With the majority of my roto leagues signaling their solidarity, I’ve found myself enamored with 2018, more so than any other year of my fantasy baseball playing career. There is a point – in most leagues – where the tides of 2017 halt their shifty tendencies. No longer is that seventh place team making a four-spot jump over one weekend; no longer are you running to MLB.com’s shop to buy a shirsey of a player who just tagged three homers for your squad.
In these moments you no longer think of a player like Byron Buxton, Zack Godley, or Hunter Renfroe with wonder for his next two weeks, but instead fix keen eyes on any adjustments that might stick when the new year comes. Figuring out your level of trust with players like this is essentially mock drafting… with yourself… in your own head.
My last two columns on Razzball covered some guesses for hype-laden players and their 2018 ADP (here and here). Natural progression suggests that it’s now time for some mock drafting. Justin Mason of Friends with Fantasy Benefits wrangled some analysts and poof, we currently have FOUR mock drafts running. At the writing of this, each sits different pick intervals, with about 60 spots worth of picks between the freshest and most antique .
Follow the action as it unfolds. Notable participants include…
For the sake of analysis, let’s take the two mocks – #1 and #2 – most even in terms of pace and break down the happenings. Both mocks – at the time – hadn’t seen their 58th player go off the board. For consistency’s sake, I’m only going to talk about the top 55 picks in both drafts. Compare, contrast, comment, critique, praise – it’s all on the table.
Stanton and Turner, Biggest Early Discrepancies
Last season the first 8-10 picks were chalk; very little room for fantasy’s version of a “hot take” to emerge and shake-up draft boards. If these two mocks are any indication of the March 2018, Trea Turner and Giancarlo Stanton possess varying levels hype.
Stanton went 19th overall in draft #1 and 10th in draft #2. Currently the number two overall player according to our Player Rater, Stanton has so few competitors in terms of home run production it’s laughable. The common knock is health, as 2017 is the second of his last five seasons that has seen him eclipse the 145 games played mark. Injury-prone is a phrase I use so sparingly that you’d expect me to support the late first round price tag, but I once again assume my arbitrator role and remain stuck in the middle. I’m most encouraged by the knowledge that Stanton’s strikeout rate is down to 24%, with a career-low 12.5% swinging strike rate. Even if Stanton does fail to maintain a clean bill of health into next season, the games you have him for will produce one of the most elite “power to peripheral” ratios in the league. While the trio of pure aces – Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer – will have some impact on where Stanton falls to, I’m leaning towards the the higher end of our 10-19th window of selection.
On the flip-side, Turner presents a relatively insane 90-game sample. Ten home runs and 42 bags pushes him above bats like Robinson Cano and Wil Myers who have played 50 games more than the NC state alum. We’re essentially looking at a version of Billy Hamilton who can actually be productive with the bat. I wasn’t too high on Turner last year, partially because I didn’t believe he would run this much and his power would project up into the 20s. With a mulligan because of his injury, I’m rethinking my process on an asset who is one of the few to do more than produce non-zeros in all five hitting categories. Dee Gordon seems entrenched as a late second round pick, and I’d personally scratch and claw for Turner instead, even with Gordon’s improvements. Turner in the middle of the first round seems right to me.
Battling emotions with my Correa selection
Ninth overall is where I took the Astros’ cornerstone. It felt great at the time; Correa’s skillset has always enamored me and filling a middle infield slot early felt great. But then I saw Francisco Lindor go 10-12 spots later in both drafts. The worst feeling in a draft is looking back and saying to yourself, “I like my pick… Oh, wait… I’d rather have the player who went 10 spots after my player…”. I was at a sports statistics symposium yesterday in Boston, MA – shoutout to NESSIS – and one of the presentations detailed why retrospective draft review should have consider not whether you got the best player you could have for that spot, but whether you got your player at the best possible price tag. Waiting on Correa may have been an option.
I’d even go as far as to say Lindor might be ranked ahead of Correa for me in 2018. What is boils down to ties back with the theme of steals I mused through with Turner and Gordon. How confident are we that Correa can be a 10+ stolen base asset going forward. Steals are notoriously tough to predict because their innately a product of motivation and intention – both of which I don’t want to rely on for first round return. Lindor may be boosted by some recency bias, but his combination of skills is one that so often dictates first round value. Instead he’s falling to the middle or late second round. Andrea Lamont’s Goldschmidt-Lindor combo picking out of the four-spot is delectable. I’d trade my Correa-Freeman for that any day of the week.
I plan on having my column next week detail some potential value picks as the drafts proceed past the 100 and 150 overall marks, but for now, let’s highlight two picks that I cocked an eyebrow to. In no way am I ripping said owners for their picks, I simply want to point out a visceral reaction to picks that didn’t look right. I then looked at the stats to see how inept I was acting.
Eduardo Nunez went 55th overall in draft #2. The positives are his cuts in the strikeout department and potential for a 15/35 season with flexible position eligibility. Despite the fact that I rarely draft on positional eligibility – a topic for another day – Nunez is heading into his age 31 season with one season of 135-plus games played. I was skeptical of the former Giant on Andy Singleton and Ralph Lifshitz’s Fantrax Baseball Show during his hot stretch and felt like I was on an island. That value on a player who has an absolute ceiling of present day Whit Merrifield means, at best, you’re getting back the value you paid. At 55 overall in a draft, I cannot wrap my head around that methodology for a player with many knocks outside of a rejuvenation with the Red Sox this season. Somewhere around 100 is a ballpark estimate of where I’d peg him in my ranks. If you’re trying to lock up steals, take Billy Hamilton around 70-80 overall.
Matt Olson at 67 overall is another pick from draft #2 that I was perplexed by. I recently wrote about Olson over on my site BigThreeSports with the acknowledgment that he’s put together a better stretch than even Rhys Hoskins has, but still possesses a hole in his swing (low and in with his extended hands) and an inability to hit left-handed pitching. I preach below that while mock drafting you should go out on a limb with certain players, but the further you go out on a limb the higher the chance that branch breaks. I cannot with confidence say that Olson is free from an eventual platoon with another right-handed first baseman from the Athletics, and neither can I support the 40% HR/FB rate (even though there is a case for saying his can be 5%+ above average). While Olson undoubtedly possess 60-grade power, I’m not convinced he has the ability to produce top-12 first base value. That means I’ll have him outside of the top 110 come draft day – and probably even lower.
Mike Trout shouldn’t have been drafted first overall
When I mocked just prior to the season last year, I was pulled into a lot of different analyst draft rooms, with varying takes on players that prepared me for literally any scenario on draft day. But mocking is weird. You’re not actually investing in the player like an NFBC-er does, creating a scenario where it’s most logical to step out of your comfort zone and determine just how early you’d take your sleeper, or if you’re devised “punt steals” strategy is viable. This made me really appreciate what Lawr Michaels does in the few mocks I’ve had the pleasure participating in.
He picks a strategy and goes for it. Making yourself uncomfortable with picking a player in a foreign slot helps solidify values. All with the knowledge that once the mock ends, your investment doesn’t continue. As mock draft #1 progresses for me, I’m staying away from pitchers in hopes of assembling quite possibly the best offense you have ever seen. I’ll then target a few pitchers who I think could fortify a staff that at the end of the day, will inevitably be weak. Despite my wishy-washy attitude with the Correa pick, I have one fan, ! (My squad is Correa, Freeman, Murphy, Cruz).
— Yants (@YancyEaton) September 24, 2017
A few quick hits
- Jonathan Schoop 64th overall in draft #2, 34th in draft #1
- Rhys Hoskins 28th overall in draft #2 (ahead of Cody Bellinger/George Springer), 42nd overall in draft #1
- Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard went on consecutive picks in both drafts #1 and #2.
- Kenley Jansen was taken 42nd overall as the first closer in draft #2, and 60th overall as the first closer drafted in draft #1.
Follow me on Twitter – @LanceBrozdow
Check out all my non-fantasy analysis at BigThreeSports.com