Twenty-six miles down, 385 yards to go. Good luck taking home the championship. Since this is the last time the Knights will be assembled until next spring, we'd thought we'd get a head start on next spring and conduct a 2014 mini-mock draft.
Representing the Knights will be Mastersball's Lawr Michaels, Brian Walton, Rob Leibowitz, Perry Van Hook, Zach Steinhorn, Greg Morgan, Don Drooker and yours truly. Nicholas Minnix and Tim Heaney will represent our gracious hosts from KFFL.
First pitcher off board is. ...
That makes 10 combatants. Ten-team leagues are among the more popular formats, but this is the last time we'll be together for awhile and we want to go out with a bang, so we invited a couple of our industry colleagues. Joining us from USA TODAY is Senior Fantasy Editor Steve Gardner and from RotoRob is Tim McLeod.
Twelve is nice. Many leagues have 12 teams. But this is our grand finale. I'm talking Breaking Bad finale and not Seinfeld finale. So we went to the Twitterverse and invited a couple of loyal followers, Tony Fox and Dave Morris. Finally, we extended a special invite to Dan Kenyon, a National Fantasy Baseball Championship veteran who has his forum on the NFBC boards, waxing poetic under the handle of Doughboys.
That's 15! What follows are the first three rounds of a 15-team mixed draft with some commentary. At the end, there are even a couple of bonus questions we posed to the assembly. Enjoy!
1.01 Lawr - Miguel Cabrera: Who is better? Although since I picked him, he will break his hamate, and be plagued by his hamstring all season.
1.02 Rob - Mike Trout
1.03 Tim M - Carlos Gonzalez: All I want is 500 at-bats and I'm betting we see it in 2014.
1.04 Greg - Chris Davis
1.05 Anthony - Paul Goldschmidt: Scary that he is just entering his prime. 2013 breakout season is just the first of many top-five seasons to come.
1.06 Don - Andrew McCutchen: NL MVP at age 26, he was #5 on my list.
1.07 Zach - Robinson Cano
1.08 Dave - Edwin Encarnacion: E5 backed up his 2012 season this year despite missing some time. He's an elite power hitter, with strong on base ability, which is something I prefer in the early rounds.
1.09 Brian - Joey Votto: This is an OBP league, right? Walks were way up and RBI down in 2013. Hoping for a better balance in 2014.
1.10 Nicholas - Prince Fielder: The tradeoff at 1B from here on out is either a .300 average and 20-ish homers or a notably weaker average and hope for more power. Now that Prince is on the free market -- a bachelor -- his mind will be free to belt 30-plus bombs again.
1.11 Perry - Adam Jones: Well after Miggy is gone what would you want from a first round pick? 100-30-100 and a BA at/near .300 is great - throw in double digit steals and you found your guy - well actually the two others (Trout/Goldschmidt) were already drafted. On top of that this guy just keeps improving ... yes sign me up for Adam Jones.
1.12 Steve - Bryce Harper: Played almost the entire season at less than 100% after running into a wall in April. He'll be older (21!), wiser and much better next season.
1.13 Todd - Jacoby Ellsbury: despite being injured more than you'd like for a first-round pick, Ellsbury os one of a handful of players to return first round value three time in the previous five seasons.
1.14 Dan - Clayton Kershaw: I didn't want to take him, but you guys made me. He's better than any position player left and I'd have taken him before others already chosen. It's never "fun" taking a pitcher with the first pick, some say not smart too. It's a good thing I'm grumpy and have never been known for intelligence.
1.15 Tim H - Hanley Ramirez: Though it was bloated this year, he's re-established his power base, and then some. Even with a BA drop-off, a 20-20 guy with his experience, and who's only turning 30, remains elite.
2.01 Tim H - Ryan Braun: Adrian Beltre will be 35. I don't need another SS yet. A few other OFers intrigued me. But Braun wasn't Brendan Ryan before he was caught using. As My Cousin Vincent queried, were these *magic* 'roids? Even with the increased boos, his conscience and punishment will be cleared. 80-ish percent of the stats he's posted in his last two full years will still turn a Heisenberg-esque profit and out-earn just about anyone who's left.
2.02 Dan - Jay Bruce: The most forgotten category for an offensive player is Runs. Bruce has scored 88 runs this year. Five straight years, Bruce has had over 80 runs. From hitting fifth and below, that is pretty darned good. Somehow, he's even scored 10 more runs than Brandon Phillips. And if I could pick a player to have a Chris Davis type year, it would be Jay Bruce.
2.03 Todd - Adrian Beltre: The numbers are there, the question is whether Beltre will continue to fend off the injury bug. Coming into this season, I was bullish on Aramis Ramirez since his recent health history was favorable and we all know how that worked out.
2.04 Steve - Yasiel Puig: Going with pure upside here. He made adjustments his second time around the league, which shows me he just might be able to do all this again … and do it over a full season.
2.05 Perry - Jason Kipnis: Tough choice for me here which might have been resolved if Steve hadn't taken Puig. Not quite aboard the other CarGo train so I am going to fill my 2B slot -- slight loss of SB this year more than made up for by gains in HR and BA -- both up three years in a row and next year I expect Jason Kipnis to have a 20+/20+ $30 year.
Segura has new company
2.06 Nicholas - Ian Desmond: I won't say that his dipping contact rate doesn't worry me, but there's more to success than that. Back-to-back 20-20 seasons from a SS, think he's a reasonable bet to add another -to-back.
2.07 Brian - Troy Tulowitzki: Sure, he has injury questions over time, but his legs held up fine this year. Time missed was due to a freak broken rib and he still will play in about 125 games. Will be just 29 next season and delivers premium numbers at a thin position.
2.08 Dave - David Wright: Not only does he have a GREAT name, but I thought Tulo would slide to me, ha. There were a couple of outfielders I was also looking at here, but decided to wait until later in the draft to go with my first OF pick. Even in an injury plagued season, Wright nearly went 20-20. While he'll be 31 next year, his underlying skills appear to be intact, and his across the board production fits well in the mid 2nd round.
2.09 Zach - Jose Reyes
2.10 Don - Jean Segura: Having taken an outfielder in Round 1, will go for double scarcity … middle infield and scarcity.
2.11 Anthony - Giancarlo Stanton: In what will undoubtedly be his last season in a Fish uniform, look for a healthy season and return to elite value. Couple that with the possibility of him being traded to a contender, and he is a great value at this point.
2.12 Greg - Carlos Gomez: Proved the doubters wrong with a shot at 20-40 by season's end. I'll take it.
2.13 Tim M - Yu Darvish: Being that the best middle-infielder left is Scooter Gennett it's time to switch gears and join Grumpy Dan in a discussion on pitching strategy. Best K-rates in the game.
2.14 Rob - Max Scherzer
2.15 Lawr - Jedd Gyorko: 30 homers up the middle without Dan Uggla's average.
3.01 Lawr - Matt Kemp: OK, I picked Gyorko first so I could say I got Kemp in the third round. And, yeah, injury risk. But dude can play and he is due for a full complement of games. Well, OK, at least 130.
3.02 Rob - Dustin Pedroia
3.03 Tim M - Freddie Freeman
3.04 Greg - Adam Wainwright
3.05 Anthony - Jose Bautista: Certainly some risk with a player whose past two seasons have been shortened by injury and is approaching mid 30s, but the reward is worth the risk in this draft position. However, hard to dispute the per AB results and if he -- along with many of his Blue Jays compadres -- manages to stay healthy, 2014 could bring back the glory days of just a few short years ago.
3.06 Don - Evan Longoria: Need power at corner, stayed healthy this year and will play 2014 at age 28
3.07 Zach - Justin Upton
3.08 Dave - Jose Fernandez: I'll select Jose Fernandez for his home run power potential. OK, the kid's a stud, pitches in the NL, good ballpark and while it hurts me to pass over King Felix, I'll take the arm with less mileage for my ace.
3.09 Brian - Felix Hernandez: Consistency in an ace with eight straight years of 30 starts and five consecutive years of 210 strikeouts.
3.10 Nicholas - Alex Rios: A) Rios had good back-to-back seasons for the first time in who remembers when. Yay good health. B) He seems like a great fit in Texas, where he'll be again in 2014 barring a crazy development. And where 20-40 -- or something close enough -- is again real possibility, even in his age-33 campaign. C) He's Todd's fourth-favorite player.
3.11 Perry - Cliff Lee
3.12 Steve - Matt Carpenter: The 2013 fantasy MVP won't come so cheaply this season and he'll only have 2B/3B eligibility, but he'll still score a ton of runs and hit for a high average.
3.13 Todd - Chris Sale: Very happy to take my second rated pitcher as the eighth arm off the board.
3.14 Dan - Craig Kimbrel: Only because of the timing of this mock and the uncertainty of other closers this early in the year.
3.15 Tim H - Shin-Soo Choo: Don't really care where this category stuffer ends up this offseason. (Would greatly appreciate Cincinnati keeping him around, though.)
Don: There were 36 hitters taken in the three rounds. Arguably, the following players were among the top 25 offensive producers in a 5x5 format this year -- Hunter Pence, Michael Cuddyer, David Ortiz, Jayson Werth, Alfonso Soriano and Matt Holliday. None of them were chosen, but they do have something in common ... they're all in their 30s.
Todd: Could this finally be the year that pitching deservedly is drafted earlier?
Where would you take Albert Pujols?
Bogaerts: not a popular pick?
Nick: Wherever I'm willing, I wouldn't expect to end up with Pujols. I'm more concerned because he didn't have surgery. That body has taken too much abuse.
Dan: I won't take Pujols. We keep an Oldsmobile around because it's ours and has been for years. We're attached. Pujols is that Oldsmobile without the attachment.
Perry: I would take Pujols at a point in the draft where I was swinging for upside -- not counting on him to be a foundation but a possible contributor assuming the rest helps him mentally and physically (obviously the price/position could go up dramatically next spring if he is "hitting like Albert").
Tim H: If Albert falls to, say, Round 4 in a 12-teamer, I'd give it a shot, but I wouldn't go any sooner than that, and at 1B, there are plenty of better upside plays. Even though I think he can reach 30 homers again, picking him feels like settling.
Lawr: Probably take Albert Rounds 7-9, along with the other first basemen who have .280-17-80 potential. Which is most. Would I take Brandon Moss before him? I know rhetorical, but, who had a better year?
Tony: I am probably a bit more bullish on Pujols, but truly only "a bit." Although he is not getting surgery and starting from scratch (which by the way, agree with a previous comment made), I do think there is good rebound potential for next year. Can he return to even 80-90% of his once elite value? Highly doubtful. But, I could envision another 30 HR, 100 RBI season after he presumably rehabs well this offseason. I would probably take a shot at him anywhere after approximately the 40th spot in the draft and be comfortable assuming the risk of a 2013 Josh Hamilton-esque season.
Which of the following would you draft first: Xander Bogaerts, Billy Hamilton or Oscar Taveras?
Nick: I'd draft Bogaerts most confidently -- great skill set -- but Hamilton could easily be the biggest money earner. I have my doubts about whether Taveras will have a sizable impact given that Matt Adams will probably man first and Allen Craig will probably play in the outfield, replacing the departing Carlos Beltran. There are too many unknowns regarding Taveras' situation -- if you draft now, he'd be a probable steal because of the upside, but by the time ST is underway and he's tearing it up, he may be overvalued.
Dan: This time of year, I stay away from Taveras, partially because the Cards could load up and Taveras could repeat at Triple-A, partially because I have a hard time spelling his name.
Bogaerts is the only player in MLB history who has a name starting with "X" who isn't named Xavier. ... What was the question again?
Hamilton is the only player in fantasy history whose owners are just as happy not seeing his name in the lineup. He's so fast that he can turn out the bedroom lights and be in bed before the light goes out. ... Not because of his quickness, he bought "The Clapper."
Perry: Who has a job and who is back polishing their bat in Triple-A? I think Taveras is most likely that guy while Hamilton is more likely roaming the outfield and base paths in the Queen City. Bogaerts is the most likely to have a job on opening day but I would take Hamilton ahead of him if both were in The Show.
Tim H: Taveras will be up sometime around the summer if a spot opens up. He'll probably need to get his footing under him again after rehab. Give me Hamilton's category dominance over Bogaerts, whom I don't think will be necessarily good in any column yet. When I start considering these two, I'd want the most ready commodity to contribute somewhere. Hamilton, even in part-time work, will be worth it in the middle to late rounds. Talent finds at-bats, after all.
Lawr: Taveras, I suspect, because I think he is the closest to being able to do it all.
Tony: My vote would be to select Hamilton. Anyone who can steal two bases on pitchouts -- albeit, against the Triple-A Astros -- possesses an exorbitant speed skill in the same conversation with Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock. Regardless of whether Choo re-signs with the Red Legs or not, I think Hamilton finds his way into a role next year and obviously has enormous fantasy upside. The Cardinals have such a talented system and I need to see the playing time implications on Taveras before I believe he's worth a selection over Hamilton.
Todd: I agree with Lawr with respect to Taveras and his skill set. If he's on the Cards opening day roster and starting I may take a shot. I may be in the minority, but I'm not jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon. Goofy as this may seem, I don't think you need a player swiping 70-100 bases to win. So if Taveras is in the minors, Bogaerts would be my guy.
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.