Part of what I wanted to do when joining Pitcher List was find ways to challenge myself by working with and competing against some of the best fantasy minds out there. Let me tell you something, this draft was exactly that: a challenge! The goal was to draft 10 rookie eligible players we expected to see the most playing time this year, and the scoring categories are simply games played and innings pitched.
Coming into this draft, based simply on the scoring, I felt that targeting pitching early would be a smart strategy. When looking at 2019 rookie-eligible players, there were actually four pitchers who had more than 162 innings, so it seemed logical to take some shots on the side of the ball with higher potential. Continuing with 2019; there were 171 rookie batters who played at least one game, and overall they averaged 44 games apiece. Alternatively, there were 260 pitchers who would have contributed at least one inning, making it more likely to guarantee some value. Of the top 171, they averaged 47 innings apiece so while the top options had higher upside, the drop off was not any more precipitous.
1. (Pick 12) Brendan McKay, SP/DH, TB
As outlined above, I knew at least my first few rounds would be starting pitchers. In keeping with trying to maximize possible upside, I couldn’t imagine a better place to land in the first round than with a player who could very well contribute to both innings pitched and games played. Steamer, ZiPS, and Depth Charts all have Brendan McKay hovering around 100 IP for 2020 and each projection system are giving him a handful of games started as a batter as well. While I drafted McKay for his innings, which I believe will be too good for the Rays to pass up while competing in the AL East, I also have full confidence that they will utilize any sort of roster flexibility they can and rack up games at the plate as well.
2. (13) Dustin May, SP, LAD
While the Dodgers are notorious for their innings manipulation, they clearly have enough confidence in Dustin May to put him out in high-leverage postseason situations. At the time of the draft. I liked that Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill were out of the mix, but the pickup of Price does knock May’s value down a little bit. All the projection systems do have May at least 100 innings, and, given the injury history of the rest of the Dodgers rotation, I can absolutely see him eclipsing the 100-inning mark.
3. (36) Justus Sheffield, SP, SEA
With this pick, I was really just glad we were going for quantity over quality. I’m not personally a fan of Justus Sheffield, but he’s entering the year slated to be the Mariners No. 3 starter, and that’s all I need him to be. With the Mariners not looking to compete in the AL West, I’m envisioning them giving Sheffield every chance to accumulate major league innings, and that is ideal. While he has had trouble so far in his career going deep into games, he should reach 25 starts, and, with him pitching 160 innings across three levels last year, workload shouldn’t be an issue either.
4. (37) Michael Kopech, SP, CWS
Michael Kopech is a bit of a risk in the fourth round here coming back from injury, but he’s an exciting player and I wanted to highlight his potential for the 2020 season. More than anything I’m excited for the White Sox season this year, and with them signing Luis Robert to an extension, it seems to me that they care more about getting the highest quality product on the field, not necessarily dealing with service-time manipulation.
With Kopech coming back from Tommy John surgery, he certainly won’t be rushed, but he did pitch 130 and 140 innings in his last two seasons before injury, so I believe that we could be looking at 110+ again this year. What I like about this pick, and what helps mitigate some of the risk, is that with an electric fastball and above-average curve I think that a worst-case scenario still finds Kopech getting innings coming out of the bullpen.
5. (60) Randy Dobnak, SP, MIN
Right now according to RosterResource, Randy Dobnak is slated as the fifth starter for the Twins on Opening Day. At this point in the draft, I don’t believe there were many pitchers scheduled to be a starter entering spring training. While the spot is not necessarily guaranteed, it does instill some confidence that the Twins started him in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees. Dobnak can contribute innings, in one role or another, in 2020.
6. (61) Alec Bohm, 3B, PHI
In the sixth round, I finally took my first batter. With Maikel Franco out of Philadelphia and current 3B Scott Kingery (according to RosterResource) filling more of a super-utility role in 2019, I think the door could be wide open in 2020 for Alec Bohm to take over. While I think that this is a positional battle to monitor in spring training, it’s one that can be won a few weeks into the season if not right out of the gate.
7. (84) Matt Manning, SP, DET
Detroit has a plethora of pitching talent on it’s way up and not a whole lot standing in the way in the majors. After a very impressive 130 innings in Double-A last year I expect Matt Manning to start in Triple-A, but with another solid start to the season, I’d expect Manning to see the majors by season’s end. This is where I fell back on what I researched before the draft, and feel confident that Manning can be one of those players right around the average in terms of his contribution to my team. I think that Manning is ready for the big leagues, and he should be given a shot to prove that this year.
8. (85) Deivi Garcia, SP, NYY
Another pick that, when looking at ZiPS, comes across very well. Deivi Garcia is a player who I have liked as he’s come up in the minors, and, despite being a Red Sox fan, I expect to see him perform well in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Even after adding Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ rotation is looking rather thin. They are already dealing with a serious injury to James Paxton and Domingo German’s lengthy suspension, and the first pitches are only just being thrown in Florida. Garcia isn’t the next in line — I’m not sure that he’s even second up — but I don’t have faith in J.A. Happ or Jordan Montgomery to hold down rotation spots either.
Across three levels last year Garcia was simply incredible in High-A (a .93 FIP), continued his dominance in Double-A (2.20 FIP), and then finally ran into some trouble at Triple-A to end his season. Given another strong season the 20-year-old Garcia should be knocking on the door in the Bronx before too long.
9. (108) Rowan Wick, RP, CHC
Rowan Wick had a great end to the season last year with the Cubs. He put up a 2.43 ERA with a 2.82 FIP, and while his BABIP allowed will realistically come back up somewhat, he should still be able to be a quality option out of the Cubs bullpen. With the last couple picks in my draft, I was happy to take a reliever who I believed could rack up innings, and, even outside of this format, Wick is someone worth monitoring, especially leagues where holds are counted. He performed very well between Triple-A and the majors, having around 65 innings pitched, and in a full season in the majors, he should be able to reach that number again.
10. (109) Joey Bart, C, SF
With my last pick, I wanted to take a player who I’m rooting to see this season. Having not reached above Double-A in his career it would take a great season, but with aging Buster Posey and non-roster invite Rob Brantly making up the only two catchers on the roster right now, the door is certainly open given an injury or prolonged slump. Joey Bart is a top prospect for a reason. He should turn into a good fantasy contributor, but what helps his case most in 2020 is that he’s already a 65-grade fielding catcher. Even if the bat isn’t ready, he could still see the majors this season, and with the last pick, his potential plus adding a player to root for seemed like a perfect close to the draft.