Hello everyone! Welcome to my first article published here on Pitcher List, in which I break down my picks from February 17th’s staff mock draft. It was nerve-wracking testing my drafting skills against a bunch of other guys who have a wealth of fantasy experience, but in the end, I mostly liked the team I finished with and would have been happy taking it into a real season of competition.
While drafting, I had the Twitch live stream Nick Pollack was putting on simultaneously cued up and was fortunate to hear Nick’s thoughts on my team at the start of the 12th round:
*longest four-second pause in the history of Twitch streaming*
“…I don’t think there’s enough of an offense there.”
Continue reading to find out how I assembled a team worthy of such critical acclaim!
Round 1, Pick 3: Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)
Unsurprisingly, Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna were the first two players off the board, leaving me with the (mostly agreed upon) option of picking between Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts at 1.3. I’ve had the pleasure of owning Yelich in a dynasty league for the past two seasons and decided to go with him because he’s flashed more power than Betts and will likely hit for a better average than Bellinger. Plus, he swiped more bags than the other two in fewer games last year.
Yes, Yelich’s kneecap exploded in September and there’s risk that it cuts into his stolen base totals or affects his swing in other ways (not to mention his back issues that always seem to flare up), but last year’s performance pre-injury was so good that I’ll hope for a repeat in 2020 and still be fine even if he falls a bit short of that mark.
Round 2, Pick 22: Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)
Naturally, news broke the day after our mock that Aaron Judge was going to receive continued maintenance on his shoulder at spring ball. That’s a bit scary but I expect that it’s just to ensure he enters Opening Day at 100 percent.
Staying optimistic, a healthy Judge that plays at least 130 games (hey, that’s healthy by his standards!) is a virtual lock for 30+ bombs, a decent average, and sky-high potential for counting stats hitting in a potent Yankees lineup. The reward outweighs the risk in a 5×5 league.
Round 3, Pick 27: Luis Castillo (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
After Scott Chu took Shane Bieber at the turn, who I was hoping would make it back to me for this pick, I had to shift my sights to the other available options to serve as my ace. I always gravitate toward aces who are younger than 30 to avoid arm mileage and skill depreciation, so that ruled out Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg. Left at the top of the heap was Jack Flaherty, Luis Castillo, and Blake Snell.
As a life-long Cardinals fan, I want to believe that Flaherty can put it all together and sustain an entire year of dominance that is at least within reaching distance of his outstanding 2019 second half in which he spun a 0.91 ERA (!!!) paired with a .142 BAA. However, that seems unrealistic and since I have high expectations for him in regular fandom, I wouldn’t want to be doubly-disappointed by owning him in fantasy too.
Between Snell and Castillo, I picked the guy who isn’t coming off elbow surgery. Nick points out that Castillo’s fastball command is very iffy, but to me that signals room for improvement. His secondary offerings are superb and if there’s even a slight upgrade in fastball control, that could go a long way.
Round 4, Pick 46: Patrick Corbin (SP, Washington Nationals)
Usually I adhere to the “favor good hitters early” strategy in drafts, but at this point, only two other teams had picked up a second starter and there’s definitely some value in zigging while everyone else is zagging. Patrick Corbin has tossed three consecutive seasons of 189+ innings and I love that consistency out of my SP2. The Nationals lineup should be pretty good again this year despite the loss of Anthony Rendon, so I expect Corbin will continue to get a solid amount of win opportunities while offering an ERA in the threes, a good WHIP, and better than a strikeout per inning.
Round 5, Pick 51: Mike Clevinger (SP, Cleveland Indians)
One of the main questions entering this draft was how far Mike Clevinger would slide after it was announced he underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear. The initial timetable given was 6-8 weeks, which means he’ll almost surely miss some time at the start of the season.
Still, when he was available for me to take in the fifth round, I couldn’t resist being the first team in our mock to take a third starter. In Clevinger, I’m getting an arm that has gotten better every season since debuting in 2016. His 2.71 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, and 12.1 K/9 in 2019 were all career bests and are numbers that I’d expect him to hit once he fully recovers from the meniscus issue. His addition gave me a 1-2-3 punch of starters that I’d put up against any other team in our mock.
Round 6, Pick 70: Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)
After getting three starting pitchers to join my two outfielders, I knew I had to start looking at filling my infield slots soon or pickings would get slim in a hurry. So in full disclosure, my choice to take Matt Chapman here was simply the result of peeking at the list of third basemen still on the board and seeing a pretty sharp drop-off coming if I didn’t take him.
Chapman won’t give me any help in stolen bases and his average will be unspectacular, though he did clobber 36 home runs in 2019 and should still rack up runs and RBIs hitting in the heart of the A’s lineup. I wouldn’t hate it if he sold out a bit more for contact versus power in 2020, but I’m content either way knowing I snagged a guy who’s entering his prime years and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting the last two seasons.
Round 7, Pick 75: Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)
A simple way to approach 5×5 leagues in my eyes is to focus on dominating three categories in both hitting and pitching, which is why I took Josh Bell here to continue my focus on hitters with great counting stats. His season last year was the classic godly first half followed up by a disappointing decline post-All Star break. My bet would be he’ll fall somewhere between the two extremes in 2020.
Round 8, Pick 94: Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
Darrin Ambrose broke the seal on relievers when he took Josh Hader in the seventh round, and Adam Howe joined him by taking Aroldis Chapman in the eighth two picks before me. Luckily, Kirby Yates was available here as I actually prefer him to Chapman.
As mentioned above, my goal for 5×5 leagues is to dominate three categories, and while I prefer not to chase saves, it was great to add a closer with such a high K rate that also happened to lead the MLB in saves last year. Yates will provide a great ERA and WHIP with a large dose of strikeouts for a closer and I’m confident his results will sustain given a fantastic 1.30 FIP mark last year.
Round 9, Pick 99: Cavan Biggio (2B, Toronto Blue Jays)
This pick is a bit of a gamble since we have yet to see Cavan Biggio play a full season in the bigs, but as Matt Wallach outlined in his two-part series (part 1, part 2), Biggio has many stats that compare favorably to some of the best hitters in baseball and has potential to make some huge leaps at the plate if he adopts a more proactive approach. Add that to the news of Biggio likely batting second in the Blue Jays’ lineup and he’s going to have every opportunity to experience a breakout in 2020.
Charlie Montoyo said that right now he sees Bo Bichette batting leadoff, followed by Cavan Biggio, with newcomer Travis Shaw “5 or 6” in the #BlueJays lineup.
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) February 16, 2020
Round 10, Pick 118: Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)
Thus, I settled and took Willson Contreras knowing Scott Chu had yet to secure a catcher and had two picks sandwiched at the turn before my next pick. Contreras was the last catcher available in my upper tier of backstops (J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Yasmani Grandal, Garver, Contreras) and with the scarcity usually found at that position, I didn’t want to get caught scraping the bottom of the barrel later in the draft.
Contreras doesn’t stand out in any specific category and unfortunately, Victor Caratini continues to exist, but having my starting catcher slot shored up at this point was a good feeling.
Round 11, Pick 123: Lance Lynn (SP, Texas Rangers)
When I think of Lance Lynn, for some reason the first thing that comes to mind is his horrific 2018 season that was split between stints with the Twins and Yankees. It may be because it was his first season away from St. Louis and I was keeping closer tabs on him to see how he’d fare after leaving the Cardinals. Regardless, he was bad and it was nice that his badness wasn’t affecting my favorite team.
Then, Lynn changed his arm angle, started throwing his better pitches more often, and things turned around for him in 2019. He seemed to find a groove that worked much better and chances are 2019 was indicative of what we’ll see again in 2020. That includes more than a strikeout per inning (for one of my priority pitching categories) with what will hopefully be an ERA in the threes. Lynn has always been a bit wild, which concerns me for his WHIP, but I’ll take my chances on another year of him using his improved approach and will hope the Rangers can give him enough run support.
Round 12, Pick 142: Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Now with a full year under his belt post-Tommy John surgery in 2018, I’m expecting Corey Seager to raise his batting average back up closer to .300 this year. He’s still just 25 years old (will turn 26 in April) and will be included in a loaded Dodgers lineup that added Mookie Betts in the off-season. Even if he bats sixth or seventh, the guys in front of him will be good enough hitters to get on base and supply plenty of RBI chances. I’ll happily bank on solid production from Seager across the board in every category except stolen bases.
Round 13, Pick 147: Danny Santana (OF, Texas Rangers)
In 2019, the Rangers gave consistent playing time to Danny Santana for the first time since his rookie season in Minnesota. It resulted in a breakout performance to the tune of a .283 batting average paired with 28 homers and 21 stolen bases.
I loved picking up Santana here for two reasons. One: I rounded out my outfield starters and Santana also possesses eligibility at first base in case I ever need a fill-in there. Two: In addition to my counting stat focus, Santana adds those coveted late-round stolen bases that could help me win that category now and then.
Currently, Baseball Reference is predicting regression in all categories for Santana. I’d say the batting average is a near-lock to come down, though my hope is he can offer up another 20-20 season regardless.
Round 14, Pick 166: Brandon Workman (RP, Boston Red Sox)
Brandon Workman is still the favorite to break camp as the Red Sox closer. My guess is his ERA and WHIP won’t be as good as they were in 2019, yet he’s another reliever with a great K-rate and will pair well with Yates on my team. Closer options were starting to dwindle at this point in the draft, so I felt like I had to pounce, especially since Scott Chu had yet to select his first reliever with back-to-back picks coming up at the turn. (Sorry again, Scott.)
Round 15, Pick 171: Julio Urias (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
It seems like the hype for Julio Urias has been at a maximum for approximately 300 years. Still just 23 years old, this season figures to be Urias’ best shot to secure a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation since he made his big league debut thanks to Kenta Maeda getting shipped to the Twin Cities. Granted, Ross Stripling, Dustin May and other threats are still around, but hey—one fewer guy to compete with nonetheless! Even on an innings limit of some kind, I’ll take a shot on a guy with a career 3.18 ERA and career-best 1.079 WHIP in 2019.
Round 16, Pick 190: Tommy Edman (3B, St. Louis Cardinals)
I finally broke down and picked a Cardinal. I owned Tommy Edman in a points league last year and enjoyed the experience, so I figured I’d pick him up since he figures to get even more playing time in 2020.
In our mock, Edman has eligibility at third and second base, so that once again gives me a fill-in option if Chapman or Biggio were to go down with an injury. Chances are Edman will add outfield eligibility mid-season sometime too and that tacks on even more value. No, he’s probably not going to make a huge mark in any of my counting stat categories, but he sprinkles some batting average and stolen base help into my roster and could take a step or two forward now that he’s not a rookie. (Knock on wood to avoid the sophomore slump.)
Round 17, Pick 195: A.J. Puk (SP, Oakland Athletics)
Not only am I deeply intrigued by A.J. Puk‘s potential if the rumors are true that he’s not on an innings limit—I also love the fact that he has reliever eligibility. In fact, I wouldn’t mind at all if he eventually ends up in the bullpen. Standing at 6’7″, Puk is a monster lefty that has left dudes flailing at pitches at every level during his college and minor league career.
I actually drafted Puk with the intent of him filling my third and final RP slot. No, he won’t get saves with Liam Hendriks in town if he ultimately ends up in the bullpen, but I’m predicting good ratios and better than a strikeout per inning. It’d be a pure bonus if he nailed down a rotation spot.
Round 18, Pick 214: Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
It’s no secret that Joc Pederson struggles against lefties, the Dodgers have generally limited his exposure to them in lineups, and thus his overall ceiling is capped. However, what he’s done against righties can’t be ignored. He hit all of his 36 homers in 2019 against righties and finished the year with a .249 batting average overall, which is encouraging after limping to a .210 mark in 2015 and .212 in 2017.
The added counting stats are worth dealing with his occasional absences from the lineup. As a fantasy owner, you just gotta keep an eye on who the upcoming probable starters are against the Dodgers and plan accordingly!
Round 19, Pick 219: Dakota Hudson (SP, St. Louis Cardinals)
Dakota Hudson is the first of two late Cardinals pitcher selections that I regret now, using 20/20 hindsight. He’s a bit too wild still and gets hit a bit too much at this point to trust completely. Yes, he has a career 3.25 ERA in the MLB and I think that’s what I used to justify his selection at the time, but he doesn’t strike many guys out and that doesn’t fit the strategy I’d used in the draft up until this point.
If I could go back and do it over again, I’d nab Josh James here for that massive strikeout upside in the Astros’ fifth starter spot. He ended up going two picks later to Adam Howe. You’re welcome for the gift, Adam.
Round 20, Pick 238: Omar Narvaez (C, Milwaukee Brewers)
So begins the Omar Narvaez era in Milwaukee. This late in the draft, I wanted to grab a solid backup catcher in case Contreras were to get hurt. Narvaez has hit between .267 and .278 in every season during his career and proved last year in Seattle that he can contribute some power when giving ample playing time. He’ll likely fall short of his 22 home run total from last year if the balls aren’t as juiced this year, but perhaps the move to Miller Park will offset that some.
Round 21, Pick 243: Luis Arraez (2B, Minnesota Twins)
I wanted some batting average help, so I drafted Luis Arraez, who had a career .331 batting average in the minors and matched it by hitting .334 across 366 plate appearances with the Twins in his rookie season last year. Arraez gives me almost nothing for power, though he could get his fair share of runs and RBIs hitting in a productive Minnesota lineup.
Round 22, Pick 262: Miles Mikolas (SP, St. Louis Cardinals)
Now that we know Miles Mikolas is dealing with a sore shoulder (we didn’t at the time of the draft, but this pick was already one of my “meh-est” selections even prior to the injury news), I definitely wouldn’t take him with this pick if we were drafting today. My logic at the time was his stats regressed last year and my expectation was he’d rebound a bit to settle in between his 2018 highs and 2019 lows, plus I wanted one extra bench starter to plug into my lineup in the event of one of my other guys going down.
With a do-over, I’d probably take Marco Gonzales here as a strict innings-eater.
Round 23, Pick 267: Nomar Mazara (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Nomar Mazara is still just 24 years old (he’ll turn 25 in April) and despite dealing with a nagging thumb injury, still managed to smack 19 home runs last year for the Rangers. Reports are he’s completely healthy entering 2020 and he’ll be playing in a much better lineup. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him top 20 homers for the first time in his career (he’s hit 20, 20, 20, 19 in four big-league seasons) and his addition filled the “power bat” bench role for my squad.
In the end, I think I came away with a solid team. Except for the two Cardinals starters I drafted in the late rounds, all of the guys I wound up with have plenty of upside and I especially like that I managed to pull in so many young players who are in their prime or have yet to enter it. The squad I assembled should push to win the counting stat hitting categories every week while also staying competitive in batting average and stolen bases; additionally, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts should be mostly good with wins not too far behind on the pitching side (with just enough saves to not be completely embarrassed).
What did you think of my picks? What would you have done differently? Be sure to let me know on Twitter: @KFitzy87. Enjoy the rest of Spring Training!
Main Photo by Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportswire