THT & Friends mock draft (Part 3: lessons learned)

Karl de Vries
Coming off last week’s 12-team mock draft, Michael, Derek and I wanted to reflect on some lessons learned in an expert league in which a total of 324 players were scooped up. By the time the 27-round melee was winding down, not even the likes of Jason Vargas and Josh Donaldson were beyond the reach of hungry fantasy owners needing to plug holes.

Along the way, we noticed some trends in player depth, strategy and our own oversights that could surely apply to other drafts over the next few weeks.

Michael Stein
Roto and head-to-head points leagues have their pros and cons, but it is indisputable that the evaluation of certain players and overall drafting styles differ. In H2H points leagues, starting pitchers are more valuable commodities because of additional points awarded for complete games, quality starts, strikeout bonuses, etc. In roto leagues, the distinction between the top starters and the second or third tier is less pronounced. That’s why I had planned on waiting at least five or six rounds before taking a pitcher.

Instead, I caved to my own pressure and took Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee with my wrap-around third and fourth picks. Playing Monday morning quarterback, I realize I could have waited another round or two and still taken very solid pitchers while filling critical offensive positions with hitters such as Matt Holliday, Dustin Pedroia,or Jacoby Ellsbury.

Karl de Vries
I made a similar mistake in my shortsighted decision to grab starting pitching before the best hitting had dried up. Typically, it seems, pitching is much easier to harvest during the season, especially when it comes to closers. But I was still a bit taken aback by the shallowness of the outfield pool this year. I wasn’t nearly aggressive enough in picking up sticks in the draft’s early rounds, and as someone who held back a bit in fleshing out his five-man outfield, I was flat-footed when the bodies started dropping early—17 picks in the first four rounds alone. As the draft dragged on, I felt lucky to grab Carlos Quentin (18.3), Chris Young (20.3) and Alfonso Soriano (21.10), a trio that alone could doom my squad to a season of mediocrity.

Derek Ambrosino
This was my second mock draft of the offseason, and what concerned me was how many of the players I wound up with on both teams. I don’t mind having “my guys,” and I’m not against roster repetition across multiple teams, but I figured this draft, pound for pound, included even more savvy owners compared to my previous draft. One way I’d confirm my hypothesis—that I got some value picks in the previous draft—would be if I was unable to get those same players again.

I’m not talking about the fact that I nabbed the same catcher pair in both drafts, as that was a strategic decision. I’m talking more about picks like Paul Konerko (8.11), Johan Santana (17.2) and Josh Beckett (22.11)—guys who I thought may have been value picks, but who now deserve a closer look to see if the rest of the fantasy community knows something about them that I’ve overlooked.

Michael Stein
Another lesson learned is that patience can pay off when it comes to third base. It’s no secret that third base has become one of the shallowest fantasy baseball positions, but I passed on it until I selected Martin Prado in the eighth round. I could have waited even longer and still ended up with respectable choices such as Kyle Seager (14.7), David Freese (15.11), Manny Machado (17.8) or Kevin Youkilis (20.11) in the mid to late teen rounds. While third base doesn’t have as many premier choices as it once did, there is plenty of decent quality down the list which can be obtained for great value if you have patience.

Karl de Vries
On the individual level, I’ve noticed that people like Carlos Gomez (22.2). A lot. That was made clear in the draft room chatter, and reinforced for good measure Wednesday by Derek and Brad. And why not? We’ve known for years that Gomez can run like the wind, but 19 home runs last year? With a likely full-time job lined up in Milwaukee, Gomez is not just a rotisserie demon; he’s the kind of guy who could make a splash in my preferred H2H style of play, provided he can learn to take a walk and bring the strikeout rate below 20 percent. Regardless, he’s someone who will likely be under the radar in my league, which should translate to a nice steal—har, har—in the late rounds.

Derek Ambrosino
Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot of in-depth preparation on individual players prior to the season, but perhaps I should drill down a bit more. One thing keeping me from overreacting, however, is the awareness that I am generally more along the conservative side when building teams. I also usually approach mock drafts straight up and experiment too profoundly, or with multiple different deviations in the same draft. I opt more for the solid contender than the monster upside team. This may not be the most fun or popular mind state with which to approach a mock draft.

Karl de Vries
Some useful thoughts going forward, guys. Nicely done. Now that we’ve looked at some of the draft’s best value picks, most head-scratching reaches and lessons learned, it might be time to take a look at which owner walked away with the best squad. We’ll pick this up early next week.

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Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.
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The draftable team – or ‘value picks’ – I’d want out of this mock (based on my league setup and 6th slot and assuming things like the ‘other CarGo’ wouldn’t really be available in round 22)
Ike Davis
Brett Anderson
Shelby Miller

Power is king in my league. I don’t care about balance in the draft if good power falls. The odds of being able to ‘trade it up’ is very good.

If Ike Davis does what he’s expected to, that’s an easy swap for Bourn or Jennings later on (both went > 50 picks before him).

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson
To add my two cents since I responded to the wrong prompt: I learned that OF depth is much shallower than years past, although that also means that there are more exploitable platoons. I’m not sure if that means I’m more or less inclined to invest in OFers yet. Starting pitcher is extremely deep. Around round 22, I realized that I would have been comfortable fielding a rotation purely from players still available. SP always seems deep, but I usually find that it’s shallower than it appears at first glance. Not this time around. The other surprise was that there… Read more »
Derek Ambrosino
Derek Ambrosino
I want to make a follow-on point stemming from Brad’s remark on pitching depth. This seems obvious or intuitive, but it is worth repeating. The depth in SP not closes the gap between pitchers taken highly and those who can be had later, but it also raises the value of elite offensive players. The candle burns at both ends, if you spend too highly on pitching you can burn quickly. Run prevention and run prevention is a zero-sum game. Every run that pitcher doesn’t give up is an RBI, R, and may HR that isn’t earned by the collective offensive… Read more »