RotoGraphs Mock Draft Rds 11-15 – AL SP Results

Today we take a look at the next five rounds of the early RotoGraphs mock draft. As usual, I have pulled out the American League starting pitchers selected in these rounds and compared their spots with where each was taken during last year’s mock. This is easily the largest group yet, are you as excited as I am? Let’s take a gander.

Player Overall Last Year
James Shields 123 101
Jon Lester 124 65
Matt Harrison 132 256
Brandon Morrow 133 207
Brett Anderson 139 253
Josh Johnson 140 124
Anibal Sanchez 142 158
Doug Fister 160 165
C.J. Wilson 169 105
Jeremy Hellickson 176 94

The move to Kansas City likely hurt Shields’ value a bit in this draft. Though his ratios shouldn’t change much, his run support will probably suffer. Even though wins are difficult to project, you still have to take the team’s offense into account. That said, I think he’s a nice value here. I feel like most fantasy owners still don’t fully believe that Shields is for real. If that ground ball rate spikes, even better.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest losers is Jon Lester. Nothing went his way, as his strikeout rate dropped over a full point and he was on the wrong side of all three luck metrics. However, his fastball velocity, SwStk% and Contact% all remained virtually identical to his 2011 season. I’m willing to give him a mulligan for last year and think he offers excellent profit potential.

I’m not a fan of the Matt Harrison selection at all. To be honest, I would not even draft him in the last round. There are too many other pitchers with higher strikeout rates who could potentially breakout to bother with Harrison. I just don’t trust guys who happened to beat their SIERA marks two years in a row. He’s a decent enough real baseball pitcher, but not someone worth targeting in fantasy.

Brandon Morrow has a lucky half-season breakout and his draft value surges. Did you know that his SIERA was actually 3.91 last season versus 3.31 the previous two? The dramatic decline in strikeout rate had a lot to do with that difference. His fastball velocity was down, which probably had the domino effect of decreasing his SwStk% as well. I’ve been a fan of Morrow for years, but given the faux breakout and increased draft cost, I won’t be owning him in any leagues this year.

I love Brett Anderson. I’ve been a fan since he was still a minor leaguer, but I was rooting against him when he returned from TJ surgery last year to keep his draft cost down! Amazingly, his skills were top notch, he suffered no control issues and his velocity was fine. I prefer him much more than Harrison and Morrow taken just before him.

Josh Johnson‘s draft stock declined a smidge from last year as he moves into the American League. His fastball velocity was down a mile per hour last season and now he moves to the tougher league and calls a hitter’s park home. Oh, and he’s not exactly Mr. Iron Man. I don’t think he was particularly overvalued at this point, but I would not be very comfortable drafting him that early.

Naturally, Anibal Sanchez‘s strikeout rate declined after his move to Detroit. However, his fastball velocity jumped more than a mile per hour, which was a nice surprise. Whether it was just a small sample fluke or the result of mechanical tinkering, it would be big if he could maintain that increased velocity this year. Hopefully the Tigers defense doesn’t let him down too often.

Hmmm, not only did Doug Fister prove that 2011 was no fluke, but he actually pitched better last season according to SIERA. Interestingly, he couldn’t sustain the velocity spike he enjoyed in 2011, yet his SwStk% and strikeout rate jumped anyway. Less reliance on his fastball may have something to do with that. Fister has a solid bundle of skills and although I’d expect his strikeout rate to drop back a bit, he’s for real.

Along with Lester, C.J. Wilson was another big decliner. I’d love to take full credit for my pessimism last season, but Wilson ended up undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow. So, it would be fair to assume it bothered him for at least some of the year and contributed to his disappointing performance and increased walk rate over 2011. At this price, he’s not a bad gamble for a bounce back campaign, especially since he should be fully recovered from the injury by the time the season rolls around.

Please explain: Jeremy Hellickson‘s ERA rises from 2.95 to 3.10, WHIP from 1.15 to a still respectable 1.25, and strikeout rate jumps, yet he falls 80 spots in draft value? I don’t get it. Now of course, this being a saber-friendly site, we know all about Hellickson’s magical ERA estimator beating abilities. And so we’re naturally skeptical. But what changed from last year’s draft to this year’s that suddenly the RotoGraphs authors took that skepticism to a whole new level? I’m no fan myself, but there seems to be a heck of a lot more upside than downside at this cost, especially if those minor league strikeout rates suddenly return.

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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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Here’s the order in which I’d value these guys. Morrow, Fister, Shields, Wilson, Sanchez, Anderson, Johnson, Lester, Harrison, Hellickson

I like Morrow, and though there are some minor concerns there, they aren’t as alarming as the concerns for everyone below him.

Fister, proved 2011 wasn’t a fluke, he’s a legit front end starter but he’s not a heavy strikeout guy, and for a guy who is getting a lot of balls in play, that Tigers defense behind him is very scary and he can suffer some bad luck with BABIP

Shields, I think he’ll suffer a bit moving from Tampa, it’s a great pitchers park, and Tampa is the best in the league at positioning their defense.

Wilson, I like him to bounce back. He was on pace to repeat his 2010-2011 performance until he really lost it in the last couple of months with his command. Seemed to be a mechanical issue.

Sanchez, same concerns as Fister

Anderson, Given his likely draft cost(cheap) he is a potential steal, but I certainly wouldn’t prefer him to any of the guys above all things equal mostly because he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field.

After Anderson, I wouldn’t draft Lester, Johnson, Harrison or Hellickson. I see them all as back end options if you get them cheap enough, but no upside like all the guys above.


Remind me not to buy your fantasy book. Disagree all over the place. How is Morrow’s injury history less concerning than everybody else on this list? I agree Josh Johnson won’t be an ace again, but he can definitely outperform that draft position now with 1 full year removed from injury. Lester collapsed with the team being a disaster. Same stuff as before, how is he a back end option? Hellickson still profiles for higher strikeouts and shows better performance under pressure. If the kid keeps his focus early, he’ll be a beast! What is your definition of upside? It’s not the same as mine!

Harrison is by far the worst of this group. Otherwise Shields, Wilson and Sanchez are the guys who are most likely to disappoint this year!