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Most things in life are best in moderation, but when it comes to money, friends or mock drafts, you can never have enough. No matter how many mock drafts I've done, I always become a more knowledgeable fantasy leaguer after each and every mock draft.
We had already done a 10-team mock draft on Valentine's Day, so we decided to add two more ESPN.com experts for this version, giving us a lineup of Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matthew Berry, Dave Hunter, Tom Carpenter, Shawn Cwalinski, Todd Zola, Pierre Becquey, Keith Lipscomb, Brendan Roberts, James Quintong and myself.
Check out the positional breakdowns for the start of the mock:
Round 1: 4 CI, 2 MI, 5 OF, 0 C, 1 SP, 0 RP
Round 2: 4 CI, 2 MI, 4 OF, 1 C, 1 SP, 0 RP (counting Hanley Ramirez only as a third baseman)
Round 3: 2 CI, 2 MI, 4 OF, 0 C, 4 SP, 0 RP
Round 4: 3 CI, 2 MI, 4 OF, 0 C, 2 SP, 1 RP (counting Allen Craig only as an outfielder)
Round 5: 2 CI, 2 MI, 2 OF, 1 C, 5 SP, 0 RP
Rds.1-5: 15 CI, 10 MI, 19 OF, 2 C, 13 SP, 1 RP
I expected a few more top pitchers to be picked earlier, as only 13 starting pitchers for 12 teams were picked before the end of Round 5. The number didn't seem low to Roberts. "13 pitchers is probably about what I expected. We're normally a little light on pitchers early, but with 12 owners, there's a little more urgency there to get a good one." Quintong followed up by saying, "And there are some decent pitchers early on that were probably worth the investment, at the very least to anchor the staff." I was surprised that both top RP Craig Kimbrel and No. 2 catcher Yadier Molina were chosen among the top 60 in the experts' draft.
Round 6: 2 CI, 2 MI, 3 OF, 1 C, 4 SP, 0 RP
Round 7: 3 CI, 1 MI, 2 OF, 2 C, 3 SP, 1 RP (counting Carlos Santana and Joe Mauer only as catchers and Kris Medlen as a starting pitcher)
Round 8: 1 CI, 2 MI, 2 OF, 1 C, 6 SP, 0 RP (counting Martin Prado only as an outfielder and Aroldis Chapman as a starting pitcher)
Round 9: 1 CI*, 0 MI, 4 OF, 0 C, 4 SP, 3 RP (*David Ortiz who is DH only)
Round 10: 3 CI, 4 MI, 2 OF, 0 C, 1 SP, 2 RP
Rds.6-10: 10 CI, 9 MI, 13 OF, 4 C, 18 SP, 6 RP
The ongoing theme the draft was how long to wait on pitching. "I wish I had waited a little longer on pitching," said Cockcroft. "As the room tended to draft them later than ADP -- though that's not unusual for our group." The perceived lack of depth in the middle infield made some owners admittedly reach to secure a decent second baseman, shortstop, or both. Exactly two middle infielders were chosen in each of the first five rounds, but only five were taken in Rounds 6-9 before great panic set in for Round 10, when four more went. Outfielders and corner infielders remained steady throughout and the closer button was pushed in Round 9.
For each five-round tier below, I give my take on the biggest statistical gambles and bargains based solely on comparing a player's ranking in Average Draft Position (ADP rank) in the live ESPN.com drafts (through March 6) with where the player went in this mock draft. "Reaches" are players taken much earlier than their ADP ranking would suggest, and "Bargains" are players taken much later than their ADP ranking would suggest.
Our rosters consist of the same 22 starters (13 hitters, 9 pitchers) as the last Mock Draft, but with zero bench spots. ESPN standard 5x5 roto scoring is in effect. Below is how the draft unfolded. (You can click here for rosters by team).
REACHES, Rounds 1-5
Allen Craig, OF/1B, St. Louis Cardinals (Mock: 39/ADP rank: 59): Zola drafted him as an outfielder, but picking the injury-prone Craig (missed 24 percent of his team's games in past five seasons) when both teammate Matt Holliday and Jay Bruce were available was surprising to say the least.
Ben Zobrist, SS/2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays (42/57): Cwalinski had three hitters in his first three picks, and then got the best middle infielder on the board at the time with Zobrist. Obviously, Cwalinski felt he could hold off on pitching in the early rounds. Lipscomb sure didn't think Cwalinski was reaching by saying, "Wow. I was pegging Zobrist or Brandon Phillips at No. 43 and they both went. I really don't like MI this season." To which Berry confirmed, "Agree with Lipscomb on MI which is why I took Ian Kinsler and Jose Reyes in Rounds 2 and 3."
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (49/67): I think Jackson was picked a bit too high, but he's better than his 67th ADP rank. Cockcroft already had one third baseman, one starting pitcher and two outfielders when he made this pick, so he obviously wasn't enamored with anybody in the 1B, 2B or SS positions at this point and wanted to bolster his outfield. Cockcroft, who grabbed B.J. Upton with his previous pick at the No. 1 draft position, said, "I was torn between Jackson, Upton and Yoenis Cespedes for my two swing picks.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians (54/68): Cleveland product Lipscomb was chided with "homer" chants for this pick, but like Cwalinski's Zobrist pick a round before, Kipnis was the top second-bagger, and the group seemed to agree as only one other second baseman (Aaron Hill) was chosen before I took Jose Altuve to end Round 7.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks (58/80): I didn't see this as a reach pick at all by Zola. Goldschmidt was clearly the best first baseman on the board, and the last of what I considered the second-tier of first sackers. You should not think Goldschmidt will last until 80th overall in your draft.
BARGAINS, Rounds 1-5
Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels (Mock: 28/ADP rank: 16): Carpenter made a good pick here, but I don't think it was a steal. I'm very surprised to see that in the ADP world, Hamilton is going ahead of more reliable picks such as Justin Upton (13th in the mock), Adrian Beltre (15th) and Jose Bautista (17th), who Becquey predicts "will be a first-rounder again after this season. He leads the majors in home runs the past three seasons despite missing three months." I also like Evan Longoria (18th Mock, 22 ADP rank) more than Hamilton this season.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (33/21): The sentiment in the draft room is still one of concern about the elbow of Hernandez, which caused the Mariners to push back his first Cactus League start to March 7. Quintong wasn't even positive Hernandez was the best pick on the board at that time. "I thought about Cliff Lee instead of Felix," said Quintong.
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (56/33): Becquey certainly got a steal here, as the majority of the group shied away from starting pitching, taking just eight rotation men over the first four rounds. I personally like Weaver's consistently miniscule WHIP and ERA more than chasing strikeouts from Yu Darvish and Zack Greinke, the two pitchers picked ahead of Weaver in Round 5. Darvish owner Berry admitted, "I went back and forth between Darvish and Weaver."
Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals (59/44): He is one of many ace pitchers who "slipped" on our draft board, but Gonzalez being chosen as the No. 13 starter in this mock isn't too far off his No. 11 spot among SPs in the Live Draft Results.
REACHES, Rounds 6-10
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals (Mock: 92/ADP rank: 117): I think this very much was a reach, as this was the only pick I did not like from Karabell all day. I would much rather have Anthony Rizzo or veterans Paul Konerko or Ryan Howard (all available at the time) than Hosmer.
Erick Aybar, SS, Angels (109/136): I needed a shortstop and thought Aybar was clearly better than the other alternatives. And although eight other owners already had shortstops, I didn't want to wait and be stuck with Alcides Escobar, who was the next best shortstop on the list, and the only one taken between picks 110 and 149 in the mock.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals (119/139): I actually like Espinosa's ability in all the quantitative categories, but I was surprised Berry didn't take a first baseman here, such as Espinosa's teammate Adam LaRoche. Remember that Berry already had his monster middle infield with Kinsler and Reyes, and seemed to be lacking in power. Berry actually waited until the final round to take his lone first baseman, Mark Reynolds, although not by design. "Five different first basemen went right before I was going to draft one."
Howard Kendrick, 2B, Angels (120/140): Cockcroft had no middle infielders, so this pick made sense for what he needed at the time. But I personally don't think Kendrick will reach the optimistic 78 runs projected for him on ESPN.com, which is way higher than his 57 runs in 550 at-bats last year. Only one second baseman (Rickie Weeks) was chosen between mock picks No. 121 and 151.
BARGAINS, Rounds 6-10
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins (Mock: 80/ADP rank: 60): The consensus among the experts seems to be that the catcher position is about as deep as it has ever been. That's why so many teams waited on taking a backstop. So why did Becquey grab Mauer at this point? "It was more about the player than getting the catcher," he explained. "He's worth the offense at this point and just because you CAN wait on catcher, I think some people pass them by and they can drop past where they should." I grabbed Victor Martinez five picks after Mauer to assure that I would get one of the top-six catchers, because there is a considerable drop-off immediately after Martinez. The other owners agreed, as no catcher was taken between picks 86 and 158.
CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees (86/50): Sabathia's smiling face was sitting at the top of the Players Available list for quite a long time before Roberts corralled the big man. This turned out to be the perfect spot for Roberts as nine of the next 16 picks were all starting pitchers, and all of these guys have many more question marks than the New York workhorse who has averaged nearly 250 innings per season over the past five years (including playoffs). So why the long wait for the Yankees' ace? "There's something about seeing 'elbow' that bothers me about Sabathia," said Hunter. "Even if it really is minor." Said Zola: "The injury risk for CC kept me away. There are too many guys similar with less risk."
Aroldis Chapman, SP, Cincinnati Reds (94/72): Chapman was one of these riskier pitcher picks who went shortly after Sabathia, but I think Hunter made a strong pick at this juncture. Zola agreed, "In a league with trading, Chapman should go earlier with the confidence he closes if he fails starting."
Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals (103/79): These experts always wait a while for relievers, so I don't see this as being a steal for Cwalinski as the third closer off the board. This pick opened of the floodgates, or at least a steady stream, of relievers as six of the next 20 selections were the ninth-inning specialists.
REACHES, Rounds 11-15
Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado Rockies (Mock: 154/ADP rank: 236): While the other experts absolutely love this 23-year-old playing in the thin air, I'm leaning towards the ADP bunch here. I'm much more cautious to buy into a guy with 54 strikeouts and nine walks in 277 at-bats in the majors, and a ceiling I don't see being greater than .280/15 homers/15 steals even playing half his games at Coors Field. Zola should've waited three or four more rounds here.
Jason Grilli, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates (167/194): I think this pick by Berry was also a reach, as Grilli has never closed in his career, which began in 2000.
Glen Perkins, RP, Twins (170/228): At this point, Berry was obviously stockpiling saves, and knew he had to act fast as eight relievers were taken in a 13-pick stretch between No. 160 and No. 172.
Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners (178/239): Zola likes this guy a lot more than I do, and thinks he'll hit closer to the 2013 projection of .252 than his actual .226 last season, which included a .217 clip after the All-Star break.
BARGAINS, Rounds 11-15
Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks (Mock: 137/ADP rank: 108): Becquey got good value here, but a lot of owners did the same, as Round 12 started a big run of starters, with seven hurlers going during a 10-pick stretch from No. 135 to 140.
Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants (140/105): Lincecum was also part of this run, and this was an outstanding pick from Karabell, as I agree that the now short-haired Lincecum will have a strong bounce-back season.
Joel Hanrahan, RP, Boston Red Sox (155/119): He is the reliever most likely to be a bust according to the staff's 2013 Sleepers and Busts piece, so this wasn't surprising that Roberts was able to get him nearly 40 picks later he's going in drafts, which I'm sure are filled with Red Sox fans overrating Hanrahan to an extent.
Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (156/131): I was very pleased Lester was still standing when the SP dust cleared, as I'm expecting a return to glory with a new regime in Boston, most notably his former pitching coach, current manager John Farrell.
REACHES, Rounds 16-20
Marco Estrada, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (Mock 207/ADP rank: 296): As you've read so far, I didn't agree with all of Zola's picks, but he was right on the money with this one. Estrada is on the cusp of greatness, and I'm stunned that he's going so late in ADP (No. 82 starter), behind guys such as Paul Maholm, Justin Masterson and team-less Kyle Lohse.
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (208/278): Quintong needed steals at this point with a great slugging team, and there really wasn't any better middle infielder to be taken. In fact, only three more middle infielders were selected in the entire draft.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners (226/363): Statistically, this was the biggest reach in the draft, as Saunders ranks 363rd overall and 84th among outfielders in ADP, trailing the likes of Andy Dirks, Jeff Francoeur and Tyler Colvin. I think he deserves better than this ADP ranking, but Zola certainly could have gotten Saunders as his very last pick.
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Miami Marlins (236/312): He's in a similar boat with Saunders as a guy who probably went a round or two early in the mock. However, I think his ADP peers are more spot-on here with Ruggiano coming in behind Starling Marte, Drew Stubbs and Lorenzo Cain, a trio holding much more baseball talent.
Vinnie Pestano, RP, Indians (238/310): Hunter loaded up with middle relievers to keep his ERA and WHIP low, which included Pestano, the quality closer-in-waiting behind Chris Perez. It's difficult to call a 20th-round pick a reach, so I'm not going to do that.
Tim Hudson, SP, Atlanta Braves (Mock: 201/ADP rank: 162): This was a smart pick here by Quintong. Fantasy owners have underrated this guy for years thinking he'll get hurt again, but at the end of the season, he's sitting with 16 wins, a 3.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP (his season averages since 2010).
Matt Harrison, SP, Texas Rangers (206/175): This was a fine pick for Roberts in Round 18, but I don't see Harrison as a bargain here, and I don't believe the ADP is correct in drafting him ahead of either Mike Minor, Matt Garza or Ryan Vogelsong.
Derek Holland, SP, Rangers (217/186): Cockcroft got him to begin the 19th round, which is where he should have gone. The ADP rank is a little too optimistic for a guy who just posted a season-long 4.67 ERA.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Yankees (221/195): I agree with Karabell that Youkilis is undervalued this year, as there's something to be said for an "oft-injured" guy to hit 15-plus homers for six straight seasons. And the move to Yankee Stadium will surely increase that to seven.
Matt Garza, SP, Chicago Cubs (228/185): Owners will tend to shy away from Garza because of injury, which makes me like him even more as a "sleeper," if you will. And if he doesn't last for 30 starts, there will be plenty of good arms for me to pick up in a 12-team league, so I don't think this was risky in Round 19.
REACHES, Rounds 21-22
Andrew Bailey, RP, Red Sox (Mock: 261/ADP rank: 368): This was the second-biggest reach in the draft, but Carpenter decided he wanted more relievers (five) than starters (four) on his pitching staff. I agree with Carpenter that Bailey will take over the closer job in Boston, it's just a matter of when.
David Hernandez, RP, Diamondbacks (262/338): Hunter's final pick gives him six relievers for his nine pitching spots, which includes starter-for-now Aroldis Chapman. Hernandez has a great chance of taking over for J.J. Putz, who has never been the most durable pitcher.
BARGAINS, Rounds 21-22
Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox (Mock: 253/ADP rank: 206): I do think this was a bargain for me, but only because my team consisted of high average hitters and not enough power. I'm well aware that his batting average will hurt, but I also see no reason he won't smack another 40 homers.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates (260/211): This is another Karabell bargain, but I don't think Burnett's No. 58 ADP rank among starting pitchers is that far off.
Five players ranked just outside the top 200 in terms of ADP were not drafted: Chris Carpenter (205), Brian McCann (216), J.P. Arencibia (217), Jurickson Profar (219) and Dee Gordon (220). None of these names were particularly surprising as we decided to forgo picking bench spots, which made the owners more cautious in terms of drafting injury risks and prospects. And with one catcher spot, McCann and Arencibia were not part of the first dozen backstops.
So there you have it. Make sure you continue to mock for free at ESPN.com, and I leave you with these words of wisdom from Becquey: "A good reminder that your team is only as good as it can be within the context of your league," said Becquey. "It's not about having the best possible players, but about having the optimal stats in each category."