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Mock Draft: AL-Only

In addition to auctions, readers are also looking for more single league stories here on RotoGraphs. With that in mind I participated in a 12-team AL-only mock auction on CBS Sports. I had the third pick and ended up with the following team:

Miguel Cabrera
Justin Verlander
Jon Lester
Jason Bartlett
Nelson Cruz
Matt Wieters
Mike Gonzalez
Howie Kendrick
Adrian Beltre
Nick Swisher
A.J. Pierzynski
Brian Matusz
Chris Tillman
Justin Masterson
Scott Sizemore
J.J. Putz
Matt Joyce
Marc Rzepczynski
Desmond Jennings
Ken Griffey Jr.
Tony Sipp
Billy Hall

For my first pick, I was debating between Cabrera and Mark Teixeira. Normally in a mixed league I would take Teixeira, because I am concerned about a relapse with Cabrera’s drinking problems. But in the only league format I opted for what I consider the higher upside of Cabrera versus the safer pick in Teixeira. I am not sure if it makes sense to go for upside over certainty, but when I was on the clock that was what made me pick Cabrera.

Verlander is a tough one for me. He is a guy that is ending up on a lot of mock draft teams for me and I am not 100 percent sure why. Trying to look at it objectively, I think others are undervaluing him due to his poor 2008 season. But Verlander has delivered Wins and ERA in three of the last four years and if he comes close to repeating his K numbers from 2009, he is definitely a good value. I chose him over Brian Roberts at this pick.

During the draft, I wish I would have focused on outfielders earlier. With CBS requiring five OF, pickings get slim rather quickly. Cruz is another guy who I end up with a lot here in mock draft season but there is a significant dropoff afterwards. It felt very strange picking Swisher in the 10th round, but the HR potential was just too much to pass up, especially considering what was left. Between Joyce and Jennings I figure I have one OF and I just have to hope Hall gets enough playing time all over the diamond to be worthwhile.

Relief pitching seemed like another weakness during the draft, but Gonzalez is a top-12 AL closer and Putz is a #2 RP in the only format. Plus, I really like Sipp as a darkhorse closer candidate in Cleveland should Wood get injured or have another off season. Saves will definitely not be a strength of the team, but I should pick up at least a few points in the category.

The starting pitching is very strong. In hindsight I would have grabbed an OF in round three, knowing how many relatively strong pitchers were left late in the draft. Still, I like having Verlander-Lester at the top of my rotation, which gets the team off to a solid start in four categories. Also, I am a touch concerned about having both Matusz and Tillman but I would prefer that combo over Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter, both of whom went earlier.

It’s hard to have to have two catchers in any format, but a 12-team AL-only is particularly brutal. I really like the Wieters-Pierzynski duo and when one team is going Brayan Pena and Jason Varitek and another features Alex Avila and Adam Moore, I like it even better. This team also has good starters at each infield position. Beltre has long been a favorite of mine and hopefully he will find hitting in Fenway easier than at Safeco.

Overall, I think this team will be very strong in the non-save pitching categories. Offensively, it should be very good in HR and RBIs and competitive in AVG and R. By far, the weakest category should be SB. Cruz should be good but the only other threat is Jennings and his playing time is uncertain, at best.