Because we never sleep here at Pitcher List, we started mocking in October. I got involved with the second staff mock and had the fourth pick in a 12-team, 5×5 snake-draft setup with three outfielders and two utility spots. Here’s our draft board.
Now, let’s get on with the business.
There were so many options here—and not just because there were only three players off the board. I seriously considered three or four other players because the top of the draft is so stocked. I ultimately settled on Cody Bellinger because last year he patched the major hole in his swing that led to a somewhat disappointing 2018 and turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s 24, can play multiple positions, will crush 35+ bombs, and swipe near-double digit bags. The package is so complete it could lose a piece or two and still be a knight in shining armor for my team.
Ketel Marte was available for an out-of-tune song at the start of 2019. There were the underpinnings of awesomeness, though. Despite putting the ball on the ground too much, he hit with authority. This season, he shaved about 50 points off his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio and the payoff was enormous. He probably single-handedly won people their leagues this year. If he didn’t, Marte still provided off-the-charts value by whiffing 10% less than league average while generating 70% more power than league average. And oh yeah, he still stole 10 bags. The ability was there, the changes are real, he plays multiple spots, and is worth the high price he’ll garner in drafts this winter.
3.28 – Shane Bieber (SP, Cleveland Indians)
This year Shane Bieber became one of just 13 pitchers in the last decade to record a five-WAR season when 25 years old or younger. He maintained his pinpoint control, turned his breaking balls into hammers, and added a ton of Ks. His 25.5% K-BB rate was fifth in all of the major leagues behind only bona fide Cy Young candidates Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Jacob deGrom. This year saw a handful of pitchers pop up out of relative nothingness and become electric top-of-the-rotation options. Bieber might be leading the pack, and I’m happy to anchor my staff around him.
4.45 – Yoán Moncada (3B, Chicago White Sox)
After seeing extended action in the majors in 2017 and 2018, Yoán Moncada finally went ham on the big leagues in 2019. He delivered on promise long purported by hitting .315/.367/.548 over 132 games, slapping 25 homers, scoring 83 times, driving in 79, and stealing 10 bags. His ability to drive the ball makes him one of the best young hitters in the game and is what enables him to be a five-category contributor. At the back end of the fourth round, he provided me another complete player I couldn’t pass up.
5.52- Luis Severino (SP, New York Yankees)
Remember how Bieber is one of only 13 pitchers 25 or younger to have a five-WAR season in the last decade? Luis Severino is another one, except he’s one of only three players to repeat the feat (the other two are Clayton Kershaw and Félix Hernández). The Yankees slow-played him all year as they sat in first place for the majority of the season. He was back for the playoffs and pumping 98 mph. His slider broke across two planes as it did when he was going right and his changeup had good fade. The shoulder injury doesn’t concern me. With a full, healthy offseason and spring to prepare for 2020, I see another ace-level performance on the horizon.
Hmmm…Austin Meadows. 24 years old? Check. Ability for 30+ homers? Check. Speed and opportunity to steal double-digit bags? Check. Spot at the top of his lineup? Check.
Yup, Meadows checks all the boxes my team apparently insisted upon as though it were a 5-year-old building an elaborate pillow fort. At this point in the draft I thought two things: 1) Geez, a lot of the players on this squad sound the same, but 2) I can’t pass up another guy who could contribute in five categories. And that’s what Meadows is. When the biggest concern is health but the player isn’t quite old enough to have the dreaded injury-prone label, he can be on my team any day.
Count Lucas Giolito as another among the 13 pitchers who notched five-WAR seasons by their age-25 season in the last decade. I didn’t go into the draft thinking of this as a strategy, but it apparently emerged as one. Achieving this feat isn’t a cheat code for excellence, but it does give pretty good odds that the pitcher will have a strong follow-up campaign. You can see and sort through the whole list here. Giolito had his ups and downs in 2019, but the good far outweighed the bad. His K-BB% was sixth-best in the majors at 24.2, fueled by cleaner, more consistent mechanics that allowed for sharper movement on his changeup and slider. With him behind Bieber and Severino, I feel like this team is ready to go to war.
Marcus Semien broke out as a legitimate MVP candidate last year after being toward the low end of serviceable for years. A lot of his profile at the plate was extremely similar. The most notable change came through how he upped his walks about three percentage points and dropped his strikeout rate about five points. It led to more power, and while the mystery of which ball MLB will stick with hangs over most every player, the steady adjustments that got Semien to this point make me feel comfortable with him as my starting shortstop. I was looking at Jeff McNeil for this spot, too, and McNeil went the pick immediately before me. (Thanks for nothing, Drennan!)
I had a feeling a reliever run was about to start, and given where my spot was and how the draft was snaking, I didn’t want to feel pigeonholed into taking one after another 16 picks (four more relievers went in that span). Nearly 700 relievers recorded an out last year. Kirby Yates is one of 42 from that bunch who throws a splitter, and his is nasty. He recorded 51 Ks with it alone. Only Hector Neris threw it more. Sure, the pitch can be fickle, and sure, relievers are the most volatile position in baseball. But if I’m going to try to compete in saves, I’m going to take a dude who’s grown into excellence and has maintained it with a look hitters don’t often see.
Frankie Montas was suspended 80 games for taking the performance-enhancing drug Ostarine. If he wasn’t suspended, I bet he’d be going around where I took Giolito.
If you’re going to do a hard pass on Montas because of the suspension, I’ll be happy to welcome him on my team. As Alex Chamberlain noted on Twitter, PEDs don’t help pitchers develop nasty splitters and don’t help them add two miles to their slider. His 20.3 K-BB% last year would’ve made him a Top 15 starter. Behind Bieber, Severino, Giolito, the risk is lessened, and the reward seems potentially enormous.
In a season where Luke Voit played the fifth-most games of any Yankee position player, and where there were times when an entire starting roster’s worth of players were on the team’s IL, his 2019 somehow barely registers. But he still hit the ball in the air better than 86% of the league, and still barreled it up more than 65%.
The counting stats weren’t totally there, but the skills were, and I can’t help but think that a core injury he played through at the end of the year didn’t help. Since becoming a Yankee (157 games) he’s hit .280/.384/.517 with 35 homers, 100 runs, and 95 RBI. I wanted some thump here and got a four-category contributor in the 11th.
In some sense I lulled myself into this pick. I don’t mind Willson Contreras—he has solid skills and a steady lock on the starting job with the Cubs, which goes a long way toward accruing counting stats—but catcher picks were extremely sporadic through this draft. I’d already missed out on the top end and ultimately felt a little early on the next tier.
The pick leaves me feeling neither underwhelmed or overwhelmed, but merely whelmed. It’s something I’ll look ardently to avoid as real draft season rolls around.
Just 46 players registered 14 or more steals in 2019. Byron Buxton is one of two players to do it in fewer than a hundred games (87). Of course his health could be a question, but this felt like a rare opportunity to get what could be elite stolen base production that could also come with more than nominal contributions in homers. Buxton also won’t kill your batting average. If the Twins resemble anything like last year’s squad, he could be a big cog in their lineup. After taking multiple plodders in a row, I was happy to scoop him here.
I don’t know what the Rays know about pitching, but they know it, and Brendan McKay’s stuff is filthy. I have to imagine they’d like to use him as a traditional starter as much as possible. He started 11 of his 13 mound appearances last year but didn’t go more than four innings after August 7. Maybe that was because of his workload, or maybe it was because the Rays keep their pitching staff funky. Either way, I’m hoping he settles in and sees a production bump in his sophomore effort that leads to a back-end rotation party.
I attribute this pick almost entirely to Scott Chu, who, back on October 8, tweeted this:
Kyle Schwarber, over his career:
Batting 1st – .215/.310/.462
Not batting 1st -. 245/.351/.500
Batting 4/5 – .265/.350/.584
In case you’re wondering, they took him out of the leadoff role on July 27th this season and he hit .301/.392/.656 from then on.
— Scott Chu (@ifthechufits) October 9, 2019
Joe Maddon won’t be making the lineups for the Cubs anymore, but here’s to hoping that David Ross and the front office were paying attention. Whatever risk Kyle Schwarber may present, I’m willing to bet on him maintaining enough thump to make him a solid bench option. Once my starters are locked in, I’m looking for upside, and he showed it last year.
Amed Rosario strikes out four times more than he takes a free pass and managed 15 homers despite an ISO that was nearly 40 points below league average in 2019. He plays a ton and last year totaled 75 runs with 72 RBI and 19 steals. He also hit .319 in the second half. He’ll play 2020 at 24 years old. There’s plenty to nitpick for a guy who didn’t instantly become the star some thought he would, but there’s also enough to keep him as a bench bat who’s young and might have more in the tank.
The good news is he’s playing around the infield now, as he’s eligible at second and first base. He still popped 18 homers in 95 games. He still hit the ball in the air a full tick harder than average. And he’s still in a lineup that’s going to help him produce counting stats. If he can get his whiffs under control—his K rate was 33.2%—he could be a big win in a utility spot.
The only real difference between Joc Pederson’s approach at the plate in 2018 compared to 2019 is that he chased four percentage points less and swung at balls in the zone four points more. The balance there is sort of interesting, if only because those exact numbers aren’t necessarily connected, but I don’t know if that’s enough to explain the uptick in production we got. Pederson’s huge jump in power probably had a lot to do with the rabbit ball. What I’m saying is I’m ready to cut him early on if he resembles less than his 2019.
Taking Jake Odorizzi here was mostly a matter of “why is he still available?” By ESPN’s player rater, he was a Top 25 starting pitcher last year. He’s going back to the Twins for 2020, where they helped him bump and hold his fastball velocity to 93 mph and moved his K rate to a career-high 27.1%. He’s my sixth starter taken. Attrition at pitcher can be a nightmare so I tried to prep with as many horses as I can ahead of him. If no one gets hurt, the worst-case scenario is I’m left with a ton of dudes who can shove.
20.237 – Drew Pomeranz (RP, Free Agent)
Drew Pomeranz got moved to the bullpen on July 22 and turned into a monster. He racked up a 39.6 K-BB%, which was good for third among relievers in all of baseball. Starters being moved to the bullpen doesn’t always work out, but Pomeranz’s might be the ideal we see in our heads when we think about it. We don’t yet know where he’ll end up as a free agent, but the stuff should work anywhere. I love adding him as my second reliever. He’ll provide awesome ratios, go a couple innings from time to time, and siphon a save here and there.
This pick might be an example of where I could exercise a little more restraint. I probably could’ve gotten Alec Bohm or a player like him with one of my final two picks. Taking prospects in redraft leagues is usually for the birds, but there are a couple things to like here.
Bohm was considered to be one of the big wins buying into the Phillies’ new hitting approach in the minor leagues, headed up by Driveline’s Jason Ochart. He finished the year with a BB/K rate of .78, which was third-best in the minors for the org, and had 21 bombs with a .305 average and .896 OPS. The Phillies have a hole at third base, and I could imagine him being up relatively early in the season. The lineup is more talented than they displayed last year, and Bohm might have a sneaky-good rookie campaign.
Nick Solak was traded from the Rays to Texas as a result of a crunch on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster. He got into 33 games with the Rangers, posting an 11% walk rate and 21.5% strikeout rate. Those numbers line up pretty well with what he’s done throughout the minor leagues, so I’m inclined to believe them. He also saw a power bump this year both in Triple-A and the major leagues because of the rabbit ball. Being freed from the Rays means he gets to actually play in the big leagues, which means we get a viable option at the back end of our benches whose ability to make contact should give him opportunity to contribute in three or four categories.
Blake Treinen’s 2019 was the worst he’s performed since becoming a major leaguer. He walked nearly 14% of batters and lost his closing job to Liam Hendriks before getting a season-ending back injury. His velocity was down a tick but still sat at nearly 96 mph. He also scooped up 16 saves. I mentioned it above when speaking about Yates, but it’s worth saying again: Relievers are fickle beasts. Treinen’s skill set suggests he could still be really good. If he’s not, I can cut him for the flavor of the week.
Drafting before ADPs were established was a good exercise. It forced me to 1) find a couple of sources I really trust and 2) buy into my own evaluation more. When I assess players I try to get to brass tacks and consider seemingly basic stuff. How hard are hitters hitting the ball? Do they stay in the zone or chase a ton? How hard are pitchers throwing? How many guys are they striking out?
As for the shape of my team, I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve got a bunch of hitters who could chip in up to 10 steals while providing plenty in the other categories. For as thin as pitching was leaguewide last year, I feel as though I was able to get a ton of quality arms at reasonable spots. I also may have popped on a couple of guys a little early, but I’m willing to pay that price by a round or two if I think I’d miss on them otherwise. I’m walking away knowing I can probably wait on catcher and might benefit from looking to investigate more for the middle rounds.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)