Mock season is here, and we've assembled six accredited fantasy experts for a 12-team draft. We'll get through one round each day. Assume that we're using public league settings (even if our experts make different assumptions). You can relive the first three rounds here, here and here.
Matt Kemp, Dodgers OF – Round 4, Pick 1. Here's an emerging five-category stud that hasn't gotten his full due yet; you'd like to see a few more walks and a trim of the strikeout rate, but otherwise, what's not to like here? It's always a bonus when you can grab a 30-40 steal guy without having to pay a tax in the other categories, and Joe Torre is the type of skipper who will let his players run aggressively. (Scott Pianowski)
Adrian Gonzalez, Padres 1B – Round 4, Pick 2. I'm not going to get too concerned about positional fills just yet, not when there's a safe .280-100-30-100 player like Gonzalez sitting on the board. One of these years Gonzalez will be released from his Petco Park shackles and he'll win an MVP in another city; until that happens, I'll gladly exchange his home-park tax for the discount we seem to get every spring. Take a pitcher, you say? There's still plenty of depth left at that position, even if my opponents dive into it over the next 20 picks. (Pianow)
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks SP – Round 4, Pick 3. The numbers: 233 IP, 19 wins, 185 K, 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP. That's what Webb has averaged over the past three seasons. He’s as much of a sure thing as you’ll find among the starting pitching ranks. His top-shelf sinker and good control have helped limit the long ball – no more than 15 home runs allowed in any of the past three seasons. Those factors have helped him become one of, if not the most, consistent pitchers in the game – 132 of his 197 career starts have been Quality Starts (67%). (Brandon Funston)
Cole Hamels, Phillies SP – Round 4, Pick 4. Sure, the launching pad that is his home park can give one pause in selecting Hamels, but it’s really a non-issue – his ERA has been below 3.25 at Citizens Bank Park in each of the past two seasons. Still only 25, Hamels finished in the top 11 in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP last season. Nearly across-the-board, his numbers have improved in each of his three seasons, and his dominating postseason run (4-0, 1.80 ERA) gives every indication that he’s ready to take things to another level yet again in ’09. (BFun)
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox 3B/1B – Round 4, Pick 5. Conventional wisdom says Yankees and Red Sox are always overpriced, but maybe the goofy grip and the everyman looks have scared enough owners off and I'm getting Youk and just the right price. Naysayers will point to the 2008 power spike and call it an anomaly, but the homer, RBI and batting average totals have been on the uptick for three consecutive years, and 90-100 runs is a reliable projection. Even if you adjust him down to 20-25 homers and 90-100 RBIs you still have a very reliable four-category, two-position contributor. Grip it and rip it, kid. (Matt Romig)
Alex Rios, Blue Jays OF – Round 4, Pick 6. This one is a fun little pick in that you're not exactly sure who you'll get: the Rios who hit one homer in his first 143 at-bats, the 2007 version who muscled up 24 times or Rios circa 2008, a 40 SB threat. After the All-Star break last year you got a little of both, 11 bombs and nine steals in 66 games, and a .300 average. So I'm not sure whether to continue assuming 30 steals or 30 homers (both?) for Rios. I'll deal with the uncertainty knowing I'm getting something across at least four categories. (Mig)
Vladimir Guerrero, Angels OF – Round 4, Pick 7. Stolen bases aren't in the forecast, not following off-season knee surgery. But Vlad still enters his age-33 season as a four-category player. He has nine triple-digit RBI seasons to his credit and a .323 career batting average (fourth highest among active players). Vlad's playing for a contract extension, too.
After passing on Sabathia in Round 3, this owner let Jake Peavy and Roy Halladay fall in Round 4. That wasn't easy. There are a bunch of interesting SPs who get drafted in the 100-150 range in mixed leagues, though, so the plan is to assemble the best possible collection of hitters in the early rounds. Pitching can wait. Steals probably can't. That's where this team will go in Round 5. (Andy Behrens)
Jake Peavy, Padres SP – Round 4, Pick 8. The choice here was really between Peavy and David Ortiz. If this owner would have drafted Papi, he'd have two wrist issues to fret about (the other belongs to Quentin). Thus, Peavy is the pick. He could still get traded, of course, and Peavy likely wouldn't move to an equally pitcher-friendly environment. But wherever he goes, he'll bring the excellent K-rate. There's no such thing as a perfectly safe fantasy SP, so this team will wait a few more rounds to draft another pitcher. They're looking at 20/20 types in Round 5. (AB)
David Ortiz, Red Sox DH – Round 4, Pick 9. This pick guarantees the Noise protection in the event he accidentally brushes torsos with Max Payne, and Boston native, Mark Wahlberg. For Jim Rice's sake, the dude understands the cranial workings of goats. Who wouldn't be freaked out by that?
Largely due to ongoing wrist setbacks, Ortiz floundered for much of '08. Losing Man-Ram to the Dodgers after the break only complicated matters, but, at 33, there's still plenty of thunder left in Big Papi's stick. Ortiz declared he was close to 100 percent before the calendar flipped to '09, and should be full go when camp opens later this month. Sure, 50 homer seasons are definitely in the past and he's only UTIL eligible, but a 35-40 homer rebound is not only conceivable, but likely. Despite the sharp production decline, his peripherals remained strong. Barring another major injury, his totals should mirror Adrian Gonzalez's (.290-35-115-100). Papi and Manny reunited. And for this owner, it feels so damn good. (Brad Evans)
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox OF – Round 4, Pick 10. These days, you can never have enough Wahlberg insurance. With plenty of heavy lumber already on roster, this owner would be in the market for some wicked awesome speed. Ellsbury provides exactly that. The much ballyhooed prospect was sensational in his first full season. He swiped 50 bags, scored 98 runs and hit a healthy .280 in 554 at-bats. Ignoring RBI, he's a discounted version of Carl Crawford. Again expected to be Boston's run-scoring catalyst, the 25-year-old outfielder's history of superb contact rates (89.0 CT% in '08) suggest he'll flirt with .300 in his second season. Looking at the team assembled through four rounds, this owner would be doing Jager shots off Funston's widow's peak in jubilation. (BE)
Curtis Granderson, Tigers OF – Round 4, Pick 11. Despite a decline in his cosmetic numbers last year, Granderson actually showed significant skill-set growth in 2008, massively boosting his walk rate and significantly cutting back on his strikeouts. That he lost 22 points in batting average was largely due to bad luck, as his BABIP went from .362 to .317. With the reduction in strikeouts and a positive regression to the mean in BABIP, a .290-plus batting average is likely. Combine that with 25-HR power (he hit 22 in just 141 games last year) and excellent speed on the bases (15 bags is the likely floor in a full season), and we're looking at bargain if he slips to the end of the fourth round.
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays SP – Round 4, Pick 12. Probably the safest pitcher on the board, Halladay eats innings without racking up monstrous pitch counts and arm wear because he's so efficient. But last year also saw a major boost to his strikeout rate (from 5.55 to 7.54), and as usual, he almost never issues a free pass (206:39 K:BB). Halladay also keeps the ball on the ground and hasn't allowed 20 homers in a season since 2003 -- and remember, this is a guy who logged 246 innings last year. Some might be concerned with the division he pitches in, but it wasn't a problem last year, and the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays were all pretty good then, too. That the Blue Jays look worse in 2009 is largely due to losses in their starting rotation, something that has no effect on Halladay.
And the answer is no, the chumps aren't ready to take catchers.
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