Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock Draft Recap: Jeff Davis’ Picks

Hello and welcome!

This was my first time completing a mock draft this early, and it was definitely an interesting experience. Recent pitfalls of some of my teams were in mind during the draft and I may have over-compensated in some areas. For instance, I did not target SBs in 2018, thinking that I would end up sacrificing in other areas to be a subpar competitor in the steals category. In this draft, partially due to draft position (#2 overall), I believed I could compete in steals and wanted to target them aggressively in the early rounds. Further, as inning totals shrink for SPs, I wanted to ensure that my staff had a few horses to anchor the rotation. I think I achieved both of these goals. Let’s check out my picks:

To read the analysis of other teams in the draft, head to our Mock Draft hub page here.

Round 1, Pick 2: Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox) – This pick was quite straightforward. If Trout dropped to #2, I’d take him – otherwise, I want Mookie Betts. Betts is a 5 category contributor in one of the best lineups in baseball. I considered Jose Ramirez in this spot, though I preferred to grab an OF early as I think the drop-off of talent is large in the outfield going into 2019.

Round 2, Pick 23: Justin Verlander (SP, Houston Astros) – I made a mistake here. I wanted to pick-up one position player and one SP at the turn as it would be quite a while until I picked again and I was concerned that there would not be quality SP options by the time the draft returned to me in the 4th round. I had Trea Turner and Justin Verlander as my two targets. I picked Verlander and Andrew Gould subsequently grabbed Trea Turner before my 3rd round pick. In hindsight, I should have taken Turner in the 2nd round before getting an SP in the 3rd – I will not make this mistake in future drafts.

Round 3, Pick 26: Gerrit Cole (SP, Houston Astros) – As my position player target is no longer available I decided to grab another SP that I really like. At this point in the draft, I have two SPs who I should be able to rely on for about 200 IP each with strong contributions to Ws, Ks, ERA, and WHIP. I am far ahead of the curve in terms of pitching production and leave myself available to take position players for my next few picks.

Round 4, Pick 47: Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs) – First base looks quite shallow in 2019, so I loved the opportunity to grab Rizzo, who I consider a top-tier 1B, at the end of the 4th round. With Freeman and Goldschmidt already off the board, there seems to be a cliff after Rizzo. In a down year, Rizzo produced a line of 74/25/101/6/.283 which represents a very solid floor. In addition, Rizzo appeared to right the ship in the second half of 2018 after a down start to the season that correlated with a back injury he sustained in April. The stability of Anthony Rizzo allows me the opportunity to assume risk in my next pick.

Round 5, Pick 50: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Toronto Blue Jays) – I entered this mock expecting to take Vladito. As a Jays fan and a baseball fan in general, I have followed him closely over the last few years. I can’t remember a hitting prospect this exciting. MLB Pipeline gave him their first ever 80-grade hit tool, and comps range from Miguel Cabrera to Tony Gwynn to Manny Ramirez. Steamer has recently revealed it’s projections for 2019, which featured Vlad Jr. with the highest projected AVG in the MLB to accompany 22 HRs. I could imagine Vladito reaching 30 HR in 2019 as he will be playing in hitter-friendly parks regularly in the AL East. For your viewing pleasure, here is Vlad Jr. hitting a double off the wall at 117mph in the AFL All-Star game. The list of baseball players who have hit a ball at 117mph is short (12 MLB players in 2018) but now includes a 19-year-old Vlad Guerrero Jr.

Round 6, Pick 71: Jean Segura (SS, Seattle Mariners) – I was thrilled to see Segura last until pick 71 after Xander Bogaerts went at pick 53. While Segura is not within the top-tier of SS options for 2019, he was the last available SS prior to a major decline in talent at the position. While Bogaerts was taken almost 20 picks ahead of Segura, the next shortstops off the board after Segura were Andrelton Simmons and Tim Anderson. Had I been able to take Turner earlier, I would have likely taken SPs in round 6 and 7.

Round 7, Pick 74: Jameson Taillon (SP, Pittsburgh Pirates) – Taillon took a stride forward in 2018, finishing as the 22nd SP on the ESPN Player Rater. In 2018 Taillon debuted a slider which he was able to tunnel effectively with his fastball. This additional breaking pitch contributed to his breakout 2018 where he posted a 3.20 ERA over 191 IP. Clevinger would have been a great choice as well – and perhaps a better one at this pick. Had I drafted Turner in the 2nd round I would have likely paired Taillon and Clevinger for my 6th and 7th round picks. I opted for Taillon in this spot as his control represents a higher floor comparable to Clevinger’s higher ceiling due to a superior K%. There is reason to believe that Taillon could increase his K% with increased usage of his new slider in 2019.

Round 8, Pick 95: Aroldis Chapman (RP, New York Yankees) – At this point in the draft a run on closers took place. Diaz, Treinen, and Jansen were taken ahead of my pick, leaving Chapman and Kimbrel as upper-tier options to consider. Either choice would be acceptable, and I feel good about picking Chapman in this slot. This pick took place on 2018-10-12, just a day or two after the Yankees had been eliminated from the postseason. Reliever usage has shot up in recent years, and we have seen a definite hangover and increased risk of injury from postseason-overuse affecting the subsequent season (2017 Chapman and 2018 Brandon Morrow come to mind). Kimbrel is also a free agent going into 2019 and while he will get a closing role somewhere it is no guarantee that he will be on a top-tier team. Chapman represented the safer choice in this instance.

Round 9, Pick 98: Nick Castellanos (OF, Detroit Tigers) – On the other side of the turn I wanted to take an outfielder. Conforto (who was taken at pick 99) and Castellanos were the players I considered. Either would have been a suitable option, though Conforto likely features more upside. In Castellanos, I get strong hitter coming off a season of 88/23/89/2/.298 in a lineup that should improve with the development of other young Tigers players and the return of Miguel Cabrera. As well, I now have five position players who should all return an average around the .300 mark which leaves me with the opportunity to sacrifice average for counting stats in the later rounds.

Round 10, Pick 119: Brad Hand (RP, Cleveland Indians) – Closers continued to fly off the board, with Osuna, Rivero, and Neris being taken since my last pick. I wanted to secure one more closer before targetting Jose LeClerc in a few rounds. Brad Hand should hold the closer role on a strong Indians team which will play in a rather weak division. He felt like a safe target for my second RP.

Round 11, Pick 122: Shoehei Ohtani (SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels) – This is a risky pick, but in the 11th round there is a great potential for value. Ohtani will be rehabbing his elbow over the course of the 2018 season though he should still be able to DH. Steamer projects for Ohtani to accrue 589 plate appearances and sock 31 HR while hitting .272. If Ohtani is able to manage his elbow rehab in addition to DH duties I think this projection is within reach and would represent a great value in the 11th round.

Round 12, Pick 143: Jose Peraza (2B, Cincinnati Reds) – This was an error. I drafted Peraza as a 2B as he held that positional eligibility in 2018. He did not play 2B in 2018 and will not be eligible at the position in 2019. With that said, I like the idea of this pick – high average and some stolen bases with the potential for power in an improving lineup. In this case, I would aim to move Peraza to someone seeking SS help or SBs at midseason. I would also likely drop one of my late-round SP fliers for an undrafted 2B. For future drafts, I will more carefully peruse Austin’s article on position eligibility changes.

Round 13, Pick 146: Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Despite the error I mentioned in the 12th round, this is the pick I truly dislike from my draft. I felt pressed to take an OF in this slot, and for some reason settled on Puig. While he should contribute in the counting categories, he’s never been a player I love and I am concerned about limits to his playtime in LA (only 444 PAs in 2018).

Round 14, Pick 167: Justin Smoak (1B, Toronto Blue Jays) – Justin Smoak faced some regression last season after a career year in 2017. Smoak is an option for me at this point since I have been able to keep my team’s average quite high. There is potential that Smoak returns numbers similar to his 2017 campaign, though I would be satisfied with a line similar to his Steamer projection – a .239 AVG with 28 HRs. Smoak should benefit from the young talent that will join him on the Blue Jays roster next year.

Round 15, Pick 170: Rich Hill (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Dick Mountain is entering the final year of his contract and will be 39 years old in 2019. He is a constant injury risk, and cannot be counted on for a large number of innings. With that out of the way, Hill has made roughly 25 starts in each of the last two years with a K/9 above 10 and ERA in the mid to low 3s. Since I have already drafted 3 SPs who are candidates to return nearly 200 IP each I can take quality over quantity at this pick.

Round 16, Pick 191: Nathan Eovaldi (SP, Free Agent) – Last year in my keeper league I drafted Gerrit Cole early. I figured that he would benefit from a transition to Houston that also seemed to pay-off for hard-throwing RHPs Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton. Further, I was aware that Cole’s worst pitch was his sinker, and that Houston would encourage him to work without that pitch. Prior to the late rounds of the postseason, where Eovaldi pumped his value while simultaneously exposing himself to the hangover of a postseason workload, I really liked this pick. Eovaldi’s worst pitch in 2018 was his sinker while his four-seam, slider, and cutter were all effective offerings. With Eovaldi being a free agent and Houston losing a few rotation pieces going into 2019 (Morton and Kuechel to free agency, and McCullers undergoing Tommy John surgery) signing Eovaldi would be a natural fit in my eyes. If the Astros could work their same magic Eovaldi could sneak into the top-25 SPs in 2019, and a rotation of Verlander, Cole, Eovaldi, Josh James, and Forrest Whitley sounds incredible. Part of the fun of drafting this early is that you get to imagine and bet on scenarios like this.

Round 17, Pick 194: Michael Fulmer (SP, Detroit Tigers) – Speaking of betting on particular scenarios. Fulmer is someone who I will be targeting in every draft entering 2019. Fulmer is 25 and coming off the worst season of his career. In 2016 he was a breakout star from the moment he introduced a change-up into his repertoire. In 2017, Fulmer experienced ulnar neuritis at the elbow and was eventually operated on (though he waited far too long, in my opinion). As someone who has pitched through ulnar nerve compression at the elbow, I can attest to how debilitating it can be. In particular, beyond the random shock sensations you will occasionally feel down your arm, there is a certain level of numbness in the ulnar nerve’s cutaneous distribution. Basically, numbness in your little and ring fingers and in the palm area below. Fulmer was battling this inflammation long enough that his nerve conduction through to the tip of his fingers would likely be impaired in some fashion for an extended period. The change-up is often described as the most feel-intensive pitch and happens to be thrown off the ring and little fingers. Refer to the following table for a comparison of Fulmer and Jacob deGrom, who underwent an ulnar decompression operation at the elbow in September of 2016.

Pre-surgery CH pVal Surgery Year CH pVal Year 1 CH pVal Year 2 CH pVal
Michael Fulmer 11.1 1.3 -5.0
Jacob deGrom 9.4 0.5 2.0 12.8

The point of this chart isn’t to say that 2019 Fulmer will resemble 2018 deGrom. Rather, it is to show that recovery from an ulnar nerve compression issue takes an exceedingly long time. Nerves regenerate at a pace of approximately 1mm per day. I am 6’2″ and my arm reaches approximately 43cm from the point of compression to the ends of my fingers. This means that complete nerve regeneration for me would take approximately 430 days. deGrom is 6’4″, Fulmer is 6’3″. I don’t believe Fulmer reaches the level of deGrom’s 2018, but I think by midseason the change-up will return and he will look like his 2016 rookie campaign that had him enter 2017 drafts with an ADP of 139.

Round 18, Pick 215: Jose Alvarado (RP, Tampa Bay Rays) – At this point, I’m upset. I had hoped to draft Jose Leclerc in the 14th round but he was taken in the 12th. I decided to wait to draft my third closer which now feels like a mistake. Alvarado has a ton of talent and is the last reliever I liked in the draft, though he represents a lot of risk as the Rays are not likely to explicitly make him their closer. This is a case where I will be glued to Rick Graham’s Closing Time articles on this site as time goes on hoping to pick-up an RP with a closing opportunity if Alvarado is not earning saves.

Round 19, Pick 218: Corbin Burnes (SP/RP, Milwaukee Brewers) – Corbin Burnes is someone I actively targetted for the back end of my rotation. I had heard his name but not followed him closely until I watched an outing of his. I was immediately impressed by his above-average fastball command and it made me into a quick believer. As someone who’s playing career was dependent on command I appreciated what he was able to demonstrate. He should get a chance to start for the Brewers in 2019. There is some risk that his secondary offerings are not polished enough for the majors, but I was willing to take that risk in the 19th round. I will be drafting him in the late rounds of my keeper league this year as well.

Round 20, Pick 239: Francisco Mejia (C, San Diego Padres) – I considered Willians Astudillo in this spot but ultimately I could not turn down Mejia’s upside in the 20th round. Mejia will get a chance to play in San Diego next season and may even occupy 3B or a corner outfield spot at times. Catcher-eligible players who fill regular roles elsewhere typically return above-average value at the position due to an increased number of plate appearances (see Posey, Gattis, of previous years). If Mejia falters, I will again look to Astudillo who amazingly went undrafted in this mock.

Round 21, Pick 246: Jerad Eickhoff (SP, Philadelphia Phillies) – I’m not thrilled with this pick. Eickhoff has tantalized owners in the past with a beautiful curveball but he has dealt with a fair number of injuries over the past year. Further, beyond Nola and Pivetta I am not keen to chase Philadelphia pitchers in 2019 as their team defense continues to be unable to field at a satisfactory level. If I were to do this draft again I would likely take Astudillo in this spot to provide myself with some catcher depth or draft Danny Salazar on the hopes that he rebounds from his injury effectively.

Round 22, Pick 263: Kyle Seager (3B, Seattle Mariners) – Seager experienced a down year in 2018 which can partially be attributed to an avulsion fracture of one of his toes. He is only two years removed from hitting .278 with 30 HRs. At pick 263 Seager represents a gamble that he can return to his previous form, which should be fun to watch until Vladito mans the hot corner for my team around the middle of April.

Round 23, Pick 270: Luiz Gohara (SP, Atlanta Braves) – This is a very risky pick as there may not be a rotation spot available for Gohara in 2019. I loved what I saw in 2017 and made Gohara in a priority in a number of my drafts in 2018. I think his change-up is underrated and that with a step forward with his command he can be an electric arm that I was able to nab in the final round of the draft. I will be watching him closely in spring training.

Conclusion

I feel fairly good about this draft. I was able to accrue a large number of IP from the top of my rotation which let me gamble on some additional pitchers later in the draft. I managed to pick up many of my middle and late round targets – especially those who should enter 2019 free from injury and ready to rebound. I drafted a high number of stolen bases which should allow me to compete within that category. And, most importantly, I got my Vladito!

Jeff Davis

Jeff is a registered occupational therapist with experience in upper extremity rehabilitation. Jeff pitched at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Jeff coaches pitching at the high school level.

sdf

Comments


Nicholas Gerli

Great anecdotes on Fulmer. Big fan of his going into next season because he has that high 90s heat and some good breaking pitches. Watching some of his starts this year was incredibly frustrating because it always seem like he’d get snake bitten in the 6th inning.

One thing he should probably do is lower his use of the two-seamer. That pitch was very ineffective last year and seems inferior to his four seamer, which actually has one of the better whiff rates in the league. Save the slider and changeup for down in the zone and pump the four seamer up.

Jeff Davis

Thanks Nicholas!

I’m inclined to agree with you, though it is interesting that Pitch Info has his sinker as being above average in both 2016 and 2017. I do like the pitch, in general, as a tool for a RHP to attack lefties down and away to induce weak contact – much they way you can with a change-up. Ulnar nerve compression should not affect a two-seam much, though maybe since it is a pitch that can tunnel effectively with a change-up it returned less value by proxy.

Probably something that could be noted if I found myself with time to watch some Fulmer starts. As it is, I’m curious to watch if he continues to throw the sinker in 2019, and if so, how it performs. Thanks for pointing it out!

Nick

The two-seamer can be effective, but I think certain pitchers are starting to see success by turning more to the four seamer if they’re able to throw it up in the zone with good spin. When you’re whiffing 30% on your four seamer I don’t see the point of pitching down in the zone to weak contact on a two seamer, especially when you have two good secondaries in the change and slider that can be used to induce that contact.

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