Prospect Mock Draft Strategy and Analysis

Not to long ago Jason Catania, Mike Newman and I took part in Fake Teams’ Expert Mock Prospect Draft. The rules contemplated a thirteen team league using the traditional 5×5 statistics. I followed my strategy, detailed below, and wouldn’t change a single pick.

My strategy is quite simple and should not be anything new. In a traditional 5×5 league hitters have an opportunity to impact five categories while pitchers have an opportunity to impact four. Next, young pitching prospects, unlike established pitchers, have a far higher collapse rate than hitters. Finally, WHIP, ERA and Pitcher Wins are team and defense dependent creating a noticeable difference between a pitcher’s ability and his value. Due to these three factors, hitting prospects are far more valuable than pitching prospects. Thus, I targeted hitters. Nothing earth shattering.

Next, I focus on a specific type of hitter. When deciding I focus on players who project to hit home runs and steal bases without taking into account their batting average. Batting average doesn’t normalize within a single season so it’s senseless to take a player prefer batting average. Also, compiling counting stats is far more difficult than lucking into a better than projected batting average.

From there, I went for the best player who suited my strategy with a preference for positional scarcity and proximity to the majors.

Here is a list of my picks with the comments I made on each at the time. Below those comments are my critique on the pick. Obviously I’m bias and I’ve already stated I wouldn’t change anything, so what I will do is mention my next choice if the player wasn’t available.

Travis d’Arnaud, C, NYM. While a catcher plays less than other positions, a successful fantasy baseball team needs at least two catchers. So while d’Arnaud may have less value compared to an everyday player, he has more value over replacement level because of scarcity at C (you have 26 catchers playing in a 13 team league as opposed to 13 shortstops). It’s a double edged sword, but I like taking a top talent at baseball’s scarcest position.

Thoughts:I have nothing to support this, but I think most thought this was the worst pick of the first round. I’m a fan of d’Arnaud but, taking the major league ready catcher with plus power and an above average hit tool was a no brainer. If he was gone I would have went with Wheeler. He has better stuff than Miller and is more advanced than Walker.

Carlos Correa, SS, HOU. I was hoping Russell or Baez would fall to me for this pick, but I’m very happy to get Correa here. In my league, I don’t often draft prospects who are in rookie ball, but Correa was easily the highest upside position player available. Plus, I prefer to go after players at scarce positions (See, Pick 1.9), Correa was an easy choice.

Thoughts: Ok, I lied. If I had a redo I would take Jorge Soler here. I rate him significantly higher than Correa but thought Soler would fall to my next pick at 36.

Albert Almora, CF CHC. Generally, I try to draft hitters who will hit home runs and steal bases without destroying my team’s batting average and Almora has the chance to be a five category monster. Again, I would prefer not to draft someone whose highest level is Low-A, but my alternative was Francisco Lindor who I don’t believe will hit for enough power or have enough runs batted in to justify lofty fantasy status.

Thoughts: Lindor was the next pick and while Mike was ecstatic to get him, I don’t think he is a great fantasy asset. There is a reasonable argument for Dahl, but Almora has more power potential from what I’ve seen.

George Springer, CF HOU. I don’t know why George Springer doesn’t get more love. The University of Connecticut slugger has been able to make major adjustments year after year – if you saw his swing in college, that would be obvious – and I believe he will continue to do develop. His elite athleticism makes him a major threat on the bases (36 steals in 128 games) in addition to his notable power (24 home runs in the same period). If his batting average can stay above .250 he’ll avoid the dreaded Chris Young comp and could be a 30/30 stud. Sexy upside.

Thoughts: This was my favorite pick. Maybe people think Springer is Michael Choice, I don’t know. But he is an elite athlete and few has the fantasy upside he does. The next three picks were Carlos Martinez, Bubba Starling and Chris Archer. If Springer wasn’t here I would have gone with Mason Williams as I’m higher than most on his potential power.

Kyle Zimmer RHP KC. I’ll reluctantly take my first pitcher, as I have Zimmer ranked nearly forty spots higher than where I’m getting him in this draft. He’s certainly more talented and polished than many of the players taken before this spot, but maybe the Royals’ track record has been a deterrent. I stay clear of pitchers because they can only contribute in four categories and park factors, defense and overall team ability have far too much influence on one’s ERA, Wins and WHIP. Still, I can’t pass up on this kind of talent here.

Thoughts: As you can tell, I was quite unhappy to go with an arm here, but I couldn’t pass up on Zimmer. If he wasn’t here it would be Teheran or Courtney Hawkins.

Jackie Bradley JR., OF BOS. For fantasy purposes, I would have preferred Courtney Hawkins here, but Bradley isn’t a slouch. Bradley projects as a top of the order hitter who will score a lot of runs, hit for average, and steal bases. His RBI total probably won’t be high, but I’d expect a future Red Sox lineup to be strong enough to keep his numbers afloat. He doesn’t project for a lot of power, but his bat has developed enough that a fully healed wrist could produce average or better numbers.

Thoughts: It’s very easy to overvalue a prospect if his value is OBP and defense driven. Players like this are high on lists but don’t provide fantasy value. Bradley is that kind of guy for me, honestly. But, I think he dropped too far in this draft. Steals, a surplus of runs due to hitting lead-off or second in a lineup, and proximity give him enough value to be worth my pick. If not for Bradley, I would have taken Dorssys Paulino. I’m not in love with Dorssys Paulino and he’s far from producing but the other options weren’t exciting.

James Paxton SP SEA. I stay away from pitchers early in drafts, as evidenced by five of my first six picks, but I can’t stay away from the long lefty here. Paxton should contribute to the Mariners this season, pitch in SAFECO and miss bats in spades making him a valuable asset. He struggled at times last year, but it’s easy to see why a knee injury would substantially affect his high leg kick delivery and subsequently his balance and release point. When he’s healthy and staying on top of the ball, he can be a force.

Thoughts: Park factors are a fantasy owner’s best friend! It sounds to me like Paxton lost luster for many, but not me. LOVE him here. Honestly, if he isn’t here, I go with me next pick…

Joe Ross, SP, SD.I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of players I rate highly fall to me and I’m ecstatic to get Joe Ross here, who ranks within my Top 50. He’s insanely athletic and has front of the rotation stuff. He battled injuries last year, but he’s going to explode up prospect charts by midseason.

Thoughts: It was hard for me not to pull the trigger on Ross early. So hard in fact, I skipped Newman to make the pick! Whoops. Thankfully I spoke to Mike on the phone earlier in the day and he was expecting the pick. If not for Ross, I would have gone with Arodys Vizcaino who could be a closer shortly. If this was a holds league, I would have snagged him for sure.

Chris Stratton, SP SF. I considered Josh Bell here, but after reading Jeff Reese, Bullpen Banter’s NCAA Baseball expert, discuss Stratton, I had to get him. Stratton made strides year after year in college and flashed three above average offerings with room for growth. Plus, it’s hard to argue against the San Francisco Giants’ record of developing pitchers.

Thoughts: I knew Mike wanted Tapia so I cross him off my list. Still, I’m very happy with Stratton for the above reasons. If not for Stratton I was considering Bell, Lucas Sims and Joc Pederson.

Manny Banuelos, SP, NYY. Ah, another pitcher. I’m not enamored with any of the hitters left and if I am, they are far too away to justify not picking Banuelos. He probably won’t pitch in 2013, but prior to his injury he had a mid 90s fastball with decent arm side run, a curveball that he could bury when he was ahead of the count (read: can’t throw for strikes consistently) and a very good change up. It’s hard to say how he’ll look when he returns from Tommy John surgery, but absolutely worth a late flyer here.

That’s my team! Well, my fake team. Which pick do you think was the worst? The best? Who had a better draft, Jason, Mike or JD? Let us know in the comments!


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9 Responses to “Prospect Mock Draft Strategy and Analysis”

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  1. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Do pitching prospects really have a higher collapse rate than hitting prospects? I’m not so sure that is true.

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    • JD Sussman says:

      Yes, research (Voros, Sky, McKinney) shows pitching prospects “fail” at a higher rate or are less valuable than similarly ranked hitters. Good to see you, Dr. B.

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      • bSpittle says:

        John Sickels did a review of the last decade and the top pitching prospects failed less often than the top ranked hitting prospects – based on his prospect rankings.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Maybe that is the study I’m remembering. I don’t know if the success rate of developing pitching prospects has improved in the past 10-15 years, but I don’t think TINSTAPP is an operative concept anymore.

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      • JD Sussman says:

        I’d love to see his piece, but I doubt it was scientific. John has been writing for a long time, but I’ve never seen his reviews contain studies of any kind. McKinney’s work is quite recent and shows a noticable difference between position players and pitchers ranked in the top 20, from 20-100, and whether their performance is better than a “success”.

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      • tylersnotes says:

        even if prospects fail at a higher rate, i’m not sure this is proven enough to be guaranteed fantasy relevant. In many of the later rounds especially the pitchers taken are either at or very close to MLB ready, while hitters going in the same round are either lower ranked hitting prospects who are MLB ready or are much farther away from contributing.

        Even if Carlos Correa or Jorge Soler, for example, are more valuable over their careers than the pitchers who went in that same round Trevor Bauer and Noah Syndergaard (or Danny Hultzen and Julio Teheran, who both went to Mike much later), the owners of those players will know the value of the pitchers much sooner. If Correa fails, you have had him in a spot on your minors for 2-3 years before you know that (or maybe even longer, there are still guys holding onto Tim Beckham and Donovan Tate in my dynasty league). If Bauer fails, you’ve had an opportunity to evaluate at the MLB level and make a decision much sooner.

        Given that so few pitchers went early in this draft, I think the strategy to sleep on pitchers didn’t hurt. But I don’t think you should feel bad about drafting pitchers, especially given that the guys you got at the rounds you got them could end up being the most valuable players picked those rounds.

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  2. DrBGiantsfan says:

    i did my own quick and dirty using BA’s top 100 Prospects from 2002 and 2005. I divided them into groups of Star, Average, Fringe, Bust. My own subjective impression, of course. Here’s what I got:

    2002: Pitchers: 4 Star, 9 Average, 7 Fringe, 26 Bust. Position Players: 11 Star, 13 Average, 11 Fringe, 17 Bust.

    Clearly better results for position prospects.

    2005: Pitchers: 4 Star, 14 Average, 7 Fringe, 15 Bust. Position Players: 6 Star, 18 Average, 17 Fringe, 18 Bust.

    This one is fairly even with a slight advantage to pitching.

    I do think there is a trend toward pitching prospects having more success than in the past.

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  3. Sean says:

    Here is the McKinney stuff referred to earlier:

    This is must-reading for anyone in a dynasty IMO.

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  4. Siddfynch says:

    JD, I get that you feel hitting prospects are safer than pitching. Right off the bat, though, you support the claim by stating whip and era are team dependent. And wouldn’t runs and RBI for hitters also be? I couldnt overlook questionable part of the opening argument. If there s evidence that era and whip are MORE team dependent than runs and RBI, Im all ears.

    One problem with relying on some of the research you cite is that it may simply be an insufficient way to crack the nut. Is a BA ranking really the best predictor variable? And even when it’s been used, theres way too much individual variability in the results to adopt this philosophy too heavily (as some authors acknowledge). Finally, the strength of the claim probably varies with which group of prospects we’re talking about.

    Basically, it feels like the argument here is a little strident, or at least overstated.

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