(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Happy Thursday, everyone! We are elbow deep in the MLB playoffs as we have a possible pennant-winning team playing tonight in Houston. So, what does that mean for the staff here at Pitcher List? Mock drafts, of course! I was very excited to participate in this one to gather tons of information before I really crank up my deep dives into the numbers around Christmas/New Years. Lessons were learned, mistakes were made, I laughed, I cried, I sulked. It all happened.
Mock Draft details: 12 teams, H2H scoring, standard 5×5, 1st overall pick.
Round One (1): Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
Don’t get cute. Don’t overthink this one. It’s Trout here until further notice. He’s coming off one of his best offensive seasons to date if you can believe it, and he’s hit the 30 HR/20 SB mark each of the last two seasons. He finished with a line of 101 R/39 HR/79 RBI/24 SB/.312. He has quite possibly the safest floor in baseball, and only Mookie Betts outperformed him in fantasy this season. How can you not feel good about things building around Trout?
Round 2 (24): Corey Kluber (P, Cleveland Indians)
Thus began the long 23-pick wait after Trout. The 1st overall pick is nice, but you also are very much taking a wait-and-see approach from that spot. Pitchers were going fast in the early rounds, which I knew would happen with this crew, so I knew I needed my ace in this spot. Kluber was right there, and I’m thrilled to have him as my SP 1. He’s coming off his first ever 20-win season, and he’s now tossed 200 innings in 5 straight seasons. That’s a rare floor for starters these days. He’s struck out at least 220 in each of the last 5 seasons, and even though it was a step back from his insane 2017, he’s still one of the elite pitchers in the game.
Round 3 (25): Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)
He finished the 2018 season with a very impressive line of 103 R/16 HR/87 RBI/21 SB/.290. I projected him to take a step forward into 2018, and he did not disappoint. The homers (and overall production) fell off the table in the 2nd half with just 2 after the break, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he isn’t a consistent 20/20 threat. Some may feel burned by the 2nd half swoon, but the lineup is one of the best in baseball, and he’s still just 24 years old. Even with the 2nd half dip, he still finished top 10 in the AL in doubles, top 5 in runs scored, and was top 20 in both AVG and OBP. The skills are outstanding, and if he had stayed consistent all year, he wouldn’t have fallen this far.
Round 4 (48): Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies)
My fellow drafters kept pouncing on pitching early, which made me almost snag Greinke here, but I couldn’t pass on the big bats that were falling as a result. Example: Rhys Hoskins. This is a 40 HR upside bat staring at me here in the 4th, and considering the progress the Phillies made this year, you can bet there will be solid counting stats to boot next year. I do take a bit of a hit in average with Hoskins struggling to get above .250 this year, but I’ve built a very safe cushion in that area with Trout and Benintendi. In hindsight, I noticed my fellow drafters really waited on 1B, but I think I’d still take Hoskins here.
Round 5 (49): Cody Bellinger (1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Speaking of big bats that fell, here’s Cody Bellinger. When I made this pick, I wrote in my draft notes “rebound, rebound, rebound.” Maybe he isn’t as good as his stellar 2017 rookie campaign, but he’s certainly not as “bad” as his 2018 was. And it wasn’t bad! It just wasn’t worthy of the 2nd round price tag you paid. Obviously, there was a drop in power. He lost 14 HR off his 2017 total, about 100 points in slugging and ISO, a 7% dip in hard contact and a 4% drop in barrel percentage. Still, even with the regression, he finished with a line of 84 R/25 HR/76 RBI/14 SB (!!!)/.260. Check out those swipes! So, who is the real Bellinger? Obviously, pitchers caught up to him in 2018, so the ball is in his court to adjust and hit that massive upside he showed in 2017. Is this a risky pick? Sure, but it’s one I’m willing to take on such a young player.
Round 6 (72): Madison Bumgarner (P, San Francisco Giants)
Having sold out for power bats in the previous two rounds, I desperately needed an SP 2 here. I’ve spent the last year as a Mad Bum apologist mainly because he hasn’t been healthy, and I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. It’s tough to defend his numbers from last year though. Injuries probably hampered him, but his strikeout rate was his lowest since 2010, his walk rate ballooned to the highest it’s ever been in his career, and his career-worst 4.42 SIERA doesn’t inspire confidence either. You can see why so many drafters let him fall. Obviously, I’m banking on a bounce-back here. I’m bummed I waited a bit too long on SP 2 as I much prefer guys who went earlier in this round like James Paxton, Jameson Taillon, and Jack Flaherty.
Round 7 (73): Adalberto Mondesi (SS/2B, Kansas City Royals)
As a writer of the Batter’s Box this past year, I had the absolute privilege of witnessing Mondesi’s meteoric rise to fantasy superstardom in the 2nd half. He carried many a team, including my own, to the fantasy title with his 8 HR and 14 SB in September alone. On the year, he slugged 14 HR and swiped 32 bags (Top 5 in the AL), and that’s even more impressive considering he did in 291 PLATE APPEARANCES. He wasn’t in the bigs until mid-June and still finished as the #10 2B on the ESPN player rater. Speed is obviously at a premium in fantasy right now, and if you can bring the pop too? Well, you’ve made yourself a top 10 round pick. One word of caution. He is a free-swinger. With just a 3% walk rate, 67% contact rate, and 18% swinging strike rate, he will be susceptible to cold snaps. However, we’ve seen the upside, and it’s glorious.
Round 8 (96): Daniel Murphy (2B, Free Agent)
Injuries limited him to just 351 plate appearances in 2018, and it appears to have given Murphy a slight discount for 2019. I’m all about that. Don’t forget this is the same Daniel Murphy that entered this year fresh off back-to-back 20+ HR seasons with at least 88 runs scored and 93 RBI. Oh, and he also hit above .300 those two seasons as well. He did have a rough June as he worked his way back to full health, but once we got to July, he was the same old Murphy. In fact, from July 1st on, he slashed .318/.356/.496 with 12 HR, a 127 wRC+ and a stellar 25% line drive rate. The injuries helped everyone forget how solid he has been lately, and you should take advantage. Obviously, we will see where he ends up in free agency this offseason.
Round 9 (97): Kenley Jansen (RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
I definitely like to get a top-tier closer, and Jansen is the one who fell to me. Roberto Osuna, Craig Kimbrel, and Edwin Diaz all went before this pick, and honestly, I’d take all three before Jansen. While he finished as the #4 RP on the ESPN Player Rater, it was a big step back for the Dodgers’ fireman this year. He struggled with command, ballooned his walk rate, and couldn’t keep the ball in the yard at times. He still got his strikeouts with 82 K in 71 IP, and you certainly didn’t hate his 38 saves, but you can’t deny he may not be the top option any longer. He’s been outstanding in the postseason, so maybe he builds off that momentum and returns to his old dominant self in 2019. I’m still willing to draft him as an RP 1 despite the red flags.
Round 10 (120): David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies)
He had a great September where it looked like he was finally putting his massive upside all together, and it has me hyped on him heading into 2019. However, I’ve been down this road before and gotten burned (See: Byron Buxton), but I’m cautiously optimistic. Dahl cranked 9 of his 16 HR in September alone and finished with a 141 wRC+ for the month. Parra and CarGo appear to be headed out the door, which could open up regular at-bats for him as well. He does have a checkered past with injuries and some pretty bad home/road splits, but if you extrapolate his 16 HR/5 SB into a full season, you get a 30 HR/10 SB guy. I’ll take that from my OF #4.
Round 11 (121): Jon Lester (P, Chicago Cubs)
Can I get a re-do on this one? I don’t know why I pulled the trigger on this one as I clearly overlooked guys like Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and JA Happ. I’d prefer all three of those to Lester by quite a bit. On the surface, it looked ok for Lester with his 18-6 record, 3.32 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 141 Ks in 181 IP. However, his underlying metrics reek of good luck and big-time regression in store for 2019. Big mistake pick here in the 11th, but I’m ok with taking him a few rounds later if he falls.
Round 12 (144): Eduardo Rodriguez (P, Boston Red Sox)
Ok, time to recover from that trash Lester pick. I really like E-Rod coming into this year. He was frustrating to own last year as he provided moments of brilliance, moments of getting blown up, missing time with injury, and eventually returning to get shelled by the Yankees in September. Despite all that, he ended with a 13-5 record, 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 146 Ks in 129 IP. The walk rate has continued to be a problem for him, but he did flash some really impressive strikeout upside throughout the year. Once he came back in September, he was very solid if you cross out two horrible starts against the Yankees. He’s a guy I’m definitely targeting to take a big step forward and be my SP #4/5.
Round 13 (145) Robinson Cano (2B, Seattle Mariners)
Here’s top 10 upside for the 2B position just waiting to be picked in the 13th round. Excellent value for Cano who clearly takes a hit after his PED suspension in 2018 resulted in a lost season. But should he be taking that hit? I think not. In fact, after he came back on August 14th, he slashed .317/.363/.497 with a 15% HR/FB rate and 40% hard contact. That’s business as usual for him and lets me know he hasn’t lost a step at age 35. xStats says he should have been even better than the numbers he posted, and peep that 11% VH rate.
Round 14 (168): Mike Moustakas (3B, Free Agent)
Man, this team could do some damage in 2016 and 2017! Anyways, I really wanted Salvador Perez here to fill my catcher spot, but Ben Palmer sniped me one pick earlier. At this point, I realized I was the only drafter without a 3rd baseman, and many others had two already. Dave Cherman had three. The greedy bast…anyways. I chose to load up on middle infielders early, so I chose the best available 3rd baseman here. That’s Moose, and I’m not disappointed at all. He wasn’t able to match his 38 HR of 2017 (duh), but he still finished with a line of 66 R/28 HR/95 RBI/.251. I’ll take that all day long in the 14th round. His last three years have provided a very nice floor especially if you wait on 3rd as I did. A lot of his value will be tied to where he ends up next year I feel.
Round 15 (169): Touki Toussaint (P, Atlanta Braves)
Yet another young, talented arm in the Braves system. We saw him post a roller coast ride of 29 innings at the age of 22 this year, and although he gave us all the walks, he flashed some excellent stuff and decent command to get us excited about the future. He does possess one of the best curveballs in the Braves’ system to go with his plus fastball, and if his changeup can come through as a powerful third pitch, he could take a massive step forward this year. The Braves probably won’t re-sign Kevin Gausman this offseason, so you have to think he cracks the rotation as the #5 option. That is if Luiz Gohara doesn’t beat him out for it.
Round 16 (192): Yasmani Grandal (C, Free Agent)
I would’ve been fine taking Yadier Molina a round or two later, but I decided to snatch up the best remaining offensive catcher. The last three years have seen him average 55 R/24 HR/66 RBI, which is outstanding considering the trash pile that is catcher right now. He’s always had a poor batting average, but he’s one of the best OBP options besides Posey at the position. He’s a free agent heading into the winter, but considering Keibert Ruiz is still just 20, I’d expect the Dodgers to re-sign their backstop.
Round 17 (193): Alex Colome (P, Free Agent)
Another guy who will be heading into free agency for me. How fun! This pick will be dependent on where Colome lands. It’s less about taking him here than just showing you all that this is where I’ll be taking my 2nd closer. Obviously, things change a lot as free agency shakes out this winter, and I’ll take whatever speculative closer falls to me here when the real thing happens. Colome is a year removed from 47 saves with the Rays, so you have to think he gets a job somewhere.
Round 18 (216): Jeff Samardzija (P, San Francisco Giants)
Shark only lasted 44 innings this year before a shoulder injury shut him down for good. He’s turning 34, he’s pitched 200 innings each of the last 5 seasons before 2018, and it looks like the wheels are falling off for good. I was hoping guys like Julio Urias and Sean Newcomb would fall to me here, but they got snatched up earlier in the round. Track his progress through the winter and into the spring to see where he’s at in his recovery, but this would be the first guy I’d cut for a streamer in April.
Round 19 (217): Billy Hamilton (OF, Cincinnati Reds)
50 SB upside here in the 19th round? Um…ok. Hamilton plummeted down the board this year as he swiped just 34 bags this season and provided his usual bad counting stats across the board. When you can’t do the one thing you get drafted for, you fall to the 19th. However, his 30 SBs are virtually free at this point. 30 SBs are the new 50, after all.
Round 20 (240): Greg Holland (RP, Free Agent)
This is another speculative closer pick here. I’m assuming Holland will get a job somewhere, but if he doesn’t, I’ll just take a guy with a job. He was a complete bust for the St. Louis Cardinals but re-discovered his form once he got to Washington. In his 21 IP, he recorded a 0.84 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and K’ed 24. Hopefully, that was enough to get him a job. Remember, prior to last year, he had a 4-year stretch where he was consistently among the league leaders in saves.
Round 21 (241): Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
A 23-year-old former top prospect who’s on a team that exceeded expectations and only got better at the trade deadline? I’m in. The Rays do have Mallex Smith, Kevin Kiermaier and Tommy Pham in the OF as of today, but Kiermaier can’t stay healthy. You also have to think they will find a way to get Meadows in the lineup and not spend his age 24 season in Durham. I don’t think it will happen next year, but I see 15 HR/25 SB upside here.
Round 22 (264): Ryan O’Hearn (1B, Kansas City Royals)
Some of my colleagues think it will be Frank Schwindel and not O’Hearn manning 1st in KC next season, but you have to think the Royals would slide him into the DH role if that were the case. Either way, O’Hearn flashed his power bat in the 2nd half of 2018 with 12 dongs and decent counting stats. The Royals may not have been very good this year, but don’t dismiss them for 2019 as they are loaded with young, promising talent and could be a sneaky offense.
Round 23 (265): Shin-Soo Choo (OF, Texas Rangers)
He criminally fell to me in the very last round as Choo remains one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball. He’s the 7th OF I took, and last year, he posted a line of 83 R/21 HR/62 RBI/.264. The 23rd round, folks! He has a very safe floor for 20 HR, lots of runs, decent RBI totals, and an average that won’t kill you, so this feels like a steal. He’s an elite OBP guy, so keep that in mind for those formats.
Overall, I feel pretty competitive with this team. It’s easy to say that when you have Trout and Kluber to build around. I think I waited too long consistently on pitching throughout this draft, but that could also just be because this is Pitcher List. However, I feel much deeper especially at the corner infield spots because I was willing to take stud bats when others grabbed SP 2/3. Speed won’t be an issue with a few 20 SB guys on the roster and Billy Hamilton lurking about. I would definitely need to play the wire in April and May as the closer situations played themselves out as I feel that’s my biggest weakness here. Overall, I give this team a B+.
Favorite Pick: Adalberto Mondesi
There’s bust potential here, but the best-case scenario feels like 20 HR/50 SB.
Sleeper Pick: Touki Toussaint
We didn’t see much at the big-league level, but if he can take another step forward with his massive tools, he could climb all the way into the Top 30 on The List.
Potential Bust: David Dahl
I’m using a 10th round pick on a guy who really only performed in September. The skills are there, but can he build off of 2018 and stay healthy?
Best Value Pick: Carlos Correa
The boss snagged a 1st round talent in the 4th round, which is criminal. Injuries have discounted him this year, and the 4th round could be the steal of the draft.