Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: 12-Team, Salary Cap (2023)
Every year, I make the same plea: if you enjoy the draft process for fantasy baseball, try a salary cap — also known as an “auction” draft. Even if it’s only a mock draft, it will still highlight what makes assembling a team so enjoyable. Unlike a snake draft, every player is always available — until you run out of roster spots or money — which means that the creation of a team is more under your control.
The other key regarding salary cap drafts is that no two are alike. The dollar values for a given player are driven more by manager needs and budgets than anything else. For example, it is possible for Aaron Judge to go for $60 in one league and $30 in another. Likely? Probably not. But possible? Definitely.
Keep this in mind as you work through salary cap mock drafts or read this article. Focus on the idea of overspending wisely or saving money for a specific player — or group of players — and remember that everything is relative.
12-Team Mock Salary Cap Draft
My Pre-Draft Strategy
- Don’t overspend on starting pitching. This is a tough one for me personally, as I find it important to secure a front-end ace in every draft. I have seen, however, that my results are tilted more toward pitching than hitting when I select a top starter, and I should have confidence that I can find enough discounts later to build out a rotation.
- Save some money for closers. I keep struggling with building out a solid bullpen, so I am going to have to spend money there whenever possible.
- Wait on shortstop. If a discount appears, then pounce. Don’t bother spending up, though, as there should be less expensive options later.
- Unless it’s a high-end option, only take outfielders that are underpriced. I often find that I fill up my outfield positions too quickly in salary cap drafts, and I don’t mind this if I had enough savings to be able to spend wisely elsewhere.
This 12-team lineup is C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, 3 OF, Util, 5 SP, 3 RP, and 5 BN was conducted using FantasyPros’ Salary Cap Draft Simulator.
C – Adley Rutschman (C – BAL): $6
This is an interesting one. I didn’t even have Adley Rustschman on my radar, let alone expect to take him at any point at any price, yet, here he is. Rutschman became available at the point of the draft when I was exclusively targeting hitters at a discount, and the $6 I spent was used well at the time. Had he been on the board earlier, he almost certainly would have demanded a higher investment, so it was nothing more than timing that helped me land the second-year catcher.
1B – Jose Abreu (1B – HOU): $8
I have been prioritizing Jose Abreu in many of my drafts lately, and even if he can’t match his numbers from his days with the White Sox, his floor is so high that he should remain a stable fixture in fantasy lineups — as well as Houston’s. His general per-162 games averages are flat-out excellent, where he hits 31 home runs with a .292 batting average.
2B – Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B – MIA): $20
Because of how I dedicated my money toward pitching first and waited so long to find value with players, the first hitter I selected was Jazz Chisholm, Jr. Compared to his suggested value, I paid right around the correct price — $21 — to select him, but it was more out of necessity than anything else. Obviously, he will help with stolen bases, but this was not how I wanted to start my hitting core.
SS – Wander Franco (SS – TB): $16
I took Wander Franco immediately after Eloy Jimenez, and I definitely overspent. Still, the combination of the two should help solidify an otherwise nonexistent lineup. Franco has all the makings of a star that can shine in any season, and I need someone like him to help carry my team at this point.
3B – Alex Bregman (3B – HOU): $18
Alex Bregman was the second hitter I selected, and there is no denying that he is carrying a slight discount lately because of his injury history. The expectation is that he will be ready to go by the time the season starts, and that helps my lineup, which is sorely lacking… everything.
OF – Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS): $21
I’ll admit that I’m starting to panic at this point, and I might need to spend a little more than I wanted to on certain players. Eloy Jimenez is one of those players, and the potential he brings to add some power to my lineup is worth the $21.
OF – Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY): $6
There’s no other reason to add Giancarlo Stanton to a lineup other than the promise of power. Of course, there’s the massive risk of injury, but that’s also why he is able to be selected at a massive discount. At this point of the draft, I have to take some risks, and he is one that carries a huge reward.
OF – Tyler O’Neill (OF – STL): $15
I have basically reached the point where I could bid on anyone that stayed below $15 and acquire them if I wanted. Tyler O’Neill has become a key component to many of my teams, but not by design. He is simply overlooked in most drafts, but he is just two years removed from a 34-home run campaign with a .286 batting average.
UTIL – Andres Gimenez (2B, SS – CLE): $9
Andres Gimenez has now made his way onto a few of my teams, and it’s because he has some nice upside for his general market value. The obvious hope is that he can continue stealing bases — 31 successful attempts over the last two years, and he has only been caught three times — while maintaining a respectable level of power from a second-base-eligible player. If that happens, then he remains one of the best options currently being overlooked.
SP – Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL): $25
Had I not written out my pre-draft strategy, I would have absolutely joined the early spending spree for at least one player — and probably a pitcher. Instead, I saved my money for the first 35 players off the board and finally jumped in with Brandon Woodruff. He should not have been the ace of my staff, but he was a starting pitcher at a reasonable price, and I refused to break that rule.
SP – Justin Verlander (SP – NYM): $32
Justin Verlander was the third player I added to my team, and in an honest moment, the $32 I spent on him was too much. Why did I do it? Because of my earlier decisions that left some money in my metaphorical pocket. I couldn’t go too long without taking another player who could make an impact, and I didn’t like some of the options that would have been left for me afterward. One example was Carlos Rodon, who also went for $32. I prefer Verlander.
SP – Logan Gilbert (SP – SEA): $8
Someone like Logan Gilbert is exactly why I wanted to wait on starting pitching. It cost only $8 to add him to my team, and he slides in as my third-best starter. I plan to keep targeting pitchers like him for the remainder of the draft.
SP – Tyler Glasnow (SP – TB): $14
I’m starting to spend my remaining money at a more feverish rate, but only on players that could help my team and carry a discount. Tyler Glasnow is the latest such example, and, even though he carries tremendous risk in his return from Tommy John surgery, he had pitched so well during his time with the Rays — a 3.05 ERA with 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings — that he could be a league-winning acquisition.
SP – Hunter Greene (SP – CIN): $5
Hunter Greene slides in as the last starting pitcher also in my starting lineup, and it was only because the price was low. I am in a position where I can avoid any other fantasy manager selecting a player at a laughably low price, and Greene, at less than $5, would have fit that mold. Now, I get the potential of a player who struck out a ridiculous 164 batters in just 125.2 innings.
RP – Josh Hader (RP – SD): $20
I didn’t intend to pay such a premium for the first closer off the board, but such is the case with the first closer on the board. He automatically was sought-after, and because I had saved my money and needed an advantage somewhere, spending $20 on Josh Hader felt like the right decision. By comparison, Edwin Diaz was picked a few players later for $28. Emmanuel Clase followed at $26.
RP – Clay Holmes (RP – NYY): $5
While I made it a point to take a top-notch closer earlier in the draft, I also wanted to continually add saves whenever possible. I bid on every closer that hit the board until the average price was reached, and the first to fall below the advertised value was Clay Holmes. He joins my squad.
RP – David Bednar (RP – PIT): $5
Similarly to how I ended up with Clay Holmes on my team, I am continually bidding on closers whose price remains lower than their averages. David Bednar was one of them, and he now joins as my third relief pitcher. I may try to add one more before the end of the draft, but I definitely won’t spend more than the average.
BN – Kris Bryant (OF – COL): $8
I keep adding Kris Bryant to my teams, but only because the acquisition fee has baked into his injury history. Last year, there was no way that Bryant could be added to any roster at a reasonable price, but he is routinely undervalued heading into 2023, and I am taking the bait every time. Perhaps I’m wrong, and he continues to waste a spot on my rosters. Even if that’s the case, it becomes much more palatable to cut him now that there wasn’t a big investment tied to him.
BN – Christian Yelich (OF – MIL): $6
Christian Yelich was one of my top rebound candidates last year, but history shows that I was wrong. Do I take the chance again in 2023? Indeed, but at an even more discounted price. I simply can’t let Yelich go to another roster when I have the funds to add him. So I did.
BN – Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI): $3
Immediately after drafting Yelich, Rhys Hoskins was about to go to a team for $2. Not so fast. I didn’t want to start my bench with three hitters before taking another pitcher, but I also had saved my money earlier to be able to constantly grab the next best player when it made sense. It made sense here.
BN – Freddy Peralta (SP – MIL): $5
I was looking to select another starting pitcher at one point, and Freddy Peralta became available at the right time and with the right value. Peralta is today what he has been for the past few years: outstanding when he is on the mound, but rarely on the mound enough to be outstanding for a full season. I’ll take the chance with him on my bench.
BN – Lance Lynn (SP – CWS): $4
I had no real interest in drafting Lance Lynn, but once again, I was able to find more funds than the rest of my league-mates and decided to spend the money to add arguably the best available pitcher. Lynn predictably saw his ERA balloon by more than one full run from his outstanding 2.69 mark from 2021, but he did hold his 2022 number below 4.00 — barely, at 3.99 — and was effective enough in the strikeout department — averaging just more than one-per-inning. The reality is that he is another depth piece for my team, and I am now the first manager to completely fill a roster. I take pride in that only because I waited so long to get started. If this were to be compared to a snake draft, it was as if I traded my first two or three-round picks for the ability to draft as much as I wanted between the fourth and 14th rounds. Lynn is an example of that.
Check out the full draft results >>
Wow. What started out as a horrible team came together because of the value I was able to find in the middle of the draft — A-, with a score of 91 out of 100. It’s important to define this better, though, as the team was about to crumble before a few key moves were made.
Once the top tier of players came and went without me selecting a single one, I did have to overspend a few times. This “value” wasn’t necessarily tied to the cost of acquisition, but instead, the cost of adding a player that was slightly below someone else in terms of talent but much lower in terms of price — Giancarlo Stanton, Eloy Jimenez, and Andres Gimenez were examples of this. Continually doing that eventually moved me from the bottom of the standings toward the top.
As a whole, my hitters actually ranked significantly worse than my pitchers, which continues to highlight how much easier it is to find nice depth for the rotation lower in the player pool. In hindsight, this means that I could have afforded to overpay for at least one more hitter early, and I would consider doing so in future drafts — mock or real.
More Mock Drafts
- 12-Team, Early Pick
- 12-Team, Early Pick (Wait on Pitcher)
- 12-Team, Middle Pick
- 12-Team, Late Pick
- 10-Team, Middle Pick
- 10-Team, Roto League
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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.