Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock Draft – Reviewing Ben Pernick’s Picks
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire
The last day of the baseball season is always the saddest day of the year for me. It means I can no longer hide behind my rosters and have to focus on accomplishing real-life goals, which is terrible. Thank heavens Pitcher List invited me once again to participate in their October mock draft, allowing me to tie one on. Of course, with no guides to rely on and many roster situations all up in the air, it feels like trying to catch a hail mary pass while closing your eyes after seeing the throw. I swear that’ll be my only football reference… I’m an unapologetic baseball loyalist.
Aside from the 2018 season numbers, my only guides were my own intuition, experience, and the PitcherList Mock #1 I was monitoring that was several rounds ahead of our mock. My strategy was to zig where everyone else was zagging and to focus on finding value, which, as I expected, came primarily from refusing to jump on the early pitching hype bandwagon and focusing on hitters early instead, and trying to get the pitchers I liked that fell through the cracks.
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): Paul Goldschmidt (1B, Arizona Diamondbacks)
This was tough, since I felt like the first 8 players off the board were all bona fide fantasy studs, and then suddenly there’s no obvious choice. I was tempted to lunge at Scherzer, but I don’t like the potential floor of a 35-year old in the first round, and Goldschmidt is the boring but highest floor option left. Reports of his Humidor-induced demise were greatly exaggerated, as he still hit .290 with 33 Homers and 7 Stolen Bases, and I can only wonder if he was secretly fighting through an injury in May due to her uncharacteristically terrible .144 with just 3 HR when his lowest AVG in any other month was .273. His reduced SB are of some concern (7 SB vs 4 CS), as his Sprint Speed was 27.4 ft/s in 2016 compared to 26.9 ft/sec now, which is league average, but it’s the same as his 2018 Sprint Speed and he still stole 18 bases then. While he did post career-high 25% K rate due to a more aggressive approach (career high 28.8% O-Swing), he did make a career-best 46.2% Hard% and career-high 25% LD% and 36.4% FB%. While he may no longer be quite the fantasy monster of years past, I think it’s premature to write him at age 31 as a player in decline. I expect him to bounce back in 2019 to a season closer to 2017 than 2018, Humidor be damned.
Round 2 (16): Alex Bregman (3B/SS, Houston Astros)
Oddly enough, Nick Pollack took Bregman in the 1st and Goldschmidt in the 2nd. Same difference! I was definitely happy to get Bregman on the turn, as he has excellent dual position eligibility and improved by leaps and bounds this year in all facets of his game. His biggest improvements were not on the surface but under the hood, as his amazing 4.2% Swinging Strike rate was 2nd-best in all of baseball, yes even better than Mookie Betts. In fact, in terms of discipline, contact rates (92..8% Z-Contact%, 88.5% Contact%) and batted ball data (89.2 mph eV, 93.4 mph FB/LD) Bregman is near-identical to Jose Ramirez, while a year younger and even with slightly faster sprint speed. And don’t forget, Bregman has the rare and super-valuable 3B/SS dual eligibility. While the 30 HR may appear fluky for a guy with average exit velocity who used to draw comps to Pedroia, Bregman’s approach for power seems sustainable, with a career-best 48.4% Pull% and 43.4% FB%, so even without incredible natural power his 14.0 HR/FB seems legit. At just 24 and making such significant sustainable improvements already, I’m quite bullish on his odds to have a truly monstrous fantasy season, and I think if I could go back I’d actually take him above Goldy.
Round 3 (33): Juan Soto (OF, Washington Nationals)
This may be one of the few times I went for the high-hype option, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his ADP climbs as the season nears. But how can you not get SO HYPED for a kid that started the year and A-ball to soar to the majors and hit .292/.406/.517 with 22 homers at just NINETEEN years of age? Even for such a gifted hitter, I probably overlooked the fact that his 24.7% HR/FB is definitely not sustainable, and he actually made more soft contact (20.3%) with lower overall exit velocity (89.4 mph) and more groundballs (53.7%) than the other contenting rookies. So I get that there is some significant regression risk, perhaps more than I realized before diving deeper, and perhaps I should’ve waited one more round. On the other hand, his xSlash of .277/.406/.477 is still excellent, and his exit velocity just on FB/LD was a 97,4 mph, which ranks in Top 10 in baseball. But my main reason I’m so hyped is that he just posted the highest wRC+ (145) of any teenage hitter in the HISTORY OF BASEBALL, besting Mel Ott (140), Tony Conigliaro (138), Bryce Harper (121), and Mickey Mantle (116), and I think we’re getting so caught up in the negatives and risks that we’re forgetting just how special that is. He already has a high floor, but being such a preternatural hitter already, nobody truly knows how high his ceiling is, but I’m going to guess it’s pretty darn high.
At this point, it became pretty clear that the pitchers were indeed going fast, and even in an H2H, I needed at least one starter I can rely on, though it was a tough pick between him and Trevor Bauer. Still, I’ll go with Severino’s youth and track record, and think he’s a good value here. Sure, the wheels seemed to come off in the second half, but his overall peripherals were in line with last year, with an even better 2.95 FIP and the exact same FB velo (97.6 mph) as 2017. But the thing most people seem to forget is that despite several full seasons under his belt, he’s still only 24. Many of the other top arms are well in their 30s with injury risk or coming off their best season (I don’t like buying those), and Sevvy’s youth improves his health odds of compiling another 190+ innings, but also odds of making adjustments. I see no reason not to expect a top-5 pitching season plus good odds at 20 wins.
Round 5 (57): Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)
By the 2018 halfway point, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ozzie would shoot up to the top 3 rounds of draft boards. His second half put the kibosh on that, but there’s still so much to like. I mean, the kid hit .261 with 24 Homers, 72 RBI, 105 R and 14 Stolen Bases (3 CS)… as a 21-year-old. There was nothing fluky about his season, as his xStats line was a slightly better .265/.308/.457, and I think a player with his speed should do better than his .285 BABIP, whereas the 11.5% HR/FB is entirely sustainable. I expect him to continue to cut down his K rate, and I expect next year he will be more aggressive on the bases due to his high SB success rate and strong sprint speed, and have a real shot at a .280 25-25 season.
Round 6 (64): Tommy Pham (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
I got you, Pham. Although he lacks the youth and hype of my previous picks, and I already had another outfielder for 3 slots, I pounced at five tool production here. Tommy Guns had a bit of a roller coaster year, but ultimately established that his amazing 2017 wasn’t a complete fluke after all, as he still hit .275/.367/.464 with 21 HR, 63 RBI, 103 R and 15 SB (7 CS), but hit a far better .343/448/.622 with 7 HR and 5 SB in 143 AB in Tampa. Pham definitely is happier leaving the Cardinals, but I also think Pham also battled a few injuries and still came out on top in his new digs. I expect him to thrive hitting in the heart of the Rays’ lineup, producing a ton of runs with his high walk rate and extra base hits. Despite getting a reputation for being a bit of a headcase, he’s a relatively high floor option due to his combo of excellent plate discipline and hard contact, and with the Rays baserunning aggressiveness, he has upside for a 25-25 season with a .290/.390/.500 line.
Round 7 (81): Edwin Diaz (RP, Seattle Mariners)
Well, at this point it was clear I was on most of the elite starting pitching, so I went for an elite reliever instead. It seemed the pitcher hype did not extend to relievers as Diaz went later than industry mocks where his ADP was 69.2. Some people say Diaz is not the top closer option, but even with regression I don’t see how anyone else can rank above him. Kimbrel and Jansen have both displayed consistency issues and will also be dealing with the increased playoff workload, Underneath Diaz’s shiny 1.99 ERA is a sparkling 1.47 FIP, 2.28 Statcast FIP and a downright effervescent 1.05 Batted Ball FIP. His 15.22 K/9 was 4th-best among all relievers, his 2.09 BB/9 15th best, and a K – BB% (best measure of pitcher performance) of 38.2% that was best in baseball. While it’s entirely possible he doesn’t repeat at this level, there’s nothing obvious that could go wrong compared to the other top closers, making him both the safe pick and the upside pick.
Round 8 (88): Josh Donaldson (3B, Toronto Blue Jays)
I was thrilled that Donaldson slipped this far as I nearly took him over Diaz. Donaldson had an absolutely forgettable year, and Lonnie Chisenhall has made me eternally untrusting of calf injuries. Still, while his overall line was not mentioning, he finished the season looking like the Donaldson we all know and love, with a .324/.468/.568 line with 2 HRs and a 10/6 BB/K over the final two weeks. He’s still only 32, and just a year prior he hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 HR in just 415 AB. So even if he’s not on the field all season, we can still expect Top-5 round production, with a chance at 2nd or 3rd round production if he can stay healthy. Even in this off year, his exit velocities (96.3 mph FB/LD eV) and barrel rates were near-identical to Bryce Harper, so I think he’ll be fine. Of course, knowing how late I could get hitters of this caliber, I’m starting to think if I could do this over, I’d have taken Max Scherzer over Paul Goldschmidt.
With the top-end pitchers flying off our board so early, I wasn’t thrilled with what was left, but I knew I needed a pitcher, and Martinez is indeed a pitcher. I tend to like to gamble on former ace rebounds, and I’ve believed Martinez would return to starting. While his 2018 ERA was a pretty 3.19, it wasn’t supported by his peripherals, and the fact he had to pitch relief tells you how his season went. Hitting the DL thrice with upper arm and shoulder injuries is never good, but he still ended the year with healthy so there’s hope that the injuries are behind him. He still just turned 27 and prior to 2018 had 3 consecutive years of 175+ IP, so I’ll bet on his prior track record and cross my fingers. Sometime after picking him, the Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said he expects Carlos Martinez to return to a starting role in the spring, so I’d expect his ADP to dive back to the double digits.
Round 10 (112): Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Maybe I’m crazy, but then so is everyone else, as I took him right at his early ADP. Especially as it took up my 3rd OF slot, and the fact he’ll start 2018 in the minors, it’s certainly a high risk pick. Then again, in any normal year, Eloy would be the #1 prospect in baseball, and the actual #1 Vladito went at pick 50. Eloy was quietly a beast in his own right, hitting .317/.368/.556 with 10 HR in 228 PA in Double-A, then crushing that with a .355/.399/.597 with 12 HR in 228 PA in Triple-A, all as a 21-year-old. What I love most is he cut his K rate down from 17.1% in Double-A to 13.2% in Triple-A, which makes me confident he can handle offspeed stuff and hit for both power and high average immediately. It might sound foolhardy to forecast a rookie starting in the minors for .290 and 25+ homers, but that’s what I’m doing.
Round 11 (129): Raisel Iglesias (RP, Cincinnati Reds)
This was probably the easiest pick of the draft for me, since pretty much every other top and upper tier closer had already been scooped up, and it seemed once Iglesias went there’s a sizeable dropoff. His 2018 was weaker than his 2017, as his K rate dipped and his peripherals worsened, with a high HR/FB and an unsustainably favorable .233 BABIP and 91.6% LOB% But he still managed a 2.33 with 30 Saves over 72 innings (love his high innings total), and seeing as at age 28, I think he can easily bounce back. He went at the exact same pick in Mock Draft 1!
Well, I figured that my rotation needed a miracle to compete even for an H2H format, so I decided to buy a lottery ticket. It seems PitcherList in particular is a fan, as he went 122 in Mock Draft 1 but averaged just 165.8 in the industry mock. But his post-deadline run as a starter was tantalizing, with a better K-BB% as a starter (20%) than he did as a reliever (15.3%). I see Snell’s breakout this year as a tall poor control guy and believe the Rays can work similar magic on Glasnow despite being taller with worse control. Why? Because he added a third weapon in a slider (small sample but with a bonkers 28.6% Swstr% and 6.6 pVAL/C with nary a hit off it) and is attacking more up in the zone with his high-spin fastball that averaged 96.8 mph. He still could be a disaster, but then my rotation would go from probably last place to very last place, so I had nothing to lose.
I really did NOT expect to get Lester, but it turned out everyone in my mock hated him even more than I did! Nothing against his personality, just that his K/9 went down to 19.6% K% as his BB% went up to 8.4%) making his 18 wins and 3.25 ERA look super unsustainable with a 4.48 FIP, 4.36 scFIP and 4.53 bbFIP . I think I was swayed to take him by Nick’s 2019 too early pitcher rankings, where Lester ranked #40 while names behind him like Ryu, James, Bieber and Archer went in this mock before him. After two high-risk pitcher picks, I did need a reliable compiler, something Lester has consistently done, with 180 innings or more every single year since 2008, which is incredible nowadays, frankly. While it’s not sexy, he’s a solid bet for another ERA in the mid-3s and 15+ wins as anyone else you’ll find at this point.
Round 14 (160): Wilson Ramos (C, Philadelphia Phillies)
I was planning on waiting on catcher, but The Buffalo just seemed too good to still be around in pick 160, especially seeing as he went at pick 138 in Mock #1. I love a catcher who is not an average abomination, and Ramos is anything but, as he hit .306 with 15 HR, 39 R, and 70 RBI over 416 PA, and it seems his batting average floor is a solid .260. While 31 isn’t young for a catcher, and he’s a hilariously slow baserunner, he’s at least been productive even when injuries have limited his PT, and if he can stay on the field he’s capable of a .310, 20-25 HR season, which would make him a near-lock for top fantasy catcher. I wouldn’t trust the industry mock that lists him as 196 ADP, since it included a draft where he went at pick 294. What kind of league is that? One with zero catcher slots? Seriously.
Round 15 (177): Jeremy Jeffress (RP, Milwaukee Brewers)
After seeing how the Brewers’ playoff situation unfolded, I don’t feel quite as good about taking Jeffress here, but again I felt it was the end of a closer tier. Of course, Jeffress may not be a closer with two deserving competitors in Knebel and Hader, since the Brewers clearly don’t care too much about the title since Knebel was bumped off pretty quickly after a stellar 2017. I’m trusting Nick’s reasons for being bullish on Jeffress, as Nick put his money where his mouth was taking him at pick 155 in Mock 1. On the surface, Jeffress was amazing, with a 1.20 ERA, , though it’s belied by a very good but more pedestrian 3.30 scFIP and 3.28 bbFIP. He was a mess in the playoffs, but I’m hoping it was just due to fatigue that he can bounce back from. I wasn’t impressed with the glob of starters and as a third closer I think I did alright with Jeffress, since at least my bullpen will be good.
Round 16 (184): Jose Martinez (1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Did I NEED another hitter? No. But considering he went in the 11th round (pick 128) in Mock 1, could I RESIST? Also no! I love love love Martinez as a 2019 breakout, especially now that folks expecting the breakout in 2018 have mostly moved on. Why is that? I think he’s still been unlucky, especially for power, as his actual line of .306/.365/.460 is great but pales to his xStats line of .319/.376/.508. A lot of that xSLG was for doubles and triples as he still only had 19 xHR, but I still believe more homers will come with a 94.1 mph FB/LD eV and a 6.9% Barrel/PA%. At the very least, he’s a great bet to hit .300 with 15 HR, but if he can cut away even a bit at that groundball rate we can really see his value explode, as it’s the biggest thing holding his fantasy upside back. With dual 1B/OF eligibility, you should not let him go this late in your draft.
Round 17 (201): Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals)
Am I missing something here, or is it absolutely bananas that Vlad Guerrero Jr. went at pick 50 but Robles, who will actually start the year in the majors, fell this late? He’s widely considered the second or third most valuable prospect in baseball, even after missing most of the 2018 season with an elbow injury. When he did play, he hit just .278 with 2 HR and 14 SB in Triple-A but then in the majors hit .288/.345/.525 with 3 HR and 3 SB (2 CS) in just 59 AB. That September power could’ve been due to weaker September pitching, as his 82.3 eV and 88.9 FB/LD align with Craig Gentry, but time is on his side to recover and grow. What he may lack in game power he can make up for in average and speed, and could even work his way to hitting leadoff ahead of Soto and Harper… yes please. I probably would’ve been gun shy at his industry mock ADP of 118.9 and maybe even his #130 pick in PitcherList Mock 1, but even as a UTIL bat, the upside is too big to overlook here.
Round 18 (208): Rafael Devers (3B, Boston Red Sox)
I still knew I needed pitching, but I felt like I was at a supermarket and everyone was lining up to buy $5 semi-wilted kale but Ben & Jerry’s was on sale for $1 each. I may have been the only one buying and didn’t need them all, but just had to load up on all the flavors! Devers was obviously a disappointment after having a 2017 debut to dream on, to the point that Eduardo Nunez was starting over him plenty in the playoffs. But we know Devers will be the starter for 2019, and his .240/.298/.433 with 21 HR and 5 SB (2 CS) shouldn’t be considered a disaster considering, well, he was TWENTY-ONE. Prospect growth is not linear, and most players his age would still be in the low minors, not a slightly-below average major league starter. The power is still real as his avg eV (90.8 mph) and FB/LD eV (95.4) were top 50 in the majors, and with a full year of experience under his belt, I expect him to make substantial offensive improvement across the board in his age 22 season.
He was actually the top starter I wanted in Rounds 17 and 18, so I was pretty stoked to get him here. For most of the season, he was one of the best pitching sleepers, ranking as high as 19 on the Pitcher List, but he burned many owners being a mess down the stretch. giving up a whopping 24 ER over his final 14 innings (5 shortened starts) Many people including Nick were originally calling Skaggs’ early numbers unsustainable, but the wheels came off only due to injury, as he was dealing with an adductor strain and other ailments from his first blow-up onward. Even with those bloating his ERA to 4.02 and hurting his peripherals, he still rocked a 3.62 FIP, 3.85 scFIP and a 3.56 bbFIP, with strong K (24.2%) and BB (7.5%) rates. But separating the first half (before injuries struck) he had a 26.1% K%, 7.0% BB% and a 11.4% SwStr% which were all identical to the 1st half splits of ace and PL poster boy Aaron Nola (okay, Nola’s SwStr% was 11.5%). He has top 25 starter ability, but the big if is health, as his 125 1/3 IP in 2018 was a career high. But I’d rather gamble on the 27-year old’s talent than the mediocre Tobys left on the board, and think that 2nd half changed his valuation so much that he’s going from bust to sleeper.
Round 20 (232): Alex Colome (RP, Seattle Mariners)
I acknowledge this wasn’t exactly a sexy pick, or even a very good pick since odds are that barring another trade, Colome is just a set-up man with closer ability. Colome was a mess early on, but really rounded into form in the second half, with a 1.57 ERA and 32/8 K/BB over 28 2/3 innings that reminded us of his dominant 2017. He’d be a closer on at least a third of other ballclubs, but is unlikely to vulture many saves from Edwin Diaz. But I trusted him more to preserve my team’s rate stats which I figured would be my primary method of surviving H2H matchups in the pitching categories. Considering how early Josh Hader are going in mocks for ratios while possibly not being closer, it feels justifiable, but perhaps I should’ve gambled on Givens or another interesting young starter here.
Round 21 (249): Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets)
Now that I had completed my pitching staff, I knew it was just bench guys anyway, and I just couldn’t believe he went this late after being 17th round in Mock 1 and 9th round in another experts mock. I also realized I hadn’t drafted any proven, dedicated speed guys, with Robles and Pham my best bets there. Amed was pretty underwhelming for most of the year, but then hit .295 with 5 HR and 13 SB over the final two months of the season. I try not to get too crazy about splits, but for a rookie 22-year-old, I have optimism that this is him breaking out and turning into an above average regular, perhaps even a star. With 9 Homers and 24 SB in his first full season, he seems like a good bet for a 10+ HR and 30 SB season at SS, and his defense will keep him in the lineup for more SB opportunities. His 29.4 ft/sec sprint speed is Top 15 in the majors (min 75 opportunities), and his exit velocities are already slightly higher than Jean Segura, who is actually a decent comp if Rosario can continue improvement on hitting for more contact. I think if you can get him after pick 200, you should pursue He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Amed.
Round 22 (256): Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)
Yes, I know in a real draft, starting the year with 3 of your 4 bench spots on hitters is generally not a good strategy. But I think you can waive that philosophy IF there’s a hitter with superstar upside still sitting there untouched while the next arms off the board are Brach, Rogers, and Steckenrider. I think many fantasy leaguers saw this year as conclusive evidence that Miggy is toast, but I’m not sticking a fork in him yet. I mean, why would anyone stick a fork in toast? It’s true that the 35-year-old Cabrera only hit 3 HR over 134 at-bats before the season-ending biceps injury. However, he improved from 2017 with a .299/.395/.448 line, and that’s nothing compared to his xSlash… .331/.437/.464. Betcha didn’t realize he was that good, huh? While he wasn’t barreling the ball well (3.2%), his 94.4 avg eV was 2nd best in baseball behind Aaron Judge, with a 98.1 FB/LD eV that was 4th best (better than Judge). There’s no telling how he’ll come back and how long he’ll stay on the field, as he’s also had various back and knee ailments, but he’s still managed 425+ every year but 2018, and he said he’d be ready to play right now. If healthy, he may very well approximate his 2014 or 2015 season, and it could even be closer to his 2016. He’s probably my favorite pick of this draft, but in future drafts, I might not wait til pick 200, even til pick 175 to pounce on this Tiger.
I doubled up on Tigers, and think he rounds out my rotation nicely. His early success didn’t seem too sustainable, but after a rough spell really turned it on, with a 3.88 ERA and 72 Ks over 72 second half innings. I argued with Nick in August that Boyd belonged on the Top 100 List, and even though he wasn’t convinced then, I was pleasantly surprised to see Boyd listed at #58 on the October list. While his 4.39 FIP matches his ERA, he had strong batted ball data with a 3.80 scFIP and 3.54 bbFIP. That’s probably due to his slider, which is basically a money pitch with a 38.8% O-Swing%, 15.8% SwStr% and 48.1% Zone%. He threw it a whopping 31.1% of the time, thus accumulating an 18.9 pVal, and his FB velo ticked up 2 mph during his surge which also helped. Even if he can’t find a decent third pitch (I think he’d be wise to ditch the terrible sinker and refine the curve or changeup, he could be a lite version of a surprisingly similar pitcher Patrick Corbin. Yes, please.
I think I had a pretty great draft in terms of getting players at or beyond value, though it left my roster rather unbalanced… but it’s H2H so that’s more okay. Seeing how late first baseman fell, I wish I had gone with Scherzer over Goldy and kept everything else the same. I think my hitting would have the ability to dominate week after week, especially in AVG, R, and RBI, and SB, though my lineup lacks a bona fide homer hitter. I’d expect to be able to hang in there in pitching categories since the rotation I cobbled together of Sevvy, CarMart, Glasnow, Lester, Skaggs and Boyd actually has a nice mix of upside and dependability, backed by an elite bullpen. I didn’t make too many bold “plant your flag” picks in the early rounds, though I placed a lot of faith in young talent with early picks on Soto, Albies and Eloy, which is inherently risky. But I believe my picks from Round 15 onward were where my draft truly excelled, as most of those guys just offer so much upside at their ADPs and could easily be viable starters if any of my risky players faltered. I would’ve given myself a B earlier on, but I think I rallied my way up to an A-, or 14 out of 17.
Favorite Pick: Rafael Devers at pick #208
22-year-old still has ridiculous offensive upside for this late in the draft. Too good to be considered a post-hype sleeper.
Sleeper Pick: Tyler Skaggs at pick #225
Don’t be scared off by the ERA or 2nd half “meltdown”. He still has the tools to be a #2 starter, all he needs is health.
Potential Bust Pick: Juan Soto at pick #30
He’ll need to hit fewer groundballs and adjust to pitchers likely throwing him fewer fastballs for him to feast on.
Best Value Pick (other than mine): Jose Quintana at pick #193
Andrew Gould was wise to pounce on a once-again underrated workhorse who may outproduce Jon Lester (pick #153).