Five rounds are complete and now I am back for the second part of my analysis on the Early 2016 Fantasy Baseball Expert Mock Draft.
We rejoin the dozen experts just past the halfway mark as we start to get into the meat and potatoes of the draft; the middle rounds. Playing in the most standard of Fantasy formats, Fantasy Baseball will usually boast the deepest rosters compared to the other “Big 4” sports.
This is significant since the first few rounds are usually “What stud player do I want on my team?” Once you get around this point in the draft, predictability becomes a touch more difficult. When you are able to nail these selections, that is what can ultimately put you over the top.
So we are going to dig a little deeper in this half of the rundown. There are still many excellent players available, even some guys who have been top round picks in the past, so I will provide some reasoning that will help you consider my “Value Picks.”
For a recap of the first five rounds of this expert mock draft, please read Part 1.
Fantasy Baseball Expert Mock Draft Rundown
We start off with the prime definition of a value pick.
Adrian Gonzalez is a player who always provides unheralded production in Fantasy lineups. Every year it seems he is floating around the 40-60 mark in ADP, but he always finishes with 100 RBI. For the first time in five years that wasn’t the case, as he finished 2015 with just 90 RBI, but he’s a player you can plan your whole draft around.
Instead of paying for a top first basemen in the first couple of rounds, you can take an elite player at another position with the comfort that A-Gon will produce. So yeah he’s probably one of my favorite players to draft.
Speaking of value, how did Jacob deGrom fall to the middle of the sixth round?
|Jacob deGrom Career Stats|
Amazingly deGrom is only entering his third full season as a New York Met.
Last year, deGrom lead the majors with six starts in which he gave up two or fewer hits and turned in a memorable All-Star performance by striking out the side in 10 pitches. Ultimately, deGrom and the Mets came one step short of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, but will look to repeat as the winners of the National League pennant. Not to mention deGrom also makes most of his starts in the NL East, which arguably is the most offensively anemic division in the majors. The crazy thing is deGrom may continue to develop and become an even more dominant starter, so expect him to deliver at worst, Top 10 value among starting pitchers.
The consensus of the experts in this mock draft seemed to favor staying patient in pursuit of pitching. That was until this round.
Starting with the last selection in the sixth round, starting pitchers were taken with six of the next seven picks. One team nabbed their first hurler, while others were halfway to filling their staff. Mixed in were a couple of American League East closers and a bunch of outfielders, but there was one glaring name that stood out among the rest.
Felix Hernandez, or King Felix for short, struggled for his standards in 2015 sporting an ERA of 3.52 and falling short of 200 strikeouts for the first time since 2008. If that is considered your worst season in almost a decade then you must be pretty darn good. By the way, even in his struggles, King Felix still managed to collect 18 wins in 2015.
|Felix Hernandez 2009-2015 Stats|
This is how King Felix has fared starting from his first All-Star selection in 2009. How could you not be pleased taking that track record in the seventh round? There also wasn’t many factors that indicated a drop in performance from Hernandez. If there was a number that can explain the bloated earned run average in 2015, it was the 1.03 home runs per nine innings pitched, which was the first time King Felix posted a HR/9 of one or greater since 2006.
Home runs can be fluky though, and that was evident with Hernandez’s home run per fly ball ratio, which skyrocketed to 15.3%. The average of the HR/FB ratio is usually somewhere are 10%, so this is a sign that 2015 was an outlier for the Mariners’ ace. It’s possible his days of being the most dominant is over, but I’ll always take a guy whose better than most on days where he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Getting close to the end of the mock draft where we see the speedster, Billy Hamilton, get his name crossed off. The numbers were down in 2015, but he was still able to replicate his stolen base total, in fact increasing it by one.
For where he is expected to be drafted in 2016, Hamilton is the perfect pick for owners in a 5×5 roto league. I think we can expect Hamilton to do a better job with getting on-base then the ugly .274 OBP he spotted in 2015.
The appeal of Hamilton is that if he could have a good season, so say a .260 average and a OBP north of .300, he could go nuts on the base paths and possibly steal around 75 bags. For reference, in the minors, Hamilton’s 2012 season saw him swipe 75 bases with an .256/.308 line. Even if he gets 60, chances are he will put you at the top of that category.
We had a mix of picks throughout the rest of the round, as a run of four closers began towards the middle of the round.
Much like steals, I have always strayed away from paying for saves, and honestly I have more often than not punted the category completely in my leagues. The closer position is filled with instability and unless you are established, you can lose your job after a couple of failed opportunities. Fernando Rodney went from a stellar 2012 with 48 saves and a 0.60 ERA to being designated for assignment in August of 2015.
Lost in the shuffle was 2015 AL Cy Young winner, Dallas Keuchel, who was drafted near the end of the eight round.
Keuchel is a pitcher that I think will continue to pitch at a high level, but in comparison to Corey Kluber, I think Keuchel will regress a bit in his performance the year after his Cy Young. For one, it’s hard to win 20 games in the majors, but Keuchel was also supported by a pretty low .269 batting average for balls in play. The average BABIP usually sits around .300, so we will see if Keuchel can help get the Houston Astros back to the playoffs in 2016.
I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite non-Yankee player; Hunter Pence. I actually met and got a baseball signed by Pence when he was a Tri-City Valleycat, an minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Anyway I still bring him up because he is, in my opinion, the most underrated Fantasy player in baseball. Up until last year he was also “Mr. Durability,” but a stray pitch in spring training led to a lost season where Pence only played in 52 games.
Prior to 2015, Pence had been one of the most consistent performers, always rolling out a final stat line that contributes good to excellent numbers for all five categories. He is all healed, newly engaged (Congrats!) and will hit right in the middle of the Giants lineup, so expect Pence to get back to his normal number, somewhere around 80/20/80/15/.280.
The ninth round began with some more pitching as three closers followed by two more starters were plucked from the player pool.
Johnny Cueto was a solid choice to take at this point, but we shall see if he can get adjusted to the American League. Last year Cueto struggled mightily after being traded to the Kansas City Royals, going 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts. Hopefully being a part of a World Series championship team will give Cueto the confidence to perform like he has over the last few years.
The rest of the round featured a slew of young talent, all of whom I believe can be valuable to Fantasy rosters in 2016.
Another Royal in Eric Hosmer also was drafted and I was kind of surprised he went this late. Usually when a team wins the whole thing, recency bias sets in and some players are overvalued. In this case Hosmer is a player coming off his best professional season and is a great option to take if you wait for your first basemen. Never hitting for a ton of power, Hosmer should still be good for around 85 runs, 85 RBI, a handful of stolen bases and an average around .300.
But the man I want to put into focus will be on his retirement tour in 2016. David Ortiz announced his retirement on his 40th birthday and will give it his all in what will be his final major league season. “Big Papi” has always been a thorn in my side, but is without a doubt one of the most feared hitters in the history of the MLB. He joined an exclusive club by clubbing his 500th career homer towards the end of 2015 and finished with 30+ homers and 100+ RBI for the third straight season.
It’s a total gut call by me but I think Big Papi destroys baseballs in his final season and makes a run at 40 home runs. Even as a Yankees fan I can make an exception in this case and will gladly draft Ortiz if he falls this far in my draft.
Okay, you’ve made it this far, congrats!
The experts were across the board in the final round of their mock draft, as another couple of solid starters were taken along with five outfielders. Dellin Betances piques my interest with the Yankees debating whether to trade Andrew Miller, but there was one pick that I was really loving, and it came with the second to last selection.
Second basemen, Ian Kinsler may have aged a bit and lost some pop and speed, but this is a player that can contribute to every category. In his two years as a member of the Detroit Tigers, Kinsler has scored an average of 97 runs and should continue to put up those numbers hitting in front of one of the best in the game, Miguel Cabrera.
Kinsler may have put up some paltry numbers in homers and stolen bases, but in exchange, he also had his best batting average (.296) in six years. Kinsler may be down to his last year or two of having significant value, but for right now Kinsler is still a great value pick at second base and should deliver another serviceable season.
Before we take a look at who I felt had the best draft, I would like to quickly highlight some players that I thought were valuable enough to be considered in the Top 10 rounds.
Michael Wacha, SP (STL)
While his young teammate, Carlos Martinez was drafted, Michael Wacha was a surprising omission from the mock draft. Wacha is just 24 years old but has already made 64 career starts, including the postseason. This is a pitcher who finished the 2015 season with 17 wins and a 3.38 ERA. Wacha was also named to his first All-Star Game in ’15, but did struggle in the second half, especially with command.
This culminated in a rough performance in Game 3 of the NLDS versus the Chicago Cubs, but this kid has too much talent to ignore. It’s also quite possible he wore out down the stretch, logging over 180 innings pitched. Wacha has shown sparks of brilliance in the past, like his first year playoff run and last year where he began 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA. I’ll take that upside anytime.
Kendrys Morales, DH (KC)
Signed off of the streets for the 2015 season by the Kansas City Royals, Kendrys Morales was a boon to the eventual World Series Champions.
Morales received the 2015 Edgar Martinez Award for Most Outstanding Designated Hitter as he slugged 22 homers to go along with a .290 average and 106 RBI. Morales also had his best on-base percentage in his career at .362, which may have occurred due to the offensive philosophy changes the Royals have gone under in the past couple of years.
While I don’t expect Morales to be this good again, it’s very reasonable he can hit .275 with 20 bombs and 85 RBI, batting cleanup in the Royals lineup.
Adam Wainwright, SP (STL)
I didn’t intend on putting two pitchers from the same team on this list, but how could you not with a player like Adam Wainwright still available.
Wainwright missed most of 2015 with a fluke Achilles injury that came from running to first base from the batters’ box. Whether the National League needs a designated hitter so this doesn’t happen doesn’t change the fact that Wainwright was working on having another stellar year. He was placed on the disabled list with a 1.61 ERA after seven starts and still made it back for the 2015 postseason.
Now that he is fully healthy, and has won at least 19 games in four of his last five full seasons, Wainwright is a lock to provide value to a Fantasy team in 2016.
Evan Longoria, 3B (TB)
It might be a case where I am drafting a player based on name but I still believe in Evan Longoria.
It’s true that the power numbers have been slipping but Longoria is a gamer and is a player you can depend on playing the whole season. Longoria’s 2015 wasn’t his worst season, but it was still a far cry from when he burst into the league in his first three seasons. Longoria did have an awfully low 73 RBI in 160 games, but over his last month of games, he held a slugging percentage of .517, which is in line with his numbers from when he was one of the most productive third basemen in the league. I think Longoria has it in him and carries that momentum into 2016.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP (NYY)
The ace of the Bronx had a down year in 2015, but still showed he has the stuff to be as dominant as he was in 2014.
Tanaka was bit by the long ball, giving up 25, which was among the Top 20 for most homers allowed by a starter, but still went 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA. Obviously Yankee Stadium makes pitchers prone to giving up more home runs but on the road, Tanaka only ceded eight homers. While he will still give up home runs from time to time, the key is the number of base runners that are on when it does happen.
Tanaka has proved to be excellent at control with a career WHIP of 1.02 through 44 career starts. I think the one drawback to Tanaka, and why he may not have been selected, is his durability issues. In each of his two major league seasons, he has struggled to stay healthy but has still been a valuable asset to Fantasy teams.
After going through the strengths and weaknesses of each team, I have found a team that I believe had the best start to building a team in this mock draft. I thought everyone had an interesting strategy, as some experts loaded up on arms, some drafted a bevy of youth and others were content with the established veterans. Some of my ideologies may have made me reach this decision, but I thought Zach Steinhorn did an excellent job with his draft.
Starting off with Mike Trout certainly helps, but he was able to draft a very balanced team with his 10 picks. Similar to what I prefer, he was one of the last drafters to address saves and was still able to grab to two solid closers in Jeurys Familia and Trevor Rosenthal.
I was a fan of both the King Felix and Kinsler picks, and this team carries a ton of power. The outfield is stacked, Jose Abreu is a lock for 30 bombs and you still have guys like Trout and Ryan Braun who can chip in with some stolen bags. Don’t think I forgot about the rock solid Madison Bumgarner, who has already accomplished a lot at only 25.
So looking through the team, there is a lot of power and every spot outside of the shortstop position has already been accounted for. Over the next few picks I would probably snag a couple more starters and go with a cheap shortstop like Jean Segura or Elvis Andrus that can provide you with 25+ stolen bases. I thought that was the only area that needed a boost, but adding a player like that along with some depth the rest of the way will make this squad a very versatile team that can be near the top in many of the 10 total categories.
I hope everyone enjoyed my rundown of this mock draft. Before you know it, players will begin to report for Spring Training and the 2016 baseball season will begin!
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