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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.