Fantasy Baseball 2011 Mock Draft, Round 3

The mocking shall continue until morale improves. Earlier results right here: Round 1, Round 2.

25. Ian Kinsler(notes), 2B, Texas Rangers - At this point in Kinsler's career, you basically have to expect a DL visit or two each season. I'll concede the point. He's never appeared in more than 144 games, and he played only 103 last year. But let's not forget that Kinsler was also the consensus No. 2 second baseman in 2010, and he's just one season removed from a 30/30 campaign. He's an elite power/speed threat who hits in a friendly park, in an outstanding lineup. Kinsler is a high-maintenance fantasy asset for sure, but the stat potential justifies the investment.

In a 12-team draft, the toughest positions to fill are shortstop, third base and second base; this mock team has acquired high-end talent at each of those spots. (Here's the roster so far: H. Ramirez, K. Youkilis, I. Kinsler). -Behrens

26. Dustin Pedroia(notes), 2B, Boston Red Sox - Pedroia actually ranks third at his position on most preseason fantasy cheat sheets, but I'm giving a slight edge to Kinsler due to his HR/SB history. In any case, these two are very close in terms of projected value. Pedroia is a career .305 hitter who's already given us a pair of 15/20 seasons, and he piles up runs like few players can. Boston's lineup is obviously loaded, helping his cause. There's no reason to think last year's foot injury will be any kind of issue when spring training rolls around — Pedroia is reportedly ready to go right now. (A. Pujols, R. Halladay, D. Pedroia). -Behrens

27. Felix Hernandez(notes), SP, Seattle Mariners - Behrens threw a wrench in my strategy by drafting both Pedroia and Kinsler, thus forcing me to change directions. I normally don't like to draft pitchers this early, but couldn't pass up one of the dominant workhorses in the game. He's seen a four-year upward trend in his K/9 (8.36 in '10), and three-year drop in BB/9 (2.52 in '10). His fastball velocity is elite (94.1 MPH). He's a dominating force in leagues with an innings cap, as he'll provide you with tremendous ratios as well as massive strikeout numbers. (M. Cabrera, J. Reyes, F. Hernandez). -Steingall

28. Tim Lincecum(notes), SP, San Francisco Giants - A dip in velocity is concerning, as was his ugly August (7.82 ERA). But domination in September (1.94 ERA) and the playoffs (4-1, 2.43 ERA) eased doubts and keeps him firmly among the top-tier of starters. He's capable of posting another 250-strikeout season. Would have liked to snag a middle infield complement to Tulo here, and also considered Nelson Cruz(notes) (health scared me off), knowing it would diminish Evans' mock happiness. (T. Tulowitzki, M. Holliday, T. Lincecum). -Steingall

29. Shin-Soo Choo(notes), OF, Cleveland Indians - The unheralded outfielder is one of fantasy’s most dependable consistency kings. Last season, he was only one of seven 20/20 players. Out of that group, only Choo, along with Hanley Ramirez(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes), batted at least .300 with 90 or more RBIs — quite impressive. Though his power numbers may improve only slightly, the Korean import is unmistakably reliable month-in and month-out. (C. Gonzalez, P. Fielder, S. Choo). -Evans

30. Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas Rangers - It’s true: "Unchained Melody" plays in the Noise’s head whenever Cruz's name is mentioned. My affection for the Caribbean Cruz is unparalleled. Regardless of how "early" the Y! audience views this pick, it’s a smart one. On a per-game basis, Cruz was the 10th-best hitter in Fantasyland a season ago. If hamstring injuries didn’t cost him significant playing time, he would’ve likely finished in range of .300-35-110-85-25. Now that he’s fully healed, expect a career year. (J. Votto, R. Zimmerman, N. Cruz). -Evans

31. Justin Upton(notes), OF, Arizona Diamondbacks - Upton continues a theme with this squad of players that have already established a high ceiling, well in advance of their prime. In Upton’s age-21/22 season, he put together a .300/26/20 line in 138 games. He fell short of those numbers last year, while missing most of the final month of the season with a sore shoulder that did not require surgery. Health has been the rub, as he’s missed a good chunk of each of the last three seasons with injury. But given his physical gifts, which compare with anyone in the league, and the nice amount of seasoning under his belt (1,517 ABs), it’s easy to pay a premium price for the opportunity at something really special. (E. Longoria, M. Kemp, J. Upton). -Funston

32. Jason Heyward(notes), OF, Atlanta Braves - Heyward was billed as a generational talent coming up through the minors, and he did nothing but confirm those opinions in his rookie season. He finished 2010 with a better OPS (.849) than veterans Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Mark Teixeira(notes), and he was only 20 years old for the majority of the season. He also showed plate discipline that belied his years, drawing 91 walks, only nine short of the NL rookie record. Heyward has a future of .300/30/100/100/10 lines, and given that he took to MLB pitching so well in his first go-round, it’s not unfathomable to think those pretty lines could start flowing in 2011. (R. Cano, R. Howard, J. Heyward). -Funston

33. Brandon Phillips(notes), 2B, Cincinnati Reds - I need to focus on some infield fills and the middle specifically, and with that, let's sign up Phillips. He's established himself as a reliable four-category man and he'll probably be neutral in average, and last year's very-acceptable line (.275-100-18-59-16) would have been even better if not for a wrist injury in the final quarter. Phillips wasn't a plus option on the bases last year (16-for-28) but I'm writing that off as a fluke - he's over 72 percent for his career. And even if Phillips doesn't rebound there, it's not likely that Dusty Baker will get in his way. (A. Gonzalez, J. Hamilton, B. Phillips). -Pianowski

34. Jimmy Rollins(notes), SS, Philadelphia Phillies - Real-world criticism of Rollins is all over the interwebs — he's probably been one of the more overrated players in the NL for a few seasons — but I don't care about that stuff, I'm just in it for the numbers. The batting average has been messy the last two seasons, but there production is fine in the other categories and there aren't a lot of shortstops worth considering in the first quarter of a draft. The Phillies lineup isn't exactly the 1927 Yankees but it's still a deep one, and Rollins also gets a boost from his home park (he's a .292/.350/.482 man at home, with 371 runs and 252 RBIs over 505 games). Rollins has turned into a go-ugly pick at this stage of his career, and that's fine with me. (R. Braun, A. Rodriguez, J. Rollins). -Pianowski

35. Rickie Weeks(notes), 2B, Milwaukee Brewers - Yes, there are health risks. But there's also a chance that last year was not his ceiling: He could add more steals to the power mix. His batting average easily could be a problem, given his .332 BABIP in '10. But if he posts 25/20 in HR/SB, who cares? Later in the draft, I'm going to have to protect against the possibility of an AVG that's in line with that K-rate. I'll have the luxury of sacrificing power, though, given Weeks' MI pop. (D. Wright, M. Teixeira, R. Weeks). -Salfino

36. Cliff Lee(notes), SP, Philadelphia Phillies - Sort of a lefty Roy Halladay(notes), a pitcher who needs 240 or so innings to be guaranteed to post the 210 Ks you'd normally want in a starter purchased at this price. Though that has not been his practice, a higher-than-projected innings total is aided by his ability to work deep into games with low pitch counts. His elite control virtually guarantees a WHIP in the 1.00 range, especially back in the NL. Just for fun, if he pitched all his 2009 innings with the Phillies with his Philadelphia K-rate, he would have posted about 216 Ks. The run support should result in a win total in line with his sweet peripherals. (C. Utley, C. Crawford, C. Lee). -Salfino


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