While I’ve played in dynasty leagues for a while now, this was my first time in a mock draft made up entirely of prospects. I had the 10th pick (out of 12 teams), and my general strategy was to go for the highest upside available and not focus too much on age or proximity to the big leagues. This mostly corresponds with my approach in a real dynasty league, as I want to accumulate as many prospects with Top 20 ceilings as possible, since they hold the most trade value. We also aimed to fill out a normal roster, so we couldn’t ignore a particular position, such as catcher.
It was interesting to see the strategies of the other managers. I definitely ended up with one of the youngest, most high-risk teams. But I’m really happy with how the roster turned out, as it has nice upside overall with a few “safe” picks sprinkled in. With that in mind, here are my selections from the Pitcher List dynasty mock draft:
Round 1 (Pick 10): Julio Rodriguez, OF, SEA
Anytime a prospect makes it to High-A as an 18-year-old it gets my attention. It’s even more impressive when that player excels against older competition and then gets an assignment to the Arizona Fall League (AFL) on top of it. That kind of sums up Julio Rodriguez’s whirlwind of a 2019 season.
Despite being slowed by an injury, Rodriguez finished the year hitting .326 with 12 home runs and a .929 OPS in 84 games. Listed at 6’4″, 225 pounds, he’s already very much a physical presence at the plate and could add even more power, which is scary to consider.
I just love his hit tool, and while I don’t see him running a lot, all signs point to a four-category stud for a long time. Dynasty owners won’t have to wait long for his MLB debut, either, as I think he’ll be up in 2021 at the latest. He’s a Top Five prospect for me.
Round 2 (Pick 15): Royce Lewis, SS, MIN
I was torn here between Royce Lewis and the Giants’ Marco Luciano. Both are shortstops and both could be the cornerstone of a dynasty team for years. And while Lewis is older and closer to the majors, he’s coming off a poor season. Luciano, on the other hand, looks like a surefire Top 10 prospect, but his only pro stats are from rookie ball.
In the end, I went with Lewis because I still see him as a perennial 20-20 player for the Twins in the near future. I like that the Twins stuck with him and promoted him to Double-A despite his struggles and then sent him to the AFL, where he broke out and was named the MVP.
Amazingly, Luciano almost made it back but was snapped up with the 31st overall pick, which was easily the steal of the draft for me.
Round 3 (Pick 34): Michael Kopech, RHP, CWS
The top arms went earlier than expected, so I felt inclined to join the party and grab one before they were all gone. That led me to Michael Kopech, who is very much a high-risk/high-reward pick, even for an all-prospect draft.
Kopech had premium velocity and strikeout rates all through the minors, including a 31.3 K% in 2018. He reached the majors before succumbing to Tommy John surgery, but he’s fully recovered now and not expected to have any restrictions entering spring training. Early offseason reports already have his velocity back up to 99 mph as well.
Now seems like a good time to buy back in, but I would caution patience as I’m not sure what his control will look like right away. For the long term, anyway, I like him as a potential ace to lead my staff.
Round 4 (Pick 39): CJ Abrams, SS, SDP
At this stage of the draft I was still looking for players who could propel into Top 10 prospect rankings a year from now. CJ Abrams fits that description for me. The No. 6 overall pick to the Padres this year, Abrams hit over .400 in rookie ball with a 189 wRC+ and struck out just 9% the time. He was only 18 years old.
He has speed, developing power and athleticism out the wazoo. Some scouts believe he could move to second base or the outfield, but it wouldn’t change his value all that much for me. Of course, there is always some risk with teenagers, but everything is pointing up with Abrams, and this is probably my favorite pick of the whole draft.
Round 5 (Pick 58): Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI
Fellow Diamondbacks prospect Alek Thomas was going to be my next selection, but he went two picks earlier. Corbin Carroll is a nice consolation prize, as he can do a bit of everything, but mostly I just like his plus hit tool and speed combo.
Carroll made it to Low-A before his 19th birthday this year and put up a .299/.409/.487 slash with 18 steals in 42 games across two levels. This is definitely a pick with roto leagues in mind, as I see him in the mold of Adam Eaton but with more upside. Even if the power never fully develops, I think he’ll move pretty quickly and provide fantasy value a lot sooner than his age indicates.
Round 6 (Pick 63): Jeter Downs, 2B/SS, LAD
The Dodgers fleeced the Reds in that Yasiel Puig trade. Not only did they get back pitcher Josiah Gray (who went two picks later at No. 65), but they quietly snuck in shortstop Jeter Downs as well. All Downs did this year was go 24-24 in 119 games with an .888 OPS across two levels.
To put it into context, his production wasn’t all that far off from what Gavin Lux did at the same stops just a year prior. Don’t get me wrong, Downs doesn’t have the elite hit tool of Lux, but his power and speed ooze fantasy potential. And his walk rates have always hovered around 10% in the minors while his strikeout rates have stayed at 20% or below. So, he’s no slouch, either.
There’s a chance Downs gets moved off shortstop before he reaches the big leagues because of concerns over his defense. He’s already seen some time at second base, which might end up being a more suitable position for him.
Round 7 (Pick 82): Jordan Balazovic, RHP, MIN
Weirdly, there was a run of three Twins pitchers in a row this round. I took Jordan Balazovic as the last of the group (behind Jhoan Duran and Brusdar Graterol) and really like his pitch mix. He already has a plus fastball that hits the mid-90s consistently and two above-average offspeed offerings, which paired together led to a 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and greater than 30% K rate across two levels of A-ball this year.
This was really Balazovic’s breakout year, as he was drafted out of high school in 2016 but hadn’t thrown more than 90 innings in a season until now. It’s still a pretty good time to acquire him on the cheap in dynasty leagues as he’s not a household name yet.
Round 8 (Pick 87): Sherten Apostel, 3B, TEX
Dealt to the Rangers in the Keone Kela trade in 2018, Sherten Apostel has big raw power that plays to all fields. In A-ball this year he hit 15 home runs in 80 games with a .212 ISO and 132 wRC+. The Rangers promoted him to High-A in July, where he struggled against better pitching, though at just 20 years old it’s not uncommon to have a learning curve at a new stop.
Like many power hitters, he has some swing-and-miss in his game, but I like that he’s posted high walk rates throughout the minors, usually more than 10% of the time. It’s a bit risky to take him in the Top 100, especially with some safer third base prospects still out there, but I’m happy to be on board the Apostel hype train.
Round 9 (Pick 106): Brailyn Marquez, LHP, CHC
I became a huge fan of Brailyn Marquez’s while writing the Prospects of the Week articles for Pitcher List this year. The young Cubs lefty has an electric arm with a fastball that can hit 100 mph, and he pairs it nicely with a curve/slurve that scouts think can be a plus pitch.
He posted a 30.7% K rate in A-ball, but what really stood out to me is the gaudy 17.8 swinging-strike percentage, which was the third-highest mark of all pitchers in the minors with at least 90 innings. He’s also working on a changeup, which might be the key to unlocking another gear and pushing him into Top 100 rankings. He’s definitely worth a stash in dynasty if the price isn’t too high yet. But act fast, as buzz is already growing with him.
Round 10 (Pick 111): Nick Lodolo, LHP, CIN
This is my safest pick as far as pitchers go, which is saying a lot given Nick Lodolo has only thrown 18.1 innings as a pro. I say that because Lodolo is already considered a fairly polished arm, which is why the Reds’ drafted him seventh overall out of TCU this year.
With a three-pitch mix that all grade out to at least above average, Lodolo has a chance to move up the ladder quickly. There is some concern about his delivery, which is kind of a low three-quarters arm slot and has been compared by Reds catcher Kyle Farmer to that of Alex Wood. But it doesn’t bother me, and if anything, it works to give his slider a nice sweeping action that should generate a lot of whiffs for years.
Round 11 (Pick 130): Khalil Lee, OF, KC
I wrote up Khalil Lee in the Royals’ Top 50 prospects list, which should be on the site soon (and spoiler: I ranked him second). At just 21 years old, he has 15-25 upside with potential for even more steals, and he posted good OBPs throughout the minors. He does strike out a lot (28.2% in 2019), so there’s some bust potential if he fails to make enough contact against advanced pitchers.
At pick No. 130 overall, though, I’m willing to take that risk because his skills translate very well to roto leagues. He’ll likely start the year in Triple-A and should get called up in short order to give the Royals outfield a much-needed shot in the arm.
Round 12 (Pick 135): Orelvis Martinez, SS, TOR
One of the top J2 signings in 2018, Orelvis Martinez not only held his own but also impressed as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League this year, where he hit .275 with seven home runs and a .901 OPS in 40 games. It’s telling the Jays had him skip the Dominican Summer League (DSL) altogether and go straight to rookie ball in the States. They really like the kid.
Scouts believe he might move to third base, but as long as he can stick as a regular at any position, I’ll be happy because the bat has potential to be special. This is a long-term investment for sure, but his stock is on the rise in the dynasty world, and I was thrilled to get him in the 12th round.
Round 13 (Pick 154): Jake Fraley, OF, SEA
I decided to switch things up and take an “old” prospect in 24-year-old Jake Fraley. He broke out in 2018 after getting dealt from the Rays in the Mike Zunino trade, and last year the breakout continued when he hit 19 home runs and stole 22 bases in just 99 games across Double-A and Triple-A.
His success at the upper levels earned him a cup of coffee with the Mariners, which admittedly was kind of a disaster—he hit just .150 in 12 games–but if nothing else, it lowered his cost and created a nice buying opportunity. Given that he provides plus defense in the outfield as well, he should get another crack at playing time with the Mariners this year, and I think he ends up securing a regular role sooner rather than later.
Round 14 (Pick 159): Joe Ryan, RHP, TBR
Joe Ryan is an enigma. Scouts doubt his ability to stick as a starter because he relies heavily on a deceptive fastball that he throws more than 70% of the time. But he was one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues this year. He pitched across three levels, reaching Double-A , and in 123.2 innings put up a 1.96 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 183 Ks. He also recorded a stellar swinging-strike percentage, which was sixth-best among all pitchers with at least 90 innings.
How has he been so successful? That’s kind of the million-dollar question, though opposing hitters have pointed to his deceptive delivery, which makes it hard to pick up the ball. I’m not going to lie, I could see him being Freddie Peralta part two, which would not be a great outcome. But at more than halfway through the draft I’m willing to take a shot and see if Ryan can continue to defy the skeptics.
Round 15 (Pick 178): Luis Frias, RHP, ARI
Luis Frias is another pitcher who caught my eye writing Prospects of the Week. He had a breakout season in short-season A-ball where he posted a 1.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP with 72 Ks in 49.2 innings as a 21-year-old. He wasn’t as sharp after a promotion to the Midwest League, but on the season, he still posted an impressive 17.3 swinging-strike percentage, one of the highest marks in the minors.
I also really like his repertoire. He already has two plus pitches with a mid-90s fastball and a power curve. A changeup that acts like a splitter is also improving and could be what catapults him into Top 100 lists next year. This may be the last chance to buy low on Frias in dynasty leagues.
Round 16 (Pick 183): Mason Martin, 1B, PIT
If you enjoy a good underdog story, you might like Mason Martin. A 17th-round draft pick in 2017, he finished tied for fourth in the minors with 35 home runs in 2019, and that was without the juiced ball in the lower levels. For his efforts he also won the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year.
While his power from the left side looks for real, the strikeouts are also for real, unfortunately, as he whiffed about 30% of time. What saves his stock for me is he’s only 20 years old, and he’s reached base with walk rates above 10% at every level so far.
I’m not usually a fan of first base prospects, but Martin is one of the few I’d be willing to invest in, especially since he should come at a relatively low cost in dynasty leagues.
Round 17 (Pick 202): Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM
I waited awhile to draft a catcher because, well, it’s catcher, and we all know how that turns out in fantasy. Surprisingly, there were still some solid options available, but I opted for the 17-year-old Francisco Alvarez because his offensive ceiling is really, really high.
The Mets seem to agree, and despite his age, promoted him to the Appalachian League in 2019, where he hit .282 with five home runs and a .820 OPS in 35 games. There were concerns about his defense when he originally signed, but everything I could find from scouts who saw him generally thought he was at least adequate behind the plate. I’m just hoping this isn’t another Francisco Mejía situation.
Round 18 (Pick 207): Erick Peña, OF, KC
This pick is another long-term investment, but when a player draws comps to Carlos Beltrán for his smooth swing and feel for the game, I’m interested. That’s the case with Erick Peña, who at just 16 years old was the Royals’ top international signing this year.
He hasn’t made his pro debut yet, but he did come stateside for the Royals’ instructional camp in October and earned more rave reviews for his pitch recognition and composure at the plate. He’s definitely a target of mine in any type of first-year player drafts, especially since his price tag isn’t super hefty yet.
Round 19 (Pick 226): Cristian Javier, RHP, HOU
Cristian Javier had a dominant breakout season in 2019 that saw him move up three levels and reach Triple-A. Of all minor leaguers who threw at least 100 innings, he ranked second in ERA (1.74), first in K/9 (13.46) and first in opponents’ average against (.130). Oh, and he had a ridiculous 16.9 swinging-strike percentage too.
His repertoire looks deep enough to stick as a starter, but there are some red flags, which is why he’s going this late. First, while he’s shown an uncanny ability to limit contact, his .204 BABIP seems impossible to sustain. Also, he walks too many batters (12.9%). But even if he moves to the pen, I still really like his stuff and could see him becoming a multi-inning weapon for the Astros as soon as next year.
Round 20 (Pick 231): Braxton Garrett, LHP, MIA
A former No. 7 overall draft pick, Braxton Garrett basically had two years wiped away due to TJ surgery and then fell off the prospect map. But he returned in 2019 and put up a strong showing in High-A with a 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 26.9% K rate in 105 innings. It’s an encouraging sign the Marlins pushed the lefty over the 100-inning mark and even sent him to Double-A before the year was out.
He may not have the highest upside in the world, but Garrett still owns a solid fastball-curve combo, and the Marlins have shown a knack recently for getting the most out of their young arms. Now seems like a good time to buy back in on him.
Round 21 (Pick 250): Terrin Vavra, 2B/SS, COL
The Rockies just keep churning out middle infield prospects. And while Terrin Vavra may be under the radar compared to other MIs in the system, his hit tool could be the best of the bunch. He tore up A-ball this year with a .318/.409/.489 slash line and 10 home runs and 18 steals in 102 games. He also walked (62) as many times as he struck out.
The scary thing is, next year he’ll likely start at Lancaster, which is considered one of the best offensive parks in all of the minors, and his numbers might actually improve. The only negative I can really find is he’s already 22 and clearly too advanced for this level, so he needs to face better pitching to get a true gauge of his potential.
Round 22 (Pick 255): Lewin Diaz, 1B, MIA
OK, I know I said I didn’t like first base prospects. But Lewin Diaz is another lefty bat with big power who is worth taking a flier on in dynasty leagues. He came over in the Sergio Romo trade with the Twins this year and hit .270 with 27 home runs in 121 games.
What stands out is he doesn’t strike out much for someone with his pop–just 18.2% in 2019. He doesn’t walk a lot, either, so it’s a trade-off. His numbers also fell off with the Marlins after the trade, so it’s important that he starts strong next year. If he does, he has a shot of reaching the majors in 2020.
Round 23 (Pick 274): Matt Tabor, RHP, ARI
The Diamondbacks low key have one of the best stables of arms in the minors. Matt Tabor is another pitcher who broke out for them in 2019, posting an excellent 22.6 K-BB% and 15.0 swinging-strike percentage in 95 innings at Class A. He has a solid fastball and plus changeup that are fueling a lot of the swings and misses.
If there’s a concern, his third pitch—a slider—has been inconsistent in the past, though he noted it came back this year, and it was a strong offering. The Diamondbacks have also limited his innings since drafting him in 2017, so it’d be nice to see how he holds up physically with a more robust workload.
Round 24 (Pick 279): Jonathan Stiever, RHP, CWS
I wanted to throw one last dart on a pitcher who I think could take a jump in rankings next year. I landed on Jonathan Stiever, who missed a lot of bats with a 13.3 swinging-strike percentage in 2019, but more importantly, he only had a 4.5% walk rate.
What impressed me most is he got stronger after his midseason promotion, really dominating High-A with a 2.15 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over his last 71 innings pitched. He should see a lot of time in Double-A next year and is worth a flier in deep dynasty leagues.
Round 25 (Pick 298): Luisangel Acuña, SS, TEX
Yes, Ronald Acuña Jr. has a younger brother. And yes, he’s also really good. Well, maybe. The Rangers’ Luisangel Acuña is only 17 years old and has played just one season in the DSL, where he put up an impressive .342/.438/.455 slash line with 17 steals in 51 games.
He’s smaller than his brother and may never hit for much power, but I don’t mind spending a pick on him in the last round. I wouldn’t go crazy over him, but he’s an interesting name to keep track of in very deep leagues.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)