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So Called Fantasy Experts wants you to be ahead of the curve for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season. To keep you prepared, we conducted a Fantasy Baseball expert mock draft for the first round of 2016. We know a lot can change by April, but why not explore which players rank highest while the 2015 season is fresher in our minds than it is in February?

Frankly, every pick the SCFE made is defensible, which is why we’re providing our analysis with each pick. However, every owner plans and executes drafts differently, so do not be surprised if you find yourself disagreeing with some of our choices. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

The parameters for this Fantasy Baseball expert mock draft follow the standards of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship 5×5 scoring with 15 teams, plus our fantastic SCFE Editor Roy Daniel took the 16th pick for added analysis.

Take a look at the Arizona Fall League Update and Fantasy Baseball Second Half Hitters: Studs and Duds for more analysis on 2015. Again, use the comments section to share your thoughts on this mock draft, or ask questions. During the slow draft, there were several conversations about first-round draft strategy, so we’re all primed to answer your questions!

Without further adieu, here are the results of the 2016 Fantasy Baseball first round mock draft by So Called Fantasy Experts:

2016 Fantasy Baseball Expert Mock Draft: Round 1

1. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Gerald Colvin, FantasyAlarm.com: Goldschmidt plays half his games in a great hitters park in Arizona. He continues to dominate and be the premier first baseman in Major League Baseball. With a .321 batting average, 33 home runs, 110 RBI, and 21 stolen bases he provides upside in all the major statistical categories and he always smiles. It was a toss up between him and Mike Trout, but I would rather own one pound of gold than 200 pounds of trout.

2. Mike Trout, OF, L.A. Angels

Dan Domenick, ProjectRoto.com: Picking Mike Trout with the second overall pick, I’m breaking out into my happy dance. Quite frankly, even if I had the 1.01 pick, I would have almost certainly taken Trout over Goldschmidt. This was Trout’s worst statistical season, and he still gave return according to ESPN’s 5×5 Roto Player Rater system as the 12th-best season in baseball.

I repeat, that’s his worst statistical season. There are reasons to explain it. For starters, Trout is now batting in the heart of the order full-time, which is almost certainly going to cut down on his steals. Not only did he steal a career-low 11 in 2015, but he also tied his career-low with only 18 attempts. He also had a career-worst .344 BABIP (still an amazing number, but not anywhere near the performance of his first two seasons).

Trout improved on both his walk rate and strikeout rate from 2014. His ISO was a career-best, his wOBA was better than his fantastic 2012 season, he hit more line drives and had a higher hard-hit rate than ever before. In sum, there’s reason to believe that Trout—at least in the counting stats department—should have had a better year.

3. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Fabian Taylor: The 22 year-old outfielder had a breakout campaign in 2015, turning potential into performance. His power was on full display as he topped 40 homers, nearly doubling his previous career high. He also made huge strides in terms of plate discipline by setting career best marks in both his swinging strike rate and his chase rate.

Harper’s maturity was showcased by his tremendous improvement in his batting eye as he doubled his walk rate which helped him achieve his MLB leading OBP of .460. I didn’t really seriously consider anyone else with this pick, given Goldschmidt and Trout were already off the board.

Clayton Kershaw was a possibility, but he isn’t the undisputed consensus number one SP that he has been in the past. Andrew McCutchen is still great, but the potential lack of stolen bases going forward takes him out of the top three for me. Josh Donaldson had a great yea, but, Harper’s significant OBP advantage makes him the clear choice. The best is yet to come with Bryce Harper, he is still improving. Consider it a gift if you can snag him with the third overall pick.

4. Josh Donaldson, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

David Gonos, FanDuel.com: Coming off a career year in a new jersey, there’s no reason to expect a decline in 2016. Third basemen aren’t as deep as years past, although there are plenty of HR hitters. From Donaldson, I’ll get numbers across the board, outside of steals, in likely the best offense in the AL again next year (they scored nearly 15 percent more than the second-best offense in the majors in 2015). He’ll turn 30 years old this winter, which is still in his prime power age range.

5. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins

Travis Pastore, RotoWorld.com: If drafting third is the ideal place to pick, I’m far less thrilled having the fifth selection. The top four guys in my opinion are obvious, but at fifth, things get a little murky. Do I take Andrew McCutchen here? Or maybe Clayton Kershaw and his monster strike out numbers? They’re great, but I have questions about McCutchen’s steals and taking a SP this early, which is I why I’m taking Stanton.

Yes, he’s had injuries derail great seasons the last two years, but you know who else had that recently? Bryce Harper. Stanton has been hurt so long I think people are forgetting how dominant he was. In 279 at bats he hit 27 HRs which averages out to 1 HR every 10.3 plate appearances. If he can stay healthy for 650 at bats, his HR total would sit in the low 60s at season’s end. He played less than half of a season and still finished 10th in the NL in home runs! Yes, Stanton is an injury risk, but if he stays on the field, the power potential is too much for me to pass on.

Here’s a look at the home runs Stanton hit in 2015 versus Donaldson’s.

giancarlo-stanton-josh-donaldsons

6. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros

Damian Schaab: OK, let’s talk position scarcity. In a game where Don Mattingly insists on using the corpse of Jimmy Rollins under the guise that he is still a viable Major League player (note: he’s NOT), I’m going to take the best available shortstop. No, I’m not taking Troy Tulowitzki. Remember I said I’m taking a shortstop, and we all know Tulo is far more comfortable manning that ever-valuable DL position than he is fielding balls at short.

No, I’ll be grabbing baseball’s best shortstop, Carlos Correa, who at age 20/21 just put up a pro-rated 162-game season that looks like this: .279/.345/.512, 36 HR, 111 RBI, 23 SB season.

He’s the third youngest player in the game, and he’s already tops at his position. With vintage A-Rod upside, there is basically no ceiling for this kid right now. The upside? We have to realistically entertain a 40/40 season. What’s better, is that the floor is still All-Star caliber, probably still pushing 30/30. Frankly, there are only a handful of offensive comps at shortstop and every one of those players has or will have a plaque in Cooperstown.

7. Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore Orioles

Patrick Wallace: I wanted Correa here, and really thought I would get him.I am “stuck” with the best fantasy third baseman in the league. With my first pick I want durability (perhaps Machado’s weak spot), youth, speed, power, and if possible, position scarcity. Machado offers all that. Assuming Machado can keep up the stolen bases, everything else is most definitely legitimate and can only improve next season. Even better, he offers that small chance of providing SS eligibility next season if he can increase his games played at that position. While I like Machado, I do believe there are about seven different ways you can go here.

8. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Luke Schoenberger: For the first time in his 13-year career, Miguel Cabrera landed on the disabled list, and that occurrence, and not his performance, is the only reason that I have the opportunity to select him here.

The success of this pick is largely dependent on Cabrera’s ability to stay healthy in 2016, because while healthy in 2015, the aging slugger was his typical self: fourth in wRC+ (165), fifth in average batted ball velocity (93.83 MPH), and first in AVG (.338). Granted, you have to lower playing time thresholds to include his outputs on these rankings. However, we can be confident that independent of injury, as suggested by research that has been done on player aging curves relative to strikeout profiles, Cabrera should age nicely into his age 33 season.

Below is a spray chart of Cabrera versus Machado’s 2015 singles (green squares), doubles (aqua triangles), triples (black circles) and home runs (all red diamonds) via Baseball Savant.

miguel-cabrera-manny-machado

9. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Joe Bond, FantasySixPack.net: With the No. 9 pick I will be taking the Rockies third baseman, Nolan Arenado. I knew this kid had the potential to be great but he went above and beyond with 42 home runs and a MLB leading 130 RBI. Rockies players usually get a bad rep because they are so home dependent, but Arenado went against that by hitting 22 of his 42 home runs on the road. Proving that his power is legit and not just because he hits in a hitter friendly park.

Look where Arenado finished the 2015 season among NL hitters sorted by ISO, via Fangraphs.

fantasy-baseball-expert-mock-draft

10. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

Christian Losciale: Rizzo just turned 26 and continues to establish himself as an elite hitter. He posted the 4th highest wOBA in the NL (.384) and the 7th best OBP in MLB (.387). Rizzo has maintained a BB% of 11 percent or higher in the last three years, and he dropped his K% in 2015 to 15 percent, down from 18.4 in 2013 and 18.8 in 2014. He finally reached the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career, which tells me that the Cubs’ offense is growing up.

Rizzo mashed 31 homers and 38 doubles, plus he decided to swipe 17 bags this year. My only concern with Rizzo was his 2015 league-leading HBPs. He got plunked 30 times! Thankfully, no HBP was above his forearms or shoulders. I considered Altuve here, especially because of his little power boost in 2015, but I can’t trust that. Rizzo is consistent. Kershaw barely crossed my mind, but I trust I can get a couple of 1A starters in the first eight to ten rounds.

11. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Chris Diaz: I was hoping Anthony Rizzo fell to me but he went right in front of me. So my pick came down to 1 of 2 players. Young phenom Kris Bryant 3B or solid veteran Andrew McCutchen. As we all discussed earlier a young player some times struggles in his second year but Bryant’s numbers are hard to pass. So with that I am going to Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen got off to a slow start but once he got healthy he really put up solid numbers as usual. His career averages are .298 AVG, 24 HR, 87 RBI, 100 R and 24 SB. The stolen bases might go down a tick but his RBIs should rise as well as his HRs as he hits his power years 27-30 years old.

12. Clayton Kershaw, SP, L.A. Dodgers

clayton-kershaw-spray-chartCharles Lentz: I’ll take Kershaw. Elite top-tier pitching is still a great way to get an advantage over your league. With the 12th pick in the first round, I’ll take that advantage. Kershaw’s ERA (2.13) and WHIP (0.88) are still historically-elite numbers. His 16 wins were down from his 21 in 2014, but he increased his strikeout totals from 239 to 301, and his strikeout rate (K%) from 31.8% to 33.9%. Kershaw will be just 28-years-old next year and should continue to post eye-popping numbers and provide any team with a huge advantage in the pitching categories.

13. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Toronto Blue Jays

Ryan Hallam, FightingChanceFantasy.com: Power has become more of a commodity in the past few years as there haven’t been as many 30 and 40 home run guys lately. First base is also becoming a bit more of a question mark than it was in the past. While I was going to be very happy to take Clayton Kershaw with the 13th pick, Mr. Lentz ended that plan.

With all of those factors in mind, I am going to take Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin is in the middle of a power laden lineup that offers plenty of protection, and he has averaged just under 38 home runs over the past four seasons. And while he is never going to win a batting title, Edwin has been in the .270 average range for four of the last five years.

We had a conversation earlier in the draft about safety versus upside in the first round of the draft and I fall on the safety side. I have full confidence that Encarnacion will hit .275 with 37-40 home runs again in 2016.

14. A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks


Doug Anderson, FantasySportsNetwork.com: I want to start the first round with a good base in all stat categories so that I can just go with best player later. I’d like to take Ryan Braun here, but offseason back surgery worries me. My “fallback” option is a player that was maybe the most valuable player in all of Fantasy. Can A.J. Pollock repeat? I have my doubts, but the speed will still be there and he’s going to score a ton of runs. The power may drop back a bit, but Pollock is still a nice package. Jose Bautista is a serious consideration here, but he’d have me chasing speed and batting average within the next few rounds.

15. Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

Graham Briggs: With the final pick of the first round I will take Jose Altuve. Consistency has come up numerous times through this first round mock and it was on my mind. By pick 15 all the proven five-tool players are gone so I need to choose between risky upside or consistency in limited categories.

I struggled between Altuve, Jose Bautista, and Kris Bryant here. Knowing that I would have the turn in a real draft and could take two of these three I figured I could put a Frankenstein five tool guy together with Altuve and either of the other two. With that in mind I’ll take the player that followed up his excellent 2014 campaign with another solid one in 2015.

He looks to be a steady .300-plus hitter, has 100-run upside, and 30 steals would be a disappointment. He bats at the top of an up-and-coming offense and got a little power boost with 15 homers this year. Put a power bat next to him with the next pick and I’m set.

*16. Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox

*bonus pick by Roy Daniel, SCFE Editor

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