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Ridiculously Early Mock Draft

It’s the early offseason. Very few free agents have signed, and no trades have been completed. The GMs are in Milwaukee without internet and with wintry mix. The winter meetings are still a week or two away. Perfect time for a mock draft, or at least so thought Derek Van Riper at RotoWire. So he got us all together for a 15-team 30-round NFBC-style colossus of a mock draft last week — here are the results for your own perusal.

There are a million ways to break down a draft, so if you want more on this, let me know. to keep it simple at first, let’s just highlight some picks that seemed like the steals and reaches of the draft.

Early Steal: Hanley Ramirez, 2.1 (16 overall)
Early Reach: Matt Holliday, 2.11 (26 overall)
It’s hard to pick reaches and steals in the first two rounds — most of the guys picked in those rounds are pretty good. And these two guys are pretty good. But this pair is worth pointing out because one’s value will outstrip the other and they don’t seem to belong in the same round. Say what you will about Bill James projections, but Ramirez is projected for a .298 average and 21 home runs and 28 steals. That seems reasonable, considering that if you pro-rate out his poor 2011 he still would have managed 16 home runs and 32 stolen bases. His .275 BABIP was fifty points worse than his previous worst BABIP. He can hit that projection. Matt Holliday is projected for a .307 average, 27 home runs, and seven stolen bases… in 630 plate appearances. Will the 32-year-old get to the plate that often? Will his rapidly-declining wheels produce even that many steals? A more conservative projection would have him hitting .300 with 25 home runs and fewer than five steals… in the outfield. Put it another way: once the second round was done, Mike Stanton and Carl Crawford were the next outfield picks. At shortstop, Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus, both very flawed players from a fantasy standpoint, were both picked in the next round.

Early-Mid-Round Steal: Brett Lawrie (5.7) (67 overall)
Early-Mid-Round Reach: B.J. Upton (4.13) (58 overall)
B.J. Upton is not a bad real-life player. His defense in centerfield and his above-average walk rate add real value and make him an above-average guy. But neither of those aspects show up in the fantasy game. Yeah, he had a nice September (.333/.432/.606), but that’s just one month. His second half was pretty much exactly like his first, which was pretty much exactly like the rest of his career. Upton strikes out in a quarter of his at-bats and that won’t allow him to push his batting average past his career .251 without extreme BABIP luck. Yeah, the power and speed is nice, but unless he hits 30 home runs next year, his batting average will keep his upside right where he was picked. Speaking of upside, nine picks later went a third baseman that is projected to hit .284 with 22 home runs and 30 stolen bases, and has the upside to far outstrip that power number. Given how terrible third base was last year, that’s the guy I want here. Even if ZiPs is less excited about Lawrie. The Jays third baseman strikes out less than the average player, has great power, and above-average wheels. He’ll hit for a decent average. And plays on the infield (sensing a theme?).

Late-Mid-Round Steal: Lucas Duda 16.9 (231 overall)
Late-Mid-Round Reach: Carlos Lee 13.12 (192 overall)
Both of these guys are decent enough reasons to wait on outfielders, but one is surely better than the other. Lee is projected for a .274 average and 21 home runs by Bill James, and Duda only a .279 average and 14 home runs, but there are reasons to be suspect of both projections. For one, James projects the 35-year-old roly-poly outfielder to arrest a four-year decline in power for reasons unclear. Lee has seen his ISO drop from a career peak .255 in 2008 to .171 last year, which is barely above average. He’s been slowly hitting more fly balls, but his HR/FB is dropping steadily, and the fly balls are just having the effect of tanking his batting average. Now, Duda’s power is sort of a question, as it’s more readily seen in batting practice, but James has him out-ISO-ing Lee .209 to .181. So why only 14 home runs? Because he inexplicably projects the Mets’ starting right fielder for a mere 370 PAs in 2012. Give him a full slate and he should comfortably out-homer the Astro. And, even if you don’t love Duda, here a few other outfield sluggers that went after Lee: Josh Willingham (14.6, 201), Torii Hunter (13.13, 208), Jason Kubel (17.6, 246), Jason Bay (17.9, 249), and my Brennan Boesch (19.15, 285) or even my Josh Reddick (28.1, 406). Probably shoulda waited.

Late Round Steal: Greg Holland (29.12, 447)
Late Round Reach: Henry Rodriguez (26.5, 380)
It’s actually hard to pick a reach in the final rounds. How can you reach on the 400th player picked? Here’s the thing, though, it’s worth highlighting some of the reliever picks at the end of the draft because it’s worth actually getting those right. Henry Rodriguez has one thing — gas — and nothing else. He’s projected to walk close to six batters per nine, and that fits in with his career rate (5.55 BB/9). It’s not likely that the Nationals lose Drew Storen, and Tyler Clippard, and then turn to the guy with a 1.5 WHIP to close out games. But, hey, it’s like the final rounds, so it’s really not a big deal. Greg Holland, on the other hand, has struck out more than 11 per nine, walked around three per nine, and generally dominated for 78+ innings. He might — might — be a better pitcher than the current closer in Kansas City. That’s a good way to get in front of a bullpen change.