I was honored to participate in some Pitcher List staff fun, mocking up first-year players, and man, my draft mates were no joke. Mr. Colin Charles dashed plans all three times he picked in front of me. What a way to welcome a new guy Colin.
Nonetheless, I was pleased with the five players I’d be adding to this theoretical team. The 2020 MLB Draft has been a focus of mine, starting a few years ago, and still delving into today. So, naturally, I selected three (projected) international signees, two of which should be instant big leaguers. I couldn’t help myself, despite being more versed in other options on the board. I value proximity, as I feel it pays off, and the three I took aren’t short on fantasy upside.
Historically, along with proximity, I value five-tool upside; players with a projectable hit tool, power, speed, defensive prowess, and good arms to beef up that defensive profile. Obviously, the defense doesn’t count much in fantasy, but when it comes to prospects, I think it’s immensely important. The first ability is availability, and if a player can’t play defense at the major league level, that puts a huge hurdle in front of the availability. A strong defensive profile also gives a prospect a longer leash to stick in a lineup or ascend up the ladder quicker with teams willing to let them figure things out at the plate while they add runs saved out in the field.
To me, the ultimate goal for fantasy hitters is finding one that can hit for average, power, and steal bases. They are hard to come by, so I want as many chances I can afford to take, speculating where those are. In addition to the quest of finding the ultimate fantasy weapon, I want players with the most avenues to the bigs. Maybe my five-tool upside guy never taps into power? So he hits for average and swipes bags. Maybe one doesn’t get the average piece down and lands with a squad who doesn’t want to steal, but he’s still hitting HRs. These profiles offer upside to hope on and safety to get something out of your speculation.
This line of thought typically means rostering a lot of up the middle defenders, MIF and CF, less CIF, COF types. Thus, I like to sprinkle big bopper potential on my speculative rosters. I don’t roster many, but like to have one with proximity to bigs and maybe one further away.
Pitching: I don’t typically chase nor roster many pitching prospects, and if I do, they are rarely the flashy name types; those are too expensive for my liking with the risk/reward scale not settling where I’m comfortable. I would rather throw more gambles into five-tool hitters. It is rare a pitching prospect has a straightforward, steady ascension into the bigs, let alone a constant perceived value by dynasty owners. Prior to a MLB debut there may be Tommy John surgeries, tweaking of an arsenal or delivery at a minor league stop, or other delays accompanied with decreased perceived value.
I don’t ignore pitching prospects. Matter of fact, I probably track them more than I do hitters, I’d just prefer them marinating and taking up others’ minor spots than mine. There will be a dip in their perceived value and I’ll either scoop them after a drop, get them thrown into a trade, or perhaps even better yet, wait for them to debut, not set the world on fire right away, as most don’t, and get them when their owner wants to cut ties, a la Lucas Giolito a few years ago, or maybe a Nate Pearson owner is already feeling uneasy. Some dynasty owners tend to go after the flashy pitching prospects dreaming on high K rates and insane ratios, whilst neglecting what may be a safer profile; command, pitch mix, soft contact types. Those come cheap later.
I also like to invest in a few RPs with big upside in large leagues if they are around late and I’m not feeling other options. Some of my biggest profits have been from late picks used on Brusdar Graterol, Andres Munoz, and hopefully DeMarcus Evans. Relief pitchers have fantasy value and appeal despite being somewhat ignored because they are hard to predict. You don’t have to predict anything to take some stabs with tail-end draft picks.
And when it comes to prep or J2 pitching prospects, I rarely ever waste my resources. It’s just not smart money to take them early, thus I never end up with the big-named ones. I sleep fine. Since it may be a good 5-7 years before they reach fantasy prowess, I’ll take my chances the Andry Lara or Nick Bitsko owners of the world get fatigued, and I can get him for far less down the road if I’m liking what I’m seeing or thinking skills are improving.
I drew the 8-hole…..let’s get into it:
Round 1, Pick 8: Kim Ha-Seong, IF, FA
With Garrett Mitchell and Kim left after six picks, I started ruminating over the two, feeling a steal with either. I had actually been contemplating which of the two I wanted more before we even started this mock. Having recently delved into some MLB Draft and NFBC history, I’ve decided it’s Kim for me, and it’s not particularly close (it was during this mock though). Kim’s combination of upside, floor, and proximity is too much for me to pass on.
From 2000-2015 there were thirteen college outfielders drafted in Mitchell’s range (11-20). Twelve made the bigs, but only four ever achieved a peak NFBC ADP rank inside the top 200, with the highest being George Springer at 22 in 2016, A.J. Pollock at 39 in 2017, Nick Swisher at 86 in both ’07 and ’08, and Hunter Renfroe at 191 in 2019. This historical data doesn’t change my opinion of Mitchell, I love his fantasy upside, a LOT, but Kim’s fantasy upside is equally appealing and he’s already coming off early mock boards pre-300, with momentum to be had after he signs. Could Mitchell become a better fantasy asset for sure, but I’m playing it by the book with my first pick, trying to improve my team ASAP.
Of course, all this became moot rumination as Colin took Mitchell and my choice was made for me. Kim is a five-tool baseball player, and perhaps the most advanced hitter in the pool. I wouldn’t knock any owner sitting with the #1 pick, selecting Kim, playing it safe, and improving their team immediately, especially in a large league where floor may matter more than ceiling. Debuting in the KBO as an 18 yo in 2014, and since establishing himself as one of, if not the best player in the league, he hit .294 with a .866 OPS over six-plus seasons, with 133 HR and 132 SB, dazzling plays in the field, and throwing runners out with a plus arm. Last season was his best, going 30 HR 23 SB .923 OPS.
Sure it’s hard to translate what that may mean in the bigs with some comp-ing the KBO as AA ball stateside, but let’s pretend a prospect stateside was doing what Kim has and their club announced he’d be called up to start the 2021 campaign. Said prospect would be drooled over by dynasty owners. Hard to say where Kim will sign at this point, but his ability to play anywhere in the field, paired with his offensive upside, makes him desirable to most clubs. Thus there have been murmurs of him landing just about everywhere, NYY, Bos, Tor, Mil, SF, the list goes on. When he signs, he will be an instant big leaguer, an accomplishment some in this draft will never achieve.
Taking Kim with my first pick gave me the freedom to take some bigger upside gambles later, which I loved. My theoretical team got better now and later with this pick. I don’t expect Kim to last all the way to 8th in my leagues, but I could be wrong. During an In This League FYPD mock I participated in he went 3rd after Spencer Torkelson and Austin Martin. Players coming from the KBO and other Asian leagues are too mysterious for a lot of owners. In my opinion, there is nothing to be more scared of with Kim than there is with the rest of this pool, and if there is a fear factor amongst your rivals, pounce. If Kim doesn’t sign before January 1st, this is all for not, as he will play in Korea in 2021. That’s not going to happen though, right?
Round 2, Pick 17: Aaron Sabato, 1B, Twins
I was pleased to be contemplating Garrett Crochet or Aaron Sabato at 17. And then feeling unpleasant because I couldn’t decide, and there was no Colin to bail me out of a decision this time. Both profiles, a fire-throwing LHP and a power-hitting right-handed 1B are not my typical targets early in these drafts, but the skill sets of the two were too enticing for me. I will get to Crochet later, but the slugger from North Carolina was the call, and my usual one dip into a power bat I will take per draft.
Sabato, coming from a college program I happen to admire, gets a little extra juice from me. North Carolina did some unprecedented things getting into some newer age baseball analytics and philosophies. I feel they may be a smidge more conducive to producing successful pros than most programs. This, coupled with the placement of Sabato in Minnesota’s system, where they know a thing or two about power bats, makes me feel very comfortable Sabato’s talents are gonna be well-groomed.
Sabato’s raw power is on the same level as Torkelson and Keston Kjersted‘s but he is not the hitter they are, at least to this point. His collegiate track record is not long, but he did set a freshman record in 2019 hitting 18 HRs.
|All Levels (2 Seasons)||83||368||295||67||98||31||1||25||81||0||1||61||72||0.332||0.459||0.698||1.158||206||6|
Sabato is patient at the plate, but like most young sluggers, strikeouts are a concern. A very strong 6’2″ 230, he is a pure masher prospect, limited defensively, and the bat will have to carry him. This is not the easiest profile to profit on, but he’s probably got the best chance of such a profile in this FYPD.
For fun: Only two college hitters taken in MLB draft spots 21-50 (Sabato was 27th) from 2000-2015 achieved top 10 NFBC ADP rank (out of 76 selected and signed), Jacoby Ellsbury was the 5th highest player drafted in 2012 NFBC drafts and Josh Donaldson got to 5th in 2016. Matt Chapman has been the most fantasy successful 1B of the group (drafted as a 3B) achieving the 90th ADP rank in 2020, and currently sitting around 99 in early 2021 mocks. So if Sabato gets to top 100 fantasy range, this selection would be a huge win.
Round 3, Pick 32: Yeolqui Cespedes, OF, White Sox
Colin got me for the second time when he selected Isaiah Greene, who would have been my pick, and was also the last player in a tier for me, so I felt a little “reach”.
Another debate this FYPD season is who should be the first Latin American international signee off the board. I happen to think Yeolqui Cespedes belongs in that conversation, and that was my feeling before he signed with the White Sox (my team) for a reported 2M. Not feeling super sold on the rest of the field at this point, I pulled the trigger.
Despite being 23 yo when the January 15th signing period begins, just like his teenage counterparts, he has his fair share of questions, and amounting to nothing fantasy-wise is a very real possibility. Some silver-lining with Cespedes is you may know relatively quickly if he’s worth holding onto or not, unlike a Latin teenager. We only have so many prospect slots, right?
Cespedes hasn’t played much pro ball since, really, 2017 in Cuba. Statistically, not sure there is much to learn from his Cuban pro days, but he does have a powerful 5’9″ 200+ lb frame, and a cannon of an arm like his half-brother. Cespedes is physically impressive. There may be some speed to Cespedes’ game as well; perhaps not a burner, but could be a modest contributor in the category. Plenty of social media buzz surrounding Cespedes out there, as he has been “training” with Yoenis (eye roll). There are definitely swing and miss concerns, and an anticipated tune-up period needed. There are raw tools here most prospects don’t have, so I threw my dart this direction.
Round 4, Pick 41: Evan Carter, OF, Rangers
As we neared pick 41 I was again down to two names, Evan Carter or who ended up being my last pick, Tomoyuki Sugano. Two drastically different profiles, a 2nd round prep bat or a 31 yo pitcher coming over from Japan. I decided to take a big swing on the kid. If my first choice at 8 had been anyone other than Kim, I would have gone the other way, but I felt set up to take a big dice roll.
Carter is as big a wild card prospect as there was in the 2020 MLB Draft. Relatively unknown as a high schooler in Tennesee, as he didn’t partake in a lot of showcase events, and seemed to be a late riser on teams’ draft boards, the Rangers liked what they saw in Carter’s shortened senior season, enough to take a shot in the 2nd Rd (50th OVR). Some of the hyperbole around Carter is if not for his shortened senior season, the first round may have been realistic. The Rangers surprised when they selected him 50th, and spoke highly of him out of instructs, take that for whatever you wish.
I absolutely love Carter as a consolation prize for not getting a Zack Veen or Robert Hassell share, and he can be had much later. Matter of fact, this FYPD mock is the only one I took him in, and he went undrafted in my other 60 pick mocks, which I think is a crime.
Carter is a nice size kid at 6’4″, 200 lbs (probably a stretch at this point), but a frame he could add to. He’s fast, has a good arm in CF (but may end up COF), a projectable hit tool and pop. There is a five-tool upside here. And perhaps my favorite part of his profile: he was young for his class having turned 18 in August, and that may be a decent precursor for success. Carter is a mature smart kid, well-spoken, and has already been lauded for his work ethic. This range of the draft, the reality is your odds are very low of hitting a big-time fantasy asset, and a prep bat like this fits my bill for a big swing I want to take.
Regarding the consolation prize for not getting a Veen or Hassell (who was old for his class), here’s a look at how prep hitters selected in Carter’s range compared to the more highly touted prep bats taken earlier in drafts 2000-2015:
|Achieved NFBC Peak ADP Ranks Inside…|
|pick_range||#||made_mlb||Top 10||Top 25||Top 50||Top 100||Top 200||Top 300|
|MLB Pick 21-50||70||28||3 (5%)||none||none||4 (10%)||3 (28.6%)||1 (30%)|
|MLB Pick 6-10||8||6||none||none||2 (25%)||2 (50%)||2 (75%)||none|
*(Cumulative percentages of demographic achieving at least that ADP height in parentheses.)
Hitting a home run with Carter would not be an unprecedented event. Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, and Adam Jones were all prep OFs in the 21-50 slots of MLB drafts who turned into fantasy studs. Now, Trout and Yelich were taken near the top of that range, whereas Jones was taken 37th, so those two elite assets aren’t a completely fair comparison, but, they aren’t a fair comparison in any conversation. As you can see, no prep OFs selected 6-10 reached the elite of the elite fantasy heights. The best such fantasy assets from that demographic were Nick Markakis and Austin Meadows, who may still be ascending. The prep OF taken higher in MLB drafts has been safer in comparison, but I’m pretty happy with a share of Carter in this range, and if my opponents continue to show no interest in him, I will own him everywhere.
Round 5, Pick 56: Tomoyuki Sugano, P, FA
Admittedly, I had forgotten about Jared Schuster, and as my last turn came up I started thinking about him vs Sugano, wondering if the Japanese pitcher, an instant big-leaguer upon signing, was the no-brainer choice. But it was a slow draft and I started looking at some video of Schuster, getting interested, but Colin, again, for the third time, took a player on my mind right in front of me. 3 for 3 Colin, thanks.
If Sugano signs, he has a 100% chance of making the bigs and at least being something, whereas Schuster’s historical counterparts (college pitchers taken 21-50, 2000-2015) missed the bigs at a 32% clip, and only 23% of them ever reached top 200 fantasy heights. And for those who did make it, it took 2.6 seasons to debut and 5.2 seasons to reach their fantasy heights. Without knowing a thing about Sugano, he’s already feeling like an easy choice at 56.
Chris Welsh (In This League/Prospect1) has spoken of him as a potential top 200 target, already putting him in the elites of the historical Schusters. This was a loaded pitching class, and I think more highly of Schuster than I’m leading on here. I recently took Sugano 177th in an early In This League mock.
Enough of all this historical stuff, who did I actually draft here? Sugano is a 31-year-old pitcher from Japan’s highest league, NPB. An eight-year veteran of the league, he is not a large pitcher at 6′ 194 lb, and as with most Japanese pitchers, it is hard to know what kind of workload they can handle stateside. Here’s his career stat line over there:
Some feel Sugano may be the 2nd best free-agent pitching option after Trevor Bauer this offseason. An investment in him comes knowing you may not get a long stretch of fantasy production, but as my last selection, I’ll take whatever may come here, and be quite pleased with it. I have a feeling Sugano won’t be around at this point in my leagues, so if I really want a share, I’ll probably have to be more aggressive than I was here…..knowing what I know now….
In hindsight, I wish I had gone with Crochet 2nd round, instead of Sabato. Not an omission of any sort of lack of liking Sabato now, but I would have felt great about adding the laser-armed lefty who has already debuted and thrown 102 mph fastballs at major league hitters. Yes, there are injury concerns and role questions, but every pitcher in this draft comes with at least some of that. Crochet is going to contribute quickly, that is why the White Sox took him, and the fastball alone is enticing.
So with a Kim/Crochet start, I’d have then gone Sugano in the 3rd round, (skipping Cespedes) as I speculate that will be closer to his true range after he signs. I’d still gladly take Carter with my fourth pick, and then I would have gotten my sprinkle of power and taken AJ Vukovich, the prep bat out of Wisconsin (D’Backs) in the 5th, or Cespedes if none of my theoretical opponents wanted him.
Either way, I was pleased with my draft, getting two assets helping me right away (assuming they sign, and three with Crochet would have been insane), some five-tool dreams, and a big bopper in a good system for big boppers. I’ll take that.
I had a blast partaking and sharing my thoughts with my Pitcher List colleagues. Who knows how all this shakes out when push comes to shove, but at this point, these are my most informed mistakes on the matter.
Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)