The marathon is almost over so that can only mean one thing. It’s almost time to start training for next year’s race. The single best piece of advice I can offer is focus on the process and not the outcome. If a player’s final 2013 numbers were better than expected, try to figure out why and then decide if the reason is sustainable or likely to revert to previous expectations. Similarly, if they numbers fell short of expectations, look for the cause and discern fact or fluke. A 2014 ranking list should not be a carbon copy of the 2013 final rankings but it should also not be a repeat of 2013 initial rankings. The trick is figuring out who gets carried over from which list.
To that end, I recently organized a 3-round 2014 commentary mock draft composed of some industry colleagues and Twitter followers, posted here. Below are the picks with my own commentary.
By means of a quick set-up, I don’t believe in the notion of good or bad picks and I certainly don’t adhere to the notion of a value pick. Being a slave to ADP is finally lessening in the general populace. If you like a player, take him. Who cares what his ADP says. Heck, an ADP emanates from one person who won the league the rest that didn’t. In other words, an ADP is largely a manifestation of a bunch of losers. OK, this is a bit hyperbolic, but when you think about it, what is an ADP? Really, it doesn’t matter what the masses think; it only matter what you think. This is not to suggest that if you like Willie Bloomquist you should take him in the first round. This also does not mean there aren’t instances where an ADP can’t help you decide between two picks in an effort to get the second player with your next pick or to help set tiers. But the days of being a lemming to the ADP are over. At least they should be. So when I get to a pick I don’t agree with, the comment is not the player was taken too early. I just either disagree with the expected performance or the game theory used to take the player. It’s the last week of September; no one knows who’s right and who’s wrong.
With that as a backdrop, he’s a quip for each player taken in the 15-team, 3-round mock draft. See if you can figure out which picks are mine!
1.01 Miguel Cabrera – There’s no arguing Miggy first overall, but my pick would have been Mike Trout. And I’m going to be honest, I just started a real 2014 draft (yeah, I know, I need professional help) and had the second pick and almost took Andrew McCutchen instead of Cabrera (Trout went first). I’m actually surprised it took as long as it did for Miggy to get hurt. I think there is legit concern going forward with respect to Cabrera’s durability.
1.02 Mike Trout – I was in the Missouri camp back in the spring, I needed Trout to show me. And show me he did. As expected, Trout’s power indeed regressed but his BABIP hasn’t. A better than average line drive rate along with a bunch of infield hits and barely an infield pop helped Trout maintain an otherworldly BABIP. I’m still expecting regression since that’s still the smart play, but Trout’s baseline BABIP is still going to be exceptional. Lost in all the regression catfights is the fact that Trout improved his skills – fanning less and walking more. Trout’s now my #1 pick and I don’t think twice.
1.03 Carlos Gonzalez – Little high for me, there are three players I’d take whose combination of high production and reliability surpass the fact CarGo is second only to Trout when healthy.
1.04 Chris Davis – I’m scared of three things: heights, snakes and strikeouts. I don’t deny Davis is worthy of such a lofty pick, I’m just not going to make it. He still fans too much for my liking.
1.05 Paul Goldschmidt – On the other hand, Goldschmidt not only sustained 2012’s improved contact, he improved it even more. I’d take him at four.
1.06 Andrew McCutchen – With Cutch at three as implied above. Like Trout, McCutchen has the profile to maintain a high BABIP along with the enviable power/speed combination.
1.07 Robinson Cano – With the caveat that Cano could lose a few homers if he leaves the Bronx, he’s the fifth and final player I’d take before taking a chance on CarGo. The durability and reliability is still worth the investment.
1.08 Edwin Encarnacion – Encarnacion is a first rounder for me, just not quite this early.
1.09 Joey Votto – Votto’s walks are fantastic for real baseball but a detriment to fantasy. His counting stats suffer, especially RBI. If you run the numbers, Votto is not a first rounder, though his reliability is worth something – just not first round something.
1.10 Prince Fielder – Put me in the camp that says this was on off-year for Prince and not the beginning of the end. That said, I don’t see him maintaining this level of production if he continues to eat all those vegetables. Trust me on this. As you get older, it gets tougher and tougher to maintain athletic prowess with a non-athletic body. And really trust me on this. The older you get, the harder it is to morph into an athletic body. I’ll take Prince at the end of the first, not quite yet,
1.11 Adam Jones – I actually have him higher. Some will question a few skills, but he has demonstrated the ability to maintain them for several seasons.
1.12 Bryce Harper – Not questioning the talent or potential, but not willing to pay for it until he proves capable of playing 150 games.
1.13 Jacoby Ellsbury – Without question, the pick of a visionary, true genius. Whoever made this pick is obviously not concerned with Ellsbury’s injury history or that he is a free agent with destination unknown. The person making this pick no doubt knows Ellsbury has been a top-10 overall player three times since 2009, including this season.
1.14 Clayton Kershaw – I’ve got no issue with taking a pitcher this early and Kershaw is my top-ranked arm but I’m not taking a pitcher at this point of the draft.
1.15 Hanley Ramirez – If healthy, worth this spot and more. But can he stay healthy?
2.01 Ryan Braun – Putting the PED issue aside for a moment, from the perspective of someone very active in the high-stakes realm, it frustrates me that for the third straight season, drafts will be significantly influenced by where Braun is drafted and how he performs. This dynamic impacts far too many leagues. As far as when I’d take Braun, I need to get a better sense of his acceptance back in the Brewer clubhouse.
2.02 Jay Bruce – Back in May, I had Bruce as the 218th player for the rest of the season, citing an elevated K-rate and bloated BABIP. I expected a drop in power, regression to his BABIP and a continued elevated K-rate. If you look at the surface stats, it was a typical season for Bruce. But if you focus on the process, things aren’t so rosy. Bruce indeed fanned more than ever but his BABIP did not regress as much as I anticipated so his numbers are still respectable. I know my Twitter trolls will continue to chastise me which is fine; it goes with the territory. But looking at the big picture, I was pretty close with my evaluation, save for the still elevated BABIP. If that regressed to its career level, I’d look like a soothsayer.
2.03 Adrian Beltre – The numbers are there, the question is health and durability. Beltre’s situation is eerily similar to that of Aramis Ramirez coming into this season. Both have sketchy injury histories but were durable recently. I was very invested in Ramirez and paid the price. I hope history doesn’t repeat with Beltre….you know, for whoever made this pick.
2.04 Yasiel Puig – I keep saying I need to add more risk to may game-playing, but this is too early for me, even with the juicy power/speed combination.
2.05 Jason Kipnis – I’m not a scarcity believer so this is higher than I’d take Kipnis, plus comparing him to other middle infielders, he’s slotted higher than I prefer.
2.06 Ian Desmond – I actually like Desmond more than Kipnis but position isn’t enough to make me pass on players with better overall numbers.
2.07 Troy Tulowitzki – Would love to pair him with someone in my top-five to help mitigate risk.
2.08 David Wright – Very similar to Votto in that walks make him a better real player but detract from fantasy potential.
2.09 Jose Reyes – First round potential if healthy. In play for me in the second or late first depending on who I feel will be there.
2.10 Jean Segura – Scarcity running wild. I like Segura more than Kipnis and Desmond based on excellent contact rate.
2.11 Giancarlo Stanton – Best way to put it is I’m willing to lose to someone willing to take Stanton this high. Until he does it, it’s still potential to hit 50.
2.12 Carlos Gomez – I’m a believer and would love to pair Gomez with someone like Miggy or Cano to catch up in steals without losing ground in power.
2.13 Yu Darvish – Not going to argue, but not going to make this pick either.
2.14 Max Scherzer – I find it ironic that the Twitterverse spent the past two months lining up candidates to challenge Mad Max and all his wins for the AL Cy Young but when all is said and done, Scherzer’s peripherals alone – forget the wins – are Cy-worthy. But I’m still not drafting him this high.
2.15 Jedd Gyorko – I love drafts this early since they are completely one’s conscious, not influenced by outside factors. I’m not taking Gyroko now, even with all the middle infielders off the board. There are just too many reliable players at other positions that can be drafted now. But I’m also not going to argue with someone wanting to put 20-something homers in their middle.
3.01 Matt Kemp – If I have two players I feel are reliable, I may take a stab at Kemp in the third, but I’m guessing he’s someone else’s problem.
3.02 Dustin Pedroia – The argument used to be Pedroia or Kinsler after Cano. I get the love for the shiny new middle infielders, but if I can pair Pedroia with a risky outfielder like CarGo or Gomez, I jump at the chance.
3.03 Freddie Freeman – Brace yourself for the Freeman love-fest this off-season. I bet he’s a mid second rounder by draft time in the spring. But he won’t be on my squad. Power capped due to too many ground balls though high line drives will keep average very high.
3.04 Adam Wainwright – I’m happy to start my staff in a league of this format with Wainwright, and pitching is flying off the board so I would actually consider it. Though, my sense if since there are still a handful of other arms I also like, I’d probably hold off even though Wainwright is in my top-three.
3.05 Jose Bautista – The forgotten man? I bet a lot of tough third round decisions will be made because of Bautista. I’m likely to pass. The upside is not what it once was and there are some more reliable guys I like more such as Shin-Soo Choo, Alex Rios and Hunter Pence.
3.06 Evan Longoria – Longoria has stayed relatively healthy and has hit for power, but foot injuries have quelled his running and tempered his average. That said, I’d consider Longoria a little earlier than this.
3.07 Justin Upton – Another year, another tease. I’m through with him.
3.08 Jose Fernandez – Love the potential, but not willing to put my entire season on his shoulders.
3.09 Felix Hernandez – On the other hand, this is Felix time and he’s definitely in play for me at this point, especially with all the arms off the board.
3.10 Alex Rios – I’ve been driving the Rios bandwagon for years. This season should finally rid him of the every-other-year label.
3.11 Cliff Lee – Another perfectly slotted arm based on the draft flow.
3.12 Matt Carpenter- The skills support this spot, but I want more power and speed from a hitter at this juncture. I can get average and runs later.
3.13 Chris Sale – If I were this drafter, I’d be downright orgasmic to get Sale at this spot. But then I have Sale ranked as the second best starter and he’s the eighth hurler taken. This guy is one lucky mofo. Darn good-looking too….not.
3.14 Craig Kimbrel – By the numbers, Kimbrel’s value-in-a-vacuum is worthy of this spot but strategically I’m not doing it.
3.15 Shin-Soo Choo – If Choo stays in a hitter’s park, he’s a top-50 hitter.
That’ll do it. I hope you enjoyed our little glimpse into the future. Good luck to those sweating out the weekend. Flags fly forever.
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