RotoGraphs Mock Draft Rds 1-5 – AL SP Results

Yeah, so I’m doing this a bit out of order, oops. Too much exciting news last week that took priority, so it’s time to look back at the first five rounds of this mock draft and once again analyze the American League starting pitcher selections. Along with their overall pick number from this year’s draft, I have also included last year’s RotoGraphs overall pick number for comparison.

Player Overall Last Year
Justin Verlander 23 17
David Price 32 40
R.A. Dickey 33 Not Drafted
Felix Hernandez 44 25
Yu Darvish 50 137
Max Scherzer 59 163

Even with a terrible defense behind him, Justin Verlander still managed to post another BABIP well below the league average. He didn’t do it by avoiding line drives, but he did induce a ton of pop ups, a rate that produced a career high. That’s one way to ensure your defenders convert balls in play into outs. Verlander had essentially a carbon copy season to his MVP and CY Young winning 2011 campaign, but dropped six slots in our mock draft. As much as we know that wins are poor measures of talent and difficult to project, it sure is tough to ignore 24 of them! Since he “only” had 17 in 2012, maybe that’s what caused the slight decline in draft value.

David Price‘s draft stock moved up a bit after his ERA dropped nearly a full run. His strikeout and walk rates were identical the last two seasons, but suddenly his minor league ground ball ways returned. And his velocity just keeps rising. While he’s not going to post another sub-3.00 ERA again without another huge heaping of strand rate luck, I’m very close to thinking that he’s a better pitcher than Verlander from a skills perspective. Oddly, he doesn’t generate a high SwStk%, which always makes me nervous that his strikeout rate is ready to plummet. However, a consistently high rate of called third strikes will sustain the high strikeout rate.

I am not a fan of taking R.A. Dickey this early. While I do believe that his success last year was not a fluke and had he stayed in New York, would not experience much of a regression, his move across the border is dangerous. He goes from a pitcher’s park to a top hitter’s park and into the DH-laden American League. There’s also always the chance that last year was somewhat flukey and he would perform much closer to his 2011 level, which needs to be considered when formulating a projection. That’s fine, except given the drastic difference in strikeout totals, it would make him a huge bust at this spot. Given the uncertainty of his performance even if he stayed with the Mets, along with the ballpark and league switches, I think this pick was made several rounds too early.

Obviously the fences moving in at Safeco won’t be a good thing for Felix Hernandez‘s ERA. However, as a ground ball pitcher, he wouldn’t be affected as much as someone like Jason Vargas, had he remained in Seattle. Though it had no effect on his performance, Hernandez did a loss of velocity of over a mile per hour on the season, which is rather significant and disconcerting for a 26 year old. His velocity has now declined in an almost straight line since his debut in 2005. However, his velocity did gradually rise throughout the season and he was averaging around 93 miles per hour by the end, which is only a smidge down from 2011. Still, it’s something to monitor.

I’m a fan of Yu Darvish and usually target high strikeout pitchers who just need to improve their control to have their big breakouts. But, at this high a cost, you’re really cutting into your profit potential if he does break out. I think he could absolutely earn this value, but I would like him much more, like 20 picks later.

Man, Max Scherzer sure had a crazy year. Talk about a roller coaster ride. Last year, according to one player rater, Scherzer finished as the 51st most valuable player. So by taking him 59th, you basically need him to post another strikeout rate above 11.0, which is obviously unlikely to happen again. He was also drafted right before Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, both of whom I much prefer over Scherzer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Scherzer, but like several other pitchers in these rounds, I think he went too early.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Stew Davis
Stew Davis

Great article, your comments regarding RA Dickey make a ton of sense, however the idea that he was drafted several rounds too early seem a bit harsh for an AL only pool. Maybe one round early. That said, keep up the great articles Mike.