Mock Draft – Panda and McCann

In the mock draft I’m doing with a bunch of fantasy bloggers, rounds four and five elapsed today, and I still feel good about my team.

My fourth pick was 54th overall, and I watched the players I coveted- most notably Mike Napoli and Ben Zobrist- get snagged just before my spot. That left a second starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, or a third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, among my most desirable options. Seeing a lot of good pitching still available and a dearth of good third basemen, I took Kung Fu Panda. My peers were unimpressed, several citing an intention to pick Panda a round or two later. I was quickly convinced that there were decent third base options I hadn’t considered, from Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis to Brett Lawrie and David Freese. When Grienke was chosen with the 57th pick, my regret was confirmed.

With the 59th overall pick, I had my eye on Brian McCann, a Napoli consolation prize and the best catcher in the National League, and Josh Johnson, a high-risk, high-upside pitcher with an ERA near 2- but in just 244 total innings- over the last two seasons. I went with McCann, to immediate praise, as there aren’t a lot of consistent four- to five-win catchers in the game. If I were selecting a real baseball team, I would take the catcher position very seriously, and McCann might be my first choice (though I would have been happy getting Matt Wieters or Alex Avila in a later round).

Here are a few of my favorite picks the other contestants made today:
1) Napoli going 42nd to Clave. On a rate basis, Napoli was the best hitter in the game in 2011, slashing .320/.414/.621 while catching 61 of the 113 games in which he played. If the Rangers make Napoli their full-time catcher in 2012, and he sneaks a start at first base or DH on off days, he could be among the league’s most valuable players.

2) Paul Konerko going 53rd to Nash. As Nash pointed out, Konerko’s AVG/HR/RBI numbers looked a lot like Albert Pujols’s in 2011. He did it in an extreme hitter’s park, he’s older than Pujols, and he doesn’t run or field as well, but offense is all that matters in fantasy, and to get Pujols lite 51 picks later is a bit of a steal. For further context, the next first baseman chosen was Mike Morse at #63.

3) Zack Greinke going 57th to Jon McMahon. Greinke was enigmatic in 2011, striking out a Major League-best 10.54 batters per nine innings, while walking just 2.36. However, the league hit .318 on balls they put in play against him, and they hit a home per nine innings, so his 3.83 ERA doesn’t match his peripherals. If he can keep the ball in the park, 2012 could be another 2009, when Greinke earned 9.3 fWAR by maintaining a 2.16 ERA over 229 innings.

4) Josh Johnson going 62nd to Pat Adair. If Johnson’s injury history bites him again, this could be a regrettable pick, but the upside is enormous. Johnson strikes out a batter an inning and never gives up home runs, and will anchor the staff of an exciting Miami team in 2012.

5) Ben Zobrist going 47th to Ryan Sendek. This may be a pedestrian fantasy pick, as Zobrist doesn’t fill up the scorebook in traditional ways, but he walks a lot, plays elite defense, and steals a lot of bases without getting caught, helping him to a remarkable 19.2 fWAR over the past three seasons.

It looks like I’ll be making about two picks a day for a while, and I still need a first baseman and a second baseman, among other positions. I’ll keep posting them here if I have the time.

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