .293 hitter and the Yankee offense should be a lot better this year, which will help Jacoby's runs total. Don't be surprised if he tops Marte in all five categories in 2015.

Jason Heyward (Round 5, Pick 6), Christian Yelich (Round 5, Pick 8) and Kole Calhoun (Round 5, Pick 13) drafted ahead of Matt Holliday (Round 5, Pick 14)

Matt Holliday is kind of boring, so I don't have a huge problem with this. But really, what have Heyward, Yelich and Calhoun done to deserve being picked ahead of a guy who has averaged 24 homers and 93 RBI per year to go along with a combined .295 batting average over the past five seasons? If healthy (no sure thing, of course), Holliday will likely top every member of the younger trio in three of the five hitting categories. That said, Heyward, Yelich and Calhoun will be fun players to own this season.

Carlos Carrasco (Round 6, Pick 11) drafted ahead of James Shields (Round 7, Pick 7) and Jeff Samardzija (Round 7, Pick 9)

Carrasco is beginning to look like one of those players who goes from sleeper to overvalued simply because he is receiving so much attention. Don't get me wrong, I'm high on the Indians righty for 2015, but this high? Not quite. Shields and Samardzija might not be fantasy aces, but both are fine choices to fill a #2 SP slot in a 12-team mixed league, especially with Shields now in San Diego. Carrasco's reign as a high-end big league starter is less than a year old. Spending a top-90 pick on him seems a bit aggressive.

Kris Bryant (Round 10, Pick 4) drafted ahead of Aramis Ramirez (Round 12, Pick 8)

Despite my generally conservative drafting plan, I'm fully on board here. Bryant might not even open the season with the big club, and his strikeout total in the Minors last year was rather high. But it's impossible to ignore 43 homers and 110 RBI in 138 games, particularly with power numbers down throughout baseball. Ramirez can still hit, but he turns 37 in June and is always hurt. Maybe if he was a DH on an AL team, I'd be more optimistic.

Danny Salazar (Round 15, Pick 4), Garrett Richards (Round 15, Pick 5) and Mike Fiers (Round 15, Pick 12) drafted ahead of Jered Weaver (Round 16, Pick 1) and Justin Verlander (Round 16, Pick 5)

Like his teammate, Carlos Carrasco, Salazar is a candidate to go from sleeper to overvalued, but he's a big time talent. I wouldn't at all hesitate to grab him in the 15th round of a 15-team mixed league. The latest word on Richards is that he could be back in action as early as April. Whether or not he can recapture the elite form he showed in 2014 remains to be seen. Fiers was outstanding last season, but the sample size was only 71 2/3 innings, including ten starts. Weaver and Verlander are excellent values in the 16th round, and I haven't given up on either. This is a toss-up, but I'd slightly prefer the two veterans.

Jedd Gyorko (Round 12, Pick 11) drafted ahead of Howie Kendrick (Round 12, Pick 12)

Kendrick has gone before Gyorko in the vast majority of drafts I've seen (both real and mock). But I am a believer in Gyorko this year as a sneaky MI value pick, given his 20-plus home run potential and the fact that a bout of plantar fasciitus was partly to blame for his disastrous 2014 campaign. Kendrick is the less exciting option but he's less likely to disappoint and does a little of everything. Ultimately, I'd lean towards Kendrick, though Gyorko is a perfectly acceptable choice for owners in need of more power.


0 #5 Perry Van Hook 2015-02-18 22:24
"What it is ain't exactly clear"
0 #4 Todd Zola 2015-02-15 15:55
Zach - really dig the fact you're thinking outside the box and trying to stay ahead of the curve. And, I happen to agree with your conclusion, especially in high stakes and industry leagues where it's win or go home.
0 #3 Todd Zola 2015-02-15 15:51
The risk is you seriously confine the player pool with intrinsic potential to your roster. Your options are limited and may be taken before your turn - or your forced to take them a round early, giving back any edge you got from the early picks.

If things fall correctly, you're golden. But if not, you better hope you can pull off a deal or two.

This is more viable in an auction where you can have direct access to the entire population.
0 #2 Allen Sarvinas 2015-02-15 06:30
Lets say I want to draft Hamilton and Dee just to lock up SB. This allows me to go Trumbo, Duda...is this to risky of a strategy?
Podhorzer did show the replacement level SB is lower than HR in his article, but it does seem a little risky.
Hamilton 5-10 HR is not nothing though.
0 #1 Lawr Michaels 2015-02-15 05:41
I wrote a column with the same title three seasons back when the Athletics caught fire and won the AL West last day of season.

Buffalo Springfield rules!

As for Matt Holliday, he was just such a complete asshole when he was in Oakland, that well, it is pretty hard to get me to take him anyway.

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