Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock Draft – Reviewing Austin Bristow’s Picks
(Photo by Jay Anderson/Icon Sportswire)
Drafting in October is hard. Every year I meticulously put together a Top 300 Rankings list (I’ll be posting my initial list in November) that I use to guide my draft strategy. I found that without that list to guide me I often felt a bit lost and uncomfortable; I wasn’t as in tune with the overall value of the guys I was targetting or the players going around them.
Nonetheless, I selected 23 players to represent a Bristowski team, picking from the 5th slot. Overall, my pitching isn’t great, but I feel that it is good enough to compete, while my hitters are great. I found that a lot of the batters that I picked had a fairly similar profile, one that I have come to really like.
For the past few seasons, I’ve been using essentially the same strategy, finding quite a bit of success with my method. When it comes to hitters, I look to take speed early, with players that can provide stolen bases along with batting average and power. After that, I look for “safe” batting average hitters that will also score runs; I want guys that I believe can hit .270 or better throughout the season, specifically, players at the top of the lineup. Basically, I love me some leadoff hitters. While putting my emphasis on batting average, runs scored, and stolen bases, I rarely win home runs, but the safe batting average guys do tend to knock in enough runs to at least keep me competitive in RBI.
For pitching, I like to have at least two aces, if at all possible. In the mid-rounds, I love to target underrated Toby type starters (see my 14th pick in this draft). After that, I’m am liable to take my chances on young starters with upside. For relievers, I don’t like paying a premium for saves. I’ll take a solid closer in the middle rounds and a flier on a closer in the later rounds, but it is unusual for me to take more than two closers in a draft. I’d prefer to play the waiver wire to find saves during the season.
Now, onto my picks!
Round 1 (5): Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians)
I have Lindor as my fourth overall player in my rankings, so I was ecstatic that he fell a spot to me at the fifth pick! Going into his age 25 season, he seems like a lock for .270 AVG, 30 HR, and 15-20 steals as a floor. That combo of batting average, power, and speed is extremely valuable, and while he may not go 38-25 again, he should be right around there next season! He’s only 25, and he increased his line drive rate from 18% to 21.6% and his Hard-hit rate from 35% to 41.6%! Who’s to say he doesn’t have another gear to unlock?
Round 2 (20): Clayton Kershaw (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I knew I wanted to focus on SP in the early rounds, and for the first time in years, I actually like Kershaw’s value. He was the fifth pitcher drafted and I believe that 20th off the board seems like a fair price. At this point, you have to work under the assumption that you’ll only get 150-175 innings out of Kershaw, but those innings will still be beautiful for ratios. I am a bit concerned about the drop in SwStr% and K%, but I am very happy having Kershaw as the ace of my staff.
Round 3 (29): Charlie Blackmon (OF, Colorado Rockies)
I thought Blackmon was a great value here at the 29th pick. While he is coming off a “down season” and will be going into his age 32, he still seems like a safe bet for 25 homers and 100 runs at the top of the Rockies lineup. I also believe the Rox have the potential for an improved offense next season, with the exit of Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra to free agency. I’d love to see David Dahl and Raimel Tapia get opportunities for playing time in 2019 alongside Blackmon. Add in Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story and you have the makings of a formidable lineup in Coors Field once again.
Round 4 (44): Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)
Simply put, Suarez is a beast and I’m STOKED to get him in the 4th round! I’ve talked about him during On the List before, but his batted ball profile is so good: he’s 2nd in MLB with a 48.6% hard contact rate. I truly believe that his .283 average with 34 home runs is completely legit and repeatable in 2019.
I have Suarez as the 34th overall player in my rankings, above some of the players that were drafted before him in our mock here. I’d take him over Carlos Correa (taken 38th), Whit Merrifield (30), and Blake Snell (16) among a few other players taken prior to pick 44. It is worth noting that third base is very deep, maybe the deepest position in 2019, but Suarez is a star in the top tier.
Round 5 (53): Zack Greinke (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks)
This was definitely a tricky pick. As the 16th pitcher off the board, I see Greinke as the last ace; he was the last available pitcher in my SP2 Tier. Greinke turned 35 this past weekend, but he just turned in another 200+IP season with nearly 200 Ks (199) and a 3.21 ERA backed by a 3.60 SIERA. I am a bit concerned about his drop in velocity and SwStr%, but Greinke has seen his velo dip year after year and still manages to put together fantastic seasons. Facing the Padres and Giants regularly should help as well, and I am still happy to take him after the 50th pick in the draft.
Round 6 (68): Jack Flaherty (SP, St. Louis Cardinals)
As I said earlier, I wanted to take pitching early. After this draft, I think 3 starters in the first 6 rounds seems like a good goal, but pitching did seem to go fairly quickly in our draft. I’m interested to see if this is a consistent trend throughout 2019’s draft season, or if it was some sort of Pitcher List-fueled anomaly. Nonetheless, I felt like I need Flaherty here, especially after Jameson Taillon, German Marquez, and David Price went directly before me as picks 65, 66, and 67 respectively.
I’m very pleased with Jack Flaherty as my third starter. He is a bit of a risk (I truly believe in the sophomore slump), but he’s also a strikeout machine, sporting that wonderful 29.6% K-rate and 13.4% swinging-strike rate. One variable I’ll be particularly interested to follow is how many innings Flaherty will be allowed to throw in 2019? After 182.2 innings pitched 2018 between the majors and minors, he seems prepped to push 200 innings in the season to come. Assuming health is consistent, I think the skills are good enough for a solid second season from the 23-year-old
Round 7 (77): David Peralta (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
I’ve been a David Peralta fan for a long time, probably since he showed some upside in his rookie 2014 season, and finally, he was able to put together a full healthy season with 30-homer power and nearly .300 batting average! Peralta has always had the skills to be a stud, but a late start in the big leagues and poor health in his short career have held him back from extended success prior to this past season.
In 2018, Peralta put it all together and finished the year with a .293/.352/.516 slashline and 30 home runs. Those stellar numbers were backed by the third best hard-hit rate (48.5%) amongst qualified hitters. I made sure to let the guys I was drafting with how much I liked Peralta when I drafted him, though, looking back, I may have been able to wait another round or two to take him. Over-draft or not, I’m very pleased to have Peralta on Team Bristowski.
Round 8 (92): Dee Gordon (2B/OF, Seattle Mariners)
2018 was a strange season for Dee Gordon. While his plate profile was fairly similar to what it was in 2017, he saw a 50 point drop in his BABIP. His .304 BABIP mark from this past season is 34 points lower than his career average of .338. Now, obviously batting average was not the only place where Gordon took a step back in 2018. He also had a notable drop in his SBot.
For those unfamiliar with this stat, SBot (Stolen Base Opportunities Taken) is a statistic of my creation that denotes the rate at which a player attempts to steal a base when give the opportunity to do so. I’ve recently been working with Fangraph’s Jeff Zimmerman to more accurately define a “stolen base opportunity.” Under our new definition of the stat, Dee Gordon has a career SBot of 34% (when given an opportunity to steal, Gordon attempts to do so 34% of the time); in 2017 he had a 31.5% mark; in 2018 his SBot was only 24.6%. This is a bit concerning, because it may reflect a change in his team’s willingness to let him run. While Scott Servais and the Seattle Mariners ranked 12th this past season in attempted stolen bases, there still may be an organizational decision behind Gordon’s distinct drop in SBot this past season. Hopefully, we will see that trend shift the other direction in 2019.
I’d also like to take a moment to state that 2B seems to easily be the weakest position (save from catcher, which is just a joke) this 2019 draft season. I don’t love this Gordon pick, but I’m also not yet sure where to turn for a second baseman for the coming year. I’ll have more on that this offseason.
Round 9 (101): Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)
I may sound like a broken record, but, similar to Eugenio Suarez and David Peralta I love Aguilar’s batted-ball profile. Jesus Aguilar had a breakout 2018, slugging 35 homers and 108 RBI along with a .274/.352/.539 slashline in 149 games. This was all backed by a 44% hard-hit rate and a 41% flyball rate, the ingredients for a great power hitter. Add in a 24% line drive rate to improve the BABIP and batting average and I’m all in on this breakout season for the 28-year-old Aguilar.
It is worth acknowledging the first half-second half splits. While Aguilar had a torrid first half, he definitely faded a bit in the second half of the season. Prior to the All-Star Break, Aguilar hit .298 with 24 of his 35 homers; after the break, he hit just .245 with 11 homers. Keep in mind though that the “halves” were not at all equal in 2018. There were about 94 games (depending on the team) played before the All-Star Break and only 68 after. Keep this in mind when you hear or are analyzing stat totals from the two “halves” this offseason.
Round 10 (116): Brad Hand (RP, Cleveland Indians)
I think Hand could be 2019’s Edwin Diaz; he is very talented and everybody knows it. His saves total will depend on opportunity and pitching for a quality team, both of which he will have in 2019. With both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller leaving Cleveland for free agency, Hand seems to be the heir apparent for the closer role. I could EASILY see Hand getting 40 saves and 100 Ks in 2019, after all, he has already tallied three straight seasons of 30%+ K-rate and 100+ strikeouts. Now, finally given an opportunity to regularly close out games for a quality ballclub, I am looking to Hand to step up in a big way this coming season.
Round 11 (125): Joey Gallo (1B/OF, Texas Rangers)
I hate that Gallo is on my team. I hate it. This is not the type of player I want on my team. However, at the 125th pick, I think the value was just too good to pass up.
My draft strategy for hitters revolves around finding players with a solid plate approach and a batted-ball profile that suggests success going forward. Joey “36% K-rate” Gallo is not that player. However, at the end of the day, Gallo seems to be as safe as any player not named Khris Davis or Aaron Judge to hit 40 home runs. He is a tweak or two away from a MONSTROUS season. Even if repeats what he has done for the past two seasons, that is still valuable! 40 HR in the 11th round is wonderful, especially if your team is prepared to absorb the blow to batting average.
Keep in mind, if you want to draft Gallo you MUST plan for it by drafting safe batting average players or by actively planning to punt batting average, a strategy that I cannot recommend that in good conscience. With players like Lindor, Blackmon, Suarez, and Peralta that I am confident will bat over .280, I felt comfortable taking the batting average hit that is inherent with Joey Gallo. He is not my kind of batter, but every player has their price at which I can no longer say no.
Round 12 (140): Ross Stripling (SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I distinctly remember the moment in 2016 when Ross Stripling was facing the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS and I thought to myself “Boy, I sure am glad I have this guy on my dynasty league team. He’s gonna be something someday.” Of course, after a 2017 season that only saw him start 2 games, I traded him away for “not nearly enough.” The biggest question going forward for Ross Stripling is what role he will have next year in the Dodgers’ pitching staff.
I love the profile and success that he had in 2018: a 3.02 ERA, and 3.13 SIERA backed by a 27% k-rate and a 4.4% walk-rate! I’m expecting that in the mess of Dodgeritis, Stripling will find his way in and out of the rotation throughout the season, providing great ratios and Ks when he does start. I’ll take the over on 25 starts, but only barely over.
Round 13 (149): Jurickson Profar (1B/3B/SS, Texas Rangers)
I love Profar. He is the ultimate post-hype-sleeper as the #1 prospect in 2013. After years of injuries and disappointment, Profar is going into his age-26 season on the tails of a fairly successful 2018 that saw him hit 20 home runs and steal 10 bases in 146 games. A .269 BABIP seems very low for a 22% line drive rate and 37% hard-hit rate, making me confident that Profar’s .254 batting average will take a northern turn next season. He takes his walks (9% BB-rate), doesn’t strike out much (15% K-rate), and is an extremely efficient base-stealer, swiping 10/10 bases in 2018.
Another notable factor is his positional eligibility. In ESPN and CBS leagues, Profar will be 1B, 3B, & SS eligible, while in Yahoo leagues, he’ll add 2B to his already impressive list. While it is difficult to quantify positional flexibility, I would love to have this team that features multi-position eligible players like Profar, Gordon, and Gallo. This is especially handy in leagues that allow daily roster changes, as these players will make swapping resting or injured players out of your lineup far easier.
Round 14 (164): Rick Porcello (SP, Boston Red Sox)
Whether or not Nick Pollack is a fan of this pick, I see Porcello as a solid Toby. I understand that he had an ERA over 4.00 again, but the 3.77 SIERA is much improved. Porcello posted a career-high 23.5% K-rate, another solid 6% BB-rate, and a solid 5.8 IPS. He may not be a standout, but I believe he’ll be a valuable pitcher in 2019, especially when picked after 150.
Now, interestingly enough, (*cough* NICK *cough*) If you remove his two clunkers from the second half (both against Toronto) on July 13 (2 IP, 8 ER) and August 9 (4 IP, 7 ER), Porcello’s 2018 ERA would be 3.69 in 185.1 innings, with a 5.97 IPS. More often than not, Porcello was a good pitcher, giving up 3 or fewer runs in 20 of his 33 games started this past season. So, THERE NICHOLAS!
Another thing worth mentioning: while I don’t like chasing wins and cannot recommend that as a valid strategy in analyzing pitchers, Porcello will pitch for the Red Sox. It is more likely than not that the Red Sox will probably win a lot of games in 2019, 30+ of which Porcello will start. So, yeah, he’ll probably win 15+ games again in 2019.
Round 15 (173): Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants)
I took Buster Posey as the sixth catcher off the board with the 173rd pick of our draft. As we know, Posey was hurt for the majority of 2018, and now, after a late-August hip surgery to repair his torn labrum, he will likely be out for the first month or two of 2019. Still, Posey is probably the safest batting average option at a HORRIBLE position. I understand he has no power (only 5 HR in 2018) but his HR/FB rate was only 4.7%, a low mark even for an aging, injured catcher.
My goal at catcher each year is to avoid killing my batting average; Posey fits very nicely into my strategy of emphasizing batting average during the draft. I think a healthy Posey can still hit. 290 with 10 homers. That doesn’t seem too much to ask of him in 2019.
Round 16 (188): AJ Minter (RP, Atlanta Braves)
I really, really wanted to take Mike Soroka here, but Dan Richards had other plans, taking him two picks prior to this one. With Soroka unavailable, I went with the next player in my queue, AJ Minter. Before 2018, there was chatter around the Braves community that Minter was the “closer of the future.” I distinctly remember the term “Craig Kimbrel Lite” being thrown around. In 2018 however, Minter was very inconsistent, sporting an 8.5% walk rate and only being trusted with 17 save opportunities.
That being said, the Braves are going to be a good team in again in 2019, hopefully, better than they were this past season. If he can cut down on the walks, AND assuming the Braves don’t bring a closer in this offseason, Minter could be a reliable source of saves and Ks in 2019.
Round 17 (197): Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets)
This kid may be my favorite sleeper of 2019. He has some tantalizing skills; he’s fast, has power, and has a MUCH improved bat-to-ball skill! His swinging-strike rate dropped from 18% to 13% this past season, and K-rate dropped from 29% to just 20%!! Essentially all of his batted-ball data is improved from his rookie season. Rosario hit 9 homers and stole 24 bags in 2018, though 11 caught stealings isn’t great. These stats all look much better thanks to a fantastic end to the 2018 season.
From August 1st through the end of the season, his final 53 games, Rosario hit .284 with 5 home runs & 15 steals. For those of you keeping a tally at home, that’s about a 15 homer, 44 steal pace in a full season. Finding this kind of speed around pick 200 is nearly impossible, yet here he is. I absolutely love the potential that this kid has as he enters his age-23 season. I hope to own this guy in every single one of my leagues in 2019.
Round 18 (212): Jesse Winker (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
I was stoked to get Winker here! I loved what he put up in his shortened season. Before being set on the shelf with a late-July shoulder surgery to repair his torn labrum, Winker put up a .299/.405/.431 slashline with 7 home runs and 16 doubles in 89 games. Going through the Reds minor league system, Winker was known for his fantastic plate approach, and he proved it in 2018 with a 14.7% walk-rate and only a 13.8% K-rate. He should be GREAT in points leagues with all doubles and walks! If you tack on a 44% hard-hit rate, I think Winker represents a very safe batting average (he’ll be even more valuable in OBP leagues) with decent power. This is my type of player, and I love being able to take him in the 18th round!
Round 19 (221): Tyler White (1B, Houston Astros)
I’m a big Tyler White fan! He’s 27, but he was finally given an opportunity in 2018 and he ran with it. He’s another case where I love the plate approach; his 7.1% swinging-strike rate and a 43% fly-ball rate should make for a great power hitter! With the exit of Evan Gattis, I am hopeful that White will see regular at bats in 2019. If that is indeed the case, I think he could easily hit 30 home runs and 100 RBI in the stacked Houston lineup. I am very excited (I have already used ecstatic once and stoked twice) to take that kind of potential at pick 221.
Round 20 (236): Brent Honeywell (SP, Tampa Bay Rays)
After waiting so long for pitching, my last few pitcher picks were all longshot, hail mary type picks. Honeywell was one of the top pitching prospects coming into 2018, but Tommy John had other plans. With that sick-nasty screwball of his, he could be great, or he could twist his arm straight off and be completely irrelevant in fantasy leagues in 2019.
I am of the opinion that Honeywell will be a guy whose draft price rises as we get closer to March. I think we can all look forward to seeing his name in a number of “Post-Hype Sleeper” articles between now and draft time.
Round 21 (245): Carlos Rodon (SP, Chicago White Sox)
Honestly, I’m surprised that Rodon lasted as long as he did! To be fair, He had a rough 2019 to the tune of a 4.18 ERA, 5.13 SIERA, a continued high walk rate (10.8%), and a massive drop in his strikeout rate (25.6% to 17.6%).
I wanted to say that I’m confident that he’ll finally be healthy in 2019 and has a chance to finally make good on all of the potential he has touted up to this point, but I am not very confident in that argument. Carlos Rodon may just be bad. On the other hand, he will be given every opportunity to make the best of 2019, as the White Sox really don’t have any better options. If he’s healthy, he’ll go out there every five days and do his thing. Here’s to hoping that thing looks better than it did this past season.
Round 22 (260): Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Again, I’m amazed that Bader was available here; he had been sitting toward the bottom of my queue for almost 100 picks by this point. This was definitely one of those, ‘I mean, sure I’d be happy to have him considering nobody wants him!’ sorta picks. Bader plays stellar defense which should keep him in the lineup, and he has potential to go 20-20 with a .260 average. While his 30% K-rate definitely isn’t ideal, nobody at this point in the draft is without flaw. I feel like there is no way he continues to go this late in drafts come March.
Round 23 (269): Luiz Gohara (SP, Atlanta Braves)
I finished out my draft with another lottery ticket starting pitcher. Gohara was a popular sleeper pick in 2018, and I did end up drafting him in the late rounds of the Prodigy League draft. However, after a lost season due to health and family emergency, I think everyone has forgotten about Gohara. Everyone except for Braves fans, that is.
For those that need a reminder Gohara is still big, still only 22 years old, still has a massive fastball from the left side, and he still has a solid curveball. His stuff is electric, which may profile him as a reliever going forward, particularly with the Braves crowded rotation. However, even in an injury-riddled season, he did finish the season as a starting pitcher on the Braves AAA team. I think the Atlanta front office still wants him to be a starter, and if that is indeed his future, I legitimately see his ceiling as James Paxton.