Thanks to the voluntary efforts of 15 Touts, we have a six-round mock draft to discuss. Even though Tout Wars uses OBP instead of batting average, the participants were asked to draft a standard 5×5 leagues, assuming a seven-man reserve with FAAB. Here are the mockers, in order of selection:
1. Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman)
2. Sky Dombroske (Fantistics Insider Baseball, @SkyDombroske)
3. Joe Sheehan (Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, @joe_sheehan)
4. DJ Short (NBC Sports, @djshort)
5. Shelly Verougstraete (NBC Sports EDGE Baseball, @ShellyV_643)
6. Seth Trachtman (SethRoto.com, Yardbarker, @sethroto)
7. Michael Govier (FTN Fantasy, @mjgovier)
8. Justin Mason (Friends With Fantasy Benefits, @JustinMasonFWFB)
9. Joe Gallina (Fantasy Alarm, @joegallina)
10. Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @Scott_Pianowski)
11. Carlos Marcano (Triple Play Fantasy, @camarcano)
12. Frank Stampfl (SportsGrid, RotoExperts, @Roto_Frank)
13. Greg Jewett (The Athletic, @gjewett9)
14. Tim McLeod (Prospect361, @RunTMcP361)
15. Andy Andres (BaseballHQ, @sabermetrics101)
Here is the draft (right-click to enlarge in a separate tab):
Here are the comments from the Touts.
Fred Zinkie (Yahoo/Rotowire, @FredZinkieMLB): I would say that this is a surprise, but it’s worth noting that we have less clarity on the first round than I remember in recent seasons. It should not surprise us if next year we see a player picked 12th in one draft and 3rd in another. Once we get past Acuna, there are 10 or more names that could be pulled out of a hat.
Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): A little bemused by the top-3 catchers going 50-61-75. Not saying it’s wrong, but it is quite different from last season. Only 4 SPs in the first two rounds was interesting. Oneil Cruz 4-10 (54) is optimistic about Cruz’s recovery. Optimism likewise on Michael’s Alcantara pick at 6-9 (84), given the very real risk that Alcantara’s “flexor tendon” injury will be a precursor to TJS. I really though Justion M got a steal (no pun intended) with CJ Abrams at 5-8 (68); I thought he might go a little earlier. Closers also curious: After all the talk about grabbing the top guys early, the first out here wasn’t til 3-13 (43), and it was Edwin Diaz, who didn’t throw a pitch in 2023! The run started at 4-8 (53) and six more went from Clasé at 4-12 (57) through Doval at 5-14 (74). I’ll be curious to see what the managers who didn’t get in on the run do for saves later on.
Andy Behrens (Yahoo Fantasy Sports, @andybehrens): I definitely agree with Zinkie on the uncertain nature of the first round beyond Acuna. We can make reasonable arguments for maybe a dozen players to be taken with picks 2-5. I also feel as if Trea Turner is working his way back in the first round–and possibly the first half of the first round. As of this writing, he’s 11 for his last 23 with four homers and two steals. He’s headed for a 30-30 season (or awfully close to it) and he managed to save his batting average, too.
Jeff Barton (Scoresheet Baseball, @JeffScoresheet): Gotta like Dombroske’s OF – Julio Rodrigues, Harper and Trout. Trout has been really hurt by injuries in recent seasons, but sure seems like a great ‘gamble’ in round 5. And seeing Gausman go in round 2 is yet another reminder of how foolish the Giants (my favorite team) were to let him go before the 2022 season.
Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): After the volatility with starting pitching this year I’m a little surprised Framber Valdez lasted as long as he did – he’s been pretty consistent over the past 3 seasons, and the Astros figure to be among the league’s better offenses again next year. And I’m probably succumbing to recency bias, but I like both Trea Turner and Freddy Peralta to be drafted higher than they were here for a 15-teamer. Also, somewhat surprised that Judge didn’t go a bit sooner and Ohtani didn’t go a bit later.
Alan Harrison (The Fantasy Fix, @TheFantasyFix): Again, piggybacking on Fred’s initial thoughts, lots of coin flip bats following Acuña in the first round. I don’t hate the arms in the fourth or fifth round in this draft which leads me to believe I may be more inclined to stack a combination of infield/outfield bats early on and add arms periodically throughout the draft to build a staff.
Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, @jeffwzimmerman): None, all 90 players drafted are good and there seems to be a nice distribution of positions. The key now is to find out what positions and/or stats can’t be filled later in drafts and prioritize those positions and/or stats with these known good talents.
Scott Pianowski (Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, @Scott_Pianowski): When you draft a hitter in the first round, you should also love the offense that he’s tied to. Jose Ramirez is starting the back nine of his career and I hate what’s around him in Cleveland. I wouldn’t consider him in the Top 10-12 picks. (I also agree with the others who suggest Trea Turner is headed back to the first round.)
Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): The changing of the starting pitching guard is now complete. With Strider the 1st SP off the board and followed in subsequent round by pitchers like Luis Castillo, Zac Gallen, and George Kirby, the SP landscape has received a facelift.
Brad Johnson (Patreon BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): Not to be flippant, but it looks like a lot of very good players were taken. I don’t have much to say about this draft – everybody is going to be very happy about their 6-10 rounds next season. I’d love to see how the current fantasy landscape comps to past years because it sure feels like there are more star performers than I can ever remember. The draft order (early rounds) will be affected more by NFBC usage trends than player quality. I think we’ll see pitchers of both types pushed forward as compared to this draft.
Matt Williams (The Game Day, @MattWi77iams): I think the first round, other than Acuña is an interesting surprise in terms of likely parity. There does not seem to be a set “order” like there typically would. I feel like we could see the biggest disparity between drafts in the first round than we have in a long time.
Michael Govier (FTN Fantasy, @mjgovier): Jazz Chisholm in the 4th round is a surprise to me simply because he seems to be fairly brittle physically. He’s a dynamite talent with endless charisma, but that doesn’t mean much if he’s rarely available to play on the diamond. Also, Ha Seong Kim in the 4th round is cheap! He was an excellent player before he came to MLB who appeared to have a challenging transition in his first season, which is not unheard of for players who come over from the KBO and Japan. His peripherals and his talent combine to make him most likely a 2nd rounder at least in terms of production. I think by the time draft season rolls around next February, Kim will be a top 25 selection at worst.
Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm, @RotoBuzzGuy): That we are still giving Spencer Strider first-round love despite the collapses that occur towards the end of each half. That any starting pitchers are getting first-round love actually. Welcome back to the days where you can wait on pitching and need to boost that offense!
Ryan Hallam (Fighting Chance Fantasy, @FightingChance): I was a little surprised about the number of closers that were drafted in this six-round exercise, and also thought that starting pitching would go a little earlier. There are a few injury risks on here as well, Edwin Diaz, Jazz, O’Neil Cruz but overall, I thought it was a fine job by the drafters!
Brent Hershey (Baseball HQ, @BrentHQ): This was a standard 5×5 draft, but when Tout Wars (an OBP league) has its 2024 drafts, I expect Adley Rutschman to go earlier. Seems his combination of position and OBP is something that drafters in on-base formats will push higher in 2024.
CJ Kaltenbach (Fantasy Guru, @TheSeigeDFS): Given the depth and upside provided in the mid-late rounds at the catcher position I can’t see myself taking one inside the top 75 and seeing three was a big surprise. We also have seen a lot of breakout seasons from older players and figuring out if they are worth a top 100 pick will be interesting (Lane Thomas and Justin Steele the best examples of this.).
Carlos Marcano (Triple Play Fantasy, @camarcano): I think Abrams was a great pick where Justin took him, great value at that point and I was surprised he lasted that long. Also, I was very surprised I was able to get him that far, people are underestimating him.
Grey Albright (RazzBall, @razzball): Surprised/not surprised people are still drafting starting pitching high. Pitchers can be as fickle as they are and people continue to go back to them year after year. You can see on the Razzball Player Rater, starters between picks 100-200 last year were the most valuable crop of starters, and it’s like this every year. Yet — again with some stank — YET! people draft starters high every year. Like clockwork on a broken clock that’s right twice a day.
Eric Samulski (Rotoballer, @SamskiNYC): I think Ohtani going in the first is a bit of a surprise. He’s very likely to have TJ in the off-season and even if he makes a Bryce Harper type of recovery, you’re talking about missing 1-2 months of the season and not having his typical power right when he comes back. As a UT-only, I don’t see how he can be a first-round pick due to all of that
Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): Justin Steele in the 6th–bunch of non-believers!!! Andy A–why do you hate pitchers? 🙂
Ron Shandler (RonShandler.com, @RonShandler): I judge these premature exercises by looking for outliers. First, players whose 2023 breakouts alone were enough to jump them into early rounds. I see one in the first round, one in the second round, one in the third, and more and more as we go deeper into the draft. Those are high-risk speculations based on no track record other than 2023. I won’t own those guys – you only get one shot at early round cornerstone players. The flipside – players who’s disappointing 2023 pushed them out of these early ADPs. Poor Trea Turner! Even Goldy in the 4th round seems like some built-in profit. We are so reactive! Ya gotta fight recency bias.
Shelly Verougstraete (NBC Sports EDGE Baseball, @ShellyV_643): Sure, taking Strider with the fifth overall pick seems high but I liked how my next few rounds went. Unless Strider gets injured (which could happen!) he should easily finish with the most strikeouts next year. At least at the start of draft season the talk is to push down starting pitching so…zig while others zag!
Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): When I look at early drafts, mocks or otherwise, I care about the relative nature of the picks, not the absolute. Strider went fifth. I could care less. What interests me is he was considered the top starter. To be honest, I’m not likely to take a pitcher first, regardless of who is at the top, so I focus more on the later rounds. My motto is “draft the pitcher, not the round.” I’ll use some early drafts to set a target tier for my SP1. Sure, there will be an ADP ballparking when they’ll be available, but if the draft flow dictates jumping the ADP to get someone in my tier, I’ll do it. Conversely, if the flow indicates I can wait past the ADP, I’ll resist the temptation to take someone “better” than my tier and patiently wait until my tier is being drafted. Starting pitcher and closer are the obvious targets of this approach, though it can be applied to catchers, and last season, third baseman. In the past, middle infielders fit the mold.
Sara Sanchez (bleedcubbieblue.com, @BCB_Sara): It’s interesting to see the premier 2B pushed up equal to or even ahead of some of the premier 3B options, I think in previous years that was a little more tilted to the 3B side of the equation. Also, I thought starting pitching would be pushed up more here given how scarce it’s been and how difficult it’s been to have truly “set and forget” options at SP this year. So, I’ll be keeping an eye on drafts going forward to see if you can still get great options like Eury, Gilbert, Snell and Steele in the 5th/6th as draft season really picks up. Those look like incredible deals relative to pitching needs this season.
Kev Mahserejian (Fox Sports, @RotoSurgeon): Seeing Edwin Diaz drafted in Round 3 is somewhat baffling. The talent at full strength is undeniable but severe knee injuries are no joke, especially to his right/plant leg. Even with plenty of time between surgery and next season, the rehab process cannot fully guarantee his comfort on that leg mentally and/or physically. Several RPs afterwards are fair to also consider “elite” talents such as Josh Hader, Camilo Doval, and Devin Williams yet they’re available a full round if not more later despite stellar 2023 seasons. Projecting forward on Diaz is a massive unknown for my money.
Erik Halterman (Rotowire, @erik_halterman): I found it hard to be as confident as I wanted to be in the starting pitchers after the first couple rounds. That might be an inherent feature of drafting this early, but I think it’s a reflection of the fact that there’s been a lot of turnover on the mound this year with several top names getting old or injured. It also may reflect that offense jumped this year, so pitching numbers which looked like they merited an eighth-round selection this year might deserve a sixth-round pick next season. It might take a draft or two to reset those outdated intuitions.
Chris Towers (CBS Fantasy, @CTowersCBS): Oneil Cruz at 54th overall is pretty fascinating, seeing as it’s about two rounds higher than he was going last season. I don’t necessarily think it’s the wrong place to take him, but it’s awfully aggressive for a guy who has only played nine games this season. On the other hand, it might end up being a steal, given that Elly De La Cruz has many of the same strengths and weaknesses, and the one place he really looks like he has an edge on Cruz is SB — and we didn’t get to see what Cruz could do in this new environment. That’s going to be a fascinating one to watch.
Greg Jewett (The Athletic, @gjewett9): I had zero plans on taking so much pitching, but they fell into my wheelhouse, which may be a result of where I selected in this “mock”. In a money draft, I smash Yordan in the second, or even take Bryce Harper with 1B eligibility now, but selected Albies so I was out of my comfort zone. I planned on taking Triston Casas or Nolan Jones in the seventh. Getting Yordan sets a template of power. And Kev, Díaz already hitting high 90’s in side sessions, with Félix’s unknown UCL, the SwStr% dip by Hader and Doval, I am ok doing this, but each draft remains different. This exercise helps create what’s comfortable, what is not. But noting the ratio volatility in ME’s this year, those who never take pitching will be left behind.
Anthony Perri (Fantistics, @Anthony_Perri): The impact that MLB made in shortening the bases, eliminating the shift (and shortening the time between pitches?), had a measurable effect on starting pitchers in 2022. I think that was wisely reflected in this Tout primer draft, only FOUR starting pitchers in first 2 rounds!
Justin Mason (Friends With Fantasy Benefits, @JustinMasonFWFB): As a participant, I was surprised how deep the top tiers of talent there appear to be especially in pitching. I’m sure it will thin out as we lose pitchers in spring training but the pool feels pretty decent at the top in spite of losing a lot to injuries this year