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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

The mock draft season is about over. In all honesty, I won’t miss it.

I know that many like participating in straight draft mocks to get a better feeling for the player pool and I get that. However, drawing any meaningful conclusions about player value from isolated mocks is a waste of time, in my opinion. For that, you may as well use ADPs.

It would be only an amazing coincidence if individual drafters’ behaviors in your own leagues would be anything like what you would experience in a mock. Not only is it a different group of people at a different time, but motivations can and do change when the end result is actually binding.

One type of player mocks that do see the light of day are the variety of “expert” mocks that are scattered throughout the winter and spring. I participated in my first one in November, to help a well-known site make its magazine publication date.

For me, at least, they continued up until two weeks ago, when I joined Baseball Prospectus’ mixed mock. Like in the earlier mocks, I participated to help out an industry colleague. To be honest, I did not pick up anything from doing it that altered my preparation for my own leagues this spring.

The leagues that matter most to me are in the auction format and as a result, I do pay some attention to the industry auction drafts. That is not necessarily because I am analyzing individual drafting behaviors, but more to see where my peers value players compared to my own prices.

This work allows me to look for potential gaps or for possible bargain areas in my own drafts. Do I have better insight on this player than others, or did I miss something important?

So, back to the BP mock. I would have let it pass like all the other mocks, except for a follow-on note I received. In it, my projected category points was reported as 120. Not only was that best, it was 25 points ahead of the second-ranked team.

That got my attention, punctuated by this statement.

“When it comes to draft difficulty though, nobody had it better than you, as you ended up with more value available to you than any other team.”

How I got there is only mildly interesting perhaps, but the bottom line should be our primary objective in any draft in any format – find values wherever they are and exploit them.

Of course, the challenge is to hit that moving value target. Where will it occur in this unique draft? How can I recognize it? How do I take advantage in the most optimal manner?

Well, as I read further, I understood how to beat this particular system to “win” the mock. I did not get it at the time, but I do now.

The way one’s value-chasing acumen was measured was through a comparison between when a player was selected and his expected position. Those who grabbed players who fell furthest in the draft would score better than those who were perceived to be “reaching” for players.

Heck, had I known it was that easy, I could have set it on autodraft. The system would always take the top-ranked player remaining on the board, optimizing my score.

In real life, though, no one would draft an important team in that manner. Instead, let it serve as a reminder that a mock draft is never going to be a fully satisfactory replacement for the real thing.

The final paragraph of the draft wrap-up was this:

“Your best pickup of the draft was Phil Hughes, who was expected to have been selected in the 95th slot, but who you got with pick #133. However, you mixed in some (minor) duds as well, the worst of whom was Jedd Gyorko, taken 40 spots ahead of what his average draft position suggests.”

Now, that really set me off.

Here’s the problem, a system-caused quirk that I never would have accepted had this been a real draft. I did not learn until later in the draft that the software we were using had locked my third rounder, Todd Frazier, into first base, despite him being properly listed at third base when drafted.

So, I thought I had third base covered in the third, but here it was the 16th and it seems that I had no one at the hot corner. The way I discovered it was that I was not allowed to select Adam Lind as my corner infielder in the 16th. As I frantically tried to figure out why and with time running out, I had to take the next non-first base player in my queue, Gyorko.

We had been told by the moderator before we began that we were required to accept the player positions as assigned, so stopping the draft was out of the question.

As I continued to try to fix the problem for the next few rounds, more and more corner infielders were flying off the board. Giving up in the 20th round, I finally had to take the best third baseman available in Trevor Plouffe just to establish what the software considered to be a valid roster.

It was quite a step down from my original plan. Just another reminder that real drafts are superior to mocks in pretty much every way.

Here’s to the end of the mock season and the start of the real draft season!


Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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