This was fun: a 30-round dynasty mock draft with 16 Pitcher List writers. I had the fourth pick and went with a balanced strategy of young but proven talent early, then balancing between prospects and bargain talent a bit longer in the tooth. We’ll get into my picks — many of which I loved and some I wish I had back. But first, let’s review the housekeeping notes on mock league settings.
- Head-to-Head League
- Hitting Categories: R/HR/RBI/SB/AVG/OPS
- Pitching Categories: ERA/WHIP/K/SV/QS/HR Allowed
- Weekly Pitching Minimum: 35
Round 1 (Pick 4) Juan Soto, OF, WSH
After Mike Trout, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Cody Bellinger were off the board, my shortlist was Juan Soto, Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor. Decent options, right? Ultimately, Juan Soto’s age swung the pendulum, being just 21 years old with the others at 28, 27 and 26, respectively. Beyond youth, another major plus for Soto in this OPS league is his (already) exceptional plate discipline. His .401 OBP contributed to a .949 OPS, good enough for tenth in the majors and, of my four options, only trailed Yelich’s astounding 1.100 OPS. But unlike Yelich, I’d bet on Soto being a top 10 OPS guy entering the 2030s. Love the start.
Round 2 (Pick 29) Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS
Remember last season when Eloy Jimenez was regarded as a “generational” hitting prospect, simply overshadowed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? In their first seasons, Jimenez outperformed Guerrero substantially and still went 18 picks later in the draft. In his rookie season, he delivered a .267 average, .827 OPS and 31 homers in just 121 games. If you give him a pass for rookie nerves in the first half of the season, he batted .292 with an .870 OPS in the second half of the season. Even with uncharacteristic rates of high ground balls and low line drives, his hart hit rate was top 8% in the league. For a 23 year-old generational hitter, batting in the heart of an up-and-coming lineup, in a top-five hitter’s park — I’m counting on a decade plus of a .290 average and .850 OPS with about 35 homers per year.
Round 3 (Pick 36) Jack Flaherty, SP, STL
Jack Flaherty’s current average draft position in redraft leagues is 24. His age is also just 24. To find a pitcher younger than Flaherty, you have to go all the way down to Chris Paddack. So wouldn’t you think Flaherty would go sooner than 24 in a dynasty mock? As the sixth pitcher off the board, I had to grab him at pick 36. In 2019, Flaherty sizzled to the tune of a 2.75 ERA with 232 strikeouts. The arguments against Flaherty hit on an unsustainable BABIP and him relying on just two pitches. Yes, last year, his season-long BABIP of .242 and second half BABIP of .202 point to why his xFIP was 3.64. Also, 75% of his pitch mix was a four-seam fastball (which isn’t all that fast) and his moneymaker slider. I’m not all that phased, especially at this price. His opponent’s xBA of just .217 and xWOBA of .278 were both 10th in the majors. His low hard hit rate of 30.3% was tied for fifth in the league. And while he relies on the fastball and slider, he uses his two-seam fastball and knuckle-curve enough to keep batters off balance. So, take a top 10 pitcher across most metrics, then tell me he’s 24 years old and pitches in a power-suppressing park? That sounds like ten years of ace-hood, barring injury. I’m in.
Round 4 (Pick 61) Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM
I decided to go right back to pitching with Noah Syndergaard at pick 61. Pitching can be fickle, as can prospects. So, while this may have been a round or so early — and it was a close call between him and Luis Severino — I still feel good about it. After starting just seven games in 2017, Thor has shed some durability questions by posting back-to-back seasons with 25 starts. While his strikeouts eclipsed 200 for the first time since 2016, his ratios in 2019 weren’t as sparkling as we’re used to seeing. His 2.28 BB/9 was higher than he’s ever had, and his 4.28 ERA was much higher than his next highest, 3.24 in his 2015 rookie season. So, what happened? Homers hurt him. He gave up 4.9% barrels which is around 30% higher than his average until this season. So, why roll with him? The underlying metrics suggest he got pretty unlucky. While his BABIP was normal, his .234 xBA was much lower than his .252 BA, his HR/FB rate nearly doubled compared to last year and his xFIP was 3.83 compared to that 4.28 ERA. His pitch mix hasn’t changed much save for fewer sliders in favor of his fastball. Even so, it was his sinker which batters did damage against in 2019, and that sinker actually ticked up in velocity vs. 2018 — as did every pitch but his slider. The performance dip was somewhat of a head scratcher. I think in the year of the bouncy ball, the homers simply stung Thor. But he’s still just 27 years old, in a pitcher’s park, with an ace track record and a balanced repertoire of effective pitches. I’m buying another seven seasons of sub-four ERAs with 180-200 strikeouts.
Round 5 (Pick 68) Gary Sanchez, C, NYY
I reached for JT Realmuto in my home league last season. And despite getting burned on that, I went back to the well as the first guy to grab a catcher, with Gary Sanchez at pick 68. The next one taken was Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman at pick 115. Going into his age 29 season, Realmuto went at 179. Was it a reach? Perhaps. My logic was pretty basic. The position’s been terrible since before Myspace. Sanchez just turned 27. He bats in the Yankees lineup with half his games at Yankee Stadium. His .846 career OPS plays up in this format. And even ten years down the road, he’d probably be one of a few catchers who could sunset his career as a designated hitter. I will, however, leave you power poachers with this: his barrel percentage, a metric with substantial correlation to home runs, was 99th percentile in the majors.
Round 6 (Pick 93) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, STL
Let’s get this out of the way. He’s 32 years old. But four picks after him was 29-year-old Marcus Semien from a loaded shortstop position. I know we have to pinch ourselves, but first base is currently a very shallow position. And excluding SP-preferred Brendan McKay, only three first base prospects went in the top 200. I should note, eight picks after I took Paul Goldschmidt, 30-year-old Anthony Rizzo went off the board. But what can I say? I’m a Cardinals fan. Most peripherals for Goldy appear to suggest a decline in skillset, which is possible. But if you go in for narratives, he’s switched to a new team with all-star expectations and played in front 16,000 more people every home game. Plus, his .303 BABIP next to his .348 career BABIP calls for some improvement. At pick 93, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that the skills still have very serviceable seasons left, in the heart of an always competitive lineup. The steals are gone. But I’ll project a slow decline starting after a bounce-back 2020 to the tune of .270, 33 HR, 90 runs, and 100 RBI.
Round 7 (Pick 100) Jeff McNeil, 2B/3B/OF, NYM
Nicknamed “The Squirrel” for reasons not known to me, Jeff McNeil offers great plate skills with a .385 xwOBA (top 8% in baseball) and a strikeout rate of 12.3% (top 9%). McNeil is 27 years old, so he’s no spring hen, but he’s emerging as a top fantasy option at the scarce second base position. Beyond his plate skills, the reason he’s an industry favorite is the emerging power. Last season, he hit 23 home runs thanks to a doubled barrel rate and significant boosts in hard-hit rate and exit velocity. There may be some juiced-ball regression, but in this OPS league, I like the floor of his average (.318) and OBP (.384). Those were backed by a slightly high .337 BABIP, but he hits to all fields and his soft contact was fifth lowest in the majors among qualified hitters. I wouldn’t bank on any more than a few stolen bases, but I’d expect seven years of a .300 average, 20-25 homer guy with 160 R + RBI at second base.
Round 8 (Pick 125) Matt Manning, SP, DET
Standing slightly in the shadow of Casey Mize, fellow Tigers pitching prospect Matt Manning actually won Tigers 2019 Minor League Player of the Year. In 133 innings, he struck out 148 while boasting a 2.56 ERA and .98 WHIP. The 21-year-old carries an elite fastball that causes batters extra problems thanks to his 6-foot-6 height. To accompany his 97 mph heater, he’s got a 60-grade curveball and — perhaps most importantly — he developed a promising changeup in 2019 . While 125 seems early for the ever-fickle pitching prospects, he has the stuff to be an ace for 10 years plus and I got him six picks after 30-year-old Sonny Gray. If you’re going to gamble, pick your spots wisely.
Round 9 (Pick 132) A.J. Puk, SP, OAK
It was a reach, folks. Don’t get me wrong — there’s plenty to like about the 24-year-old lefty. Throwing 97 mph at a gangly 6-foot-7 with flowing locks, A.J. Puk said to be a nightmare to face in the batter’s box. That may have contributed to his minor league leading 13.2 K/9 in 2017. But then, he underwent Tommy John surgery. He recovered throughout 2018 and 2019 until making his debut last season, posting just 11 innings of 3.18 ERA ball. While his size and pitch mix is actually quite similar to my previous Manning pick, his recovery from surgery poses questions about command and inning limits — and he’s three years older. I like the player and the upside of a someday SP2, I just don’t like it at pick 132 with pitchers like Luis Patino (age 20) and Julio Urias (age 23) still on the board.
Round 10 (Pick 157) Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL
First things first, let’s feel extremely old. The kid was born in the year 2000. Nolan Gorman is just 19 years old. At age 18, he launched 17 homers in just 274 minor league plate appearances. He’s the No. 4 third base prospect in the majors and No. 38 overall. In his prime, the power ceiling could be 40 to even 50 homers, depending on how the big league ball is flying. But make no mistake, this pick is a flier. Gorman regressed in 2019 substantially, his average dropping from .291 to .241 and his OPS from .949 to .765 — these are severe drops. He has some holes in his swing to figure out. But even in a bad year, he knew how to take a walk. Massive power upside with the ability to walk are ingredients for a great OBP someday. But again, this is definitely a high-risk, high-reward pick which also may have been swayed by me being a St. Louis Cardinals (and Peoria Chiefs) Fan.
Round 11 (Pick 164) Caleb Smith, SP, MIA
Another bad pick given the cost. Caleb Smith perplexes many, myself included. Through 52 innings last April and May, he had a 3.63 ERA with 80 strikeouts. He then got a left hip injury and his season crumbled from there. Mainly, opponents were teeing off against his sub-92 mph fastball offering. And yet, for some reason, the 28-year-old increased his usage on that fastball drastically in the final months of the season. So, why pick him? Two seasons in a row I’ve seen Caleb Smith show 10-start stretches of being an ace. Yes, you have to sustain that. But still at 28, I believe he has the tools to put it together, when healthy, to be a solid SP3. But does that mean he’s worth picking in dynasty before Dylan Cease? It doesn’t. It was a bad pick, you guys.
Round 12 (Pick 189) Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS/OF, COL
The Coors-hitting middle infielder with 70-grade speed is nothing close to a secret. The industry was obsessed with Garrett Hampson last year, and now, everyone hit a U-turn on the 25-year-old. That’s because up until September last season, he was batting .218 with just six stolen bases and a 30% strikeout rate. Then September happened. The strikeout rate dropped to 19% and he batted .318 with five homers and nine steals. That comes out to a 32 home runs and 58 steals at the proration station, which is obviously laughable. But it’s also the insane type of month so many banked on last draft season. Was it real? I’ll bet a 189th pick on it. Three of his five homers came against Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Projection systems have him bouncing back in 2020 with a .270 average even after a terrible 2019 season. While playing time is a question, I have to think a .270 hitting middle infielder who can steal 40 bags is worth a shot at age 25.
Round 13 (Pick 196) Corey Kluber, SP, TEX
Yes, Corey Kluber is 33 years old. Yes, last season was his worst ever. Yes, his velocity is (slightly) coming down. And yes, he’s now pitching in Texas. But it was just 35 innings in a year where he broke his arm and strained his oblique. Just one year before last, he went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and struck out 222 batters in 215 innings. Are we really writing off his career after 35 poor innings? He moved to Texas, yes. But the new retractable roof will often be closed, so it won’t be nearly the hitter’s park of the past. This is a dynasty mock draft, which is certainly the worst format for a 33-year-old. But if there’s Bumgarner-like production left in the tank for Kluber over the next four seasons, I’m OK with investing the 196th pick. Fantrax dynasty ranks shows him at 156. When a veteran drops too far, I’m okay being the one to say, “enough is enough.”
Round 14 (Pick 221) Brendan Rodgers, SS/2B, COL
If Garrett Hampson doesn’t pay off at Coors Field, here’s my hedged bet. Brendan Rodgers is the definition of a post-hype sleeper. He batted .224 in 76 at-bats last season. It did not look pretty; his .165 xBA was even worse. But he’s 23 years old and it was 76 at-bats. In his first 123 at-bats, guess who else hit .220? Mike Trout. Rodgers batted .300 with an .850 OPS since 2015 in the minors. He’s been a top 20 prospect for five seasons (and still is). The best hitting park in the majors is awaiting him, as is second base, the scarcest position in fantasy (save catcher). At pick 221, this is a very low risk for a high potential reward.
Round 15 (Pick 228) Pablo Lopez, SP, MIA
This one stings just looking at it. In his age-23 season, Pablo Lopez got drummed to the tune of a 5.09 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP. A huge amount of damage came on one three-inning performance where he got crushed for 10 earned runs. If we pretend that game never happened (which, believe me, I tried), his ERA falls to 4.41, which is respectable. And while that game did in fact happen, Lopez had a 4.37 xFIP. His velocity also ticked up last year, which was a good sign. He’s never going to be a big strikeout guy. But with his youth, a decent mix of pitches and the ability to induce soft contact, you can squint and see a poor-man’s Kyle Hendricks for a few years. But, just typing that, it feels like a reach.
Round 16 (Pick 253) Logan Gilbert, SP, SEA
Let’s talk about another young, 6-foot-6 pitcher. Enter 22-year-old, Logan Gilbert. The 2018 first-rounder has surged in the minors and is now the No. 2 prospect in the Mariners organization. Across three clubs in 2019, Gilbert dazzled to the tune of a 2.13 ERA with a .95 WHIP and 11 K/9. Jerry Dipoto shut him down in September, saying Gilbert should pitch in the majors in 2020 barring any major setbacks. He has four pitches and touches 97 with his fastball. Let’s not forget he’ll be throwing in the pitcher-friendly “T-Mobile Park.” Lot’s of promise. As for the value? An informal dynasty Twitter poll of Spencer Howard vs. Gilbert ended up six to four in favor of Howard. But Howard went 156 in this draft — where Gilbert went 100 picks later. He’s a name to remember.
Round 17 (Pick 260) Michael Brantley, OF, HOU
This was a perform-now stabilizer pick, not unlike the Kluber one. Michael Brantley turns 33 in May, but he seems to have shaken off his injury concerns and his elite-contact skillset doesn’t suggest a regression cliff will hit any time soon. In fact, peripherals are pointing up. His 10.4% strikeout rate was third in the league among qualified hitters and his batting average was eleventh. In 2019, his hard-hit rate of 41.7% was the highest of his career and it’s not close. As was his spray chart to the opposite field. Barring trash can correlation, there’s no reason to think he can’t remain a plus average hitter with around 160 R + RBI until his late 30s.
Round 18 (Pick 285) Brady Singer, SP, KC
Showtime is coming for former Florida Gators star, Brady Singer, No. 2 prospect for the Kansas City Royals. The 23-year-old has three promising pitchers and has flashed signs of an effective changeup if needed. His velocity isn’t electric but his mix has worked well in the minors, resulting in a 2.85 ERA and a decent 1.19 WHIP. With about a strikeout per inning, the industry wavers on whether Singer can be a top-of-the-rotation guy, but at pick 285 — it’s worth a flier.
Round 19 (Pick 292) Jonathan India, 3B, CIN
In hindsight, it was questionable. The fifth overall pick in 2018, Jonathan India has gone the wrong direction since being drafted. A weak 2018 season saw a .240 average in a small sample of 184 plate appearances. Last year, he took a small step in the right direction batting .259 with 11 homers and 11 steals in 512 plate appearances. While he strikes out too much, he also takes a lot of walks. So his OBP should always hover a hundred points over his average. If he can work out his swing, he could be a 25/15 guy with a solid average and even better OBP. Experts believe he could also man second base in the majors. But it’s a gamble pick and one I probably should have taken two rounds later.
Round 20 (Pick 317) Jake Fraley, OF, SEA
I like this pick much more than India. Jake Fraley came to the Mariners from the Rays as part of the Mike Zunino trade. They loved his speed upside and saw potential as a leadoff man. He saw a very brief stint in the majors last season which was not pretty. But in three seasons in the minors, he stole 45 bases per 162 games with a .286 average and a .362 OBP. The biggest questions as a young prospect were around his power at the plate. But last season in the minors, he hit 19 homers with a .545 slugging percentage. We could be looking at a younger Kevin Newman with more speed upside and potential to bring more power. The ceiling could look more like a prime Elvis Andrus in the outfield. It’s hopeful — but we’re at pick 317.
Round 21 (Pick 324) Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, MIA
Innately, every draft you have will have a single worst pick. Garrett Cooper was mine. And it’s not him — it’s me. I knew Cooper graduated as a Marlins prospect last year and batted a promising .281 with 15 homers in 381 at-bats with a .790 OPS. I did not know, I must admit, that Cooper was a 28-year-old prospect. Even worse, I had missed since the time this mock draft started, that the Marlins added Jesus Aguilar — either blocking or limiting Cooper’s time at first base. They’ll probably split at-bats and Cooper may find some time in the outfield. But this was the worst pick of my draft.
Round 22 (Pick 349) Christian Walker, 1B, ARI
Last year was a breakout season for first baseman Christian Walker of the Diamondbacks. In 603 plate appearances, he hit a solid .259 with 29 homers, 86 runs, and 73 RBI. His OPS was .825 which is productive as well. At 28 years old, he’s a mid-career breakout, a type of player which tends to get undervalued. This is no exception, as he’s ranked 160th in Fantrax Top 500 Dynasty rankings and I grabbed him nearly 200 picks later. He’s no superstar, but his hard-hit rate and barrel percentage were both top 10% in the league. Batting fifth this year in an improved D-backs lineup, I’d expect his runs and RBIs to flip and the homers to be in the mid-to-upper 20s for the next season or two. Beyond that, we’ll see. He has Kevin Cron on his heels. But again, at pick 349, this is good insurance in case Goldschmidt’s production drops off of a cliff. Who knows — Christian Walker’s production still could rise.
Round 23 (Pick 356) Dylan Bundy, SP, LAA
At this point, we’ve probably all been burned by Dylan Bundy. He’s shown ace-like games, if not stretches of games, but his Achilles heel has been home runs. Moving out of Camden Yards —third highest homer park in the major — is a plus for Bundy. That’s not to overstate the park factor; Bundy actually gave up a homer every 5.5 innings both home and away last year. The biggest difference is actually the batting average, where his opposition batted .287 at Camden and just .216 elsewhere. Camden’s not famous for being a high BABIP park, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. In any case, it’s a new and better pitching environment, he carries near-elite potential for his secondary pitches and it’s pick 356. As for dynasty, let’s remember Bundy’s just 27 years old. Mid-career breakouts happen. Look at Lucas Giolito.
Round 24 (Pick 381) Xavier Edwards, SS, TB
Going to the Rays from the Padres in the Tommy Pham trade, Blake Snell actually belittled the, um, slap-stick bat of Xavier Edwards. But there’s plenty to like about old Slappy Gilmore. While just 20 years old, he’s not only totaled 756 plate appearances in the minors, he’s made them count, with a .328 batting average and 79 stolen bases. There’s no power to be found, but he’s a true 70-grade speed with the upside to bat .300 in the majors. Slap whatever nickname you want on him, but he could easily be a three-category stud for 10 years. That’s not bad in the 24th round.
Round 25 (Pick 388) Daniel Murphy, 1B, COL
How the mighty have fallen and thus, the price. Daniel Murphy was one of the most popular picks in redraft leagues last year. Many had him dubbed to win the NL batting title. But then he struggled with injury and struggled to hit like had recently, outside of Coors. He ended up at a .279 clip which was somewhat respectable, just not remotely close to expectations with the mile-high move. In addition to more strikeouts against breaking balls, Murphy struggled against offspeed pitches — hitting just .211 against them in 2019 compared to .326 in 2018. His soft contact went up 4%, which is significant. Those blemishes likely contributed to him having one of the worst barrel rates in the league. When you bat in Coors, that’s quite a waste. Honestly, most underlying metrics look bad for the soon-to-be 35-year-old. But he’s still not far off from a .300 hitter, he plays half his games in Coors and it’s flier that costing basically nothing.
Round 26 (Pick 413) Scooter Gennett, 2B, FA
In 2017 and 2018, Scooter Gennett boasted an .874 and .827 OPS, respectively. In his age 27 and 28 seasons, it was a mid-career breakout no one saw coming, but few doubted going into last season — but for a groin injury. That injury ultimately restricted Gennett to just 139 plate appearances last season where he struggled mightily with a .568 OPS. He’s since been traded (for rags) by the Reds to the Giants, waived by the Giants, and now is going 413 in dynasty mock drafts. But there are whispers that the Cubs and Mets feel he’s a great bounceback candidate who’s very cheap — which is exactly my thinking here in the 26th round.
Round 27 (Pick 420) Ryan Weathers, SP, SD
Not Chris Paddack, Mackenzie Gore or Luis Patino. It’s another promising arm for the Padres whose name you may have heard. Ryan Weathers was a part of the rumblings around a Mookie Betts trade to San Diego that never went materialized. Drafted seventh overall in 2018 straight from high school (where he was immortal), the 20-year-old initially came in the league with solid stuff and good-to-great command. Last April, he added a slider that helped expand his arsenal to three solid pitches with potential for more. He’s still thrown just 115 innings professionally, including 96 last year with 90 strikeouts and a 3.84 ERA. But that included an unlucky .347 BABIP; he actually had a 3.20 xFIP. He may never be a high strikeout guy, but this could be a Kyle Hendricks or Dallas Keuchel comp for over a decade at pick 420. I liked this value.
Round 28 (Pick 445) Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT
This could be the best pick of the draft once those tweets roll in saying Gregory Polanco’s in the best shape of his life. Jokes aside, Polanco’s another one who’s burned all of us over the years. But detaching the bitter feelings, he’s still just 28 years old and in a Pirates lineup weak enough to allow him nearly 600 plate appearances on Steamer projections. People are way down him after a shoulder injury reduced his 2019 season to just 42 games. But, in 130 games in 2018, he hit 23 homers with 12 steals, 75 runs, and 81 RBI. The average will always hover around .250, but it’s not unthinkable that Polanco could still put it all together and be a 25 homer guy with 10-15 steals in his last few youthful seasons. At this point in the draft, you look for high potential and low price.
Round 29 (Pick 452) Jon Berti, OF/SS/3B, MIA
Here’s another 2019 Marlins rookie, but one I actually knew was 29 years old. Drafting Jon Berti may be a stretch in a dynasty format, but he’s a fun pick and worth a shot this late. In just 287 plate appearances last season, he stole 17 bases and was caught just three times. At .273, he was no drain on batting average either. While he’s now blocked by Jonathan Villar, he can play almost everywhere on the field minus catcher and first base — leaving the door open for more than 300 plate appearances in a super-utility role. As the 13th fastest player in the majors, that could mean another 20 steals. Imagine the potential if they gave him 500 plate appearances. The speed and fantasy relevance should tail off in a couple of years, but I’m a Berti believer.
Round 30 (Pick 477) Matt Carpenter, 3B, STL
After 10 prospects in the first 27 rounds, I ended my draft with elder statesmen. It’s a look-left-go-right strategy in dynasty, but it can be worthwhile. That said, full disclosure — I’m a Cardinals fan and drafting Matt Carpenter was a heart-over-head pick. Almost all peripherals point to a decline. He batted just .226 last year with fewer walks and a lot more strikeouts and ground balls. His soft contact went up a bit, and worse, he traded a lot of hard hits for medium hits, which saw his HR/FB rate drop from 19.1% to 12.1%. Since this season will be his age 34 season, the outlook is bleak. But with some Cardinals voodoo magic, it’s not impossible to see Carpenter bounce back to be a .265 30 homer guy. After all, just the season before last he hit 36 home runs and scored 111 runs. It’s the last pick of a mock draft, had to go heart over head with this one.