Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years!
(Well it’s been months, really, but still.)
I am back with another Mock Draft review! Before I dive into the picks, I wanted to talk a bit about my strategy for this mock draft as opposed to my live mock draft debut a few weeks back. I’ll openly admit in my first live mock in front of an audience and with the Grandmaster Pooba Nick Pollack drafting right in front of me, I definitely took a “don’t embarrass yourself” attitude to the mock and drafted pretty conservatively but with purpose. I wanted to practice being in a draft room with new-ish people, seeing if I could pick up on any tendencies they might display or if I could tell when they deviated from their plans. I feel like I can actually say that a decent part of that mission was accomplished.
Since that Mock, I have done many more drafts with these great fantasy minds and have genuinely seen signs that I may have picked up a few things about them along the way. Heck, Scott Chu has officially declared me his nemesis. Now that is not to say that I suddenly hold some advantage over them. They have likely picked up on my go-to strategies as well, but refining the ability to read a draft room is never wasted. I firmly believe in spending your first mock drafts of the season trying to do exactly that.
What about this mock draft? What was different? Once I start to feel like I’m getting the hang of reading my draft rooms, I then start to test strategies or theories and see what my comfort level is with each one. I’ll give no-SP a whirl or see what happens if I go closer early or how I like it if I target as many stolen bases as I possibly can.
For this particular mock draft, I wanted to test two different ideas: The first was to see just how long I could go before I lost my nerve and drafted my first starting pitcher. The second was to test a theory I have about relief pitchers. Most of the time, you want to walk away from a draft with three closer options, but I honestly am starting to wonder, given that we see so much turnover throughout the season at the position, if it makes sense to secure one of the 12 or so truly secure closer positions during the draft and then hunt new closers throughout the season. Then I would use those extra roster spots to take some extra risks on upside picks and drop the ones that don’t work out for new closers as they emerge or use those that hit to help swing trades for closers down the line when I need them most.
Let’s see how I did.
Round 1: Ronald Acuna (OF, Atlanta Braves)
I can be a bit bearish on young players coming into their sophomore seasons. I think it’s honestly like my inner hipster (hates trendy things, takes pictures of food and loves craft beer) trying to match up with my outer hipster (terrible beard, boxy glasses and more flannel than Al Borland). I think this might be the year I turn the corner, and Ronald Acuna is a huge part of that attitude change (though I still have a terrible beard though that I love dearly). He’s just so good already. Acuna only played in 111 games this past year thanks to a sprained UCL and the Braves manipulating his service time. So all in all, we’re talking nearly a month and a half — 47 games — lost right? He STILL hit 26 home runs and stole 17 bases! What happens if we prorate his stats to include those missed games?
|Actual 2018 (111 Games)||26||17||78||64|
|Prorated 2018 (158 Games)||37||25||111||91|
Holy moly. That’s a 35 home run, 25 stolen base pace! Plus elite numbers in both runs and RBI? If he even does three-quarters of that, he’s a first-rounder easy. I can’t draft this guy fast enough.
Round 2: Alex Bregman (SS, 3B, Houston Astros)
When Alex Bregman fell to me at the 17th pick, I jumped for joy. I had originally drafted him here to be my SS, but that plan changed a few rounds later. That’s the greatest part of drafting Bregman. His roto slash line of .286/31 HR/105 R/103 RBI/10 SB plays at either position. This gives you a ton of flexibility to take your team in any direction. His .396 wOBA was fifth in the league, besting studs such as Jose Ramirez and Paul Goldschmidt. While his xwOBA of .387 indicates he got some luck in there, that is still as elite as it comes. I cannot state enough just how in I am on Bregman in 2019; get every share that you possibly can.
Round 3: Khris Davis (UTL, Oakland Athletics)
You get a dinger! You get a dinger! We all get a dinger! I’ve got home runs for days now and tons of RBI to go with them. Khris Davis is as reliable as they come with 40-plus home runs each of thepast three years. My batting average isn’t great admittedly, but who cares? Chicks dig the long ball! I have no real worries about Davis falling off this year, and that Oakland lineup is only going to get better around him as those young kids continue to grow and progress. This is the most fun start to a draft I’ve had in a long time.
Round 4: Xander Bogearts (SS, Boston Red Sox)
I professed my love for Xander Bogearts in 2019 in the most recent mock draft review that I did a few weeks ago, and nothing has changed my Bogey infatuation. Check out what I had to say on Bogearts here.
Round 5: Patrick Corbin (SP, Washington Nationals)
So that was fun, but here was where I lost my nerve. I still love having a top-25 pitcher, and I suspected that if I waited for another round there might not be anyone left for me to take. If I had known Mike Clevinger would be there in the next round, I would definitely have held out, but in the moment, this felt like the right time to make the move. With each mock I use to test this strategy, I’ll probably keep progressively getting bolder until I take it too far and then have reign it back in. Either way, I’m happy as a clam to get Patrick Corbin here. That slider is legit, but the thing that really sold me on Corbin was this excellent piece by Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs on that slider. As Sullivan explains, he can throw his best pitch the same way but at two different speeds, which allows it to act much like a fastball/changeup combo, and that gives me the impression that the growth is sustainable and that Corbin is a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. I can get behind that.
Round 6: Mike Clevinger (SP, Cleveland Indians)
I didn’t plan on it, but I ended up doubling down on starting pitching in the sixth round. I definitely thought about taking George Springer, who went with the next pick, but I really thought Clevinger was the best player available. That’s one of my key rules: Plans are nice, but always take the best player available. Clevinger was fantastic this past year as he really attacked the strike zone more, and all four of his pitches were positive pitches according to pVAL. The crazy part is I think there’s another level in store for Clevinger in 2019. His walk rate has improved every single year of his MLB career, and if he can continue to refine his control, the sky is the limit for Clev-Dawg this year. It’s also worth noting he jumped his strikeout in the second half from 23.7% to 28.6%, and if those strikeout gains carry over into the new year, then we could be talking about a top-10 pitcher next year honestly.
Round 7: Scooter Gennett (2B, Cincinnati Reds)
Having drafted Davis and Acuna, I wanted another player to help Bregman bump up my batting average, and I felt like Scooter Gennett was the perfect person for the job. Normally I avoid batting average guys with really high BABIPs, but we’re going on two straight years of Gennett making me look like a fool so this year I’m buying in. Even if he regressed to somewhere around a .280 average, that’s still going to help balance things out. Roster Resource currently has Gennett penciled in as the cleanup hitter for the Reds, so this might be the year he finally breaks the century mark in RBI after knocking in 90-plus each of the past two seasons.
Round 8: Miles Mikolas (SP, St. Louis Cardinals)
This was another case of grabbing the best player available. Miles Mikolas is easily a top-25 pitcher this year, so you can imagine I was ecstatic to wait as long as I did to grab a third top-25 pitcher this late. I think this shows that it is possible to be patient with starting pitchers in your draft and focus more on finding value when you do take them. Mikolas could pretty easily replicate his 2018 numbers as he already boasts one of the best sliders in baseball and generates a ton of ground balls (49.3 GB%) while still limiting walks (3.8 BB%) and hard contact (32.6 Hard%). Even if he drops back into the 3.30 ERA range, it’s still rare to get a really solid 200 innings pitched at this point in the draft, and that’s always valuable. I like Mikolas as a No. 2 starting pitcher, so I love getting him here to be my No. 3.
Round 9: Michael Brantley (OF, Houston Astros)
If you remember from the first mock, I took Michael Brantley in the ninth round last time as well. In that mock, it was a bit of a mix of trying to keep my high-floor team solid and a bit of not really liking anyone else in this round. This time around, this pick was made with a firm purpose in mind. I already had racked up a ton of home runs and RBI but still wanted to help bump back up my average and start accumulating some runs as well. Brantley is just the player to do just that. Brantley should hit .3oo again easily. While Roster Resource has him batting fifth, he has Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White and Josh Reddick hitting behind him, so he should still score a good amount of runs. I think 85-plus isn’t out of the question. He’ll even chip in 15 to 20 home runs and 10 to 15 steals, so he definitely is adding little bits of value all over the place.
Round 10: Felipe Vasquez (RP, Pittsburg Pirates)
I hate spending draft capital on closers. I really, really hate it. With only about 10 to 12 truly set closers, I’m really confident that you can pick up closers throughout the season. I also recognize it’s probably foolish to leave the draft without any closer shares at all. Ever one to play the middle ground, I have lately been playing around with the following strategy in my recent mocks: First, grab one of the 12 surefire closers in the draft. Second, wait and see if any relievers who I believe have a shot at saves (think Seranthony Dominguez or AJ Minter) and snatch them up if I can. In this particular draft, I didn’t really see any of these pitchers as a value, so I didn’t end up with any of them, but I’m always keeping an eye out for them. This allows me to take a few extra lottery tickets in the draft. After seeing how they pan out over the first couple of weeks, then I can worry about building a bullpen. If a few of those tickets cash out, then you’ve got a ton of flexibility to be aggressive chasing saves in season or swinging trades to form an elite bullpen.
Felipe Vasquez gives me the perfect opportunity to execute this strategy. We’re talking about a reliever who touches 100 mph on the radar gun and boasts a 30.1% strikeout rate while limiting hitters to .232 batting average. Sign me up every day. He does walk more batters than I’d prefer, but he tends to negate the damage they cause thanks to a minuscule 6.9 HR/FB% and a solid 77.7 LOB%. Being my only closer, he won’t often win me saves early on; he’ll only help my ratios, and if he gets a bunch of saves early on, some weeks two to three saves can win the category if you get lucky.
Round 11: Yasmani Grandal (C, Milwaukee Brewers)
I believe I’ve said this many times before so far this season, but I really don’t want to muck around with catcher this year. There are only three elite options (J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Yasmani Grandal), two to three good but not great options (Wilson Ramos, Yadier Molina, Willson Contreras), and a whole bunch of nothin’. I want one of these top six guys (really I’ve been sticking to the top three as much as possible) and will gladly pay the necessary price to own them so I don’t have to obsess over fixing my catcher situation all season. Of the big three, I’ve mostly been grabbing Realmuto as I think he’s going to have an incredible year in Philly, but if I don’t get Realmuto, I am all about Grandal. There has always been a steadiness to Grandal. You know he’s going to put up at least a .250 or so batting average with a great on-base percentage and at least 20 to 25 home runs. Now that he is in Milwaukee, though, we might even be able to bump that home run number up a bit higher and realize that 25-plus home runs is a real possibility for Grandal this year. Getting that at the catcher position in Round 11 is huge. Roster Resource has Grandal slated as the No. 7 hitter in the stacked Brewers lineup with Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun, and Mike Moustakas hitting directly in front of him, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect good RBI numbers as well.
Round 12: Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets)
I gushed all about Brandon Nimmo in my last mock draft review, so feel free to check it out to see exactly why I’m so pumped about the Mets leadoff hitter this year. Even if he doesn’t know how to cook a chicken, I love the plate discipline, and there’s still plenty of room for growth in his profile for more.
Round 13: Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)
I have gotten Luke Voit in almost every single mock and every single draft I’ve done this year. In 2018, Voit burst onto the scene and crushed 15 home runs in only 161 plate appearances. Now we’ve been fooled by a player coming up toward the end of the season and raking (I’m trying really hard not to look in your direction young Matt Olson), and I was skeptical myself (see above for my issues buying into young guys on the upswing), but then my incredibly talented colleague Nick Gerli turned me around with his awesome article diving in Voit’s 2018 season. As Nick so aptly pointed out, his approach seems to support the success, and then you add in his insane Statcast data (12.4 BBL% with over 50% of his hits have an exit velocity over 95 mph? Whew.) and the fact that his xStats backs everything up? Oh and that the Yankees have already stated that the 1B job is his to lose? Hold on to your butts, folks. Did I mention the 10.5% walk rate? I can’t believe I didn’t mention the 10.5% walk rate. You know how I love a good walk rate. Steamer has him down for just 19 home runs in 2019, but check out Nick’s article and you’ll see why I think he’s going to hit way more that.
Round 14: Brian Dozier (2B, Washington Nationals)
Brian Dozier had a brutal 2018. It’s entirely possible that he is done as a productive player. I don’t buy it though. According to Dozier, a bone bruise in his knee had a devastating effect on his season. In the case of an injured veteran player, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt until I see the same issues crop up when he is fully recovered. His walk rate and strikeout rate remained consistent with previous years, as did most of his plate discipline numbers. What changed? His 2018 BABIP of .240 was his lowest of the past three years by nearly 40 points. His HR/FB% was also down nearly 5%, which makes sense given the issues he was having with his knee. These two numbers combined to suck the life out of Dozier’s 2018 season. Without evidence to the contrary, I believe those numbers will rebound in 2019 to their normal levels. Is it risky? Absolutely. Dozier could absolutely be stick-a-fork-in-him done, but we’re talking about a player who put up 28, 42, and 34 home runs from 2015-2017 and who is batting sixth for the Nationals with Anthony Redon, Juan Soto, and Ryan Zimmerman batting in front of him. Getting that potential production in the 14th round is a risk well worth taking here for sure.
Round 15: Jose Quintana (SP, Chicago Cubs)
Jose Quintana is another holdover from the first mock draft, so you can head over there to check out why I’m expecting something of a small rebound for Quintana. In the end, getting a steady guy who is probably going to put up at least 180 innings of solid if unspectacular performance has some value in the 15th round, and I like taking a shot here to see if he can get back on track.
Round 16: Cesar Hernandez (2B, Philadelphia Phillies)
In the interest of staying on brand, I sure do love a guy who walks a lot. Cesar Hernandez hasn’t put up a walk rate below 10.0% or had an OBP below .350 since 2015. He was enjoying a pretty great year in 2018 before a broken foot (which he played through!) cratered his season. He hit .294 in both 2016 and 2017 and stole between 15 and 19 bases each of the past three years. Hernandez scored 91 runs this past year ON A BROKEN FOOT. Once again expected to be the leadoff hitter for the Phillies in 2019, Hernandez will have some combination of Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, and Realmuto hitting after him. If he sticks as the leadoff hitter all season, there is no reason a hitter who gets on base so reliably doesn’t score 100-plus runs in that lineup.
Round 17: Jesus Luzardo (SP, Oakland Athletics)
I talked at length last mock about how I wished I had taken Jesus Luzardo based on Adam Garland’s fantastic piece on his potential, and honestly, after watching his two spring training starts so far, I am ready to double down. His stuff looks electric, and he is clearly pitching like he’s ready to take the majors by storm. The question is simply when do the Athletics bring him up? Over in the Discord channel and on the live mocks, Nick Pollack has been estimating that because the A’s are in the hunt for the Wild Card this year, and because their rotation is an abomination that they’ll likely only keep him down a few weeks or so. This is the beauty of taking a few steady pitchers such as Quintana in Round 15 or Joulys Caucin (who I took in the very next round): Those guys allow me to take a few risks on some lottery ticket pitchers or players who won’t come up right away because I can slot them in at any time and keep the boat afloat so to speak. Either way, I am pumped for Luzardo in 2019.
Round 18: Jhoulys Chacin (SP, Milwaukee Brewers)
This was another steady, high-floor guy meant to allow me to take a few of the riskier guys I wanted to take in the next few rounds. I love Chacin’s slider, and when he greatly increased its usage rate this past year, he outperformed all expectations. I firmly believe if that usage trend carries over to 2019, we can once again expect a solid season with an ERA between 3.50 and 3.75 with decent if unspectacular walk and strikeout rates. If nothing else, he’s supported by a stellar offense that should help him put together solid win totals, which is always a plus!
Round 19: Drew Pomeranz (SP, San Francisco Giants)
Drew Pomeranz had a really great 2017, where he was able to use his devastating curveball to great effect, so expectations were high for his 2018. But injuries reared their ugly head and derailed his season this past year. Heading into 2019, he is back healthy and now pitching for the Giants. As the best pitcher’s park in the league, AT&T Park is the perfect place for Pomeranz to get his groove back and help suppress his high HR/9 rates and get his strikeout rate back over 20.0% again. If we can get another 3.50 ERA season to go along with that, this pick will be a steal.
Round 20: Anthony Desclafani (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
If you follow my work, you’ll know how I feel about Tony Disco coming into 2019 as I fully expect him to have a similar season to the one Cole Hamels had in 2018. What I didn’t know at the time was that Anthony Desclafani was going to completely revamp his curveball this offseason, and it looks amazing. Just this past Saturday, he threw two innings in a spring training start, and I counted eight whiffs over those two innings. A good chunk of them came at the hands of his new and improved curveball. If that pitch can turn into an effective weapon for him, we could finally see the last piece of the puzzle click into place for Desclafani. Let’s keep that hype train rolling!
Round 21: Jake Bauers (1B, OF Cleveland Indians)
I kinda went H.A.M. on my sleeper picks here as I have also not been shy about my Jake Bauers love. He’s looked pretty solid so far in spring training and has already hit his first home run in an Indians uniform while showing that his eye in the batter’s box was no fluke. I still remain incredibly optimistic about Bauers in 2019. He’s started seeing playing time out in left field in spring training, so he might be able to pick up eligibility out there in leagues where he doesn’t already qualify as an outfielder. I may have also made this pick just to get Scott Chu to yell at me. Ain’t I a scamp?
Round 22: Brad Keller (SP, Kansas City Royals)
This pick was made on the backbone of an article from another of my incredible colleagues, Michael Augustine. That man has forgotten more about pitching than I will ever know in my lifetime, and so when he highlights a pitcher, I pay attention. Brad Keller had a fantastic rookie season, putting up a 3.08 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 140 innings. Even if there is some regression coming and he drops to something closer to a 3.75 ERA or so, that’s still a solid get at this price, and if he falters, then it’s an easy cut. Honestly, as I went through Michael’s article, all I could think about was how Keller’s pitching profile reminded me of how Kyle Hendricks utilizes pitch tunneling to add an extra layer of deception to his stuff. If this pick can turn into a baby Hendricks, that’s really great value as he’ll come at a nearly 10-round discount.
Round 23: Ji-Man Choi (1B, DH Tampa Bay Rays)
I closed out the draft with another of my go-to sleepers, Ji-Man Choi. Check out my recent article on Choi for the full scoop on how his power profile from this past season matches up nicely with Michael Conforto‘s and why that has me optimistic for his 2019 season. Since this article was published, he has gone on to put up a .875 OBP in spring training and has gotten great reviews on his work at first base so far. The first base job is there for the taking if he can show he has the defensive chops to be good there.
So was I successful in my strategy? I think I was I was for the most part. I was patient in grabbing my first starting pitcher, which allowed me to stockpile elite hitting talent early on. Even though I held off until the fifth round, I still ended up with three top-25 pitchers which shows you can wait on pitchers if you want to go hitter heavy early on in the draft. You just have to trust your instincts when they say it’s time. I also succeeded on my second objective in the draft, which was to take one elite closer and then ignore the position essentially for the rest of the draft. I probably should have found a spot for a setup guy who would have a shot at a closing gig if the chance arises, but all in all, I think I built a team with great hitting and pitching that would definitely challenge for the title had we chosen to play the league out.
(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire)