Mocking on the Fly

Well, if there’s one thing you can say about doing a lot of mock drafts, it’s that practice makes perfect. And when the world throws you a series of curveballs and you suddenly realize that time has flown by and you haven’t been able to properly prepare for your draft, you already have a pretty strong grip on what you need to do to put together a solid team. You know which players are bucking the typical ADP trends, who the guys are that tend to slip through the cracks, and where some of the popular sleepers are going. Now obviously I don’t recommend being ill-prepared for the biggest day of the fantasy year, but if you start your work early enough, then when life does give you lemons you say, “^%!# the lemonade, I’m turning this into champagne!

That’s what happened to me in the week leading up to my most recent mock draft hosted by the boys from The Hardball Times. Yes, the one David Wiers reported on yesterday. Without going into personal life details, I’ll just say that come draft day, I had a dizzying week and found myself without pre-ranked players and no specific strategy set in mind. I was going to fly by the seat of my pants and simply roll with the punches. Have I thrown enough cliches at you yet?

There are some basic guidelines that I like to adhere to when doing a 12-team snake-style draft. I like to wait on pitching until the eighth or ninth round because of the massive depth at the position. While position scarcity isn’t a huge priority in your more shallow leagues, I figured that there was enough depth in the outfield that I could cover my more scarce positions early with upper-tiered players. I wanted balanced players to start and then fill-in with some specialists in the middle to late rounds. That was it. That was my 30-second strategy, for better or for worse. Here’s a link to the whole draft and this right here is how mine turned out:

Pos Player Round Pick
C Victor Martinez 9 8
C J.P Arencibia 20 5
1B Albert Pujols 1 8
2B Jason Kipnis 3 8
SS Hanley Ramirez 2 5
3B Ryan Zimmerman 5 8
OF Yoenis Cespedes 4 5
OF Alex Gordon 6 5
OF Norichika Aoki 12 5
OF Brett Gardner 14 5
OF Drew Stubbs 19 8
MI Josh Rutledge 13 8
CI Manny Machado 17 8
UT Adam Dunn 11 8
P Adam Wainwright 7 8
P Chris Sale 8 5
P Jonathan Niese 15 8
P Ryan Vogelsong 18 5
P Wandy Rodriguez 21 8
P Alex Cobb 22 5
P Shelby Miller 23 8
P Jason Motte 10 5
P Grant Balfour 16 5
BN Michael Young 24 5
BN Cody Ross 25 8
BN Chris Carter 27 8
BN Jose Veras 26 5

And here are some of my thoughts:

With the eighth pick overall, Pujols was a no-brainer. Great power, great average.

Position scarcity was taken care of immediately with picks of Hanley and Kipnis. Both are good for power and speed at their respective positions and I think both could see improvement in their averages though I might request a little help from the BABIP gods.

Fourteen outfielders were taken before my fourth round pick so the talent thinned out fairly quickly. I could have gone with Allen Craig, but principle wouldn’t allow it. Cespedes may have had his share of dings and dents last year himself, but I like his power and speed which fit my pre-draft criteria.

Despite some injury concerns, with the depth at third disappearing, I felt good about Zimmerman in the fifth and Gordon fit my desire for balance with good power with a good average in the sixth.

Starting pitchers were suddenly flying off the board, so I opted to go a round earlier on my original strategy and took Wainwright and Sale with my next two picks and figured the rest could now wait again.

V-Mart in the ninth? Motte in the 10th? Um, yeah.

It was now time for some specialists, so there was Dunn for power, Aoki and Gardner for speed and I threw in an upside-laden Rutledge for my middle infield spot. Now my outfield was looking solid and another thin position covered by a strong player.

From there it was about grabbing some pitchers and filling in the blanks, beginning with Niese who I think is primed for a strong year and my second closer in Balfour as suddenly there were very few closers left. I don’t love him at all, but if this were a real league, he would certainly pass for the start and then I could play the wire for saves during the year.

Machado at the corner spot has plenty of upside, Stubbs as my fifth outfielder gives me another power/speed threat, albeit with a terrible average, and JPA as my second catcher in the 20th seems like a good power investment.

My pitching on the back end might have some concerns. Vogelsong has been steady but his luck could easily run out sooner than later, Wandy isn’t one of my favorites, but both Cobb and Miller could prove to be solid values. Again, if it were a real league, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned as I would be playing the wire with starters anyway.

On my bench I have good versatility in Young who I think has a year that says, “Up yours, Texas! Thanks for two years of aggravation and this is what you’re missing,” good power potential from Ross and Carter (now that he’s in a bandbox in Houston and not a canyon in Oakland), and then picking up the rear is good ol’ Houston closer Jose Veras who could give me 20-25 saves from the 26th round. His ratios could sting a little, but I can supplement with some choice middle relievers to help balance that out if need be.

So there it is. I stuck to my quickly-put-together plan, have some great strengths, a few weaknesses, but overall, a sound and competitive team. I made it through my personal life drama unscathed and instead of sitting here with a bucket of lemons, I’ve got a nice bottle of bubbly on which to sip.

The moral of the story: Mock it up, dammit! Do as many as you can. Get the feel for how they’ll go and test your ability to think on the fly and make in-draft adjustments. Write this down: There’s no such thing as too much prep work.



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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

13 Responses to “Mocking on the Fly”

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  1. Matt says:

    Kind of like this team. It’s not a beast, but definitely will let you hang around and make moves to stay in top 3-4.

    The Hanley pick is probably the one w/ most variability. And you’re right, the OF looks thin IMO.

    I’m keeping VMart in my keeper league in the 12th round so I’m banking on some value there.

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  2. rotowizard says:

    Excellent draft. Very few question marks. Even the weakness of the OF is offset by the excellent infield. High upside pitching staff and a few under the radar picks. Exactly what most drafters should be trying to do.

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  3. Stuck in a Slump says:

    Is Kipnis really going that high? Third round seems like a reach to me. I love me some Kipnis, but Zobrist at 4.3 seems like a much better deal.

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    • JoeC says:

      Anybody who actually owned Kipnis last year would not draft him that high. His overall totals looked great, but man did he slow down as the season went on. I question who the real Jason Kipnis is. I doubt he’s the hitting stud he played the part of for a time. But then again, he’s probably not as bad as he was in the second half. Somewhere in the middle then, and that’s not 3rd/4th round value.

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  4. MustBunique says:

    Have only done one at this point, but it is time for me to pick up the slack an mock away. Looks like you held off on elite speed on this one, but Gardner, Aoki, and Stubbs should keep you in the steals game. Love Sale in the 8th if his elbow doesn’t explode.

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  5. edgecrusher says:

    Looks like Zobrist actually went at 4.10. That’s a steal if he has SS eligibility in this “league”. Any thoughts on Goldschmidt going a pick ahead of Yo Adrian?

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    • Stuck in a slump says:

      Ugh, missed the reversal for round 4. 4.10 is a great place to get Zobrist, even without SS eligibility.

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Yeah, Zobrist might have been the better/safer pick, especially with so much position flexibility. But I’m a sucker….er, I mean….believer in Kipnis and feel like there’s the potential for equal power and more speed. I actually was gearing up to take Jason Heyward and got thrown when he was taken with the pick right before me.

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  6. *BaseClogger* says:

    Hmmm… the drafting strategy you outlined above for your “mock on the fly” is my general strategy for every draft. Is that a bad thing?

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  7. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I was going to do another shadow draft on this one, but there weren’t enough picks I disagreed with to make it worthwhile. I like the team.

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  8. P says:

    Considering you value postion scarcity enough to draft Kipnis higher than most…did you give any thought to drafting Cano over Pujols in round 1? You said Pujols was a “no-brainer” at 8, which would suggest Cano wasn’t even a thought for you. What are your thoughts on Cano, and for what reason would u not even consider him @8, with position scarcity being so important?

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    • Howard Bender says:

      That’s actually a really good question and while I said that Pujols was a no-brainer, I did waiver between him and Cano at the eighth pick. But while position scarcity was definitely on my mind, I just find it so hard to pass up on Pujols if he is available to you down in the latter part of the first round. His power, his consistency and that lineup just make it so enticing. You know you’re getting 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI. It’s a virtual lock. Cano is fantastic in his own right but I do have a bit of a concern this season but it’s more of a hunch than it is something I can back up with actual data.

      I was born and raised just six subway stops away from Yankee Stadium. I live and die by my Yankees. And truth be told, it’s pretty obvious that they are transitioning and far from their best right now. Jeter is 38 and coming back from a broken ankle, Mo is 43 and coming back from a torn ACL, Tex has openly discussed his decline, Ichiro isn’t what he used to be, A-Rod is gone, Youkilis is on the decline and there’s nothing behind the plate. My fear is that, knowing the type of ballplayer Cano is, he will likely put a ridiculous amount of pressure on himself this year as he tries to lead the way and carry the Yankees while also having the cloud of playing for a new contract over his head. I could see a lot of pressing at the plate and an increase in strikeout rate which will obviously hurt him in the long run. He’ll probably still have the best power numbers of any second baseman out there, but I think we see regression across the board from him this year.

      With the depth at first base, I can’t really give you an argument against taking Cano at eight more than that. Gut feeling, hunch, whatever you want to call it. As much as I love Cano, I just have that worry right now. But if you were to take him at eight over Pujols, I certainly wouldn’t say that it was a mistake.

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