Our staff recently held its first mock draft for the 2018 season, and you can check out the entire board here.
But what did our writers learn from the mock, what surprised them, and how did they feel their teams turned out?
Eric Karabell: Each draft I’ve participated in so far has seen a different first round, and on this first ESPN mock of the season it felt like it was a subtle race to secure someone from the top tier of four starters. I didn’t consider a pitcher at the third pick, but they didn’t last long and certainly didn’t make it back to me at my next pick. It’s so interesting. Look, if you want Clayton Kershaw anytime after the second pick, do it. The case can be made at No. 3! I decided for this format I wanted Mookie Betts third. That’s where the draft really begins.
Later in the draft I did my usual thing, seeking value, getting a decent base of innings, waiting on saves, loading up on offense and then seeking more value. Don’t know why nobody seemed to want the likes of Kyle Hendricks, Nomar Mazara, Brett Gardner and Mark Melancon, but I did! It’s not “reaching” for Yoan Moncada or Aaron Sanchez if you’re a believer. And never worry about any site’s ADP. Time will tell, I suppose.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: This mock occurred early in spring training, in a season when many free agents remained on the market well beyond the opening of camps, and those players still without teams stood out. Yes, there’s great risk that Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb will end up in unfavorable situations for their fantasy value, but aren’t the odds also at least good that each will wind up in roles that will give them fighting chances at repeating (or at least approaching) their 2017 value?
We’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks, but Arrieta went No. 142 overall, roughly four rounds beyond his ranking and 49 spots beneath his 2017 Player Rater finish; Holland went 185th, two rounds beyond his ranking and 123 spots beneath his Player Rater finish; Lynn went 229th, nearly five rounds beyond his ranking and 117 spots beneath his Player Rater finish; and Cobb went 228th, three rounds beyond his ranking and 92 spots beneath his Player Rater finish. I don’t think these were unreasonable draft valuations, but they also probably reside on the lower end of the scale. In short, I wouldn’t wait beyond those price points.
AJ Mass: What are mock drafts for? They’re for trying out strategies you might not be willing to risk using if this were a “for real” league. I’ve never before seen what my pitching staff might be if I waited until Round 10 to take my first pitcher — and quite frankly, I’m surprised at how competitive this particular team has a chance to be.
If I had caved one round sooner, I could have had Masahiro Tanaka as the foundation of this staff, but as it stands, I have six SP with 200-K potential and every one of my hitters could end up with at least 20 HR — should things break the right way — to go along with 10 out of 15 position players who could end the season with double-digit steals.
The upshot is, while I might not wait this long to take my first pitcher in every rotisserie-based league I participate in, I’m also not going to sweat it if, 100 picks in, I haven’t yet broken the seal on the position. There are a lot of arms out there to be had.
Kyle Soppe: This mock draft reinforced what I thought might be the case … you need outfielders and pitchers. The standard ESPN roster requires you to roster a boatload of each, so there is the natural urge to grab one or two of them and believe that you can fill in the holes later, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season. Contrary to AJ’s take on things, the pitchers I truly feel comfortable with evaporated after the first pick of Round 8 and the outfielders I consider viable starters ran out shortly thereafter.
Those may not sound like “early” endpoints for starter-worthy talent, but considering that you need to play at least five outfielders and will want to roster at least a handful of starting pitchers, these positions are shallower than most assume. I’m honing my research over the next month on infielders: I’m going to need to hit on them after taking OFs and SPs with regularity in the first 10 rounds.
Leo Howell: I wrote up Shohei Ohtani as a “bust” in a recent article, so why would I then take him in a mock? Would I ever actually take the much-hyped rookie in a real draft?
Maybe. I wanted to test my assumptions. And all-in-all, I think I already softened my stance on the potential “Babe Ruth” for the 21st century.
After all, if my choice at starting pitcher is between him and Luis Castillo, I am willing to roll the dice on either, knowing that certainty just isn’t there with these players. Castillo is just as unproven as Ohtani, and doesn’t offer the obvious versatility that Ohtani does.
Sure, there are concerns about workload, but if all I wanted was security of innings, I’d have selected Jon Lester … a player I’ve blindly rostered several years in a row now, including last year’s incredible disappointment.
As AJ said above, mocks are about testing new strategies and seeing what works and how you feel about it. And I can confidently say now that, if he falls to the right area of a draft, I’m willing to take Ohtani. Now the question becomes: How high am I willing to go for the Angels’ new star? I’ll need another few mocks to find out.
Toronto Blue Jays finalizing trade for New York Mets’ Steven Matz
Matz, a 29-year-old left-hander, agreed to a $5.2 million, one-year deal with the Mets in December.
That deal came after he had the poorest of his six seasons, going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA while earning $1,851,852 in prorated pay from a $5 million salary. He was dropped from the rotation after starting 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in five starts, then made three relief appearances along with a spot start.
Matz is 31-41 with a 4.35 ERA over 107 career starts and five relief appearances.
Hank Aaron remembered at funeral by Bill Clinton, Bud Selig, others
ATLANTA — The Hammer made one last trip to the spot where he hit No. 715.
After a nearly three-hour funeral service Wednesday that featured two former presidents, a long-time baseball commissioner and a civil rights icon, the hearse carrying Hank Aaron’s body detoured off the road bearing his name to swing through the former site of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
That’s where Aaron broke an iconic record on April 8, 1974, eclipsing the home run mark established by Babe Ruth.
The stadium was imploded in 1997 after the Braves moved across the street to Turner Field, replaced by a parking lot for the new ballpark. But the outer retaining wall of the old stadium remains, along with a modest display in the midst of the nondescript lot that marks the exact location where the record-breaking homer cleared the left-field fence.
A steady stream of baseball fans have been stopping by the site — comprising a small section of fence, a wall and a baseball-shaped sign that says “Hank Aaron Home Run 715” — since “Hammerin’ Hank” died Friday at age 86. The fence is covered with flowers, notes and baseball memorabilia.
Fittingly, Aaron’s funeral procession went by the display on the way to his burial at South-View Cemetery, the oldest Black burial ground in Atlanta and resting place for prominent civil rights leaders such as John Lewis and Julian Bond.
The police-escorted line of cars passed near the gold-domed Georgia state capitol, went under the tower that displayed the Olympic torch during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, and headed down Hank Aaron Drive.
At the bottom of a hill, the procession took a sharp right turn toward the site of the former stadium. Aaron’s flower-covered hearse and all the vehicles that followed did a loop through the circular parking lot, which covers the footprint of the cookie-cutter stadium that became home of the Braves after they moved from Milwaukee in 1966.
It was a touching tribute that capped off several days of remembrances for one of baseball’s great players. The Braves held a memorial ceremony Tuesday at their current home, suburban Truist Park.
The funeral service touched as much on Aaron’s life beyond the field as it did his unparalleled baseball accomplishments, honoring his business acumen, charitable donations, and steadfast determination to provide educational opportunities for the underprivileged.
“His whole life was a home run,'” former President Bill Clinton said. “Now he has rounded the bases.”
Clinton said the two became close friends after Aaron endorsed him during the 1992 presidential campaign, when he pulled out a narrow victory in Georgia. Clinton had been the last Democrat to win the state until Joe Biden edged Donald Trump in November.
“For the rest of his life, he never let me forget who was responsible for winning,” Clinton quipped, drawing a few chuckles during the mostly somber ceremony. “Hank Aaron never bragged about anything — except carrying Georgia for me in 1992.”
Bud Selig, who was commissioner of Major League Baseball for more than two decades and another close friend of Aaron’s, said one of his fondest memories was being at Milwaukee’s County Stadium as a fan for the pennant-clinching homer that sent the Braves to the 1957 World Series.
“The only ticket I could get was an obstructed-view seat in the bleachers behind a big, metal post,” the 86-year-old Selig said. “The image of the great Aaron, deliriously happy, being hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates and carried off the field is indelibly imprinted in my memory.”
Andrew Young, a top lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil right movement and a former Atlanta mayor, said Aaron helped transform his adopted hometown into one of America’s most influential cities.
The Braves moved to the Deep South during an era of intense racial strife, Young pointed out, but having one of the game’s greatest Black players helped ease some of the tensions.
Atlanta continued its explosive growth, eventually landing such major sporting events as the Olympics, multiple Super Bowls and World Series, as well as numerous college sports championships.
“Just his presence, before he hit a hit, changed this city,” Young said. “We’ve never been the same.”
Only about 50 people attended the funeral service because of COVID-19 restrictions. Other sent videotaped messages, including another former president, Jimmy Carter.
Remembering his tenure as governor of Georgia, the 96-year-old Carter joked that after the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce gave Aaron a new Cadillac, he followed up with “a $10 tag” to go on the vehicle. It said “HLA 715,” a nod to the initials for Henry Louis Aaron.
The two became close friends and even took vacation trips to Colorado with their wives. In one pursuit, at least, Carter was the better athlete.
“Hank and I both learned how to ski together,” Carter said. “He skied fairly well. I was a little bit better than that on skis.”
A longtime Braves fan, Carter noted that he was at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium the night Aaron hit his iconic home run.
On Wednesday, the Hammer went there for the final time.
Reports — New York Yankees agree with reliever Darren O’Day on 1-year, $2.5 million deal
The deal includes player and club options for 2022 and is subject to a successful physical, according to reports.
O’Day takes the spot vacated when the Yankees traded right-hander Adam Ottavino to Boston on Monday, a move that cut $7.15 million from New York’s payroll. O’Day figures to join left-hander Zack Britton and right-hander Chad Green as the primary setup men for closer Aroldis Chapman.
O’Day, 38, was 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in 16⅓ innings over 19 games last year with Atlanta, striking out 22 and walking five while allowing eight hits. While his fastball averaged just 86 mph, his low arm angle creates deception; right-handed hitters batted .143 (7-for-49) off him with one home run, by Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, the leadoff batter of O’Day’s final appearance of the season. Left-handed hitters were 1 for 10.
He became a free agent when Atlanta declined a $3.25 million option, triggering a $250,000 buyout.
O’Day is a 13-year major league veteran, going 40-19 with a 2.51 ERA and 600 strikeouts and 158 walks in 576⅔ innings for the Los Angeles Angels (2008), New York Mets (2009), Texas (2009-11), Baltimore (2012-18) and Braves (2019-20).
He was an All-Star in 2015, when he had a 1.52 ERA and six saves while striking out 82 in 65⅓ innings, but he missed the final two months of the 2018 season with a strained left hamstring and the first five months of 2019 with a strained right forearm sustained during spring training.
O’Day made $833,333 in prorated pay last year from a $2.25 million salary, down from a $31 million, four-year contract he signed with Baltimore ahead of the 2016 season. His wife, Elizabeth Prann, is a correspondent for HLN and CNN, formerly of Fox News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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