This mock draft season has been flying here at Pitcher List, so I decided it was finally time to jump in one of these bad boys and get ready for the 2019 season. It’s one thing to do your draft prep, your rankings, and all that good stuff, and it’s another thing to jump right into the fire and see who you really like and who you’ll let pass you by. This was a 12-team H2H, three OF league, with nine pitcher slots, based on a standard 5×5 scoring format.
Pick 1.04: Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)
You can call me boring all you like for going with the safe pick here, but I’m all about safety at the beginning of drafts. You can’t waste your top picks, and you need high floors to make sure you will make the most of those picks. Nolan Arenado‘s worst stats over the past four seasons include a .287 batting average, 37 home runs, 97 runs scored, and 110 RBI. He doesn’t steal bases, but he doesn’t miss games, and he’s the model of consistency. You can’t go wrong with Arenado.
Pick 2.21: Chris Sale (SP, Boston Red Sox)
I was not expecting to pick Chris Sale again, as I got Sale at almost this exact same pick in my last mock and was just as shocked to see him fall then as I am now. There’s no reason Sale should be available in the 20s. Granted, he was my third-ranked starting pitcher, and I would have taken Jacob deGrom if I had the choice, but I’ll gladly snap up Sale here at the end of the second. He was first in strikeout percentage this past year and will be dominant on the mound again this year.
Pick 3.28: Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)
You know, as a Dodger fan, having all these Red Sox really isn’t sitting right with me. I thought about picking Anthony Rizzo here, as he’s been a first-round caliber hitter in the past, but Andrew Benintendi is just such a safe bet and is so well-rounded. He’s got 25/25 potential, consistently hits for a high average, and will be batting leadoff for the Red Sox this season. Mookie Betts scored 129 runs in just 136 games hitting leadoff for the Red Sox this past season; while Benintendi isn’t Betts, it’s still a good indication of what the potential is for Benintendi’s runs scored this year.
Pick 4.45: J.T. Realmut0 (C, Philadelphia Phillies)
This was one of those times where the value of a mock draft really becomes clear. My strategy going into every draft over the past few years has been to wait and wait on catcher until I can grab the last guy I feel comfortable with. In this draft, that would have meant taking a catcher in the 13th round, where Wilson Ramos, Willson Contreras, and Yadier Molina went. However, I decided to see how it would look and feel if I went big early on at catcher, so I jumped the gun and took Realmuto here in the fourth. I take it that my draft mates thought it was a good pick, as I was immediately cursed out by multiple people in the draft room. Realmuto is in a class of his own at catcher (don’t believe anyone who tells you Gary Sanchez is in the same tier), posting an average stat line of 16 home runs, 120 combined runs and RBI, and a .287 batting average over the past three seasons. All of those numbers are great for catchers, and it definitely helps that Realmuto is regularly at the top of the catcher leaderboards in plate appearances. I’m not sure I’d make this pick again as I still like the idea of Ramos or Yasmani Grandal at their current ADP of around pick 120, but I’m definitely a believer in Realmuto as the elite catcher.
Pick 5.52: Walker Buehler (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Well, here we are again. Just like in October, I’ve got Sale and Walker Buehler after five rounds. I swore I wasn’t going to do it; I had Carlos Carrasco all queued up, and I got sniped as he was picked right before me. I panicked and just went to my safe space with my baby Buehler. How can you not love Buehler though? Sixteenth in strikeout rate, eighth in ground-ball rate, and while Dodgeritis may be a thing, I still think Buehler will rack up 180 innings pitched. I’m all about quality of innings over quantity of innings.
Pick 6.69: Daniel Murphy (2B/1B, Colorado Rockies)
Fact: Second base is the shallowest position in fantasy baseball this year (OK, second-shallowest after catcher, but that doesn’t count). Fact: Coors Field is by far the most hitter-friendly park in baseball. Fact: Daniel Murphy has slashed .326/.375/.542 over the past three seasons. So why on earth is he still available in the sixth round? His dual eligibility makes him even more attractive as first base ain’t what it used to be, so he gives me flexibility in case I need to cover a hole at that position (which, on this team, I might have to; more on that later). Murphy is a baller, and he’s going to ball out in Colorado.
Pick 7.76: Zack Greinke (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
How Zack Greinke was the 23rd starter off the board and available to me here is beyond me. I understand the risk: He’s an old man pitching for a team that got demonstrably worse over the offseason and has a chance to fall off a cliff this season. His fastball velocity was down to 89.6 mph this past season, and that’s cause for concern, sure. However, Greinke does not rely on his fastball to get outs. In fact, quite the opposite. His offspeed stuff is where his money is made; he had three pitches this past season with swinging-strike rates higher than 15%. He’s still a control master. In fact, he had the seventh-lowest walk rate of any qualified pitcher this past season. What makes that really impressive though is that he managed that despite hardly throwing any pitches in the strike zone (eighth-lowest zone rate this past season) and just gets batters to chase garbage all game long, posting the eighth-highest O-Swing rate. I just don’t see why Greinke is falling so far in drafts.
Pick 8.93: Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
This is one of my riskier picks for sure, but Jesus Aguilar showed what a slugger he can be this past season as he mashed 35 home runs and 108 RBI in just 566 plate appearances. His .274 batting average is also pretty good when you consider the averages of some other sluggers taken in this range, guys such as Joey Gallo or Edwin Encarnacion, who both went in the next round. I am concerned about Aguilar’s second-half struggles, but I’m hoping that during the offseason he’s had time to see how pitchers adjusted to him and figure out ways to counter that.
Pick 9.100: Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)
I love Mallex Smith. I was on board with him as soon as he started getting playing time last season. I recognize that Smith is a stolen base specialist, but what sets him apart from the late round guys is his hit tool, as he’s shown elite contact at every level of the minors and hit .296 last year. He’ll continue to hit for a high average, and he should lead off for the Mariners this year, which would give him a high ceiling for runs as well. I’m thinking we could see a season of .290 batting average, with 90-plus runs scored and 40-plus stolen bases.
Pick 10.117: Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers)
Nick Castellanos is a well-rounded batter, and I like having guys like that on my team. I can count on him to hit for a high average, to hit 20 or so home runs, and to have good run production, as he’s had 170-plus runs plus RBI for each of the past two seasons, a really solid amount. He doesn’t run, but between Benintendi and Smith, I feel confident that I have enough speed for now. For what it’s worth, I really wanted Eddie Rosario and David Dahl, two outfielders who have higher ceilings in my opinion, but neither one of them made it to me after my ninth pick. Castellanos was my favorite outfielder left and, in my opinion, the last of that tier of outfielders.
Pick 11.124: Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
This is now my third repeat pick from the October mock, and this time, I really paid a premium, getting Kirby Yates 40 picks higher than I got him back in October. The Padres are looking like a much-improved team since then. Yates is an excellent relief pitcher, and he has the closer’s role locked up to start the season. I think we could see Yates enter the conversation as a first-tier closer by midseason. If he can maintain his strikeout rate (36%) and his WHIP (0.92) from this past season, he’ll certainly be one of the best closers in baseball.
Pick 12.141: Nate Eovaldi (SP, Boston Red Sox)
I think that I may be suffering a bit from a belated Stockholm Syndrome as I’ve now taken three players who torched the Dodgers in October. Nathan Eovaldi‘s performance in Game 3 of the World Series was nothing short of jaw-dropping, and it was a perfect display of what Eovaldi could be this season if the Red Sox let him loose as a starting pitcher. I’ve always stressed quality over quantity when it comes to drafting pitchers, and Eovaldi’s potential for a high strikeout rate combined with the control he displayed this past season has me a believer in Eovaldi as a potential top-25 starter next season.
Pick 13.148: Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox)
Ten players managed to have 20/20 seasons this past year, and that list includes Jose Ramirez, Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Christian Yelich, Starling Marte, Javier Baez, and Tim Anderson. There are not a lot of players who can bring both power and speed, and with all the players I drafted earlier who hit for a high average, that gave me the security I needed to draft Anderson. The power/speed combo isn’t a fluke, as Anderson hit 15 home runs and stole 17 bases in 2017. I’m hoping that going into his age 26 season, his third full season, Anderson can show the consistency that he’s lacked and continue to improve on his home run and stolen base totals.
Pick 14.165: Tyler Glasnow (SP, Tampa Bay Rays)
At this point, it’s all about ceiling with my pitching picks. Tyler Glasnow has been a super-hyped prospect for years, and he finally showed this past season that he can perhaps hit that potential he’s flashed. He has great stuff, with an electric fastball and a nasty slider/curve. On the other hand, saying he has control issues is an understatement. If he can continue to build on the second half of this past season where he dropped his walk rate to 9.5%, which is still not great but it’s at least acceptable, then I think he could be solid No. 4 starter for a fantasy team.
Pick 15.172: Jose Alvarado (RP, Tampa Bay Rays)
I like relievers who bring more to the table than just saves, and Jose Alvarado is one of those guys. He has two elite pitches in his sinker and his slider, leading to a strong 30.4% strikeout rate and a 2.39 ERA. While the Rays haven’t officially named a closer and probably never will with the way they use their bullpen, Alvarado is their best reliever, so I’m certain he will get the bulk of the save chances.
Pick 16.189: Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics)
I’m not really sure how I feel right now about my starting first baseman (Aguilar) and starting shortstop (Anderson), and what better way to solve that than to draft a guy who can play both of those positions? Jurickson Profar doesn’t have the highest ceiling, which goes a bit against my strategy at this point, but I feel like I went swinging for the fences with my earlier picks and this gives me a little bit more stability in my infield. Profar’s gains this past year were supported by his batted ball data, and I’m expecting a similar type of season from him this year.
Pick 17.196: Garrett Hampson (SS, Colorado Rockies)
Profar wasn’t enough for me to feel good about my infield, so I decided to grab someone with a great ceiling in Garrett Hampson, who will be eligible at second base very early in the season. He has a good profile as a hitter with elite speed and doesn’t have a whole lot of competition at second base, so I think he’ll have a decent leash. To be fair, I always buy into Rockies prospects (let’s go Tom Murphy), so I suppose there’s a chance that Hampson isn’t a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the Year, but I feel good about him.
Pick 18.213: Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
He’s got injury concerns and has never truly lived up to the hype, but where else are you going to find 20-home run, 15-stolen base potential at this point in the draft? Even if Gregory Polanco doesn’t take the step forward that we’ve all been hoping for, he could still be a value pick at this point in the draft.
Pick 19.220: Alex Wood (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
There is a lot to be concerned about with Alex Wood. He hasn’t come close to repeating the success he had in the first half of 2017, and the velocity spike he saw then hasn’t come back since. He’s moving from pitching in a pitchers’ park to a hitters’ park, and the NL Central is deeper in terms of strong offenses. What gets my hopes up though is that he’ll have a stable spot in the rotation, and the Reds will hopefully let him pitch further into games as they don’t use their bullpen the same way the Dodgers do. I wonder if that will help him mentally be more prepared for each start and whether that will make enough of a difference for Wood.
Pick 20.237: Jeff Samardzija (SP, San Francisco Giants)
I really liked having Jeff Samardzija back in 2017 when he struck out nearly a batter an inning and had a WHIP of 1.14, both great numbers for a back-end starter. I didn’t like having Samardzija in 2018, when his K/9 dropped to 6.04 and his WHIP spiked to 1.63. In fact, he almost walked more batters (26) than he struck out (30) this past season. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on this past year as it was clear the shoulder injury was affecting him, and he’s proven he can bounce back from disappointing seasons before. If he sucks, no worries, not much risked at this point in the draft.
Pick 21.244: Matt Barnes (RP, Boston Red Sox)
It doesn’t seem very likely that the Red Sox and former closer Craig Kimbrel will be reuniting for the 2019 season, and this late in the draft is a great time to take flyers on solid relievers who could easily rack up saves for a dominant team such as the Sox. Matt Barnes is presumably first in line for the closer’s role, and with his ridiculous 36.2% strikeout rate and 2.71 FIP, he could easily be worth more than just the saves he collects.
Pick 22.261: Ryan Brasier (RP, Boston Red Sox)
Some news outlets like Barnes as the front-runne;, others have said Ryan Brasier will be the one winning the job out of spring training. Either way, I’m set. Whoever wins the job stays on the team, whoever loses it will likely be dropped for someone with upside. Brasier isn’t as electric as Barnes, but he does a fantastic job of limiting good contact, holding opposing offenses to a .162 batting average to go along with an excellent 5.7% walk rate.
Pick 23.268 Odubel Herrera (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
This is a throwaway pick here. Herrera has shown both good speed (25 steals in 2016) and good power (22 home runs this past year), but I’m not sure he’ll approach either of those numbers this year. Also with Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, Herrera is likely the first to be replaced, and we all know what Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr can do. Plus, the Phillies have speedy prospect Roman Quinn knocking on the door too. Herrera has shown the ability to catch fire at times, and hopefully he can do that out of the gate. But if not, no sweat off my back.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)