Mock Draft #2: Ben Pernick’s Picks
On February 11, I joined fellow Pitcher List staff members in Mock Draft No. 2 for the 2019 season. This was my first fast mock draft and it’s always good to get practice. My review got more in-depth than I probably needed to, which also made this take longer, but hopefully you will find it useful. Here’s a quick recap of the format: 12-team H2H, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, 4 bench spots, and 9 pitchers. A total of 23 rounds at 60 seconds per pick. I had the 3rd pick, now let’s see how I did.
1.3 Jose Ramirez (3B, Cleveland Indians)
I feel like a few weeks ago, this would have been a total no-brainer, but there’s some hesitation after some rumblings about his struggles hitting breaking balls. I am still completely on board, as his contact skills are amazing and he’s continued to adapt. I think the likely negative regression in the power (39 HR) and speed (34 SB, 6 CS) departments will be tamped down by a positive regression in batting average (.272) as a speedy guy like him shouldn’t ever have a .252 BABIP. With such a broad base of skills, youth and health, plus good odds of adding positional eligibility, the floor is very high, but so is the ceiling. Sure, we’ve probably reached it, but remember that many experts expected him to regress following his breakout 2017 season, too. I’m happy with this one.
2.22 Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)
This is the second mock draft in which I ended up with Paul Goldschmidt, but I feel much better about this one since I got him 10 picks later at the end of the 2nd round at a great value. Despite an awful month of May, he still hit .290 with 33 Homers and 7 Stolen Bases. While he’s playing in a worse park for power, even with the post-Humidor Chase Field, he should benefit playing in a more competitive lineup, likely hitting atop the order with Carpenter, Ozuna, and DeJong. Him and Freeman are still a clear tear above the other 1B and I love the combination of safety and upside, and I actually slightly prefer Goldy to Freeman since he’s barreling the ball better than ever now and could still have a monster year.
I’ve already experienced the sinking feeling of realizing I waited too long for an elite starter in previous mocks, so I stopped myself from making the same mistake here. It’s hard to argue with the elite results, going 16-9 with a dominant 2.52 ERA, 0.902 WHIP and 290 Ks in just 214 Innings. It’s honestly surprising he couldn’t muster a better record, as you’d expect 20+ wins with those numbers and that offense, though he may have benefited from some luck with a career-high 85% LOB%. The biggest risk of taking him here is the fact that he’ll be 36 entering 2019, and even though his stuff has miraculously been as fast and hard-to-hit as ever, Father Time is undefeated (we’ll call Big Papi a draw). I expect some regression in 2019, but with his new strategy of getting ahead in the count (career-high 69% F-Strike%) I think he can still get 18 wins with a sub-3 ERA, below a 1.1 WHIP, and 250+ Ks, and with an ADP of 22, I was happy he was still available this late.
4.46 Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
I feel like Marte is one of those players that can easily get overlooked in drafts, perhaps due to anti-PED bias or a lack of consistency, but I’ll be happy to benefit from that. In 2018 he put up an excellent .277, 20 HR, 33 SB line, which isn’t far-off from first-round producers like Trea Turner (ADP: 10). While he set a career-high in HR, I believe it’s repeatable as it was validated by an xSlash of .285/.334/.464 with 21 xHR. Even at age 30, he should still be a lock for 30+ SB, as his sprint speed of 28.6 ft/sec is still good and only a bit slower than his 2016 where he nabbed 47 SB with a 28.9 ft/sec speed. He still takes a hit in OBP formats, but don’t let that stop you from snagging him in AVG leagues if he’s still around after pick 35.
5.51 Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I already had my corners filled, and I didn’t need a second OF yet, but the starters I were hoping would fall (Taillon, Clevinger) were scooped up, so I went with some power to balance out my team’s speed-heavy offense. I think it’s a bit crazy that so many people have jumped off the bandwagon for one lackluster season for a player who is entering 2019 as a 23-year-old. He still had similar overall exit velocity to his 2017 season (90 mph) , and a similarly strong 12% Value Hit Rate (VH%). His issue was fewer barrels/PA (7.5% in 2017, 5.5% in 2018) and increased poor contact, especially by way of pop flies, with a Todd Frazierian 16.5% IFFB%. With an ADP of 46, it’s a pick with some risk, but I still believe in his youth and his sweet swing to return to 30-35 HR with a .270 AVG and 10-15 SB, which would make him essentially Goldschmidt-lite. He could be a speed sleeper too; His 28.9 ft/sec sprint speed in 2018 was actually top 25 and faster than Starling Marte and Tim Anderson.
6.70 Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)
So I was so excited to pick up Cruz that perhaps I took him way earlier than I needed to, as I took him over 30 picks before his ADP of 101. I understand the hesitation to pick up an aging DH-only coming off a bad year, but Bellinger’s dual eligibility made me feel safe doing this, and I think Cruz is a nifty old sleeper. Minnesota’s Target Field should play well for his righty power, and he’ll be in a lineup chock full of offensive potential which should help his run production. Last year was down, and considering he’s entering his age 38 season, it’s too easy to assume it’s the beginning of the end, especially since xStats validated his 2018 as not being unlucky, but the projections are with me in believing that a rebound is in store. Steamer projects him to hit .277 with 37 Home Runs, and I just can’t see how teams can pass up that kind of offense at this point in the draft. Is that really any different than what folks expect of Arenado, who went at pick #5? I don’t think it’s a bad pick per se, but I’d like to see if I can wait a bit longer before taking him for even better value.
7.75 Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinatti Reds)
Okay, so this was a pick I probably wish I could’ve taken back. After taking Verlander, perhaps I got a bit too complacent about my rotation, though at this point I didn’t really need more offense and I would’ve been better off with Price or Mikolas. Gennett would be a good value here if he could repeat his 2018 or even his 2017, but I’m just not sure how possible that is. The projection systems seem to constantly call for a fall from grace, especially in batting average where they see him as a .270-.280 hitter. Still, he does play in one of the best offensive ballparks, and perhaps he’s able to parlay that to his advantage. Still with second base being so deep, I would only recommend targeting him if he falls past pick 95 or so.
8.94 Craig Kimbrel (RP, Free Agent)
I was hoping to snag Treinen, but he was sniped right before me. He’s still one of the elite closers in the game, and I remain confident that he’ll be signed by Opening Day, and presumably by a team that wants to be competitive. I can’t see a situation in which he isn’t the clear closer. The closer quality drops a tier after he’s off the board, His ADP is currently 68 which is too rich for my tastes, but I think after pick 90 he’s a solid pick until his team situation becomes more clear. I still think it’s crazy the Red Sox haven’t signed him yet with what a mess their bullpen would be without him.
9.99 Roberto Osuna (RP, Houston Astros)
I still felt like there was some good value in getting Osuna here, as his ADP is 87 and I feel that has been somewhat affected by the off-the-field issues. On the field, Osuna still has clear ability to be part of the next generation of top-tier closers. The biggest knock against him from a fantasy perspective is his lack of strikeouts, and he didn’t allay those fears with a career-worst 21% K% in 2018. But he still sported an excellent 14.7% Swstr% and with his stuff, the strikeout breakout seems imminent for the 24-year old if he stops pounding the strike zone with his insanely high 75% F-Strike%.He still has Alex Pressly to compete with, who should not be overlooked, but I believe he’ll be dominant enough to hold down the role and get a ton of saves on a pitching-heavy Astros squad.
Pivetta is a “wide-awake sleeper” of sorts, so I knew that I would have to be aggressive to get him, since 118 is well above his ADP of 153. But at this point, I needed someone with SP2 upside, and Pivetta was the last pitcher on the board to fit the bill. He’s a “sleeper” for a reason, as the massive 6’5 righty’s 27% K rate and 7.4% BB rate gives him a 19.7% K-BB that indicates ace ability. His curveball is a true out pitch but his slider is also a plus pitch. His fastball got beaten around to a .293 AVG, but I believe in its ability to get better results clocking in at 95 mph and having a high FB SwStr% of 10 percent. If his pitch selection improves and he cuts down that home run rate, he could have a Nola-esque breakthrough. No regrets here.
11.123 Jose Peraza (SS, Cincinnati Reds)
Well, I’m sure Scooter will be happy about this pick. Peraza was definitely not one of my original targets, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see his power regress from it’s surprising spurt in 2018. But I did need a shortstop, and the projections are actually bullish on him. ATC projects a .283 AVG with 14 HR and 27 SB, which may make you wonder why the 24-year old fell here while Segura, who is projected for a similar line, went in the 6th round. I can understand skepticism as Peraza’s 87 mph FB/LD is among the lowest for regulars in the game, but he plays in an extreme hitters park and took advantage of high contact and flyball quantity with a career-high 38% FB rate with a 25% LD rate. So his actual home run rate seems sustainable at just 6.8% HR/FB, though with his speed, he could probably hit over .300 if he hit sacrificed power for more grounders. At an ADP of 95, I feel like I got good value here, though I’m not exactly making him a draft day target.
12.142 Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
You may be scratching your head as to why I took closers in three of my last five picks. My strategy was to draft high-level closers early because their value is boosted by the role uncertainty of lower-tier closers. I also got Yates beyond his ADP of 125, which is surprising after he posted a dominant season with a 36% K rate and 7% BB rate for a 29% K-BB that was 6th-highest among all MLB pitchers. And that’s before you even get to the extreme pitcher’s ballpark and exciting young team (especially now with Machado). The strength of my bullpen will hopefully balance out the lack of rotation depth.
13.147 Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants)
As bad of a season as his 2018 was, I don’t think this is a Jonathan Lucroy situation. He was dealing with a hip injury last year, and it’s not hard to see how that part of your body, largely responsible for generating torque in your swing, could affect power output. Although it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s still just 31 and the projections expect a modest rebound, with the most pessimistic projection by ATC still giving him 10 home runs and a .289 AVG. Granted, that’d still be pretty weak for a 13th round pick, since he’ll also have less run production with many off days and in a rather depleted lineup, so I need to really hope for a .300+ AVG to make this pick look good. I succumbed to the catcher run (Ramos and Grandal were nabbed right before me), but I think I may wait later in future drafts for an endgame sleeper like Welington or Chirinos.
I’ve been in enough PitcherList mock drafts to know that if you don’t want to be empty-handed on pitching, you have to draft starters well before their ADP. Like Verlander and Pivetta before him, I went with a high K-BB% starter, as his 22.7% K-BB% was 10th-best in baseball for all pitchers over 100 innings pitched. Of course, that was fueled mostly by his dominant first half after coming up from the bullpen, when his velocity was higher before it came down and brought the results down with it. The real question will be whether he actually pitches the full year as a starter, as the projections expect him to succumb to Dodgeritis, with a nice mid-3s ERA and good ratios but only 100 IP. If that happens, this pick is a bust, but I’ll cross my fingers and hope he dazzles early to hold down a spot.
15.171 Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)
Considering I got him in Round 22 of the too early mock, this may have been a reach, but it’s still behind his ADP in 160 and I’d feel like a fool if he were taken under my nose. Miggy may have some serious injury concerns, but I have very few concerns about the bat after he posted the 2nd-highest exit velocity in the majors only behind Aaron Judge in 2018, with no degradation in his elite plate discipline. He didn’t hit many homers due to a drop in his usual ideal launch angle, but I’m writing those off as being related to the bicep issues he dealt with all season before the tear, as he’s never had an issue with launch angle before. Even with a mostly healthy season and a partial rebound, he can hit .300 with 15-20 HR and excellent OBP, but if he can correct his launch angle, the ability is still there for one last hurrah for a .310 30+ HR season, and there simply aren’t players with that first-round upside this late in the draft. This may be the hill I die on.
This was my first fast mock, and I was way more prepared with my early picks than the late round, and was still looking at numbers when the clock was at 10 seconds and lunged for Ryu. Then Maeda went next and I facepalmed hard. I still don’t think Ryu is awful here as it’s still past his ADP of 178, and behind his clearly unsustainable ERA, he did post a 22.8% K-BB that was better than Stripling. Of course, it was just over 82 Innings, and he still has the same Dodgeritis concerns of Stripling plus a sizeable injury risk. Barring some good luck or Dodgers pitching trades, my pitching may be leaning heavy on ratios but weak on K and Win totals.
17.195 Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)
I was bummed upon realizing that I essentially blocked myself from getting Voit here, since my corners and DH were full, but I also am a huge fan of Franmil here, even ahead of his ADP of 211. I really believe Franmil’s big second half was due to a sustainable approach change (in the minors he worked on shortening his swing) and hit .315 with 10 HR in 180 PA in the second half. The plate discipline improvement was striking: from an ugly 6% BB rate and a frightening 39% K rate in the 1st half to a 22% K rate and 10% BB rate in the 2nd half. If he can even maintain a 25% K rate and 8% BB rate in 2019 with his 70-grade power, he could easily hit .260 with 30+ HR, and he’s still just 23, so the sky’s the limit.
18.214 A.J. Minter (RP, Atlanta Braves)
Perhaps I would’ve been better off here taking more gambles on starters, but most intriguing players were off the board so I figured I’d double down on my bullpen heavy strategy. The actual closer Arodys Vizcaino went just a pick before, so this may be foolish, but I’m just not convinced Arodys will hold down the role with his inferior K-BB% of 15.8% to Minter’s 18.1% and inferior HR/FB of 9.5% to Minter’s 5.3%. He’s not as popular a saves sleeper as he was pre-2018 with his crazy good small sample, but I like to target the post-hype since I still believe in the youth (still just 25) and the talent.
19.219 Trevor May (RP, Minnesota Twins)
Why double down when you can TRIPLE down? May was having some momentum as a closer sleeper after he went 3.20 with a 35% K rate and 5% BB rate, but then the Twins signed Blake Parker, who is assumed to take over. There’s been no declaration though, and Parker’s contract was only $3.7 million, so it’s far from a lock. But even if he is, I doubt his leash will be long considering his lack of track record and the speed with which he was pulled from the role in Anaheim. While I don’t want to assume too much from a 25 inning small sample, May’s 30% K-BB was among the best in baseball and far better than Parker’s 18.5%, and while May had a major case of Gopheritis with a HR/FB of 18%, it’s not like Parker’s 15% is the remedy. May’s 15.4% SwStr rate allows him to be effectively wild, and he has big upside from the potential combination of strikeouts and saves on a competitive team. He’s not young anymore at 29 and health is a major concern, but Parker is 33 so it’s worth a gamble.
20.238 Manuel Margot (OF, San Diego Padres)
I knew that I wanted a bench bat who has the potential to outshine regulars on my squad, and I like Margot as a rebound candidate. Like Franmil, he’s going to have to fight for playing time, and the Machado signing after this draft doesn’t do anything to allay those concerns, but I’m drafting skills not roles. While Margot hasn’t developed power as hoped with an 88.7 mph eV, and it is concerning that he’s making worse contact on pitches on the plate, with a Z-Contact% of 88% when it was 93% in 2017, and he also hit too many grounders at 43%. However, his Hard% jumped from 25% in 2017 to 39% in 2018. But I’m most intrigued by his blazing speed with a 29.4 ft/sec that’s 10th highest among regulars, It’s still down from his 30.2 ft/sec mark in 2016, but plenty fast enough to nab 30 bags if he just tries more, and perhaps the fight to stand out will increase his aggressiveness. He’s still just 24, after all.
This was a pick that I know Nick would probably make fun of after bashing my last-round Porcello grab in last year’s mock, but I actually kind of love this pick. For one, Porcello’s value was way lower last year, and was among the only starters to fall way past their ADP of 159. I also felt I needed an innings-eating Toby to make up for my ratio emphasis on starters. His 17.6% K-BB was the same as in his (undeserved) Cy Young season, and while it seems like he’s 35, he’s only just turned 30. While he ranks 72 on Nick’s list, I’m encouraged by his xStats peripherals, with a .career-best 3.77 scFIP (Statcast FIP), with his bbFIP (3.73) and kwFIP (4.11) all below his 2018 ERA 4.28. I still believe Porcello is better than a Toby as he puts up an underrated strong WHIP (1.18 in 2018) with his win totals and 180+ Ks.
So, here’s a pick that was probably very bad. Towards the end of the draft I was getting distracted and scrambling, as I had spent enough time researching previous picks that I missed pitchers going off the board. Kyle Gibson, Merill Kelly, Trevor Cahill would’ve all been better. But let me try to put a positive spin here. Despite a hot late-season run that crashed in September, Rodon’s strikeouts and walks were Adalberto Mejiatric garbage, with an 6.8 K-BB%. But if we find it in our hearts to toss 2018 out as an injury-hampered campaign, we can have hope that the 26-year-old can return at least to his 2017 form when he had a 26% K rate, which could lead him to be a solid mid-rotation arm if he can get the walk rate below 4 per 9. He needs to separate the velocity on his change and slider (both 85 mph) to take another step forward.
With my last pick in the draft, I figured I may as well gamble on a reclamation project who once was considered a surefire future ace. He’s reclaimed by the new O’s management who will hopefully fix him, as he’s still far from his original upside but still retains some intrigue. While his once-great fastball now gets walloped, his sinker comes in at the same speed with better results. And while his curveball and changeup both got clobbered, the changeup actually was almost money with a strong 15% Swstr%; he just needed to stop throwing it down the heart of the plate, especially to lefties. If he can ditch his garbage curve to focus on the change and locate his pitches better, he could still be a #3 or even #2 starter. While Bundy’s 2018 peripherals mostly agree that he was bad, they all said he deserved better than his ERA, especially his 3.74 kwFIP. As a last bench pick, worth a shot.
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire