Dynasty drafts are tricky beasts.
I have often seen owners get too caught up in the excitement of having elite prospects in a dynasty. During the draft, they seem to forget that the inaugural season will have a champion, just like there will be a champion four years from now when half their roster is finally called up to the majors.
That is not to say that drafting prospects or planning more long-term in dynasty leagues is a bad strategy at all. I think most owners would agree that it would be better to have a team that is maybe a little slow out of the gate but later a force to be reckoned with for years as opposed to an elite team for just one or two seasons that then has to endure a long and arduous rebuild.
These, of course, are the extremes. I prefer to avoid either far-end of that spectrum. Striking a balance is key. Err on the side of youth when deciding between two players that you would normally rate equally, if not oppositely, in a redraft league. At the same time, know when to pounce on veterans who are just falling way too far due to their age. This happens every year to Nelson Cruz, and somehow not just in dynasties!
My approach was exactly as described—finding the balance. I wanted a nice blend of young, high-upside players but a fair share of win-now veterans as well. This is a delicate balancing act, particularly when other owners you’re drafting with have fully committed to one extreme or the other. Let’s see how it played out for me drafting from the No. 1 spot!
Round 1 (Pick 1) Mike Trout, OF, LAA
Surprise! While I was certainly tempted by Ronald Acuña (and if I’m being honest, Christian Yelich as well), I went with the highest floor in baseball and maybe the greatest player to ever play. The fact that his stolen base total fell off a cliff and he hasn’t played in 150 games in a single season since 2016 would be red flags to me… if this were any other player. Trout is just so good, though, that I’m not worried—I know that I am getting top-10 production no matter where he falls within his range of outcomes for the foreseeable future. And now he is going to be hitting in front of Anthony Rendon? Sign me up!
Round 2 (Pick 32): Jacob deGrom, SP, NYM
I get that deGrom is on the wrong side of 30 and this is a dynasty league, but the guy just won back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Pick 32? Really? With arguably the best hitter and starting pitcher on my team, I was feeling pretty good after the first two rounds. If I’m going to plan on competing right away, then the veterans I draft should at least be high-floor guys. Is there a pitcher with a higher floor than deGrom? He’s started at least 30 games four out of five seasons since winning Rookie of the Year in 2014 and has only had an ERA over 3.04 once since becoming a major leaguer. Locking up such a monster stud here allowed me to focus on building my offense for a few rounds before snagging my next arm.
Round 3 (Pick 33): Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
I was really tempted to go Bryce Harper here and think I may come to regret not doing so later. Freeman may have the higher floor (for now), which is something I have been keeping in mind with my early picks, but after this selection, I won’t pick again until pick 64. Not only is Harper younger than Freeman, but those 10 or so more steals would have been nice. If Trout only steals 11 or so bags again in 2020, then it is already looking ugly for me in the stolen base department. Despite all this, I still went with Freeman. Since OPS is one of our categories, Freeman’s 0.050 higher OPS stood out to me. I thought that with Trout, deGrom, and Freeman’s floors that it would be hard for me to not contend in the first several years of this league, barring something catastrophic. I wanted to lock up this final, exceptionally high floor so that I could begin to take some risks.
Round 4 (Pick 64): Josh Bell, 1B, PIT
I am not the type of owner to worry about filling my utility spot early in a draft, especially if it is with a player I believe in. Bell won’t be 28 until August and is coming off what was easily the best year of his young career. Yes, it was filled with ups and downs and the downs were more recent, sticking out in people’s minds. And sure, he is not as good as he was in the first half of the year (27 HR, .302 AVG, 1.024 OPS). But, he is also not as bad as he was in the second half (10 HR, .233 AVG, 0.780 OPS). He’s a player who came into the league with quite a bit of pedigree, knows how to take a walk, and hits the ball with absolute authority. Perhaps his most significant stride in 2019, though, was his increased aggressiveness at the plate. Only Jeff McNeil had more extra-base hits on 0-0 counts than Bell.
Round 5 (Pick 65): Gavin Lux, 2B, LAD
Let the risks begin! I was super excited to draft Lux, despite that meaning I had to pass on names like JD Martinez, Mackenzie Gore, and Giancarlo Stanton (all players I was considering here, clearly all over the place but there are lots of reasons to like all of them). I think I allowed myself to take a prospect like Lux because of the high floors of my first three picks. Though Lux certainly had his struggles with Major League pitching during his first taste in 2019, he obliterated every level of the minors, had a solid hard-hit percentage and was in the 90th percentile in sprint speed (maybe he can help my early stolen base woes?). I was thrilled to land MLB Pipeline’s 2019 No. 2 prospect at pick 65. What makes this pick even sweeter was knowing how thin 2B gets and that I’ll have Lux there for years and years. Keston Hiura, a fellow young 2B who also made his debut last year, went 28 picks earlier at 37. Because of that, I felt like I got pretty good value here with Lux.
Round 6 (Pick 96): Brandon Woodruff, SP, MIL
If Brandon Woodruff had a fan club, I would be the president of that club. Introducing a new sinker, Woodruff finally had a well-rounded enough arsenal to blow through opposing lineups with his exceptional fastball. He should be in-store for an even bigger breakout in 2020 pending the health of his oblique. Despite adding a sinker to his arsenal, his ground ball rate decreased. His BABIP was exceptionally high at .320 and his ERA was higher than both his FIP and xFIP. All of these reasons would suggest he was actually unlucky in 2019 and yet still broke out in many ways. I expect at least a little bit of an increase in ground balls thanks to the sinker which should help normalize the BABIP as well. His uptick in velocity helped give him a fastball that ranked third in pitch value behind only Gerrit Cole and Jack Flaherty. I think I have the perfect No. 2 to slide behind deGrom now.
Round 7 (Pick 97): Marcus Semien, SS, OAK
I believe in Marcus Semien, what else is there to say? His plate approach changed drastically in the right direction last season. He slashed his K% down from 18.6% in 2018 to 13.7% in 2019 and increased his BB% from 8.7% to 11.6%. Despite his BABIP being lower than his career-average BABIP, he hit a career-high .285. He’s a player who frequently showed the ability to hit for pop and now that the rest of the hit tool has reached new heights, he is going to be a more than serviceable shortstop for me going forward. As the leadoff man in a lineup that will feature Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson, I’m going to enjoy his 2020 season. He is a free agent at season’s end, but I will be fine with him leaving the confines of The Coliseum. Continue crushing those fastballs, Semien.
Round 8 (Pick 128): Charlie Blackmon, OF, COL
Speaking of players I believe in, how about Charlie Blackmon at pick 128!? Granted, he is already my third player over the age of 30 and is now by far my oldest player, but I could not pass up this value. The short-lived glory days of his stolen base production are long gone but he is still an elite offensive player. His averages the last three seasons (he was an All-Star in each of these seasons): 123 R, 33 HR, 87 RBI, 9 SB, .312 BA, .934 OPS. How can I not pounce on that at pick 128, dynasty format or otherwise? Even if I don’t get quite those stats, I am confident he will come close for at least the next few seasons which fits my window of contention. As my second outfielder, I am quite pleased. This is elite, top-20 hitter talent available well-outside the top 100.
Round 9 (Pick 129): Nate Pearson, SP, TOR
I went youthful here. The Blue Jays’ number one prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball boasts an elite fastball, above-average slider, as well as a change-up and curve ball that round out his arsenal. The fastball is capable of hitting triple-digits in velocity. We’ll see how quickly Pearson gets rushed to the Majors, but I am not banking on that being too soon. He has only pitched 18 innings at the Triple A level and Toronto figures to fine-tune their phenom before unleashing him on Major League opponents. Perhaps Toronto’s youth gets them into contention for a Wild Card and Pearson gets the call in 2020. Whatever the case may be, he has ace upside and I was excited to get him after Gore, Casey Mize, Forrest Whitley, and Matt Manning had already been taken off the board.
Round 10 (Pick 160): German Marquez, SP, COL
With deGrom and Woodruff as my only pitchers to this point set to start the season in Major League rotations, I wanted to go with two MLB starters on these back-to-back picks. Up first was Marquez who absolutely dazzled in the second half of 2018 before struggling to maintain that momentum in 2019. Despite his struggles at Coors, Marquez was solid on the road (.212 BAA, .273 wOBA). I’m hoping deGrom and Woodruff, as well as the next pitcher I take, maintain solid enough ERAs that will allow me to absorb Marquez’s home starts but enjoy the strikeouts (despite the low K/9 in 2019 compared to his 2018 figure, his SwStr% actually went up). There were some really solid names available including players that I think will have a better 2020 than Marquez. So, there was quite a bit of long-term planning that went into this pick. I’m hoping the gamble pays off and Marquez leaves Colorado at some point. In retrospect, I think I may come to regret this one.
Round 11 (Pick 161): Max Fried, SP, ATL
All aboard the Max Fried hype train! My third straight starting pitcher in this draft was probably my safest of the three. The Braves’ 26-year-old lefty hurler had a 3.73 FIP, 9.40 K/9, and 14 quality starts in 2019 despite a bloated .336 BABIP and a 20.2 HR/FB%. Assuming those latter figures normalize a bit and he continues to work on his fastball (his velocity has increased ever-so-slightly each season), I expect to have a pretty decent starter in Fried for years to come. One potential concern (using the word “concern” is a bit of a stretch here, I’ll concede) is that before 2019, the most IP Fried had ever totaled in a single season was 118.2. In 2019, he tossed 165.2 IP as well as 4 IP in the playoffs where he struggled in his only start. That is a huge workload increase and I wonder if it will affect him at all in 2020. It clearly didn’t affect him too much during the 2019 season, though, as his August (3.51 ERA) and September (3.86) were far better than his June (5.68) and July (5.28).
Round 12 (Pick 192): Willson Contreras, C, CHC
If you told me Carson Kelly was going to go at pick 378, I never would have taken Contreras here. Gary Sanchez, Adley Rutschman, Yasmani Grandal, Will Smith, and JT Realmuto were all already off the board and I didn’t want to get stuck with a terrible dud at catcher. However, I should have gone with a name like Corey Kluber or Yu Darvish to solidify my young but largely unproven staff instead and just taken a decent catcher much, much later. I like Contreras a lot, though, and think he will provide my team with a nice boost from a position that rarely gives anything to fantasy teams. Among catchers with at least 350 PAs in 2019, Contreras ranked second in wRC+ (127), fifth in HR (24), third in ISO (.261), and second in wOBA (.368). It is hard to really get too upset with that kind of production from a 27-year-old at a thin position.
Round 13 (Pick 192): Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
In his first year or two on my team, Verdugo probably wouldn’t have accumulated as many at-bats as I would hope for in the crowded Dodgers outfield. Nevertheless, I wanted to go with an outfielder with upside here and thought Verdugo was the perfect fit. With just a 13% K% in 2019, I think Verdugo offers owners a pretty safe BA floor. His 114 wRC+ and nearly 40% hard contact rate stood out to me as some decent numbers as well. To lock up a 23-year old left-handed outfielder with solid upside at pick 192 made me feel even better about getting the much older Blackmon as late as I did.
Round 14 (Pick 224): Kirby Yates, RP, SD
Um, yes, please! Locking up the closer that most people have ranked as the No. 2 closer in fantasy for 2020 at pick 224 felt like a major steal. He’s 32 years old and coming off a career season so I understand why he fell a little bit but all the way outside the top 200, let alone top 223, felt wild. His splitter is elite and his 15.6% SwStr% in 2019 reassures me that he should continue to be one of the best closers in the game, even if he gets traded out of Petco down the line. With arguably the best player (Trout), starting pitcher (deGrom), and now reliever (Yates), I am feeling pretty good about this draft despite some pretty clear mistakes.
Round 15 (Pick 225): Aristides Aquino, OF, CIN
When I made this pick, I had no idea the Reds would not only sign Shogo Akiyama but eventually Nicholas Castellanos as well. I was hoping the safe BA floor of Trout, Freeman, Blackmon, and Verdugo would allow me to take a chance on a potential BA dud but HR stud. Now I am just left hoping he somehow fights his way to 400 PA. Say what you will about his high K% and super high SwStr%, but the dude hit 19 HR in just 225 PA. In the minors, he did have a 21 SB season in 2014 and the big fella’s sprint speed ranked in the 89th percentile in 2019. I’m thinking he could even be a somewhat decent source of SB, especially since he produced seven SB in those aforementioned 225 PA last season. I took my shot and unfortunately, because of the Reds’ acquisitions since this pick, I probably missed. Nevertheless, there is a lot to like if he carves out consistent playing time.
Round 16 (Pick 256): Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT
I continued with the youthful trend that has now been apparent in three of my last four picks. With Blackmon and Trout apparently not swiping bases anymore, I was beginning to worry about SB. In 2017, Hayes nabbed 27 bags in under 500 PAs. That gives me hope he could one day add that component of his game to my team. He had a little bit of a tough season (92 wRC+) in 2019 at Triple-A, but I think that is why I was actually able to lock up MLB Pipeline’s No. 36 prospect from 2019 at pick 256. It would be risky to enter 2020 with him as my starting 3B, as I’m not sure Pittsburgh would be doing the same, so I’m going to keep an eye on available 3B going forward.
Round 17 (Pick 257): Adrian Houser, SP, MIL
There’s been a lot of buzz around Houser since emerging as a pretty reliable starter for the Brewers last season. His Statcast sliders look quite juicy as does his 53.4 GB% that ranked eighth among all pitchers who threw at least 110 IP in 2019. As my future sixth starter, I felt pretty good about rolling the dice on Houser here. Milwaukee’s rotation is in shambles, so they’ll need him to perform, at the very least, at the level he provided last year. That gives me hope that the volume should be there for him in 2020. Whether he performs or not is the question. Unfortunately for Houser, a lot of his performance may depend on his infield. As a sinker ball/ground ball pitcher, the infield defense behind him will largely be in charge of how well he does. Orlando Arcia, the Brewers projected starting short stop, ranked 116 out of 139 eligible infielders in outs above average in 2019. His up-the-middle teammate, second baseman Keston Hiura, ranked 130 of 139. This doesn’t exactly sound like the most ringing endorsement for Houser, but I’m OK with the pick nonetheless. At this point in the draft, it is hard to pass up a 53.4% GB% from a SP, no matter the infield defense.
Round 18 (Pick 289): Justin Turner, 3B, LAD
Getting Turner this late really made me feel better about my Hayes gamble. Sure, he’s 35 years old, but I already have my future 3B in-hand. Turner is coming off a season in which he posted a career-high hard-hit% (43%) and tied his career-high in HR (27). He’s a pretty safe pick and figures to bat behind Max Muncy and in front of Cody Bellinger in a once-again loaded Dodgers lineup. This late in the draft, I am pretty pumped about that. I don’t see a lot of down-side here and think that these are the types of picks late in dynasty drafts that win league titles in inaugural seasons.
Round 19 (Pick 290): Ken Giles, RP, TOR
Giles’ strand rate (91.3%) in 2019 was a little out of control but otherwise, it is tough to really be upset with this kind of value at 289. There is no question that as long as he is in Toronto and healthy, he is the closer. He brings elite strikeout rates, strong peripherals (backed up by his FIP), and typically always gets the job done in save situations. He has converted 49 of his last 50 save opportunities. With both Yates and now Giles in the fold, I’m looking pretty good in the saves category which seems to be getting more difficult to nail down with each passing season. Closers were clearly falling in this draft but that doesn’t mean I have to follow that trend, especially this late. I wanted Giles and I got him.
Round 20 (Pick 320): Mallex Smith, OF, SEA
A 26-year old lefty who is coming off a season in which he stole 46 bases in just 139 games… what am I missing here? He is an absolute nothing in the HR and RBI departments and will hurt me in BA and OPS, so I’ll be sure to not pat myself too hard on the back. But jokes aside, I still do really like the pick considering the SB trouble I thought I was going to have. This is a player going in the top 200 in most places and I just got him at pick 320. Part of me wishes I could have my Hayes pick back now, though, since I could have used that on someone like Michael Brantley or Edwin Diaz instead. Considering Verdugo and Aquino probably won’t play everyday, it was nice to get an everyday OF who will be a major contributor to a hard-to-find category this late in the draft.
Round 21 (Pick 321): Nathan Eovaldi, SP, BOS
This may have been a homer pick. Eovaldi’s magical 2018 playoffs are long forgotten after a dreadful and injury-riddled 2019 season. Regardless, he still holds that potential that many were drafting him much earlier for last season and that’s what I hope I’m buying here down at pick 321. However, banking on Eovaldi being healthy is like being a grown man and expecting there to be money under your pillow after putting your tooth there before you fell asleep. I would have most likely been much better off taking Steven Matz (who I had not realized was still available) or Kyle Gibson. I will still gladly defend my Eovaldi selection, though. After coming to Boston in 2018, he posted a 2.88 FIP through 11 starts before posting a 1.61 ERA through 22.1 IP in the 2018 playoffs. That 66.1 IP stretch may be a small sample, but it is the closest we have seen of the 2015 Eovaldi who most owners would gladly take at pick 321.
Round 22 (Pick 352): Craig Kimbrel, RP, CHC
I know he was terrible for the Cubs last year as well as for the Red Sox in the 2018 playoffs, so that is concerning and why I was able to get him at pick 352. With that in mind, though, if the 2018 playoffs were a fluke and the 2019 season was largely due to him missing most of the season because he hadn’t signed, then I think I could get a bit of a steal here. His GB%, K%, SwStr%, and many other important statistics were all down from his career averages so there is a definite reason for concern. It was just the idea of having an effective Kimbrel combined with Yates and Giles that made me want to take this plunge. What a bullpen that could be.
Round 23 (Pick 353): Nick Pivetta, PHI, SP/RP
Hey, based on his 2019 ADP this has to be a steal at 353, right? Of course the world is out on Pivetta and maybe rightfully so. He will almost certainly not start the season in the rotation and with Zack Wheeler in the fold it may be that much more difficult for him to breakthrough in 2020. That is OK, though, because I’m not necessarily drafting him for his 2020 value in a dynasty. He’s got mid-90’s heat and a really solid curveball with great spin. So what’s the problem? Well, there are many. A 22.5 HR/FB% is just silly and he was walking almost four batters per nine innings. His fastball got crushed and had the 11th worst fastball pitch value in baseball (minimum 90 IP). I’m just hoping Pivetta can reclaim some of that hype he had heading into 2019 and live up to his potential. At 353, I am fine rolling the dice.
Round 24 (Pick 384): Jordan Lyles, TEX, SP
To this point in the draft, I felt pretty good about my hitting. Like most fantasy teams, it has its flaws but I thought I could win with it and win right away. My pitching, however, was a little suspect. I wanted to take as many shots as I could at landing a decent starter late in the draft which is why I ended up with Houser, Eovaldi, and now Lyles. After getting traded to Milwaukee midseason, Lyles went 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and averaged nearly a strikeout-per-inning. His FIP (4.42, which is really in-line with his career average) did not support his ERA at all. Even with that in mind, the surface-level stats he posted with the Brewers were enough for me to take this shot at 384. The Rangers turned around the careers of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn in 2019, can they instill some of that magic in Lyles in 2020?
Round 25 (Pick 385): Hunter Bishop, SF, OF
I wanted to go upside with this pick and start to build the farm system on my bench. Bishop is a long way away from making his MLB debut as he was just taken 10th overall in the 2019 draft. I’m hoping he will one day provide some serious bop to my team, but only time will tell. Bishop did struggle in the Cape Cod Baseball League during his two summers there but managed to crack 22 HR and chip in 12 SB with a .342 BA during his final season at Arizona State. Between his limited minor league experience (146 PA) and time in the CCBL (278 PA), Bishop has struggled with a wooden bat to the tune of a .224 BA. That is nothing short of wildly and oddly specific bar trivia, though, and I’m hoping the potential the Giants drafted him for begins to show itself in 2020.
Round 26 (Pick 416): CJ Cron, DET, 1B
With Bell and Freeman already taking up 1B and UTIL, taking the 30-year-old Cron may seem a bit odd but I could not resist the potential immediate impact he could make for me should anything happen to either of my stud 1B. Only three players in 2019 had a barrel% of at least 15% and a Z-Contact rate of at least 82%. Two of those players were Trout and Christian Yelich. The third was Cron. Does that make him some superstar? No. The league average Z-Contact rate in 2019 was 84.9%. Still, that is as elite of company as Cron could possibly find himself in and barrel% does matter. He should bat in the middle of Detroit’s lineup and be a steady source of HR.
Round 27 (Pick 417): Jesus Sanchez, MIA, OF
In an effort to continue to build up my farm system, I snagged Sanchez here at 417. Similar to Bishop, Sanchez has tremendous raw power but has yet to truly see that power take game-ready form in the minors. He has already reached Triple-A, though, and Miami kept him thereafter acquiring him from the Rays in the Nick Anderson trade. Even after signing Corey Dickerson, the Marlins outfield looks shaky-at-best. Perhaps the left-handed-hitting Sanchez gets an opportunity to earn a job at the Major League level at some point in 2020. Maybe he has a punchers chance at giving me what I had hoped to get out of Aquino much earlier in the draft. If not in 2020, hopefully in 2021.
Round 28 (Pick 448): Jorge Mateo, OAK, SS
Not only do I think Mateo has an outside shot at stealing the 2B job from Franklin Barreto, but I also think that in such a situation he would have an outside shot at out-stealing my speedy outfielder Smith. Even if he doesn’t find nearly that much success in 2020, I feel great about my SB potential going forward in a dynasty league with Hayes, Smith, and Mateo. Mateo has 80-grade speed and stole 71 bases in 2015! He hasn’t been quite as good in Oakland’s farm as he was in the Yankees’ but the speed potential is real.
Round 29 (Pick 449): Rick Porcello, NYM, SP
A former Cy Young Award winner that is still only 31 years old and is moving from the American League East to the National League. What is there not to like about that sentence exactly? OK, fair enough, he was atrocious in 2019, but at pick 449 I am more than OK with taking a flier here. I think Porcello has a decent shot at being better in 2020 than the last three SP I drafted (Houser, Eovaldi, Lyles). If he ends up being as bad as he was in 2019, big deal. He was pick No. 449. Porcello threw his fastball more than he ever had before in his career and threw his bread and butter, his sinker, less than he ever had before. This mix clearly didn’t work for him and I’m hoping he returns to his roots in 2020 and starts throwing that sinker more to generate more ground balls. When Porcello won his Cy Young in 2016, he threw his sinker 40.8% of the time. Last year, with an ERA of 5.52, he threw his sinker only 24.9% of the time. Stick to what you do best, Porcello!
Round 30 (Pick 480): Bobby Dalbec, BOS, 3B
With the very last pick in the draft, I decided to go with another minor leaguer with massive raw power. Through 439 PA at Double-A in 2019, Dalbec posted 20 HR, a 15.5% BB%, a 143 wRC+, and even 6 SB. He struggled at Triple-A during his first taste but still swatted 7 HR through 123 PA. He strikes out a ton and hasn’t cracked MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects, but I think he has a fair bit of upside and could produce as soon as 2020. The Red Sox have tried him out at first base quite a few times in the minors, making 23 career starts there over his minor league career. With Rafael Devers at third base, it is much more likely that when Dalbec does eventually get called up, it will be to play first base. Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland are long gone and Michael Chavis might be his only competition for the job out of Spring Training. I wouldn’t say it is likely, but I also wouldn’t completely rule out Dalbec entering the 2020 season as the Red Sox Opening Day first baseman.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)