This past Tuesday Nick Pollack gathered me and several other members of our fantastic staff for our first live mock draft of the year and it was fantastic! I had the pleasure of drafting out of the sixth position right between Nick and the sultry-toned Austin Bristow II. Despite that, I feel like I held my own pretty well and drafted what would have been a competitive if not one of the most competitive teams. Here’s how it all went down!
Round 1: Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)
Targeted Pick: Nolan Arenado
Alternative Pick: Trea Turner
Lately in mock drafts I’ve been targeting steals guys in the first round since steals seem to dry up pretty quickly after the first three rounds, but I couldn’t pass up on one of the most consistent hitters in all of fantasy. Having hit over .300 the last two years, Arenado has never hit below .284 in a season and has mashed at least 37 home runs in each of the last four years. I did think about reaching for Turner here to secure an elite stolen base guy so I didn’t have to worry about it later. Perhaps seeing how the rest of the draft went it might have been a good idea but I will take Arenado here every single day of the week.
Round 2: Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves)
Targeted Pick: Paul Goldschmidt
Alternate Pick: Juan Soto
First let me start with the fact that I love Freeman. I think he’s fantastic and going to straight up crush the ball. The truth is I wanted Goldschmidt here but he went to Nick the pick right before me. As I mentioned in the Arenado section so far this season I’ve had a tendency to chase stolen bases early and it’s taught me one thing so far … first base dries up real fast. Given that I couldn’t be happier to snap up Freeman.
Even if his HR/FB% doesn’t get back up to the 19+% from 2016 and 2017, you’re talking about a guy who has put up a .300 AVG the last two years with at least 25 home runs along with a wOBA over .370 in each of the last three years and an insane 32.0 LD%. Freeman’s as an elite a hitter as they come. Combined with Arenado I’ve got a great floor in AVG, HRs and RBI right off the bat. If I had whiffed on both first basemen I would have likely gone with Soto as I love his skillset and his potential multi-category output in the outfield.
Round 3: Blake Snell (SP, Tampa Bay Rays)
Targeted Pick: Charlie Blackmon
Alternate Pick: Justin Verlander
In retrospect, one glaring weakness on my team is the outfield but let me tell you it wasn’t for lack for planning. It was my intention to take outfielders early and often. A common theme you’ll see throughout my draft is the outfielder I’m targeting going right in front of me. I’m a big believer in Blackmon this year especially at the price he’s going at. I often like to go with Anthony Rendon (who is essentially Blackmon at third base) here but with Arenado already in the mix I wasn’t quite ready to fill a UTIL spot (more on this in a little bit) so I’m actually really happy with getting Snell here.
It’s hard to argue against Snell as one of the elite pitchers and a great option for my No. 1 starter. I certainly don’t expect him to completely repeat his Cy Young performance but I do see reaching 200 innings as being possible for Snell, especially if he can avoid the shoulder fatigue that landed him on the DL last year. If you prorate his 2018 strikeout rate to 200 innings we’re talking 250 strikeouts, which could push him into the top five of starters. I love starting with Snell as the lynchpin of my staff.
Round 4: Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)
Targeted Pick: Khris Davis
Alternate Pick: Carlos Carrasco
This pick was really a continuation of my desire (perhaps too much so) for a really solid floor to build my team around and Bogaerts is as solid as they come. An elite hitter (133 wRC+, .373 wOBA in 2018), he hits for average (having hit over .270 since 2015) and put up a career-high HR/FB% with the increased BBL%, Launch Angle and Exit Velocity necessary to make it appear legit. Add in that he usually chips in between eight and 15 stolen bases along with the fact that he bats cleanup in the best offense in baseball and it’s hard not to be all in on Bogaerts.
I had initially been targeting Davis to gain an advantage in HRs and RBI but he went a few picks earlier. If he can get a full season of plate appearances this year I think Bogaerts is in for a monster year. I had also given serious thought to Carrasco to give me two elite pitchers but I just couldn’t bring myself to take two pitchers that early in the draft quite yet.
Round 5: Walker Buehler (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Targeted Pick: Walker Buehler
Alternate Pick: Starling Marte
I know I had just said with my previous pick that I normally don’t take two pitchers this early in the draft but when Buehler fell to the middle of the fifth round (NFBC has his ADP at pick 35) I knew I couldn’t pass up that kind of value. I’m a big fan of Buehler’s stuff as he throws 96 on average with his four-seamer along with several different fastball variations to pair with his absolutely sexy slider and ridiculous curveball.
Despite this I’m glad he’s my No. 2 pitcher since I do have some concerns about his innings. Dodgeritis is absolutely a thing. But as my second starter? Count me in. We’re talking about a pitcher who struck out hitters at a 27.9% rate while limiting hitters to a .191 AVG and backing it up with a SIERA of 3.31. If Buehler puts up a 180-inning season with nearly 200 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA? I’m happy as a clam! I did think twice about taking Marte here as I had no stolen bases to speak of but I felt like Buehler was the best value.
Round 6: Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
Targeted Pick: Lorenzo Cain
Alternate Pick: J.T. Realmuto
To continue the trend of my outfield targets disappearing right before my eyes, I had been targeting Cain this entire draft and it looked like he would fall to me in the sixth but evil genius Donny Moskovits stole him two picks before me. It’s okay Donny we’re only sorta mortal enemies now. I felt like I had built enough of a batting average floor that I could afford the hit that Sanchez would bring to my overall numbers.
It’s obvious now that injuries derailed his 2018 season and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect 25 to 30 home runs from Sanchez. To get that kind of production from my catcher seemed like a no brainer. Also now I don’t have to wade into the dumpster fire that is catcher after the top eight go. The likelihood that Sanchez steals back the top fantasy catcher crown from Realmuto is decently high and I was willing to take a gamble on it here. I did contemplate Realmuto here (note this draft took place before he was traded to Philadelphia) instead but felt that he would have just contributed by raising my floor without raising my team’s ceiling all that much.
Round 7: Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)
Target Pick: Matt Chapman
Alternate Pick: Edwin Diaz
I remember this pick was one that drew some sighs out of the rest of the drafters but let me try to explain it here. My No. 1 rule of drafting is #AlwaysGetYourGuys. No matter what. This year Chapman is one of my guys. Having space for two UTILs, I didn’t mind filling one of them already with Baby Arenado. There’s a ton of similarities to their games and with some launch angle improvement, I think Chapman can make a leap similar to the one Arenado made in 2015. Pencil me in as one of the believers that have Chapman hitting over 25 to 30 home runs this year especially since for the most part xStats backs up what he did last year.
Just in case you were wondering if Chapman holds his own in the other counting stats it’s worth noting that last year after July 27 he batted primarily out of the two hole and scored over 100 runs on the season. With Davis and Matt Olsen batting after him in the order, it’s pretty easy to see him repeating that. I definitely contemplated grabbing an elite closer here in Diaz but I held off which ended up working out for me a few rounds later.
Round 8: Travis Shaw (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Target Pick: Travis Shaw
Alternate Pick: David Peralta
This was the target here from the very beginning. I think he is in store for a huge 2019. For one thing, he should benefit from some serious batting average regression as he has put up a BABIP around .300 pretty much every year outside of the wacky .242 BABIP last year. I would expect him to end up with an AVG somewhere between .265 and .275 with 30+ home runs and 100 RBI since he is batting cleanup in one of the best offenses in the league.
This would already be a great pick even if he was just my second UTIL but here’s the best part. He qualifies at second base. To get that kind of production out of my second baseman is a fantastic get. One of my bold predictions for the year is that Shaw finishes 2018 as a top three second baseman. I did briefly tinker with the idea of reaching a bit to grab David Peralta since my outfield was still in shambles but I just couldn’t.
Round 9: Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)
Targeted Pick: Joey Gallo
Alternate Pick: Carlos Martinez
I really really wanted to go Gallo here. Just give me all the home runs. I figured I had built the perfect batting average floor for taking Gallo here but he got snagged the pick before me and so I was left with a tough decision. I needed an outfielder pretty badly at this point and so I grabbed Brantley. That is not to say I am unhappy having Brantley on my team, I think he is going to be awesome for the Astros and is either going to be an asset in runs or RBI depending on where he ends up in the batting order and will continue to be a great source of batting average while chipping in double-digit steals.
I’m not even that worried about his health as he was pretty much injury free last year. My only regret with this pick is that Brantley doesn’t give me anything all that different from Bogaerts and Freeman so I strengthened the floor of my team without really raising its ceiling at all. I had an outfielder finally though! In retrospect, I had thought about grabbing Martinez to be my third starter and I think that would have been the better way to go in the long run as I think he’s headed for a bounce-back season.
Round 10: Kenley Jansen (RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Targeted Pick: Yu Darvish
Alternate Pick: Eloy Jimenez
This round exposed two biases that I have a bad habit of running into in my drafts. Typically I try to focus about the end game of a season instead of focusing on just the draft itself and the first few months of the season. Oftentimes this mostly tends to manifest itself in how I approach my relievers. I almost never draft relievers in the first 10 rounds. Usually when there is no one else I like in a round that’s when I bite the bullet and take a closer. I was gunning hard in this round for Darvish when our fearless leader snapped him up up the pick before me. I’ll admit it when Nick snagged Darvish I panicked a little, and as is inevitable when you panic I abandoned my instincts and grabbed a reliever.
I felt I needed an elite pitcher in some form and despite a rough 2018 (for him) Jansen is as elite as they get. In an off year, he still managed 38 saves with a 3.01 ERA while striking out 82 batters in 71 innings pitched! That’s one heck of an off year.
My regret with this pick is two-fold, the first is that this pick would have been much better if I had followed up on it. I simply waited too long to grab other relievers and so ended up with only one closer. The lesson here is once you grab an elite reliever you gotta commit to it. Don’t go nuts but make sure to carve out room in the draft to get a solid bullpen to back up that elite guy or else you’re wasting the pick.
My second regret has to do with the other bias and that’s my distrust for rookie players. The pick here absolutely should have been Jimenez. I was apprehensive to do so because I didn’t know when he would be called up. I needed someone dynamic with some upside in my outfield and I didn’t pull the trigger. Steamer has him hitting 26 home runs for the season while hitting .295 and that’s something I definitely should have grabbed in the 10th round.
Round 11: J.A. Happ (SP, New York Yankees)
Targeted Player: Luis Castillo
Alternate Pick: Nick Pivetta
In my original pre-draft plan I had hoped to try and snag Darvish and Castillo back to back here and I got sniped on both of them right before my pick, this time by Austin. I knew I wanted a pitcher here so once Castillo went I was torn between going for a solid, high-floor guy or a young high-upside guy who is pretty much everyone’s favorite sleeper. Having gone with young, high-upside players already in Snell and Buehler I felt it made sense to go with a nice, stable guy in Happ.
Happ made a huge leap last year as he struck out 193 batters in 177.2 innings pitched while putting up a 3.65 ERA one year after putting up a 3.53 ERA in 2017. His 2018 SIERA of 3.64 seems to support last season’s numbers but where did all the strikeouts come from? In his Top 40 pitchers for 2019 article, Nick attributes much of it to Happ learning how to elevate fastballs which gives me hope that he will sustain that strikeout rate.
Round 12: Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets
Targeted Player: Nick Pivetta
Alternate Pick: Josh James
For a brief solitary moment, I thought I was going to get the best of both worlds and Pivetta was going to fall all the way back to me in the 12th but it wasn’t in the cards. Normally I would have just gone with my next pitching target in James but I can’t justify it until I know for sure he has a spot in the Astros rotation. Instead, I decided to grab another outfielder. There is a lot to like about Nimmo honestly. In his first full season in the league, he put up a .404 OBP and a 149 wRC+ over 535 PAs, which led manager Mickey Calloway to name Nimmo the leadoff hitter for 2019 in what might be a pretty potent offense.
He’s going to have Jed Lowrie, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos and Michael Conforto all batting behind him which should allow him a shot at 85 to 90 runs considering that OBP. It’s also worth noting that xStats seems to fully support his season last year so it seems reasonable to expect something of a repeat performance in 2019 with potentially more plate appearances as well.
Round 13: Zack Godley (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Targeted Player: Wade Davis
Alternate Pick: Ken Giles
Blegh. I hate this pick. I wanted Davis here but got sniped. I’m not a huge believer in Giles or a Cody Allen rebound but this would have been the perfect time to grab my second reliever. Since I didn’t like either of those two options I decided instead to go after a fourth starter so I went with Godley. If Godley was my fifth or sixth starter I definitely would have felt differently about this pick but it’s a ton of risk for my fourth starter. There is still some hope though for Godley turning it around in 2019.
Two things primarily sunk his 2018, first an incredibly high BB/9 of 4.09 which was the highest since his rookie year in 2015. Every other year that BB/9 number was much closer to 3.0 so it’s not unreasonable to expect some positive regression there. A career-high BABIP of .324 also contributed, 44 points higher than his 2017 number implying there may have been some bad luck in play. Godley’s SIERA of 4.18 seems to back up the idea that his 4.74 ERA wasn’t fully representative of how well he pitched in 2018. If the walk numbers can rebound and his luck improves perhaps we can see a decent rebound.
Round 14: Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)
Targeted Pick: Miguel Cabrera
Alternate Pick: Mike Soroka
I was going Miggy all the way here. I’ve been getting a ton of him so far in my drafts. I think in the 14th round the potential return on investment is huge here. It was our own Ben Pernick’s article on Cabrera that turned me around on him this year and I think there’s a lot to like. To expect 2016 Cabrera ever again is likely a foolish exercise at his age but as Ben pointed out he hit the ball harder than ever in 2018 and it figures that the bicep injury that ended his season hampered his launch angle and spiked his ground ball rate. Here’s what Steamer has him projected for over 634 Plate Appearances:
If I get that from Cabrera in the middle of the 14th I’m ecstatic. As of right now it sounds like he is healthy, swinging a bat already and in the midst of his normal routine so I’m feeling pretty good at the moment about the chances this pick returns good value. I know I’ll definitely be watching his spring training closely. I almost went with Soroka here but without an actual spot in the Braves’ rotation, I couldn’t commit to him even if I love his skills.
Round 15: Jose Quintana (SP, Chicago Cubs)
Targeted Pick: Jose Quintana
Alternate Pick: Nomar Mazara
Sometimes I just like a TOBY. I was searching again for a consistent starter to add innings, strikeouts and quality starts. I could have chased a player with more upside but there aren’t a lot of pitchers available in the 15th round who could give you 170+ innings with 150+ strikeouts. It’s not a sexy pick and I’m certainly concerned about several things with Quintana.
His BB/9 has gone up the last three years and his strikeouts are way down from last year. There is also reason for hope as he made huge strides in the second half, dropping that BB/9 from 4.15 in the first half all the way down to 2.90 and his hard hit rate plummeted almost 12%. Unfortunately, a 15 point bump in BABIP in the second half obscured the recovery, but if he can continue to keep that walk rate down he might be a useful pitcher in 2019. Steamer actually has him rebounding pretty well in 2019:
I’ll definitely take that at this point in the draft. I did contemplate taking Mazara here with the hope that this might finally be the year he puts it all together but his ground-ball rates keep scaring me off. I needed a pitcher here and Quintana was only of the last guys I really trusted.
Round 16: Jake Bauers (1B/OF, Cleveland Indians)
Targeted Player: Jake Bauers
Alternate Pick: Corey Knebel
If you’re a regular around these parts you already know how I feel about Jake Bauers. I couldn’t pass him up here. I still feel like his floor at the very least is 20-25 home runs and 12 – 15 stolen bases. Here’s what I’ve got Bauers projected for:
Not only am I supremely happy having him as my backup UTIL in case Miguel Cabrera succumbs to father time but he also qualifies in the OF in most leagues so he adds quite a bit of upside to my OF as well. I admit Knebel may have been a smart pick here to solidify my bullpen but let’s be real, the heart wants what the heart wants.
Round 17: Andrew Miller (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
Targeted Player: Andrew Miller
Alternate Pick: Alex Colome
I finally decided to act on my rapidly crashing and burning bullpen by taking Miller. He struggled last year due to injuries but is currently in the mix for the closer job in St. Louis. In 2016 and 2017 he flourished in the fireman role we’re seeing in bullpens more and more but given all the injuries he sustained last year he might be better suited to the closer role to help keep his workload down. An elite reliever when healthy with one of the best sliders in baseball, Steamer has Miller making a solid return to form with at least a partial share of the closing duties in St. Louis:
I’ll take that. If nothing else if he doesn’t end up with the job he’ll provide great boost to my ratios and strikeouts. I definitely could have gone with Colome as he for sure has the closer’s job in Chicago but I definitely have worries that he will be moved to a contender who doesn’t need him as a closer and Miller is way more talented.
Round 18: Corey Dickerson (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Targeted Player: Corey Dickerson
Alternate Pick: Jordan Hicks
I finally round out my OF with one of my favorite late-round go-to picks. Take a look at Dickerson’s 2017 and 2018 numbers:
So we have back-to-back seasons with excellent batting average and one with excellent power. So where did the power go? Was there a big change in his Statcast data?
|Year||Barrel%||Exit Velocity||Launch Angle||Hard Hit%|
Other than a slight drop in Barrel% everything remained pretty much the same. How about his xStats? Here’s 2017’s actual and expected stats followed by the 2018 numbers:
Crazy right? Both seasons are completely supported by Dickerson’s xStats. So how do we explain the HR difference? One key part is that Dickerson had about 100 plate appearances fewer in 2018 with some time missed due to injury. If you prorate his stats to add those 100 extra at-bats that adds about two to three extra home runs and we already know that his batted ball data says he should have had at least two more so suddenly we’re talking about closer to 18 home runs. He’s basically a poor man’s Michael Brantley. He also cut his K% all the way down to 15% and bumped his LD% all the way to an elite 27.2%. So long as he ends up somewhere in between his 2017 and his 2018 seasons this pick is a steal.
Round 19: Ketel Marte (2B, SS, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Targeted Pick: Ketel Marte
Alternate Pick: Jordan Hicks
Even though I now had filled out my outfield and had Bauers as a backup I wanted one more outfielder with potential. After 2018 I had pretty much moved on from Marte but Ryan Amore’s fantastic article comparing him to a young Francisco Lindor pulled me right back in. He gives me another outfield option with speed and some burgeoning power and still gives me backup options at 2B and SS in case of injury. I’m always a big believer in seeing a visible or measurable change in either approach or style before I buy into a potential breakout and the way Ryan lays out the changes Marte made to his batting stance and how it affects his power was definitely enough to renew my interest for 2019. The underlying stats back it up even if the overall results don’t stand out.
That’s some nice improvement for a 25-year-old who has essentially about two seasons worth of plate appearances. By the way that SLG is .001 less than Whit Merrifield‘s and the ISO is .001 less than Scooter Gennett‘s and .003 higher than Andrew Benintendi‘s. If he continues to progress we might still see that breakout after all.
Round 20: Caleb Smith (SP, Miami Marlins)
Targeted Player – Jordan Hicks
Alternate Pick – Jesus Luzardo
I waited a round too long to try and grab Hicks. If I could have managed to get him I would’ve likely been guaranteed a piece of the St. Louis closer role having grabbed Miller a few rounds earlier. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it back to me. I’d still rather have Marte but getting Hicks as well would have sealed this draft for me. Instead, I made a mistake here. This pick should have been Luzardo. I already had my main starting rotation but Luzardo is going to be a starter in Oakland sooner rather than later given the state of their rotation and as Adam Garland will tell you, when he does come up he’s going to be pretty darn good.
I just didn’t see him there. No excuse I had just assumed he was already gone. I still like getting an upside arm in Smith. Injuries derailed his 2018 but he has a solid fastball and above average slider that has a real chance to be great and he showed excellent strikeout potential with 88 strikeouts over 77.1 innings pitched. Unfortunately, he also walks far too many batters hence why he’s still available in the 20th round. There is also some reason for hope there as his 2018 BB/9 of 3.84 was a full 1.00 less than 2017 so perhaps if he stays healthy we can see continued growth in that area. I’m definitely okay taking a lottery ticket here with a young pitcher who put up a 27.1 K% and an 11.6 SwStr% in 2018.
Round 21: Anthony Desclafani (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
Target Player – Anthony Desclafani
Alternate Pick – Luke Weaver
This was another one where I just missed a better pick that was still on the board. We’ll get to just how high I am on Desclafani but I probably could have waited another round to grab him and gotten both he and Luke Weaver.
Anyways, I’m a huge Desclafani fan and think he’s going to be a decently valuable pitcher in fantasy this year. So much so that I’ll boldly declare that if he stays healthy he will finish the year as a top 50 pitcher. Check out the article if you want the full argument but he made huge improvements in the second half of last year and his slider was a true Money Pitch.
Round 22: D.J. LeMahieu (2B, New York Yankees)
Targeted Pick: D.J. LeMahieu
Alternate Pick: Blake Parker
This was another bench depth pick as LeMahieu is currently expected to serve as a Marwin Gonzalez-type player who will play every day but might play a different position every game. While he’ll start with just second base eligibility, he should see a lot of time at third and short as well. Unfortunately, his 2018 was hampered by injuries but Yankee stadium and its short right field might be the perfect place for an opposite field hitter like LeMahieu to find some hidden power.
We’re also talking about a guy who has scored at least 90 runs in each of the last three years and while I don’t quite expect that to fully continue the potential is certainly there if given enough playing time. Roster Resource currently has him as the ninth batter in the Yankees’ lineup. Normally this would be a negative but here are the batters that would immediately follow him most nights: Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton. It’s entirely possible that he might be able to serve as a second table setter for that monstrous lineup so he should still be able to score a solid amount of runs even if his spot in the batting order ends up costing him plate appearances.
Round 23: Trevor May (RP, Minnesota Twins)
Targeted Pick: Trevor May
Alternate Pick: Greg Holland
This was a long shot attempt to luck into a closer. I could have taken Blake Parker the round before and made sure I had a share of the Twins closer role no matter what but I couldn’t pass up on LeMahieu in the previous round. Truth be told I tried to grab the pitcher who I thought was the most talented between May and Parker. Injuries limited May in 2018 but he has better pitches, better control, and a higher ceiling.
(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)