I strongly encourage you to read as many different opinions as you can. I participate in mock drafts on several websites to see where guys are going and what names keep popping up on my teams. (NOTE: This post doesn’t have a clear “theme” because I am simply sharing my thoughts on some guys who have been on my radar lately, so bear with me.)
I find I can’t avoid taking a shortstop in the first couple rounds. Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Starlin Castro… and yes, I’ve been including Castro in that group. He has power potential, though it seems more likely to come in 2013 than this year, but even 12 or 13 home runs along with his other numbers would place him squarely in the top five of shortstops, and at his age, he’d stay there for a while. As a matter of fact in mocks where I have a middle-infield spot and I have a late-first round selection, I’ve been taking two of those four and feeling great. Heck, if I get Hanley and Castro or Reyes, I can plug Hanley into third by mid-April and its even better.
Brandon Morrow, Francisco Liriano… Liriano is ALWAYS hard for me to write about because I own him every year, and I end up trading him every year, but I always come back. This year, he’s going WAY at the end of drafts, and I seem to be grabbing him repeatedly. He’s one of the more extreme risk/reward pitchers in baseball. Not many pitchers can strike out 10 per nine innings over a full season as a starter and go outside the top 30 of starting pitchers, but Morrow is doing that and, while I know his peripherals show existing issues, I’ll take the 200 Ks and hope for improvement in those pesky “from the stretch” situations he struggled so badly with last year.
BJ Upton is a name I keep grabbing. If you’ve read the blog in the last couple years, I’ve continually called both Upton boys overrated and over-valued because of their names, but Justin finally paid off and BJ wasn’t bad either last year. Not many guys can hit 25 home runs and 45 steals in a season and this guy can. He’s falling to the sixth or seventh round in some drafts and I love that value.
Tampa Bay and Washington each boast uber-hyped starting young starting pitchers (Matt Moore, Stephen Strasburg) But it’s the other ace-potential guys in those spots that I seem to be grabbing like a kid in a candy shop. Jeremy Hellickson didn’t post the strikeout numbers people wanted last year, and Jordan Zimmerman wore down in the second half on his way to an innings limit. Fortunately, both were predictable for their situations last season and both stand to improve significantly in 2012. Luckily, the hype around their rotation-mates are making them slip to delicious draft positions for bargain hunters.
If the Reds’Zack Cozart really is 100%, and earns the everyday shortstop job, he’s very high upside sleeper.
Don’t forget about Pedro Alvarez and Ian Stewart. I know we’ve been waiting for breakouts, and they may go late if not undrafted in shallow leagues, but either could hit 30 home runs. That’s the kind of pure power they possess.
Brandon Belt and Freddie Freeman are both ending up in my corner infield slot a lot because they’re not very exciting. No one will curse you for “stealing” either guy off the board, but their current draft position leaves plenty of room for upside, and even with normal progression for their age, they are worthwhile picks.
I still think Joe Mauer and Buster Posey are being drafted too late. And I’m letting someone else draft Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Carlos Beltran. I’d rather be a year early off the bandwagon than a year late.
Meanwhile, I see Adam Dunn falling to me a lot. I’ll take 25-30 home runs in the 20th round, thank you. And both Dustin Pedroia in the third and Kevin Youkilis in the fifth or sixth round are picks I see being more than worthwhile.
If you know me, you know I hate prospects. I hate reaching for over-hyped players because they are over-drafted, but deeper leagues shouldn’t sleep on Jacob Turner or Shelby Miller. Both will be in the running for a rotation spot out of spring training and even if they go to Triple-A, they should both be in the majors by July.
This goes against everything I believe in, but in some mocks, I’ve experimented with taking Bryce Harper at the back-end if he’s still there. The only reason is that his manager has openly said he would consider starting Harper in the majors if he earns a spot in the spring. While I don’t see that happening, if he rakes early on, I could see a May or June call-up and you don’t make that move unless you plan to play him. There will be ups and downs, but June->September could produce a decent average (expect .270, hope for .280), 15 home runs and maybe even 10 steals.
Finally, I can’t shake the feeling that the guys who take a chance on Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau will be well-rewarded.
As spring training gears up, I’ll start doing some Q&A, along with other fun preseason coverage. One last thought, keep an eye on the stretching out of Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman. If either could maintain control, there is immense strikeout potential in both.