The mocks are going on full tilt, and we anticipate the arrival of pitchers and catchers at camp with the first spring games just a couple of weeks ahead, meaning baseball is indeed almost here.
As noted already over the past few weeks, we have indeed been mocking the night away, writing analysis of those drafts, comparing, contrasting, and trying to get a feel of what the reality of our real drafts will be.
So, this time, let's look at players who have prompted, as my mate Matthew Berry would say, "love/hate" among the drafters, and try to determine any logic behind said emotions.
As a point of reference, we can use the MLB.com mock run by Zach Steinhorn, currently in progress:
Michael Brantley (8.12): True, Brantley is coming off an injury, but would Chase Utley have lasted this long in his peak? How about Troy Tulowitzki, who has a far greater rating on the brittle scale, but was selected in the fourth round of the MLB mock? But, Brantley, who is pushing to be ready to play Opening Day (that might be a tad optimistic), hit .310-15-85 over 137 games last year, numbers the Tulo owner would likely be thrilled with (along with 137 games). No way I would let Brantley slip that far in any straight draft.
Yu Darvish (15.4): Darvish, coming off elbow surgery, is on track to return in May. If Darvish can deliver his normal numbers, he becomes a steal, but a month into the season, bereft of normal spring training, I would not expect him to feel comfortable cutting loose till the All-Star Break. Round 15 is probably ok for a half a season of Darvish, but personally, I would let someone else assume the risk and reconsider the Ranger as a 2017 possibility.
Adam Wainwright (9.10): Conversely, Wainwright, who missed the bulk of 2015, returned in September and held hitters to a .167 average over three innings before allowing just one run over 5 1/3 frames in three postseason appearances. That means Wainwright is a steal based upon the combination of his history and the recovery process, which seems to be over.
Albert Pujols (12.10): Albert is 36 now, but he is coming off a 40-homer renaissance accomplished with some nasty plantar fasciitis problems. Pujols has had his surgery and like Brantley is optimistically pushing for Opening Day. Still, 40 homers falling to the 12th round? Crazy.
Carlos Correa: (1.8): Correa is a case in point against Pujols. If Correa can indeed bang 40 homers and knock in 95, then he is certainly worth at worst second round status even with the .244 average that Pujols posted last year linked to the dingers and knocks. But, were I to gamble, I would go with the guy who has hit 40 before in the third and the younster who might hit 30 around the fourth or fifth.
Michael Conforto (15.2): The signing of Yoenis Cespedes has made lovers of Conforto leery of his playing time. I would not worry about that a lick for barring a melt-down, Conforto will need playing time to improve, and I cannot imagine less than 400 at-bats for the young slugger. Round 15 is a steal-and-a-half.
Neil Walker (12.4): Walker is 29, and over a 162-game mean, posted .272-18-81 totals over his seven years in The Show. Last year, over 157 games, the line was .269-16-71, pretty much in sync with said mean, so round 12 is a bargain for certain.
Brad Boxberger (14.6): A 4-10, 3.77 record with nine homers allowed over 63 innings might be a tad scary, but 41 saves and 74 whiffs are not to be dismissed. Personally, in a 12-team format, I am willing to wait till the end for closers, much like I would wait for a kicker in a football league, but if you think Boxberger will not be given every chance to lead the league in saves again, well, pick him as your field goal guy come August, perhaps?
Matt Holliday (undrafted): Let's be clear: I don't like Holliday, and have not since he was so diffident about playing in Oakland. True, he only played 73 games last year and the numbers were down, but he still managed an .804 OPS. Holliday has some solid youngsters playing behind him, but the Cards will indeed give him 300 at-bats anyway, so expect Carlos Beltran-type numbers like .293-14-65 over those plate appearances. My MLB mock outfield is full--in fact I have Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty rostered-but dismissing Holliday is a mistake.
Evan Gattis (undrafted): We started the MLB mock before it was revealed that Gattis was in need of hernia surgery. There is roughly a six-week max recovery for that, and Gattis does plug in at DH-only unless 10 games is your minimum (Gattis played 11 in the oufield), but he hit 27 big flies and knocked in 88 last year. Will Correa do that? Kris Bryant? Kyle Schwarber? Miguel Sano? Perhaps. All those guys were drafted already, unlike Gattis, so I am just asking.