Mock Draft #2: Rich Holman’s Picks
Welcome to my favorite time of year: draft season! If you ask my wife, I spend entirely too much of my time in February and March
ignoring my kids on drafts and draft preparation. I can’t help it; I love the thrill of the draft. On Feb. 11, I had the pleasure of taking part in Mock Draft No. 2 with other members of the Pitcher List staff.
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. Let’s dive in!
Pick 1.06 — Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)
Speed drops off so hard after the early rounds, so I wanted to exit the first round with a decent speed base. Trea Turner is projected to have 35-43 stolen bases, and I love that it comes with a solid average and a projected 17-19 home runs. While I’m excited to have the speed, making this pick pushes me to lean on homer-heavy options as the draft moves forward, but we’ll get to that later.
Pick 2.19 — Bryce Harper (OF, Free Agent)
At pick No. 2, we come to maybe mistake No. 1. I needed pop and was between Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton. I took Harper because of the chip-in steals, but in reality, I should’ve gone after the raw, unadulterated power of Stanton. Despite my regrets, I’m still happy with Harper. His xBABIP was 20 points higher than his BABIP, so I expect a little average bounce back. And no matter where he lands power is legit.
I got sniped by Ben Ruppert for Corey Kluber, so I settled on Trevor Bauer as my ace — and don’t try and mince words, Bauer is an ace. He finished the season with a 3.21 SIERA and had a Cy Young season cut short by a stress fracture in his leg thanks to a come-backer. Some people will remember the injury-shortened season and just think it was arm related, so take that discount where you can get it.
Pick 4.43 — Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)
I’d like to introduce you to my bae, Eugenio Suarez. I fell hard for Suarez last year, and my love did not disappoint. He increased his Value Hit% for the third consecutive season up to 12.7, which led to an increased average and home run total, and he should find himself in an improved Reds lineup, with the addition of Yasiel Puig. I took Suarez ahead of Anthony Rendon, but make no mistakes, I have no qualms with Rendon, just have Suarez one spot ahead.
I could’ve probably waited on my SP2, as there were nine pitchers who went between the fifth and seventh rounds with whom I would’ve been comfortable, but I pounced on Patrick Corbin. The change he made to his repertoire last year in making his slider his primary pitch was legit, as he had a 2.91 SIERA to back up his 3.15 ERA. It’s kind of hindsight analysis because at the time I didn’t know SP2 candidates would be there in the seventh round, but I could’ve taken Matt Carpenter or Joey Gallo to fill my need at pop. But look at this filth:
Pick 6.67 — Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
Speaking of raw power, Jesus Aguilar certainly fits the bill. Aguilar finally got full-time plate appearances and really took advantage, having a Value Hit% of 13.1 and popping 35 homers in the middle of the Brewers lineup. I think you can pencil him in for similar production with an average between .260 and .270, which won’t hurt you.
Pick 7.78 — Marcell Ozuna (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Marcell Ozuna was plagued in 2018 by a shoulder injury that really bothered him all year, even though he played through it. I’ll admit I didn’t have the knowledge I should have when making this pick and probably should’ve passed over him for now. He had offseason shoulder surgery, and according to the club is “looking strong, working hard and will begin his throwing program in early February,” but with options such as Puig, A.J. Pollock, Michael Conforto, Nick Castellanos, and Justin Upton following him, I should’ve gone the safer route. That being said, if Ozuna looks good in spring training, I could see this working out fine.
Miles Mikolas is the exact kind of pitcher I want as my SP3: safe with just a hint of upside. His low BB% ensures WHIP safety, even if his .279 BABIP (.298 xBABIP) regresses some. As the esteemed Nick Pollack wrote in his top 40 starting pitchers article, “You have the recipe for a low WHIP (thanks low walk rate!) and a pitcher who should easily push a 20% strikeout rate and hint at the 25% mark.”
Pick 9.102 — Jonathan Villar (2B, Baltimore Orioles)
While I felt comfortable with my stolen bases acquired up to this point, that certainly doesn’t mean I could completely ignore the stat the rest of the draft. I view Jonathan Villar as Turner-lite; 10-15 HRs, 35 SBs (with a ceiling of 60-plus; thank you, 2016), and while I’m not enamored with him playing in Baltimore, the team should have no reservations about him just running wild.
Pick 10.115 — Brad Hand (RP, Cleveland Indians)
With all the closer-by-committee situations, closer is easily the toughest position for me to value, but at 10.115, I feel like this is pretty decent value on Brad Hand. In 2018, he increased his K% up to a career-best 35.2, and barring injury, his job should be secure. He’s also had a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.11 WHIP the past three years.
With this league rolling out nine pitcher slots, I felt a little behind only having four of them filled and only three starting pitchers by the 11th round. J.A. Happ has been so sneaky good for four years straight now and has raised his K% the past three seasons, hitting a career high of 26.3 in 2018. Some people might be scared off by him moving to Yankee Stadium for a full season, but him being a lefty should negate the right-field short porch some.
Pick 12.139 — Dee Gordon (2B, Seattle Mariners)
Remember in my Turner write up I said I should focus on pop the rest of the draft? I failed in taking Dee Gordon. A couple weeks back, I did a best-ball draft with our colleague Alex Fast, and we got into a squabble about Gordon’s value. I didn’t want a speedster on the decline, I said. I didn’t want aging speedster who got caught stealing 28.5% of the time last year, I said; and yet, here I am taking him at 12.139. Baseball Savant has Gordon’s sprint speed at 29.0 in 2018, and while it was the lowest it’s been since they started tracking the metric, it was 29.4 in 2017 when he stole 60 bases, 29.6 in an injury-shortened 2016 when he stole 30, and 29.1 in 2015 when he stole 58. Regardless of whether I think Gordon will bounce back, I didn’t need this many steals. I could’ve used this pick to add a second decent closer in Kirby Yates or a straight power guy such asMike Moustakas to plug in my UT spot.
Pick 13.150 — Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)
I don’t usually end up with a catcher this early, so what witchcraft happened that I did this time? Maybe I was reminiscing to 2018, when everyone was hyped up about Willson Contreras, taking him in the 70s. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definite upside with Contreras, but I would’ve much rather had Danny Jansen in the 16th round or boring, steady Yadier Molina in the 18th round. Here’s are their projections from The Bat, so you tell me why I’m paying five rounds more:
At this point in the draft, I’m realizing I’ve only filled five of my nine pitcher slots, and drafting with my fellow brethren of Pitcher List, they’re most likely high on all the later guys that I’m planning on targeting. Panic sets in, and I start queuing up starters. For this pick, I was between Eduardo Rodriguez and Cole Hamels. I had a couple other guys queued up such asMichael Fulmer, Joe Musgrove, and Rich Hill, but I felt I could wait a little longer on them. I took Rodriguez, hoping that this is the year that health springs eternal (What’s that? The phrase is “hope springs eternal”?). Rodriguez has increased his K% each of the past four seasons, hitting a career-high 26.4 in 2018.
Isn’t it one of the best feelings when a player you were debating between in a previous round makes it back to you? Who was I to not thank the fantasy gods and take what they had gifted me? Hamels found the fountain of youth in Chicago last year. In 12 starts with the Cubs, he had a 2.36 ERA, which was heavily aided by his HR/9 going from 1.8 with Texas to .7 with Chicago. At this point in the draft, having the safety of Hamels as my SP6 should help offset the injury risk of Rodriguez.
Pick 16.187 — Cody Allen (RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
I really do not enjoy drafting closers. Sure, Cody Allen has the experience and has been named the Angels’ closer, but the decline is real. He lost velocity on his fastball for the fifth consecutive season in 2018, and as a result, his K% was down and his ERA was up. Unfortunately, in this game we need saves, but if you couldn’t tell, I am not thrilled with making this pick. Doing this exercise really shows just how unprepared I am for legit drafts.
Pick 17.198 — Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals)
Finally, we’re back to a pick that I’m not ashamed of. I woke up and remembered that I needed to supplement my team with pop and took Paul DeJong. DeJong missed some of 2018 after being hit by a pitch in the hand and breaking a bone, requiring surgery. He managed to improve his K% and BB% during the year and offers that 30-35 home run ceiling that I’m looking for.
Pick 18.211 — Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)
Here I stuck to the plan and again took depth with home run upside in Max Kepler. Jim Chatterton wrote an amazing piece on Kepler, and his words are much more eloquent than mine.
While I realized adding pop was my main concern, I wanted to add a seventh starter. I should note: At this point in the draft, I knew (as long as no snipers showed up) what I was planning on doing with my last two picks, so I mapped out taking one starter, two bats, and then the guys I took in the 22nd and 23rd rounds (no spoilers). Derek Holland was a beast in the second half last year and will be returning to San Francisco. The esteemed Nick Pollack had this to say in his top 60 starting pitchers article:, “I’m not kidding: The southpaw held a 2.94 ERA, 25.5% strikeout rate (11.5% swinging-strike rate!), and 1.27 WHIP in his final 19 starts, rooted in a shift on the rubber to the first base side.” I love when an improvement like this can be rooted in a change that was made and not just luck.
Pick 20.235 — Jake Bauers (1B, Cleveland Indians)
Daniel Port wrote an incredible piece on Jake Bauers, and the summary is that positive regression should be coming to help the batting average. Bauers is a guy who has a power/speed profile that I could easily see end up as a top-125 player come September.
Pick 21.246 — Randall Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays)
Randall Grichuk completes my power-upside picks. To review, I took DeJong, Kepler, Bauers, and Grichuk as UT/bench bats to try and supplement the potential home runs lost by taking Turner in the first round. Overall, the only spot that I really misstepped on this strategy was the Gordon pick.
Picks 22.259 and 23.270 — Matt Barnes & Ryan Brasier (RPs, Boston Red Sox)
I combined the last two rounds for a reason. Currently, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are the two relievers vying for the role of Red Sox closer. As I stated earlier, I hate drafting closers, but potentially getting the Red Sox closer with my last two picks is as good of a lottery ticket as you’re going to get.
(Photo by Jay Anderson/Icon Sportswire)