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Tim's 5 picks in the MLB.com fantasy baseball mock draft will surprise you

By Tim Heaney

Zach Steinhorn of MLB.com's Fantasy 411 invited Nick and me to the blog's early mock draft, a 15-teamer.

Pittsburgh Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez
HR with flaws ... HR nonetheless

Oh, mocks, our bastion of experimentation, which is doubly true when you're drafting for 2014 when 2013's playoffs haven't yet concluded. All of these pick 'em parties should come with the details that are revealed here so the practice can also educate. Participants must properly explain context of why they picked so-and-so and not that other guy.

Comparing these to March activities is a fun way to reflect the changing marketplace. I'm one to alter my perspective -- if not on specific players, on how to read the board -- over time, though my opinion on commodities doesn't typically change without extreme circumstances. I just have an easier time knowing where to place them among my competitors' demands as spring approaches.

Anyway, the 14 luminaries against whom I competed gave a good measure of how the landscape stands heading into the "offseason" of fantasy.

I fell into Pick 11 of 15, a dead spot in terms of stability, and I took a route that I wouldn't have expected in recent years. We carried on for five rounds:

01.11: Adam Jones, OF, BAL
His low walk rate bugs me, and he's not an entrenched 20-steal guy, but he can improve both. He's just 28 years old. Even if he's reached his peak (I don't think he's maxed out just yet), his power and established accompanying stats elevate him above the fringe first-round options here.
02.05: Alex Rios, OF, TEX
I'm buying the consolidation of Alex Rios' skills, even if his swipes level off next year. He enjoyed hitting in Arlington -- who doesn't? -- and, as has been noted by several participants in this draft at one point, he's shedding the every-other-year label, thanks to alterations of both his mechanics and psyche. His age doesn't scare me yet. I considered Jacoby Ellsbury last round but passed knowing I likely could nab a more balanced line in the second stanza from someone who puts the ball in play nearly as often. In Jones and Rios, I've pieced together two power-speed threats at the most insurable offensive position.
03.11: Shin-Soo Choo, OF, FA but hoping CIN
The CI lot ... carbon copies of tepid or flawed players. I'm not ready to take a SP yet. I thought about taking my brother in Paleo, but man, despite how spritely I've run for the last 1.5 years, I'm not sure if Hunter Pence can swipe 22 bags again.
Alas, someone around his age that has rattled off 20-plus thefts and 16-plus homers in each of his last four full seasons is Shin-Soo Choo. I'm aware that wherever he signs may sway the runs or homers column, but fun fact: 11 of Choo's 21 taters this past year came when he wasn't playing in GABP. (I also now have 3 outfielders through 3 rounds. Times have changed).
04.05: Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX
Had Trumbo all lined up. Thanks, Todd [Zola].
Other corner infield options still bore me. There's one other MI that intrigues me, but I'll continue with my power-speed game. I don't want to bank on such potential from middle and late-rounders. Though he took a stats dip and might be leaving Arlington, as long as Kinsler is wearing a Rangers uniform, I'll value him here. Ask me again in March, though.
05.11: Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT
It's approaching my wheelhouse for pitching, but not just yet. I'll tolerate Alvarez's plate-discipline flaws at Pick 71 because he arguably holds the best established power left. I would've taken Mark Trumbo last round had he been available. I'll repeat that philosophy for someone with eligibility at a position with numerous intriguing fliers left but, in my opinion, drops off in tangible offerings after Alvarez. Expect 30ish homers. Pray to the cruel fantasy deities for a .250 BA. Celebrate anything above that. Time to build up BA in my subsequent picks!

I would've considered a starting pitcher (Zack Greinke types) in Round 6, Pick 80 overall, but picking out promising SP skills in the middle and late rounds continues to be one of my favorite activities. I understand the established credo to get top-flight pitching as dictated by the masses in NFBC-type games, but I'm not blindly falling in line when there'll be so many upside candidates at this abundant position later on.

Though taking three outfielders wasn't my plan, it's a direction I've more strongly considered in the last season or two. The dollar value in the HR-SB combo that each returned figured to be pretty secure. I also surmised that by the time I completed this exercise, there were values left at other positions that were worth the purchase with little risk.

Also, fantasy folks -- including past versions of me -- talk about the amount of outfielders you can find on the waiver wire during the season and how you should look at other positions. That may be true, and I draft some leagues in that way because my previous years of experiences dictate to do so, but in deeper contests like this one, shouldn't you buy into the position more as part of your starting lineup?

That increased insurance should aid your confidence in buying statistics from the group. You know you'll have an easier time replacing them, and the replacement value for infielders (except maybe first base), too frequently leaves plenty to be desired. You should be rotating risky chips that require minimal commitment, not hoping your high-priced pieces with smaller safety nets in the form of replacements don't get hurt.

In my next few blogs, I'll go over some of the bargain plays about which I hinted this time around. For now, I'll read all the comments about how poorly this team turned out.


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