2020 First-Year Player Mock Draft: Reviewing Kyle Brown’s Picks

Kyle writes up the five players he selected in the staff mock FYPD.

Mock draft season is in full effect here at Pitcher List and the dynasty team has been bolstered this offseason to help provide you with even more insight into all things baseball, fantasy or otherwise. The winter holidays would normally be a time to spend a few extra hours with glass of egg nog and a laptop, digging into the debut stat lines of all the draftees from the previous season, trying to uncover some hidden gems lurking beyond the first rounders. Sadly, we have zero 2020 statistics from nearly all of the draftees. To make matters worse, their college and high school seasons were cut short by the pandemic as well, offering as little information as we have ever had heading into our First-Year-Player-Drafts (FYPD). What’s a dynasty player to do?

With this landscape in mind, let me offer you a few of my guiding principles when it comes to how I plan to attack my 2021 FYPD. Even in a normal year, I tend to lean heavily in favor of college players over high schoolers, while leaving the J2 teenagers off my radar entirely until the later rounds. With so many high school players losing their senior seasons, my prejudice against drafting 18 year olds will only be stronger in 2021.

Another aspect of my 2021 strategy will be to take players that are polished and have skill sets that won’t need as much minor league seasoning. This means taking pitchers that have fewer pitches to develop, velocity to increase, and avoiding hurlers with historical workloads that muddy the waters of what their eventual major league role will be. For hitters, this principle means avoiding power over hit prospects who struggle with contact and focusing my picks on what bats have the fewest roadblocks ahead of them within their organization. Finally, I am not going to concern myself with the position a hitter is currently slated to play, but instead focus entirely on the quality of the bat. Dynasty team roster construction shouldn’t happen in your FYPD, that game of Tetris comes much later. If you would like to check out the full draft, just click the link below. Let’s get to the picks!

Here’s a look at the overall draft board.

 

Round 1, Pick 3: Nick Gonzales, 2B, Pirates

 

I was stoked to nab one of the top five picks in this mock as it basically guaranteed me a chance to both show off my draft strategy and take one of the most exciting players the Pirates—my favorite team—have drafted since Andrew McCutchen. A good chunk of dynasty managers would likely have gone with Zac Veen here, but the Rockies complete ineptitude regarding player development and the higher risk factor associated with high school players just turned me off to taking Veen with the three pick. Enter Nick Gonzales.

As I go through my picks, a fairly obvious bias will emerge: I really like players who perform well in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL). Long heralded as the premier wood bat proving ground for the top college talent in the country, the CCBL is a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff. For Gonzales, this means dispelling the concerns that his absolutely preposterous New Mexico State statistics are the product of facing weaker competition. However, before we get any further, let’s just take a moment to ogle Gonzo’s ridiculous .399/.502/.747 college stat line. No need to squint, those are the actual numbers. In 16 games in 2020, Gonzales hit 12 home runs. TWELVE!

Now you can find all sorts of college players with absurd stats if you look, but it is what Gonzales did in the CCBL in the summer of 2019 that really gets me excited. Against some of the stiffest competition available to him and with a wooden bat, Gonzo hit .351/.451/.630 and won the MVP of the CCBL. He smacked 25 XBH, tallied six SB, and accrued 20 walks against 22 strikeouts in just 42 games. With a CCBL season like that, no one should be worried about his talent or his ability to hit with wooden bats. Add all those gaudy stats to the fact that the Pirates have absolutely no one holding him back from rocketing through the minor leagues and into the infield at PNC Park and you find yourself with a winning FYPD formula.

 

Round 2, Pick 22: Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox

 

In the intro I mentioned that we have zero 2020 statistics from nearly all FYPD players this drafting season. Garrett Crochet is the exception. Crochet’s stuff was so advanced at the alternate site that the White Sox felt confident enough to bring him up to the show with no minor league games under his belt. Crochet answered the call by striking out eight batter in six scoreless innings with an average fastball of 100.2 mph.

The 11th overall pick in 2020, Crochet’s arsenal isn’t just about velocity. Standing 6’6″ and throwing from the left side, Crochet also has a devastating slider, an above-average changeup, and a developing curveball. My guess is that the “left-forearm tightness” injury he suffered last season is what depressed his value enough for me to grab him all the way at pick #22, but as of now the White Sox have reported that the injury is not serious enough to merit surgery. A flexor strain is not ideal, but there is risk inherent with every pitcher selection you make in a draft, so you may as well go for the guy who has already shown the ability to dominate MLB hitters.

Crochet does go against one of my draft principles: It’s hard to say whether or not he will be a starter or a reliever. However, with the arsenal, velocity, and deception he brings to the table, I have no issue stepping into the unknown and drafting him above other pitchers such as Reid Detmers and Nick Bitsko, both of whom went above Crochet in this mock. If he ends up being a reliever, he could turn into another Josh Hader. If he can remain healthy as a starter, the sky is the limit.

 

Round 3, Pick 27: Justin Foscue, 2B, Rangers

 

This is the point in the mock draft where I started to get giddy. With the selection of Justin Foscue I was able to secure three players who were taken in the top fourteen picks of the MLB Draft. Wunderbar! I consider Focsue to be sort of Nick Gonzales-double-lite. In his sophomore season at Mississippi State he slashed .331/.395/.564 with 14 home runs and 22 doubles in 67 games. Just like Gonzales, Foscue was able to get to that power without sacrificing contact or approach, compiling 30 walks in 2019 with only 32 strikeouts. In the shortened 2020, Foscue tallied 15 walks in just 16 games.

Seen as a bit of a reach on draft day, Foscue is unlikely to stick at 2B given his defense, but the high floor bat is what I am after in the third round of this mock. If there was ever a year to give a player a boost for having an incredible work ethic and high baseball IQ, it’s 2021. In an offseason where every player and organization will have to get creative with their development, I will bet on the hard-working smart players a bit more often. Foscue has some warts, but there are very few players blocking his way in the Rangers’ organization and his profile should lead to a quick ascension through the minor leagues. In short, we will know if Foscue is going to turn into a relevant fantasy player much quicker than, say, Isaiah Greene.

One of the hidden values of taking polished college players over boom-or-bust prospects is that they tend to perform much better in the minor leagues, opening up the possibility of a greater return in trade should you need to jump ship before they debut.

 

Round 4, Pick 46: Carmen Mlodzinkski, RHP, Pirates

 

Did I draft Carmen Mlodzinski just to get you to try and pronounce his name? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe Mlodzinski. All joking aside, Mlodzinski is a super-promising arm in an organization with a fresh pitching philosophy and a desperate need for competent starters. Despite a limited track record—he didn’t even start pitching until halfway through high school—Mlodzinski has long been a target for MLB teams and would likely have been drafted out of high school without his resolute commitment to South Carolina.

Mlodzinski throws a mid-90s fastball, has a sinker and a cutter that both flash plus, and will attempt to carve out an effective pitch mix with the new-look Pirates. The fastball, sinker, cutter combo has already shown the ability to dominate. Mlodzinski roasted the competition in the 2019 CCBL, where he posted a 2.45 ERA, a 0.648 WHIP, and struck out 40 batters in just 29.1 innings of work. Oh yeah, he only walked four people that summer.

The early returns in the 2020 college season were not as glowing, but Mlodzinski doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his arm and is still finding his best cross-section of pitches (I know, goes against my principle!). With all of the weapons he is developing and very few pitchers able to hold him back in Pittsburgh, I felt that he was worth the risk in the fourth round.

 

Round 5, Pick 51: Alerick Soularie, OF, Twins

 

80-GRADE NAME ALERT! Alerick Soularie is another player that lacks a clear position to play, but the bat is promising enough for me to take a flier on him in the last round of this mock. Soularie wasted no time making his presence known at Tennessee, slashing .357/.466/.602 in his first season of play in 2019. A bit wiry at 6’0″ and 175 pounds, Soularie is the type of bat I look for in the later rounds of a FYPD. He has room to add some good weight and has shown an ability to hit for both power and contact. The Twins have quite a few roadblocks in their system right now, which does go against my principles, but they also have a great track record for developing hitters like Soularie.

I would have liked to see Soularie perform better in the CCBL in 2019, but it was only nine games and his SEC numbers from both 2019 and 2020 are good enough for me to excuse his small sample size on the Cape. Would that I could gaze into the alternate universe where the pandemic didn’t happen to see what Soularie’s 2020 college numbers could have looked like, as he had already amassed five home runs and twelve walks in just sixteen games before the season was cancelled.

 

Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Kyle Brown

You are reading words written by the #1 Gary Sheffield fan of all time. I live and breath baseball 24-7-365. There is no offseason. Raised on the Rochester Red Wings, forged in Sheff's raging fire of blistering bombs, and steeled by my love of the Pirates, I am here to cut through minor league flotsam and provide you all with deep analysis of emerging minor league stars, regulars, and role players. Follow me 20,000 leagues under the MLB to find your next dynasty all-stars.

One response to “2020 First-Year Player Mock Draft: Reviewing Kyle Brown’s Picks”

  1. Helmut says:

    A Mlodzinski mention! I hope the new PIT regime helps these young arms: Keller, Brubaker, Mlodzinski, Priester, Nick Garcia & Thomas. I read some good stuff on Rumbunter about AAA pitching coach Joel Hanrahan. We’ll see.

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