BY JAY CLEMONS
With the calendar hitting March (although you wouldn't know it by the snow in Atlanta on Tuesday), I wanted to celebrate the month with a brand-new mock draft for today's Clicks. But as a caveat to my real-time decisions for this 12-team mixed league, I had to follow the rankings in my Top 200 list to the letter -- unless positional scarcity was being compromised. Here are the results from this experiment:
Round 1 (No. 1 overall): 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals (a major no-brainer)
Round 2 (No. 24): SP Zack Greinke, Royals (my No. 1-ranked pitcher, bar none)
Round 3 (No. 25): OF Grady Sizemore, Indians
Round 4: C Brian McCann, Braves (good value, although V-Mart was available)
Round 5: SP Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
Round 6: 3B Michael Young, Rangers (a potential reach; but 3B is really thin)
Round 7: SP Josh Johnson, Marlins
Round 8: RP Joakim Soria, Royals (excellent value for a bullpen anchor)
Round 9: SP Matt Garza, Rays
Round 10: OF Corey Hart, Brewers (his 20-20 promise was too good to pass up)
Round 11: SP James Shields, Rays
Round 12: 2B/3B Ian Stewart, Rockies (primed for another breakout tier in '10)
Round 13: RP Trevor Hoffman, Brewers
Round 14: OF/1B Garrett Jones, Pirates
Round 15: SS Alcides Escobar, Brewers (although Miguel Tejada was still available)
Round 16: OF Juan Rivera, Angels
Round 17: OF Kyle Blanks, Padres
Round 18: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers (he'll get plenty of love on Friday -- scroll down)
Round 19: SP Brian Matusz, Orioles
Round 20: OF Magglio Ordonez, Tigers (slimmed-down and ready to be an RBI machine again)
Round 21: OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins
Round 22: SP Derek Lowe, Braves (no longer a fantasy stud ... but still worthy of drafting)
Round 23: OF Desmond Jennings, Rays (a top-20 fantasy pick in 2012)
Round 24: SP Francisco Liriano, Twins
Round 25: 3B/OF Jake Fox, Athletics (you can never go wrong with a Triple Crown threat in the minors for Round 25)
... Here are the first 25 picks from Wednesday's mock draft (5x5 rules):
1. 1B Albert Pujols, Cardinals (my pick)
2. 3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
3. SS Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
4. OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
5. 2B Chase Utley, Phillies
6. OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers
7. C Joe Mauer, Twins
8. 3B David Wright, Mets
9. 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees
10. 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
11. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies
12. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
13. 3B Evan Longoria, Rays
14. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants
15. OF Carl Crawford, Rays
16. SP Roy Halladay, Phillies
17. 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers
18. SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners
19. OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
20. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
21. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
22. OF Matt Holliday, Cardinals
23. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
24. SP Zack Greinke, Royals (my pick)
25. OF Grady Sizemore, Indians (my pick)
Thoughts from the outfield portion of the SI.com Fantasy Baseball Preview ...
**Choosing between Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp for No. 1 outfielder came down to this. Both players are undisputably superstars in fantasyland and likely Round 1 picks, but only Braun holds a decided advantage in two categories (HRs/batting average) -- whereas Kemp will likely only dominate in steals.
**I'm quite comfortable with Matt Holliday's No. 3 ranking, but it's also very hard to forget his struggles with Oakland last year AND that he benefits from the best lineup protection in all of baseball -- namely Albert Pujols -- by a long shot.
**Call me crazy, but I think Carl Crawford has a greater chance of exceeding my prediction of 53 steals than 13 homers this season. And for what it's worth, I have Crawford collecting the third-most steals among outfielders, behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Bourn -- but slightly ahead of Rajaj Davis.
**Even with Carlos Lee's No. 10 ranking, I could never, in good conscience, draft him as an OF1 in 10-, 12- or 14-team mixed leagues. Ideally, an outfield anchor should have the potential for 35 homers and/or 25 steals.
**Citing outfield projections only, I am shocked that Ichiro Suzuki isn't a lock for 100 runs, which speaks to the galling lack of power in the Mariners' lineup. On the flip side, I'm comfortable with the educated guess of .340 or above.
**If any outfielder outside the top-10 has a strong chance of cracking the top-5 by season's end, it's Baltimore's Adam Jones (projections: 23 HRs, 84 RBIs, 93 runs, 27 steals, .275 average). To be honest, I may be dramatically underselling Jones' Griffey-esque promise.
**How's this for a utopian outfield in AL-only leagues -- without taking a stud in the first two rounds: Bobby Abreu, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Ben Zobrist and Juan Rivera?
**Speaking of Rivera, he may be the American League's quietest cinch for 25 homers/.280 batting average.
**With news of Justin Upton's six-year, $50 million extension making the rounds, it's the perfect time to wonder if he can meet or surpass 20 HRs, 86 RBIs, 20 steals and .300 average in 2010? My response: Yes, yes, no and no.
**Drinking the truth serum on Jayson Werth: Yes, I have him ranked at No. 7, with the likely potential of cracking the top-5 by season's end ... but the ranking was also finalized BEFORE seeing his Grizzly Adams-like get-up for spring training. Call it a red flag of Shear Genius-like proportions.
**As a Detroit native, I have no idea what to expect from Johnny Damon. In fact, I'm not even sure he'll remain in the Tigers' 2-hole through April ... let alone confidently predict the HRs/steals quotient for a man who's my age.
**Finally, I have a reason to watch the Padres when they're batting (as opposed to exclusively watching Mat Latos pitch) ... and his name is Kyle Blanks. As a rookie last year, Blanks bashed 1 HR/14.8 at-bats, with very little lineup protection, to boot. With 450 at-bats under his belt in 2010, Blanks could conceivably launch 30 homers (and 85-plus RBIs) without breaking a sweat.
**I hereby promise NOT to reach for B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton in mixed-league drafts later this month ... but I also pledge to reach for Andrew McCutchen and Denard Span in the same scenario.
**At the bare minimum, Jonathan Broxton (No. 1 in my countdown) is the equal of Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera -- the unquestioned Four Horsemen of fantasyland relievers. So, imagine my shock when Broxton went 20-25 spots after Paps, Nathan and Mariano in Wednesday's mock draft. I would gladly scoop him up at 70th overall.
**On the surface, Rafael Soriano at No. 9 seems a tad ambitious -- but not if you have the Rays ticketed for 94-plus wins and Soriano in the neighborhood of 32 saves and 1.08 WHIP.
**I would rather see Neftali Feliz as a starting pitcher for the Rangers this season -- even if that means missing out on a certifiable steal at reliever ... and Texas powers down on Feliz by September, in an effort to preserve his arm for the next 12 seasons.
**My ambivalence for landing Trevor Hoffman at pick 145 in Wednesday's mock draft is palpable. On one hand, I know that Father Time will eventually catch up to the all-time saves leader and Hall of Fame lock; on the flip side, he has an amazing track record as a 1-inning stud -- where 30 saves and a sub-1.00 WHIP are almost bankable.
**If you don't care about WHIP, ERA and strikeouts with relievers, feel free to rank Jose Valverde and Brad Lidge higher than 13th and 15th, respectively. Each fireman seems like a pretty good bet for 28-plus saves on two contending teams (Tigers, Phillies), if healthy and mentally right.
**If you're looking for the ultimate high-risk, high-reward closers outside of the top 15 ... target Kerry Wood (No. 19), Carlos Marmol (No. 20) and Mike Gonzalez (No. 21). One night, they're fanning three hitters in a row to close the save -- the next, they're walking four straight hitters to blow a three-run lead.
**In AL-only leagues, it might benefit owners to buy the Blue Jays and Athletics' bullpens in bulk. With Oakland, it's Andrew Bailey, followed by Joey Devine, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler. For Toronto, it's Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs and Brian Tallett.
Here's something that didn't make the Preview -- the top 20 AL-only third basemen:
1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
2. Evan Longoria, Rays
3. Michael Young, Rangers
4. Chone Figgins, Mariners
5. Gordon Beckham, White Sox
6. Adrian Beltre, Red Sox
7. Alex Gordon, Royals
8. Jhonny Peralta, Indians
9. Garrett Atkins, Orioles
10. Jake Fox, Athletics
11. Brandon Wood, Angels (the kid finally gets a chance to justify the legend)
12. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Athletics
13. Brandon Inge, Tigers
14 Mike Lowell, Red Sox
15. Mark Teahen, White Sox
16. Brett Wallace, Blue Jays
17. Ty Wigginton, Orioles
18. Edwin Encarnacion, Red Sox
19. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
20. Don Kelly, Tigers (should get plenty of April at-bats, with Inge recuperating)
**Note: Shortstop Miguel Tejada is slated to be Baltimore's third baseman on Opening Day ... making him 3B-eligible for the hot corner sometime around April 11.
For AL- and NL-only leagues, there is no greater draft-day resource than the official (and up-to-date) depth charts for each MLB club. In no particular order ...
Marlins | Braves | Mets | Phillies | Nationals
Reds | Pirates | Cubs | Brewers | Cardinals | Astros
Dodgers | Diamondbacks |Padres | Rockies | Giants
Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Yankees | Blue Jays
White Sox | Tigers | Indians | Royals | Twins
Rangers | Angels | Athletics | Mariners
What's good for the goose is good for the gander ... the top 25 NL-only third basemen:
1. David Wright, Mets
2. Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks
3. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs (should return to fantasy greatness with 140 games)
4. Pablo Sandoval, Giants
5. Chipper Jones, Braves
6. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (wayyyyy too good for a No. 6 ranking)
7. Ian Stewart, Rockies
8. Casey McGehee, Brewers
9. Jorge Cantu, Marlins (one of the most underrated performers in fantasyland)
10. Casey Blake, Dodgers
11. Chase Headley, Padres
12. Scott Rolen, Reds
13. Martin Prado, Braves
14 Troy Glaus, Braves
15. Pedro Alvarez, Pirates (see you around June 1, Pedro)
16. David Freese, Cardinals
17. Mat Gamel, Brewers
18. Pedro Feliz, Phillies
19. Andy LaRoche, Pirates
20. Jerry Hairston, Padres
**Note: Second baseman Placido Polanco is slated to be Philadelphia's third baseman on Opening Day ... making him 3B-eligible for the hot corner sometime around April 11.
I've been working on something very cool for Friday -- the 5-Minute Guide to Fantasy Baseball Goodness. And since it'll get plenty of run at the front of SI.com, don't expect some rudimentary, colorless version of the expansive 2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview. (Yep, this one will be interesting.)
Preparing a cheat sheet can be a daunting task for the everyday Joe or Jane -- especially when arbitrarily guessing which pitchers are on the cusp of a breakout ... or on the road to an unsettling decline. But there's an easy way of making first cuts with starting pitchers -- or guys you steadfastly refuse to draft -- based on their Strikeout/Walk ratio. Simply eliminate all non-rookies from 2009 with K/BB ratios of less than 2-to-1 ... like these, ahem, bums:
Doug Davis -- 146/103 K-BB rate
Barry Zito -- 154/81 K-BB rate
Jason Marquis -- 115/80 K-BB rate
Carlos Zambrano -- 152/78
Manny Parra -- 116/77
Joba Chamberlain -- 133/76
Andy Pettitte -- 148/76
Jeff Suppan -- 80/74
Kevin Milwood -- 123/71
Fausto Carmona -- 79/70
John Lannan -- 89/68
Armando Galarraga -- 95/67
Livan Hernandez -- 102/67
Kyle Davies -- 86/66
Scott Feldman -- 113/65
Braden Looper -- 100/64
Micah Owings -- 68/64
Joe Saunders -- 101/64
Jon Garland -- 109/61
Jeremy Guthrie -- 110/60
Scott Kazmir -- 117/60
Scott Richmond -- 117/59
Chris Volstad -- 107/69
Gil Meche -- 95/58
Oliver Perez -- 62/58
Aaron Laffey -- 59/57
Todd Wellemeyer -- 78/57
Gio Gonzalez -- 109/56
Matt Palmer -- 69/55
Need a Hamburger Helper-like hand with your research? Check out these sites:
**Baseball America's 2010 TopProspects
**Rotowire Player Search Database (great for targeting prospects)
**MinorLeagueBaseball.com's Stats page
**MLB.com's Fantasy Page
**The Hardball Times
**Dallas Morning News' Rangers blog (co-writers Evan Grant, author)
**Seattle Times' Mariners blog (Geoff Baker, author)
Back by popular demand, we've decided to admit at least one lucky Fantasy Clicks reader into the SI.com & Friends fantasy baseball league. Up until March 21, we'll be accepting short-essay submissions (limit 1-2 paragaphs please) for the final slot in our small, but prestigious league (kind of like George Costanza). The requirements are simple: Outside of having reliable computer access for Draft Day (either March 31 or April 1), you must demonstrate passion for fantasy baseball (hence, the short essay) and derive regular pleasure from posting humorous retorts on our league message board.
One last thing: It certainly helps to be comfortable with accepting or declining blockbuster trade proposals during the graveyard-shift period of 2-6 a.m. -- the bewitching hours for all the Atlanta-based SI.com employees. You can also hit me up on Twitter for this contest ... although it'll be hard to meet the above requirements in 140 characters or less. Good luck!