It’s Ben Palmer’s turn to detail his round-by-round thoughts as we continue our coverage of the Pitcher List 2018 Mock Draft. Let’s do it.
To read the analysis of other teams in the draft, head to our Mock Draft hub page here.
Round 1: Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks) – Why did I pick Paul Goldschmidt over Jose Altuve? That’s a good question, and if I’m being perfectly honest, looking back on the pick, it might’ve been a better idea to go with Altuve, but I’m not overly upset about it. Here’s why: Both Goldschmidt and Altuve will give me good power and steals, it’s just I chose the guy with great power and good steals as opposed to the guy with good power and great steals. This is just me, but I’m someone who likes to go power-heavy on my teams more than anything. I think power hitters, while they might lose you average, will gain you home runs, runs, and RBIs. Yes, speed guys often get you runs and steals, but I think you can manufacture steals with your speed-and-little-else kind of guys. Plus, if you end up with a Billy Hamilton type, you’re basically set in the steals category. Anyways, that’s why I went with Goldy, I decided I valued power over speed and figured the average was essentially a wash (because I think Altuve’s average will regress a bit next year). If you think I should’ve done Altuve over Goldschmidt, I don’t blame you, that’s not a hill I’m gonna die on.
Round 2: Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians) – I love the balance that Lindor gives to my team, and I think the power surge last year is totally legit. His hard-hit rate jumped up from 27.5% in 2016 to 35.2% last year, and along with that came a HR/FB rate of 14%, which isn’t all that insane given that hard-hit rate jump. Lindor just completely changed the way he hits, his fly balls went way up (from 28.4% to 42.4%) and his groundballs dropped by ten points. Not only that, he only made soft contact 14.3% of the time, down from 17.2% in 2016. The guy has turned into a monster hitter with a good average and some good speed. Is he going to hit 30+ home runs again? I don’t know, maybe, but even if he regresses a bit and hits 25 batting in the .290s (because I don’t think he’ll have a .275 BABIP like he did this year, given his speed), I’m perfectly happy.
Round 3: Stephen Strasburg (SP, Washington Nationals) – Generally speaking, I have one strategy that I always try to stay true to when drafting a fantasy baseball team, because it’s worked well for me in the past. I draft two stud starting pitchers early (usually within the first 5-6 rounds) and then pass on pitching until later in the draft. There’s a lot of good starting pitching out there, so I feel like I can get some decent value late in the draft. Drafting two studs early on gives me a solid anchor for my team too. Strasburg was my first anchor. The dude is an awesome pitcher and I don’t see any reason he can’t do what he did this past year again next year. Perhaps the ERA will go up a bit (he did have a 3.27 xFIP compared to his 2.52 ERA), but the strikeouts are always there (something I like to go heavy on) and the ERA should still be really good.
Round 4: Jonathan Schoop (2B, Baltimore Orioles) – I mean, yea, I’m an Orioles fan and it’s nice having Orioles on my team, but I think what Schoop did last year was completely legit. The knock against Schoop was always the fact that he took the Adam Jones approach to hitting – swing at everything and pretend like walks aren’t a thing. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t working too well for Schoop, and he was finishing the year with laughable walk rates of 2.8% and 3.2%. But then last year, his walk rate jumped up to 5.2%, his chase rate dropped from 43% in 2016 to 37.1% in 2017, and his whiff rate dropped from 16.2% in 2016 to 13.8% in 2017. He changed how he hit, his plate discipline got better, and along with that, his average increased significantly. A .293 average with a .330 BABIP isn’t insane, and while he might be due for some regression, I think he’s legit, and I think a .270s-hitting year with 30 home runs is totally in the cards for him. I’ll gladly take that.
Round 5: Dallas Keuchel (SP, Houston Astros) – I liked what I saw from Keuchel last year and I decided to draft him as my other pitching anchor. Now, I’m worried about the news of his apparent injury, and I’m worried that that might affect him like it did in 2016, but I drafted him before I heard that. Had I known about the injury, I might’ve gone for Yu Darvish instead, but it is what it is. If the injury doesn’t affect him this year, I think Keuchel could totally have a low-3s ERA next year (I don’t expect it to be sub-3 again) and be a really solid starter for my team.
Round 6: Billy Hamilton (OF, Cincinnati Reds) – The beauty of Billy Hamilton is that he can make it so you can pass on steals for a fair amount of the draft and still do pretty well. In my bold predictions before the year started, I predicted that Hamilton would end the year with at least 90 steals. He didn’t make that, but the guy has the speed to do it, and even 59 steals is still awesome. He could do that next year or even better, assuming health, and if he does that, I’ve locked up the steals I need, and that’s an important category in fantasy baseball.
Round 7: Lorenzo Cain (OF, Free Agent) – I’m not sure where Lorenzo Cain is going to sign, but I think that just about wherever he is, he’ll be productive. Back to being healthy, Cain put up really solid numbers last year, logging 26 steals, 15 home runs, and hitting .300. I think Cain is more of a high-.280s/low-.290s hitter than a consistent .300 hitter (but that’s really just being nitpicky), but I don’t see any reason he can’t go 15/20 at least one more time with a high average. And depending on what lineup he ends up in, those RBI and run numbers could see a significant increase. In round seven, I like his value.
Round 8: Eduardo Nunez (SS/2B/3B/OF, Free Agent) – If it hadn’t been for his injury last year, Nunez would’ve been right on track to have another great season. He wasn’t going to reach 40 steals like he did in 2016, but still, 25+ with 15 or so home runs batting around .300 is an excellent season. Fortunately, Nunez did not require surgery on his knee, and while that remains a bit of a wild card, his speed/power/average combo with his position flexibility is too good to ignore.
Round 9: Ian Desmond (OF/1B, Colorado Rockies) – I was really hoping for/expecting a great season out of Ian Desmond in his first year in Colorado, but unfortunately injuries had other plans. Yes, Desmond is 32, and I understand the worries of injuries hitting him again next year, but this was the first time Desmond hasn’t played in at least 154 games since 2013, and only the second time he hasn’t played in at least that many games since 2010. I’m willing to take the risk that the injuries come back and render him relatively useless because the upside of a near-20/20, .280-hitting player in Coors Field is too good to ignore.
Round 10: J.T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins) – I had to grab a catcher at some point, and I’ve always been a fan of J.T. Realmuto. He might not be a member of the Marlins for much longer, but wherever he is, I’d say he’s likely good for 12-17 home runs, a batting average in the .270s, and a handful of steals (which is a nice bonus from your catcher). Those numbers could move up if he’s moved to a hitters park, but regardless, I think he’s a pretty solid all-around player at a position that gets pretty ugly pretty quickly.
Round 11: Danny Duffy (SP, Kansas City Royals) – Another one of my bold predictions this past year was that Duffy would finish in the top-5 for the Cy Young vote in the AL. That didn’t happen, sadly, as injuries derailed his season. I had liked the increased velocity on his fastball and I liked where his repertoire was going, I’m hoping that last year was just an off year because of injuries and he’ll be back to normal this year. It’s a risk, but it’s one I’m willing to take in round 11.
Round 12: Carlos Gonzalez (OF, Free Agent) – My love of CarGo has been fairly well documented on this website. I really liked him coming into the year, and he disappointed me. Then, I started believing again, because he made changes to his swing at the end of the year. Yes, he’s got pretty rough home/road splits, but I have hope that he’ll end up somewhere where he can succeed, especially if he sticks with the changes he made at the end of the year. Is 20 home runs batting in the .270s too much to ask?
Round 13: Andrelton Simmons (SS, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) – Andrelton Simmons quietly had an excellent year last year, showing off an excellent power/speed combo and batting .278. Honestly, I see no reason to expect him to regress, all of his peripherals look stable. His BABIP was .291, his HR/FB rate was 8.4%, his pull rate increased significantly to 45.3% from 35.7% the year before, and his hard hit rate hit a career high of 29.2%. I don’t see any reason he can’t match those power/speed/average numbers next year on what’s looking to be a much-improved Angels team.
Round 14: Charlie Morton (SP, Houston Astros) – Morton was one of the great surprises last year, he looked awesome, and while I expect some regression, I would bet he’ll still be a good starting pitcher next year, especially from a strikeout perspective. I always like to go strikeout-heavy on my pitching staff, and while Morton may have an ERA closer to the high-3s next season, he’ll still get his fair share of strikeouts. In round 14, I like his value.
Round 15: Alex Reyes (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) – This is a total lottery ticket play. We all know how good Alex Reyes is, and now that he’s coming back from surgery, he could easily have a breakout year this year. He’s slated to start in the bullpen as he works his way back from surgery, but I would expect he’ll be starting sooner rather than later. While he may be on an innings limit next year, I would bet the quality of those innings is going to be awesome.
Round 16: Kevin Kiermaier (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) – In my opinion, Kevin Kiermaier was one of the most under-appreciated fantasy players last season. He wasn’t incredible in any one category, but he was solid in just about all of them, hitting .276 with 15 home runs, 56 runs, 39 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases. All in 98 games too, which, if you pace it out to a 150-game season, gives him a 20/20 year. Kiermaier ended the year strong too, slashing .306/.352/.517 in the second half of the year. If he stays healthy and carries that second half into this year, he’s got a good enough speed/power combo to make a 16th round draft pick seriously worth it.
Round 17: Evan Longoria (3B, San Francisco Giants) – When I drafted him, Longoria was still on the Rays (obviously). Even at 32, Longoria put up a nice season last year with some good power, run, and RBI numbers and a decent batting average. I worry about his move to the Giants now, because AT&T Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, and playing in the NL West as opposed to the AL East certainly doesn’t help. Could he still hit in the .260s/.270s with 20+ home runs? Sure, but I think there’s reason to be slightly more concerned about his offensive production now than there was before. Still, in the 17th round, I’m not too worried about it.
Round 18: Matt Bush (RP, Texas Rangers) – I don’t personally believe in spending a high draft pick (certainly not a single-digit draft pick) on a closer. I waited pretty late to grab one here, with Bush being my first one, but I firmly believe you can find plenty of value on the waiver wire for closers if your draft picks don’t work out. Bush is a bit of a risky pick. He was solid in a limited closer role last year, but I don’t know what the Rangers are going to do with him. Could they make him a setup man and put Alex Claudio in at closer? Sure. Could they try and make Bush a fifth starter? I could see that too. Obviously drafting closers this early in the offseason is tough, and come March when most fantasy drafts are happening, we’ll likely have a better picture of what the Rangers’ bullpen will look like.
Round 19: Cam Bedrosian (RP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) – I went ahead and grabbed another reliever right after Bush, and like I said with Bush, it’s a bit early to really know what the Angels’ bullpen is going to look like. I think Bedrosian could easily be the Angels’ closer next year, but I could also see him being put in a setup role and Blake Parker being the closer, who knows?
Round 20: Keon Broxton (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – Keon Broxton is frustrating. He has such an enticing power/speed combo, but that batting average is awful, and it looks like it’s going to continue to be awful given how much he strikes out (37.8% last year). Still, the guy had a 20/20 year, but it came with a .220 average. In the 20th round, I can take a risk on someone like Broxton figuring things out, and even if he doesn’t, I’ll bench him until he gets on one of his ridiculous hot streaks and just ride it out til it’s done.
Round 21: Jimmy Nelson (SP, Milwaukee Brewers) – Jimmy Nelson finally figured things out last year and was looking awesome. He had the highest K/9 of his career, a mid-3s ERA, he had cut down on the walks significantly, and then he ended up needing shoulder surgery. I have no idea what he’s going to look like when he comes back, and I also have no idea when he’s coming back. Last word I’ve heard was Craig Counsell saying basically we don’t know when he’s coming back. So not only do you have the unknown of when in the season he’s starting again, but we also don’t know how he’ll look recovering from that injury. In the 21st round though, I’m willing to take a chance on his upside.
Round 22: David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – David Peralta was pretty solid last year. He ended the year slashing .293/.352/.444 with 14 home runs, 82 runs, 47 RBIs, and eight steals. Those aren’t numbers that light up your fantasy team, but they are numbers that provide your team with a really nice floor. Owning Peralta requires a little bit of matchup work though, as he has some pretty significant righty/lefty splits. Against lefties last year, he slashed .269/.338/.373, and against righties, he slashed .302/.357/.468. If you slot him in in the right matchups, Peralta can be a real asset to your team.
Round 23: Mychal Givens (RP, Baltimore Orioles) – Here was my logic on picking Givens with my last pick (keep in mind we did this draft pre-Winter Meetings): I thought the Orioles would be smart enough to trade Zach Britton and potentially even Brad Brach, leaving Givens as the closer. Even if they only traded Britton, I figured they’d make Brach the closer until the trade deadline, then swap him and put Givens in as the closer. I know the Orioles like Givens, he’s a talented reliever and should make a really good closer at some point. Now, unfortunately for the Orioles, since our draft happened, Britton tore his Achilles and is going to be out for a significant amount of time, meaning they can’t move him, and they aren’t likely to move Brach either, so Givens’ future as a potential closer seems a little murky, but I still believe that after the trade deadline, Givens will be the closer for the Orioles.