Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 2: Nathan Mills’ Picks

Nathan Mills breaks down his picks from the 10th spot in Pitcher List Mock No. 2.

This past season was my best ever in fantasy baseball, and I owe a large portion of that to Pitcher List. Working here comes with the added advantage of being in the Discord channel, after all, and when you’re watching this many people who are so in love with baseball talk about the game this way on a daily basis, you’re bound to learn some things, even if only by osmosis.

I say all that with the caveat that I finished second or better in all my leagues but one, with that one being PL2, my Pitcher List staff league. I was in first place midway through the summer, but I finished so poorly that I don’t want to look up exactly how bad it was for the purpose of this column.

Still, I’ve combined my normal philosophy (high floors; little risk; few rookies or breakouts) with some things I’ve learned at Pitcher List (there’s plenty of pitching late; speed isn’t everything, but it’s definitely something) to arrive at a team-building strategy that propelled me to multiple top-two finishes this past season. I used that same philosophy in Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 2.

Check out the entire draft board here.

Let’s get to the picks:

 

1.10 — Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)

 

Though I would’ve taken seven of the players taken before Juan Soto in this spot had they fallen to me, I didn’t get that lucky. Still, Soto is one heck of a consolation prize and a guy on whom I feel like I got some value with the No. 10 overall pick.

Soto is a guy who is going to hit 30-plus home runs, steal 10-plus bases and hit somewhere close to .300. Oh, and he finished in the top five in MLB in walks last year on top of all that, which helped him score 110 runs (to match his 110 RBI) this past season. This kid contributes in every single standard category, and if you need a sweetener, remember that he just turned 21. Though this isn’t a dynasty draft, that’s important to keep in mind for those of you doing your first drafts in dynasty leagues as it pushes his value even higher.

Soto is an MVP candidate, and if I were putting money on NL hitters who might finish in the top three in voting next season, he’d be one of the guys I’d trust with that bet.

After all, those standard fantasy numbers are supported by an expected batting average of .285, which was right in line with his actual .282 average. His expected slugging percentage (.576), weighted on-base average (.394), expected wOBA (.407) and hard-hit rate (47.8%) are all top 20 in MLB. Virtually all of the metrics back up his production (or suggest he might even be BETTER than his production).

This kid is for real, and if he’s available in your draft anywhere outside the top five or six picks, snatch him up immediately.

 

2.15 — Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)

 

Normally, I try not to double up like this so early. Players on the same team are often tied to each other in terms of success. Trea Turner, for example, will score a fair portion of his runs by being driven in by Soto.

When that works, it’s great. I’m doubling up, getting an RBI from Soto and a run from Turner. When it doesn’t, I’m missing out all around. I tend to spread things around so that I don’t have to weather those kinds of bad weeks (or months).

But in this case, I thought it was worth it. First, Turner represents what I saw to be the last of the elite tier of shortstops in our draft, and I didn’t want to miss out on that tier of players because though the high end of the position is the best it’s ever been, I don’t want to have to keep up with the Joneses here.

Second, there are few (if any) speed options better than Turner anywhere in baseball. Though he’s not done it yet in his career, he’s a legitimate threat to steal 50 bases every single year (when healthy) and plays in an offense where  speed will help him score runs (96 in 122 games last season).

His expected stats almost all suggest he’s due for a little more regression this season, but his xStats still represent a very good baseball player who has the added advantage of being the type who can put you in the top half of your league in stolen bases basically by himself. I’ll take that at this point in the draft, especially considering there are plenty of fantasy baseball owners out there who would take Turner in the first round.

Now, one of those parentheticals a couple of paragraphs ago is key here: “when healthy.” Turner has played a full season just once in his career, and depending on that from him is unwise. I’ve got to find a safe backup option later in the draft.

 

3.34 — Manny Machado (3B/SS, San Diego Padres)

 

Would you look at that? It’s later.

I thought long and hard about taking first baseman Pete Alonso here. As a Mets fan, I love Pete. On top of that, he’s one heck of a fantasy asset and represents to me the top of the second tier of first basemen, a position that falls off quickly after the first couple of tiers. I hoped to take Alonso and Manny Machado in the third and fourth rounds, but I misjudged which player I should take first. In retrospect, I’d rather have Alonso here and hope Machado is still around in the fourth.

Oh well. You live and learn.

The benefits of Machado are pretty simple:

First, he’s eligible in most formats at shortstop, which means he provides for me a reliable backup should something happen and Turner misses a large chunk of time. He’s also a strong third baseman outside of some extended slumps the past couple of seasons.

No, he’s not the MVP candidate he used to be. But I don’t need him to be here.

But the downside is that last season was one of the worst of Machado’s career and definitely the worst since he established himself as a top-tier MLB star. In fact, he was so bad last year that there’s a strong possibility I overpaid for him here in the third round.

And his expected stats don’t really suggest he’s due for a turnaround. The power took a dip, as did the batting average and speed, which had already been trending downward for half a decade. So that, plus the other Pitcher List early mock draft data makes it feel like I’ve made a big mistake here.

I do expect him to get his strikeout rate back in line with his career norms, however, and I think that will help with his power and almost certainly his batting average. I suspect he was pressing a little bit in his first season in San Diego, trying to do too much as the combination of the new contract, different expectations and the rabbit ball came together to create a perfect storm for Machado. With a little more help (hopefully) coming to San Diego this season, I have faith that he can settle in and get back to being the type of strong contributor you’re hoping for when you draft him in the third or fourth round.

I hope.

 

4.39 — Stephen Strasburg (SP, Washington Nationals)

 

Just call me the Washington Nationals, I guess. As a Mets fan, this is painful for me. But at this point, Stephen Strasburg is the best starting pitcher available, in my estimation, and it’s important to me that I snag a front-line starter. The opportunity to do that is shrinking, so now is the time to pull the trigger.

The concern with Strasburg from a fantasy standpoint has never been his ability. This is a guy with the ability to be Cy Young contender every single season. But he’s got to stay healthy enough to make more than 25 starts or so to make those year-end awards a reality.

He did that in 2019, and he finished fifth in Cy Young voting and 15th in MVP voting. I do not expect to see that again in 2020 because this is a guy who regularly misses five to 10 starts (sometimes more). Usually not with major injuries. Usually lingering stuff or a handful of minor injuries that just add up. But they’re there nonetheless.

But when he’s healthy, there are few better. He’s in an elite tier of starters for strikeouts. His WHIP is also elite. His ERA was top 15 in baseball this year and regularly finishes in that same area. And if he ends up back with the Nationals as I expect he will, he’ll be pitching for a team that, at least right now, has a bullpen that will require the team to try to go deeper into games with starters. With a guy like Strasburg, that just means more opportunity for me to take advantage of his ability.

Will he make 33 starts again in 2020? Almost certainly not. But if he makes 25, I’ll be quite pleased.

 

5.58 — Shohei Ohtani (SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels)

 

This seems WAY too late for Shohei Ohtani to still be on the board. After all, we’re just drafting him as one player here at Pitcher List (though splitting him into two players is a terrible idea some of these hosts had, it’s something you MUST account for in drafting him).

Steamer projects Ohtani for 2.8 WAR as a pitcher and 2.5 WAR as a hitter. A guy who is going to put up 5-6 WAR (and probably quite easily) in the fifth round? I’m all about that value.

If he can stay healthy, which seemed to not be an issue after he returned to the batter’s box last season, he’s going to flirt with 30 home runs and a .300 batting average while also chipping in double-digit steals. Oh, and he’s also going to strike out 11 batters per nine innings with an ERA in the mid 3’s.

You take that in the fifth round every single time. Just make sure you keep an eye each day on where he’s playing. He’s tricky to manage but worth the extra effort.

 

6.63 — Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)

 

Normally, I try to avoid breakouts, but I think Josh Bell is for real. He was a guy people had kind of expected to do it for a couple of years, and it finally came together in 2019 with a dramatic increase in launch angle and barrels giving him a 100-point jump over his career slugging numbers. With that came a decrease in walk around and a small increase in strikeouts, but with neither in dangerous territory, I can live with those changes with that major shift in power.

Bell slumped at times in 2019, so I’ll need to watch him closely in 2020 and find ways to get him out of the lineup if he goes cold for periods again in 2020. But I suspect he’ll find some more consistency as he settles in even further with that new approach at the plate. The big thing for me will be maintaining a batting average around .275. Bell is a heck of a ballplayer, but as the offense around him (presumably) gets worse as the Pirates enter what should be a full rebuild, a big drop in average could take a bigger toll on him than it could on some other first basemen in this tier. He’s going to have to perform on his own to give me the value I’m looking for on him, but I think he can do it. After all, just look at this monster dinger:

 

 

This, of course, assumes the Pirates don’t trade him for a bucketload of prospects in this rebuild. Selfishly, I hope they do.

 

7.82 — Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)

 

This is the first pick in this draft I regretted. And I regretted it immediately and thoroughly. So thoroughly, in fact, that you’ll see I panicked and tried to compensate with my next pick and made mistakes on both. Oof.

A huge jump in strikeout rate spurred Andrew Benintendi’s down season. My best guess is that maybe he was selling out for power and ignoring other aspects of his game, but that’d be a bad strategy if that’s the case. Benintendi to this point has been a guy who has been good at everything but great at nothing. But last year, he was the definition of a league-average hitter with a 100 wRC+, and even his stolen base ability took a dive as he stole half the bases he did a year ago.

I do think he was a little unlucky this past season but not enough to justify his numbers across the board by any stretch.

Benintendi is definitely a bounce-back candidate, but he’s one I think I could’ve gotten a round or two later. Maybe more. I probably should’ve taken Tyler Glasnow here, who was taken with the very next pick.

 

8.87 — Nicholas Castellanos (OF, Free Agent)

 

Once I selected Benintendi and immediately regretted it, I started looking at another outfielder to act as a sort of handcuff. If Benintendi flops, I’ve got someone immediately ready to take his place.

And Nicholas Castellanos can be that guy. The hot streak he was on shortly after joining the Cubs is just a mirage, but this guy is a legit hitter who can do a little bit of everything with his bat. I’d always been a fan, but when I read the Going Deep that our own Daniel Port put together on Castellanos’ power and how his stadium in Detroit was cheating him out of some numbers, I was convinced this is a guy I wanted to see in another stadium — and on my team.

Statcast data backs up his power surge, putting his expected slugging percentage in the 90th percentile of the league. His expected batting average is in the 82nd percentile. This guy is going to replicate what he did last season. And maybe more, depending on where he signs.

The only disappointment for me here is that the panic I had when I took Benintendi pushed me to panic into taking Castellanos too early. I’m happy I got him, but I’d have been happier getting him two rounds later, which I think was definitely within the realm of possibility had I not taken him here.

 

9.106 — Aroldis Chapman (RP, New York Yankees)

 

My general rule with relievers is to get one of the elite names in the first 12 rounds, then take a couple of mid-tier names the rest of the way. Aroldis Chapman represents that elite name.

There were a couple of relievers I wanted more, but they were gone. With who else was out there (Roberto Osuna, Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand), I wanted to take the guy from whom I could expect the most consistency. Chapman has done it better and longer than those other guys, so I took the safety net. Any of those four would be great picks here, and it’s just up to what you prefer in terms of how you build your team.

He’s going to rack up saves for a team that is constantly going to put him in position to get as many as he wants. The only concern I have with Chapman is that his home run rate and HR/FB rate both rose slightly last season. It’s probably nothing, but as he moves toward his early 30s, especially with the rabbit ball, him getting bitten by the home run bug is worth watching.

Still, I’m glad to have baseball’s most consistent closer over the past decade. He may be the only sure thing year to year in any bullpen in baseball.

 

10.111 — Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP, Free Agent)

 

You can keep your strikeout kings. In the age of the rabbit ball, I love Hyun-Jin Ryu. Especially considering he is underdrafted pretty much every year.

While every hitter in the league was blasting home runs, Ryu was dropping his exit velocity and launch angle against. His walk rate reached a career low. His barrel rate reached a career low. And only a second-half slump kept him from winning the NL Cy Young Award this season.

And I just drafted him in the 10th round.

Look, I get that some folks are hesitant to take a pitcher who isn’t a strikeout machine and relies on weak contact more than most. I completely understand all the concerns that surround this type of pitcher. What I also understand is that this is a guy whose career ERA is below 3. His career WHIP is below 1.2. And this season, there’s a good chance we no longer have to worry about Dodgeritis with him.

Sure, I’m taking a little bit of a hit in the strikeout department, but taking Strasburg in the fourth round will help with balancing that.

 

11.130 — Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds)

 

This pick looks even better now that Mike Moustakas has signed with the Reds.

I originally drafted him here thinking the Brewers would end up re-signing him. I suspected he’d repeat last season, playing mostly third base while bouncing around to second base here and there as needed. And I hoped he’d pick up a few appearances at first base and could become a backup first base option for me in a pinch.

I don’t expect that to happen in Cincinnati. Instead, he’ll be the primary second baseman, which is just fine with me in that ballpark.

Moustakas is a guy who is probably a bigger name than his numbers suggest, and I don’t love his bat at third base, though I’ll have the option to play him there if I want. But I LOVE his bat at second base, as there are just a handful of second basemen who will carry an .850 OPS while hitting 35 home runs — maybe more in Great American Ballpark.

And to get that in the 11th round? I like that value.

No advanced metrics needed here. Moustakas is that guy.

 

12.135 — Zack Wheeler (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)

 

I made this pick believing 100% that Zack Wheeler would end up signing with the Astros. I knew the interest had been there before via trade, and I figured the Astros would take their chance to replace Gerrit Cole on the cheap (comparatively) with someone like Wheeler.

I was wrong.

Still, Philadelphia is a fine landing spot for Wheeler, even if it does crush me personally as a Mets fan. My guess is he comes close to replicating what he did last season, maybe even topping it by a small margin. An ERA below 4 with 200 strikeouts and a WHIP below 1.3 is a fair expectation.

The big thing with Wheeler seems to be actually managing him as he’s prone to bad games against the NL East, as every game but one in which he allowed five runs or more last season came against an NL East foe (the other was against the Yankees).

But for what it’s worth, he pitched three times in Citizens Bank Ballpark last season, and he notched a quality start in all three of those games. Is he going to throw a quality start in every home game he starts this season? I doubt that, though if he does, I just got some really nice value.

 

13.154 — Will Smith (RP, Atlanta Braves)

 

This was probably a round or so too early to aim for another reliever, but with Will Smith sitting there and the second tier of relievers all ripe for the picking, I decided to strike. When Smith signed with Atlanta, I felt better about the pick.

That assumes he closes, of course. The Athletic has reported the Braves plan to continue with Mark Melancon as the primary ninth-inning man in 2020.

 

 

That seems like a bad plan to me, but I guess we’ll see.

If Melancon struggles as I suspect he will, Smith will be the first man up. So yeah, I overpaid here knowing what I know now.

Still, what I was drafting was a guy who finished in the top five in saves last year while playing for a not-good team. I drafted a guy with one of the best strikeout rates in baseball. I picked up a reliever who gave up an xwOBA that was in the top 10% in all of baseball.

Now I’ve just got to hope for Melancon to lose his job. Fingers crossed, I guess.

 

14.159 — David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)

 

I just can’t quit you.

Most fantasy baseball manager probably love David Dahl’s numbers. The guy is young. Plays in Coors. Has a little bit of speed to combine with a little bit of pop. Basically a career .300 hitter with a career .867 OPS. That’s a guy you probably take higher than the 14th round, right?

Well. Not when the guy has never played more than 100 games in a season throughout his four years in MLB. He was healthy in 2016, but that was in limited action because he was called up late in the season. He missed all of 2017 with rib and back injuries. He missed large chunks of 2018 with various injuries, including a broken foot. Then he missed the last two months of the season in 2019 with an ankle sprain.

I think Dahl could turn into a Jeff McNeil type in the outfield, though with a little more speed and a little more power (partially attributed to his home field). And I LOVE guys like that, so I’m drafting Dahl as often as possible to play at the back end of my outfield. I don’t think I’m alone in that as Dahl’s ADP early last offseason was easily in the top 100 and even still sits around 145 right now according to NFC data over the past month or so.

I just need him to stay on the field. Please.

 

15.178 — Emilio Pagan (RP, Tampa Bay Rays)

 

As a baseball fan, I love what the Rays do with their pitching staff. Openers are a genius concept. Having no set closer makes all the sense in the world. Having that many hands who can heat up at any given time and having a willingness to roll with any of them in any spot feels revolutionary, even though it really shouldn’t.

And yet as a fantasy manager, I hate it. There’s no consistency. You don’t know who you can count on from day to day. And that goes for both starters and relievers.

Still, it’s time for me to take another strong closer, and most sources have Emilio Pagan listed as the guy. At least for now. And it makes sense. Last year, this guy was elite in every sense of the word. His strikeout rate was in the 96th percentile. His expected batting average against was in the 99th percentile. Expected slugging against was in the 97th percentile. His xwOBA was the best in baseball. And that doesn’t even count his 36% strikeout rate and 5% walk rate. And he did all this by making improvements to his hard contact allowed over previous seasons.

Now, it’s important to note here that Pagan is not great when it comes to exit velocity. His barrel rate of 6.4% is lower than it was in 2018 (when it was an abysmal 10.7%), but it’s still not great. When hitters get a hold of one of his pitches, they can really give it a rip.

He may get bitten by the home run more than others, and with the Rays using the bullpen the way the team does, that could mean he gets the hook quickly. Keep an eye on him.

 

16.182 — Miguel Sano (3B, Minnesota Twins)

 

Remember earlier when I said I was taking Moustakas because I hoped he’d move around the diamond a little bit and give me a good bat that could earn some extra eligibility throughout the season?

Say hello, Miguel Sano. Last season, the 26-year-old Twins slugger made nine appearances at first base while primarily playing third base. One more appearance would’ve given him eligibility at first base with most hosts, meaning I’d have a strong backup at two positions.

Just now entering what should be his physical prime, Sano has returned from a 2018 marred by injuries and a sexual assault allegation for which MLB chose not to suspend him after an investigation. Back on track in 2019, the Twins slugger put together his best season, rewarding the AL Central champions for sticking by him through troubled times.

Don’t get me wrong: Sano has his troubles as a hitter. His strikeout rate is pathetic. His batting average is not great (and his expected batting average is worse). But that power? Oh man, is that legit. His hard-hit rate was the best in baseball last season. His exit velocity was the second-best in baseball behind Aaron Judge last season.

Sure, he’s slow and will bring down your batting average with his free-swinging ways. But this is a guy who has the potential, especially when you consider his age and the division in which he plays, to mash 40 or more home runs while creating close to 200 R+RBI while potential playing multiple positions, giving you some positional flexibility. And that’s all with a ceiling capped by the fact that Sano has never played more than 116 games in his MLB career.

The sky is the limit if this guy can stay on the field for 140-plus games next season. And I’m glad to have that upside in the 16th round.

 

17.202 — Brandon Lowe (2B, Tampa Bay Rays)

 

This pick is pure upside. Brandon Lowe, last year’s third-place finisher in AL Rookie of the Year voting, has the potential to be truly special, especially at second base. And he moved around the diamond enough last season that he could potentially end up with eligibility at two or three positions this season. Maybe more, depending on your league settings.

The nice thing about Lowe from a fantasy standpoint is probably the same thing that the Rays love about him: This kid can do a little bit of everything. He’s going to chip in some stolen bases. He’s going to give you a little bump in the batting average department. And he’s got enough power that he can help you by hammering more than 20 home runs. He may be a slightly more valuable asset in OBP leagues as his eye is better than his bat, but he won’t hurt you in the opposite direction.

As I mentioned earlier, I try to stay away from rookies and breakouts, but at the back of the draft, this is where I’m taking those “risks.” Lowe, with his history and the faith I have in the Rays organization to continue to develop him and deploy him in a way that best utilizes his skills, is probably the safest of these “risks” I’ve taken late in this draft.

 

18.207 — Casey Mize (SP, Detroit Tigers)

 

Speaking of rookies, Casey Mize is the only player I took in this draft (or any other, for that matter) with zero experience at the MLB level.

I do not expect him to start the season with the big club in Detroit. At best, I expect him up in May. At worst, the Tigers keep him down all season.

And that’s OK. At this point in the draft, I’m fine with dropping Mize if it gets to that point and I have to make that decision to go find another arm on the wire. After all, despite this being a strong draft overall, there were plenty of arms on the wire who could either provide immediate value or develop value over the course of the season and give me something back should I choose to move on from Mize.

Plus, though I don’t advocate drafting a player solely to trade him later, there’s usually one person in every league who is willing to trade something of value for virtually any prospect the second even a whiff of a rumor of a call-up comes around, so maybe you recoup value that way if he sits in the minors too long.

Still, I think Mize is ready for MLB action right now. He pitched to a 2.55 ERA across High-A and Double-A last season, including a no-hitter in his Double-A debut in April.

 

 

That’s the kind of high-end arm worth waiting for. Just take it from an anonymous veteran scout quoted by CBS Sports on Mize this fall:

“He looks every bit a future ace, multiple-time All-Star and possible Cy Young winner to me.”

He isn’t winning that Cy Young in his first season, I’m sure, but I want in on the ground floor of that potential.

 

19.226 — Joe Jimenez (RP, Detroit Tigers)

 

I think I’ve drafted Joe Jimenez in each of the past three seasons. He’s a reliever who I, and many others, have sort of expected to break out since the second he was called up. He hasn’t done that yet, but the pieces are all there for that to happen. Just take a look at these metrics from Statcast:

 

 

That’s an awful lot of red. But it hasn’t translated to success on the mound just yet. Sure, his strikeout rate is elite, but he’s also giving up home runs at a clip that isn’t in line with the rest of his metrics. I imagine part of that is youth and inexperience (he is still only 24, after all), but the benefit for Jimenez this season is that he’s going to get plenty of experience as he enters his first full season as the Tigers’ primary closer.

If he can get closer to the 2.90 FIP he put up in 2018, 2020 could be a fantastic season for fantasy owners as the Tigers will surely play enough close games that Jimenez will get his opportunities.

But can the kid capitalize? Only one way to find out.

 

20.231 — Tommy Edman (2B/3B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)

 

This is another pure upside pick. Truth is Tommy Edman is a guy I would never target in my home league because he’s sure to get drafted somewhere around the 12th round. That’s one of the drawbacks (or benefits?) of playing in a league dominated by Missourians.

Still, it’s hard to ignore what he was able to do in 2019. In 92 games, he put up 3.2 fWAR. He did that by combining speed and a little power with elite contact skills to put up a .304 batting average (and a .350 on-base percentage), 15 stolen bases, 11 home runs, 59 runs, and 36 RBI. And that’s not even counting the seven triples that helped buoy his slugging percentage at an even .500.

In short, he was the spark plug the Cardinals needed (and always seem to find) in their push to the playoffs last season.

It’s tough to tell if he’ll be that spark plug again this season. The speed is obviously very real, but the power seems like a mirage lifted up a little by the rabbit ball. The contact skills are there, but those can be hit or miss for young guys literally.

Still, with his positional flexibility, this is a guy worth taking a chance on late in your drafts every single time. Steamer projects the power to fall off (and it should), but the rest of his game is still there as he’s projected for double-digit steals and a batting average that will flirt with .300.

 

21.250 — Garrett Richards (SP, San Diego Padres)

 

Garrett Richards is a bit of an enigma. The 31-year-old spent most of last season on the IL while recovering from Tommy John surgery. In his brief return, his ERA was an inflated 8.31, and his FIP wasn’t really any better at 5.75. Even his xFIP was 4.36. That’s not good.

But he was coming back after a year and change away from the game. The control wasn’t there yet. He was walking most than six batters per nine innings in that three-game stretch with the Padres at the end of the season (and his walk rate was even during a three-game stretch at High-A before coming back up to the big club).

Still, the strikeouts were there as he struck out 11.4 per nine innings with the Padres last season. And he’s in a pitcher’s park, so he should be able to put up some strong fantasy numbers if he can keep the walks in check. There’s plenty of reason for optimism despite the rough outings last season. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. Steamer projects Richards will pitch to an ERA below 4 while putting up 3 WAR. That’d be Richards’ second-best season of his career.

I don’t know if my hopes are quite that high, but getting 3 WAR from a pitcher in the 21st round would be pretty dope.

 

22.255 — Mitch Keller (SP, Pittsburgh Pirates)

 

I have to admit that I made another mistake here.

It’s not that I shouldn’t have taken Mitch Keller. I like the guy quite a bit, and he’ll be one of few rookie targets on my radar this spring. I mean, just look at this:

 

 

No, my mistake was in taking him this early. I think I could’ve gotten Keller in the 23rd round and got the catcher I originally wanted Carson Kelly in this spot.

Lesson learned.

Still, I’m not upset with getting Keller. After all, look at some of his ranks from Statcast:

 

 

Just like with Jimenez, that’s a lot of red in a lot of good places. Keller’s ERA and WHIP were both inflated last season, partially because he gave up too much contact and partially because of an inflated walk rate. Still, the stuff is there. With some experience, which he’ll get starting the season in the rotation for the first time this year, that should level out.

Keller isn’t a Cy Young contender by any stretch, but he is a guy I’ll be watching as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate. But even if he can’t figure it out this season, he’s a guy I can easily cut with little invested and go find someone on the wire. No sweat.

 

23.274 — Salvador Perez (C, Kansas City Royals)

 

Salvy is a perfect consolation prize after missing out on Kelly. I look for three things in a catcher:

  1. Is he available late? I don’t believe in spending big on catchers as I don’t think the high-end guys return their value often enough and the gap between the second tier of catchers and the fifth tier of catchers isn’t all that large.
  2. Is he consistent? I care less about a catcher being a great hitter than I do about him being a guy I can expect some sense of stability from day in and day out.
  3. Does he play often? Some teams rotate catchers almost daily, with some even rotating three players in and out of the position on the regular. I don’t like streaming catchers, so that’s a nonstarter for me.

Perez easily hits all these criteria for me. I can’t normally draft him in my home league because the other half of the league is mostly Royals fans, but I’m super stoked to get him here.

The Royals will use him nearly every day (he’s played 129 games or more in every season since becoming the everyday catcher in 2013, except for last season, which was lost to Tommy John surgery). He’s going to hit about .260, as he has in almost every season of his career. He’s going to hit 25 home runs, as he has in almost every season of his career.

I don’t need to rotate in a new catcher on his off-days, and I can expect enough from him in the 25th round that, barring another injury, I can go with the set-it-and-forget-it approach at catcher. That’s the way I like it.

(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

Nathan Mills

Nathan Mills is an award winning designer and editor who has written for the Tulsa World and The Joplin Globe. He's a Mets fan in Southwest Missouri, which means he's been miserable since November 2015.

  • Avatar Ben Pernick says:

    Think you got an amazing deal on Mitch Keller, and someone probably would have snagged him from you in the last round. I reached for him at pick 179 and regret nothing. He was the unluckiest pitcher in baseball by xwOBA-wOBA differential and has a new pitching coach to help him out, which in Pittsburgh, can only count as a positive.

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