Mock drafts are a little controversial this early in the season. I actually think that’s a bit of an understatement. They even cause anger and irrationality.
There’s a couple of ways that comes to pass. First, there’s the fan reaction to mock drafts. When fans see that their team has mock drafted a player they don’t like, the reaction can be strong, to say the least. If I had a nickel for every time a reader got mad at me for not mock drafting the player they like to their team, I’d be one rich man. I also get fun responses that tell me how stupid I am for valuing player X over player Y, because clearly player Y is better. Then they tell me they’ll never read my stuff again. This kind of reaction is always interesting, and it’s more common than you think.
The second way that mock drafts anger a community is how they anger a lot of prospect writers, especially early in the season. If you were to ask the various solid prospect writers out there who is projected to go where, you’ll get a variety of answers mostly based around "IT’S TOO EARLY TO TELL! LET THE PLAYERS PLAY!" My response to this is that it’s obvious that it’s too early to tell. Teams haven’t started making decisions about players yet, so of course my mock drafts aren’t to be taken as signs that teams are considering that player directly. It’s more of an exercise of fun and draft stock rather than connecting specific players to specific teams. Taking that too seriously is a flaw, and treating readers like they’re stupid for asking is wrong and defeats the purpose of writing in general.
I write about the draft. Therefore, I pay attention to what team picks in what position. Can I tell you who the Oakland A’s are zeroing in on for the #10 pick yet? No. Can I tell you what players are top ten caliber players and that fit the drafting history of the A’s? Yes. That’s what my mock drafts are about at this time in the year. I’m not naïve. I don’t think I can take a tiny bit of information from a scout and turn it into something bigger, something that says that a team wants player X more than player Y. There’s still two and a half months until the draft, and most teams don’t even sit down to make those decisions until the week before the draft. I simply take the draft stock of players, combine it with the trends I discussed in the draft previews for each team, and then I put together the mock draft. It’s that simple. Nothing more, nothing less. Readers like it (for the most part), and I love doing it. It makes me work, and it makes me think about where players are valued. The more information that is available and thinking that is done, the better.
I guess this is what some would call a rant. It might be. I’m just tired of seeing numerous writers around the baseball world answering questions from readers in a way that’s demeaning and doesn’t answer their question at all. If I were to receive a question that asks me who the Rangers might pick for the #15 pick, I shouldn’t say "THAT’S THE WRONG QUESTION! IT’S TOO EARLY!" I should answer it in a way that explains what philosophy they likely have behind the pick, list a few players that fit that philosophy, then qualify it by saying that it’s a little early to tell who they really want, but that I will do my best to answer their question. That’s my job. I like answering questions, and I encourage them, even if they aren’t the most educated questions. Fan focus on the draft at all is fairly new, and I don’t expect every fan to know the thinking behind it or the timeframe in which teams make decisions. That’s too much to expect. The reader I want is the reader that is curious and asks questions, even if the answers are simple and other writers think it was too stupid to ask. I’d even welcome a reader that’s never watched a baseball game. How else are we going to grow the sport?
We need to quit treating scouting, the draft, and baseball in general like it’s a sport that deserves to be shrouded in secrecy and caution. Scouts, players, and executives are people, and so are writers and readers. I don’t take this writing gig so seriously that I can’t have fun with what I like to write about. I also don’t take myself so seriously as to think I have all the answers. I write about baseball because I love baseball. It’s deep in the core of who I am. Watching amateur players is a passion of mine, and I’ve just been lucky enough to develop that into something more. Mock drafts are one way in which I drive interest in the draft, even if it is too early to connect players to teams. I want more people to read about the draft and the players that are eligible. That’s all.
Thanks for taking the time to read this rant. If you have thoughts on the subject, feel free to talk it up in the comments.