It’s never too early to start planning for your draft, so here are my picks from Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock. When I’m mock drafting this early, I’m less worried about roster construction and going for specific categories – I’m simply trying to find players I like at worthwhile values.
Check out the entire draft board and staff reviews here.
Round 1, Pick 6: Manny Machado (SS, Free Agent) – The top four off the board in 2019 looks like it will be chalk – Trout, Betts, Ramirez, Lindor every time. From there, you’ll likely see any combination of Arenado, Machado, Martinez, or Yelich. While I got Machado at six, I personally like him as the fifth overall pick. Machado is coming off of the best season of his career and is still trending upwards at just 26 years old. He had a career low strikeout rate with a career high walk rate to go with his 37 homers and 14 steals in 2018. Machado has the ceiling of a true five-category contributor as he was this season with an extremely high floor as a four-cat monster: ideal for a first round pick. His value shouldn’t really change no matter where he signs, so long as he doesn’t end up in Petco.
Round 2, Pick 19: Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies) – So it turns out Story doesn’t need Tommy John Surgery after all, which means I love him as a second rounder. Story was one of the best players in all of fantasy in 2018 and is incredibly valuable in roto leagues for his power/speed combo. Story’s biggest improvement was a massive decrease in his K-rate down to a manageable 25.6%. He gets a huge boost from Coors Field, the best hitter’s environment in all of baseball, and while I’m not sure if he’ll repeat as a top 10 fantasy player, top 20 feels reachable again for Story.
Round 3, Pick 30: Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals) – I was skeptical of Merrifield entering 2018, but after putting up an even better season, it’s impossible to ignore him. Speed has become the most scarce commodity in fantasy baseball, so the majority of Merrifield’s value comes from his 45 steals. Maybe he becomes a .270 hitter instead of a .300 hitter if his .352 BABIP falls, but that’s still fine. Second base is easily the weakest position in fantasy outside of catcher, so locking down the position early avoids a headache later. Additionally, an improvement in plate discipline always gives me confidence, so Merrifield nearly doubling his walk-rate is attractive.
Round 4, Pick 43: Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – I don’t see Marte knocking 20 homers again, but he’s virtually a lock for 30 steals and a useful batting average. If this were an actual draft, I don’t think I’d double up on speed after taking Merrifield. But if Marte is still hanging around in the fourth round, you’d best believe I’ll be snagging him.
Round 5, Pick 54: Patrick Corbin (SP, Free Agent) – Those who were patient with Corbin as a post-hype sleeper saw huge profits in 2018 after he put up a 2.47 FIP with a 30.8% K-rate and a 2.74 Deserved Run Average. I don’t think there’s any way he hangs around until the fifth round in real drafts, so I was ecstatic to grab him here. The thing is, unlike Machado, Corbin’s landing spot this offseason could have a significant effect on his value. If Corbin ends up in Yankee Stadium, for instance, it will certainly dampen his outlook. I don’t know if I’d avoid Corbin entirely if he ends up in a poor situation, but I’d be looking at other options.
Round 6, Pick 67: Mitch Haniger (OF, Seattle Mariners) – As I look back, Haniger might actually be my least favorite pick of this draft. He’s too much of a “collector,” meaning his high run and RBI totals are mostly from playing 157 games with 683 plate appearances – not something you want to bank on repeating. His power and speed aren’t exactly standout traits, but with that being said, two straight years of a wRC+ over 130 is nothing to sneeze at. Ultimately, I’m predicting that Haniger will go earlier than 67 in drafts come April, which is why I took him here.
Round 7, Pick 78: Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees) – Andujar just hit 27 bombs at age 23 on the Yankees. Sold yet? I think people are scared off by his low OBP profile, but Andujar only strikes out 16.0% of the time and still batted .297. He’s going to soak up runs and RBIs in the loaded Yankees lineup, and he’s constantly playing in a high run-scoring environment in Yankee Stadium and around the AL East. Don’t be surprised if Andujar’s stock continues to rise.
Round 8, Pick 91: Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox) – This is probably too early for Anderson, but it’s tough to tell as of now. His 20 homers and 26 steals carry his profile, but Anderson had an awful second half where he slashed .231/.251/.393. When combined with his poor plate discipline, there’s some real risk that comes along with his roto allure.
Round 9, Pick 102: Josh Hader (RP, Milwaukee Brewers) – Many closer situations aren’t even figured out by March, let alone now. So while I can’t predict Hader for a ton of saves, I can still say that he was the best relief pitcher in baseball last year. Hader posted an insane 46.7% K-rate, which alone can give you a ton of value. Toss in some saves and wins and account for the help your ratios will get, and Hader is a strong pick regardless of his role.
Round 10, Pick 115: Charlie Morton (SP, Free Agent) – Morton’s value will be very interesting to watch. He was a top 20 starting pitcher in 2018, but health issues and uncertainty surrounding where he will sign (or if he even returns in 2019) spice things up. This is likely the high water mark for Morton, as he should only be going later in drafts.
Round 11, Pick 126: Lance McCullers, Jr. (SP, Houston Astros) – Welp. That’s what happens when you draft in October.
Round 12, Pick 139: Jose LeClerc (RP, Texas Rangers) – It wouldn’t surprise me if LeClerc is pushing top 100 status a few months from now. He’s got the Rangers closer role locked down and is coming off of an absolutely dominant 2018 where he put up a 1.90 FIP in 59 appearances. He also had a 38.1% K-rate and will be just 25 years old.
Round 13, Pick 150: Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers) – Ryu will be an attractive late round pick thanks to his improvements in 2018 which lead to a career high swinging strike rate and K-rate. He also managed just a 4.6% walk-rate. Ryu is always an injury risk, but if his true talent level is that of a 3.00 FIP pitcher, he will be worth picking.
Round 14, Pick 163: Seranthony Dominguez (RP, Philadelphia Phillies) – Yet another wonky closer situation. Dominguez is the favorite for the majority of saves for Philly if they don’t acquire any big name relievers this offseason, although Kapler is still going to use some sort of a committee. While he will lose out on a few saves, Dominguez has impressive enough numbers, including a 2.85 FIP, to make him worth your time.
Round 15, Pick 170: Jon Gray (SP, Colorado Rockies) – This is just a headache waiting to happen, but I can’t help myself. His struggles were attributed to mechanical issues and problems staying healthy, and of course Coors Field is never fun. Still, Gray’s 3.68 SIERA was an improvement over his 2017 number, as well as a higher K-rate at 24.6%. Somewhere inside of him, there’s a chance that Gray puts it all together and finally has a dominant season.
Round 16, Pick 187: Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees) – If he’s not out of a job by the spring, Voit will be a fun late round flier. He won’t put up numbers anywhere near the 187 wRC+ he had in 161 plate appearances, but just existing on the Yankees can produce fantasy value. The ballpark, lineup, and division are about the best you can ask for. Of course, he could lose playing time to Greg Bird or be replaced entirely.
Round 17, Pick 198: Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres) – There could be something here in Reyes, who hit 16 homers in 285 plate appearances as a 22-year-old. Steamer projects him for 28 homers over a full season in 2019. Reyes is a rather one-dimensional power play, but I won’t be arguing with that at this point in a draft.
Round 18, Pick 211: Joey Lucchesi (SP, San Diego Padres) – I’m not sure if Lucchesi will be able to repeat his 26.5% K-rate, but he’s in the best pitcher’s park in San Diego with no chance of losing his rotation spot. Lucchesi is an under-the-radar late round pick who should be able to provide quality innings.
Round 19, Pick 222: Shane Greene (RP, Detroit Tigers) – It’s not pretty, but you can’t argue much with saves past pick 200. Greene shouldn’t be nearly as bad as his ERA was, although it might be too late – we’ll see if he remains a closer by spring training.
Round 20, Pick 235: Welington Castillo (C, Chicago White Sox) – Power flier at catcher. Hopefully he actually plays enough to be a viable option.
Round 21, Pick 246: Blake Parker (RP, Los Angeles Angels) – It gives me nightmares remembering bullpen situations like the Angels had in 2018. Parker seemed to have a hold on the closer’s role by the end of the season, so hopefully that carries over.
Round 22, Pick 263: Dinelson Lamet (SP, San Diego Padres) – Pretty sure Lamet isn’t projected to return in 2019 until towards mid-season. But he’s worth pointing out as a guy who could maybe contribute to your team in some fashion next year.
Round 23, Pick 270: Vince Velasquez (SP, Philadelphia Phillies) – I’m not huge on Velasquez, but you can’t be mad with a starter who has a 25.6% K-rate for your last pick.
Favorite Picks That Weren’t Mine
Round 2, Pick 24: Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals) – I’m still interested in Turner as a first-rounder, so I’d be quite excited with him here.
Round 4, Pick 47: Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs) – Even in a down year, Rizzo wasn’t that bad. I like him to bounce back and would be comfortable taking him in the thirties.
Round 4, Pick 48: Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – There’s still so much upside here, and 14 steals to go with his power gets me excited. Bellinger looks like he will be following the path that we often see: phenomenal rookie year, sophomore slump, year-three breakout.
Round 10, Pick 112: Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox) – Vlad is stealing the spotlight from Eloy, who should have a monster season of his own. Hopefully the White Sox don’t hold him down for too long.
Round 11, Pick 128: David Dahl, (OF, Colorado Rockies) – Cooooooooooors! Dahl should finally have enough playing time to shine with Parra and Cargo gone.
Round 13, Pick 151: Shane Bieber (SP, Cleveland Indians) – 3.23 FIP as a 22-year-old.
Round 16, Pick 192: Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers) – There’s no way Odor goes this late, his power/speed combo is just too valuable in roto.
Love: Story and Franmil- I believe that both made real adjustments to lower their K rates.
Not so much love: Mitch “The Godfather” Haniger- I agree with the compiler comment, Anderson (why with Machado and Story already?)