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Fantasy Sports Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Mock Draft Review; Rounds 1-5

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 

They say practice makes perfect.

Fantasy baseball applies.

Research, studying, it all helps. But nothing better prepares fantasy owners for draft day than sitting down in the virtual room and picking your players. Mocking is such an underrated aspect of fantasy sports, which is shocking to me. I mean, who doesn’t like drafting? Anyway, I have participated in my first mock of the year and felt it’d be a perfect article idea. Below, I’ll post the picks by round, and highlight some key pieces of information from each round.

Round 1

Pick

Player

Position

Team

1.01 Mike Trout OF Angels
1.02 Miguel Cabrera 3B/1B Tigers
1.03 Paul Goldschmidt 1B Diamondbacks
*1.04 Andrew McCutchen OF Pirates
1.05 Carlos Gonzalez OF Rockies
1.06 Chris Davis 1B Orioles
1.07 Adrian Beltre 3B Rangers
1.08 Clayton Kershaw SP Dodgers
1.09 Jacoby Ellsbury OF Yankees
1.10 Edwin Encarnacion 1B Blue Jays
1.11 Robinson Cano 2B Mariners
1.12 Prince Fielder 1B Rangers

 

Overview: Not a whole lot to talk about here, as basically all of these guys are worthy of first round consideration. However, it is interesting to see Adrian Beltre snagged at seventh overall, which is the highest I’ve seen him go thus far. Still, a guy that is a lock for 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .300 batting average, Beltre is as safe as they come, even at 36-years of age. And while many may see Prince Fielder down there with the final pick of the first round and think it’s a reach, I am of the opinion that he is going to kill it this year.

The move to Texas will benefit him, as Arlington averaged the most home runs per game last season, while seeing the 7th-most in baseball in 2012. Sure, Fielder’s home run totals have decreased in each of the last three seasons, but I think he returns to that 30-home run status in his inaugural year with the Rangers. Left-handed hitters are also sporting a home run/fly ball ratio of 12.8 over the last three seasons in Texas, well above the league average of 9.9. A great lineup around him, friendly ballpark, I have no problem with Prince in round 1.

My Pick: I’m pumped to have Andrew McCutchen, my favorite player in baseball, on my roster. The reigning NL MVP is one of only two players in baseball to post 20 home runs and 20 steals in each of the last three seasons, while he and Mike Trout are the only players to manage 20 home runs, 20 steals, at least 80 RBI and a .300 batting average over the last two seasons. Already one of the league’s best, Cutch is just 27-years old, that magical prime age in baseball, and is worthy of a top-three draft pick in fantasy.

Round 2

Pick

Player

Position

Team

2.01 Hanley Ramirez SS Dodgers
2.02 Troy Tulowitzki SS Rockies
2.03 Yu Darvish SP Rangers
2.04 Adam Jones OF Orioles
2.05 Joey Votto 1B Reds
2.06 Bryce Harper OF Nationals
2.07 Jason Kipnis 2B Indians
2.08 Ryan Braun OF Brewers
*2.09 Dustin Pedroia 2B Red Sox
2.10 Evan Longoria 3B Rays
2.11 Carlos Gomez OF Brewers
2.12 Jay Bruce OF Reds

 

Overview: It was interesting to see neither of the two elite shortstops selected in the first round, but I personally like the fact that it was Hanley Ramirez selected over Troy Tulowitzki. I have Hanley ranked higher (1 and 2), and while both are clearly injury risks, I think Ramirez offers a tad more upside. In 2013, only Trout and Miggy averaged more fantasy points per plate appearance than Ramirez, who was arguably the second-best hitter in baseball when healthy last year. He has an elite, high-powered offense behind him, so if he stays healthy, 100 runs should certainly be in his future. Tulo is great, and plays in one of the best ballparks for fantasy, but at this stage, he is a lock to get injured, missing a ridiculous 25.6 percent of the Rockies games over the last seven seasons. But, getting both in the second round is very good value, if you ask me.

I think Jay Bruce, who’s original ADP is around the 46th overall pick, was a bit of a reach at the end of the second round. Look, I get he is one of the few 30-home run locks, but he is incredibly streaky, and with guys like David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton on the board, I think I’d prefer them. Though Bruce is great, I think you could have still gotten him later on.

My Pick: I was pretty happy to see Dustin Pedroia fall to me towards the end of the second round. The second base position is pretty ugly this year, and if you don’t land Cano, Kipnis or Pedroia, you might as well wait. Pedroia, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive season where he batted .301 with 91 runs, 84 RBI and 17 stolen bases, despite playing through a torn ligament in his thumb. I saw the opportunity to get the ugly second base position out of the way by locking up a sure thing in Pedroia.

Round 3

Pick

Player

Position

Team

3.01 David Wright 3B Mets
3.02 Ian Desmond SS Nationals
3.03 Jose Reyes SS Blue Jays
*3.04 Freddie Freeman 1B Braves
3.05 Cliff Lee SP Phillies
3.06 Adam Wainwright SP Cardinals
3.07 Felix Hernandez SP Mariners
3.08 Yasiel Puig OF Dodgers
3.09 Alex Rios OF Rangers
3.10 David Price SP Rays
3.11 Giancarlo Stanton OF Marlins
3.12 Max Scherzer SP Tigers

 

Overview: A handful of pitchers went in this round, all of which are very, very good. Cliff Lee has posted some of the best stats in baseball over the last few years, but his lack of run support has limited his fantasy upside a bit. Still, the dude has arguably the best command in baseball, and as long as the Phillies offense is decent, he’ll once again be a stud.

Nothing really stood out in this round, as everyone was basically drafted according to their ADP. It was nice to see Ian Desmond drafted relatively high, because the dude is just so underrated and fills a need at a horrid position. Get this. Desmond is currently sitting on back-t0-back 20/20 seasons, which is rare consistent power for shortstops nowadays. But in fact, only three shortstops in the history of baseball have more such seasons than Desmond. That crazy nugget, compliments of ESPN. Wanted to give him some love.

My Pick: I love me some Freddie Freeman. After grabbing McCutchen with my first overall pick, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to land one of the elite first basemen, so I’ll just wait a few rounds and grab a young star who is capable of finishing atop the position in fantasy terms. Last season, he was an NL MVP candidate, enjoying a 60 point bump in his batting average, while seeing a nice spike in BABIP. The guy continues to get better, seeing both his strikeout and walk rate improve in each of his first three campaigns. Many believe Freeman can have a similar season to Paul Goldschmidt last season, and I’m a believer.

Round 4

Pick

Player

Position

Team

4.01 Stephen Strasburg SP Nationals
4.02 Chris Sale SP White Sox
4.03 Justin Upton OF Braves
4.04 Ian Kinsler 2B Tigers
4.05 Buster Posey C/1B Giants
4.06 Craig Kimbrel RP Braves
4.07 Shin-Soo Choo OF Rangers
4.08 Elvis Andrus SS Rangers
*4.09 Madison Bumgarner SP Giants
4.10 Jose Bautista OF Blue Jays
4.11 Eric Hosmer 1B Royals
4.12 David Ortiz DH Red Sox

 

Overview: First thing’s first. I am not a big fan of Stephen Strasburg, and I personally would take Sale and maybe even Bumgarner over him. But you can’t argue drafting a guy who posted the seventh-ranked strikeout rate (26.1) a season ago, and after tossing 183 frames in 2013, any innings limitation should be out the window. I also think it was a bit too early to pick a relief pitcher, though it is Craig Kimbrel. If you are going to pay for saves (which I don’t advise), Kimbrel is the guy you want, who has posted the second-most saves at 25-years old in MLB history. Any closer who will post 100 strikeouts and is sporting a K rate of 43.2 percent is pretty darn good. With the Braves stout lineup surrounding him, Kimbrel is seemingly a lock for 50 saves, but I felt it was too early.

Finally, I wanted to say that I love Eric Hosmer being drafted ahead of name value guys like Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez. Hosmer is on my love list for this upcoming season. The former third overall pick back in 2008, Hosmer finally emerged into that hitter we have been waiting to see, batting a nice .302 with 17 home runs, 79 RBI and 11 stolen bases. The young first baseman vastly improved his plate discipline, swinging at less pitches outside of the strike zone. I expect the breakout to continue.

My Pick: I took my first pitcher of the draft in round four, snagging Madison Bumgarner. The guy just keeps getting better, and while he isn’t a Kershaw or Darvish, I am quite fine with him being my fantasy ace. In 2013, he set career bests in ERA (2.77), strikeout rate (24.8%) and strikeouts (199). This will be one of the few pitchers I take in the foreseeable future in this draft, but considering the depth at starting pitcher, it’s a wise decision.

Round 5

Pick

Player

Position

Team

5.01 Yadier Molina C Cardinals
5.02 Josh Donaldson 3B Athletics
5.03 Albert Pujols 1B Angels
*5.04 Jose Fernandez SP Marlins
5.05 Brandon Phillips 2B Reds
5.06 Ryan Zimmerman 3B Nationals
5.07 Justin Verlander SP Tigers
5.08 Starling Marte OF Pirates
5.09 Zack Greinke SP Dodgers
5.10 Aroldis Chapman RP Reds
5.11 Adrian Gonzalez 1B Dodgers
5.12 Yoenis Cespedes OF Athletics

 

Overview: Not a whole lot to analyze here, but I think Justin Verlander, who was drafted with the seventh pick in the fifth round, could serve as one of the biggest draft day values in fantasy this year. After four seasons as the cream of the crop of fantasy pitchers, Verlander just wasn’t himself last year, posting an ERA of 3.47, his highest since 2009. His velocity was down significantly all season long, resulting in 217 strikeouts, his lowest since 2010. Still, this is one of the best pitchers in baseball who has as good a chance as anyone to finish at the top of the pitcher rankings for fantasy, so if you can get him in the 5th round, it’s an absolute steal. He showed his elite status during the postseason, posting an ERA of 0.39 in three playoff starts.

My Pick: A Marlin? What? Oh, it’s Jose Fernandez. Thank goodness. We witnessed one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in the history of the game last year, as Fernandez finished second in the NL in ERA (2.19), 3rd in WHIP (0.98) and 5th in win percentage (.667), all despite playing for the lowly Marlins. Some regression is expected, but this kid improved as the season went on last year, and I am content with him as my number two pitcher.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.