Mock Draft details: 12-team, H2H format, standard 5×5 scoring. 3 OF, 2 UTIL, no MI/CI.
1.01: Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
This pick is a no-brainer. In the first round, you want to make sure you get a player who is guaranteed to return top-10 hitter value. There are no safer bets than Mike Trout. I understand that Ronald Acuna Jr. could steal 40 bases; I understand that Christian Yelich has been as good as, if not better, than Trout these past two seasons. However, Trout has been a consistent top performer since Gangnam Style was a thing. While he only stole 11 bases last season, he’s had weirdly low years like this before and has bounced back to stealing 25+ bases right after. Even if he only steals 10-15 bases, the floor he provides in the other four categories is too good to pass up on. Trout may not end up as the No. 1 hitter in fantasy next season, but he’s my bet to be the one guaranteed to finish in the top 10. I don’t feel that way about any other hitter.
2.24: Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)
Based on how my rankings have shaken out so far, this is not an ideal spot to draft. Once J.D. Martinez was drafted at pick 21, Tier 2 for hitters was over, and Tier 3 began (with Xander Bogaerts). Unfortunately, this is a very deep tier. Tier 3 for me stretches from Bogaerts here at pick 24 to Austin Meadows in the middle of Round 5. That’s a long stretch of hitters who are more or less equal. Bogaerts has the highest floor of any hitter left, but I do think I should have gone with an outfielder or second baseman just due to positional scarcity. Shortstop is the second-deepest position this year, after third base, but if we throw that out, I like Bogaerts here. I feel confident that he’ll return a .300 batting average, close to 200 combined R/RBI, and 25-ish home runs. I think it’s more important to get strong batting average early, and get power late, and Bogaerts is a lock for that.
3.25: Mike Clevinger (SP, Cleveland Indians)
If this were a real draft, I would have taken Walker Buehler here. However, I’m a Dodger fan, and I already know plenty about Buehler, I wanted to see someone else write about him, and I wanted an excuse to watch the Tazmanian Devil that is Mike Clevinger on the mound. This dude is absolutely nuts; he fidgets and shifts like he has an IV of Red Bull in the dugout between innings. He took big strides forward in 2019, increasing his strikeout rate (with a coinciding rise in swinging-strike rate), decreasing his walk rate, and seeing career lows in ERA and WHIP. This was done without Clevinger getting particularly lucky, as he actually posted a career-worst BABIP, and a LOB% and HR/FB% that are in line with his career norms. I think there’s a world in which Clevinger is the No. 1 starting pitcher in baseball next year, and we saw him take a step toward that this year.
4.48: Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs)
Going from picking a safe shortstop in the second round to picking a safe first baseman here at the end of the fourth, you can see how much floor matters to me early on in the draft. Josh Bell and Paul Goldschmidt were also intriguing first base options here, but Bell doesn’t have the floor that Anthony Rizzo does, and I’m a bit worried that we are starting to see the decline of Goldschmidt. Rizzo is a near-lock for 190+ R/RBI and a good batting average, and his 25-30 HRs are enough that I won’t be too far behind at this position. It’s not the sexy pick, but I’m not worried that it will backfire.
5.49: Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals)
This is so much more than just a speed pick. Yes, obviously Whit Merrifield’s stolen bases are very valuable, but he also led the majors in hits last year, and has enough pop and run production that he really can contribute in all five categories. His second base and outfield eligibility are very valuable considering those are both pretty shallow positions this year, and I feel comfortable at this point that I don’t need to worry about batting average anymore, which is a pretty freeing feeling considering it’s not easy to get average later in the draft.
6.72: Max Muncy (1B/2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
This is exactly the kind of pick I’m talking about with my average set, as Max Muncy is a slugger who isn’t going to win any batting titles. He’s averaged 35 HRs and 175 R/RBI over the past two seasons, and he’s solidified himself in the heart of that Dodgers order heading into 2020. I expect he’ll be closer to the 200 R/RBI that he produced this past season. He’s the perfect complement to my last few picks. Where I’ve prioritized batting average in lieu of power, now I’m getting that power back without having to sweat the batting average.
7.73: Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)
Steady Eddie, baby. You can set your watch to this guy. He hits the ball hard, will probably settle in around 30 home runs and 170 R/RBI, and has been a reliable source of batting average as well. I thought long and hard about Eloy Jimenez here, and looking back on it, perhaps I could have rolled the dice a little more in my draft and taken someone like Eloy, but Eddie Rosario provides such steady production that it was hard for me to pass that up.
8.96: Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
You know, everyone talks about how shallow second base is, and you can make it even shallower by drafting a bunch of them. There are a lot of multi-position players who have 2B eligibility, so if you just stock up on them like I have, you can force other people to rely on someone like Nick Madrigal, for example. Eduardo Escobar is a talented hitter who will continue to bat in the heart of a surprisingly strong Diamondbacks lineup, racking up the runs and RBI, and while I don’t expect him to hit 35 home runs again, if he hits 25 with similar run production, I’ll be very happy with that. I could have gone for a starting pitcher here and still gotten Escobar at my next turn, though, so I’ll dock myself some points for that.
9.97: Mallex Smith (OF, Seattle Mariners)
I’ve been preaching floor all draft long, and this pick is completely antithetical to that. The only way this pick reaches its value is if Mallex Smith hits like he did in 2018, and I think he will. I believe in his hitting ability, and think his average will be closer to the .290 range than the .230 range. He’s stolen 40+ bases two seasons in a row and will do it again in 2020, and even with his struggles last season, the Mariners still let him lead off in the majority of his starts. If he can get his batting average back up, he could score a good amount of runs and be a true three-tool player with one elite tool that is always hard to find.
10.120: Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
Kirby Yates was dominant in 2018 and only got better in 2019, increasing his K%, decreasing his BB%, lowering his ERA by almost a full run, and suppressing fly balls as well. Even if the Padres trade him (though it doesn’t seem likely as it looks like they are trying to build a contender), he’ll be a closer anywhere he goes. In my opinion, he’s the best closer in the game right now, as there’s still uncertainty as to what Josh Hader’s role will be in 2020. If Yates’ ADP remains in this range, I’ll be drafting a lot of him next year.
11.121: David Price (SP, Boston Red Sox)
I couldn’t avoid it any longer—I had to draft another starting pitcher. While I feel really solid with Clevinger as my ace, it was about time I got him some help, and I felt really lucky that I was able to get David Price here. He had some weird injury stuff in 2019 that made his overall numbers look worse than he really performed, as he was very good when he was healthy. Even with the injury troubles, he still managed to increase his K% and swinging-strike rate, actually posting a career high in his strikeout rate. I think Price could approach top-20 status again, and won’t fall too far below the top 30, making him a steady No. 2 option.
12.144: Robbie Ray (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
I need volume in my pitching categories, and what better way to get volume than to draft a guy who’s struck out more than 200 hitters in three of the past four seasons? Robbie Ray provides a great floor for strikeouts, even if he’s not the most consistent pitcher, but if he was I wouldn’t be getting him this late in the draft. He’ll never have a great WHIP, but he should be able to provide at least an average ERA and double-digit wins, and that combined with 200+ strikeouts gives me a decent enough third option. I’m hoping that between Clevinger, Price, and Ray, I’m solid enough that I can just hope for my late lottery tickets to pan out.
13.145: Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)
If there’s one thing that Willie Calhoun did in his half season this year, he proved he can slug at the major league level. There really should have been no question about that, but the Rangers have been bringing him up to the majors as if they don’t know he can hit. Well, he can. In 337 plate appearances, Calhoun mashed 21 home runs, with 51 runs and 48 RBI as well. He hardly ever strikes out, so while he’ll never have a good BABIP since all he does is pull fly balls, he’ll never have a batting average that’s Joey Gallo or Miguel Sano-esque because he doesn’t strike out. I firmly believe the Rangers will find a way to get his bat in the lineup regularly (he had a .256 ISO for crying out loud), and I’ll gladly take his power contributions in the 13th round.
14.168: Willson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs)
I do not like catchers, Sam I am, I do not like this year’s catchers. I don’t like the young risers, and I don’t like the re-invented veterans. I just do not like this catcher crop. I feel comfortable with exactly four catchers, those being J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras, and made sure to get one of them. Contreras now has three years of being a productive bat, and one year of not, so I think his 2018 was a fluke and not a sign of things to come. Twenty home runs and a .270 average from a catcher, please and thank you.
15.169: Lance McCullers Jr. (SP, Houston Astros)
There’s a roughly 0% chance Lance McCullers Jr. goes this late in drafts come March. He was collectively forgotten about as he didn’t pitch a single inning in 2019. The last time we did see him pitch, he was very productive, striking out more than a batter per inning with a solid ERA and WHIP. If he can stay healthy, which is always an issue with him, he could very easily creep into SP2 range, as he’ll (presumably) rack up the wins with the Astros while also racking up strikeouts. There’s a lot of questions as to what will happen in Houston as well as how McCullers will return from injury, but I’ll take those chances.
16.192: Domingo German (SP, New York Yankees)
This draft was done before the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole, so when Domingo German does come back from whatever suspension he receives, there’s no guarantee he’ll have a rotation spot. However, he showed that he has upside as a starting pitcher for a dominant team, and he definitely outperformed this draft spot in 2019. I’m less optimistic now about it with Cole in town, but there’s still a chance German can be a top-40 starter again in 2020.
17.193: Dylan Cease (SP, Chicago White Sox)
I did not draft Dylan Cease for anything he did in 2019, because he didn’t show a ton this season. However, he’s got three solid-looking pitches in his fastball, curveball, and changeup, and I think if he can show some more command with his pitches, he could be a very good starter. His 11% SwStr rate (almost identical to Price’s) shows that he already has good stuff, but he just has to learn how to use his stuff to his advantage and not be so wild with it. That could happen in 2020, so I figured I’d take the flier.
18.216: Julio Urias (SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Of all the upside fliers I took on starting pitchers between Rounds 15 and 20, this is the one I feel the best about, and not just because I’m a Dodger fan. Urias hasn’t just flashed upside; he’s shown what success can look like for him as he shined in his half-season back in 2016 as a 19-year-old. In his first full season since his shoulder injury in 2017, Urias has shown that that wasn’t a fluke, and that he’s got really good stuff. The Dodgers have some question marks in their rotation with the (probable) departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill, and I think Urias is one of the front-runners to get another spot. He’ll face the same Dodgeritis that every Dodger pitcher has to deal with, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we got 25 starts and 150 innings from Urias, and I expect those innings will be highly productive.
19.217: Carlos Martinez (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
This pick pretty much has two ways of working out: Either he remains the closer in St. Louis and I just got a really good closer, or he gets moved to the rotation and I get a guy who has been a top-15 SP in the past. There’s definitely risk there, as he hasn’t been a great starting pitcher for about a year-and-a-half now, and there’s no guarantee that he can just get it back right away, but I think he’s shown that he can be the same pitcher he was in 2016 and 2017. Either way, this pick works for me.
20.240: Steven Matz (SP, New York Mets)
There’s not much left in the draft as far as pitching goes, but I needed some more depth in my rotation. Steven Matz is someone I could get absolutely nothing out of, but I also could get some productive innings if he gets off to a good start. I’m not sweating this pick too much, because he’ll be one of the first players I drop for someone who is hot in April, and in a way that it could be sustainable. I could have taken a pitcher with more upside, but honestly, there aren’t really any pitchers left who I think have a realistic chance of hitting their ceiling in 2020, so I’d rather take Matz and get a few starts out of him than roll the dice on someone like Ian Anderson or Matt Manning.
21.241: Didi Gregorius (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)
At the time of the draft, Didi Gregorius was a free agent, and has since signed with the Phillies. I actually really like that as a landing spot for him, as he should have an everyday role in that infield and in the middle of that strong lineup. This pick doesn’t make a ton of sense for my team, with Bogaerts already at SS and no question marks there, but he was BPA, and that makes one of them a good trade candidate. I think teams that take high-upside shortstops like Fernando Tatis Jr., Bo Bichette, or Adalberto Mondesi should be targeting someone like Gregorius late who can ensure they’ll still get quality production at the position if things don’t work out quite as planned.
22.264: Adam Ottavino (RP, New York Yankees)
While this pick clearly won’t pay off, it’s indicative of the approach I’ll be taking in 2020. Of the 22 pitchers that logged 20+ saves this year, nine of them were ranked outside the top 250 before the season started. Teams aren’t keeping closers in the role like they used to, and so I’ll be drafting the best relievers in baseball that aren’t currently closers and have an open path to becoming one. Ottavino was one of those guys when I drafted him, as Aroldis Chapman had yet to sign his extension with the Yankees. Now I’ll be looking for someone else at this point in the draft.
23.265: Giovanny Gallegos (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
This is exactly the same as the pick I just made. Gallegos is the best reliever in St. Louis, and has a clear path to closing with Carlos Martinez likely to move back to the rotation and with Jordan Hicks injured until at least July. I could get 25+ saves with a sub-3.00 ERA with the last pick in the draft, and that’s the kind of upside I’m looking for in my bullpen. Best of all, if he doesn’t end up being the closer out of the gate, I have no issues dropping him for someone else who has the opportunity. No waiting and holding and hoping he becomes relevant.
(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)