Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock Draft – Reviewing Brennen Gorman’s Picks
(Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)
Brennen Gorman here – the Pitcher List staff spent the past week mock drafting our first of the 2019 season, now it is time to review. Let’s take a gander at how my first mock draft of the 2019 season went.
Mock Draft Details: 12-team, H2H, standard 5×5, with the 12th overall pick.
I was devastated when Nick took Alex Bregman with the 11th pick, so I changed course and went all in on pitching early as I had my pick of the litter. Although Max Scherzer is amazingly coming off of a career year at age 34, my strategy in early rounds of any fantasy league is to play it safe with my picks and I think Scherzer’s age – like Justin Verlander should knock him down a bit. Despite no indication of Scherzer slowing down, I do not want to be left holding the bag when he does decline. Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom, on the other hand, are in their prime and coming off of career seasons of their own.
Sale, despite an injury-shortened season, had the highest k/9 in the league at 13.5 and a career-low 2.11 ERA (1.98 FIP) — another 300 strikeout season with a low-2.0 ERA is within reach in 2019. deGrom had a full season and posted an absurd 1.70 ERA (in the past 30 years only Zack Greinke and Greg Maddux have had lower) with 269 strikeouts. These two are high-floor, high-ceiling pitchers that will be at the core of my pitching lineup.
Round Three (36): Anthony Rizzo (1B, Chicago Cubs)
In 2018 there were only two first basemen in the top-50 – Anthony Rizzo was not one of them. A wildly horrendous March/April (11 for 74) left Rizzo’s season stats a step behind his peers at the position, but in every other month, Rizzo was competitive. He hit .329 in the second half with 13 home runs and still finished with 100+ RBI. Rizzo is at the heart of a powerful offense and should continue to be a cornerstone in 2019.
Round Four (37): Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)
I saw a deep dip in quality third baseman after Anthony Rendon (Kris Bryant having gone a pick prior) and decided to shore up the position early. If Bryce Harper returns then it’ll be a boost to Rendon, if Harper leaves Rendon could be boosted by a better spot in the lineup – Rendon’s stock is looking good in 2019. Carlos Correa was still available, but I thought I could find a quality shortstop later as the position has a glut of talent – so I passed. Had another top starting pitcher fell to me, I might have gone all-in on pitching, but alas there was a run right before these picks.
I saw James Paxton as the last of the elite pitchers left on the board and snapped him up to fill my third SP slot designation. 160 innings is the most Paxton has yet to play in a season and despite a 3.76 ERA, his play is elite. I think his true value is closer to the 2.98 ERA from the year prior (as indicated by Paxton’s 3.24 FIP in 2018). Paxton carried a 11.68 K/9 that resulted in 208 strikeouts (fourteenth most in 2018, only Chris Sale did more with so few innings).
Round Six (61): Edwin Diaz (RP, Seattle Mariners)
Picking a relief pitcher this early was more a result of the league format (3SP/3RP/3P) than it was where I would normally take a relief pitcher. If I need to have three relief pitchers, I want to make sure I will own the category while benefiting every other category. Edwin Diaz finished with 124 strikeouts and a 1.96 ERA. He has shown flashes of brilliance in 2016 and 2017 – but finally broke out this past season. Diaz was the top reliever in 2018 and I expect will be again in 2019.
Round Seven (84): Gleyber Torres (2B/SS, New York Yankees)
Gleyber Torres‘ rookie season was filled with high-highs and low-lows, coming out of the gate hot, pittering out, getting hurt, heating up before stumbling to the end of the season. I want to do a bigger piece on Torres’ season as it was filled with some interesting numbers, like his .301/.238 home/away split. Torres is still only 21 and this was simultaneously his rookie season and first season back from Tommy John. I like his chances of taking a big step forward in 2019.
Round Eight (85): Aroldis Chapman (RP, New York Yankees)
As in Round Six, I wanted to keep shorting up my pitching given the format. I took a bit of a risk on Aroldis Chapman given his injury history and only pitching 11 innings in the second half of 2018. Pitch for pitch, he is one of the most effective and strikeout inducing relievers in the league. His first half of 2018 ended with a 1.35 ERA and 15.3 K/9 – clearly, he has his stuff when healthy.
Round Nine (108): Felipe Vazquez (SP, RP Pittsburgh Pirates)
Rounding out my trio of relief pitchers is Felipe Vazquez. There was a bit of a run on relievers after my Aroldis Chapman pick, I saw Vazquez as the last “elite” reliever so I snapped him up. I figured this gave me breathing room to snap up a lottery ticket reliever later and with these three win saves most weeks while positively supplementing my other pitching statistics.
Round Ten (109): Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox)
Ah, my first outfielder. I had toyed with Aaron Hicks here (he went a pick later), but figure that come the spring Eloy Jimenez will have an even higher value than Round 10 (but lower than Vlad Guerrero Jr.‘s Round 5 value). Jimenez made a mockery of Double and Triple-A ball in 2018 and should sit in the minors a few weeks next spring before getting his call-up. He should hit at the heart of Chicago’s lineup and be a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, contending with Guerrero Jr.
Round Eleven (132): Jonathan Villar (2B, Baltimore Orioles)
I am comfortable picking Jonathan Villar at this pick, but expect that come the spring his value will also rise — at this pick it builds in his inherent risk. After his trade to Baltimore, Villar had an OBP of .339 21 stolen bases on 24 attempts – this in 209 at-bats (or about one-third of the season). I am not saying Villar will return to his 60 steal season from 2016 and a lot could change depending on who replaces Buck Showalter who famously said “whats greener than green” when referencing how often Villar could steal – but in Baltimore Villar’s stock is trending upward quickly. I did not invest much into balanced players, I figure I will punt them or Villar will help keep me competitive most weeks.
Round Twelve (133): Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates)
Irked that Alex Fast took Victor Robles two picks prior, I wanted to start filling in my outfield given even the middle-tier bats had started to go. Had Gregory Polanco not missed the final month of the season, he was on pace to be a top-25 outfielder. He finished 2018 with 23 home runs and 12 stolen bases (only caught on two). Polanco’s biggest hangup is his batting average, having finished somewhere in the .250s for four straight seasons. I do not expect him to do better in that regard, but he did increase his walk percentage to the double digits – resulting in a massive increase to his OBP. Polanco has not reached his prime quite yet.
Round Thirteen (156): Didi Gregorius (SS, New York Yankees)
I drafted Didi Gregorius at 9:00 am, but by 1:00 pm the same day we learned he would require Tommy John. This was going to be probably my pick of the draft despite not needing another middle infielder. Gregorius’ monthly splits were crazy. Like Anthony Rizzo, Gregorius hit at or near .300 in every month except May when he hit .149. One month sunk his season stat line, but was otherwise an offensive star at his position.
Another great value pick, Hyun-Jin Ryu was on pace to shatter his rookie (career best) numbers until his injury where his “left groin muscle [was torn] off the bone.” He then came back in August and did even better, throwing a 1.88 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. Ryu has fundamentally shifted his pitching game starting in 2017, relying on his fastball about 20% less and by developing a cutter which he has supplemented in that vacuum. I think Ryu will finish in the top-25 starting pitchers next season with these improvements. This is the best value of any player I selected based on the value I think will be returned.
My general strategy in fantasy baseball is to stream and utilize my bench to continually have pitchers pitching. I am not a particular fan of Jon Gray, but this seemed to be a good spot to take him given his ability to induce strikeouts. I do not think he is as good as his 2017 numbers indicate, but I also think his 2018 18.1% HR/FB is an unsustainable figure. I think he could finish around a high 3 ERA and 220 strikeouts. I was a bit surprised to see Josh James selected so early by Nick, but I would have preferred James at this pick.
As with the above pick, the draft is entering lottery pick mode with the mainstays of the team anchored in. Alex Reyes is a perennial player that cannot catch a break after getting Tommy John shortly after his debut, then proceeded to let up no runs in his post-Tommy John rehab, only to get injured again in his first game back. Reyes will be back to start the season in 2019 and is in a good place to succeed if healthy. Getting him at pick 181 is a great investment.
Round Seventeen (204): Jeurys Familia (RP, Free Agent)
I finally wanted to go back and get another reliever and Jeurys Familia is a strong candidate to get a closing role this offseason. Four closers would lock up saves and by stacking my bench with starters I should still have a strong position to win all five categories week-to-week.
Round Eighteen (205): Franmil Reyes (OF, San Diego Padres)
Filling out my outfield is a player I have been hyping for months now, Franmil Reyes. In an abbreviated 2018 season, Reyes posted a solid 42.2% Hard Contact rate and has supported it with a 92.2 MPH average exit velocity (16th in the league). Between Triple-A and the MLB he hit 32 home runs (including an incredibly fun spree in Triple-A). After returning to the MLB in August, Reyes hit .315 and drastically slashed his strikeout rate (down to 20%) while raising his walk rate (to 10%). If those fall gains stay, Reyes will be one of the biggest breakout stars of 2019.
Round Nineteen (228): Yusei Kikuchi (SP, Free Agent)
A player that will be drafted well over 100 picks higher come the spring, Yusei Kikuchi is the next Japanese phenom coming to America. The Seibu Lions have declared that they will be posting Kikuchi this offseason. Kikuchi is 27 years old and despite a down year with a 3.08 ERA (finishing with a 1.98 ERA the year prior) and 153 strikeouts in 163 innings. He throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. His fastball is in the mid-90s, but has hit 98 MPH and his slider is amazing. He has an unorthodox delivery that assists in fooling batters. If his average draft position does not creep too high, he’ll be a strong target for me in 2019.
Jakob Junis burst out in the second half of 2018, with a 3.46 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 75.1 innings. His season stat line is shrouded by a terrible first half, but in the second half was able to keep the ball down more often. Junis cut his FB% by 13% resulting in a 6% drop (to 12%) of his HR/FB rate. Weirdly, his HR% was worse at home – a stadium that is one of the better pitcher’s parks with regard to home run park factors. His slider is developing into a shut-out pitch
Round Twenty-One (252): Dereck Rodriguez (SP, San Francisco Giants)
Dereck Rodriguez had 14 quality starts in 19 starts – with his final two starts representing his worst two starts since June 6th (where he let up five runs in 2.2 innings). This late in the draft I am more than happy to roll the dice on what amounted to a great rookie year showing a level of consistency not common in rookie pitchers. While I like this pick, I am kicking myself for forgetting Jesus Luzardo who should be a force in 2019.
Round Twenty-Two (253): Frank Schwindel (1B, Kansas City Royals)
I needed to fill in my final utility role here and I had considered Harrison Bader and Brian Anderson, but ultimately want to give more attention to a guy I think could provide notable value in 2018. Frank Schwindel has played two back-to-back seasons in Triple-A and has performed well enough to win minor leaguer of the year in Kansas City in both 2017 and 2018. Kansas City held Schwindel down in favor of Hunter Dozier and Ryan O’Hearn – but make no mistake, Schwindel is Eric Hosmer‘s heir. For 2019 the team may toy around with playing Schwindel around the field, further increasing his value as he gets various positional eligibilities. Schwindel has continued to refine his approach and should have little trouble transitioning into the MLB.
Round Twenty-Three (276): Francisco Meija (C, San Diego Padres)
Unless I have a top catcher, I will opt for the “no-catcher” strategy and use the spot to stream a pitcher. I could see myself rostering Francisco Mejia for the first few weeks of the season to see how he fairs as he has been the top catching prospect for two years now — otherwise consider this my (as well as the draft’s) Mr. Irrelevant.
I am a pretty big fan of this draft, I think that if I had to compete with this team I could get to six category wins each week. I love my pitching lineup and the upside to even my late round pitchers to have consistent production. Although I am light on all-star bats, I think I have enough impact bats to be competitive in most hitting categories week-to-week with the idea that I only need to win one or two batting categories each week as my pitching netting me the bulk of my categorical wins.
Favorite Pick: Hyun-Jin Ryu at pick #157.
Sleeper Pick: Yusei Kikuchi at pick #228.
Potential Bust Pick: Franmil Reyes if he cannot keep his strikeout rate in check.
Best Value Pick (other than mine): Miguel Andujar at 88.