#TheREALMockDraft is finally here

The pretenders and wanna-bes have had their moments in the sun, but none of them dare to delve into the depths of mock drafting and actually try to match up available players with team needs. Only The Real Mock Draft ventures to do so.

And thus, for the I-75 Strat-O-Matic League’s 34th annual draft, which will commence on Saturday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET, live from Kissimmee, Fla., and televised on ESPNStrat, this is how we see the all-important first round playing out. Picks below are not predictions; they are who I would pick if I were you.

1. Superior: It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of the I-75 League, the most obvious No. 1 pick since Mike Trout went No. 1 last year. (Oh wait…did Mike Trout not go No. 1? No, I think actually Michigan said no thanks, we’ll take catcher Alex Avila, who went on to hit .243 for the Tigers; and then Springfield opted for Alex Gordon, who helped them to a division title, good job; and then English took Eric Hosmer and traded him to Hickory, which watched him hit .232; and then Hickory took Michael Pineda, who never pitched at all due to injury.) Superior manager Mike Renbarger will select NL Rookie of the Year, 20-year-old wunderkind Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals, with this pick. It’s a good thing his brother Dave doesn’t have this pick: Witness his comment from June 6, 2010, the first time Bryce Harper was mentioned on this blog:


2. Margaritaville:
The Volcanoes have unloaded Jordan Zimmermann and Jesus Montero in the offseason but still have the makings of a contender, thanks to four stalwart starting pitchers and a terrifying heart of the order. They also have three picks in the top 26. While some have clamored for Manny Machado in this spot, and the Volcanoes are prone to taking top prospects regardless of whether they intend to contend or not, there is a better solution, especially with David Wright manning the Margaritaville hot corner. If you had to put money on one available player who could post a 30-30 year in 2013, who would you pick, other than Bryce Harper? If it’s me, and if I’m John McMillan, I’m picking Yeonis Cespedes, OF, Oakland A’s, who is entering the prime of his career at age 27 despite just one year in the majors. Cespedes was one of only three players to hit. 300 and manage double-digits in both homers and steals after the All-Star break. He hit .292 and finished with 23 homers, 16 steals in a 487 at-bat season cut short by hand, wrist and hamstring injuries. Plus, he fills a roster need for the ‘Canoes, where they currently sport only the beastly Carlos Gonzalez and  the beastly-but-limited Jose Bautista as potential outfielders. Margaritaville would have an all minus-3 arm outfield if Cespedes joins the club.

3. Bushwood: The Gophers’ already-formidable lineup was strengthened with the recent pickup of DH David Ortiz, and you know you have a strong club when your weakest hitters are middle infielders Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley. Bushwood sacrificed some pitching in order to get Ortiz but has a chance to compensate for that loss here. The Gophers boast three strong starters; a fourth makes them division co-favorites along with Superior. The choice comes down to Yu Darvish or Kris Medlen. Darvish, a Ranger, has the hometown factor and 53 more innings in his favor. Medlen has considerably fewer on-base chances on his card, has a better hold factor, is a better fielder, and could be converted to a reliever for the playoffs. Bushwood already has filled its lineup and key spots in its bullpen; all it needs to do is shore up some platoon positions, so by going for Medlen here, the Gophers can also grab a low-inning starter with a good card (of which there are several) in a future round. It’ll be tough to fight that hometown bias, but to me the smart pick is the better card: Kris Medlen, P, Atlanta Braves, although you can’t go wrong with either.

4. Savannah: The Scorpions were overloaded with starting pitching, allowing them to trade CC Sabathia and climb into the fourth spot in the draft. The lineup is in decent shape; a little more pop at second base against righties would be nice, but there’s also a thinness in the OF/DH to be addressed, as both Nick Markakis and Coco Crisp are less than full-time. The lineup also skews toward the right-hand side of the plate. There are a number of draft choices who could be good lineup fits: Adam LaRoche, A.J. Pierzynski, Brandon Moss, John Jaso, Alex Rios, but there’s also a good chance three or more of those guys will still be available when Savannah picks in its regular spot, the 12 hole. Upon closer examination though, that Scorpion pitching staff could have some weaknesses exposed. While their overall numbers are good, opponents will be able to stack righties in particular against Anibal Sanchez. So the search for starting pitching help turns to a decision between Yu Darvish and Jarrod Parker. Darvish has the better card, both have promising futures, Parker is two years younger. Decisions, decisions. Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland. 

5. English: The Pigdogs are in the lucky 5 hole, where Iowa snagged Mike Trout last year, and they too can’t believe their luck. Arguably the best pure starting pitcher in the draft is still available, and fills a crying need, as English comes into the draft with just two starting pitchers, both with highly mediocre cards and only 287 total innings. English has a long way to go to get to 1,500, but it will start with 191 innings from the best starting pitcher available, Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.

6. Michigan: The Moneyballers have seven reasonably young, promising pitchers — who aren’t going to be that good this year. But there’s little point in burning a first-round pick on another pitcher. So, even though the M-ballers have a promising young third baseman in Pedro Alvarez, it’s time to play “Take the Best Available Prospect,” and see how things play out: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles. Worst case scenario, Michigan winds up with two great third basemen and trades one of them for help at another position.

7. Iowa: The Cyclones might break the Detroit Drill Team record for solo homers in a season. Note the word ‘solo.’  The ‘Clones boast six players in their lineup who clubbed 23 or more homers last year,  but Iowa’s on-base numbers plummet after you get past Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Jayson Werth. The West Division is tightly bunched offensively, and Iowa might be able to compete on that regard, but if Iowa intends to win any of those games this year, it needs to start assembling a bullpen, which currently is barren. So Iowa should turn to primo closer Fernando Rodney, RP, Tampa, to protect those 11-10 leads.

8. Hickory: The Nuts are a lock for the playoffs, with newly acquired Justin Verlander heading up a formidable pitching staff that includes four starters and two closers, plus a lineup that will be among the league’s strongest both offensively and defensively. With their offensive needs meager (a DH and perhaps a rent-a-first-baseman until Eric Hosmer explodes), the Nuts’ best move is to secure a fifth starter, and there’s a good one out there who is young and highly regarded as well: Matt Moore SP, Tampa.

9. South Grand Prairie: A word of advice to foes of the Warriors this year: Don’t try to pitch lefties against them! SGP has a top-to-bottom order of southpaw savages. And overall, the Warriors could add as many as 30 wins to their 46-win total of a year ago. The bullpen is in good shape but the starting pitching staff is in trouble: Max Scherzer will get lit up by lefties and Derek Holland will get roasted by righties; Marco Estrada has only 138 innings. The Warriors will likely need one more year of this rebuilding process before they can contend. It would be nice to get a young pitcher with innings, but those four guys are already taken. So go for young now, and get innings in a later round. Take 21-year-old former first-round pick Jacob Turner, SP, Miami.

10. Iowa again: We’ve already determined that Iowa has its lineup slots filled but has pitching challenges. The starting pitching staff has numbers if not quality. The previously drafted Fernando Rodney adds the first key piece to the bullpen, but the Cyclones will need more than that. So just to mess with the rest of the league, the evil Dr. John could strip us of not only Rodney but the second-best closer available too, and use him to set up Rodney: Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland. Whoa. This team is starting to look fun.

11. Wisconsin: Except for a complete void at shortstop, the Warhawks have the most complete team in the league and are the odds-on favorite for the 1-seed in next year’s playoffs at this point. Alas, there are no stud shortstops on the free-agent list who can be plucked to fill that void as a full-timer. But Wisconsin can snag the next-best thing: A terrific prospect, a 1e10 fielder at short, and a good hitter even though he offers just 166 at-bats. Wisconsin will have to deal for a shortstop or settle for someone rather ordinary in a later round, but at least Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta will give them defense (1e10), a pinch-hitter, a part-time stud and potential future star.

12. Savannah again: The Scorpions laid in the weeds offensively with the No. 4 pick and now their strategy has paid off. Nothing but pitchers and prospects have gone off the board, leaving all of the hitting options that were there at No. 4 still a possibility at No. 12. A borderline playoff contender, Savannah’s crying need is for a left-handed bat at 1B/DH or OF to balance out its lineup, and the addition of Adam LaRoche, 1B, Washington, gives them a solid two-way hitter with 30-HR power and a ‘1’ fielder at first base, allowing Paul Konerko to slide to DH.

13. Springfield: The Isotopes have Matt Kemp, Alex Gordon and six players whose Strat card computes to less than .200 against righties. Seriously. Vegas is already taking odds that the Isotopes are the team most likely to be no-hit this year. Then again, they also could be the first team to throw a no-hitter, with four stud starting pitchers even after dubiously dealing away Justin Verlander for… what again? (It was Starlin Castro and two of those guys whose Strat cards compute to less than .200 against righties.)  Still, their worst starting pitcher is better than the best starting pitcher on Chatfield, English, Michigan and South Grand Prairie. We’re going to presume when you add it all up that Springfield will not be a contender this year, and thus will be looking to strengthen its club for 2014.  Let’s go for a young starting pitching stud who fits the Isotope mold: Lots of strikeouts, good hold factor, keeps guys off the basepaths. Only 55 innings for this year, but 55 good innings, and he could be a Justin Verlander-type in the very near future. Soon-to-be 24-year-old fireballer Matt Harvey, SP, N.Y. Mets. 

14. Applegate: For the second year in a row, the Clips would like to improve on their closer situation, but weren’t counting on Dr. John’s evil plan to confiscate both Rodney and Cook. Now what are they going to do? Last year they resorted to Dustin Ackley, then traded him for pennant-run help, which paid off. This year a pennant run is unlikely, as the Clips will be  hoping for rebound years in real life from championship year stalwarts Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence and Curtis Granderson. McCann is coming off such a horrible year that he really doesn’t even deserve a lineup spot, but wasting a first-round pick on an aging A.J. Pierzynski is stupid. Still, catching help, as a hedge against McCann returning to full strength, wouldn’t be a bad idea, and Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego, just 24, provides some switch-hitting pop and enough at-bats to lift him and McCann over the 600 mark.

15. Chatfield. The Choo-Choos have lots of needs. Like, three starting pitchers, a couple hundred outfield at-bats, major fill-ins at 3B and SS due to injuries to Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki. It is hard to imagine them, given their history, sitting tight and being content to draft a good-but-not-sure-fire prospect with the 15th pick; it’s just not their M.O. Maybe a trade up is forthcoming, and if so, thanks for waiting until the mock draft was published, rendering most of this irrelevant! Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston. 


3 Responses

  1. Medlen #3? I think I took him with a late pick 3 years ago. I would trade all my draft picks for Harper, if I had any.

  2. Great work by gary. Thanks for the expert analysis.

  3. So you are saying I made a bad trade?

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