Pitcher List Mock Draft: Ben Palmer’s Picks

The fantasy baseball season is all over, and what are we doing here at Pitcher List? Moving on to another sport? Taking a break? Crying into a pint of Half Baked listening to Enya while watching slow-motion replays of Chaz Roe‘s slider?

Aside from the last thing (which is just Thursday night for me), we’re doing mock drafts! Yes, the World Series is hardly over (it wasn’t when we did this), and we’re mock drafting the 2020 fantasy baseball season like it’s mid-March already.

Here, I’ll be reviewing my picks in one of our mock drafts. This is a 12-team league, and my team had the eighth pick. We drafted for a standard head-to-head league.

So to quote Tone-Loc, let’s do it.

 

1.8: Nolan Arenado

 

Generally speaking, I’m a fairly conservative drafter, and I like to go for safe, reliable picks (this isn’t always the case though, as you’ll soon see). Arenado is about as reliable as a first-round pick can come, and I’m glad I was able to snag him. He’s had five straight seasons with at least 37 home runs and 100 RBI. I’ve always said, you’ll rarely win your league in the first round, but you can definitely lose your league in it, and that’s why I decided to go with the safe option here.

 

2.17: Yordan Alvarez

 

Now, I know I just said I generally lean toward safe players, but I really really believe in Alvarez’s talent. I don’t think he’s someone who’ll be in for a massive sophomore slump. His 87-game season this past year paced out to around 47 home runs and 134 RBI, all with a .300+ average. He also posted an obscene 17.2% barrel rate (ninth-best in MLB) and 48.9% Statcast hard-hit rate (20th-best in MLB). I believe in this guy’s talent, and he could easily earn his second-round price.

 

3.32: Blake Snell

 

Typically I like to grab one or two stud pitchers early in a draft as an anchor to my team and then wait until later to grab more pitching depth. That’s what I decided to do here with Snell. Now, he has had some health problems in his career so far, obviously, but if and when he’s healthy, he’s easily one of the five-best pitchers in all of baseball. Yes, he had a 4.29 ERA in 2019, but it also came with a 3.56 SIERA and a beautiful 33.3% strikeout rate. I don’t think he’ll have his 1.89 ERA like he did in 2018, but I also don’t believe he’s a guy with an ERA above four either.

 

4.41: Jack Flaherty

 

I decided to grab two anchor pitchers in a row, specifically because I selected Snell with my previous pick. Since his health is a bit of a question mark, I took Flaherty as insurance. Flaherty was a total stud in 2019, with a 2.75 ERA and a 29.9% strikeout rate, and while he may regress a bit (he did have a 3.68 SIERA), I generally think he’ll be fine. He’s got a great pitch mix with a phenomenal fastball that hitters had just a .261 wOBA against last year, and a killer slider that posted a 42.5% chase rate, 40.2% zone rate, and 23.5% swinging-strike rate (yep, that’s a Money Pitch) this past season. And that’s not even mentioning a sinker that induces weak contact very well, posting a .222 wOBA and .096 ISO against last year.

 

5.56: Carlos Correa

 

I was actually sort of surprised I was able to get Correa this low in the draft. I realize that injuries kind of sucked this past year for him, but his ceiling is quite high, and if he stays healthy, he can more than make up for a fifth-round price. His power looked excellent in 2019 when he was out there, logging a career-best 13.5% barrel rate and 21 home runs in just 75 games. I know there’s no speed anymore, which is a bummer, but a guy who can hit in the .280s with easily 30+ home runs in one of the best lineups in baseball is very valuable.

 

6.66: Marcell Ozuna

 

With the devil’s pick I decided to go for Ozuna, who I think will have a better year next year. His power numbers looked solid, with 29 home runs, a 12.6% barrel rate (a career-best), and a 49.2% Statcast hard-hit rate (also a career-best and 15th-best in MLB). His .243 average wasn’t great, but it came with a .259 BABIP and a .284 xBA. Obviously, expected stats aren’t to be taken as gospel, but I do think his BABIP and xBA indicate that his average should improve next year. Oh, and he also snagged 12 stolen bases, which is another career best.

 

7.80: Yasiel Puig

 

I’ve loved Puig forever and thought his time with the Cincinnati Reds would be an amazing year (see: my very sad bold predictions). Also, side note, it’s kind of nuts that Puig has had exactly a .267 average and .327 OBP the past two years in a row. Anyways, with a full year in Cleveland (hopefully), Puig can reach 30 home runs, though 25-ish is probably more realistic—that and a solid average and about 20 steals makes for a pretty solid player.

 

8.89: Carlos Carrasco

 

This one is definitely a bit of a risk given what happened with Carrasco in 2019, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in the eighth round given his upside. Honestly, I’m basically willing to write off what happened in 2019 for Carrasco given the circumstances. Statistically, the guy’s 5.29 ERA came with a 3.53 SIERA on the back of a 22.2% HR/FB rate, which I don’t think will continue next year. And to get a little Alex Think Fast-y, the guy was diagnosed with leukemia during the season. I can’t imagine battling cancer and then also pitching. If he’s better next year (and again, that’s a big if), I think he could easily return great value. Plus, I just really like the guy, and sometimes it’s fun to draft players you love rooting for.

 

9.104: Zac Gallen

 

This might be a slight reach for Gallen, but I do love him a lot for 2020. He’s got an excellent three-pitch mix with a solid mid-90s fastball that opposing batters hit just .192 against, a really good curveball that sported a 14.8% swinging-strike rate and a 45.2% chase rate last year, and an absolutely killer changeup that had a 21.3% swinging-strike rate and a 45.3% chase rate last year. And let’s not forget his slider, which had a 40.8% chase rate and 16% swinging-strike rate, alongside a 51.6% zone rate, which just barely qualifies it as a Money Pitch. He does need to command his slider a bit better, though, as he made some mistakes with it and opposing hitters had a .217 ISO against it. But still, the guy has a lot of talent and showed it off last year. He’s one of my favorite players to watch next year.

 

10.113: Luke Voit

 

I was in need of a first baseman at this point in the draft, and I like Voit next year if he’s healthy. Sure, his .263 average this past year isn’t incredible, but it’s not bad either, and considering it came with a .200 ISO and a 13.2% barrel rate (top 9% in MLB), I like his potential. He also walked a bunch, sporting a 13.9% walk rate (12th-best in MLB) that helped lead him to a .378 OBP. He’s a really skilled hitter in a great lineup, and if he’s healthy, he could put together a very good season.

 

11.128: Cavan Biggio

 

Yes, Biggio had a .234 average last year, and that sucks, but there is a lot to like about his hitting profile. First off, he’s not a free-swinger, which gives me hope that his average will improve. Last year he had an excellent 16.5% walk rate and a 15.8% chase rate. He’s also a legitimate 20/20 threat, as he showed in the minors. It’s very possible that he could bump his average up to maybe the .250s. Then, going 20/20-ish on top of that makes for a very useful fantasy asset. Obviously it’s risky, though—that .234 average came with a .309 BABIP and a .234 xBA, so it wasn’t bad luck last year. But Biggio is young, and I’m banking on some development. In the 11th round, I’m happy to take that risk for his potential.

 

12.137: Aristides Aquino

 

I was in love with Aquino last year, I think I had him in just about every league I was in (save for the dynasty leagues where he was already owned). Obviously I don’t think he’s going to be the absurd hitter that he was during his hot streak, but his power is legit (13.6% barrel rate last year), and he can post an average that won’t kill you. Will he be a streaky hitter? Probably—power-first hitters like him often are, and we saw that a bit last year. But we’ve seen Aquino’s ceiling, and it is ridiculous.

 

13.152: Caleb Smith

 

I love Smith. I was very pro-Smith this past offseason, and I am again this year. He’s one of those guys where I think you have to trust his stuff, because it’s quite good. He’s got a nice three-pitch mix with a solid low- to mid-90s fastball that opponents hit just .210 against last year, and two very solid putaway pitches in his slider and changeup, both of which had swinging-strike rates around 15% and chase rates around 37%. He does tend to make mistakes, though, giving up a .273 ISO against his fastball and a .218 ISO against his changeup. But when he’s on, he looks really good, and even if he’s inconsistent, I’m happy to chase the strikeouts.

 

14.161: Edwin Diaz

 

Diaz was pretty rough last year to say the least, but I have to believe he’s going to get better. He had a 26.8% HR/FB rate, which will almost definitely regress, and his 2.63 SIERA tells me his 2019 was likely more an anomaly than reality. His slider is still a great pitch, posting a 42.8% chase rate, 42.5% zone rate, and 23.2% swinging-strike rate last year (making it a Money Pitch), and his fastball is still a good pitch too. I could easily see a nice bounceback year for Diaz.

 

15.176: Will Smith

 

I’ve said about a million times that the catcher position in fantasy is like a vacuum on an elevator—it sucks on so many levels. That’s why I like grabbing a guy like Smith, who I think has good potential. He showed some really great power last year, hitting 15 home runs in just 54 games and posting a solid 10.7% barrel rate. I do have some concerns about his average, though, as his .253 average last year came with a .218 xBA (though also a .264 BABIP), but honestly, last year was such a small sample size, I’m hesitant to totally panic on him just yet. I like his potential a lot, and the 15th round is a low-risk investment.

 

16.185: Brendan McKay

 

This one is a bit of a risky pick because the Tampa Bay Rays rotation is crowded, and there’s no guarantee McKay gets a rotation spot, but it’s the 16th round; I can afford to take that risk given McKay’s upside. He has a lot of talent, and he’s got a pretty nasty curveball that posted a 43.6% chase rate and 12.6% swinging-strike rate last year, alongside a solid fastball that hits around the mid-90s. He does have a tendency to make some mistakes, giving up a .240 ISO on his fastball last year, but if he can command his pitches a bit better and develop his changeup more, I could see a really good pitcher here.

 

17.200: Justin Upton

 

Up until 2019, Upton was super reliable for about 30 home runs and a decent-to-good average, even posting a .257/.344/.463 line with 30 home runs in 2018. Last year was completely derailed by injuries, which was his first season not playing in at least 145 games since 2010. In the 17th round, I’m happy to take a shot on Upton bouncing back from injury to go back to the guy we all hoped he’d be heading into the season.

 

18.209: Sean Doolittle

 

I was in need of another closer at this point in the draft, and I thought Doolittle made sense here. He didn’t have the best 2019, but I like his chances of getting a decent number of saves, and he’s still got a solid three-pitch mix to get strikeouts, including a slider that posted a 19.4% swinging-strike rate and 34.2% chase rate last year. Plus, he’s just fun to root for, and sometimes it’s fun to have guys on your fantasy team that you like as real human beings.

 

19.224: Garrett Richards

 

I’ve always loved Richards, and I fall for him time and time again, but his health is always getting in the way. I loved his move to San Diego last year, but he missed essentially the entire season due to injury. When he’s healthy, we all know how ridiculously good Richards can be with a fantastic slider and a solid fastball, but we also all know how risky he is given his health. He’s only started more than 15 games once since 2015. In the 19th round, though, I’m happy to take that risk. If he gets hurt again, I can easily drop him.

 

20.233: Andrew McCutchen

 

Similar to Upton, up until last year, McCutchen was pretty reliable for a decent average, 25-ish home runs, and a handful of steals. In fact, up until last season, he had hit at least 20 home runs every year since 2011, and his worst batting average in that stretch was .255. Last year was derailed by injury, and in the 20th round, I’m perfectly happy to take a shot at Cutch bouncing back. Let’s not forget, he’s also still hitting in a pretty good Philadelphia Phillies lineup.

 

21.248: Dylan Cease

 

This is another guy where I’m banking on his stuff and talent, and Cease has plenty of it. He wasn’t awesome last year, but with another year in MLB, he could make some meaningful improvements. He’s got a fantastic slider that had a 15.4% swinging-strike rate and a 33.8% chase rate, not to mention a .242 wOBA against, mixed with a good changeup and a solid curveball. Honestly, his biggest problem is his fastball, which opposing hitters had a ridiculous .439 wOBA and .262 ISO against last year. If he gets that in order, he could have a lot of success.

 

22.257: Jurickson Profar

 

Profar was a disappointment last year, but there was a decent bit of bad luck involved in his season. I’ve never been a huge Profar defender, but his .218 average in 2019 came with a weirdly identical .218 BABIP and a .247 xBA. If he’s got a starting gig next year (which is not a guarantee), I could see him bouncing back a bit more toward the 2018 version of himself who hits around the .250s with 20-ish home runs and a handful of steals. And if he sucks again, it’s the 22nd round, I’m not worried.

 

23.273: Harrison Bader

 

For my last pick, I figured I’d take a shot on Bader. I’m a fan of his power/speed combo, and I’m hoping he can the next step in 2020 to pick up his average, which was an awful .205 last year. He’s got 15/15 and even 20/20 potential, but that batting average needs to come up. I don’t mind taking a shot that it could happen next year given his skill set.

Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)

Ben Palmer

Lifelong Orioles fan (which can be....painful at times) and a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music and watch way too many movies.

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