An Early Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft | Sharapova's Thigh

I love real baseball, and I love fantasy baseball. So when I was asked to participate in a mock fantasy baseball draft for the 2009 season last night with 11 other die-hard baseball fans, I jumped at the opportunity.

Yes, it's too early to even be talking about fantasy baseball and I'm a huge nerd. Laugh it off, ask me where my Mordor map is, blah blah blah. But really, this was a blast and I had a great time talking baseball with these guys in our draft.

Jason Sarney of Fantasy Phenoms did a terrific job of setting the whole thing up for us and I appreciate him asking me to participate. The rest of the guys are from superb websites such as Newsday, MLB Front Office, Baseball Mafia, and RotoRob. I'm probably leaving a couple off and I apologize to them.

Anyway, with my Chicago Bears done and my Chicago Bulls sucking, I'm in full baseball mode. I'm in a keeper league for money and usually in a bunch of other leagues, so this was some nice practice for me. Remember the key word "mock", this wasn't a real draft, and you couldn't have one yet because there's a ton of free agents that don't even have teams at the moment.

The league uses the traditional 5x5( Hitters: AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB. Pitchers: ERA, W, S, K, WHIP)scoring system. We all agreed to write about our picks and will send our analysis into Fantasy Phenoms.

You can see the whole draft here. Here's the roster position breakdown:

C

2

2


1B

1

1


2B

1

1


SS

1

1


3B

1

1


OF

4

5


CI

1

1

(1B, 3B)

MI

1

1

(2B, SS)

U/DH

1

1

(1B, 2B, 3B, C, DH, OF, SS, U)

P

9

9

(RP, SP)


Anyway, here's the team I drafted...

Round 1, Pick 11- Ian Kinsler, 2B.
Round 2, Pick 2- Mark Teixeira, 1B.

All of the guys that you go into the 1st round thinking, "I want this guy, or if he's not there, this guy" were all gone at the 11th pick. Matt Holliday leaving Coors Field kept popping into my head and prevented me from selecting him. I could go Mark Teixeira here, but he's not going to steal bases and is better off in a league with OPS or SLG for example, at least to justify taking there. Same with Berkman in regards to the slugging rate stats, and his stolen bases in 2008 seem to be a fluke. He stole 18 bags, double the amount he's ever had in a season and the dude will be 33 this season.

So, Ian Kinsler just seemed like the safest pick. Shortstop Michael Young's been the stud middle infielder for the Rangers for years, but now Kinsler is the one you want. Again, it's a 5x5 league. Kinsler hits for a high average(.319), scores a ton of runs(102) in a terrific lineup, has some power(18 HR), is a decent run-producer(71 RBI), and steals bases(26). He's just 26, and in a great lineup as I mentioned, so there's no reason to think his production goes down too much. He's just solid all-around, and while he's not a sexy pick, he won't disappoint.

I picked again 2 picks later, and decided to go with Teixeira. I figured after taking Kinsler, I needed to get some more power with my 2nd round pick. He's a career .290 hitter, has over 30 homers and 100 RBI each of the last 5 seasons. He sounds pumped to be playing for the Yankees, and with that short porch down the right field line(when he's batting left-handed which is most of the time), along with that outstanding lineup, there's no reason to think he won't continue to put up great numbers.

Round 3, Pick 11- Aramis Ramirez, 3B.
Round 4, Pick 2- Tim Lincecum, SP.

Aram is as consistent as they come. Baltimore OF Nick Markakis was tough to pass up, but Ramirez's hit at least 26 homers, and driven in at least 92 runs each of the previous 5 seasons. He's in his prime at the age of 30, and he's batting in the middle of arguably the best lineup in the National League.

Now we're at my 4th round pick, I've already taken 3 hitters, and I've got a couple stud pitchers sitting there in front of me with Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb. Some solid hitters are there, but none that are jumping out at me. Vladimir Guerrero was frustrating last year on my keeper team, and he's clearly declining a bit. So, I decided to go with the young phenom Lincecum. Getting 18 wins with that crap lineup supporting him was sensational. Matt Cain for example had a 3.76 ERA on the Giants and only won 8 games. You had to be dominant to get wins, and Lincecum went 18-5 and won the Cy Young. He also struck out a whopping 265 batters in 227 innings, and had a WHIP of 1.17. People might point to pitching in AT&T Park helping his stats, but they'd be incorrect. He went 10-2 with a 2.22 ERA on the road.

Round 5, Pick 11- Roy Halladay, SP.
Round 6, Pick 2- Cliff Lee, SP.

Alright, I didn't want to take 3 starting pitchers this early, but I just couldn't pass these studs up. I wrote a blog in July demonstrating how ridiculously good Halladay has been for so long, particularly his ability to go deep into games and throw a ton of innings every year. You can mark him down for 15+ wins, 200+ innings pitched, and at or near the top in the WHIP leaders every season. What was really nice about last year, was striking out hitters at a higher rate than he had in years, and in fact finished with the most strikeouts he's had in a season with 206.

There's no way in hell Cliff Lee repeats last season when he went 22-3, with a 2.54 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP, but he won't repeat his crappy 2007 season either. I'm thinking 15+ wins and an ERA in the low 3's. His amazing 2008 wasn't an absolute fluke, as he has maybe the nastiest curveball in the league.

Round 7, Pick 11- Francisco Rodriguez, RP.
Round 8, Pick 2- Michael Young, SS.

I don't like taking closers this early, but there wasn't anybody else that really stuck out to me at this spot. I debated between outfielders such as Andre Ethier and Jermaine Dye, finally decided to just grab the best fantasy closer of the 2008 season. K-Rod of course set an MLB record with 62 saves. He now goes to a good Mets team that would've been in the playoffs if they had him on their side last year. He'll get 40+ saves, an ERA under 3, and I expect his strikeout numbers to be better than last year as the National League will have a difficult time hitting him for awhile.

The aforementioned Michael Young is declining, but still a solid player especially for fantasy shortstops. He'll likely reach double-digits in homers, drive in around 90 runs, hit around .300, and score around 100 runs.

Round 9, Pick 11- Raul Ibanez, OF.
Round 10, Pick 2- Willy Taveras, OF.

Here we are in the 9th round, and I still don't have an outfielder, so I have to address that. I'm a huge Raul Ibanez guy. He's driven in over 100 runs the last 3 years in a bad Mariners lineup, in a pitcher's park at Safeco Field. Now he's going to a hitter's paradise in Philadelphia, batting in the middle of an outstanding Phillies lineup. I'm thinking .300, 30+ homers, 115+ RBI.

I'm desperate for steals at this point, and need an outfielder. So, I settle for Willy Taveras, the new leadoff hitter of the Reds. All he's good for are runs and steals, but he's very good at both. He had 68 stolen bases last year and will score a lot of runs getting the most at bats at another hitter's paradise, Great American Ballpark.

Round 11, Pick 11- Carlos Zambrano, SP.
Round 12, Pick 2- Chris Iannetta, C.

Since 2003, Zambrano has at least 13 wins an and ERA under 4 every season. His strikeouts were way down last year(130), but his fastball looked the best it had all season when he threw the no-hitter in September, and then had great stuff in his playoff start. So, I expect him to do better there this year.

Good fantasy catchers are hard to come by, and when you get to this point, the guy that starts for the Rockies is a fair gamble because he gets to play half his games at Coors Field. Plus, Iannetta showed some very impressive power numbers in 2008, hitting 18 homers and driving in 65 runs in just 407 plate appearances. Expect him to get more at bats this year.

Round 13, Pick 11- Xavier Nady, OF.
Round 14, Pick 2- Milton Bradley, OF.

I'm really desperate for outfielders, and the good ones keep going off the board so I have to pick up a couple here. Nady had a career year, but I expect him to hit near .300, 20 homers, and drive in 90+ runs IF he's on the Yankees. However, there's rumors he could be headed back to the Pirates, which wasn't known when I did this mock draft.

I decided to take a gamble rather than settle for a crap outfielder. Milton led the American League in OPS at .999, although that doesn't count in our league, it shows the hitter he is. It's just a matter of avoiding injuries and staying out of trouble, which he's never been able to do. He'll be batting in the middle of a Cubs lineup that was arguably as good as the Texas lineup he was in last year, and if he can stay on the field, I expect him to have a big year.

Round 15, Pick 11- Trevor Hoffman, RP.
Round 16, Pick 2- Jason Giambi, 1B/DH.

Hoffman's well past his great days, but is still solid and will get saves. He signed with the Brewers yesterday to be their closer. His ERA might jump into the 4's(3.77 last year) with leaving Petco Park, but will probably get a lot more saves. He had 30 last year, and his Padres only won 63 games.

I flirted with the idea of taking pitcher Matt Garza or second baseman Kelly Johnson, but ultimately decided to get some more power with Giambi, who just signed with Oakland where he started his career. Giambi will bat 3-5 on the A's, and still has plenty of pop as displayed by his 32 homers and 96 RBI in 458 at bats last season for the Yankees.

Round 17, Pick 2- Jair Jurrjens, SP.
Round 18, Pick 2- Joel Zumaya, RP.

I'm a big fan of Jurrjens, as he was maybe the most impressive rookie starting pitcher in the league to me last year. I think he could be a star, and will only improve on the 13 wins and 3.68 ERA he had in 2008. I felt better about this pick than any other in the draft.

Nats closer Joel Hanrahan is probably the safer pick here, but I decided to gamble that Zumaya wins the closer role in Detroit. It sounds like it's between him and Fernando Rodney right now, and if Zumaya can stay healthy, I think he'll win the job. Nobody in the game has a better fastball than this guy. If he doesn't close, he'll likely still be a setup man worth being owned, so this pick won't look awful provided he stays healthy.

Round 19, Pick 11- Orlando Hudson, 2B.
Round 20, Pick 2- Hideki Matsui, OF/DH.

O-Dog's one of my favorite players in baseball. I don't think there's a better defensive player in the game than him, and he's a rock solid switch-hitter. He's not particularly great at anything on the offensive end, just solid across the board, and at this spot in the draft that's something I'm definitely fine with. He missed a lot of time in 2008 due to a dislocated wrist, and is currently a free agent looking for a new team. There's talk of him going to Washington, and if that happens, I don't like this pick quite as much as I do now.

Hideki had knee surgery in September, which scared people off and I figured at the 20th round, it's a chance worth taking. If he's good to go in April and back to being himself, these are the numbers he typically puts up: a .290 batting average, 25 homers, 100 RBI, and 100 runs. If he does that, he'll do better than a lot of the guys picked 10 rounds ago. If he doesn't, it's a 20th round pick so I can live with that.

Round 21, Pick 11- George Sherrill, RP.
Round 22, Pick 2- Ryan Garko, 1B.

There's rumors floating around that Sherrill could be headed somewhere else, and if he stays in Baltimore, he'll be battling Chris Ray for the closer spot. I picked Sherill thanks to his 31 saves last year.

In the last round, I'm happy to get a guy that just turned 28 and drove in 90 runs in 2008 with Garko.



If you've examined my roster closely, you'll notice I didn't draft the necessary 2 catchers, major gaffe. With that in mind, I'd probably drop Sherrill if I got an indication soon that he won't be closing, and pick up another catcher. Welp, there's my team and my breakdown of why I made the picks. I might do some more drafting with these guys, and perhaps have some more fantasy baseball material here on the Thigh. Go Baseball.

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