A few weeks back, 12 of the smartest minds in the fantasy industry dusted off their pocket protectors, sharpened their No. 2 pencils and spiffed up their spectacles as they gathered together for a quick three-round expert mock draft.
Am I bitter that I wasn't invited to participate? Not really. I've never really felt comfortable enough to call myself an expert in anything. Well, except when it came to avoiding dysentery in "Oregon Trail" back in the third grade. I was awesome.
But just because I haven't reached "expert" status in fantasyland doesn't mean I can't play the role of Russian judge and give some unsolicited criticism and analysis, right?
So with that, here are the participants and the results of the "expert" mock draft (and don't worry, I brought enough No. 2 pencils to go around):
Order & participants
1. Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus Writer
2. Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus Writer
3. Mike Siano, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Host
4. Cory Schwartz, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Host
5. Alex Cushing, MLB.com Fantasy Reporter
6. Zach Steinhorn, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Researcher and Blogger
7. Brett Kaplan, "MLB.com Fantasy 411" Producer
8. Jeffrey Ma, Protrade.com Writer
9. Mitch Watnik, former 411 Listener League Champion
10. Dean Chiungos, MLB.com Fantasy Coordinator
11. Brandon Costa, MLB.com Analyst
12. Zack Stair, former and current co-champion of 411 Listener League
1. Alex Rodriguez (Carroll)
2. Hanley Ramirez (Sheehan)
3. Albert Pujols (Siano)
4. David Wright (Schwartz)
5. Jose Reyes (Cushing)
6. Matt Holliday (Steinhorn)
7. Chase Utley (Kaplan)
8. Jimmy Rollins (Ma)
9. Grady Sizemore (Watnik)
10. Ryan Braun (Chiungos)
11. Miguel Cabrera (Costa)
12. Ryan Howard (Stair)
Dave's sore-loser analysis:
It's pretty hard to mess up your first-round pick. But that doesn't mean that some of these guys didn't try. I can't fault Sheehan for taking Han-Ram, but for Reyes to drop to Cushing at No. 5 is a bit steep. After taking a breather from high-fiving himself for two hours, Cushing eloquently explained his thought process, "Stolen base champ, elite shortstop, ceiling hasn't been reached. Too talented to let September collapse affect him in 2008." Well OK, then.
It was also a bit startling to see Cabrera, a consensus Top 5-7 pick, drop all the way to No. 11. If I were Mel Kiper Jr., and, ya know, actually made a draft board, I'd probably have Miggy ranked No. 6 overall after A-Rod, Reyes, Hanley, Wright and Utley. And with him hitting in the middle of the best lineup in baseball, I wouldn't blink if someone took the 24-year-old sensation even higher (Or is it lower? Wouldn't either make sense? Can someone make a ruling on this?). But I actually think Cabrera would relish playing the role of Brady Quinn and Jameer Nelson as draft-day oversights. I mean, there's got to be an all-you-can-eat buffet hidden off-camera in that weird backroom area, right?
I can't say anything bad about the Braun pick. He put up such Braunian numbers and showed such Brauny ability at the plate that I can't help but foresee him reaching even a higher apex of Braundom this year.
And while I have no problem whatsoever with Stair taking Howard to close out the round, I found it a bit curious that Stair felt the need to insert in his byline that not only is he the current co-champion of the Fantasy 411 Listener League, but also a former co-champion as well. Um ... good job, Zack!!!
13. Carlos Beltran (Stair)
14. Prince Fielder (Costa)
15. Carl Crawford (Chiungos)
16. Vladimir Guerrero (Watnik)
17. Alfonso Soriano (Ma)
18. Joe Mauer (Kaplan)
19. David Ortiz (Steinhorn)
20. Mark Teixeira (Cushing)
21. Carlos Lee (Schwartz)
22. Ichiro Suzuki (Siano)
23. Johan Santana (Sheehan)
24. C.C. Sabathia (Carroll)
More usual suspects come off the board in non-dramatic fashion. The big surprise for me was to see Kaplan take Mauer this early. I mean, I love Mauer as much as the next guy, but after he missed 50-plus games last year due to injury, I'm starting to think that maybe catchers weren't supposed to be a gigantor 6-foot-5. And while some might think that Mauer is a legit pick at 18 considering that it's a two-catcher league, I would argue that Kaplan just squandered a huge opportunity. He could have had the luxury of inserting TWO Molina brothers in his lineup at all times. Who passes on this? Personally, I try to play in as many four-catcher leagues as possible, and if that means I have to take Bengie, Yadier, Jose and Gustavo Molina with my first four picks, then so be it. There are some sacrifices worth making.
In other news, Santana dropping all the way to the No. 23 spot is pretty insane. Granted, this mock draft took place before the two-time Cy Young Award winner was traded to the National League, but still, it's Johan Santana. After snagging the southpaw hurler, Sheehan provided the zinger of the round by stating, "I just don't think there's 23 position players better than the best starting pitcher. Or 15, for that matter." I can't really argue with any of that.
It seems as though Chiungos is following the "draft the coolest player available" strategy, and I have to say, I'm a fan. Although it hasn't been confirmed, it's rumored he snagged Bo Jackson, Barack Obama, Pinkberry, GChat and the opposite of fanny packs in later rounds.
25. Jake Peavy (Carroll)
26. B.J. Upton (Sheehan)
27. Brandon Phillips (Siano)
28. Russell Martin (Schwartz)
29. Alex Rios (Cushing)
30. Victor Martinez (Steinhorn)
31. Lance Berkman (Kaplan)
32. Curtis Granderson (Ma)
33. Adam Dunn (Watnik)
34. Manny Ramirez (Chiungos)
35. Francisco Rodriguez (Costa)
36. Magglio Ordonez (Stair)
This is where things got a bit interesting. In addition to the fact that two more catchers not named Molina came off the board, Carroll raised some eyebrows by snagging Peavy to make it starting pitchers with three consecutive picks. His response? "It's as close to a sure thing as there is with pitchers and I can't take Eric Byrnes or Hunter Pence over either of them." OK, then.
Pure and simple, I never draft Dunn. He's just someone I stay away from at all costs. In a curious soliloquy that has two-too-many rhetorical questions, Watnik explained his choice by stating (asking?), "Who is the only hitter to have 40 or more dingers for each of the past four years? Who has the most homers and RBIs amongst those still on the board for the past four years?" I'm too lazy to do the research, but I'll give Watnik the benefit of the doubt and say that Dunn is the answer to both of his "questions." But since we are in such an interrogative mood, let me ask, who's the only player who was taken 33rd overall in this draft and is a career .248 hitter? Yikes.
And then there is the Rios pick at 29. I like Rios. He's a nice player with loads of potential. But, call me crazy, I tend to steer clear of players projected to go in the fifth or sixth round, until, ya know, the fifth or sixth round.
Then to cap everything off, Stair (who, by the way, is both a current and former co-champion of the 411 Listener League) made potentially the best pick of the draft by snagging Ordonez at the No. 36 spot. How people have soured on Maggs is completely beyond me. Seeing that he has appeared in 155-plus games in each of the past two seasons, he clearly is no longer an injury risk. The guy hit .363 last year while smacking 28 homers with 139 RBIs, now has even better protection behind him with Cabrera added to the lineup and everyone this side of the Mississippi expects his numbers to just plummet. Are you serious??? Put Judah Friedlander in the middle of that Tigers lineup and he'll hit .300 with 20 homers and 150 RBIs.
But hey, maybe I'm wrong. I'm no expert.