To come into possession of the No. 1 overall pick in a snake draft can be both a blessing and a curse. OK, who am I kidding? It IS a blessing and a curse. For our Pitcher List staff mock draft, that double-edged fate befell me. I was grateful for the simulated exercise, though. I had to be hyper-aware of the possibility that a coveted guy at a certain position wouldn’t be available during my next go-around, something that is especially true in a 13-teamer. As such, I discovered that the format made me act way less myopically. I was forced to view the entire pool of talent available now and make medium-term decisions, arguably more so than anyone else in the league. Focusing only on what stud I could snag now with no thoughtful regard for future picks—since I wouldn’t be able to pick for another 25 selections—could have been detrimental at best. Even though I believe it’s a little easier on the nerves to be in the 5-9 range of a typical draft order, I think I learned to adapt to what being atop the sequence entails. It’s not an easy task to lead off, but it can be manipulated into an advantageous spot if you scout it right.
I’m going to break down each of my selections by round below. Feel free to comment with your thoughts or questions on my decisions.
To read the analysis of other teams in the draft, head to our Mock Draft hub page here.
Round 1, Pick 1: Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). This should require no elaboration whatsoever…but that wouldn’t be any fun. Baseball’s best offensive weapon unfortunately missed significant time last season after injuring a thumb ligament while stealing a base. In the likely event that he remains healthy in the coming year, the Angels would love to use him as much as they had the previous four seasons, a span across which he played in 158 games on average. In 2018 play, if he is able to replicate the pace at which he was producing during his 114 games in 2017, Trout could feasibly steal 30 bases, hit 45 homers, amass 127 RBI and come awful close to scoring 100 runs. Trout’s potential to dominate the 2018 competition in fantasy with his cross-category versatility when healthy should go unquestioned. In a world where accomplishing a FanGraphs’ Off(ense) rating of 45 is considered excellent, just process the fact that Trout rated a 54.9 in spite of the injury-shortened campaign. Shohei Ohtani dominated offseason headlines by picking the Angels, but he’s going to be decisively overshadowed by his mighty teammate in fantasy. Let’s move on.
Round 2, Pick 26: J.D. Martinez (OF, Free Agent). I’m really stoked to see where JDM ends up franchise-wise because he was a joy to watch in both Tiger and Diamondback uniforms in recent seasons. Martinez was another fantasy stud this past season, one who didn’t let being laid up to start the year limit him at all. While he’s still a FA at present, somebody is going to pay the man to follow up on a 45-homer campaign that saw him also attain a career-high OBP of .376. I like him to be a surefire top-10 OF no matter where he ends up. There are outfields that seem pretty set with their personnel that could still find ways to utilize Martinez (e.g. Boston with the B-trio of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley, Jr.). Getting J.D.’s power—49% hard-hit rate in 2017—and high-floor RBI production at the end of Round 2 felt like an extreme bargain.
Round 3, Pick 27: Noah Syndergaard (SP, New York Mets). So here’s where I started to respond to the context of how everyone else around me was drafting. Again, touching upon the do-or-die nature of having consecutive picks for the rest of the draft: I have to make sure that I have elite talent locked up at the start of the third round since I have the unenviable fate of watching the rest of the Top 50 get allocated to other teams from here on out. Sounds brutal, right? With Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Chris Sale all having been taken at this point, I wouldn’t say that I went into panic mode but more like hedge-my-bets mode. My high school econ teacher would have been proud of me for thinking in terms of opportunity cost: I started considering what I’d be giving up if I made a certain decision. “If I don’t take an ace here, when starting pitching factors into 40% of one’s roto viability, will I be at a severe disadvantage?” My thinking was yes. It sounds reactive, but it was equal parts reactive and proactive, from my standpoint. I already had snagged two unbelievable bats, and I had to read the landscape and act accordingly in advance of another lengthy pick drought. Thor seemed like a dynamite pick in the third, someone who will rebound from injury to be the Mets’ go-to guy all over again. Could have gone a tinge safer with Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander or even Yankee All-Star phenom Luis Severino, but the value seemed right here for Thor to not reach for those guys.
Round 4, Pick 52: Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers). Perhaps I personally contributed to the mentality that a SP had to be snagged before it was too late with my third-round selection of Syndergaard, a la chain reaction that I helped catalyze. But, even so, the fact that everyone had taken at least one starter by the time it hooked back to me 25 picks later made me feel good about where I stood. I had pounced on SP opportunity and could revert to squaring myself away with exceptional hitting. I definitely needed to go for runs and steals at this point, since Martinez had me relatively covered on jacks and ribbies (Trout is ineligible for this conversation since he does it all). I had resolved that steals were an underrated category to gun for, since it’s worth pinpointing that sweet spot of the draft where you can probably lock up a week-to-week category win with a stud or two while avoiding “overpaying” for the top-5 guys in SB. Andrus, to me, manifested said sweet spot: he lacks the marked downside of a low average power, and he was especially valuable in my eyes after he enjoyed a watershed 20-dinger 2017. He’s improved his ISO for four years running, so count me in. To have Andrus fall to me as a MI in Round 4—a guy who boasted a 100-run, 25-steal résumé last year with whom I WASN’T going to have to compromise on BA or homers seemed too good to be true. Top-9 in steals last year, better average than Mookie Betts, more affordable than Jose Altuve. A guy who held pace statistically with Andrus last year despite playing fewer games was St. Louis OF Tommy Pham, albeit with a far lower ADP so I was willing to gamble that Pham would be available far later. My rationale was that, positionally speaking, fleshing out my infield with Andrus made more sense anyway.
Round 5, Pick 53: Robbie Ray (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks). Very simple here. This was a “best available” pick. I love what Ray was able to do last year as a reliable starter who racked up 15 wins while holding opposing batters under the Mendoza Line (.197). Solid K/9 of over 12 and a WHIP of 1.15. Zack Greinke had gone mid-fourth, and I was completely OK with using my fifth pick on Arizona’s bona fide No. 2 hurler here. He’s a little susceptible to the long ball (15.6% HR/FB), but that is more of a concern in points leagues where homers cost you directly; my thinking was that if his WHIP was so low, I could comfortably accept this relative weakness of Ray’s in a roto format.
Round 6, Pick 78: Whit Merrifield (2B, Kansas City Royals). Starting 17 games as an outfielder in 2017 means he will retain that OF eligibility this year, and that’s just icing on the cake of one of my favorite stories of last season. Merrifield’s ability to rack up meaningful steals to the tune of 34 while batting .288 and being perfectly serviceable in runs, RBI and homers means I hopped on his fantasy bandwagon early and rode it to fantasy pay dirt. I liked him as another affordable speedster that continued what Andrus started by populating my infield and not hurting me in any way that I’d later have to compensate for. Robinson Cano and Brian Dozier were the 2B that had been taken since my last pick, and I felt good about the value of where Merrifield fell to me ultimately.
Round 7, Pick 79: Jake Arrieta (SP, Free Agent). Are you starting to see a pattern here? Building on my aforementioned strategy of trying to square myself away with roster variety when each dose of consecutive picks came along following long waits, I thought it wise to continue to beef up my pitching with one selection each go-around. I felt it was way too early to start drafting RP except for only the most elite of closers, and even then, I was hesitant to defy the ADP benchmarking of top bullpen guys by taking one this early. Arrieta wasn’t his dominant self from 2014-2016 last year, but he’s still excellent in the WHIP department and was able to rack up 14 wins despite an ERA of 3.53. I was willing to take what he offers in the seventh, even though his FIP of 4.16 was a little bit of a red flag. He’s 31 now, but I have confidence he’ll ace again for another team and propel my team to greatness in so doing.
Round 8, Pick 104: Matt Carpenter (1B, St. Louis Cardinals). What makes me believe in Matt Carpenter even though he had an uncharacteristically low .241 BA last year? He dealt with a pesky and persistent shoulder injury for much of the year, and he still managed a career-best 42.2% hard contact rate while dealing with a BABIP of .274. His eligibility at multiple positions has always been handy to me, and his splits show consistency in that he had the same average whether he was playing 1B or 3B. It is interesting that he does better by a significant margin when he leads off for the Cards. Regardless, I trust the guy to have a killer 2018, and my infield is suddenly looking pretty solid after eight rounds.
Round 9, Pick 105: Salvador Perez (C, Kansas City Royals). Curveball! No SP here, as I changed up my method to ensure I could secure a top-tier backstop. Perez has been a guy I hate to love as an Indians fan, but there’s no denying Sal was a valuable C last year despite his intercostal injury issue. I was happy to take his power here, as he was second only to Gary Sanchez at the position in homers but Perez came to me a whopping 85 picks later than the Yankees’ poster boy. Average is fine, RBI are also elite for catchers (trailed only Sanchez and Yadier Molina). With Perez usually slotting into KC’s order as a cleanup man or at the 5-spot, I know runs won’t be his strong suit and I was OK with that, especially after literally just taking a guy who leads off and can more than make up for that. I’m feeling enthused at this point, as I’ve got all but 3B and one OF spot covered while also having enlisted the talents of three legitimate SP before we dive into the tenth round.
Round 10, Pick 130: Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves). Cheap steals, man. It’s my jam. Inciarte is 27 years old now, and he was capable of both double-digit steals (always) and homers for the first time in his MLB career last year. Toss in the fact that he’s averaged in the neighborhood of .300 for three seasons running now. Another speedy leadoff guy makes me a good candidate to dominate in runs week-to-week now, and steals feel like they could very well be mine quite frequently in any H2H matchup this league throws at me. There are a couple of other teams at this point in the draft that have three guys who are exceptional baserunners, and I’m thinking I have five right now between the illustrious Michael Trout, J.D., Whit, Elvis and Ender. Yessir, I like those odds. Adam Duvall and Aaron Altherr were still available, but I still stick to my guns that this was the right call for the blueprint of my team.
Round 11, Pick 131: Alex Colome (RP, Tampa Bay Rays). Round 10 saw Wade Davis, Edwin Diaz, Zach Britton, and Roberto Osuna all come off the board, so the writing was on the wall for me to finally roster a saves monster. A little research into ADP according to NFBC drafts tells me I am getting Colome 33 picks later than when he typically goes, so I’m stoked to have another guy who is only going to further bolster my team’s already strong WHIP numbers while providing the saves I had been lacking thus far. I happen to also like the very thin margin of separation between his 2017 ERA and FIP: this tells me that even if the Rays struggle defensively without the likes of recently-departed Evan Longoria, Colome’s results aren’t going to suffer that much marginally. To that end, I hope the Rays are a pleasant surprise in the AL East and give him more save opportunities in close games. Again, I’ll take that “gamble” if the dude is going to get me 30+ SV.
Round 12, Pick 156: Adrian Beltre (3B, Texas Rangers). Beltre hung around for a WHILE on this draft board. It seemed like a dream that nobody was nabbing him, round after round. Mike Moustakas also lingered in the ranks of the unselected, and I kept waiting for the light to go on as to why these stud 3B were being passed over. If injury history and age were the concern for would-be drafters of Beltre, I get it, but when he’s 100% the guy is still slugging like the future HOFer that he is. This was another bout of cost-benefit analysis where I was getting the hot corner covered by a player who’s top-tier at his best and acceptably adequate at his worst…IN THE TWELFTH ROUND. I couldn’t pass on him again, especially now that 3B was my last remaining need as far as starters. I admittedly messed around with the numbers as to whether I should invest in the upside of Nicholas Castellanos with this pick but I went with Beltre after a mental grappling match.
Round 13, Pick 157: Danny Salazar (SP/RP, Cleveland Indians). I liked being able to snag a utility guy for the bullpen here. Not only do I love Salazar as a Tribe fan, but the fact that new Mets boss Mickey Callaway was able to get good stuff out of him in both starting and relief roles last year speaks to Salazar’s versatility. He has been known to get the yips and overthink his arm, but he’s also been very resilient when returning from the DL. In any case, it seemed like a wise strategy to get a guy who could factor into my lineup as a strong accumulator of Ks while operating like a true hybrid if Cleveland elects to use him in both capacities at some point. His ERA was a bit of a concern, but I’ll trust that a .343 BABIP sees some positive regression moving forward.
Round 14, Pick 182: Ervin Santana (SP, Minnesota Twins). OK, so he’s 35. Who cares? He fits the bill for my squad with a low WHIP, ERA is competitive and has steadily improved for three straight seasons, and I feel comfortable that Ks will be coming from elsewhere on the roster. I’ll take a 16-8 starter who’s still with a Twins club that should be scary good next year. Especially in Round 14? He hung on the board for far too long, in my opinion. Even if age is again the concern that it was with Beltre, all we have to do is thank the gods above that Bartolo Colon is an example to us all that it’s just a number. No, I am not actually comparing Santana or Beltre to the rotund people’s champ that is Colon. FIP is again a concern with Santana but seemingly worth the risk at my last selection before we hit the 200 mark.
Round 15, Pick 183: Mark Melancon (RP, San Francisco Giants). To those pointing to the fact that the Giants technically have a co-closer committee situation going on, I would counter that by gesturing Vanna-White-style to Dyson’s 12 blown saves since the start of 2016. That is a mind-numbing amount of futility. Dyson at his best should be no match for a healthy Melancon, so I’m feeling good that I snagged the latter here. An unfortunate BABIP of .374 through 30 games’ worth of appearances last year is a fluke I’m not willing to be bothered by, and Melancon getting up to his old tricks of racking up saves sounded great here for the price.
Round 16, Pick 208: Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees). Full disclosure: the guys I had been targeting with a flag in my draft queue for this pick were Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier. Rosario came through for me last year in a big way after I acquired him from free agency early in the second half, and I’d enjoyed Kiermaier’s diverse skill set before he got himself laid up with a hip injury for a big chunk of the year. They were taken by some savvy leaguemates before I got the chance to snag them, so Gardner was my first wild card bat to throw in a UTIL spot. A member of the 20-20 club last year for the first time in his career with an OCD-appeasing BABIP of exactly .300, Gardner was also much defensively improved last year after three rough ones. It’s a stacked outfield for the Bronx Bombers but Gardner has the LF starting spot locked down ahead of the young Clint Frazier and will be scoring a bunch of runs high in the lineup before some serious sluggers. New manager Aaron Boone likely won’t mess with what has worked during the Joe Girardi era. Hard contact is not a strong suit for Gardner, but he still managed good HR/FB numbers and did remarkably well against heaters and curves. I’ll take a .260s average with exemplary plate discipline in my fourth OF any day of the week.
Round 17, Pick 209: Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds). Time to start thinking of understudies for my regular starters to plan for all off-day and maintenance-related contingencies. Suarez continued to break out as a sneaky good bat in his second full MLB season, improving the entire lot of his BB%, K%, OBP and line drive share. I projected him as a top-20 3B before the season, and he did not disappoint. While the splits for his home run production are a little puzzlingly skewed in Great American Ballpark’s favor, it’s tough to nitpick 26 dingers on the year. That is particularly the case when he’s my backup guy at the hot corner coming off a .260 campaign. I honestly wouldn’t be upset if he matched his current career average of .252 with the same production otherwise; that kind of slight year-to-year regression is acceptable come Round 17.
Round 18, Pick 234: Chris Owings (2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks). I had a feeling that Owings, along with fellow D-back Yasmany Tomas, might fly under the radar on the draft board because their injuries limited the numbers that are the driving components behind the player rankings. The idea that I could probably snag a forgotten sleeper later than they deserved to go really appealed; much in the way that Team Honovich had managed to do with Adam Eaton with pick No. 114 (!), I was happy to sign up for the positional depth Owings offers to back up Andrus and Merrifield as need. Extrapolating his work rate out to say, 135 games, from the 97 he was actually able to play in last season, Owings would have been on pace for 71 RBI, 17 homers, 17 steals, and 57 runs. A worst-case floor of .250 in average at this point in his career should be realistic for him as well, so a warm welcome to Mr. Owings as he suits up for the home team.
Round 19, Pick 235: David Robertson (RP, New York Yankees). Who was getting nervous about my having only taken seven pitchers total thus far? Remain calm, and proceed to the exits in orderly fashion, folks. At this point, Robertson seemed a great value for the way he projects to drastically shrink my team ERA and kill it in relief appearances with a high K/9. Saves should be gravy with Colome and Melancon, and we’ve discussed how I have a high confidence level in my WHIP. So with Robertson figuring to be a potential winner of some games in relief, he seemed like the perfect fit to shore up my roto needs in the bullpen overall. Also piquing my curiosity at this stage were the still-available Dellin Betances, Fernando Rodney, and Cam Bedrosian. I had to stick to what my team needed specifically rather than get swayed by rankings. Validating my focus on these guys was their subsequent selection in the rest of Round 19.
Round 20, Pick 260: Alex Cobb (SP, Tampa Bay Rays). Readers might laugh here, as I realized something I had subconsciously been doing in previous instances of consecutive picks. I’d been taking hitters first and effectively “demoting” whatever pitcher I might be selecting to the second, lower-round selection. So when I decided another starter was in order, Mr. Cobb got the nod before my next hitter in a strange showing of remorse at snubbing past pitchers. Anyway, I thought Cobb was worth picking up here as a fourth or fifth starter (depending on what Salazar ends up doing). Durable guy as far as IP, should be good for double-digit wins again with a great WHIP. I’m realizing at this point in the draft that I’ve come to terms with strikeout totals being a weak-ish category. But I also don’t feel like I’ve drafted any trap guys, i.e. a pitcher with solid win totals because of wonderful teams around them who have really rough ERAs. Cobb didn’t do me dirty last year, and the Rays return most of last year’s squad to back him up. I’m OK streaming him in the matchup side of the guessing game if I need to.
Round 21, Pick 261: Ryon Healy (1B/3B/DH, Seattle Mariners). And just like that, I’ve got a backup first-baseman who did really well with the Oakland A’s as their primary DH last season. He did have a number of starts at both 3B and 1B, so that eligibility is a beautiful thing. With the trade of former teammate Yonder Alonso to Cleveland, the door is wide open for Healy to take the helm at 1B for Seattle since Dan Vogelbach is a questionable major-league bat at best, in my opinion. That plays to Healy’s strengths based on his background anyway. Coming off 25 jacks with the Athletics while slashing .271/.302/.451 in 2017, I think we can expect similar utilization in Seattle as far as being a respectable power option in the heart of their lineup. Give me all the RBI that excellent medium contact and solid hard contact can bring alongside a mid-teens HR/FB ratio. Healy was a well-entrenched UTIL option last year, and I’m elated to get him here.
Round 22, Pick 286: Nick Williams (OF, Philadelphia Phillies). Along with the emergent Rhys Hoskins (likely ceding 1B time to newly minted Philly Carlos Santana) and Aaron Altherr, Williams represents a big part of Philadelphia’s suddenly bright future. Purely for depth purposes did I draft him here. For a rookie to post a .288 average through 83 games last year with 45 runs and 55 RBI definitely caught my eye. His BABIP of .375 is unsustainable, but I can weather that storm if he’s figuring out the doldrums of his first full MLB season in April and May on my bench. He could easily belt 20 homers, too. I like that.
Round 23, Pick 287: Erasmo Ramirez (SP/RP, Seattle Mariners). Another utility pitcher to finish things out. He who logged an 8.0 IP, 10 K outing at the expense of my beloved Cleveland Indians three months ago today certainly was finishing strong for the M’s, and Ramirez giving us a taste of what he’s capable of as a legitimate starter is worth considering during the offseason. I clearly gravitate to low-WHIP, mid-range ERA guys who flash brilliance. I don’t expect double-digit Ks every start, but the guy has good stuff and it was worth investing in the depth he could bring with my last pick.