Shane Bieber faced off against the Dodgers in Spring Training. He bested Trevor Bauer, allowing only two runs, and striking out nine

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Welcome to the Mock Draft lab.

This is where we are running experiments, crunching the numbers, and proving hypotheses, so you can reap the rewards of our hard work. The rules for this exercise were simple: Take the best pitcher in each round without reaching more than 10 spots away in either direction. (This kept us honest and realistic as to who would be available and prevented any major overpays for talent.)


The first simulation that I'm offering as a tool going into your fantasy drafts is a breakdown of the best pitcher available in each round left for the taking. This has been achieved by studying the results of numerous mock drafts, cross-referencing those results against average draft positions, and the plain old eye test.

How should something like this be applied? Well, imagine yourself in this situation: You've gone best player available for the first six rounds and realize that starting pitcher is a bigger hole on your team than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Reference this handy-dandy sheet to assuage those concerns. Not to fear, there's plenty of talent to be had in the next round, the round after that, and the round after that.

This is based on a mid-round draft position in a 12 team league. Obviously, higher rated players could fall because there's no accounting for the taste, or lack thereof, of your fellow managers.

RoundPitcher
1Shane Bieber - CLE
2Max Scherzer - WSH
3Luis Castillo - CIN
4Tyler Glasnow - TB
5Lance Lynn - CWS
6Liam Hendriks - CWS
7Kyle Hendricks - CHC
8Ian Anderson - ATL
9Zach Plesac - CLE
10Chris Paddack - SD
11Patrick Corbin - WSH
12Sixto Sanchez - MIA
13Devin Williams - MIL
14James Paxton - SEA
15Alex Colome - MIN
16Mike Soroka - ATL
17Dustin May - LAS
18Jose Urquidy - HOU
19Ryan Yarbrough - TB
20Jameson Taillon - NYY
21Matthew Boyd - DET
22Tony Gonsolin - LAD
23Zach Davies - CHC

As you can see, there is talent at every level of the draft, both for starters, relievers, and guys who can do both. The highlights:

SHANE BIEBER

Beginning at the beginning, I can't tell you how much I like getting Shane Bieber anywhere in the back half of the first round. The reigning Cy Young winner looked transcendent last season, and I've seen just as many fantasy projections that squarely place him in the conversation as the #1 overall pitcher. Getting a guy who led the league in strikeout percentage, strikeouts, ERA, and wins is a no-brainer. It's not his fault that he doesn't pitch in New York.

LUIS CASTILLO

A couple rounds later, I believe you can still snag a dude that's about to prove he could be an ace on pretty much any staff. His numbers have improved from year to year, specifically cutting his walks and increasing his strikeouts. Without Bauer in the rotation, Castillo will be the Opening Day starter and can use this chance to solidify himself as a premier pitcher.

DEVIN WILLIAMS

In the middle rounds of the draft, I am all about jumping on Devin Williams. The man has a pitch so mesmerizing that it got a name: "The Airbender." He uses a normal circle change grip, but himself sees it as a reverse slider, or what was one time known as, a screwball. He's been ridiculously valuable as Hader's setup man, piling up holds left and right and center. Look here for the possibility of him assuming the closer role if the trade talk surrounding Hader finally comes to fruition.

JAMESON TAILLON

Nearing the end and looking to fill out your roster, I think Jameson Taillon provides a ton of upside this season. He's coming off of a second Tommy John surgery, and the Yankees have already said they plan to ease him into the rotation by having Cole take two starts before his first. (This sets him up to face the Baltimore Orioles, by the way, a team who doesn't have a clear second baseman on the team). However, he's completely rebuilt his throwing motion, which should be more sustainable for his elbow.

Of course, exhibition games don't predict future success, but Taillon has looked tremendous in his four outings. He has one earned run and 14 strikeouts over the 8.1 innings, and this could, finally, be the season that he lives up to the lofty expectations of his high draft status.

ZACH DAVIES

In the final round, I'm a big fan of Zach Davies, who put together a respectable season for the Padres last year, proving to be a valuable waiver wire addition. Once San Diego decided they were going the nuclear route and compiled the best staff in baseball, Davies saw himself dealt to the Cubs, as a part of the Darvish trade. The increased use of his change up resulted in more strikeouts. The change of scenery to a weaker division should provide a boost to his stats across the board.

The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

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The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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Julio Jones is trying to force his way out of Atlanta

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The NFL's all-time leader in receiving yardage per game is looking for a new home.

Five time all-pro, Julio Jones, stated on FS1's Undisputed earlier this week that he was "out" of Atlanta and that his only focus on where he wants to play next year includes winning. This corroborates with reports back in April as Ian Rapoport indicated the Falcons were receiving calls for their star receiver prior to the NFL Draft.

It's no surprise that Jones wants out considering the Falcons have only made the playoffs once since their Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Jones is 32 now and coming off a season where nagging injuries kept him off the field for all but nine games in 2020. In those games Jones caught 51 balls for 771 yards while adding three touchdowns. Having only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career in 2012, the volume and yardage have always been Julio's strengths. A lack of availability would certainly hurt his chances to be a major contributor for any title-contender.

According to SportsLine, the teams with the best odds to land Jones are as follows as of May 28, 2021.

  • Patriots +200
  • 49ers +300
  • Titans +400
  • Raiders +600
  • Ravens +700
  • Chargers +900
  • Colts +1000
  • Packers +1200
  • Dolphins +1400
  • Jaguars +1500
  • Cowboys +2000

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The Nets big 3 are set for a finals run.

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The play-ins have been a short, but wild rollercoaster and the playoffs are getting ready to set off.

The seeds are finally set, and the first-round matchups are 76ers(1) vs Wizards(8), Nets(2) vs Celtics(7), Bucks(3) vs Heat(6), and Knicks(4) vs Hawks(5).



76ers vs Wizards:

The Russell Westbrook-Joel Embiid rivalry will continue during this year's playoffs and fans cannot wait. The Wizards finished the season with a 16-6 record, and after a lackluster start this season, they have made themselves a dangerous 8th seed. While the 76ers didn't finish the season hot, I'm sure with a team-full of veterans, rest was more of a priority. The 76ers beat the Wizards three times during the season, but two of those games were very close and came early in the season.

The Wizards can definitely make this series a challenging one for the 76ers. The Wizards have shooters all around with Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans. But the 76ers have a much deeper team with guys like Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Dwight Howard providing good veteran leadership. The Wizards are riding on the health of Bradley Beal, who has dealt with hamstring tightness in the past two weeks.



Nets vs Celtics:

The Nets finally seem to be healthy just in time for the playoffs, which is dangerous for Boston. Although the Nets big three only played eight games together, the Nets still finished with a 48-24. The Nets also have a great mix of reliable veterans like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris. These two teams meet three times during the regular season with Brooklyn taking all three games.

The Celtics have not lived up to expectations this year. After making a conference finals last year, it was expected to carry through the regular season, but they never found their stride. Jaylen Brown will continue to be sidelined with a broken wrist, so most of the load will be carried by Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. I see this series being an easy one for the Nets.



Bucks vs Heat:

A rematch of the heated second-round matchup last year, where the Heat upset Milwaukee, who had Giannis dealing with injuries. Interestingly enough, both of these come to the playoffs on the right side with an 8-2 record in their last 10 regular-season games. Giannis is back with more weapons on his sides like Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague, while also keeping their core from last year. Giannis had had another MVP-type season averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds.

The Miami Heat started the season off slow, probably because of the NBA finals hangover, but got hot after the all-star break. Miami also acquired many new weapons like Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. The Jimmy Butler-Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup will be the most important aspect of this series.

Knicks vs Hawks

After what seems like a lifetime drought, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs! We can all agree that when the Knicks are good, the league is in better spirits. Tom Thibodeau has turned this team around, and you can't forget about how Julius Randle has been playing this season. Possibly the most improved player, Julius Randle has proved all his doubters wrong and has taken the keys to this Knicks franchise. The Knicks have great veteran leadership with guys like Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson who are familiar with Thibodeau. They also have great young talent with guys like RJ Barret, and Obi Toppin.

The Hawks on the other hand have turned it around since firing Lloyd Pierce and having Nate McMillan made this team do a complete 180. Trae Young and John Collins are one of the best duos in the league. With guys like Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who can get hot at any point of the game. This series can definitely go to 7 games, with last-second shots determining the outcome.