Fantasy Baseball: AL-only Mock Draft Review

On January 20, 2014, I participated in the Fantasy Alarm AL-only fantasy baseball mock draft for the Baseball Guys 2014 Draft Kit. I had the second overall pick in this 12-team league which made my decision extremely easy. I sat back and waited to see whether I would end up with Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. They are unquestionably the top two picks in any draft, let alone an AL-only draft. Which one did I prefer? I would not have minded either, but since I have never had Trout on any of my fantasy teams I was curious to see what kind of roster I could build with him.

Here is a breakdown of all of my picks in order of the round they were selected.

Miguel Cabrera1. Miguel Cabrera (3B-DET)

With Mike Trout taken first overall, this was the easiest decision of the draft. Cabrera is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons and could have won another Triple Crown if not for his groin injury. The trade of Prince Fielder allows Cabrera to move back to first base and also opens up the DH slot if Victor Martinez can play the field occasionally. Still only 30-years old, Cabrera is a lock for .325/35/120 in his last season of third base eligibility.

2. Albert Pujols (1B-LAA)

This is a pick I am excited about, especially at 2.11 in an AL-only league. We all know Pujols is coming off a terrible year which ended prematurely due to plantar fasciitis. His tenure in Anaheim has been less than stellar as age and injuries have taken their toll on King Albert. But Pujols has indicated he is close to 100% and that both his knee and foot feel great. At 34-years old, it is too soon to write him off. He may not reach his epic levels of five years ago, but I see no reason not to expect .280/30/100 from him as he splits time at first base and DH.

3. David Price (SP-TB)

With only a finite number of fantasy aces to choose from, I knew I needed at least one. David Price is a former Cy Young Award winner who has been the subject of trade rumors for the past two years. He is also coming off an injury-marred season which ruined his first half, but he came back and looked like the Price of old later in the year. I am banking on him pitching himself right out of Tampa Bay’s budget.

4. Jon Lester (SP-BOS)

Pitching is at a premium, especially in an AL-only league. I went against conventional wisdom and took another pitcher here to try and establish a deep staff. Lester had a nice bounce-back season in 2013 and will be pitching for a contract this season.

5. Joe Nathan (RP-DET)

With only a limited number of closers to choose from, I wanted to make sure I got at least one stud.  Nathan has been defying Father Time since coming back from major arm surgery a few years ago and now finds himself closing for a very good team in Detroit.  He is a lock for 35-40 saves along with great peripheral numbers.

6. Torii Hunter (OF-DET)

After going five rounds without taking an outfielder, I needed to get started filling that position.  Torii Hunter was the best option available, but this is somewhat risky given his age.  He did have a great 2013 season also defying Father Time, but how much longer can he produce at this level?  Hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera should give him a fighting chance to do just that.

7. Michael Bourn (OF-CLE)

For my second outfielder, I took Bourn who theoretically should keep me competitive in the stolen base category.  He had a very disappointing inaugural season in Cleveland which saw his steals dip below 30.  I am not Bourn’s biggest fan but I could have done worse with getting him in the 7th round as a source of production in runs scored and stolen bases.

8. Danny Farquhar (RP-SEA)

Having secured two of my outfield spots, I wanted to get a second closer before there were no options left.  Danny Farquhar emerged as Seattle’s new closer late in 2013 and pitched fairly well.  The Mariners should be better this season after their acquisitions of Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.  Farquhar may not be well established, but he will at least provide a secondary source of saves for me.

9. Michael Brantley (OF-CLE)

I debated taking Brantley two rounds earlier when I grabbed Michael Bourn.  But I correctly banked on Brantley lasting a little longer.  He took major strides in 2013 surpassing 70 RBI and being extremely effective hitting with runners in scoring position.  He reached double digits in home runs and could be in line for a further increase in power as he gets older.

10. Omar Infante (2B-KC)

Now it was time to fill my middle infield with the scraps that were left.  Infante is coming a season where he hit over .300 and displayed surprising power early in the season.  I don’t expect a repeat of those performances, but he is a serviceable option at this point in the draft.

11. Derek Jeter (SS-NYY)

It may have been a tad early, but I grabbed Derek Jeter here thinking he would not make it back to me for my next pick.  He missed almost all of 2013 after breaking his ankle during the 2012 playoffs.  At his age, it is unknown whether he can be relied upon day in and day out to produce while also playing shortstop.  But all indications are that he will be healthy for Opening Day.  Even though we cannot expect 2012 levels of production, he will still be useful for batting average, runs scored and a handful of stolen bases.

12. Alex Avila (C-DET)

The 12th round is earlier than normal for me to draft a catcher, but in an AL-only league the options are diminished even more.  I grabbed Avila because he is a starter who has shown he can hit for power and average in the past, despite his porous numbers and injuries the past two years.

13. Melky Cabrera (OF-TOR)

It seems apparent that Melky Cabrera’s offensive outbursts of 2011 and 2012 were a direct result of PED’s for which he was suspended.  His numbers returned to normal in his debut season in Toronto which was also marred by injuries.  I don’t expect a lot from him, but he is a serviceable 4th outfielder who will see consistent playing time and is also playing for a contract.

14. Matt Garza (SP-F/A)

Keep in mind this draft took place on January 20, 2014 which was before Garza signed with the Brewers. The reason he was available this late is because he was still a free agent, so I took the chance on him hoping he would stay in the American League. That turned out not to be the case, so this pick was a complete waste.

15. Jeremy Hellickson (SP-TB)

Despite having a rough second half of 2013, there are reasons to be optimistic about Hellickson.  His strikeout rate went up and his walk rate went down compared to 2012.  With another year of experience under his belt, Hellickson is a pitcher I am targeting to take a big step in his progression.

16. Raul Ibanez (OF-LAA)

Does this guy ever get old?  Ibanez had an incredible power surge at age 41 in Seattle of all places.  He then signed an incentive-laden contract with the Angels to be their DH and occasionally play the outfield.  There is no reason to suspect he won’t put up another 20/75 season hitting in a lineup that also features Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  Not too bad for a 16th round pick.

17. Paul Konerko (1B-CHW)

After some speculation that Konerko would retire, he decided to come back for one more year in 2014.  His playing time will likely be reduced a bit due to the presence of Cuban defector Jose Abreu as well as incumbent DH Adam Dunn.  Konerko had a miserable season in 2013 and isn’t likely going to rebound this year.  But in the off chance he has a rebirth during his curtain call, it was worth taking the chance for 15 home runs and a handful of RBI in the 17th round.

18. Matt Harrison (SP-TEX)

It was a rough return from injury for Matt Harrison in 2013.  Now another year removed from surgery, he should be back closer to his 2012 level of performance when he racked up 18 wins with a 3.29 ERA.

19. Tanner Scheppers (RP-TEX)

He emerged as a great setup relief pitcher with a sparkling 1.88 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He is a candidate to be in the rotation while Derek Holland is out with an injury, but he could also step into the closer’s role if Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria don’t pan out.

20. Eric Sogard (2B-OAK)

With not much left to choose from to fill my MI spot, I selected the “Face of the Athletics” to take the honors.  Sogard doesn’t provide much in terms of Roto production, but he should at least get decent playing time which is all you can ask for at this point of the draft.

21. Michael Choice (OF-TEX)

I was a little surprised Choice lasted this long as he could get some at bats for Texas after being acquired from the A’s during the offseason.  There wasn’t much left to choose from for my final utility spot, so I went with the best “Choice.”  See what I did there?

22. Jake Odorizzi (SP-TB)

This could turn out to be a great pick if Odorizzi either makes the Rays’ rotation out of spring training or gets called up at some point.  He was the other key piece of the James Shields trade from last year and is poised to join Tampa Bay’s impressive rotation at some point.  Even if he does not crack the rotation, it was still worth taking the chance in the 22nd round.

23. John Buck (C-SEA)

I make it no secret that I typically punt catchers in fantasy baseball leagues.  This point is proven by the fact that I waited until the very last round to take my second catcher.  Sure enough, the pickings were slim.  I settled on John Buck who will likely be Mike Zunino’s backup in Seattle.  He will kill me in batting average but he should also hit a handful of home runs.

Here is my entire roster broken down by position:

C Alex Avila-DET
C John Buck-SEA
1B Albert Pujols-LAA
2B Omar Infante-KC
3B Miguel Cabrera-DET
SS Derek Jeter-NYY
CI Paul Konerko-CHW
MI Eric Sogard-OAK
OF Torii Hunter-DET
OF Michael Bourn-CLE
OF Michael Brantley-CLE
OF Melky Cabrera-TOR
OF Raul Ibanez-LAA
U Michael Choice-TEX

P David Price-TB
P Jon Lester-BOS
P Joe Nathan-DET
P Danny Farquhar-SEA
P Jeremy Hellickson-TB
P Jake Odorizzi-TB
P Matt Harrison-TEX
P Tanner Scheppers-TEX
P Matt Garza-F/A

EVALUATION: I like my offense a lot, especially the infield. The combination of Cabrera and Pujols should keep me competitive with home runs and RBI. Obviously Cabrera will also help in batting average, but he alone may not be enough to keep me near the top in that category. I should be solid with runs scored and stolen bases assuming Michael Bourn returns to pre-2013 numbers. My outfield is ok, but not great. But if I can get production from a few older players like Jeter and Konerko, I think this team will be competitive in most of the offensive categories. As far as my pitching goes, I will need some youngsters to emerge. I am handicapped having Garza on this roster because he hadn’t signed with Milwaukee at that point, but that was a known risk. I can’t afford another slow start by David Price, and I will need Harrison to re-establish himself now that he is healthy. Nathan and Farquhar should keep me in the middle of the pack for saves.

Let me know what you think of this team.  Send your comments to me by email at michael.stein@fantasyjudgment.com or through social media on Facebook and Twitter (@FantasyJudgment).

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