Mock Draft #3: Colin Ward’s Picks
This past Monday, fellow Pitcher List staff members and I participated in the third installment of our weekly mock drafts for the 2019 season. It was a 12-team H2H draft with 5×5 scoring, three OF, two UTIL, four bench, and nine pitcher slots, totaling 23 total roster spots. I was selecting from the sixth spot in the draft order. Usually I prefer to pick closer to the turns, but I did not mind this position as you are typically waiting around the same time in between each pick, and I felt like I did not have to reach nearly as much.
As I break down each of my picks, I will be focusing on what exactly my train of thought was as I made my selections and what my expectations are for each player.
Pick 1.6: Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)
In the first round, typically, I like to take a player who is as close to a five-category contributor as you can get. At only 21 years old, Ronald Acuna appears to fit that bill already. With the top-tier studs going off the board ahead of me and Francisco Lindor‘s Opening Day status in question, Acuna felt like the right way to go. Hitting toward the top of the Braves lineup, the young phenom should have no issue tallying somewhere between 180 to 200 R+RBI and swiping an additional 20 to 25 bags to boot. The upside is real for Acuna and was too good to pass up when trying to fill all five categories at a position that becomes very weak as the draft rolls into the double digit rounds.
Pick 2.19: Freddie Freeman (1B, Atlanta Braves)
Doubling down on my Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman seemed like a solid, safe pick to follow my Acuna selection in the first. With first base being so awfully thin after the top-tier guys, I wanted to solidify that position with an early-round stud who I can plug into the position and just not worry about. Sure, Freeman has had his share of missed time over the past few years, but more often than not, he has been pretty durable. Somewhere in the range of 25 to 30 HRs and a .300 Avg. can be just about banked on. And while this draft may not value it, Freeman is an elite source of OBP, which will ultimately help his run totals in a potent Braves lineup and aid him in contributing a handful of steals as well. After Paul Goldschmidt, Freeman is the premier run producer at the position, and through July of last year, it could have been argued that Freeman was tops at first base and was shaping up to be close to a first-round selection. Here’s to hoping he can keep up that pace for the entirety of 2019.
Pick 3.30: Aaron Nola (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)
My game plan when coming into this draft, and most drafts, was to start by taking two hitters followed by my first pitcher. To me, it is a tried and true method of drafting in these standard scoring leagues. And being in a draft with so many pitching experts, I felt I could not afford to wait another round to take my first pitcher. Much like our fearless leader, Nick Pollack, I love Aaron Nola. I had him high on all my draft boards going into 2018, and he rewarded me greatly. Therefore, I am forever in debt to the Phillies right-hander. But unlike Nick Pollack, I took Nola over Trevor Bauer as my ace. This is definitely not a slight to Bauer as it is more a compliment to Nola. They are very close to me, and I gave Nola the nod because I feel the Phillies will be the the better team. And while wins are certainly an imperfect statistic, they cannot be ignored in this format. Nola has a legit shot at 20 wins on a vastly improved team, all the while posting close to 10 K/9 and a low-3.00 ERA.
Pick 4.43: Carlos Correa (SS, Houston Astros)
This one may be a tad controversial as many in the industry are starting to become sour on the argument for Carlos Correa‘s potential over results. With the early reports out of Houston from Correa himself stating that his back is “100 percent” and that he is able to hit and work out five to six times a week without any pain, that is enough for me at this point in the offseason to buy back in on the Astros’ shortstop. And while back injuries can definitely linger and rear their ugly heads at any point, there is no denying Correa’s ability when fully healthy. He also underwent a procedure to fix a deviated septum that had been plaguing him for some time, affecting his ability to breathe. With no more lingering back and side pain as well as being able to breathe clearly, one has to believe that Correa’s outlook is on the rise. When healthy, he is firmly entrenched at the top of the crop of elite shortstop options, and that is what I was shooting for with this selection.
Pick 5.54: Patrick Corbin (SP, Washington Nationals)
After my fourth round pick, I was hoping to land Carlos Carrasco as my No. 2 pitcher. He went just a couple picks before me, so I then opted to take who I felt was the next-best option on the board at starting pitcher at the time in Patrick Corbin. The newest addition to the Nationals rotation is coming off a sensational 2018 and, in my opinion, is worthy of a fifth round pick. Even with some expected regression in his strikeout rate and home run rate moving to a more hitter-friendly park, Corbin should still be a viable No. 2 starter in most leagues. As long as he keeps pumping that slider almost half of the time, he should be alright.
Pick 6.67: Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
So far this offseason, my strategy with catcher is grab one of the top two at a reasonable price or just wait until the end of time. With J.T. Realmuto going off the board a full round earlier, I felt the price here for Gary Sanchez was very appropriate. Coming off what on the surface was an abysmal year for the Yankees backstop, a bounce back seems to be in order. And despite his horrendous .186 Avg., due in large part to his .197 BABIP, the man was still hitting at a 33 HR 97 RBI pace in his 89-game injury-shortened season. After offseason surgery to remove debris in his left shoulder, I fully expect a healthy Sanchez at the start of the regular season, and that is a dangerous hitter. A batting average in the .240 to .250 range seems plausible and not all that detrimental when you have the premier power source at the position with the potential of 40 HRs.
Pick 7.78: Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds)
At this point, it was between Scooter Gennett and Daniel Murphy to fill second base for me. And while I really am all in on Murphy this year hitting in Colorado, I felt Gennett was more of a sure thing. With the inherent injury risk with my previous two hitters (Correa and Sanchez), Gennett felt like the safer pick and in the grand scheme of things very comparable in terms of projected overall numbers for this upcoming season. I like Gennett, and I think what he has done the past two years is legit, ultimately becoming a great all around hitter. He hits in an underrated Reds lineup and in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark, so his floor seems to be pretty high. He began hitting the ball to all fields much more this past year, and it led to a .310 batting average, which I think is certainly sustainable. At a relatively thin position, 180 R+RBI and 25 HRs, to go with the batting average seems to be almost a certainty for the Reds middle infielder, and I will gladly take that within the top 80.
Following my seventh-round selection, I was hoping for one of Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, or Jack Flaherty to make it back to me. With the two former names coming off the board before my eighth round pick, I went with Flaherty as my third starting pitcher. I liked what I saw from the young right-hander in 2018, living up to his pedigree as a minor league prospect. The only question with Flaherty is going to be innings. After a career-high 151 this past year and only a little over five IPS, how long of a leash will the Cards give the 23-year-old? If I was told at the start of the season Flaherty will be guaranteed 175 to 180 innings, I would be ecstatic with this pick. Until I am given that assurance, I just feel fine with it.
Pick 9.102: Justin Turner (3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
The jury is still out on how I feel about this pick. On one hand, on a per-game basis, Justin Turner is up there near the elite third basemen. On the other hand, the fact I have to preface the argument for him with “on a per-game basis” should say enough about the inherent risk investing in Turner. As the 12th true third baseman off the board, I felt like I had to take the plunge to get a productive hitter at the position, and I was not loving any other options at this point in the draft. In retrospect, I maybe should have opted for a stable starting pitcher or my second outfielder. But I know that when healthy, I have a very solid option at the hot corner.
Pick 10.115: David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)
The time has finally come — the time for David Dahl to take over a full-time position in the Rockies outfield. The former first-round pick has hit at every level of the minor leagues but has never been able to crack the everyday lineup in Colorado for one reason or another, whether it be a crowded outfield or injuries holding him back. The thought of Dahl finally hitting in the upper third of the Rockies lineup on a daily basis is exciting, and he should be on everyone’s radar in the middle rounds this draft season. He has serious 25-20 potential and at the very least 25-10 with a batting average that will not hurt you.
The second half that Robbie Ray posted in 2018 was enough for me to keep him on my radar as, at the very least, an extremely attractive source of strikeouts in the middle rounds. In 14 second-half starts, Ray looked much more like the 2017 version of the lefty who was being snatched up in the fifth round of drafts a year ago. While he might be a bit of a Cherry Bomb, I felt confident enough in my top three SPs to take a chance on some positive regression from Ray.
Pick 12.139: Corey Knebel (RP, Milwaukee Brewers)
I waited about a round or two later than I would have ideally liked to take my first relief pitcher. But I was able to get Corey Knebel as he flew under the radar, ranked way down in the 300s, as my first reliever. Knebel is a bit of a risky first option as he is coming off a down year following his sensational 2017, so much so that the right-hander not only lost his closing job to Jeremy Jeffress but was also sent down to the minors at the end of August to right the ship. Boy did he ever. Knebel’s final 16 appearances after his promotion back up to the Brew Crew was one of the most dominant stretches we have ever seen. He allowed only five hits and walked three while striking out nearly 58%(!) of the batters he faced. Small sample size, sure. But I cannot help but feel that Knebel has the inside track to the closing job in Milwaukee for 2019 after such an incredible finish to an otherwise disappointing year.
If you read my article from December on early ADP results, you would know that I am not all that high on Chris Archer this year. His NFBC ADP at the time was around 131 and has not changed much currently at 132, roughly an SP3 in 12-team leagues. And while only two rounds later than his ADP may not seem like much of a difference, the 13th round as my SP5 felt more appropriate to me. There is still some hope that he can regain some of his success from Tampa Bay in what is historically a great pitching environment in Pittsburgh. At the very least, I got a solid source of strikeouts, which appears to be one of my biggest strengths in this draft. As long as he stays away from his batting practice four-seam fastball and incorporates his two-seamer a little more often, he may find himself as a good value around Pick 150.
With my last two pitchers (Ray and Archer) carrying a good amount of instability, Cole Hamels felt like a solid floor guy that I can at least rely on to eat innings and offset some of the Cherry Bomb tendencies of Ray and Archer. Pitchers go so darn fast in any and all drafts I have participated in with Pitcher List staff that I felt like an arm here was necessary. If I can get 190 to 200 innings, a 3.75 ERA, and a 23% strikeout rat, from my SP6, I would be pleased.
Pick 15.174: David Robertson (RP, Philadelphia Phillies)
As a Yankees fan, David Robertson holds a special place in my heart, and it was certainly sad to see him leave. That being said, I am very happy that he will more than likely be getting an opportunity to close for what appears to be a winning ball club. Robertson is still an elite strikeout reliever usually sitting at around a 32% strikeout rate. He also has closing experience and will be moving to the National League for the first time in his career, and while it is not something you can quantify in a statistic, he is a winning player. I think he will thrive in the ninth-inning role in Philadelphia for the upstart Phillies, and I will gladly take him as my RP2.
Pick 16.187: Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)
There is such a thing as a post-post-hype sleeper, right? It feels like we have been waiting for Byron Buxton to put it all together for a decade now, when in reality he only just turned 25 years old. I was hesitant of his inflated asking price this past year after his hot finish to 2017, but this is much more palatable. Creeping up on Pick 200 seems to be worth the shot in the dark on a guy who has all the potential in the world to finish as a top-25 player in fantasy. I don’t love him as my third outfielder drafted, but I feel better about it after my next pick.
Pick 17.198: Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)
Kyle Schwarber is who he is. I think many fantasy managers are still drafting him on what they think he is rather than who he is. And who he is is a low-average, high-OBP power hitter who doesn’t play enough to reach above-average counting stats. Because this is not an OBP league draft, Schwarber just provides me with 30-homerupside and a batting average that I feel will not kill me based on my earlier offensive selections. I feel I have enough batting average surplus to take the damage that Schwarber will inevitably do to my overall team batting average.
Pick 18.211: Jon Gray (SP, Colorado Rockies)
Once you get past Pick 200, it turns into flier country. Jon Gray may have plenty of risk to be going beyond the top 200, but he still feels like more than worth an 18th-round selection. Gray appeared to pitch a little better than his 5.12 ERA indicates, posting a 3.47 xFIP and 3.68 SIERA. If I can get anything close to his Steamer projections of a low 4.00 ERA and a strikeout per inning, I am fine with that at this point in the draft.
Pick 19.222: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)
I typically play in a lot of leagues with either deep benches and/or roster slots dedicated for minor league stashes, and that was my train of thought with taking Fernando Tatis Jr. Even with the recent news of Manny Machado agreeing to an earth-shattering deal with the Padres (which happened after we had this mock draft), I still feel like Tatis is a very strong stash for those who have the roster capability for it. The No. 2 prospect in all of baseball should find himself in the show before too long, even with Machado manning one of the positions on the left side of the infield for the foreseeable future.
Pick 20.235: Zack Godley (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
I was a big believer in Zack Godley going into this past season, along with most of the industry. He let all of us down. His hard-contact rate went up, his fastball and cutter got crushed, and he just pitched terrible away from Chase Field. Those are just a few of the issues Godley faced this past year. That being said, I LOVE taking guys who break out and follow that up with a down year because the price is so discounted that you just say: “Why not?”
I typically like to draft three closers or three guys who I think will close for their teams going into the season. Archie Bradley is the best pitcher in the Diamondbacks bullpen, and there really should not be any competition, even with the recent signing of Greg Holland. Granted, Bradley did not get the full-time closing gig last year either in a similar situation. But with a strong spring and manager Torey Lovullo already stating he is “leaning toward” Bradley as the closer, I think the job is his to lose.
Pick 22.259: Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)
You know those players who no matter how many times they let you down, you just can’t quit them? Miguel Sano is that guy for me. He has had his fair share of on-field and off-field issues, but I just cannot ignore the power potential. This year, you can get him with one of your final picks in standard leagues, so it is difficult to pass up 40-homer potential at the cost of — well, free.
With my final pick, I saw Jose Quintana‘s name and thought, “Eh, I could do worse.” Quintana should be able to eat enough innings to be relevant and gets enough strikeouts to be useful. All in all, not a bad final selection to round out my rotation.
(Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)