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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.