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Many experts use mock drafts to experiment and try different strategies. I tend to treat them as a real draft. I have been doing more draft champions leagues that we play out for the season than mock drafts this year, but wanted to hop in a mock draft with the Tout Wars mixed league draft two weeks away as I go for my third consecutive title.
I participated in a 15-team, 5x5 roto draft on Tuesday night. Tout Wars is similar except they use on-base percentage instead of average. I had the fifth pick in the mock draft and I'll break down my thinking as I make the picks.
Round 1: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt helps in all five categories. I don't expect 32 stolen bases like he put up last season, but he had 21 two years ago and I will take 15-20. He hit at least .300 in three straight seasons before batting .297 last year. The Diamondbacks had some injuries last season and a healthy A.J. Pollock will improve the lineup. After 24 home runs in 2016, I look for 28-32.
Round 2: 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
This was not part of the plan at all. I wanted A.J. Pollock but in almost every draft I have seen, Pollock goes in the middle-to-late third round. Lesson learned. We say it often, but if you really like a player, take him because all it takes is one other person to have the same thoughts you do and he's gone. Pollock went two picks after I took Freeman. That's not to say I don't like Freeman, but taking two players at the same position, outside of outfield since we start five, is something I don't do. Freeman finally had the power breakout last season. He hit a career-high 34 home runs and boosted his fly ball rate to 40.5 percent. He is a line drive machine with a career mark of 27.2 percent. He had a career-high hard hit rate of 43.5 percent. Freeman is 27 and in his prime. The Braves were also one of the better offenses in the second half last season. Atlanta is playing in a new home ballpark, and we won't know how it will play. Still, Freeman can hit anywhere.
Round 3: SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
I wanted Nelson Cruz but he went two picks before it was my turn to draft. Lindor doesn't do anything great, but he's solid across the board. He is hitting .306 in his first 257 games and had 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases last season. Lindor is slated to hit third in a good lineup.
Round 4: OF Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
Polanco played through a few injuries last season and batted .258 with 22 home runs, 86 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He is 25 and entering his fourth season. Polanco had a 24 percent line drive rate and a 35.7 percent hard hit rate, both of which were increases of five percent from the previous year. We haven't seen the best yet. I didn't reach for any speed guys and have around 60 stolen bases through four rounds.
Round 5: SP Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Ideally, I would like to get one starting pitcher in the first few rounds of a 15-team league. I was hoping for Carlos Carrasco, but he was gone. Martinez is only 25 and had a 3.01 ERA in 2014 and 3.04 last season. Martinez has a 54.5 percent ground ball rate and a 27.8 percent hard hit rate. If he can improve against left handers, he can take the next step.
Round 6: OF Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
I was thrilled to get Upton here. I couldn't click fast enough. He was an excellent fit for my team. I had excellent batting average with my first three picks and can absorb a .246 average if Upton is in the same range as last season. Upton started horribly in his new home last season, but exploded over the second half. He hit 22 of his 31 home runs in the final 68 games. I am hoping Upton hits fifth for more RBI chances. He can also steal 8-12 bases.
Round 7: SP Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers
Maeda was impressive in his first season with the Dodgers. He had a 3.48 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.17 K/9. 2.56 BB/9 and an 11.6 percent swinging strike rate.
Round 8: RP Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
In a 15-team league, I plan to get one safe closer and figure out the rest with late-round picks and the waiver wire. I don't want to overspend on a closer that could lose the job. Osuna had 36 saves last season in his first year as a full-time closer.
Round 9: 3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
I really wanted Justin Turner, but he went late in the last round two picks after I took Osuna. Longoria fell in this draft and is coming off a career-high 36 home runs along with 98 RBIs.
Round 10: SP Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles
Gausman has the tools and put it together in the second half last season. In 93 innings, he had a 3.10 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and a 92:28 K:BB ratio. Home runs are an issue he needs to figure out and it could be difficult in Camden Yards. He allowed 28 home runs in 179.2 innings.
Round 11: OF Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels
Calhoun went from 26 home runs in 2015 to 18 last season, but he improved his contact rate, walk rate, fly ball rate and hard hit rate. If Calhoun hits in front of Mike Trout, it's an added bonus. Expect Calhoun to get back to 25 home runs.
Round 12: C Matt Wieters, Washington Nationals
The move to the Nationals will be a good one for Wieters, especially if the team deals Derek Norris. Wieters hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations he had as a prospect, but he can bat .260 with 15-20 home runs, which is fine for my No. 1 catcher.
Round 13: SP Steven Matz, New York Mets
Matz is risky due to his inability to stay healthy, but when he's active the stats are good. I'll pray for 160 innings.
Round 14: OF Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers
Broxton has a high ceiling and a low floor, but I believe he can be very good. He had a 36.1 percent strikeout rate in 207 at-bats last season and needs to make more contact to stay in the lineup. He did walk 14.8 percent of the time and had nine home runs and 23 stolen bases. Broxton had a 43.3 percent hard hit rate. The average will not be good with that high of a strikeout rate, but he's not going to sink my team due to the high average I drafted early.
Round 15: 2B Logan Forsythe, Los Angeles Dodgers
I waited on second base for a while and was glad to land Forsythe. He will lead off in a good Dodgers lineup. He hit 20 home runs in 127 games last season.
From rounds 16-25, I drafted Drew Smyly, Dylan Bundy, Domingo Santana, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Drury, Andrew Triggs, Cesar Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Drew Storen and Andrew Susac.
I am pleased with this team. I am well balanced on offense and I project almost everyone on this team to hit in the top five spots in the order. I don't have an ace pitcher and the starters are not great, but I would work the waiver wire for pitching throughout the season. I will be competitive in saves, especially if Kelley can hold the job with the Nationals and Storen could wind up closing games. Overall, this core is good enough to compete for a championship.