February 05, 2009
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 find Rounds 1 and 2 here and here.
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners OF -- Round 3, Pick 1. Last year was a down one for the best source of batting-average points in the game, as he hit just .310 (though in 686 at-bats). But Ichiro had some bad luck with batted balls finding fielders (his BABIP was just .337, down from his career mark of .356). Expect that to normalize, and his batting average to approach his lifetime clip of .331 -- in nearly 700 at-bats. And don't forget the automatic 100 runs and 40-odd steals. (Chris Liss)
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs OF -- Round 3, Pick 2. Soriano missed 54 games last year with a calf injury and broken hand, but still somehow managed 29 homers and 19 steals -- essentially a repeat of his 2007 counting stats in 126 less at-bats. Moreover, Soriano duplicated the career-high walk rate from his monster 2006 season without making his already poor contact rate any worse. In other words, he showed the best plate discipline of his career, and while it's still extremely poor for any normal hitter, any selectivity from a tremendous natural talent like Soriano has the potential to pay big dividends. Just keep in mind that Soriano's calf injury marked the second season in a row that he's gone on the DL with a leg muscle strain -- and at age 33, there's a decent chance it'll happen again. (CL)
Matt Holliday, A's OF -- Round 3, Pick 3. Peruse any message board and you’re bound to come across a Holliday thread several pages long. Ever since he was acquired by Oakland in November, the popular ’08 first-rounder has, understandably, become the subject of intense debate. Will the unfavorable Coliseum conditions sap his power production? Can he eclipse 20 steals again playing for the historically conservative A's? Does Oakland have enough adequate table-setters for Holliday to surpass 100 RBIs? Is Ricky Henderson still willing to suit up tomorrow? Inevitably, Holliday’s numbers will tumble, but probably not to the extent most anticipate. A change in venue doesn’t erase baseline skills. Sure, Oakland gave the green light 79 fewer times than Colorado did last year, but the A’s were efficient base burglars when they ran. Because Holliday converted 93 percent of his SB attempts a year ago, he could still swipe 15-20 bags in a calculated system. For Mighty Matt to hit the century mark in RBI, Mark Ellis (.321 OBP) and Ryan Sweeney (.350 OBP) will have to find ways to reach base consistently. Even in a park where baseballs are loaded with weights, the three-time All-Star is capable of .300-25-100-95-15. Lambaste his road splits all you want, but in the early third, he’s an excellent value. (Brad Evans)
Justin Morneau, Twins 1B -- Round 3, Pick 4. Over a couple adult beverages, ask your league compadres who finished second among qualifying first basemen in RBI last season and Morneau probably wouldn’t be immediately guessed. Although his homer total nosedived from ’07, the Maple-Leafed lefty was a runs-driving monster (129 RBI). More importantly, his BA returned to the .300 level and he matched his career-best total in runs with 97. Based on his upward trending GB/FB ratio (1.15 in ’08), a 35-homer surge seems improbable. Regardless, his sound all-around contributions need to be appreciated. With Reyes and Ramirez already on roster, Morneau provides Team Noise with a trustworthy four-cat one-bagger. (BE)
Carlos Quentin, White Sox OF -- Round 3, Pick 5. Last season's self-inflicted wrist injury is an obvious concern, but Quentin claims to be fully recovered, and his 2008 numbers were simply ridiculous. He finished second in the American League in home runs (36) despite missing the final month of the season. If you gave him an additional 25 games and 90 at-bats at last year's rates, he would've delivered 114 runs, 42 homers and 118 RBIs. With a line like that, there's no way he would have fallen this far in any draft.
But of course you can't take injuries out of the equation with Quentin. He's only 26 years old, but it's a high-mileage 26. Quentin is a HBP magnet, and he's already dealt with serious elbow, shoulder and wrist issues. This pick is about upside and possibility. Quentin might seem like a reach at No. 29 overall, but his Mock Draft Central ADP is 36.9. It's unlikely that he would have been available to this team in Round 4. If you're enthusiastic about a player, be aggressive. (Andy Behrens)
Brandon Phillips, Reds 2B -- Round 3, Pick 6. This team needed to acquire a few steals, and the 27-year-old Phillips delivers them without being a liability in any other category. Sure, it's nice to fill the 2B roster spot, but Phillips is a valuable guy to own without regard to his position. In 2007, he delivered 107 runs, 30 homers, 94 RBIs, 32 steals and a .288 AVG. He was a 20/20 player in 2008, even though his season ended early due to a broken finger. Basically, if he gets 600 at-bats, he'll help you in at least four stats.
Carl Crawford was Plan B with this pick. There's certainly an argument for CC Sabathia, but, in this owner's estimation, there's not enough separating CC from the next four or five pitchers on the cheat sheet. (AB)
CC Sabathia, Yankees SP -- Round 3, Pick 7. No, I’m not expecting his Milwaukee ratios (1.82, 1.00) to carry over. He won’t get three starts against Pittsburgh (0.82, 0.82) or four against Cincinnati (1.82, 1.08) in the American League East. What he will get is more run support than any one man deserves and the aid of arguably the best closer in major league history. The strikeout figures are on the uptick -- back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons and a career-high 251 in 2008. And for all the jokes about his conditioning, he’s been a 30-start guy every year but one in his career. I’m paying for his first career 20-win season and another 200 Ks. (Matt Romig)
Brian Roberts, Orioles 2B -- Round 3, Pick 8. It’s been justifiably pointed out during this mock that position scarcity is a little overblown. We’re not drafting middle or corner infield positions in this default format so even the dregs aren’t that tough to swallow when you’re only going 12 deep per position. That said, the SS/2B pool isn’t necessarily teeming with five-category guys. Roberts’ numbers could play at any position, really. He’s averaged 42 steals and nearly 100 runs over the past three seasons while checking in with double-digit bombs and a steady .290 average. If you want to spice things up a bit, he’s a potential 2010 free agent, so he’ll me motivated (or possibly moved to a contender). (Mig)
Carl Crawford, Rays OF -- Round 3, Pick 9. If you’ve taken Crawford in the top 15 in past year’s drafts, you’ve probably tried to justify the pick by insisting that he has bubbling power below the surface that is about to burst (guilty as charged). Landing him at pick 33 needs no justification, however. With Miggy and Longoria already handling the heavy lifting for BFun Team 1, I’m just looking for an elite speed guy, someone that will push 50 steals, a .300 average and 100 runs. Crawford can certainly do that. A finger injury cost him nearly 50 games last season, but he returned with a strong postseason run. He’s only 27 years old, so it’s still fair to believe that his best is yet to come. (Brandon Funston)
Jason Bay, Red Sox OF -- Round 3, Pick 10. If you extrapolate Bay’s numbers for the 60 games with the Red Sox (11 postseason games included) after being dealt at last season’s trade deadline to a 162-game average, you get the following line: .302, 32 HR, 124 RBI, 122 R. Not surprisingly, he enjoyed life hitting in the No. 5 spot behind David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis, where he averaged nearly an RBI per game and his OPS hovered near 1.000. He’s durable, he’s still within his prime years (30), and he hits in the middle of one of the better offenses in the league. And that’s why I’m sitting at the dock of the Bay (sorry, I know, a bad pun that only Evans could appreciate). (BFun)
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 3B -- Round 3, Pick 11. You'd swear this guy broke in with Tim Foli and Larry Biittner, but he's still just 30, and it's hard to say no to the rock-solid three-year averages staring at you (.296-87-30-110). Throw in a cozy home park and a loaded supporting cast (Chicago led the NL in runs last year) and I'll gladly plunk my bid money down. Maybe it's not the sexiest pick in the world, but it's certainly a safe one; over the past five years Ramirez has never batted lower than .289, never hit fewer than 26 homers, and never driven in fewer than 92 runs. There's plenty of time to reach for the stars later; the early rounds are all about building a foundation. (Scott Pianowski)
Nick Markakis, Orioles, OF -- Round 3, Pick 12. Get out the fantasy checklist and start marking off all the hits for Markakis. Five-category talent, check. Improvement in every major-league season, check. High-end pedigree, check. (Markakis was the seventh overall pick in 2003). I'd like to see better success on the bases -- Markakis was just 10-for-17 stealing last year -- but even if he stopped running entirely I'd still consider him for this spot, that's how much I believe in the sweet-swinging lefty. If a few of those 2008 doubles turn into homers this time around, we're looking at a possible Top 15 player into the new decade. (Pianow)
And with that, the podium is closed for another day. We'll resume mocking in this space Friday, and we invite you to do the same.
Photos via Getty Images