Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 1: Max Freeze’s Picks

Yes, here at Pitcher List we are already mocking for 2020! This mock draft is the first of many and I was fortunate to draft with some extremely sharp fantasy baseball minds. I can’t tell you how many times I was sniped because I lost count after 10. OK, here are the settings you need to know before we dive into my team. This is a 12-team mixed league with standard 5×5 categories, 11 hitters, nine pitchers, three outfielders, one utility slot. To my ignorance, I entered the draft with the impression that we needed to draft five outfielders. Whoops, I still think I fielded a deep roster and love some of the value picks in the middle-to-late rounds.  I did not go into the draft with a specific strategy but decided to more or less take the best player available off of my board. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

 

1.5 – Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)

Ultimately, I wanted Mookie Betts but was sniped by Shelly! Oh, well. I considered both Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, and even Trea Turner. I really wanted to lock down speed early but in reality the difference between Bellinger and Lindor or Story in probably five to ten swipes. Bellinger is sneaky fast and has 14 and 15 steals in the last two seasons, respectively. I’m not fully buying him as a .300 hitter but his improvements in strikeout rate are real based on his plate discipline metrics, so a .290 average seems about right. He clearly has 40-plus homer power to go along with double-digit swipes and 220 runs+RBI thanks to a deep lineup. It’s as much about the floor as it is about the ceiling with this pick. 

 

2.20 – Jacob deGrom (SP – NYM)

With only two pitchers off the board (Gerritt Cole and Justin Verlander) and knowing deGrom, Scherzer, and Buehler were likely not going to make it back to be, I jumped at deGrom. Despite being a victim of unlucky run support and poor bullpen performance, deGrom has the best ERA in baseball since the start of 2018. It’s not all that close either. His 2.05 ERA is 0.50 lower than Justin Verlander, who is second at 2.55! He’s also second in WHIP and fourth in strikeouts over the last two years. The reason I went with deGrom over Scherzer is health (Scherzer’s back issues) and age. Give me the steady, elite production from deGrom and I’ll bet on something closer to 16 or 17 wins for JD in 2020 making him a clear top-three starter.

 

3.29 – Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)

OK, so my original plan was not to grab two aces with my first three picks, but here we are. As expected, speed was going at a premium early in the draft and for good reason. I had my eye on Fernando Tatis Jr. but alas was snipped by Trevor Hooth two picks prior. I considered Adalberto Mondesi but his shoulder injury is pretty scary, so I decided to pass. I also considered Javy Baez and Starling Marte who both have solid power/speed combos with good batting averages. Instead, I zigged while everyone else was zagging. With deGrom and Buehler, I’m the only team with two starters (to this point) while only six starters are off the board. I may very well end up with two top-four pitchers, so I can forget about a starter until double-digit rounds while everyone else is grabbing their first and second options. I desperately need speed and want to get it before I’m stuck with the rabbits. 

 

4.44 – Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)

I know that I am in need of speed and Albies has some, but won’t completely correct my deficiency in the category. Still, Albies is a well-above-average runner and should provide another 15 steals with an upside of 20. At age-22 he improved in almost every facet of his game adding 30 points to his wOBA, increasing his hard contact while improving his BB/K ratio. Additionally, his low strikeout rate and speed provide a solid batting average foundation. There is a .300-30-homer, 20-steal season in Albies’ future and I want to be part of that. 

 

5.53 – Austin Meadows (OF – TBR)

This is one of my favorite picks. It’s early in the offseason, so many fantasy experts haven’t dug deep into the player pool just yet. I have a feeling that once March rolls around, Meadows is going to be a firm third or fourth-round pick. Grabbing him here in the fifth round seems like great value. I was able to snag him even later in the #2EarlyMocks back in September at pick 6.76! Meadows broke out in a big way with the Rays in 2019 smashing 33 homers with 12 steals and a .291 average in 138 games. Nothing looks fluky about those numbers and there’s room for growth as he turns 25 in May. He will likely be the Rays everyday leadoff hitter, so he could be a four-category stud next year. I’d expect something close to 35 home runs, 15 steals, with over 100 runs in 2020.

 

6.68 – Victor Robles (OF – WAS)

There’s the speed I’ve been looking for! Robles stole 28 bases in his rookie season and his sprint speed ranked in the top five percent in all of baseball. His Statcast metrics are extremely poor, but remember Robles is just 22 years old and he projects to develop average to above-average power. Prospect rankings had him in the top-five coming into 2018 and 2019. I’ll take my chances on pedigree and Robles is full of it. If the juiced ball returns, Robles is a lock for another 15-20 homers to go along with 25-30 steals. My team went from 40-45 steals to 65-70, so I feel good about that category as I enter the middle rounds.

 

7.77 – Matt Chapman (3B – OAK)

I also thought about grabbing Matt Olson here but wanted to sure-up third base with Bellinger being eligible at 1B in addition to outfield. Chapman lived up to expectations in terms of power in 2019 with 36 long balls and the metrics backed it up. He finished inside the top-15 in the league for both average exit velocity and barrel rate. His average slipped below .250 despite decreasing his strikeout rate, so I think there’s some positive regression coming his way in 2020. I believe he profiles closer to a .265-.270 hitter with a 40-homer upside. I’ll gladly take that at this point in the draft.

 

8.92 – Jose Abreu (1B – CHW)

Abreu’s dip in production in 2018 was due to a couple nagging injuries including a groin injury that ended his season early. In 2019, he finished with 33 homers and a career-best 123 RBI. He’ll be 33 next year, so while his best years may be behind him, he’s still a three category star and shouldn’t hurt me in runs scored. Nothing sexy here, just good old fashion production and solid value. I also have the flexibility to throw Bellinger into one of my outfield spots.

 

9.101 – Brandon Woodruff (SP – MIL)

I finally caved and grabbed another starter. Originally, I was going to wait until the 10th round, but I love Woodruff. He has basically developed into the Brewers ace with his big four-seam fastball that averaged 96.7 mph in 2019. Despite an elevated BABIP of .354 against his four-seamer, he still held opponents to just a .585 OPS with an impressive 39.8% strikeout rate. Among starters with at least 700 four-seamers thrown that ranks third behind only Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale. Woodruff lacks an elite secondary offering but has a decent slider and utilizes his sinker and changeup to generate ground balls. My only concern is an innings limit after just 126 innings including the postseason in 2019. Either way, I expect solid ratios, a good strikeout rate, and should compile double-digit wins.

 

10.116 – Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)

No closer over the last five years has been more consistent than Chapman. Only Kenly Jansen has more saves since 2015 and Chapman’s 2.16 ERA is tops among the elite closers. Yes, he’s lost a couple of ticks on his fastball but he’s utilizing his slider more frequently and it’s performed extremely well. It’s qualified as a money pitch in each of the last two seasons. He was the second closer off the board after Josh Hader who was snagged in the seventh round. I felt that getting Chapman three rounds later is a solid value. This pick is more about a safe closer who should easily reach 30-35 saves with elite ratios. I was happy to see two more closers get plucked right after I grabbed Chapman to start a mini-run.

 

11.125 – Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)

Yup, I grabbed Rosario as my starting shortstop. I’m not extremely happy about it but six shortstops flew off the board in the first two rounds. I will need to grab a backup as insurance but Rosario made significant improvements in 2019. He saw bumps in his exit velocity, line drive rate, zone contact, and cut his strikeout rate. Unfortunately, despite elite sprint speed, his stolen base success rate remains pedestrian. At age-23, I still believe he has 20-homer, 25 stolen base ceiling.  Also, his .288 xBA was inside the top 10% of all hitters in 2019 so Rosario has the makings of a potential five-category contributor at his peak.

 

12.140 – Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)

I promise you I did not look at Rodriguez’s win total from 2019 when I made this pick. I was very surprised to see that he won 19 games! I was more interested in the fact that he threw 200 innings for the first time in his career. He also saw improvements in O-Swing, contact, and swinging strike rates. E-Rod also was great at limiting the quality of contact which I believe is a skill. His average exit velocity allowed on line drives and fly balls was 10th lowest among qualified starters and his xwOBA was top 25. He’s still just 26 years old, so there’s upside in this pick as my number four SP. Check out these numbers against his sinker from 2019.

 

13.149 – Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA)

Not many players had a more difficult year than Mitch Haniger in 2019. Ouch! Let’s try to move on here. 2019 was a lost year, we know this, but Haniger had a top 75 ADP coming into the season with a .285 BA, 26 HR, and eight steals in 2018. That was without the juiced ball. We are talking about a potential 35-homer, 10 steal type of player if the ball remains unchanged in 2020. He did manage 15 home runs in 283 plate appearance prior to his injury in 2019, but his batting average plummeted. His launch angle went to the extreme, so he could be a bit of a batting average risk if he doesn’t adjust. That being said, the power is legit. If he hits .250 with 35 home runs and 10 stolen bases, he’s still a great value pick at this spot. 

 

14.164 – Khris Davis (DH – OAK)

Normally in a 12-team format, I wouldn’t clog up my DH spot unless it was with an elite talent, AKA David Ortiz, Nelson Cruz, or Khris Davis “in his prime.” At this point, I was willing to take the risk. Davis had a very poor year but dealt with nagging injuries to his oblique and hand throughout the first half of 2019. Given health, I believe he still has 40-homer power in his bat. With only the catcher position to fill on the hitter side, I felt the risk was worth a possible 40-100 season even if it comes with a .247 average or worse.

 

15.173 – Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN)

I am buying into Odorizzi’s career-year at age-29. His improvements were largely based on an increase in velocity. His four-seam averaged 93.3 mph, up two ticks from 2018, the highest of his career. I’m not worried about it coming back down because he averaged exactly 93.3 mph in his last two outings of the season. He also had a swinging strike rate in the double-digits in each of his last 12 games of 2019 including a SwStr% of 14.9% on his four-seam! Yes, his division and opponents were largely weak so it will be interesting to see where he lands this offseason. If he goes to the AL East or a favorable park for hitters, he could struggle. I’ll take my chances that he ends up somewhere he can earn wins and pile up strikeouts.  Not bad for my SP5.

 

16.188 – Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)

Potential, potential, potential. It’s hard to believe that the fantasy community has been waiting for a breakout for two years and he will only be 23 years old next year. Keep in mind, I made this pick with the thought that I needed to fill five outfield slots. There’s not a clear path to playing time but I’m drafting Tucker on skills. In 147 games between Triple-A and the Majors, Tucker hit 38 homers and stole 35 bases! That’s just nuts. In limited action in the big leagues, his 48.6% hard-hit rate and 12.1% barrel rate reflect impressive skills. Josh Reddick is in the last year of his deal and has been worth just 2.1 fWAR over the last two seasons. If the Astros believe Tucker is an upgrade over Reddick at the start of the season, Tucker will play.

 

17.197 – Jose Leclerc (RP – TEX)

His skills and strikeout rate remain elite, so I’m comfortable buying back in at this price. In 2019, his early-season walk rate cost him the closer’s role, but he pitched better in the second half and regained late-inning duties. I considered Raisel Iglesias but prefer the ceiling of Leclerc even if his splitter creates some inherent risk. Besides, I started another closer run that included Iglesias, Neris, and Colome immediately following this pick. 

 

18.212 – Paul DeJong (SS – STL)

DeJong finally played a full season and reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time in his career. He saw improvements in both strikeout and walk rates but his batting average fell to .233. He profiles as a guy who may not maintain a high batting average due to his elevated fly ball and popup rates. Both metrics are above the league average. That being said, he probably didn’t deserve a .259 BABIP and the improvements in his contact rate should place his batting average closer to .250-.260. If the Cardinals don’t resign Ozuna, he could end up batting cleanup or at worst, fifth. With Rosario as my starting shortstop, he’s not a bad supplement to my weakest position

 

19.221 – Casey Mize (SP – DET)

I’ll admit, maybe this is a bit of a reach here. I also considered Anthony DeSclafani here as he took steps forward in 2019. Mize is arguably the top pitching prospect and while the Tigers don’t have any reason to rush him, he should be Major League ready by May. His control metrics are fantastic with 106 strikeouts to just 23 walks. As we saw with Chris Paddack, rookie pitchers with well-above-average control can succeed right away. I expect Mize to be up by June 1st, so this will be a waiting game until then which is just fine given my depth at the position.

 

20.236 – Avisail Garcia (OF – TBR)

Garcia is actually a solid floor/safe play but there’s upside here. Are you aware that Garcia hit .283 with 20 home runs and 10 steals last year? His year-to-year batting average is volatile and BABIP driven. The good news is he crushes the ball. His maximum exit velocity has been over 116 mph every year except in 2017 when it was 115.5 mph. There are fewer than 15 batters that can hit a ball that hard. He’s also a great athlete. He’s in the 90th percentile in sprint speed, so another 10+ steals is not out of the question. His profile kind of reminds me of a poor-mans Javier Baez.

 

21.245 – Keone Kela (RP – PIT)

I won’t even mention the former Pirates closer, but Kela seems to be the favorite to replace him. With two closers already in tow, Kela seems like a good bet to net 25-30 saves without hurting my ratios. His strikeout rate took a dip in 2019 largely due to a three percent drop in SwStr% against his curveball but it’s still a nasty pitch. The only threats to Kela are Rich Rodriguez and Michael Feliz but Kela has the most experience as a closer and throws harder. My only concern is that he could be traded at the deadline since his contract us up after 2020. I’ll take four months from Kela as a closer and work the wire if I need more saves later in the season.

 

22.260 – Omar Narvaez (C – SEA)

Nothing flashy here. Narvaez was the 11th catcher off the board and ranked as the eighth-best catcher per ESPN’s Player Rater in 2019. His Statcast metrics don’t jump off the page but he’s outperformed them two years running, so maybe he’s doing something Statcast isn’t capturing. Either way, he’ll be 28 next year and is a good bet for 15-18 homers with a batting average north of .260. Anything over .240 for a catcher is a boost for batting average, especially this late.

 

23.269 – Austin Voth (SP – WAS)

I elected to grab Voth as last round flier. The Nationals don’t have a set SP5 for 2020 and I don’t believe Joe Ross or Erick Fedde are the answers to fill that spot. Enter Austin Voth. At age-27, he’s not a highly rated prospect but showed impressive skills in 2019 with a 17.8% K-BB% and a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings. His fastball wasn’t bad, but it’s his secondaries that get me going. All three of his secondaries, CU, CT, CH generated swinging strike rates north of 16.5%. The curve is the best of the bunch with a 38.9% strikeout rate. We are dealing with limited samples but hell, it’s after pick 250 and there is a top-150 ceiling here.

 

Draft Conclusions

Overall, I’m happy with my draft other than a few minor concerns. I’ll start with the pitchers. My starting pitching is straight nails. I have two potential top-five starters and I think Woodruff takes the next step in 2020. Eduardo Rodriguez showed what his ceiling looks like in the second half and reached the 200-inning plateau for the first time in 2019. I don’t draft pitchers for wins, but it’s nice when most of my starters play for winning teams outside of Mize and Odorizzi, depending on where he goes. Now, my closers. I think they are solid. I’m not completely in love but feel like I have 80-90 saves, a ton of strikeouts, with decent ratios.

Over to my hitters. I’ve loosely calculated 320 home runs in total from this group but that’s including my bench bats. For a 12-team league without CI and MI slots, 300 home runs is the benchmark given this environment, so I’m good there. Ultimately, I want 125-130 steals as well to compete. I’ve calculated about 126 stolen bases from my roster. Again, that’s including the bench. Having a few slow-footed bats like Jose Abreu, Khris Davis, and Matt Chapman has me relying on others for stolen bases. I don’t necessarily see steals as a weakness, but if I lose Robles or Rosario to injury it will be. I think I’ll be just fine in runs and RBI with plenty of middle-of-the-order bats, but I could see struggling a little with batting average. Most of my hitters project for solid .270-.290 batting average, but I lack an anchor that could hit .310+. Add in batting average drains Khris Davis and potentially Mitch Haniger and Paul DeJong, I might be below-average in that category. I thought about grabbing Luis Arreaz late but felt he might be too one-dimensional. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Max Freeze http://www.freezestats.com

Max is the founder of the FreezeStats Blog and currently writes for PitcherList and FantasyPros. Max is a lifelong Cubs fan who used to pretend he was Andre Dawson while hitting rocks in his backyard as a kid.

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