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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

To be honest, I'm not quite ready to fully immerse myself in fantasy baseball draft preparation. The six-month grind, especially in ultra-competitive industry leagues like Tout Wars, takes its toll, so getting away for awhile can be refreshing. But now the mock draft season is in full swing, and although I try not to take these mocks too seriously, they do force you to start analyzing the player pool, and that's a good thing. Soon enough, I'm ready.

I have participated in two mocks so far, one of which will be published in The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2016 Professional Edition. The other one is a 10-round mini-mock, still in progress, that I organize every year for MLB.com. When reviewing mock draft results, one thing I like to do is compare the drafts and identify the players whose draft position varies the most. These are the players who I will need to think about the most. The market has yet to reach a consensus on the value of these guys, and there's no telling when or if a consensus will be reached. This means that I will need to be especially prepared when the time comes to assign them my own dollar or round value.

On that note, here are several players who fit this description.

J.D. Martinez

Fantasy Guide mock: #42 overall
MLB.com mock: #22 overall

I had my doubts about Martinez coming off his 2014 breakout campaign, but he took his game to a whole new level in 2015, finishing with 38 homers, 102 RBI and 93 runs scored. I don't have many doubts about J.D. this time around, though 22nd overall seems a bit aggressive. I'd still rather have...

cruz_nelsonNelson Cruz

Fantasy Guide mock: #26 overall
MLB.com mock: Not yet drafted

Much like Martinez, Cruz followed up a career-best season with an even better all-around showing last year, as he posted career-bests in home runs (44) and runs (90) while registering his highest batting average (.302) since 2010. I was fortunate enough to draft Cruz in 2014 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars for the cool price of $10. This year, however, I ultimately decided to take a "quit while you're ahead" approach in anticipation of a significant price hike. As it turned out, the price hike wasn't significant ($14). Clearly, I wasn't the only one who was skeptical. I won't make the same mistake in 2016. Interestingly enough, the MLB.com mock suggests that the skepticism hasn't gone away. We're now more than 40 picks into the proceedings and Cruz is still on the board.

Lorenzo Cain

Fantasy Guide mock: #58 overall
MLB.com mock: #30 overall

In addition to matching his 2014 stolen base total of 28, Cain launched a career-high 16 home runs last season to go along with career-bests in batting average (.307) and runs (101). I was actually the one who drafted Cain at #58 in the Fantasy Guide mock and I don't see a whole lot of downside in taking him at that spot. Whether or not he deserves a #30 pick will depend heavily on whether or not he can duplicate last season's home run total. I'd be hesitant to pay that price to find out.

Justin Upton

Fantasy Guide mock: #61 overall
MLB.com mock: #32 overall

At this point, Upton is who he is, not a superstar but a safe bet to hit 25 homers every year with solid production in the RBI and Runs categories. And the fact that 15 of Upton's 26 home runs last season came at pitcher-friendly Petco Park further proves that the power is legit. His owners last season were somewhat spoiled by the 19 stolen bases, and being that only two of his 19 swipes came in the second half, we need to lower our speed expectations for 2016. Regardless, #61 overall is a steal and #32 is reasonable.

Matt Carpenter

Fantasy Guide mock: #65 overall
MLB.com mock: #33 overall

Carpenter's 28 home runs last season really came out of nowhere, and it's not like he was a high-end contributor in batting average (.272 AVG). So, in non-OBP leagues (career .375 OBP), the only category that you can safely count on is Runs. Oh, and Carpenter is no longer 2B eligible, so if he doesn't hit at least 20 homers next year, he will be a below average power contributor at the third base position. I just don't get the appeal here, not at #65 and definitely not at #33.

Carpenter will not be a member of any of my fantasy squads in 2016.

And I don't need to do any more draft preparation to tell you that.

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