Monday night, RotoWire colleague Paul Sporer and I teamed up for the third consecutive year to draft in Mixed LABR. We finished in the top half of year one and the not-so-top half last year thanks to three of our top-five picks – Carlos Correa, Carlos Carrasco and Yasiel Puig – not doing as well as we had hoped. This year, we had the 10th spot in the draft and did nearly a two-hour podcast (look for episode 426) to discuss what we wanted to do throughout the draft. Here is how pick-by-pick went:
1.10: Trea Turner - As we planned the draft, we thought Bryce Harper would be the guy coming here, and we would have been very happy with him. We also said that if Turner was there at 10 and Harper was not there, we were going to take Turner. Dr. Roto made the decision for us and we once again grabbed the helium-filled second-year player in hopes that it works out better than it did last year for us. We saw what Turner was capable of last year, and in a full season believe he has the potential to hit 20 homers, steal 50 bases, score 100-plus runs and hit for a high average. I am more excited about this pick than I was Correa last year because I think Turner is better and in an ideal lineup/manager situation in Washington. He will also have three-position eligibility after the first week of the season, which is a nice bonus.
2.6: Joey Votto - The plan all along was to double up on hitters even though four starting pitchers were already gone in the first 25 picks. The only other guy we even discussed was Giancarlo Stanton, but that health risk was too great here. With Votto, we are getting five-category production at first base and have an excellent base for batting average, which is an area we historically struggle to draft. Votto was the fourth first baseman off the board. The risk is that nobody pitches to him and the jackrabbits in front of him cannot get on base, but that massive second half last year (.408/.490/.668) under similar circumstances is really tough to ignore.
3.10: David Price - Last year, we took Carlos Carrasco here as we loved the skills and projected a Cy Young for him. We did not project two injuries for him, and that pick failed us. This year, we wanted a 200-inning staff anchor who would help us across the board. On the pre-show, we discussed Price, Justin Verlander and Johnny Cueto here. All three were still on the board and Paul even mentioned Chris Archer, as well. I have reservations with Archer because of the consecutive heavy workload seasons and the fact he is disrupting his spring with extra work in the World Baseball Classic. The Cuba trip last year was enough of a disruption for him that he stumbled out of the gate, and I have similar concerns this year. Price may still have ERA issues, but everything else is solid and he should once again fall into a lot of wins for a loaded Boston team.
4.6: Ian Desmond - He went 20/20/.285 in Texas last year and now gets to head to an even better hitting environment that should help maintain the high hit rate that fueled last year's numbers. He was awful in the second half, but in the end he still came up as a five-category producer in the outfield and a second source of steals to go along with Turner. We think his numbers are at least repeatable if not beatable in 2017, and we did not even discuss another player in this spot. Desmond was a fourth-round target for us from the get-go, so we were happy he was still here for us to select.
5.10: Hanley Ramirez - We were this far into the draft and had yet to draft a second cleanup hitter that we could look at for a 30/100 season. Ramirez was someone we both liked in our pre-game podcast and whom I wrote about his hitting changes last summer and how it led to him hitting 26 of his 30 homers after June 15. He will replace David Ortiz in the lineup and should have many RBI opportunities in front of him this year and DH/1B should keep him healthier than the outfield did. If you look at the selections around this one, nobody else fit that bill. Paul did mention possibly ending our catcher drought in this draft over the years with Gary Sanchez, but we agreed we were not comfortable assuming two sophomore risks with our first five picks.
6.6: Ken Giles - Again, this is one of those picks Paul and I were in lock step agreement on and who we hoped would be here in the sixth round. Giles was as good as any closer in baseball once April ended last year, and while this is a reach by ADP, as "experts" you have to put your money where your mouth is. If we think he is the best closer when we want to take a closer, we take him. As it were, he was the fourth closer off the board as Jansen (5.8), Chapman (6.3) and Britton (6.4) were taken in front of us. Another closer was not taken until Mark Melancon a full round later, but we still do not regret this pick. Forty saves and 100 strikeouts are achievable. Added bonus – we share the same birthday.
7.10: Addison Russell - This was the first divergence of the draft between Paul and myself. He loves Russell almost as much as his dog Charlotte, so he was already lobbying for this pick as soon as the Giles one posted. I have made it quite clear that I love Adam Eaton equally as much but Russell won out. Jose Peraza went immediately afterward and then shortstop dried up a bit. After Peraza, Todd Zola grabbed Adam Eaton and I threw a shoe across the room of my hotel. I like Russell, but Eaton would have been a better fit to help us further build on our average and giving us more speed and runs.
8.06: Danny Duffy - Three pitcher picks into the draft and we once again have three American League pitchers. We never plan it this way, but it happens every season. We took the starter while others were drafting relievers around us and felt Duffy was the safest skills on the board at this slot. The next five starters taken after him were Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Kenta Maeda, Rick Porcello and Rich Hill. We obviously like Duffy better than those five guys even if he is in the American League.
9.10: Evan Gattis - In the pre-draft podcast, we loathed about our lack of power last year and how we finished with a terrible offense because homers and RBI were absent from a lot of our lineup. We also discussed just how poorly we have drafted at catcher. Against those two backdrops, drafting Gattis here was a no-brainer. He went in the seveth round of the FSTA draft last month, so we were surprised he was still here in the ninth. We took him as the fifth catcher off the board and kicked off a bit of a catcher run as J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal and Salvador Perez went just after our selection. The increased playing time will hurt Gattis's batting average, but the homers and RBI should be there for him in what is going to be a stacked Houston lineup.
10.06: James Paxton - This was one of our top pitching targets and our fear here is if we did not grab him now, he would not make it back to us. I have made no secret about my fandom for Paxton and his improvements last season. Plus, he has an improved outfield defense behind him, and I think he is on the verge of more greatness in 2017 as he continues to work out of the new armslot and use all four pitches. Surprisingly, Paul was in agreement and did not even push either Kevin Gausman nor Michael Fulmer, both of whom went shortly after this selection.
11.10: Logan Forsythe - This was another dually agreed pick by us, even if we had to reach for it. Forsythe is a multi-category producer who will hit first or second for the Dodgers and someone we both feel is a $20 player in 2017. Second base is deep, and he was the 12th second baseman off the board if you count Turner there instead of the outfield. Devon Travis and Dustin Pedroia went shortly after this selection, so we felt good about getting the guy we wanted as it was unlikely he would have made it back to us in the next round.
12.06: Ender Inciarte - This has been our unlucky round the last two seasons. In 2015, we were light on saves and decided to chase Ken Giles in hopes the Phillies would trade Papelbon sooner rather than later and we would have a dominant closer. Instead, we had a dominant middle reliever who ended up with 15 saves. Last year, we went after Carter Capps and then he got hurt a few weeks later and never threw a pitch for us. This year, the main goal here was to not go get Nate Jones and make the same mistake for a third consecutive season. Instead, we went after another leadoff guy who will help in steals, average and runs. Inciarte was excellent in those areas once he returned from injury last year and when Kevin Kiermaier was taken two picks in front of us, it made this decision even easier. Inciarte will hit for a higher average and likely steal more bases than Kiermaier will.
13.10: Joc Pederson - This got us back in our pursuit of more power, even if it was a guy we were a bit sour on in the pre-draft podcast. Pederson has had his issues against lefties and the Dodgers addition of Franklin Gutierrez could mean Pederson is not going to get more playing time this year. That is a good thing for his average, but it could hold down his counting category production. That said, we still think he has mid-20 homer upside in that situation. Yulieski Gurriel was the only other name we talked about here, and we thought perhaps he would slide down a bit more but we judged that one incorrectly as he went on the way back to us.
14.06: Jim Johnson - Doing what we did in round 12 allowed us to wait for an actual closer in this round rather than speculative one. Johnson made improvements last year in his strikeout rate while not losing his groundball rate. The Braves brought him back on a new deal, so the job is his unless he stumbles out of the gate as poorly as he did last year. Like Giles, once April was in the rearview mirror, Johnson was excellent the rest of the way. We think Giles and Johnson give us 70 saves and enough to stay competitive in the category for the first time in our LABR history.
15.10: Blake Snell - This was not someone we had even discussed in our draft plans, but we did need another starting pitcher and his upside was the most attractive option here. His ADP is 235, and we selected him with the 220th selection and honestly did not debate another pitcher. Michael Pineda and Taijuan Walker were names we discussed for SP4 in our pre-planning, but neither are left-handed and only one pitches in the American League. I'm joking with the last sentence, but here we are with four lefty AL starters 15 picks into the draft.
16.06: Brandon Drury - Gurriel was the third baseman we wanted, but after we lost out on him before the 14th-round pick, we decided we could wait a little longer to address the position and this was the fallback option. Drury hit .296/.352/.469 in the second half of the season and comes with 3B/OF eligibility and is going to gain 2B eligibility early this season. Yangervis Solarte was another name we discussed but instead went with the guy with flexibility and the better home ballpark.
17.10: Corey Dickerson - Many of the same points stated above for Pederson apply with Dickerson. He is going to be platooned, but limited exposure to lefties is a good thing for him. Once he adjusted to the AL pitching, he hit .260 and had plenty of power to show off. We wanted more power here and thought he was a better power option than Matt Holliday or filling our UT spot with Solarte.
18.06: Ivan Nova - Finally, a NL starting pitcher! Nova was one of our mutually loved late-round targets since he looked terrific once going to Pittsburgh last year. The strikeouts surged, the groundball rate stayed the same, the walks disappeared and he could be this year's JA Happ for the Buccos. The name depresses his value but Nova is going to earn many people some profits this year, and we went 10 spots ahead of his ADP so we did not risk losing him on the way back. Dellin Betances and Nate Jones went shortly after this selection and the next starters selected were Collin McHugh, Alex Wood and Joe Ross and then Taijuan Walker. We still like Nova better than all four but did want to get Walker later.
19.10: Joe Panik - In 2014 he hit .305 with a .343 BABIP. In 2015, he hit .312 with a .330 BABIP. Last year, he hit .239 with a .245 BABIP. We wanted average help and decided to take a chance on a bounce-back from a guy who has hit for average throughout most of his career until the luck dragons gave him a very hard time last year. We did not discuss another name for middle infield here as he was always a late-round bounce-back target for us.
20.06: Jharel Cotton - This is not really a bold move (see what I did there?) as his ADP is 261 and we took him with the 306th pick of the draft. We were honestly stunned he was still sitting out there at this point given everyone knows Paul loves Cotton, and it is hard not to when you watch an outing such as this:
We don't care if he is in the AL; at this point of the draft, we were thrilled to get this kind of swing-and-miss stuff to add to our strikeouts. I know starting pitching is deep, but for a guy like this to fall three full rounds below his ADP is surprising.
21.10: Josh Reddick - Again, apply the same defense made with Pederson and Dickerson here. Reddick may hit for the highest average of the group but there is a bit of market inefficiency for these strong-side platoon guys this year. We wanted to add more power without completely hurting our average and thought Reddick was the best option left on the table in the best situation. We discussed a similar player in Michael Saunders, but the presence of being in the Astros lineup and new ballpark configuration won out for us.
22.06: Alex Cobb - Cobb's ADP is 311, so he only fell 10 spots to us, but we were still surprised he was out there at this point of the draft. He had September and the offseason to shake out the rust and while he may not be 180-inning pitcher, he should be able to give us rather safe skills for a SP6 at this phase of the draft. Brandon Finnegan was another name we considered here, but this pick felt safer because of the better command and ballpark.
23.10: Yan Gomes - It was not our intention to once again wait for a second catcher, but when other targets went earlier than expected, the rest of the group all looked the same. In the end, we ended up with a starting catcher with one of the final six picks of the regular draft. Second catchers come with a ton of risk, but they rarely come with the kind of playing time that Gomes should get. His ADP is 313 and he is the 24th-ranked catcher in terms of ADP and we got him at 340 as the 28th catcher off the board.
Reserves - Mitch Haniger, Steve Pearce, Wilmer Flores, Tyler Anderson, Ben Revere, Luis Valbuena.
Paul had to jet at this point of the draft, so I made all the reserve picks. The goal was to get players with upside or to shore up some areas of deficiency. Haniger and Pearce currently lack starting positions, but that could change in camp. Pearce and Rogers Centre are a match made in heaven, and I think he has another 20-homer season to him. Wilmer Flores gives up some insurance if Joe Panik hits .240 again as Flores can at least do that, but do it with some power. Tyler Anderson is a stream starter for us when he is on the road. Valbuena is depth in case Drury does not play out and Revere's speed was too tempting to pass on in the reserves as we like him to bounce back this year. The other names I almost took here were Brad Ziegler and Carl Edwards Jr. to speculate on saves, but given our past history of not having enough offense, decided to make the bench more bats and worry about FAABing the saves later.