Pitcher List’s 2019 Early Mock Draft – Reviewing Myles Nelson’s Picks
Mock drafts are an excellent thought experiment in so many ways. You get some nice preparation in terms of where players are going to get drafted, what players are trending up or down in the fantasy community’s eyes, and what trends to expect for when you do your real drafts. You can also try new strategies to see how your team ends up, like perhaps going heavier on pitching early, or making sure you snag one of the top catchers this time around. I really enjoyed doing this early mock because I felt like I got a little bit of both. I’ve started to realize that good starting pitching is harder to find than it used to be, and so I made a point of making sure I got a few more guys that I really feel like I can trust this time around and not relying as much on flyers. It was also really educational to see which way players are heading, especially the youngsters as guys like Adalberto Mondesi and Vladimir Guerrero Jr were snapped up before the end of the 6th round. I hope that you all were able to learn as much as I did from our PitcherList mocks, and I can’t wait to hear your guys’ feedback.
One more thing before I dive into my review, you may have noticed the awesome graphic above, and there are more really cool graphics throughout the article as well. I collaborated with new graphics guru Justin Paradis to bring you guys a little bit of flavor in this article. We’d love to hear your thoughts on those as well!
Mock Draft details: 12 team, H2H format, standard 5×5 scoring.
Round 1 (3): Jose Ramirez (3B, Cleveland Indians)
It seems like the consensus is already out on the top 3 players in the draft, as most people have Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and Jose Ramirez going in that order. Funnily enough, Ramirez actually wasn’t even my first instinct when my pick came up at #3, I originally was looking at Nolan Arenado in that spot, but Ramirez has shown he’s the real deal. Two years in a row now with 29+ home runs, three years in a row of 17+ stolen bases, and he’s got such a well-rounded approach to the plate that I have no doubt his batting average will get back up to above .300 like it had been in 2016 and 2017. His BABIP plummeted to .252, far below his career average of .292, and that was just plain bad luck. He’s one of the best hitters in baseball and, at 26 years old, he’s just entering his prime.
Round 2 (22): Chris Sale (SP, Boston Red Sox)
I could not believe my eyes when I saw Chris Sale fall all the way down to the end of the 2nd round. I was planning on taking an elite starting pitcher here, but I was expecting it to be someone like Justin Verlander or Corey Kluber. Sale, in my mind, should be the 2nd starting pitcher off the board only after Max Scherzer. He completely dominates hitters, ranking 2nd in the majors in swinging strike rate (15.8%), 1st in strikeout percentage (38.4%), and 1st in FIP (1.98). He did have a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a little over a month, and he wasn’t completely himself down the stretch, but he has four months before Spring Training to get himself back to full strength. Sale is as dominant as they come, is on an elite team, and has the track record to back him up.
Round 3 (27): Charlie Blackmon (OF, Colorado Rockies)
I was really debating hard here between Charlie Blackmon and Andrew Benintendi, and I’m still not entirely positive I made the right choice. They both bring an excellent batting average to the table and will contribute in all four other categories (Benintendi has a little more speed, Blackmon has more power), and both are in excellent offensive environments. In the end, I opted for Blackmon’s track record, power upside, and slight edge in batting average. One of the biggest things for me is getting players who will hit for a high average early, as it is much easier to find contributors late in the draft who lack batting average than it is to find someone who can hit for a high average while also contributing in other categories. Blackmon has hit .315 over the last three seasons, and while he’s starting to get up there in years, I feel confident that I can still get at least a .290+ average from him, which is excellent in this day and age.
Round 4 (46): Corey Seager (SS, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Speaking of guys who can contribute in average, Corey Seager is a perfect fit here for the team I’m trying to build. He only fell this far due to his injury, as he was being picked around 30th overall last year. Seager is a very well-rounded offensive player, he’s hit .302 for his career, and in his two full seasons he’s averaged 24 HRs, 95 runs, and 75 RBI. Shortstop isn’t as weak as it used to be, but it’s still a position that drops off earlier than most. I’m not concerned too much that his production will fall off when he returns from his injury, and in an H2H league, I don’t mind missing out on production in April or May if he misses that much time. In fact, it’s one of my favorite strategies, targeting injured players that will play above their ADP once they come back. I drafted Daniel Murphy nearly everywhere in 2018, and I really appreciated his contributions down the stretch.
Round 5 (51): Walker Buehler (SP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Last year, this is roughly where I was targeting my first starting pitchers in drafts. For me, this just goes to show how much the pitching landscape has changed in just one year in terms of reliability, because I was typically able to find someone I felt comfortable within rounds 4 or 5, typically Zack Greinke or Aaron Nola. Things have changed though, and now I’m looking at a lot of pitchers who have flashed greatness but I don’t know if I can truly rely on them for various reasons. I was debating between Walker Buehler, Patrick Corbin, and German Marquez here, but ultimately eliminated Marquez because of his home/road splits (4.74 ERA at home, 2.95 on the road) and eliminated Corbin due to the uncertainty of where he’ll end up next season. I could see drafting Corbin ahead of Buehler if he ends up on a good team in a good park, but for now, Buehler is the guy for me. He threw 177 innings this year between the minors, the majors, and the postseason, and so I expect he’ll be allowed to pitch a full season moving forward. I love that he racks up the strikeouts (28% strikeout rate, 16th in the majors) and limits damage by being a groundball pitcher (50% groundball rate, 8th in the majors, next to guys like Aaron Nola and Miles Mikolas.
Round 6 (70): Travis Shaw (3B/2B, Milwaukee Brewers)
I just want to say right off the bat, shoutout to Mike Moustakas, because without the Brewers acquiring him, they wouldn’t have played Travis Shaw 36 games at 2B, and he wouldn’t have 2B eligibility. Second base is now the second weakest offensive position (after catcher, which will always be the weakest position), so getting Shaw here was crucial for me. No offense to the second basemen taken after Shaw, but I don’t really want to be relying on Jed Lowrie or old man Robinson Cano to hold the position down for me. Shaw was 5th among 2nd basemen this season in home runs (32) and RBI (86), and a few of the guys ahead of him will be losing their 2B eligibility (Jose Ramirez, Matt Carpenter). I wrote about Travis Shaw before the season as an underrated player, and I stand by that again for 2019. The only mark against him this season was his .241 batting average, but that should bounce back in 2019 as it was due to a career low BABIP of .242. Prior to 2018, he had never had a BABIP below .299. For the second year in a row, Shaw cut down on his swinging strikes, he cut down on his strikeout rate, and improved his walk percentage, showing that his skills at the plate are just getting better year after year. There’s a lot to like about Shaw heading into 2019.
Round 7 (75): Mike Clevinger (SP, Cleveland Indians)
It was around this time that I realized I was starting to get nervous about the depth remaining at starting pitcher, as it feels like there are fewer and fewer starters who I feel comfortable relying on week in and week out. Using The List as a base for reference, there’s about 30 SP that I want to be in my rotation, and beyond that I start to feel like I’m throwing blindfolded darts. I don’t view Clevinger as highly as Nick does, who placed him as SP16, but I still see him as solidly in the top 30 and someone I want to throw out there every single start. Clevinger had a heck of a season, posting 200 innings of 3.02 ERA, with 13 wins and 207 strikeouts. Only 7 starting pitchers in 2018 were able to tally 200 strikeouts, a sub 3 ERA, and 13+ wins, and Clevinger was .02 ERA points away from being the 8th. He pitches for an elite team, racks up the strikeouts, and has clearly been let loose by his coaching staff. He even made large strides in his command, dropping his walk rate from a pitiful 12% in 2017 to an acceptable 8.3% in 2018. He’s still got work to do there if he wants to become an ace, but the strides he made thus far are good enough to make him the easy choice for me here.
Round 8 (94): Kenley Jansen (RP, Los Angeles Dodgers)
This is criminal. I would honestly be shocked if Jansen’s ADP is anywhere close to this by the time draft season begins in February/March, because we are talking about one of the elite closers in baseball being drafted in the 8th round. Part of the reason is that we all know not to reach for closers, so closers in general go later than usual. Per Yahoo’s ADP, there were 7 closers off the board by this pick in 2018, with three closers going off the board by pick 60. Edwin Diaz, the first closer selected in this mock, went at pick 81. However, Jansen was still an incredible value pick here, as I still think he should have been the first closer off the board. Yes, Jansen’s season-long numbers didn’t look stellar, but those numbers are skewed hard by the four outings he had directly after he came back from his heart issues in August, something that hasn’t happened to him since 2012. If you ignore those four consecutive outings in mid-August, Jansen posted a 2.26 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP, good for 15th and 7th among all relievers (not just closers), respectively. He’s having heart surgery this offseason and I have no doubts he’ll be back to his usual self by the time the season starts. I hope that Jansen’s ADP is low by the time draft season rolls around, because I’ll gladly snag him over and over again.
Round 9 (99): Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets)
Michael Conforto isn’t a baseball player, he’s the real-life version of Will Smith’s Hancock. Hancock began his “career” as superhero by being an exciting, headline-grabbing good guy, turning heads and getting the people excited with his daily adventures. He fell into a funk, and disappointed everyone with lackluster performances and general malaise, but he got his act together, and finished strong, looking more invincible and powerful than ever before (There is absolutely no third act in that movie, no stupid Charlize Theron romantic storyline, and you can’t convince me otherwise). In 2017, Conforto was looking like one of the best young outfielders in baseball, hitting .279 with 27 home runs and 70/70 production. He had surgery in the offseason to deal with a severe shoulder injury and came back way too soon (everyone was hugely surprised when he was out there in April, he wasn’t expected back until early May). He very predictably struggled, hitting .216 with a .366 SLG in the first half of the season. His peripherals backed it up, as his hard-hit rate was way down (only a paltry 27% through the first two months of the season). Once he was finally healthy in the second half, he recovered very nicely, slashing .273/.356/.539 with 17 HR, 43 R and 52 RBI in only 68 games played. All the tools are there for him to continue that level of production, and if he can stay healthy, he can be a top 10 OF in baseball. That’s the Conforto I believe I drafted here.
Round 10 (118): Nick Pivetta (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)
I’ll be honest here, I had a few other pitchers on my radar that all got snapped up between my picks. Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, and Robbie Ray were all picked long before my next spot, so clearly other people saw them too. As for Pivetta, my love-hate relationship for him lasted all season. I had him on a lot of teams, and it felt like I was constantly treating him like a really high-end streamer. He had the capability of tanking my ratios with one bad inning, but he would also do things like his 12 strikeouts in 6 innings against the Reds on July 27th that felt like it made up for the 5 runs he gave up in that game. Pivetta was 13th this season in K-BB% among qualified pitchers, right behind Luis Severino, Marquez, and Nola, and right ahead of Charlie Morton and Greinke. That’s elite company right there. Pivetta shines in his peripherals, with an excellent swinging strike rate of 12%, and his FIP was almost a full run below his ERA of 4.77. If Pivetta can just limit the innings where he falls apart, he can be a great pitcher.
Round 11 (123): Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)
Ask anyone who’s played fantasy baseball for a few years, and they’ll tell you that first base is not what it used to be. First base used to be this bastion of production, where no matter who you drafted you could count on power, run production, and probably average if you didn’t wait too long. It used to be so stacked, and that’s just not the case anymore. However, don’t let people fool you into thinking first base is overly shallow. I still feel like I can wait on drafting a first baseman, but to a point. This was that point. After Matt Olson (who was the 12th first baseman off the board), I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about any of the guys still out there, and I wanted to make sure I got someone I had at least some confidence in. I think he took a real step forward this year, increasing his hard-hit rate by 7 up to 47%, and decreasing both his SwStr% and K%. He was obviously never going to replicate that absurd 2017, but I think this was a positive year for Olson and even if he just replicates this season (29 home runs, 85 runs, 84 RBI), I’d be happy with that at 1B.
Round 12 (142): Ender Inciarte (OF, Atlanta Braves)
I surprised myself with this pick. I had Ender Inciarte in the PL league this year, and while he was fantastic to start the season, I’m not sure I’m happy with his overall performance. He stopped running after April, his batting average was the worst of his career, and he’s just not a huge contributor outside of that (he did score his usual 80+ runs though). However, his BABIP plummeted after three years of consistently being in the .330 range, and I can’t see anything in his batted ball profile that should explain that. It seems as though he was just unlucky. He’s a talented hitter and I expect the batting average to bounce back, and we’ll hopefully see another 2017 for Inciarte (.300 avg, 10 HRs, 90 Rs, 20 SBs). I wanted to pick Aaron Hicks, but I have real questions about his playing time for next season as the Yankees could easily add a marquee free agent this offseason. If we were doing this draft in March and Hicks was locked into a starting role, I’d have picked him here.
Round 13 (147): Dallas Keuchel (SP, Free Agent)
Dallas Keuchel struggled in 2016, he struggled in 2018, he was a Cy Young winner in 2015 and elite in 2017. See a pattern? He’s like the anti-Giants, he’s got that OYBS (Odd Year BS). In all seriousness, he’s obviously a pitcher with a lot of question marks, but that’s what you are going to get at this spot in the draft. Pitchers that went after him included Hyun-Jin Ryu (can he stay healthy?), Chris Archer (what on earth happened to him?), Jon Lester (his peripherals do not back up the year he had), and Shane Bieber (very limited track record). I like Keuchel, I like groundball pitchers who can strike batters out. He had a rough year as far as strikeouts go, but he’s been above 20% in K rate in each of the last three seasons. His walk rate was at a three-year low, and his BABIP has fluctuated wildly in the last four seasons, this year being one of the bad years. I think he was a mix of unlucky and a little bit worse this season, and I think at least one of those will turn around.
Round 14 (166): Kirby Yates (RP, San Diego Padres)
I felt I needed another closer with only Jansen currently, and closers were flying off the board. Again, this is one of the tough parts of doing a mock draft in October; by March we’ll know a lot better who the ~30 closers going into the regular season will be. I felt pretty good about Kirby Yates being the Padres closer, as he’s arbitration eligible and was their best reliever after Brad Hand was traded. He was dominant, posting 90 strikeouts in 63 innings (36% K rate, 29.2% K-BB), and holding a nice 0.92 WHIP. Saves aren’t as closely correlated to winning teams as one would think, so I’m not worried about Yates being on potentially one of the worst teams in baseball. With the other categories that he contributes in, even if I only get 25ish saves from him, he’ll still return his draft value here.
Round 15 (171): Salvador Perez (C, Kansas City Royals)
This might be my favorite pick of my draft. It’s very similar to the Jansen pick, where I feel like there’s going to be absolutely 0 chance of Perez lasting this long once the real drafts come along. We all tell ourselves during these draft processes to not reach for a closer and to not reach for a catcher, and so they go later across the board than they usually do. Doing a slow draft also makes it easier to take that deep breath and tell yourself it’s okay to keep waiting, whereas sometimes the pressure of making a pick in a time limit can make you panic and pick a catcher. Anyway, there are exactly 5 catchers who I currently feel comfortable just plugging in at C and never worrying about them, and Salvy is the 5th one (I guess it’s more like 4.5 as I am worried about Gary Sanchez). Four straight years of 20+ HRs, two in a row with 27, two years with 80 RBI, and even though his average was a pathetic .235, he had the worst BABIP of his career by a decent margin. He’s hit .260 in all but two years of his career, and again, I loaded up on batting average early in the draft specifically so I wouldn’t have to worry about low average guys like Perez and Matt Olson later on. I’ll take that stat-line from my catcher every day of the week.
Round 16 (190): Andrew Heaney (SP, Los Angeles Angels)
At this point for my pitching staff, I’m just taking blindfolded dart throws at upside. I think Andrew Heaney can be the ace of the Angels if he can stay healthy. Obviously that’s a huge if, especially as a member of the Angels, who seem to have sold all their pitchers’ elbows to the devil for the blessing that is Mike Trout. For Heaney, it felt like he got stronger as the year went on, especially with the peripherals he posted in the second half, namely the 24% K-rate and 4.6% BB-rate. He ran into some trouble with the long ball at the end of the year, but overall, I saw a pitcher building a strong foundation after coming back for his first full season since 2015. And if he doesn’t? Well knowing how pitching goes, half of my rotation will be players I pick up on the waiver wire anyway, so I won’t cry about it if Heaney disappoints me.
Round 17 (195): Elvis Andrus (SS, Texas Rangers)
I really believed in Andrus this year, and I think that if it wasn’t for the broken elbow really early in the season, he would have been able to continue his upward trajectory. He made real changes in his approach at the plate that led to his outstanding 2017, and I think with him coming into 2019 healthy (presumably), he’ll be able to build on that. I also needed a SS to start the year with Seager likely not back until May, and at this point in the draft, none of the guys left can be counted on. Is it worrisome that I have two shortstops who had elbow injuries in 2018? Sure, but Andrus was healthy enough to play for the second half of the season, and with a full offseason to get his strength back, I feel confident in letting him be my opening day shortstop. Andrus showed everyone what he could do in 2017, so I’ll take my chances on that.
Round 18 (214): Jimmy Nelson (SP, Milwaukee Brewers)
Speaking of guys who have done it before and over a full season, and are coming back from injury, Jimmy Nelson everybody! I really like this guy, even though I’m terrified of pitchers with pitching arm injuries. Nelson was elite in 2017, boasting a 12 win, 3.49 ERA, 10.2 K/9 season. He had an elite K-BB% ratio (12th in the majors at 20.8%), and his FIP was actually half a run better than his ERA. Could I have picked someone like Tyler Skaggs, or Zack Godley, or someone else with similar upside and who actually pitched in 2018? Yeah, but none of those guys have reached the heights that Nelson has, and Nelson will be pitching for an elite team in 2019. He’s also done with rehab, meaning he’ll have a regular offseason to get ready for the season.
Round 19 (219): Carlos Santana (1B, Philadelphia Phillies)
Despite all the weird stuff that happened in Philly this year, Carlos Santana was able to have a pretty typical season for him. He had solid power and run production numbers (24 HR, 82 R, 86 RBI) and should still be in the middle of a solid lineup next year. His batting average was the worst of his career, but you’re not drafting Santana for batting average. This is the last time I’ll talk about my hitting strategy, but getting Santana at pick 219 really just hammers home for me that I’m doing the right thing. Players like Santana are always available late in the draft, or emerge on the waiver wire (Max Muncy comes to mind), guys who can contribute in three categories but could sink your batting average, and that’s why they plummet in value. Santana can keep doing what he does every single year, and that’s value you can’t find this late in the draft.
Round 20 (238): Yusei Kikuchi (SP, Free Agent)
This is a strictly upside pick, because who knows how low his floor is. I know little about Yusei Kikuchi, there’s not much in the way of scouting reports on him online, but as of right now, we know he’s had success in the past two seasons in the NPB, he’s got a mid-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as 98mph, his best pitch is a hard slider, and he also features a change and a curve. Back in March, the Athletic threw out the possibility that he could command a nine-figure deal. If that’s the case, then teams believe in his talent, and I’ll take that risk.
Round 21 (243): Ryan Pressly (RP, Houston Astros)
This is almost certainly my weirdest pick, and that’s including the pick I just made in Kikuchi where I know hardly anything about the guy. But Ryan Pressly, we know a decent amount about him. He’s been in the majors since 2013, and he’s been wholly uninteresting. Through his first five seasons in the majors, he’d pitched 269 innings in 230 games, with a 3.81 ERA and just a 18.6% K-rate. However, over the past year and a half, he’s made some adjustments to his game. When he went to the Astros, they helped him add more spin to his pitches (that already spun like crazy), he’s gotten better at locating his slider, and has upped his curveball and slider usage. This led to a dominant stretch of 23 innings, 0.77 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, and an absurd 38% K-rate. His BB rate won’t stay as low as it was with the Astros (3.6%, usually hovers around 7%). He was called upon in 5 of the 8 games the Astros played in the playoffs, and he’s arbitration eligible. I think that there is a largely untapped market of value in the middle relievers, who are being utilized more and more as the game has moved away from starting pitchers just constantly going deep into games. This year, I rode Josh Hader to much success, but now his price is too high. However, Pressley could be the next Hader, who was the 19th ranked pitcher in fantasy this year.
Round 22 (262): Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals)
Adam Eaton just cannot stay healthy since coming to Washington. In the three years prior to coming to the Nationals, Eaton was able to average 144 games per season, but has played just 118 games over the last two seasons combined. I love his skill set, he’s great with a bat, even in his limited time last season he was on pace for roughly 10 HR/15 SB/90 R while hitting .301. There’s obviously some concern over playing time with Juan Soto, and the someday emergence of Victor Robles, but with Harper almost certainly out of Washington, I’d like to believe Eaton is going to have an everyday role next year.
Round 23 (267): Willie Calhoun (OF, Texas Rangers)
The Rangers have got to find playing time for Willie Calhoun. He’s a fantastic hitting prospect who slashed .300/.355/.572 last year in AAA. He’s got power, he can hit for average, he hardly struck out in AAA and didn’t even strike out that much for a power hitter in the majors. He can and should be a quality contributor for the Rangers next season. I’m hoping to cash in on that post-hype sleeper potential here as Calhoun was a popular pick in 2018 for players to stash, and I’m thinking after the year he had, people are largely going to forget him in favor of prospects like Vlad Guerrero Jr and Eloy Jimenez. Obviously I don’t think Calhoun will be as good as either of those two guys, but I certainly think he can be a steady contributor to fantasy teams in 2019.