Building imaginary fake teams can be about as fun as one would guess walking through a real fake door would be. That is: painful. Mock drafts are for mistakes and playing chicken with average draft position, and those blunders can prepare you for when your target and his backup option are taken in the picks before your draft slot. Thursday night’s practice run with the Pitcher List staff did just that, as gaffes abounded on the following team.
On to the excruciating lessons those real fake doors can teach us.
Mock Draft Details: 12 team, H2H, 5×5 categories. Check out the live stream and the full draft board here.
Round 1, Pick 6: Bryce Harper (OF, Washington Nationals) — Five-category contributor Mookie Betts would’ve been the safer play at No. 6 overall, as his under-the-hood numbers were in line with career norms despite his surface-stat regression. However, Harper’s power-average ceiling was too enticing to pass on as an anchor bat, and Betts’ home run total won’t likely hit 30 again.
Granted, Harper is known for injury troubles—most recently a bone bruise that derailed his MVP-caliber 2017. But he has the potential to be a top-three hitter. While he’ll probably never mash like he did in 2015, last year’s pre-injury numbers seem reachable despite a downturn in plate discipline. His exit velocity was up, and his minus-.118 OUTS (an all-encompassing xStat for which a lower total is better and can be used to predict walks, strikeouts and expected runs) outpaced Mookie’s minus-.031.
And based on nothing but hope, here’s to the idea a contract year causes him to ease up on throwing his body around so much. Cue audience laughter.
Round 2, Pick 19: Freddie Freeman (1B/3B, Atlanta Braves) — Another four-category superstar who saw an injury shorten his 2017 NL MVP run, Freeman’s superior batting average and potential to match the April-May growth we saw in 2017 pushed him above Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo.
Freeman rocked a 40.4% hard-contact clip before his May 17 wrist setback and was in the top 10 in barrels per plate appearance, according to Baseball Savant. He also carried a fantastic .377 expected batting average on contact (xBacon) for the year. His power fell off some after his comeback, but even the baseline post-injury version of the 28-year-old (.292/.375/.515, 14 HR, 46 RBI in 349 PAs) is still solid second-rounder.
And per OUTs, perhaps he should’ve been considered higher than No. 19, as his fantastic minus-.202 mark outstripped many first-rounders, including Betts and Harper. For reference, Rizzo sat at minus-.085.
Round 3, Pick 30: George Springer (OF, Houston Astros) — Though this pick number matches his National Fantasy Baseball Championship ADP and his speed has dried up, Springer could prove to be a bargain at No. 30.
His hard-hit mark rose by three percentage points, he slashed his K rate from 23.9% to 17.6%, and, oh yeah, he leads off for the Houston Astros’ offensive machine. His plate discipline improved across the board as he swung less overall and raised his contact rate five percentage points in 2017.
Even if he doesn’t improve his contact rate yet again, a third 30-homer, .300 bat affords nice protection in those categories.
Round 4, Pick 43: Zack Greinke (SP, Arizona Diamondbacks) — Greinke might be the most boring of the top 10 or so pitchers, but he threw 200 innings and bested 200 strikeouts for the third time in four years in 2017, and Carlos Carrasco, Carlos Martinez, Yu Darvish and Robbie Ray don’t inspire confidence in a No. 1 role for varying reasons.
Jacob deGrom was selected three picks earlier, and though he seemed like the better pitcher heading in, the combined news about his lower back soreness and the impending humidor’s potential to send Chase Field’s fly-ball numbers into the upside down would’ve pushed this pick to Greinke anyway. Plus, he has laser vision.
That his average four-seam velocity was down to 90.6 mph and isn’t close to the weapon it was from 2013 to 2015 is concerning. But he supported it with excellent secondaries and should keep his home run rate down with the heavier ball.
Round 5, Pick 54: Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins) — With Starling Marte off the board two picks prior, Buxton wouldn’t have lasted much longer, and this team needed speed. The Twins’ defensive maestro’s talent on the basepaths comes wrapped in a tantalizing package. He carries batting average risk, but his .253 mark in 2017 is a believable baseline (.246 2017 expected average, per xStats).
One of the main questions about the 24-year-old has always been whiffs, and he limited his strikeout rate to 27.6% in the second half of 2017 with lower swinging-strike and out-of-zone swing rates. It would be foolish to bank on a full season of his post-All-Star-break line of .300/.347/.546 with 11 home runs, 35 RBI, 13 stolen bases and 40 runs, but it’s fun to dream on it, and a 30-theft campaign with contributions in several other areas is worth it here.
With growth? We could be talking about him as a top-three-round pick soon enough.
Jean Segura was the target at No. 67, but he went one pick prior. In hindsight, 15 spots above his NFBC ADP was too much of an overpay for Bogaerts, considering he’ll have to return to peak value to justify his price.
However, his early-July wrist injury derailed his 2017 season, he’s only 25 years old and something like his 2016 line of .294/.356/.446 with 21 home runs, 89 RBI, 115 runs and 13 stolen bases is still enticing. One can only hope his wrist troubles were the problem. To that end, his pull rate plummeted from 45% in the first half to 35% in the second, a clear bad sign for power that will likely return to normal this year.
Still, mocks are for mistakes, and I’ll wait for a discount on a Bogaerts bounceback if I end up rostering him on one of my real fake teams.
Round 7, Pick 78: Jose Quintana (SP, Chicago Cubs) — Given Greinke’s age (34) and the near certainty James Paxton will miss time (he was selected one pick later), Quintana seemed like the safe play for a No. 2 arm.
His strikeout rate jumped to 26.2% in 2017, and though he finished with 188.2 innings last year, he’s a good bet to finish right around that number for a sixth straight season. He cut his walk rate to 6.9% after his July trade to the Cubs and carried a 3.25 FIP on the North Side.
However, xStats’ bbFIP didn’t like his overall season, as he came in with a 4.03 mark. Also, the strikeout rate increase isn’t fully believable. He jumped his K rate to 25.8% on his four-seamer, which helped it to a gaudy 18.7 pitch value, but the 7.1% swinging strike rate doesn’t support that number. His curveball and sinker (which took a nosedive in terms of value) tell a similar story.
Given all that, an improvement on his second half with the Cubs probably isn’t coming, but considering the innings and his encouraging post-trade walk rates, he’ll be a decent No. 2.
Round 8, Pick 91: Felipe Rivero (RP, Pittsburgh Pirates) — While Aroldis Chapman and Ken Giles sported superior strikeout numbers, Rivero was right there with them in the other categories and will likely have the job all year even if he falters. The Astros didn’t trust Giles in the postseason, Chapman’s skills have taken a step back, and both the Yankees and Astros’ pens have talented arms who could close. This one was about job security.
Still, given a do-over, I’d have grabbed a starter here considering the dearth of arm talent left when I needed to fill the back end of this staff.
Round 9, Pick 102: Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves) — Albies has star potential, and this team needed more speed after Buxton. That combination led to a 30-spot bump over the 21-year-old’s ADP. Depth Charts projects him at .265/.322/.412 with 12 home runs, 72 runs, 61 RBI and 21 stolen bases. He likely wouldn’t have lasted until his ADP of 134 in this draft, and if he goes off for 15 home runs and 30 steals, that pick number will look laughable.
Round 10, Pick 115: Jeff Samardzija (SP, San Francisco Giants) — Shark has thrown 200 innings in five straight years. He put up a top-15 K-BB%, a 3.61 FIP and over 200 strikeouts in 2017. He did have a home run problem at 1.3 HR/9, but if he can get his splitter back on track by throwing it in the zone less, perhaps he can walk back that atrocious 33.3% HR/FB rate on the pitch and in turn help his whole arsenal.
Round 11, Pick 126: Brad Hand (RP, San Diego Padres) — Hand’s got a devastating slider, a top-15 K rate among relievers (33.4%) and not a ton of pressure in San Diego. He also cut his walk rate to 6.4% in 2017. He’s a good value as a second closer and comes in 17 spots under ADP.
Greg Bird was the target, with the thought of sliding Freeman to third, but the Yankees first baseman went one selection prior and the 45-second clock was running out.
Even at the 19-pick discount off Lamb’s ADP, it’ll be tough for him to justify this price. The humidor is expected to crush his fly-ball-dependent profile. That’s not to mention his troubles vs. lefties (.566 career OPS) and second-half disappearances.
Philadelphia’s Carlos Santana would have been the better play, which would’ve pushed Freeman across the diamond per the original plan. Still, as Baseballholics Anonymous’ Sammy Reid recently pointed out, Lamb was one of three third basemen to put up 80-plus runs, 80-plus RBI and 80-plus walks in 2017 (along with Anthony Rendon and Eugenio Suarez).
If the humidor isn’t as devastating as expected, he might reward this draft slot. The fact that he had to fight through a bruised hand in the second half last year is at least some reason for optimism. Still, this was a bad pick.
Round 13, Pick 150: Jon Gray (SP, Colorado Rockies) — Gray cut his walk rate to 6.5% and increased his ground-ball clip to 48.9%—a good sign in Coors Field. But his swinging-strike rate is concerning, as it plummeted to 8.8%. That doesn’t support his 24.3% K rate. Also, xStats had him with a 4.43 bbFIP, far worse than his 3.18 FIP and 3.67 ERA. Plus, you know, he pitches in Colorado.
Round 14, Pick 163: J.T. Realmuto (C, Miami Marlins) — Yes, the Marlins lineup is gutted. But the potential for double-digit steals and 15-plus home runs is still there for Realmuto, and he represented a tremendous value at 63 picks below ADP. Otherwise, I’d have waited for Wilson Ramos or Evan Gattis a round or two later.
Round 15, Pick 174: Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds) — Reid’s note on Lamb above put Suarez on my radar, and the Reds third baseman acts as humidor insurance. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but his potential 25-homer bat and help in runs and RBI is useful this late.
Round 16, Pick 187: Sean Manaea (SP, Oakland Athletics) — Manaea leans on a slider to get swinging strikes, and his changeup has the ingredients to do the same if he can limit home runs on it. He could use another strike-getting option to support his fastball even if he dampens the homer totals, but a return to his 3.76 first-half ERA would be fine at this spot. Even though the 26-year-old may still figure it out, he’s not exciting.
Round 17, Pick 198: Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies) — Story increased his launch angle too much and was Willie Mays Hayes-ing balls into the air last season at a top-six fly-ball rate, per Baseball Savant. That cut into his value as his HR/FB rate fell from 23.7% to 16.2%. Still, this was a great price on a bounce-back candidate and some insurance against another Bogaerts disaster. He’ll probably end up as a top-10 shortstop.
Round 18, Pick 211: Gio Gonzalez (SP, Washington Nationals) — Gonzalez fell, and with good reason, as no one’s buying his sub-3.00 ERA from last year. He sported a 3.77 bbFIP, 90.4 mph fastball velocity, a 9.6% walk rate, and his 8.7% swinging-strike clip didn’t support his 22.7% K rate. Still, he’s fine as a back-end starter out of the 18th round on a good Nationals club.
Round 19, Pick 222: Carlos Gonzalez (OF, Free Agent) — The hope is that CarGo’s shoulder injury was to blame for his cratering in 2017. He’s still a free agent, but if he can get healthy and land a starting job, this could be a steal. If not? The back end of the roster is for churning and burning anyway.
Round 20, Pick 235: David Dahl (OF, Colorado Rockies) — Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra and Ian Desmond are slated for the outfield, per Roster Resource, but the unproven Ryan McMahon is penciled in at first base, and there’s still a shot if an injury occurs or if one of those guys falters that Dahl could find a spot. His 63-game run as a rookie in 2016 showed his talent, and if he wins a job out of spring, his power-speed combo will be worth the pick.
Round 21, Pick 246: Carl Edwards (RP, Chicago Cubs) — Brandon Morrow is the ostensible Cubs closer and could rack up 35-plus saves if he keeps the job. But after his postseason abuse in Los Angeles and considering his lack of track record in the role, that’s far from a given. Edwards’ 35.9% K rate was No. 10 among relievers last year, and though his 14.5% walk rate will probably keep him out of the spot, he’s worth the flier.
Round 22, Pick 259: Collin McHugh (SP, Houston Astros) — Nick Pollack pushed McHugh back onto my radar recently by touting his changes on the Pitcher List podcast, On the Corner. Though he’s slated for the bullpen at the moment, the Astros rotation features several injury-prone guys (Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers), and hopefully he can ride his improved fastball and relatively new slider to some 2018 success.
Round 23, Pick 270: Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) — This was a pure flier on some late power potential. Pederson, 25, is young enough to turn it around, and he still has plenty of talent, which he flashed with three homers and a 1.344 OPS in the World Series. If one of CarGo, Dahl or Pederson hits, this outfield will be loaded.