Mock Fantasy Draft – I’ll Start With Tulo

I’m pleased to announce that I’m participating in a mock draft with several bloggers, most of whom specialize in fantasy baseball. You can see the details here. While most of these guys will pick their teams based on traditional stats like batting average, RBI, wins, and saves, I’m picking my team based on real life. By focusing on value metrics like Runs Created+ and xFIP, and, of course, both versions of WAR, I intend to draft the team that would perform the best over a real baseball season.

In the 14-player league, I was given the third pick, which afforded me the opportunity to take Troy Tulowitzki, the first player on my board. While Tulo has had some recent injury problems, he plays at an elite level offensively and defensively, as evidenced by the 18.5 fWAR he has earned in just 416 games over the past three seasons. If he plays 155 games in 2012, I see him as an 8-win MVP candidate. Even if the injury bug strikes again, he still towers over his positional peers like no other player in the game, particularly with Hanley Ramirez likely moving to third base.

I’ll include a brief write-up of all my picks in this space, but since I don’t pick again until the 26th overall pick, I’ll list the top ten names on my board here:

1. Tulowitzki

2. Evan Longoria– Another injury risk, but Longoria was perhaps the best player in baseball in September and, like Tulowitzki, is without peer at his position, third base.

3. Matt Kemp– The best player in the NL last season, Kemp has his sights on 50 homers and 50 steals in 2012. This fantasy league doesn’t differentiate between center fielders and corner outfielders, but real baseball does, so Kemp is immensely valuable no matter how we rate his defense in center.

4. Miguel Cabrera– The best hitter in the game is either Albert Pujols, who moves to the tougher league and will play this season at (at least) age 32, Jose Bautista, who came back to Earth in the second half in 2011 and may suffer further from increased scrutiny of alleged sign stealing at Rogers Centre, or Cabrera. Cabrera’s fWAR since 2009: 5.3, 6.3, 7.3. At 29, another step forward is not out of the question.

5. Joey Votto– The best hitter in the National League. As close to a seven-win guarantee as there is.

6. Pujols– Don’t get me wrong- Pujols will still rake in the AL.

7. Adrian Gonzalez– Yeah, first base is pretty deep, which is why none of these guys is in my top three. Gonzalez mastered the opposite field single at Fenway Park. It’s hard for a lefty to hit a lot of homers in Boston, but if he finds Pesky’s Pole this year, the sky’s the limit.

8. Roy Halladay– Probably the best pitcher in either league, Halladay is almost certainly the safest bet for 240+ solid innings.

9. Clayton Kershaw– If I took park effects into consideration, I’d expect bigger things from Kershaw than Halladay this season. By pitching nearly as well as Halladay in 2011, Kershaw stole the pitching triple crown, due in large part to cavernous Dodgers stadium and the other California parks in the NL West.

10. Felix Hernandez– This is the one player in my top ten who may still be around when my next pick comes. The best pitcher in the AL is either Justin Verlander, who is due for some regression after outpitching his 2.99 FIP by more than half a run, CC Sabathia, who guarantees a ton of innings and was hit-unlucky last season, or King Felix, who had an xFIP almost identical to Verlander’s in 2011 despite what seemed to be a late season lapse in concentration, with his team again hopelessly out of contention. With a little motivation (via Prince Fielder in a Mariners uniform, Felix in a contender’s uniform, or some other unforeseen circumstance), I see him returning to the top of his game in 2012.

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