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Monday 24th Jul 2017

Last week during the #MockDraftArmy review, I wrote about taking two pitchers with my first two selections, then two more with my next four picks, and with my seven and eight picks, a pair of relievers, meaning six of my first eight selections were hurlers.

During that draft, I selected in the #15 spot, or last with two picks at the wheel. This past Thursday, I again selected at the end, albeit of a 12-team Mock, and went a completely different route.

I do need to note ahead that the difference between 12 and 15 teams is indeed huge--it means a difference of 69 more players drafted in the larger framework--but fashioning a strategy and assembling a team under varying circumstances is part of what makes the mock exercise revealing and contextual.

So, today, let's look at the picks, round-by-round, nabbed at the end of one round/beginning of the next just to see the difference. 

Note that I do realize I am spending a lot of time reviewing mock results here, but again, mocking is the best prep there is for both understanding the player pool, draft tendencies, and getting a grasp for navigating through all this.

If you want to be a part of the #MockDraftArmy, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Fantasy Alarm and he can get you on the list. It is a lot of fun and Howard always assembles a good group of experts, strong players, and good guys for his weekly fetes.

For links, here are the results of Mock Draft 8 (15 teams) and Mock Draft 11 (12 teams). Note that the first pick noted is for #8, the second for #11.

1) Max Scherzer/Kris Bryant: Trying to force the selection of pitchers versus grabbing the fun next big new thing.

2) Chris Sale/Carlos Correa: More of round 1 logic at the wheel in both instances. I was surprised that both Correa and Bryant lasted to me, not that I am suggesting either is really a first rounder just yet. And, well, grabbing two is sort of jumping off a cliff with my eyes closed.

3) Carlos Carrasco/Yoenis Cespedes: Exploiting pitching still, versus drafting who I think has the best confluence of tools to bang 50 homers.

4) Jacob deGrom/Chris Sale: Again, stacking pitching, as noted, and then grabbed a #1 starter who went around 40 picks earlier in the deeper format.

5) Francisco Lindor/Jason Kipnis: In the deeper league, I could not get Correa, but Lindor is interesting at this juncture and just about as much fun. As for Kipnis, I expect a slight bump from last year, but last year is just fine as a bottom line.

6) Kolten Wong/Carlos Carrasco: Deeper league means thinner impact second sackers. Kipnis was gone but Wong has some great upside. As for Carrasco, again, like Sale in the shallower environ, he was right there for the grabbing three rounds later.

7) Trevor Rosenthal/Randal Grichuk: I took back-to-back closers in the deeper format, and went for some potential pop in the shallow one.

8) Mark Melancon/Jonathan Lucroy: Locked up saves in one league, bagged one of the three best hitting catchers in the other.

9) Kole Calhoun/Byung Ho Park: Solid Calhoun actually slipped in my view. Park is another youngster gamble, but there appears to be some power and all the front line first sackers were gone.

10) Randal Grichuk/Lance McCullers: My Grichuk attraction is well known. As for McCullers, good team, resume, and whiffs lie ahead, I hope.

11) Carlos Santana/Stephen Piscotty: I took Santana because the first base ranks were thin (Park was gone) as opposed to Piscotty, who has major upside on a team that knows how to groom prospects.

12) Stephen Piscotty/Taijuan Walker: Piscotty redux, but Walker is much like McCullers in potential upside.

13) Blake Swihart/Jeff Samardzija: In the deep league, I doubled up on backstops here, while adding K's with the hopes that the Shark settles down in pitcher friendly ATT.

14) Derek Norris/Ender Inciarte: Norris and Swihart make a nice combo in the deep league, while Inciarte is a well known objet de art in my view.

15) Nick Castellanos/J.T. Realmuto: Third base getting lean in the deep format, and I like Castellanos' production potential while Realmuto is a nice #2 to Lucroy.

16) Domingo Santana/Marco Estrada: I am big on Santana's power potential just like I am big on Estrada keeping it together for a second year.

17) Kevin Kiermaier/Ketel Marte: In the deep league, Inciarte was gone, so Kiermaier is the alternative. In shallow city, the exciting potential of Marte at middle infield is great.

18) Marco Estrada/Domingo Santana: Have both on both teams, selected the exact opposite in round 16. Hmmmmm?

19) Avisail Garcia/Brandon Finnegan: Garcia a nice power gamble this late while Finnegan has a lot of promise (I am thinking he can produce a la McCullers last year).

20) Brandon Finnegan/Brett Lawrie: Finnegan becomes a nice flier in the deeper format while Lawrie is pretty solid up the middle in the 12-teamer.

21) Nathan Eovaldi/Luke Gregerson: Eovaldi and his whiffs should be a nice crapshoot this late, while in the shallow format I blew off closers till the end. Why you ask? Well, 12 teams generally means 24 closers and that ideally means six will not even be chosen. You can indeed be flexible with closers in the shallower format.

22) Martin Prado/Andrew Miller: Would I rather have Lawrie than Prado? Yes, but so be it. As for Miller, again, grabbing potential sources of saves late in the shallow format makes things a lot different.

23) Jose Iglesias/Denard Span: Iglesias was the best there was to offer at the time in the deep format, while Span went in the 16th round of the deeper format, making him a steal for me.

Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

As I noted last week in this space, we are indeed in the throes of the mock draft season, and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. #MockDraftArmy, and since I did just write about mocks, I had a couple of other thoughts for fodder this week.

But, Thursday evening, Howard's mate Dave Kerr hosted (Howard was tied with Super Bowl 50 work, which is in our back yard) as the Army went at it for a 15-team mixed format.

I logged in a little before the draft start and found myself drafting in the 15-slot, at the wheel, so I decided then and there to try something and see which way the players fell.

I do love drafting at the end of the snake, for it affords chances to try things not necessarilly afforded at other slots within the serpent. Drafting first affords some of the same chances, the difference being you make a pick and nada for the next 30 players, while drafting 15 means two prime picks right in the middle of the first rounds.

Since we all know just how deep pitching is this season, it has been interesting to see how long drafters wait to fill out their rotations and pens. In general, I have found despite the depth at the position, players are snatching up the top pitchers early, forcing all of us to have to actually work the hill spot sooner than might seem reasonable.

So, I decided to try and exploit that even more, drafting pitchers with my first four selections, and then with my seventh and eighth selections as well. That meant I built a deadly rotation--and pen--with the first third of the draft, but that also meant a scramble for at-bats, power, on-base, and speed as I took only position players from rounds 9-18.

The full draft can be viewed here. Below is my roster, in draft order, with my thought of why at the time.

1.15 Max Scherzer: Clayton Kershaw actually dropped to 11th, and I had hopes of a Kershaw/Scherzer rotation, but alas, Max was there when it was my turn to pick.

2.1 Chris Sale: It was between Sale and Madison Bumgarner, but I went Sale after first a discussion with Lord Z, and second, thinking about strikeouts.

3.15 Jacob deGrom: Best strikeout guy on the board at the time.

4.1 Carlos Carrasco: Whiffs, yes, and just hoping he has arrived.

5.15 Francisco Lindor: I wanted to make sure that I had some potential production at middle infield, and with the likes of Correa and Seager and Tulo gone, well, this is where I went.

6.1 Kolten Wong: Grabbed to pair with Lindor. I was hoping Jason Kipnis would fall to me, but just missed.

7.15 Trevor Rosenthal: Best closer available at the time.

8.1 Mark Melancon: With Rosenthal atop the stopper list, Melancon was next. Selecting a closer in a 15-team set-up is a lot different than with 12 or 13 teams, so I took two here to make my opponents suddenly have to deal with a potential dearth of both top starters and closers.

9.15 Kole Calhoun: No question how much I like Calhoun, and well, he was the best bet on the board for 25-plus homers.

10.1 Randal Grichuk: The fun of this draft was gambling on the likes of Lindor and Grichuk (and more).

11.15 Carlos Santana: The top tier first sackers were likewise gone, but Santana offers on-base numbers and pop, and I still think (hope) his best numbers lie ahead.

12.1 Stephen Piscotty: Another guy I really like, Piscotty makes great contact, can really hit, and I hope he just gets a shot at playing full time. If he does, I am thinking .290-17-85 is reasonable.

13.15 Derek Norris: Catchers were getting thin like closers a few rounds before, so I tried to buy more time by grabbing Norris, who is another guy whose best work I think lies ahead.

14.1 Blake Swihart: So, I doubled up at backstop, grabbing another shiny prospect I hope will deliver.

15.15 Nick Castellanos: No question Castellanos has double-digit power, and again, another guy who is due to be as good as we hoped when drafted five years back.

16.1 Domingo Santana: High on my list, Santana should have a regular shot to be the starting centerfielder in Milwaukee, and if he can play should give 20 or so homers along with some nice support numbers.

17.15 Kevin Kiermaier: My last outfield slot went to another up-and-comer with a track record of some power and some speed. Ideally, in his third year, things will fall in place.

18.1 Marco Estrada: If he keeps the WHIP down, and gets his strikeouts, I am happy to have Estrada as a #5 starter.

19.15 Avisail Garcia: Garcia goes to my Utility spot, giving a chance for some upside. He is still just 25, you know?

20.1 Brandon Finnegan: Personal favorite, and I think he will flourish as a starter this year.

21.1 Nathan Eovaldi: A little surprised Eovaldi was still out there, but happy to take his whiffs. Another player who is due to break through in my opinion.

22.1 Martin Prado: By now, the pool was thin, but I do like Prado, who can hit and has a little power. He is the kind of guy who might not give much, but neither will he take much.

23.15 Jose Iglesias: Took a Mr. Irrelevant gamble on the Tigers shortstop, who hit .300, stole 11, and makes good contact with 25 walks to 44 whiffs last year.

There you have it. Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

The #MockDraftArmy--as curated by @RotoBuzzGuy (Howard Bender, of Fantasy Alarm)--is alive and well, and this past week the Army completed the first drafts of 2016.

I participated in two: a 12-team mixed on Wednesday, and the next evening, a 15-team mixed (see links for results), and while I wound up with basic strategies for each format, I think this time it is important to take a look at just how different things are with the addition of three teams to the mix.

On Wednesday, I selected in the nine slot, while Thursday, in the seventh slot. Off the top, seventh in a 15-team league is a tough place, for it is just far enough to project, but too close to plan much effectively long-term. 

For both teams I tried to focus enough on pitching such that I was willing to grab starters despite pitching depth. On Wednesday, I waited late for closers, selecting Roberto Osuna (18) and Arodys Vizcaino (19), while Thursday, with 15 teams, I went Kenley Jansen in round six and Jeurys Familia in nine.

Uncharacteristically, I went for outfielders with three of my first four picks in the 15-team set up, while waiting and assembling a great cluster of young flychasers over rounds 8-12 with a break at 10 for Lance McCullers.

Looking at both make-ups, remember that 66 more players go off the board in the 15-team set up, making a 12-team format feel pretty shallow. For example, my last pick Wednesday was filling my second catcher slot with Jason Castro, who can hit with power, but not a lot more, while Thursday I made a last ditch scramble for saves with Hunter Strickland. Strickland was not selected Wednesday.

OK, so let's look at a few guys and see if we can derive anything that might help us get a feel for our pending March drafts and auctions. Mind you, I still have no use for ADP; however, I do understand ADP does provide a window into when opponents favor a particular player, whether I covet the guy or not.

Michael Brantley: The Indians outfielder, who is out until May following shoulder surgery, was a 5.5 selection Wednesday while he somehow dropped to 14.2 the next night. That is weird for though Brantley misses a month, imagine where Troy Tulowitzki would be taken were he to miss a month, especially in a deeper league. I might have jumped on Brantley Thursday, but as stated, I loaded on power and speed in the outfield early so I looked to fill holes elsewhere. That is almost 100 picks later.

Stephen Piscotty: Kind of the same, as I nabbed Piscotty at 13.9 Wednesday, while Steve Gardner could wait till 17.9 the next night to grab the fine young Cardinals first sacker/outfielder. Again, I was not looking at first and the outfield, so Piscotty was not on my wish list or queue, but in retrospect, he should have been. This comes out to a 60-pick difference. Odd.

Zack Greinke: Selected as the second starting pitcher, at 2.2 Thursday, but dropped to the fifth round (5.3) with seven hurlers preceding the new D-back on the Wednesday pick list. There were 45 picks in between.

Danny Valencia: I like the Athletics third sacker and had planned on him as a late corner/utility type player. I did grab Valencia with the 22.4 selection Wednesday, but he was long gone by then Thursday, going 17.5, almost 75 players earlier.

Miguel Sano: Ok, so there was a bit of a gap with a lot of the players--stars and filler alike--but what about the youngsters we love? Well, Sano was 10.7 Wednesday, and Thursday, just ten picks later at 11.5.

Carlos Correa: Best for last? I don't know. I do like Correa, but as a first-rounder, the young shortstop really needs to generate $35-plus of value to make the pick worth it. That is a lot to ask, especially when Josh Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, was taken after Correa in both instances. But Correa went 1.5 on Wednesday, and just two later at 1.7 on Thursday. Correa might be good, and have upside. He could earn those $35, but what taking Correa that early does is give lower drafters in the snake a better shot at safer bets.

However, remember that the function of mock drafts is three-fold. First, it reinforces a broad-based knowledge of the player pool, which is always a good thing. Second, mocks do give a chance to see how others value guys like Correa, for better or worse. But third, and most important, mocks offer a chance to try some things, mix it up, and see what falls. Like a Michael Brantley in the 14th.

Remember, you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Note: If you are reading this, that suggests more than a passing interest in fantasy games. Please do write to your local lawmakers and tell them of your love of playing and desire to keep on playing, while keeping the game fair--and regulated--for all. Visit the FSTA site for more information (and thanks).

Tuesday evening found Lord Zola himself sitting next to me (or was it the other way around?) at the 2016 Fantasy Sports Trade Association's (FSTA) Experts Baseball Draft.

The draft is always part of the Association's Winter Convention, which was extra important as we work as both players and members of an industry to ensure the right and ability to play fantasy games while still keeping the contests transparent--and profitable--while being fair to participants.

In fact, if you are reading this, that suggests more than a passing interest in fantasy games. Please do write to your local lawmakers and tell them of your love of playing and desire to keep on playing. Visit the FSTA site for more information (and thanks).

OK, so going up against the likes of defending champs Steve Gardner and Howard Kamen, plus Ron Shandler, Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf and Stacie Stern, Jeff Erickson and on, who did we cop?

For some context, Todd and I drafted in the 12-slot of a 13-team standard 5x5 that allows a 29-man total roster. Injured players can be placed on IR, thus they don't count as one of the six reserve picks. The draft was carried on Sirius/XM, who does rebroadcast, but if you wish to see the pickings thus far, click here. We were able to draft 22 rounds live, and are completing the proceedings via e-mail. Note that as long as we can fill a roster by the 29th selection, we are good, so at press time, Todd and I still have a few picks to go.

1.12 Manny Machado (3B): Kind of a no-brainer at that spot. We truly had not anticipated Machado falling to us, and couldn't pass up a solid (162 games last year) potential 30/30 guy.

2.2 A.J. Pollock (OF): It was a question of Giancarlo Stanton or Pollock, and we went with the potentially healthier-speedier guy on the better team.

3.12 J.D. Martinez (OF): This came down to Charlie Blackmon and Martinez, and Todd lobbied harder. I actually liked Yoenis Cespedes a little better than either, but Todd's projections said one of the pair, and my nod went to Martinez.

4.2 David Price (P): True pitching is deep, but we knew the wait for simply our next pick was 22 players away, so Price was the strikeout option we preferred.

5.12 Xander Bogaerts (SS): 196 hits last year, and like Machado, he's just 23 yet going into a third full-time season. What is not to like? And, this one was my target (though Z put up no fight).

6.2 Carlos Carrasco (SP): Again, due to our draft spot, we felt we had to be a little aggressive nabbing this potentially dominant hurler. We knew Carlos would not be there when out next pick arrived.

7.12 Kolten Wong (2B): Some power, some speed, and a third year guy who ideally will come into his own as a vet.

8.2 Kole Calhoun (OF): Yet another third-year full-timer, coming off a 26-homer season. Not sure how he fell this far, and I admit to more of a mancrush than Todd, but again, this was not a hard sell.

9.12 Trevor Rosenthal (RP): Closers were starting to come off the board, so this was the best available at the spot at the time. And, it is not like he isn't good.

10.2 Russell Martin (C): 23 dingers and the hope that Martin hits up in the order prompted the selection (Z may have more to say on this).

11.12 Jose Quintana (SP): #3 starter ideally helps our growing whiff total.

12.2 Carlos Santana (1B): We missed out on the banger first basemen. We both like Carlos but are a little concerned at his ground ball rate for a power hitter.

13.12 Shawn Tolleson (RP): Closer the second.

14.2 Randal Grichuk (OF): Several options here--Stephen Piscotty and Kevin Pillar to be specific--but we like Grichuk's power potential a lot.

15.12 Ketel Marte (MI): We love the Mariners' middle guy a lot so we were thrilled to get him here.

16.2 Ender Inciarte (OF): I made this push, but we agreed the new Brave could be a stolen base boon.

17.12 Mike Fiers (SP): Hoping for some more whiffs with Fiers on a good contending team and maybe some wins, too.

18.2 Scott Kazmir (SP): Neither of us sold, but on the Dodgers--who are good with pitchers--Kazmir will hopefully maintain.

19.12 Jhonny Peralta (UT): Everyday player with 20-homer potential. 

20.2 James McCann (C): On-base numbers a little scary, but some home run potential, and on a team that should score a bunch of runs.

21.12 Anibal Sanchez (SP): A gamble, but one with strikeout potential, and Todd and I both like the whiffs.

22.2 Devon Travis (MI): Injured so we can stash him, but nice offensive potential when Travis is healthy, ideally come May. After this pick, it was pretty clear Travis would not have been there for our round 23 selection.

23.12 Martin Prado (CI): Everyday player who can do a little of everything.

24.2 Clay Buchholz (SP): Hopefully some strikeouts and no time on the DL.

Just before the All-Star break last year, I wrote an article for our friends at USA Today on the proliferation of rookie pitchers in 2015. The truth is by the time the season was over, no less that 150 pitchers had made their debut in 2015 according to Baseball-Reference.

To me, that suggests that Major League GM's are more than willing to give a shot to a draft pick moving up through the system. Certainly, if we look at the Mets and the Indians, both teams have fantastic young rotations, but just about every franchise boasts a hot young arm on the verge of domination. Daniel Norris. Aaron Nola. Carlos Rodon. Henry Owens. All seem on the verge of big things at The Show and on our fantasy rosters.

In a way, this makes sense to me. For example, the Dodgers gave Kenta Maeda $3 million a year on an eight-year contract worth a maximum of $90 million including incentives to pitch for them. 

Maeda is hardly a rookie at age 28, with eight professional seasons played for Hiroshima, over which he went 97-67, 2.39 over 1509.6 innings. Maeda had fine control in Japan, with 1233 strikeouts to 319 walks with 1263 hits for a 1.048 WHIP. But, at 6'0", 154 pounds, I am not sure how a young man with 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings will fare hurling in a league where strikeouts, fastballs, and power largely rule the roost.

Irrespective, the Dodgers signed Maeda and installed him in their rotation, and at present the import is the #3 starter for the team (behind Clayton Kershaw and Scott Kazmir), ahead of both Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger. Now, it is true both Wood and Bolsinger ran out of gas last year, but still, Wood was a decent 12-12, 3.84 over 189.6 innings while Bolsinger went 6-6, 3.62 over 109.3 frames. Note too that the Dodgers also have Brett Anderson, who went 11-9 over 189 more innings last year (staying healthy for the first time in the last six years) as well as Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu (who missed all of last season due to injury), giving the team as much depth in the rotation as anyone.

While I do understand a team cannot have too much pitching, I don't understand a long-term commitment to an unknown quantity like Maeda despite already having 45-plus wins and a sub-4.00 ERA over nearly 700 innings among Wood, Anderson, Ryu, and Bolsinger.

And, it is not so much that I mean to pick on the Maeda signing, for it seems a lot of pitchers of questionable skill sets have received some fine contracts. Kazmir, for example, has had a nice couple of years, but $16 million a year? Or J.A. Happ, who now gets $12 million a year after establishing himself as a 33-year-old with a career 62-61, 4.13 record with a 1.367 WHIP?


Anyway, in looking at the remaining arms, let's look at this year's Jamey Wrights, in other words, pitchers who manage to keep a job despite a prolonged inability to get hitters out at critical moments. Although, Wright did emerge as an effective middle guy at the very end of his odd career, so though I am happier for the Major League teams to go to their systems before signing any of these guys, you still never know.

Tim Lincecum: How it hurts to put Timmy, whom I scored during his glorious NL heyday, winning back-to-back Cy Youngs, but Timmy has lost it. Velocity or not, he has not adjusted and learned the Tim Hudson method of transitioning from throwing to pitching. The truth is, Lincecum (and as I have written before, Matt Cain) no longer own batters in critical spots, and as a result I would not trust either of them (note Cain is still a Giant).

A.J. Griffin: Such a waste, for Griffin could pitch pretty well at first before his arm fell off. He hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2013, and allowed 46 homers over 282.6 innings with the Athletics. And now we have to trust that his arm is ok and he won't allow gopher balls. Ha.

Mark Buehrle: OK, the thing with Buehrle is what you see is what you get, and what you get is 200 innings with a 3.98 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, and 129 strikeouts. In some leagues--like H2H formats--that is worth a lot, but not so much if you are in a straight roto league, unless your league is way deep. Then the innings can help you, especially if you can stream, for Buehrle is streaky and can be exploited accordingly.

Mike Minor: Ouch, what happened here? Minor advances in skills, hits the skids with a 6-12, 4.77 over 145.3 innings last year, and the Braves let him go? Once again, a lesson in how tough it is to make it. However, maybe there is some Luke Hochevar in Minor somewhere with a nice middle relief career ahead of him.

Doug Fister I don't know why I have never felt I could trust Fister, for his numbers between 2011-14 are really pretty good (51-38), but here is the lanky (6'8") righty waiting for a chance after an iffy (5-7, 4.19, 1.398 over 103 innings) 2015. Fister is just 31 and surely will sign somewhere and actually might prove to be the best bargain among the basement treasures of the unsigned veteran hurlers of 2016. Depending upon where he signs, for a couple of bucks in an AL or NL-only format, I might be willing to take a flier.

Baseball, like politics and religion, never lacks for both variance of opinions and complete clarity of said view, irrespective of the divergence of said perspectives.

I will say that I applaud the addition of the wonderful Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, who was a core piece on a couple of the best fantasy teams I ever had, to the sacred walls of Cooperstown.

Of course, as usual, there were those two absolute hits, but a lot of moaning and misses as fans and pundits all chime in on who should make it, and why.

I try not to get too wrapped around those pros and cons, though like everyone else, I have a list of players I think should at least merit more consideration than they seem to ever get, or have gotten.

Jim Kaat, with his 284 wins and 17 Gold Gloves (including 11 in a row) for example, or Tommy John, who not only bagged 288 wins, but lent his name--now reduced to initials--and body to the surgery that was an experiment on him but routine today. Darrell Evans, who smashed 414 homers, including 40 for Detroit at the age of 38, not to mention hit 40 in each league, and, well, see how many players did that--and was for awhile among the all-time RBI (1354) and walks (1605) leaders. Or ,Bill Buckner, who likely would have had 3000 hits had he not played with such reckless abandon. 

But, the thing is times and numbers have changed, and where 400 homers and 250 wins were the old barometers of my youth for Hall inclusion, those numbers seem to have fallen as the game has become a full-time year-round job, something it was not during the entirety of my youth. Now, 500 homers, 300 wins and 3000 hits are the baselines for the most part.

Not that I am feeling nostalgic, for while there are indeed more games played per team these days (162 as opposed to 154), there similarly were four-man rotations, meaning at least for starting pitchers, those who lasted had at least as many opportunities to establish numbers commensurate with today's top hurlers.

Although, in saying that, the game has changed and while innings and wins might be part of the equation, only Walter Johnson and Cy Young live in the all-time strikeout list Top 20 with the remaining hurlers all beginning their careers in the 60's or later.

I know the idea is to try to stay empirical and logical when applying some sort of reasoning to our HOF selections, but in the end, for most of us, our judgement is spoiled or enhanced in one way or another. 

For example, I get how good Curt Schilling was as a money player, but I have heard him talk enough, and think he is such an asshole that I could never vote for him, while the much cooler Mike Mussina is a no-brainer.

I still have a hard time with the inclusion of Jim Rice, who did give a fine .298-382-1451 line over 16 seasons. Not that Rice was not a great and feared hitter, but Dwight Evans, who hit .272-385-1384 over 20 years, was arguably THE defensive right-fielder with the best arm in baseball for more than a decade. Why one, and not the other?

Like I said, it is so subjective and we all filter, but if there is glory in the history of baseball, and joy in the watching of it, then there is almost something understandingly familial about arguing about those moments of joy and glory.

As with the All-Star selections, which are sort of a mid-season microcosm of the HOF arguments, I tend to try and shrug it off and enjoy the discussion.

For the record, I could vote for up to 10 players for the IBBWA (Internet Baseball Writers of America), and here is who I selected, and why:

Barry Bonds: Yeah, I know the HGH arguments, but he was the most dangerous hitter in baseball for at least five straight years, and if you take away 200 of his home runs because they are considered suspect, he still hit more than just about anyone else. Surly, yes. But Bonds was the dominant hitter of his time, period.

Ken Griffey Jr.: Kind of self-explanatory, but I am happy to report that I witnessed Junior's Major League debut, including a ringing double he hit off Dave Stewart in his first at-bat.

Edgar Martinez: I think Edgar was the best pure hitter of the 90's in the AL (their answer to Tony Gwynn). In other words, the George Brett or Rod Carew of the decade.

Mike Mussina: 270 wins is pretty good these days. In fact, the advantage the pre-70's hurlers had was that bullpens were used so differently in the past. Had Moose pitched in the 50's with those totals, he might even be a first ballot guy.

Alan Trammell: Along with Lou Whitaker, Trammell made up the best middle infield combination of the mid-70's into the mid-80's on a more than dominant team. 

Billy Wagner: 422 saves make him the most dominating left-handed closer ever. Good enough for me.

Note that I voted for Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza in the past and they are in the IHOF. I will likely never vote for Schilling, Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro. As for Roger Clemens, he is part Mussina and part Schilling, so make a case.

Because that is indeed one of the best parts about all this HOF fuss.

I wonder how motivated teams are to sign players before midnight of a given year for tax purposes?

Obviously, in the big business of sports, that has to be a factor in signings. But I swear, much like Diane loves reading "People" magazine when she gets her nails done, I find the transactions page to be so delicious it is hard to resist. 

Surely, I have written enough "Life and Death in the Transactions", and now the newish "Rotobituaries" columns to more than hint at this fascination.

But, as I was pondering what to write on the fun and light side this first Saturday of the new year, I could not resist looking at what the Major League clubs did during their final business cycle before the calendar and the new season start to truly sync.

Scott Kazmir: Almost 32, no one has resurrected himself in the Majors as efficiently as Kazmir, who truly has learned to pitch where he used to throw. The Dodgers actually got a decent price tag ($18 million for three years) but I fear Kazmir is not the cog the team needs to make things work. Aside from being lefty heavy, a hard thrower--from the right side--is where I would spend my bucks were I the Dodgers. Or, I would groom from within. Kazmir will go 12-12, 3.98, which is ok, but not worth $18 mil.

Mike Leake: It is an understatement to say I was unimpressed with Leake's brief tenure in San Francisco. He is four years younger and around $4 million a year cheaper than Kazmir, and has pretty good WHIP totals (1.271 over 1083.6 innings). Going to the smart Cardinals, Leake will be under contract until he is Kazmir's present age. That seems like a better deal to me.

Michael McKenry: Hmmm. The Rangers have a 31-year-old right-handed hitting catcher in Robinson Chirinos who has a .232-24-81 line over 204 games, with a .301 OBP. So, they sign a 30-year-old right-handed hitting catcher who has a .239-29-103 line over 308 games with a .319 OBP. Maybe there is an archetype the front office understands that is beyond me. Truth is, I am OK with Chirinos as a $2 number two backstop in an AL-only league, but, well, I guess these two are interchangeable Lego parts?

Brendan Ryan: Released by the Cubs, Ryan did have a glove, but that was never worth .234-19-203 over 879 games with a .610 OBP. Only was one Mark Belanger.

Tim Stauffer: The Diamondbacks signed Stauffer, who has done nothing but promote hope in fantasy owners since 2011, to a minor league deal. I hope they did do this as insurance in case Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, or Patrick Corbin struggle, because I think they will be disappointed.

Alexi Ogando: It seems teams' confusion about what to do with Ogando (not to mention health) has provided the same issue with fantasy owners. Is he a starter or reliever? Could he be a closer? Well, despite two relatively crappy seasons, Ogando probably fits in with the Braves as a set-up guy, and somehow, I think he becomes a good deal for a buck you can dump, as necessary. Ogando's strikeout numbers were moving up, and chances are he will not pitch in pressure situations and the righty does have a 1.205 WHIP over 471.3 frames.

Jerry Sands: Remember in 2011, when Sands hit .288-29-88 for Albuquerque and was the Dodgers' next big thing? Six years later, the White Sox grabbed him off waivers. Good luck with that.

Nate Schierholtz: Schierholtz is a guy I saw a lot of scoring Giants games, before he became a platoon banger with 21 home runs for the Cubbies in 2013. The magic dust wore off in 2014 as he split the year between the Cubs and the Nats and then it was a year in Japan. Now he's in line for a reserve gig in Detroit. The outfielder, who will be 32 next month, has one of the best arms in baseball, and can be way streaky. But in a substitute role with the Tigers, Schierholtz might be a nice cheap $1/reserve pick, at least for as long as the hot streak lasts.

Henderson Alvarez: Billy Beane is as good picking talent from the island of lost players as anyone, and Alvarez is a savvy crapshoot. Alvarez sucked (and was hurt) most of last year, but at 25, a year removed from a fine 12-7, 2.65 season, Alvarez might fit in just fine in any number of roles in Oakland. Jury out: will return a verdict in March.

Hello all, and I trust you had a happy holiday.

Today's piece will be brief, and pretty much focus on Strat-O-Matic, a simulation as opposed to roto or fantasy ball, but a game no less difficult and for certain, no less fun.

One of my leagues is currently in the process of drafting 35-man rosters. This is a Hall of Fame league, with 25 teams participating.

The Summer League of Champions holds a complete redraft every three years, and this is one of those years. The format is a snake draft in order of finish, and each team is allowed to draft ten players from the Strat-O-Matic Hall of Fame set.

Then to add to the fun, we select a specific season and toss those players--this year it happens to be 1948--in with the remaining HOF guys, and from there we complete our rosters.

Usage is strictly enforced such that players cannot exceed the number of innings or at-bats indicated on the Strat-O-Matic card for the player, and players can only play a defensive position for which they have a rating. That means Vada Pinson can only play center field, while Bobby Murcer can play left, right, third, and second (though Murcer's defense in the infield is not particularly good).

My previous two years in the league, I played with a core that was largely inherited, meaning the basic team was not my vision of what would work.

The trouble with this league, however, is the talent pool is so deep that it is totally possible to have Vladimir Guerrero and Orlando Cepeda on your bench. What that means is a lot of hits and runs, and that no lead is safe, as in I lost eight-run leads at least twice last season.

Right now, we are about two-thirds of the way through the draft, and bearing in mind that there are so many hitters and great players available, I want to reveal the strategy I am trying to employ, and that I hope will make me successful.

What I reasoned is that I might have great starting pitching, but keeping the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig off base on a regular basis is next to impossible. So, my entire construct has gone not so much to eliminate hits, which is almost impossible.

However, I realized I can do everything I can to keep runners from moving up a base, or getting an extra roll of the dice, which is sort of like getting an extra swing on the real diamond.

So, within the construct of Strat, here are the things I looked at to build successfully.

Defense: Strat uses defense, so I tried to grab the top fielder I could at every slot, period.

OBP: In conjunction, I tried to get the player with the best on-base numbers who had the best defense.

Arms: Outfielders and catchers are given a rating with respect to the quality of their arms, so again, I tried to get the most effective arms available, coupled with great range and OBP.

Speed: I have also looked for fast runners, both to get to balls on defense, and to help me get an extra base when I am at-bat. Similarly, the fast guys have a better base running rating. So again, getting such a player, like Ed Delahanty, who has power and on-base numbers, can steal, runs the bases well, and has a great arm is the path.

Holding Runners: For my pitchers, I looked carefully at their ability to hold runners, figuring with a good catcher, even if a player earns a hit, he will not be able to steal as easily.

DP Support: Additionally, I looked for the highest ground ball ratings for pitchers, knowing that with my good defense, there is a good chance that if a ball is hit in the infield, the runner will be eliminated via a double play.

That is the essence of my team and while I do have excellent hitters, only two of my drafted players--Ron Santo and Eddie Murray--look like they can hit 30 or more homers. Everyone else is at best in the teens, unlike most of the other squads in the SLOC.

But, I am thinking, as noted, that Strat, like baseball on the diamond, is about extending at-bats for as long as possible. That means as a defensive plan, the objective should be to allow as few pitches as possible to my opponents. So, I am theorizing that a team built upon removing the steal, run, or hit, thus keeping the offensive damage to a minimum, is the way to go.

At the same time, with an on-base and speedy team, I hope to exploit the very things when my team is at bat that I want to discourage while my team is in the field.

As usual, with such strategies, it sounds good, but if you have followed my writing, you know I am not afraid to try things, and this approach makes sense.

I just hope it works, for it is as noted, three years before the cycle starts over again.

Our mates at Rotowire held their annual experts mock earlier this week, and with the push of the button, Derek Van Riper hit the randomizer, generating the draft order.

I was actually logged into the site. In fact, I was actively engaged in a chat, so it wasn't until Derek noted that "Lawr should be on too with the first pick," did I realize the refresh of the page had put me in the #1 spot, and that the clock was, and had been ticking.

Not like who I should take was a big puzzle, at least among the top Mock picks going into 2016.

Clearly, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt, with maybe a long-shot to Clayton Kershaw, are the top-tiered best players out there at this moment in time and space.

But, I was on the clock, with about 20 seconds to go, and up until Derek's announcement that I did indeed have the top pick, I truly had not considered who I wanted, or why.

Truth is, I never really know who I will take when in any draft going in. There have been times when I did target a player should he fall to me in rounds or cost. I have played with different rosters and targeted picks during mocks, but most of the time, my teams are built around the first star player who falls my way. And, I tend to build around that guy accordingly, depending upon what is available when, and where I think I can exploit the player pool at the expense of my league mates while boosting my roster and stats.

So, to the conundrum of who to take on short notice.

I admit that I do think Trout is fantastic, as is Harper (I have a foul ball he hit at the Arizona Fall League a few years back), and well, Goldy is indeed golden (note I never considered picking Kershaw in this instance simply because pitching is so deep).

There is not much need in reviewing the numbers of each player as they are all well known, but, I do like looking at the 162-game mean that Baseball Reference includes for each player, so here is the bottom line:

Paul Goldschmidt (27, five years of play): .299-30-107 w/17 steals, 102 runs, and a .930 OPS.

Mike Trout (24, five years of play): .304-35-99 w/28 steals, 112 runs, and a .956 OPS.

Bryce Harper (23, four years of play): .289-31-79 w/12 steals, 104 runs, and a .902 OPS.

Now, I do like Harper, but I quickly dismissed him as a choice mostly because of a combination of less years of play and the fact that he is a young player just coming off a break-out season and as he grows and adjusts--and as pitchers adjust to him--there might be some ups and downs in his stats. And, I do not mean that as a dismissal. Harper is a great pick, but the bottom line is he has not been as productive and consistent day-to-day over his time in The Show from the start, as have his counterparts.

Now, it is true that Trout's initiation to The Show was lumpy. Don't forget that .220-5-16 40-game span in 2011, and those numbers are indeed factored into Trout's 162-game average, but he has been deadly ever since. (Also note that as of right now, both Trout and Goldy have exactly the same number of career walks with 361.)

But, I went with Goldschmidt for these reasons:

1) Goldschmidt does not make the highlight reels like Trout, but he is ever so steady, and somehow, even if the end numbers are the same, steady is more reassuring to me.

2) Goldschmidt is going into his peak years, and though it is hard to imagine him getting better, I am betting there is a 40-homer season in there, and I would not be surprised if it was this season.

3) Goldschmidt is playing on a team that just spent a wad on Zack Greinke, and then mortgaged a chunk of their future to get Shelby Miller. Arizona clearly intends to contend, and that pitching boost should give the team--already pretty good at scoring runs--some incentive and expectation that they will succeed, and Goldy will be at the center of it all.

Meaning, as good as he has been, he could well rise to the occasion and push to that next level and 40 homers and all that goes with it.

So, I took Goldschmidt.

And, even though it is not quite Christmas, if we had the actual draft next week, and I had the first pick, I would do the same thing.

What a fun and wild Winter Meetings week this was, with trades and signings, all of which are of interest to us all. The  proverbial dessert of the meetings is the Rule 5 draft, which took place Thursday.

The Rule 5 draft involves signed players who have been property of a team for five years who have never been to the Majors and who are not protected on the 40-man roster. Such players can be drafted by another team (draft order is worst record to best for teams participating). The selecting team pays the player's original team $50,000. The caveat is said player must remain on the active Major League roster for the entire season or be offered back for $25,000.

Still, drafted players can make at worst a cheap place holder in deeper fantasy leagues (they usually fetch no more than a dollar) and sometimes surprise, a la Geronimo Berroa. However, the notion that the player must stick with the roster all season makes for a gamble that promises the allure of a full season in the Majors (note, though, that doesn't always happen thanks to the DL and other tricks).

Anyway, let's take a look at this year's Rule 5 spoils (unless otherwise noted, picks are out of high school).

Tyler Goeddel (3B/OF, from Rays to Phillies): First round pick in 2011, Goeddel has a .262-31-244 line over four years with 108 swipes and a .337 OBP (172 walks to 388 strikeouts) and goes into next year as a 23-year-old with a pretty good mark at Double-A last year of .272-12-72 with 28 steals. Goeddel is big (6'4", 186 lbs.) and played a lot of outfield last year, and a lot of third the year before because the outfield would likely be his home. He has some interesting skills, but nothing earth shattering. Fifth outfielder at best for 2016.

Jake Cave (OF, from Yankees to Reds): The Yanks sixth rounder in 2011, like Goeddel, Cave had a nice enough season at Double-A Trenton last year (.269-2-37 with 17 steals) but like Goeddel, doesn't have much to offer but a cluster of pretty good lesser skills, suggesting a bench role at best. Whether you like Jay Bruce or not, Cave is not a replacement.

Evan Rutckyj (P, from Yankees to Braves): A 16th round pick in 2010, Rutckyj, (would he challenge for the "eyechart" nickname?), became a reliever in 2013 and has 365 punch-outs over 377 innings. The problem is the 373 hits and 191 walks (1.496 WHIP), although those numbers got better once the 6'5" lefty moved to the pen. Over 111.3 relief innings, he earned 140 strikeouts to 58 walks with 101 hits (1.426 WHIP) with a couple of saves. Set up and situational are the words that come to mind, but you never know. Not worth a roster spot. 

Luis Perdomo (P, from Cardinals to Rockies, then to Padres): The Dominican import has questionable 16-31, 4.16 totals over 316 minor league frames. The righty has whiffed 270 over that span, but allowed 351 hits and 94 walks (1.408 WHIP), so it was hard to see how that could work at Coors. However, the Rocks moved Perdomo to San Diego right away for the ubiquitous "future considerations,' although I am not sure Petco helps much either. Per Brian Walton, the expectation is Perdomo winds up back with St. Louis.

Colin Walsh (2B, from Athletics to Brewers): Mostly a second baseman, though he played a chunk of third and left over his career, Walsh was originally drafted by the Cardinals (13th round) in 2010, out of Stanford, meaning at 26 he is much longer in the tooth. The Cards flat out released Walsh in 2013, and the Athletics picked him up, only to lose the prototype Oaklander to the Brewers. The middle infielder has a modest .278-16-377 line over 564 games, with a solid .395 OBP (377 walks to 439 strikeouts), 51 swipes, and 351 runs. Over 191 Triple-A games, Walsh held his own over 47 games in the PCL, hitting .272-2-18 at Sacramento last year, and he could be just fine as a cheap middle infield crapshoot in an NL-only format.

Jabari Blash (OF, from Mariners to Athletics): At 26, Blash is another older selection, one who was drafted by the White Sox (29th round) in 2007, the Rangers (9th round) in 2008, and finally the Mariners (8th round) in 2010 out of Miami-Dade. With a solid .870 OPS over 551 games, Blash's bottom line is .256-109-340, but the whiffs (303 walks to 614 strikeouts) are the issue. Not sure what the Athletics will do with him, but they did judge Mark Canha well enough last year, so who knows?

Josh Martin (P, from Indians to Padres): Matriculated at Samford University in Alabama, and selected first by the Pirates (25th round) in 2011, then for good in the tenth round a year later. He is big (6'5", 230 lbs.) and a potentially dominant reliever with 265 strikeouts over 258.3 innings, with nine saves and an excellent 1.008 WHIP (74 walks, 207 hits). Martin does give up the dingers (25) but he is certainly worth tracking, if not a stash in a deep format.

Joey Rickard (OF, from Rays to Orioles): Selected in the ninth round in 2012 out of the University of Arizona, Rickard is now 24 and had a very good line of .283-13-139 over 359 games, with 209 runs and 73 swipes. Rickard played 29 games at Durham last season and posted a solid .360 average and .390 OBP. He is another who could be a good stash.

Deolis Guerra (P, from Pirates to Angels): Maybe the most interesting pick, Guerra fared well on my Top 250 Prospect List following his 6-7, 2.20 record at Hagerstown in 2006 as a 17-year-old. But alas, very little came to fruition for Guerra, who was signed by the Twins in 2007, re-signed in 2013, and the Pirates inked the 6'5" right-hander in November, 2014, and now Guerra goes to the Angels. His career has shown flashes, but few, so as much as I would like Guerra to succeed, I doubt he will.

Joe Biagini (P, from Giants to Jays): San Francisco grabbed Biagini in the 26th round of the 2011 Rule 4, out of UC Davis (my partner Diane's alma mater), and he has posted the okay stats of 29-30, 4.06 with 365 whiffs over 448 frames. He did comport well at Richmond last year with a 10-7, 2.42 line, but as a 25-year- old at Double-A, that is to be expected.

Matthew Bowman (P, from Mets to Cardinals): The Metropolitans' 12th round pick out of Princeton in 2013, Bowman logged 176.3 innings at Triple-A the past two years with a 10-18, 5.10 line with 109 whiffs and a 1.599 WHIP. It is easy to see why the pitching rich Mets would not need to protect Bowman, but I am not sure what the Cardinals see in him.

Daniel Stumpf (P, from Royals to Phillies): A lefty, Stumpf was Kansas City's ninth round pick in 2012 out of San Jacinto College, and he functioned primarily as a reliever in the Royals system, posting ten saves under a 20-23 record with a 3.21 ERA. He struck out 308 over 311 innings, and notched an excellent 1.182 WHIP. He has only pitched as high as Double-A, and did okay there (5-4, 3.21, 76 whiffs over 71 frames), so I would be leery.

Chris O'Grady (P, from Angels to Reds): The Angels' tenth round pick in 2010 out of George Mason, O'Grady is another big guy (6'4", 220 lbs.) who is also a lefty. Another reliever, O'Grady bagged four saves at Arkansas over 49 innings before moving up to Salt Lake for 8.6 innings. He has pretty good control with 198 strikeouts over 210.3 innings with just 52 walks and 195 hits (1.174 WHIP) and, well, anything might go with the Reds and their pen this season.

Zach Jones (P, from Twins to Brewers): Kansas City drafted Jones in the 24th round in 2009, but Jones continued to San Jose State where the Twins nabbed him in the fourth round in 2012. Another reliever, the 25-year-old has the best resume of the Rule 5 picks with 33 saves and 186 whiffs over 130.3 innings to go with a 9-7 record and 2.83 ERA. Jones has not hurled past the Double-A level, but he does have pretty good credentials.

Blake Smith (OF/P, from White Sox to Padres): The Dodgers drafted Smith out of UC Berkeley in 2009, where he played in 515 games as an outfielder but really has worked as a reliever since 2013. During the 2015 season, L.A. traded Smith to the Pale Hose for Eric Surkamp. Blake makes the third Rule 5 who landed with San Diego, which should mean some interesting roster decisions, but as for Smith, the 28-year-old throws hard with 137 whiffs over 134 innings but has control issues with 75 walks over that span.

Ji-Man Choi (1B, from Orioles to Angels): Hit .302-35-211 over 335 minor league games, with a .280-8-52 line over 109 Double-A games. Choi has 180 walks to 222 strikeouts (.404 OBP) and an excellent .886 OPS in the Minors. With C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols in tow, it is hard to figure where Choi fits in (remember, the Angels picked up Guerra as well), but Choi is an interesting reserve stash in Ultra Leagues.

If you are a Packers fan, life did not get any better than the final play of Thursday Night's game.

If you are a Lions fan, well, it doesn't get any worse.

If you are a football fan, you have an opinion about the last sequence of plays--and maybe others--which have you upset with officiating and match-ups and so on. At least that is what I get from the chunk of tweets I saw after the "Rodgers-Squared Magic Catch."

I understand. 

As a Raiders fan, I have endured the Immaculate Reception. As a Dodgers fan when I was young, I endured the team's 1962 meltdown against the Giants, and later, as an Athletics fan, I endured Kirk Gibson's homer.

Sports are funny things. So are rules, and to complicate matters, referees are human and cameras don't lie. Well, cameras don't lie for the most part.

To me, though, the reality is that the Lions were not victimized, nor were the Packers being rewarded by the league or any such nonsense. I don't think the facemask was a bad call, though I do think Rodgers-squared, as fantastic as it was, was largely tinged with luck.

The thing is, the Lions had numerous opportunities to put the Packers away, and they couldn't do it. This is nothing new. Aaron Rodgers is good at late game winning drives. 

However, the bottom line is that Jack Tatum's spike wasn't quite good enough, nor was Dennis Eckersley's slider, and on Monday, Devin Taylor's tackle wasn't quite perfect enough.

It all reminds me of Ron Washington's comment about Jeremy Giambi's lack of slide during Game 3 of the 2001 Divison Series: "You have to finish the fucking play," said Ron.

That is right. There is no room in competitive sports for sentimentality. If you want to win, you must step on the throat of all challengers until you have no more. Because, if allowed an extra pitch, or play, or shot, irrespective of the contest, that really gives just more chance for things to go wrong.

It is well known--well, I hope it is--that I am not a fan of instant replay. And, it is not that I don't want the refs to get the calls right, but as often as not, it is hard to definitively read the disposition of a play with instant replay. (Although to be fair, the slo-mo replay clearly showed Taylor's hands giving a tug to Rodgers' helmet.)

But, after the penalty, Green Bay still had to complete a 70-yard Hail Mary when everyone on the planet knew that play was coming. Despite that, the Pack pulled it off.

So, the bottom line on Thursday was that Detroit was neither cheated, nor robbed. Per Wash, the Lions didn't "finish the fucking play." 

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