(Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)
MLB playoffs are ongoing as I write this piece, game 2 of the World Series just finished as the Boston Red Sox take a commanding lead in the series up 2 games to 0 with the series now shifting to Los Angeles for game 3. The 2018 Fantasy Baseball season may be over, but that just means that the 2019 Fantasy Baseball Season has begun and here at Pitcher List, we are always working to bring you the information that you need to know to help you win your league(s). In this case, I’m going to go in-depth into my thought process on our most recent Mock Draft that I participated in that really is the beginning of an amazing off-season full of great content.
Honestly, I came into this Mock Draft with less preparation than ideal for my standards. I generally do mock drafting just before my actual league drafts towards the end of Spring Training, and that’s after an off-season of digging deep into the numbers on tons of players and building my own rankings and finding potentially undervalued players for the upcoming season. While I have intently followed both MLB and MiLB baseball this season and have a strong knowledge of the performances of much of the Major and Minor Leagues, I felt underprepared because I hadn’t had the time to do my usual prep work yet. Additionally, this early in the game with no ADP to go off of, it was hard to identify ranges that opposing teams in the draft were likely to select a player. I persevered by trying to focus on a strategy for the draft which was to emphasize power/speed combos with good contact skills and pitching early and then target power and upside pitching late. While I may have some controversial picks in some spots, I feel I accomplished my strategy and the team drafted is a workable base for a competitive team entering 2019.
Mock Draft details: 12 teams, H2H scoring, standard 5×5, 9th overall pick,, snake draft.
Let’s now go pick-by-pick and take an in-depth look at my selections:
Round 1 (9): Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)
So with a later 1st round pick, I was hoping for SS Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals to fall to me at 9, and so I was a little heartbroken when Jonathan Metzelaar took him just before me. That left me with two options that I preferred, OF Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers and 3B Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros. Both have 5 tool upside, and both are coming off of career years with Yelich being the front-runner for National League MVP at the moment. Ultimately, I decided to go with the dude that hits the ball harder (47.6% Hard contact rate supported a 92.3 MPH avg exit velocity compared to 35.4% Hard contact supported by an 89.2 MPH avg exit velocity for Bregman) and the dude that should be in a position to rack up SBs on an aggressive baserunning Brewers team. The shift from Marlins Park, one of the worst parks for left-handed hitters (only KC, SFG, OAK, and BOS rated worse), to one of the best in Miller Park (COL is better overall but MIL is best for power), really was a big factor in Yelich’s success this year and I think a new level of power is here even if he can’t reach 2018’s peak again. 25-30 HRs seems reasonable and with his hitting ability and the Brewers aggressiveness on the basepaths, I feel like Yelich is sort of Mookie Betts lite. While I expect Yelich to take a slight step back next year, he finished #2 on the ESPN Player Rater in 2018 in standard leagues and getting him at 9 feels like a decent value.
Round 2 (16): Blake Snell (SP, Tampa Bay Rays)
This is easily the pick that I have received the most criticism and questions on, and with good reason as it’s not a value play at all. SPs Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, and Max Scherzer were already off the board. I saw there was a potential run on pitching about to happen and I didn’t want to miss out on having 2 top end SPers due to the nature of SPing going into next year. That left SPs Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard and Gerrit Cole (ended up selecting Cole with my next pick) in addition to Blake Snell left among the top SPers on the board at my pick. Of that group, I feel like Snell offers perhaps the highest upside. He posted a 2.95 FIP, 3.30 SIERA, a 31.6 K% supported by a 15.1 swinging-strike rate behind just Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Carlos Carrasco, and tied with deGrom. And unlike the other elite swinging-strike guys like Corbin and Carrasco, Snell didn’t post among the very worst in hard contact %. The 31.6 K% sat below some other pitchers this year despite the better swinging-strike numbers and I feel like that means there’s yet another level for Snell to achieve. He’s got all the tools to reach that top tier of SPing, and in a draft that is for fun I think it’s worth chasing the upside.
Round 3 (33): Gerrit Cole (SP, Houston Astros)
I ended up doubling down on elite SPing early as I’ve learned over the last few years how important it is to have it come fantasy playoff time. The difference between the elite guys in pitching and the 2nd/3rd tier SPers is just too big to overcome at times and so I have learned to value having two studs fairly early to anchor my team. Gerrit Cole was terrific last year with a 2.70 FIP, 2.91 SIERA, 34.5 K% supported by a 14.5% swinging-strike rate. He’s a top 10 SP with potential top 5 upside, easily the best SPer on the board at the time, and I was thrilled to land him at 33.
Round 4 (40): Starling Marte (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
At this point, I now have a 5 tool OFer, 2 stud SPers, and now it was time to add more 5 tool skills to this offense and I ended up going with OF Starling Marte in round 4. The other guys I considered were 1B Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies for some power, and OF Tommy Pham of the Tampa Bay Rays who had a terrific 2nd half that included a crazy .331/.433/.580 batting line. Ultimately, I went with the safe option in Marte who has stolen 30+ bases in 5 of the last 6 years (didn’t in 2017 due to a suspension limiting his playing time), while also hitting at least .275 and having 20ish HR pop. He’s a safe bet to return top 50 value, and he fits within my strategy of 5 tool power/speed offensive players.
Round 5 (57): Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)
2B Ozzie Albies was a huge 1st half story in 2018, hitting .281 with 20 HRs in the 1st half. That success didn’t hold up as the league adjusted to Albies, and he ended up hitting just .226/.282/.342 with 4 HRs in the 2nd half and was worth a disappointing 67 wRC+. I’m buying him at this spot believing that he can adjust back given that his peripherals aren’t too bad and that he’s still just 21 years old. Taking a look under the hood, his 39.9% flyball rate along with a solid 34.3% Hard Contact rate and 86.3 MPH avg exit velocity suggest the 20+ HR upside is real, and his 14 for 17 success rate on the bases suggest that he has the speed and instincts to be a value there as well. His 11.5% swinging-strike rate is a touch below average (10.7% was MLB average in 2018), but he’s aggressive enough to not have it be an issue. If he can improve his plate discipline which is a reasonable expectation at his age, I think there’s easy 20/20+ upside with a solid batting average which is top 50ish overall upside.
Round 6 (64): Jean Segura (SS, Seattle Mariners)
This is a spot in the draft where many of my hopeful targets had recently been taken (was really hoping SP Walker Buehler would make it here, but Alex Fast took him at 58) and I didn’t feel super great about any sort of value in this spot. I ended up playing things safe and stuck to my strategy of power/speed threats with contact skills and selected Jean Segura to shore up my SS position. Very quietly, Segura put up a top 50 season on the ESPN standard player rater by hitting lots and doing a bit of everything. He now has 6 consecutive years of 20+ SBs in the majors and also showed the best contact skills of his career this past year with a 10.9% K rate supported by an elite 5.6% swinging-strike rate. He hits the ball on the ground a lot and certainly isn’t a hard contact machine, and so I doubt much power ever comes but he knows his game and is a really nice option at SS with power/speed and contact skills.
Round 7 (81): Jose Berrios (SP, Minnesota Twins)
SP Jose Berrios has long been a favorite of mine going back into his prospect days. He hasn’t quite reached the level that many thought he could in the majors yet, but he’s shown some intriguing skills nonetheless and I felt like he offered the best combination of ceiling and floor left on the board. In 2018, he posted a 3.84 ERA, 17.7 K-BB%, .270 BAPIP, 3.90 FIP, 3.80 SIERA, and slightly above-average 11.2% swinging-strike rate. The Fastball and Curveball are good and can be downright nasty when he’s on, and if the Changeup ever takes another step forward, then he could really jump up in SP rankings. The Changeup was worth a -4.6 pVAL this past year despite it generating a bunch more swings and misses and earning a 12% drop in contact rate than the year before. He’s seemingly making some gains, maybe he puts it together in 2019? I also love his ability to go deep into games consistently!
Round 8 (88): Miguel Andujar (3B, New York Yankees)
At this point in the draft, I felt like I was lacking in power and decided to shift the draft focus towards that. I again was at a spot where I didn’t really feel great about the potential value on the board and played it fairly safe by grabbing 3B Miguel Andujar who offers plus power potential with above-average contact skills. He posted an impressive 16% K rate along with a slightly above-average 9.6% swinging-strike rate this past season and utilized a pretty heavy pull approach and a solid 35.4% fly-ball rate to hit .297 with 27 HRs over 606 PAs. He’s very aggressive which is fine in standard scoring, but he’s still able to make plenty of hard contact with a 36% Hard Contact rate supported by a quality 89.2 MPH average exit velocity (tied for 112th best in the majors with Alex Bregman and ranks ahead of names like Freddie Freeman, Rhys Hoskins, and Andrew Benintendi). A simple repeat of his numbers would return solid value at this spot as he finished 60th on the ESPN standard scoring player rater in 2018.
Round 9 (105): Matt Chapman (3B, Oakland Athletics)
The first of back to back Oakland A’s draft picks! 3B Matt Chapman is a guy that seemingly changed his profile, shifting from a guy that often sold out for power in the minors to become a more well-rounded hitter this year in the majors and I think this change really benefits Chapman’s fantasy outlook. He hit .278/.356/.508 last year with 24 HRs and 1 SB. He supported those numbers with a 9.4% walk rate a 23.7% strikeout rate and an above-average 8.8% swingings strike rate. The result is a guy that was on base a ton (racked up 100 Runs Scored) and overall was worth an impressive 137 wRC+. Oh and he still has plenty of power highlighted by an elite 43.2% Hard contact rate supported by a 93 MPH average exit velocity which ranked 7th best in the majors. I think he could be a terrific value pick at this spot as he shows all the tools for a well-rounded slugger.
Round 10 (112): Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
The second of back to back Oakland A’s selections, I left Pitcher List staff member Austin Bristow heartbroken after selecting one of his favorite players. 1B Matt Olson was a pick based on power upside, while also believing that he won’t be a batting average anchor. Olson hit .247/.335/.453 in 2018 with 29 HRs in 660 PAs which was good for a decent 117 wRC+. Olson shines under the hood though with a nice control of the strike zone in which he doesn’t chase much, he also murders baseballs with a 47.3% Hard Contact rate supported by a 6th ranked 93.1 MPH average exit velocity, and he has the contact skills that allow him to get to his power frequently (24.7% strikeout rate supported by a slightly below-average 11.3% swinging-strike rate. That combo of power and contact skills is pretty rare, and I think he could be another nice value pick at this spot thanks to his upside potential.
Round 11 (129): Rasiel Iglesias (RP, Cincinnati Reds)
My first selection of a closer was a fairly safe one, one that focused on safety in the role. RP Rasiel Iglesias provides that on a Cincinnati Reds team that lacks a ton of alternative options. He’s also succeeded in the closer role for two years now, and the Reds should be on the upswing as they continue to grow internally and more of their prospect pool reaches and gets acclimated in the majors in 2019 (think Nick Senzel). He misses plenty of bats with two consecutive years of 27%+ K rate and his 15.3% swinging-strike rate last year was impressive. He also manages walks fairly reasonably and overall, I think he’s a good 2nd tier closer option.
Round 12 (136): Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)
My first selection of a prospect eligible player! OF Kyle Tucker is a guy that I’m not quite sure where he will go in drafts next year, but he offers some of the highest upside of anyone coming out of the minor leagues and should be on all draft radars. From June 1st onward, Tucker posted a .388/.444 /.718 triple slash line in AAA that was worth a crazy 198 wRC+. He mashed in the AAA playoffs too and he’s ready for a new challenge. He’s a well rounded hitting prospect that should provide power/speed and contact skills in a loaded Houston Astros lineup. I think he’s up with the Astros early in 2019 and could be a real nice value selection.
Round 13 (153): Rich Hill (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
This was yet another spot where I wasn’t feeling great about the potential value on the board, there were some upside pitchers of interest like Andrew Heaney and Touki Toussaint, but I ended up playing things safe again and with the man who is also known as “Dick Mountain.” Hill put together an intriguing 2nd half in which he posted a 3.03 ERA over 77.1 innings pitched and supported it well with a 29.6 K%, 22.7 K-BB%, .186 batting average against, and a 3.28 FIP. Those are #2 fantasy SP numbers over that sample. Can he continue that sort of success after a long playoff at 38 (will be 39 by the start of next season)? The upside is worth the risk at this point IMO!
Round 14 (160): Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
My 2nd closer selection, RP Kirby Yates is a guy that I think I will end up owning a lot of shares of next season. Other people may get scared of selecting a closer on a poor team, but Yates has shown elite peripherals for a couple years now and has a firm grasp on the closer gig in SD who had Brad Hand ranked among the best closers before his trade to the Cleveland Indians. Yates posted a 2.14 ERA last season, a crazy 36 K%, 29.2 K-BB%, .179 batting average against, 16.7% swinging-strike rate, 2.54 FIP, and a 2.26 SIERA. He was elite by pretty well every metric last season, and I think he has top 10 closer upside going into next year as a result.
Round 15 (177): Shane Bieber (SP, Cleveland Indians)
This was a pick that I feel really good about as a mid-later round upside pitching selection. SP Shane Bieber is a guy that stands out analytically because he does an amazing job at things that he can control best, missing bats and throwing strikes. Over 114.2 innings in the majors, Bieber racked up an impressive 118 K’s against just 23 walks. He supported it with a slightly above-average 11.4% swinging-strike rate which suggests that his ability to get outs via the strikeout is real. His 3.23 FIP and 3.45 SIERA are really solid, unfortunately, his actual results don’t line up to that sort of success as Bieber struggled to a 4.55 ERA while dealing with a hard contact problem. His 43.9% Hard Contact rate was 5th worst in baseball among those with at least 110 innings pitched and it led to the highest BAPIP in the majors with a .356 mark. There’s a case to be made that with better luck, Bieber can take some big steps forward in 2018 but I also know that he needs to make adjustments in terms of his zone profile to do so. He has one of the highest percentages of pitches thrown inside the strike zone, and his stuff while good, isn’t good enough to consistently sit in the strike zone so he’s going to have to adjust and I’m curious to see how he does in 2018.
Round 16 (184): Marcus Stroman (SP, Toronto Blue Jays)
Who doesn’t love a good bounce-back story? SP Marcus Stroman had a rough 2018, started the year on the DL with shoulder issues and never was able to get into a groove once he returned. He’s still just 27, and a year removed from a 3.09 ERA season with solid peripherals and so I think it’s worth the gamble to take Stroman in round 16. What makes Stroman interesting to me is that he’s an elite GB pitcher (career 60% GB rate, 62.1% GB rates the last two years), plus he has the secondary weapons to get you out via the strikeout. His 10% swinging-strike rate in 2017 was pretty good, and I believe that he could raise that swinging-strike rate higher if he focused on strikeouts a little more as his Slider, Curveball, Cutter, and Changeup can all miss bats. There’s a balance between the Sinker that generates GBs at an elite rate and the off-speed weapons that miss bats that I think could lead to a very valuable fantasy baseball season with an approach change. The ideal skill set is there (GBs and bat-missing potential), it’s a matter of him staying healthy and finding that right balance to achieve his full potential.
Round 17 (201): Drew Steckenrider (RP, Miami Marlins)
My 3rd closer selection, again coming from a team that is likely not projected to be a winning team. RP Drew Steckenrider is projected to the Miami Marlins closer at the moment after the franchise traded away Kyle Barraclough to the Washington Nationals. He posted a 3.90 ERA this past season with 74 strikeouts against 32 walks over 64.2 innings pitched. His peripherals aren’t great, 3.62 FIP, 3.55 SIERA, just an 11% swinging-strike rate, a mediocre walk rate. He seemingly has the first chance at the closing role though and that’s really all that matters. Decent low-end closing option this late in the draft.
Round 18 (208): Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals)
I decided to wait on selecting a catcher until late in the draft, and many other Pitcher List staff members did the same. I’m not the biggest fan of C Yadier Molina, but in a bare catching landscape, Molina has been relatively consistent. Even now even as he now approaches his late 30’s, he continues to show quality contact skills (13.1% strikeout rate last year supported by an above-average 8.4% swinging-strike rate) with some pop (20 HRs last year, 44.4% hard contact rate supported by an 88.1 MPH average exit velocity) and that makes him a starting caliber fantasy catcher. He finished #2 in terms of catcher rankings on the standard scoring ESPN player rater and so I feel like I got a decent value with this selection being so late in the draft.
Round 19 (225): Joey Lucchesi (SP, San Diego Padres)
Another SP with upside, SP Joey Lucchesi is an intriguing late-round flier based on decent peripheral numbers. He posted a 4.08 ERA over 130 innings pitched in the majors last year and racked up 145 strikeouts against 45 walks along the way. His problem in 2018 was the HR, he gave up 1.59 HR/9 and a big part of that is the lack of a viable 3rd option in his arsenal. He pretty much exclusively throws a fastball or changeup and very occasionally mixes in a curveball. There’s just not enough to challenge a lineup multiple times consistently and he’s prone to give up the long ball. If he can take steps forward with his curveball, or any other secondary weapon than he moves into a potential value pick. Right now, he’s in that SP Joe Ross sort of rank where his 2 offerings are good enough on a lot of nights but he’s going to be inconsistent. Overall, a decent flier that should provide depth to my rotation.
Round 20 (232): Peter Alonso (1B, New York Mets)
My 2nd prospect pick, this time I took a chance on one of the most intriguing slugging prospects in the minors, 1st baseman Peter Alonso! He had a good year split between AA and AAA this past season, hitting .285/.395/.579 with 36 HRs over 574 PAs. What has me so high on his outlook is his combination of power and contact skills. He’s a big dude at 6 foot 3, 245 lbs and he has big raw power with it (70 grade). He gets to his power well thanks to a 40%+ flyball rate and above-average contact skills highlighted by an 18.3% strikeout rate (8.5% swinging-strike rate) at AA, and 25.9% strikeout rate (10.4% swinging-strike rate) that was improving with more AAA experience. Very simply, it’s rare to find that sort of raw power coupled with those sort of contact skills, and he’s seemingly on the doorstep of a promotion to the majors where there should be a 1st base gig open for him. Maybe he can be a Rhys Hoskins type of rookie for me on this team!
Round 21 (249): Eric Hosmer (1B, San Diego Padres)
This late in the draft, I was surprised to see 1B Eric Hosmer still available despite understanding his limitations! He came to San Diego on a big free agent deal last offseason, and he put together a poor performance in 2018 (.252/.322/.398 with just 18 HRs and 7 SBs). Despite that, I still feel like he’s worth a late Utility spot role at least. He makes enough contact to post reasonable batting averages, and he has a bit of power and speed. There’s also a fair bit of untapped potential for Hosmer as he can raise his launch angle to try and tap into more of his raw power if he chooses. I would use him on this team as a stop-gap until Peter Alonso is called up to the majors and evaluate along the way for other options. Overall, this was a conservative pick late.
Round 22 (256): Jesus Luzardo (SP, Oakland Athletics)
SP Jesus Luzardo is a personal sleeper of mine going into next year! Luzardo got to AAA last year as a 20-year old by dominating A+ and AA. He threw 109.1 innings last year across 3 levels, striking out 129 against just 30 walks with very encouraging peripheral numbers. He’s posted elite swinging-strike numbers at every level while also limiting walks. He has 3 potential plus pitches with plus command and he’s getting close to the majors. The A’s pushed him aggressively and there was a chance he was going to get the call last year in September. He’s clearly one of the most talented SPers in the A’s organization. I think he starts at AAA and could be in the majors after the Super 2 cutoff (so mid-June).
Round 23 (273): Danny Jansen (C, Toronto Blue Jays)
Normally I wouldn’t stack two catchers on one roster, but since this is mostly for fun, I ended up taking another personal favorite of mine from the prospect pile in Danny Jansen. The playing time situation at catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays is fairly uncertain at the moment, Russell Martin is under contract for another year, backup Luke Maile took steps forward and is a valuable real-life backup catcher, and Danny Jansen is ready to prove himself after a strong year in the minors and an impressive MLB debut in September. Jansen’s value fantasy wise comes from his elite contact skills, he strikes out infrequently and he’s consistently posted elite swinging-strike rates. He’s also very patient and waits for his pitch and the result has been excellent batting average and OBP numbers the last two years in the minors. He’s shown a ton of gap power as a minor leaguer, but many expect the over-the-fence power to show up at some point and he’s raised his launch angle in 2018 and so it may come as soon as 2019. Look for him as a potential value pick late in drafts for those who wait on a catcher, I know I’m happy with the selection.