First Mock Draft of the Season

The Super Bowl is over and that means one very important thing - baseball is almost here! I may have spent all offseason playing around with the Big Board, but it's been quite some time since I last busted out the spreadsheets and got down to drafting. I wasn't sure what to expect out of Howard Bender's (@rotobuzzguy) Mock Draft Army but I have to say I was pretty happy with my team after going up against a draft room of experts. What follows is a breakdown* of my team from the Mock Draft Army #3 last Tuesday. I had the first pick. First thing's first - full draft results available here. *One thing to note is I'll be referencing 'surplus value' throughout the post, which I'm defining as the difference between the $ value of any given pick (e.g. pick 24 is worth $27) and the projected $ value for each player as determined by my 'Big Board' (e.g. Felix Hernandez is worth $36)

Roster C - Evan Gattis C - Matt Wieters 1B - Joey Votto 2B - Kolten Wong SS - J.J. Hardy 3B - Chris Davis MI - Brett Lawrie CI - Eric Hosmer OF - Mike Trout OF - Ryan Braun OF - Shin-Soo Choo OF - Brandon Moss OF - Steven Souza UTIL - David Ortiz SP - Felix Hernandez SP - Stephen Strasburg SP - Carlos Carrasco SP - Garrett Richards SP - Matt Shoemaker SP - Tony Cingrani RP - Kenley Jansen RP - Jake McGee RP - Aaron Sanchez

At catcher, I struck early and often. This happens every year when the "conventional wisdom" is to let catchers fall, but according to the Big Board, I got $7 and $3 of surplus value out of Gattis and Wieters respectively based on where I took them. The bottom 8 or so look really ugly when 24 catchers are drafted, so I'm happy to spend the picks necessary to get two good ones. Gattis should be one of the few (fantasy) catchers to get at least 550 PA this season, and he should be crushing the ball "like a grape" (h/t Matthew Berry) this season over the short porch in Houston.

I missed out on the elite 1Bs thanks to my draft spot (hard to complain about Trout), so I went with bounceback guys in Votto, Davis, and Hosmer (though Davis should be the everyday 3B for this team). I honestly see no reason to doubt a healthy return for Votto this season, so I will own him on a lot of teams (especially in OBP leagues). Even if the power is gone, his Steamer projection of 20/80/70/4/.280 looks conservative to me (it doesn't know he was hurt last year). Chris Davis meanwhile is a question mark, but as I said in the chat after making the pick, some combination of a healthy oblique and popping his adderall again has me thinking he'll at least return to 2012 form, when he hit .270 with 30+ HR. Hard to complain getting a former 1st-rounder in the 9th, even if people were insane for drafting him that early last year. Hosmer is a weird one for me, as last year (and his first four years, really) has left me unsure of what to expect from him. Steamer still loves him, which was a bad call last year, but I'm doubling down if I can get him in the late 16th like I did here. That's a whopping $10 in surplus value. Honorable mention goes to David Ortiz, who just keeps rolling out there and mashing taters every year. He might pick up 1B eligibility at some point during the season, but as it stands I'm happy deploying him at UTIL and reaping the benefits ($8 surplus value).

I took Kolten Wong earlier than I probably had to, but oh well. He has both power and speed upside after an impressive debut last season and I'm putting him down for 13/70/60/23/.260. Meanwhile Lawrie looks like sneaky value to me in the 15th. In my opinion, 2B's were generally overvalued in this draft so I was happy just to get two of the bargain picks and move on to other positions.

I liked exactly two of the SS picks in this draft and they were Baez by Bender in the 14th and Danny Santana by Pasko in the 17th. By the time I took Hardy in the 21st, I was just looking to build out an offense that had become centered around power. Late rounds are a great time to punt some categories and find hidden value, and getting 17 HR out of your SS is nothing to sneeze at. Steals are easy to get on the wire and SS is a great place to get them, so I also don't really mind the idea of taking a guy like Hardy and dropping him if he starts out ice cold like he did in 2014.

Third base was a wasteland too - the most overvalued position. Putting that in perspective, I love my Chris Davis pick. The only other players taken with surplus value, in no particular order: Machado, Bryant, Alvarez, Headley... three of those came in the final few rounds. And all three of them could easily hit 20 HR. With that in mind, I might be looking to punt 3B altogether this year and see what falls to me.

The outfield after Trout and Braun is nothing to write home about, but Choo and Moss are both guys that the projection systems will miss on this year due to nagging injuries they played through last year. Individually I like the picks, but given the choice I might avoid taking on this much risk. At least OF are easy to replace. I like Choo for something like a 15HR-15SB season plus a return to better R/RBI totals since the Rangers literally cannot have a worse season of health than they had last year. Souza has a somewhat unbelievable Steamer projection, but I think the Rays' Wil Myers replacement will bring you at least half of the $10 (!) surplus value the Big Board says I'm getting in the 20th round.

The pitching strategy is where things got really interesting this draft, and I'm going to have to punt the full discussion til another post to give it the analysis it deserves. The headline, though, is that some teams dedicated as much as 78% (!) of their resources, pick-wise, to hitters. Other, more sane people, stuck closer to the traditional 70-30 split, and though it sent me through an existential drafting crisis of sorts, I ended up with a dominant looking pitching staff headlined by King Felix and Strasburg. Don't tell the people who love to preach wearing purity rings and waiting for your first SP, but SPs taken in the first 6 rounds of this draft averaged $6 of surplus value (vs. the overall pool of SPs which averaged $1 surplus). That includes Felix at $8 surplus and Strasburg at $12 surplus, the #1 most undervalued player taken in this draft.

I mostly waited to fill out the rest of my staff til late, but couldn't pass up on Carrasco in the 11th, who was elite by GB%, K%, and K-BB% last season. Richards in the 17th is a steal and his ADP will move up throughout the spring as people realize he is healthy. Shoemaker is being forgotten so soon after posting a 3.04 ERA/1.07 WHIP over 136 IP last season with a 5.17 K/BB ratio - 18th round, I'll take it. And Cingrani checks in as my final pick - purely speculative until we see him in spring training, but if 2013 Cingrani is still alive in there, I want him.

A brief note on relievers - I love all of them and wish I'd drafted more, but I always stop myself because I know I'll pick up at least one or two closers along the way during the season by playing the wire. In the meantime, Kenley Jansen, Jake McGee, and Aaron Sanchez will hold down the fort quite admirably, and if Sanchez ends up an SP, I probably won't complain.

Don't forget to check out the Top 300 and look out for the release of the Big Board coming soon. Follow @HarperWallbang on twitter for updates as this site gets rolling.