Everyone’s dynasty strategy is different and really should not be completely unfurled until a draft begins to play out. It would be irresponsible to so staunchly value personal opinion without allowing for the opportunity to adjust and revisit after evaluating the draft strategies of your counterparts.
Nevertheless, I often enter these drafts trying to take advantage of the value presented. This is the time of year where hype trains have left the station, and every toolsy minor leaguer is a budding superstar who is ready to contribute as soon as humanly possible. *
It is important to remember that we have Ronald Acuñas and Lewis Brinsons entering the major leagues every year, and there is no exact science to figure out who is which one. With that, I love finding gems after the hype has worn off but are still youthful. That 24-to-27-year-old active player is truly my sweet spot in dynasty leagues, and you’ll see that come through with my picks.
*Whenever their organization decides it is best to begin their service clock to soak up the greatest percentage of their prime at a discounted rate.
Here is the entire mock, including the hypothetical rules of this hypothetical dynasty league, and away we go.
Round 1 (Pick 14): Trevor Story, SS, COL
With a later pick, it was a forgone conclusion that no one from the elite tier would be available. I very, very, very strongly considered Rafael Devers with this pick, but decided on Story for the power/speed upside. Only five players in baseball have at least 90 home runs and 50 SBs over the past three seasons:
And this included a 7 SB season for Story in 2017! This is one heck of a group, and I expect Story to put up silly counting stats for years to come.
Round 2 (Pick 19): Walker Buehler, SP, LAD
I love finding an ace or two in the early rounds before bulking up on hitting. I had Buehler in my sights for this pick the moment the draft order dropped, and luckily got my man. After Gerrit Cole, I think there can be a compelling argument to be made for Buehler, Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, Blake Snell, Jack Flaherty, or even Mike Clevinger as SP2 in dynasty (Snell went next at pick 31), but I felt Buehler offers the best combination of situation, youth, floor, and ceiling.
Round 3 (Pick 46): Luis Castillo, SP, CIN
Part of me wanted to grab a safe, consistent bat here (the next two picks were Bryce Harper and Manny Machado), but Castillo’s upside presented too great of a value to pass up on as SP10. His changeup had the highest SwStr% in baseball last season at 32.9%, and all three of his other pitches have flashed plus stuff. Reds pitching coaches Derek Johnson and Kyle Boddy have proven to get more out of the talent given to them than seemingly anyone else in baseball, and I feel Castillo’s best is yet to come. With two young studs at SP, my attention turned to accumulating bats.
Round 4 (Pick 51): Joey Gallo, OF, TEX
Hitting the ball hard, especially barreling it, is indicative of future success, and nobody hits it harder than Gallo. Here are his Statcast rankings over the past three seasons:
|Year||EV (mph)||Hard Hit %||Barrels/PA %|
Additionally, Gallo made some key plate discipline adjustments that appeared to take his game to new heights before oblique and wrist injuries limited him to just 70 games in 2019. He dropped his chase rate from 29.2% to 20.4%, and his overall Swing% from 48.3% to 40.7%. Being more selective earned him a 17.5% BB rate, which would have been top five in the league if he had enough at bats to qualify. The 38.4% K rate is still gaudy, but Gallo can conceivably realize fantasy stardom between his improving on-base ability and immense power.
I would rather take a proven quantity like Gallo, who has shown a track record of upper-echelon skills, remains on an upward trajectory (still just 26 years young), and whose value is deflated due to a recent injury and not performance, over many of the high-profile minor leaguers with similar warts (Luis Robert, Jo Adell, etc.) or who are multiple seasons away (Wander Franco, Julio Rodriguez).
Round 5 (Pick 78): Michael Conforto, OF, NYM
There still exists a stupid select contingency of Mets fans who believe Conforto is a bust, but he has become an ultra-steady performer. The guy just flat-out hits. He responded well after a brutal shoulder injury that cut his 2017 season short, and regained the power stroke that led to his first All-Star appearance by last season.
His three-year averages of 29 HRs, 80 runs, 81 RBI, 4 SBs, .260 AVG, and .864 OPS are even more impressive considering his 109-game season in 2017 and ‘disappointing’ 2018. Almost 27 years old, this was fantastic value for the 23rd outfielder off the board.
Round 6 (Pick 83): Marcell Ozuna, OF, ATL
Same idea as with Gallo and Conforto: Ozuna just hits, man, and presented incredible value in this spot. The newly-minted Brave (this pick was made while he was still a free agent) will finally call a ballpark home that does not tremendously suppress power. This is great for Ozuna, who has sat near the top of exit velocity leaderboards for four years running. He’s the type of meat-and-potatoes guy I like to nab in dynasty drafts, who allows me to take risks in the later rounds when there are less certain producers on the board.
Round 7 (Pick 110): Austin Riley, OF, ATL
Enter: risk. Riley is a compelling player in both dynasty and standard drafts this year. He proved that his immense power could translate against big-league pitching and (currently) has an avenue to tons of playing time in a potent lineup. His 13.7% barrel rate and 44.6% hard-hit rate border on elite, and with 500 PAs, he could very well eclipse 35 HRs.
On the other hand, it feels as if he swings a bat with a hole in it sometimes. He whiffed at more than 20% of the pitches he faced last season, contributing to a whopping 36.4% K rate. Not very selective at the moment, his profile feels a lot like Joey Gallo Jr. His Swing% was the 15th-highest in all of baseball, and merely cutting that down would take his game to a different level. The Braves’ hitting infrastructure helped Acuña and Ozzie Albies make similar adjustments, so I’m comfortable betting on Riley here.
Round 8 (Pick 115): DJ LeMahieu, 1B/2B/3B, NYY
Back to my meat and potatoes, LeMahieu silenced doubters by leaving Coors Field and actually improving at the dish. Of course, Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly the Polo Grounds, but there is this premonition with former Rockies that they leave Denver and forget which end of the bat they’re supposed to grip.
I don’t expect LeMahieu’s HR output to maintain, but the fact that he could see such a spike without compromising his contact ability was impressive. He also made tremendous strides in his approach against breaking balls that helped fuel the power surge. He slugged a career high .510 while maintaining a nearly identical Whiff% against them. His biggest adjustment was a 11% increase in his Swing% against breakers in the zone. This is a breaking-ball league, and LeMahieu hitting them for power gave me faith in his ability to produce through his thirties.
Round 9 (Pick 142): Robbie Ray, SP, ARI
I love me some Robbie Ray. He has become one of the more consistent starters in baseball over the last four seasons, averaging over 200 strikeouts and 150 innings per year. He boasts two elite breaking pitches, but has always lacked the command to take his game to the next level. The upside is arguable, but Ray is a good arm to keep around.
Round 10 (Pick 147): Lance McCullers Jr., SP, HOU
Boy, Lance McCullers’ return after his lengthy absence must be the biggest story coming out of Houston this offseason! Certainly there is no debate regarding this due to the prominence of the once-heralded starter. With almost two full years on the shelf, McCullers should not have any lingering effects of Tommy John surgery besides rust. Still only 26, he should be on an innings limit this season, but the career outlook is still incredibly bright.
Round 11 (Pick 174): Dylan Cease, SP, CWS
Another play for the future of my pitching staff, Cease showed promise as a rookie, but it would be a surprise to see him suddenly become the player we all expected to see sooner rather than later. Problems with control in the minors carried over to the majors, mainly with his fastball.
While averaging over 96 mph and being in the 87th percentile in spin rate, the pitch was responsible for a FIP over 7.00 and a 14.6% BB rate. He still used it to induce a high percentage of whiffs (22.3%), but he needs to do a much better job at locating it. Regardless, I believe in the potential and believe Cease has the type of profile worth waiting out. Buy low if the option presents itself!
Round 12 (Pick 179): J.T. Realmuto, C, PHI
I could not believe Realmuto dropped this far down the board. Still arguably the top catcher in baseball, from both a fantasy and real-life perspective, Realmuto rebounded after a slow start (power-wise) to put up another elite season at the plate. You can sign him up for a .270 average with 25 homers and 85 RBI/runs scored for the foreseeable future. As long as he maintains his sprint speed (89th percentile!), he will continue to chip in 5-10 SBs as well. No other catcher is giving you this type of production.
Round 13 (Pick 206): Byron Buxton, OF, MIN
Buxton gets a bad rap because he is a ‘bust’ based on his prospect pedigree, but he is secretly beginning to realize his offensive potential. He completely redefined his approach last season, with his launch angle jumping nearly 7 degrees and earning a career high in exit velocity while dramatically cutting down on his strikeouts. There will always be concerns with his durability, but adding a smidge of power to his profile can make him incredibly valuable. A risk worth taking.
Round 14 (Pick 211): Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF, TB
If someone would have told me Lowe would finish higher than both Eloy Jimenez and Vladito in the 2019 Rookie of the Year voting, I would have expected him to be drafted much higher than 211th overall. Yet, here sat the 25-year-old Lowe with dual eligibility (2B and OF), an astounding 16.3% barrel rate (20th in baseball), and a 125 wRC+ in 2019. You should never count on the Rays to play a young player consistently, but it does not seem like anyone on the roster can block Lowe in the immediate future. Like so many young players, his high K% (34.6%) will inevitably hold him back, but that means he is just an adjustment away from stardom. (I’m a big glass-half-full guy with high-barrel rate guys, if you couldn’t figure that out).
Round 15 (Pick 238): Luke Weaver, SP, ARI
I drafted probably one or two more risky arms than intended, but why not go get your guys? I wrote about Weaver last preseason, and still feel like he is right on the cusp of taking a step forward. His changeup regained a bit of the nastiness it lost during his forgettable 2018, registering a 1.8% Barrel%, 83.8 mph average exit velocity, and 18.1% swinging-strike rate last season. As long as he has that in his back pocket, Weaver has a sneaky high floor and what I think is still a pretty serious ceiling. Health willing, of course.
Round 16 (Pick 243): Mike Minor, SP, TEX
Not many expected Minor to ever throw 200 innings again after missing all of 2015 and 2016. I sure didn’t, but he did so at an incredibly high level last year; a level that seems highly sustainable. Minor kept hitters off balance with a strong four-pitch mix, each of which induced a Whiff% greater than 23.3%. With far less miles on his arm than the average 32-year-old, Minor should provide tremendous value as SP77 off the board.
Round 17 (Pick 270): Jeter Downs, SS, LAD
The second-to-last drafter to take a prospect (applause here), I was proud to make Downs my first. Part of the Alex Wood trade last offseason, Downs had a breakout year in the Dodgers system. He put together a 20-20 season across two levels while earning a higher hard-hit rate than Oneil Cruz, Alec Bohm, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Rodgers, Jazz Chisholm, Triston Casas, Joey Bart, and Nico Hoerner, among others. All the while, his BB/K sat right above 0.55. With the makings of a potential star (we know how the Dodgers develop middle infielders), I am anticipating a big summer for Downs.
Round 18 (Pick 275): Willy Adames, SS, TB
Success is part ability and part availability. Adames led the Rays in games played, and being the only SS on the roster, should continue to rack up at-bats next season. He is yet to realize the 55 hit and power tools that once had him near the top of most prospect rankings, but gradual improvements in his Contact%, K%, Barrel%, and hard-hit rate have me thinking he can still settle in as a strong everyday player sooner rather than later. High floor and (moderately) high ceiling here.
Round 19 (Pick 302): Luis Campusano, C, SD
This is my ceremonial name to watch for 2020. Campusano is going to fly up prospect rankings this year due to his advanced approach at the plate. In 110 games at A+, he nearly walked as many times as he struck out, while mashing 15 home runs. He was one of only 13 non- Triple A minor leaguers to rank above the 75th percentile in OPS, Hard Hit%, and BB%. His height (5-foot-10) seems like the only thing suppressing his ranking.
Round 20 (Pick 307): Yonny Chirinos, SP, TB
Only 26, Chirinos has been successful in whatever role the Rays have deployed him in thus far. Starter, bulk guy, whatever, Yonny will help the ratios. His splitter took a major step last season, jumping from a 0.9 to 6.8 pvAL, good for fourth in the league as he increased its usage from 13.8% to 22.5%. And why not, when it’s this naaaasty.
Gorgeous splitter from Yonny Chirinos pic.twitter.com/agiOKP7RrE
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) July 18, 2019
Great organization, great defense behind him, great offense supporting him, great repertoire, great depth piece.
Round 21 (Pick 334): John Means, SP, BAL
Means came out of virtually nowhere last season to anchor the O’s rotation and earn second-place honors in Rookie of the Year voting. His fastball is so-so (92-93 mph), his team stinks, and his park stinks worse, but he has a strong pitch mix, including an elite changeup. Something to watch is his curveball’s development; its usage ranged from 3% to 11%, and its spin axis spanned more than 170 degrees in any given month. If he can find some consistency with it, Means could take a massive step forward over the next few seasons.
Round 22 (Pick 339): Kyle Gibson, SP, TEX
I find a way to get Gibson on most every team I have. He has a five-pitch repertoire and exhibits great command of each of them, the crowned jewel being his slider.
While plenty of people likely know today’s #TheFastPitch, people may not be aware of how good it truly was:
Kyle Gibson’s – @kgib44 – Slider:
27.1 SwSt (3rd in MLB; all pitches)
48.7 K% (2nd among SL)
.163 xBA pic.twitter.com/U5Gw6DWnog
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) November 25, 2019
His K% and fastball velocity have increased for four consecutive years, and he’s going to an organization that turned Lance Lynn and Mike Minor into Cy Young contenders. Who knows? Sounds like there’s some good juju in Arlington.
Round 23 (Pick 366): Paul DeJong, SS, STL
Depth, depth, depth. DeJong’s incredible April had him looking like a budding superstar until he hit the skids for what felt like the rest of the season. I don’t love the second-half jump in his K% (19.1% to 26.7%), but DeJong still chipped in career highs in BB%, HRs, and SBs, while his play in the field took a massive step forward. Only 26, his slick glove and power potential will keep him in the lineup every day, and there are plenty of worse fliers to take this late.
Round 24 (Pick 371): Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARI
Hand up: I’m a sucker for minor leaguers who know how to take a walk, and Perdomo sure knows how to take one. So confident in his understanding of the strike zone, rumor has it he flipped off the TrackMan recording balls and strikes in the Arizona Fall League after taking a called strike.
More than just walking more than he struck out across 116 games of A and A+ ball last season, Perdomo made a preseason swing adjustment that had him hitting the ball harder.
🚨 Geraldo Perdomo swing change 🚨
Good bye toe tap 👋, hello fantasy darling pic.twitter.com/RuCthiNcH7
— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) April 2, 2019
His exit velocity jumped from 80 mph in Low A, to 82 mph in High A, and finally to 87 mph during his stint in the AFL. Instincts and discipline should get him to the majors, but the development of his bat may transform him from a league-average ceiling to a top-of-the-order weapon.
Round 25 (Pick 39): Emilio Pagan, RP, TB
My fourth Ray (I love the Rays), Pagan is here for ratios and (hopefully) an occasional save. All things considered, Pagan was sneakily one of the best relievers in baseball last season. He had the lowest wOBA against and a top-15 K%. I would trust the Rays with my life and know they will continue to put Pagan in situations where he will succeed.
Round 26 (Pick 403): David Fletcher, 3B/2B/SS/OF, LAA
Love me some cheap batting average and positional flexibility late in drafts. Fletcher is only 25 with a path to playing time at four different positions: A wonderfully functional bench option to have. Also, he simply refuses to strikeout. Fletcher owned the lowest SwStr% (3.2%) and highest Contact% (91.1%) among all qualified hitters last season, en route to the second lowest K% (9.8%) in the majors.
Round 27 (Pick 430): Renato Núñez, 1B/3B, BAL
This was my favorite pick in the draft. Shoring up my corner infield depth (eligible at both 1B and 3B), Núñez should provide tremendous value at pick 430. His 31 homers were no joke, given his 10.7% Barrel%, and he will continue to hit in the middle of an underrated lineup at Camden Yards. There’s nowhere else you will find a potential .250/35/90 bat at just 25 years young this late.
Round 28 (Pick 435): Elieser Hernandez, SP, MIA
Round 29 (Pick 462): Gilberto Celestino, OF, MIN
The key prospect that went from Houston to Minnesota in the Ryan Pressly trade, Celestino is a highly-projectable athlete whose blend of speed, power, and plate discipline make him very intriguing. He should be able to stick in CF, and impressed at the dish in his first year with the Twins. In 117 games at Low A, Celestino had 10 HRs, 14 SBs, a 9.5% BB rate, and 16.1% K rate. The Twins already added him to their 40-man roster, and I expect him to gain some notoriety in prospect circles as the season progresses.
Round 30 (Pick 467): Ryne Stanek, RP, MIA
You thought I was completely sacrificing saves, didn’t you? The former starter should face little to no competition for saves, and Steamer’s projections love his stuff, projecting a 30.3% K rate, 15.3% swinging-strike rate, 3.58 ERA, and 3.65 FIP. The Marlins will be better and could push Stanek up near 30 saves should he serve as the closer all season.
Update: The Marlins signed Brandon Kintzler this offseason. This takes a big hit out of Stanek’s value, but is still a situation to monitor throughout the season.
I want to personally thank anyone who made it this far: Happy mock season!
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)