Let me start off by saying that, among a group of people as smart and eloquent as the Pitcher List crew, I feel woefully out of place. Frankly, the fact that I’ve been ask to contribute to this site makes me feel a little paranoid. I mean, somebody’s screwing with me, right? Did my Uncle Giuseppe pull some strings to get me this gig? Is this some kind of karmic reimbursement for that time I knocked an entire glass of water onto my laptop while trying to give myself a high-five (true story)? Monday’s mock draft was my first chance to prove to myself and the world that I belonged, so I went in with an age-old, time-tested plan: Don’t suck. Admittedly, I had a couple of other strategies too.
I usually wait on catchers and closers as long as I can, especially in shallower leagues. Closers have such a high turnover rate, either due to ineffectiveness or injury, that as a general rule I wait until the bitter end to fill out that part of my roster. I also like to compile a solid foundation in batting average early, preferably with guys who could contribute both home runs and steals. I used to love doing one-stop shopping and drafting a Dee Gordon or Giancarlo Stanton to carry a category all on their own, but when guys like that get injured, oftentimes you find yourself in a really tough spot trying to replace that production. Now I prefer compiling a roster full of guys who chip in a handful of homers and steals, as I find it spreads the risk out a bit more. Finally, for starting pitching, I go for upside, injury risk be damned. Let’s take a look at how well I stuck to some of these strategies by going in-depth on a couple of key picks.
Round 1, Pick 5: Mookie Betts
I was really hoping to snag Trea Turner with my first pick, and though I got sniped by Nick, I was pleasantly surprised that Mookie Betts was still available. I am not at all convinced that a guy who struck out just 11.1% of the time last season with a 35.7% hard contact rate has any business hitting .264, and I’m banking on him getting back around .300 this season. I have him ranked as the #3 player in baseball, so I wasn’t heartbroken with him as a consolation prize.
Round 3, Pick 29: Luis Severino
After landing a pair of very solid, multi-category contributors in Betts and Jose Ramirez, I wanted to get a big arm here to set the stage for my pitching staff. I was hoping Syndergaard would fall to me, but he got taken a few picks earlier. Ultimately I was torn between going Severino or Degrom in this spot. In retrospect I actually wish I had taken Degrom here. As amazing as Severino was last season, it was still a one-year sample, and I’m generally not one to buy in to a guy until he has a slightly longer track record. Degrom’s floor is likely higher that Severino’s, and I don’t believe their ceilings are that far apart. A slight misstep, but not something I was too torn up over.
Round 6, Pick 68: Whit Merrifield
Two-hit Whit, ladies and gentlemen! I wanted Wil Myers in this spot, as I thought I had enough pieces in place already to cover his subpar batting average and reap the rewards of all those homers and steals, but Austin snagged him right beforehand. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Whit Merrifield, who made me look like a genius when I picked him up in a league last season right as he caught fire. He’s a fairly controversial player this year, as opinions are split on whether last season was a fluke or not. I, for one, am a believer. He sprayed line drives evenly to all fields and displayed a much-improved contact rate, which bodes well for his average. And I’ll be a sucker and buy that his new workout regimen (along with an increased launch angle) is the reason for the uptick in homers. I think you could probably pencil him in for at least a .280 average with 12 homers and 35 steals. I also think they’ll slide him around the diamond enough that he’ll pick up outfield and possibly corner infield eligibility.
Round 8, Pick 92: Alex Wood
I liked where my offense was at this point in the draft. I thought about taking my first closer here, especially after there was a bit of a run on them in the 7th round. Ultimately I felt I could wait a round longer, and this seemed like it might be one of my last chances to grab a truly high-end arm. The choice for me was between Alex Wood and Luis Castillo. I had a feeling Nick, who had the next pick, would go with Castillo if I didn’t grab him here, and their love story is one for the ages, so there was no way I was going to spoil that for them. Actually, to be honest, I personally like Wood a bit better than Castillo this year. Track record is the tie-breaker for me, and even with the injury concerns, I just love those 651 MLB innings of a 3.20 ERA and 3.32 FIP too much. There were stretches last year where Wood looked as unhittable as any pitcher in the game, and I just can’t get those glimpses of his upside out of my head.
Round 12, Pick 140: Miguel Cabrera
Like a vulture, I was circling Cabrera for a couple rounds before finally diving in here, where the upside was just too good to pass up. I know, this is his age-35 season, and he’s had some recurring back injuries that likely aren’t going to get any better. But just one year removed from posting a 152 wRC+, I’m not quite ready to declare him dead just yet—even if I did start this blurb comparing him to a carcass. I needed a first baseman with some pop, so this was a gamble I was more than willing to take.
Round 13, Pick 149: Orlando Arcia
Gather around children, let me tell you the tale of how I picked Orlando Arcia this early in the draft, and why you should always make sure your player queue accurately reflects your rankings. I actually tried picking Danny Duffy in this spot, but due to a glitch it said my time ran out, and I auto-picked Arcia, who happened to be at the top of my queue at the time. Naturally, Austin took Duffy with the next pick. Live and learn, people. LIVE AND LEARN, OKAY?!
Round 21, Pick 245: Eric Thames
So the nice thing about setting an early foundation in batting average is that you can start honing in on specific needs later in the draft without having to worry about whether your lineup can stomach somebody who might hit .240. I still felt I was a little light on power at this point, and I wanted a backup to Miggy in case his back issues flared up, so I went with Thames. Thames ran very hot and cold last year, but aside from a bloated strikeout rate I don’t see much in his peripherals that I don’t like. He hit a lot of fly balls, but when you rank 10th in the league in hard contact, that’s not the worst thing to do. Thames struggled with fatigue at times in 2017, and I think the grind of the MLB season wore on him a bit. With all the scoring opportunities that hitting in this revamped Milwaukee lineup will afford him, I was willing to take the gamble on a more consistent 2018 showing.
Round 23, Pick 260: Zach Britton
Honestly, I wanted to give myself a high-five after this pick, but thought better of it for the sake of my laptop. It’s not often you can wait this late into a draft and still end up with an elite, albeit injured, closer. Did I realize at the time that Britton could conceivably be out until August? Hell no. But I’m not going to let some silly facts get in the way of me feeling good about myself. Ultimately, I still don’t think this was a bad pick. If this were a real league, I’d just DL Britton and pick up somebody like Brad Ziegler shortly after the draft ended to fill his spot. You know, just let Britton marinate for a couple months on the DL, slowly soaking up all that flavor before getting served, hot and ready, in August. Mmm. Am I still talking about baseball?
So there you have it, my first mock draft of the season. There were some missteps here and there, but overall I think I did a pretty good job of sticking to my principles and putting together a very well-rounded team. If you agree, let me know in the comments. If you disagree, write your grievances down on a piece of paper and throw it into the ocean.