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Scott Pianowski

Hot Stove Mockery: Scenes from a December draft

Scott Pianowski
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In the world of 1980s espionage, they mocked what they didn't understand. In the world of fantasy baseball, we want to understand so we mock.

A collection of fantasy scribes hit the mock circuit last week for a draft that will be in your 2011 Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball Guide. I've been jonesing to do some baseball bloggery anyway, so I'm going to discuss my picks here.

A few disclaimers apply. You're going to get my picks without full context. And while I certainly tried to make a representative pick with every selection, keep in mind what a mock draft really is. For one thing, it's practice. For another, it's a bunch of chaps in an internet chat room making fun of each other and discussing numerous subjects, many of them not baseball-related. We experiment with strategies. We want the exercise to have value, but it's not like anyone is looking at it as a life-and-death experience.

That's enough preamble. Let's meet my first very fake fake team of 2011.

Twelve teams, 5x5 scoring. No MI or CI spots, and just three outfielders required.

Chase Utley(notes) (1/8)

I had planned on taking an infielder in the first round, considering that outfield is very deep and we only need three of them besides. I also missed on Utley in a different mock last month, in the middle of the second round, in part because he was buried in the draft software. Wanting to right that wrong, I took my man here. Utley wasn't my Plan A, but all of my logical targets went already gone (Pujols, Hanley, Longoria, Tulo, Cargo, Miggy, Cano). Would you have taken Joey Votto(notes) or Ryan Braun? Maybe in March, I will, too.

Alex Rodriguez(notes) (2/17)

I could have had a slugging first baseman like Prince Fielder(notes) or Adrian Gonzalez(notes) in this spot, but third base looks thinner to me and it's always nice to get an offensive player buoyed by the Yankee undertow. Had Gonzalez been traded to the Red Sox before we drafted, I would have strongly considered him here.

Victor Martinez(notes) (3/32)

This is out of character for me, as I don't believe in taking catchers early. But the Tigers are going to steer Martinez to DH most of the time and there's a gigantic playing-time upside here. I was also hoping the V-Mart pick might push other teams into an early catcher, but it didn't really work that way - Buster Posey(notes), Joe Mauer(notes) and Brian McCann(notes) all went in the fifth round.

Cliff Lee(notes) (4/41)

Please don't sign with the Nationals and ruin my mock title dreams.

Derek Jeter(notes) (5/58)

I could see Jeter being a sneaky value in a lot of leagues next year. Okay, he didn't deserve that Gold Glove and he's not a great percentage player any longer, but so what? Just park him at the front of the New York lineup and I'm guaranteed 100-plus runs, respectable RBIs, and decent contributions in the other counting stats. Sure, Jeter is coming off a .270 average, but regression isn't always a linear thing and his career mark is 44 points higher. I'm expecting him to get some of those batting-average points back.

Wait on a shortstop, you say? Risky business. It's not a very deep fantasy position in 2011.

Carlos Marmol(notes) (6/65)

Generally I hate paying for a closer, but Marmol's strikeout numbers (138 last year, obscene) are hard to pass up. If your league has an innings cap, the strikeout category is really K/9.

Cole Hamels(notes) (7/80)

He was back to his dominating ways in the second half (2.23/1.00, 104 Ks).

Hunter Pence(notes) (8/89)

Is he being screened by the pedestrian Astros roster? Pence is quietly coming off a nifty five-category grab (.282-93-25-91-18) and he's still young enough to climb a level. For waiting on an outfielder this long, I'm pleased with the quality that's left.

Jason Bay(notes) (9/104)

A last-year's bum play all the way. If he's over his concussion issues, he'll be fine.

Wandy Rodriguez(notes) (10/113)

If he repeats last year's line, I at least break even. If he pushes it closer to 2009, I make a profit. When Wandy has the feel of his curveball, he's awfully difficult to hit.

Ryan Dempster(notes) (11/128)

One of the most underrated pitchers in our wacky game. He's been a profit player for three straight seasons. You can't have Dempster out front of your staff, but he's a perfect fit for the middle.

Rajai Davis(notes) (12/137)

This turned into a mistake pick, as speed was ridiculously cheap later in the day. But I still feel like Davis could steal 60 bases if the Blue Jays let him do his thing, and it doesn't bother me one bit that he is a much better fantasy player than he is a real-life one.

Javier Vazquez(notes) (13/152)

Escape from New York. Florida is a perfect place for Vazquez, easier opponents, bunting and flailing pitchers, no pressure.

Adam LaRoche(notes) (14/161)

Nothing exciting about him, but he'll fill the corner and the power cats.

Aubrey Huff(notes) (15/176)

Unlike the Giants, the room didn't want to pay for Huff's monster season.

Matt Garza(notes) (16/185)

I'm not sure how good he really is, and I like to avoid AL East pitchers, but hey, it's getting late. He's my sixth guy. We'll see where it goes.

Vernon Wells(notes) (17/200)

He's overpaid in the real world, so everyone hates on him. Guess what? We don't have to pay him. We're just in it for the stats.

Michael Cuddyer(notes) (18/209)

Useful, versatile, boring.

Brandon Lyon(notes) (19/224)

I need to start the hunt for cheap saves. Lyon was rock-solid in the second half last year, and it's not that hard to get three outs in the ninth. (Yeah, I took too many Astros. Let them play, let them play, let them play.)

Juan Gutierrez(notes) (20/233)

The J.J. Putz(notes) signing probably wrecks this pick. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Jon Garland(notes) (21/248)

Signing in LA was a beautiful thing. I wanted Ted Lilly(notes) too, forgot about him; he went criminally late (16/181).

Matt LaPorta(notes) (22/257)

Some upside with a late outfielder. A 25-90 season is possible.

Jason Bartlett(notes) (23/272)

If he could reach his career average (.281) and maybe throw in 6-8 homers and 20 steals, I'd be thrilled. Or maybe Bartlett will be mocked dropped in Week 1.

Spring fever, amigos. Catch it. Take a few swings in the batting cage with us.

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