Mock Draft #1: Anthony Messineo’s Picks
Pitcher List is hosting a live-streamed Mock Draft every week during the preseason while our writers review their picks between each draft. Watch the stream and view the full draft board here.
Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of mock drafts. I like to put a lot of time into my draft prep and prepping for a team I will never get to manage always seemed like more work than fun. But when Nick Pollack announced he would be running these weekly Pitcher List staff mock drafts and live streaming them on Twitter? I couldn’t sign up fast enough! I was lucky (?) enough to be part of the first mock and having each of my picks immediately analyzed for the Twitter-verse to hear was interesting and a new experience.
My draft strategy is pretty simple: draft the best player available in the beginning of the draft and fill in needs later. This has worked for me with varying degrees of success over the years, sometimes requiring rigorous in-season management to make up for some missteps. The team I drafted in this mock would require some serious work once the season begins as this was not my best draft overall. Anyway, below are my picks… do with them what you will!
Round 1: Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)
This was the easiest pick I made all night. In most formats, I view Turner as a top-10 pick and was happy to scoop him up with the 12th and last pick of the first round. Obtaining his power/speed combo (19 HR / 43 SB) in the first round opens up options later in the draft instead of having to chase stolen bases. He also played 162 games for the first time in his career, hopefully shedding some of the early-career injuries that plagued him.
Round 2: Bryce Harper (RF, F/A)
After selecting Turner in the first, I seriously considered both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton at this spot but in the end, I could not pass on Harper, who in a down year still hit 34 home runs, amassed over 200 RBI+Runs, and even chipped in 13 stolen bases. As I am writing this, Harper is still a free agent but he has been most closely tied to the Phillies. If he does sign with Philly, he could hit 50+ HR in that stadium which makes this pick a steal.
After selecting bats with my first two picks, I felt I needed to get an ace with my third pick. Justin Verlander was my target but he went a few picks before mine so I took my second choice in Gerrit Cole. You may ask: Anthony, is Gerrit Cole really an ace? Yes, yes he is. As the first overall pick in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole came into the league with those expectations but his career with the Pirates was mixed:
|Pirates (average season)||156||4.23||147||41||.252|
The Houston Astros were able to unlock Cole’s potential by having him throw his sinker and changeup much less frequently and focus on the high fastball/curveball combination most of their pitchers use. Because of this change in pitch mix, I believe Cole can be relied on as a fantasy ace in 2019.
Round 4: Whit Merrifield (2B, Kansas City Royals)
Anthony, you may ask, why draft Merrifield when you already have Turner? Good question. Merrifield is not the best fit for my third hitter, however getting him in the fourth round was too difficult to pass up. Whit followed up his breakout 2017 season with another solid year: .304/.367/.408 with 12 HR and 45 SB. This ensures that I don’t need to worry about steals in later rounds and can focus on power. Merrifield also accumulated 121 RBI+Runs so he provides more than empty steals and batting average. I did consider Cody Bellinger and Matt Carpenter with this pick.
Round 5: Marcell Ozuna (LF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Let’s play which season doesn’t belong!
Sure wish I saw this before I made this pick! Look, Ozuna’s 2017 could easily be considered an outlier but he battled a shoulder injury for most of 2018 and had surgery this off-season. Does that mean he bounces back to his 2017 numbers? Maybe, maybe not, but I felt he was worth the chance here. I could have taken a second pitcher here (Mike Clevinger was an option) but I passed.
Round 6: Edwin Encarnacion (1B, Seattle Mariners)
I know what you are thinking…with those two picks, why are you in this mock draft pal? Well, hear me out. EE5 has been one of the most consistent home run hitters over the past five years, averaging 37 home runs over that span. Even with a DL (sorry IL) stint last season, he still managed to club 32 HR in 579 plate appearances. Seattle is not nearly as hard on right-handed power hitters as people think (hello Nelson Cruz) and the first base position gets thin really quick. Encarnacion offers a more stable power floor than the cheaper alternatives.
After taking bats in the last three rounds, I needed to take an SP2 before the pickings were really slim. David Price was not the ideal choice, as he is closer to an SP3 at this stage of his career, but he will still be pitching in front of an excellent team which should lead to a win total close to the 16 he garnered last season (wins is still a fantasy category). He also posted a 1.14 WHIP and a 9.05 K/9 so he is not just a one category pitcher. His xFIP (3.95) also wasn’t that out of line with his season ERA (3.58) so he should not be expected to fall off the cliff in 2019. After Jose Berrios and Stephen Strasburg were selected earlier in the round, I knew I was going to double tap (and possibly triple tap) starting pitchers at this point in the draft.
I knew I was taking another SP here and Jack Flaherty was my clear choice and probably the guy I should have selected instead of David Price. Flaherty was the beneficiary of injuries to Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, and Alex Reyes last season and wound up starting 28 games for the Cardinals. He posted a 3.34 ERA with a 3.58 xFIP along with an outstanding 182 Ks in 151 IP (10.85 K/9). There is room for growth for Flaherty as well at only 23 and he could emerge as a top-15 SP in 2019 (Pitcher List has him ranked as the number 22 SP going into the season).
I was selecting Justin Turner here but Dave Fisher sniped me so I pivoted and selected Madison Bumgarner instead. I admit I’m not crazy about this pick because I’m just not sure what to make of Madbum. The strikeouts seem to have disappeared from his game:
Bumgarner has dealt with major injuries in each of the last two seasons which has limited his innings and reduced his effectiveness. He does still pitch in an extreme pitcher’s park and has a decent defense behind him. As an SP4, I felt that there was enough potential upside here to take the chance.
Round 10: Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals)
I was thinking 3B at this spot as well and almost selected Miguel Andujar but instead chose an upside play in Robles, who should have an everyday spot in the Nationals lineup this season. Robles has an interesting power/speed profile, although the power has not materialized as yet. I’m hoping for a double-digit home run total with at least 25 SBs from Robles for this pick to pan out.
Round 11: Wil Myers (3B, San Diego Padres)
With the third base position thinning out, I decided to select Myers at this spot. After posting 28 HR / 28 SB in 2016 and 30 HR / 20 SB in 2017 as a first baseman, the Padres decided to move Myers back to the outfield, where he seems to constantly get hurt. After three separate IL stints, the team decided to move Myers back to the infield. With Eric Hosmer cemented at 1B, Myers slid over to 3B and wound up posting 11 HR and 13 SB in just 312 AB. The potential for another 30/20 season is very real provided Myers can stay on the field.
Round 12: Sean Doolittle (RP, Washington Nationals)
Looking back on this draft, I seem to be very Washington Nationals heavy which was not by design as a Mets fan! Sean Doolittle is the Rodney Dangerfield of closers…he gets no respect. Doolittle has the skills to be a dominant closer (12 K/9 in 2018) and has saved 24 and 25 games the past two seasons but injuries are a real concern. He has not pitched at least 60 innings since 2014 and seems to have at least one IL stint every season. As long as you prepare for this going into the season, there is no reason to avoid Doolittle. Just make sure you have depth at closer or FAAB money ready to spend.
At this point in the draft, I was looking to shore up my last few SP slots where it made sense and I felt Cole Hamels was a good value at this spot. Hamels was a completely different pitcher after his trade from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago Cubs:
Hamels was a better pitcher in Chicago partly because of Wrigley Field (1.55 ERA in 6 starts there) and I expect that to continue in 2019, although not at the same level. He is a solid SP5 for any 12 team league.
Round 14: Ken Giles (RP, Toronto Blue Jays)
Good fantasy closers can be found on many teams regardless of how good or bad those teams may be. Such is the case with Ken Giles, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays from the Houston Astros. Giles had a tale of two seasons in 2018:
Giles gave up more hits in Houston but allowed four home runs in 19.2 innings with Toronto, which drives his higher FIP. Giles has always had the skill set to be at least a mid-level closer, which will work as my RP2.
Round 15: Eduardo Escobar (3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
At this point, I was looking at where my roster needed some refining. I selected Wil Myers as my third baseman in the 11th round but Escobar allows me to move Myers between 3B and OF as necessary. Escobar combined to hit 23 home runs and amass 159 RBI+Runs between the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks. Escobar is a high floor type player who can be counted on to hit 20-25 home runs across a full season of at-bats.
Kyle Gibson is not a sexy pick but he made some real strides in 2018 that make him an interesting option in 2019. Gibson added one mile per hour on his fastball and increased his slider usage in 2018 and it made a big difference in his numbers:
Gibson was able to generate strikeouts better than any of the previous two seasons, which improved his numbers across the board. As your SP6 (well my SP6), you can do much worse.
Round 17: C.J. Cron (1B/DH, Minnesota Twins)
Looking at my team to this point, I felt I was light on power so I was looking for a power bat with a clear path to playing time. Cron got full-time at-bats for the first time in his career last year with Tampa and hit 30 home runs. He should split time between first base and DH in Minnesota and be able to come close to 30 home runs again this year.
Round 18: Yan Gomes (C, Washington Nationals)
I continued to load my roster with Washington Nationals players with Gomes as my catcher. Gomes is regularly being drafted among the lower tier catchers and I am more than happy to wait for him to fall to me in most formats. In 112 games last year, Gomes posted a .266/.313/.449 line with 16 home runs. That kind of production from the catcher position is more than good enough.
Round 19: Jordan Hicks (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
With five rounds remaining, I wanted to make sure I selected two more relievers who had a path to getting saves. Hicks has a blazing fastball and a developing slider; all he needs is the opportunity. The St. Louis Cardinals signed Andrew Miller but Miller has been used in the fireman/high leverage roles more than as a closer. If Hicks has a good spring training, he could win the closer’s job and never look back.
Round 20: Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)
Sano was a frustrating guy to own in 2018. He produced 25 HR in 2016 and 28 HR in 2017, with improved batting average and walk rates. He seemed poised to truly break out but reported to spring training out of shape and was sent to extended spring training to “work on his swing.” He did hit 13 home runs in 299 plate appearances but with a rough .199 batting average. Sano is still only 25 years old and the presence of Nelson Cruz might help to finally unlock his potential. He has 35+ home run upside if things work out.
With three picks remaining, I wanted to leave one for one last starting pitcher who could outperform this draft slot. Dylan Bundy has that potential. Yes, the Baltimore Orioles are going to be bad in 2019, possibly historically bad, but the 26-year-old Bundy could take that next step in his development. An 8-16 record is not good and his 5.45 ERA is terrible however if you dig deeper into his numbers, there is reason for hope. He improved his K/9 rate from 8.06 to 9.65 and his xFIP improved from 4.77 in 2017 to 4.28 in 2018. If he can work on limiting the home run (Bundy allowed an incredible 41 home runs in 2018) he could easily perform better than the SP7 he is on this team.
Round 22: Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
The St. Louis Cardinals seem to have multiple players for every position but the one position without depth is centerfield. Bader is the only outfielder on the current roster who can play center (yes I know Dexter Fowler is still on the team) and he also has legit 20/20 or better upside. In 427 at-bats in 2018, he produced 12 home runs and 15 stolen bases. This pick could work out to be a steal when we look back at the end of the season.
Round 23: Mychal Givens (RP, Philadelphia Phillies)
With my last pick, I selected another reliever who should have a fairly clear path to saves this season. Closers on bad teams remain one of the undervalued positions in fantasy baseball (see Jose LeClerc last season). The Baltimore Orioles should provide a similar opportunity to Givens, who can strike batters out (9.27 K/9) and does not allow many home runs (4 in 76.2 innings pitched last season). As long as Givens is not traded in July, he should be able to return mid-level closer value at least, even on a team that could struggle to win 65 games.
(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)