I sat down on February 11 with 11 other Pitcherlist staffers to knock out my first real mock draft of 2020. After some deliberation, I finally got around to writing about the team that I cobbled together out of the fifth spot.
I tried to battle-test what I submitted for our staff consensus rankings, and I was really satisfied with the results. I tend to be out on steals and speed, but considering I didn’t want to land at the bottom of two categories, I wanted to see if I could grab a few players early who could steal me a combined 60 to 70 bases. I also wanted to make sure I picked up someone with a shot to be a top-6 pitcher, and then I set myself up to grab the power bats I thought were going too late. I got most of my targets, and don’t really regret any of my picks, though I think I could have snagged a couple of them slightly later or chosen a couple of different guys late. If I can get most of these guys on draft day, I’ll be pretty happy.
I was hoping for Mookie Betts here, but I happily swooped for the second player on my draft board. His batting average floor is actually his strongest tool, and I definitely needed it to make my later picks work. There’s not much to say here that hasn’t been said already; he shouldn’t have been available.
Round 2, Pick 20: Jose Ramirez (3B, Cleveland Indians)
Ramirez was the player I wanted at this spot, and I took zero time to scoop him up. After fouling a ball off of his shin during spring training, Ramirez got his year started late and clearly wasn’t the same player that we saw in 2017 and 2018. His first half was abysmal by his standards: he had a .218 average, 7 home runs, a 0.126 ISO, and 68 WRC+ and was borderline unplayable. But his second-half performance showed that the player drafted at the top of the first round still existed: in just 43 games, he batted 0.327 and clubbed 16 home runs en route to a 0.412 ISO and 176 WRC+. A broken wrist in late August almost ended his season, but he came back to hit three bombs in three games to end his season and dispelled my worries that his improvements could vanish. Best of all, his stolen bases stuck throughout the year, coming close to matching his 2018 pace. He is the player that drafters hope Fernando Tatis Jr. could be, but with a career strikeout rate of 11.3% and without having to hit in front of a pitcher. He’s also the only player projected for more than 25 stolen bases by ATC that isn’t being overdrafted in NFBC relative to his ATC-projected value. I had him ranked 19th, and am thrilled to have gotten him here.
I previously wrote about how even an injury-shortened season from Ohtani could be a top-10 value, and I stand by it. News that he will start pitching in May actually lines up with what I projected for him previously. I still don’t expect much more than 100 innings, but Mike Clevinger and Brandon Woodruff both managed to deliver elite SP seasons last year in similar totals to what we could get. And if he’s hitting nearly full-time to start the year, we might get 120 batter starts out of him, which is more than I projected. At this point, I had all the steals I could ask for and a very solid batting average floor — my draft plan was fully intact after this pick, and I went looking for pitching and power.
Picking pitchers with elbow injuries in the first four rounds isn’t typically a smart move. In retrospect, I wouldn’t recommend it. But I also think that both Ohtani and Sale should be drafted well ahead of where I snagged both of them and made a conscious effort to get innings later to make up for that risk. Sale’s strikeout totals were still there, but he seemed to get hit harder than usual, following a slight trend since 2017. That said, his per-pitch WRC+ numbers aren’t that far out of line with career totals, and his 66.7% strand rate represented a significant departure from his career numbers. He’s got a ceiling level as high as either Jacob DeGrom’s and Gerrit Cole’s, and only slightly more risk than most of his ADP peers. If we are to assume he is healthy — and we’ll know very shortly, but it seems he is — he should not be the 12th starting pitcher off the board.
Corbin as the 16th pitcher off the board also represented good value to me, especially given my team construction. I knew that I needed quality innings, and drafting a player who has pitched back-to-back years about 200 IP certainly does that. But more than that, Corbin sustained much of the growth we saw in 2018, and while his walk rate did tick up as the year went on, so too did his strikeout rate. I don’t love that his K-BB% dropped as the year went on, or that his curveball usage dropped markedly and he risks becoming a two-pitch pitcher. But his remarkable consistency even when moving to a new team is important, and I tend to believe durability is a skill. I moved on from this pick ready to take hitters for a few rounds.
I drafted Realmuto assuming that I wouldn’t be allowed to stream catchers every day, and in that case, I feel like this is a steal. We cannot reasonably expect any catcher to play more, steal more bases, or contribute more to average and counting stats than Realmuto. Even modestly downgrading his playing time from last year could land him as a 4th round value or better. The reasoning is simple: taking a zero hurts you, and Realmuto won’t do that to you very often. Drafters are hugely underestimating the gap between Realmuto and the last catcher off the board, which will be about as large as the gap between Xander Bogaerts and the last shortstop drafted. He’s that much better than the alternative, even in one catcher leagues, and at this point, I didn’t feel like I needed to draft another player projected to steal more than 5 based until the last few rounds.
Castellanos’ change in scenery might yield one of the most obvious buying opportunities in fantasy baseball, especially if you’ve been paying attention to Dan Richards’ excellent series on Barrels and Park Factors. As a player with all-fields power, he was dramatically limited in his home run output at Comerica, where his 27 barrels to center over three years yielded two home runs. Cincinnati is a uniquely good fit for him, being a top-five park in all directions in terms of Barrels/HR, and it should give him the opportunity to continue to spray the ball while also knock more than a few out. And with every park in the NL Central other than Wrigley in the top half league-wide for Dan’s HR park factors to center, it should be simple to bump Castellanos’ projected home runs from previous years by at least a half dozen, if not more. If we’re looking at 35HR/90R/100RBI/2SB/.285AVG from him, and I think we are if he’s not hitting second, that’s not a player who should have an NFBC ADP of 98. That’s a player who should be cracking the top 60 overall.
Round 8, Pick 92: Miguel Sano (1B/3B, Minnesota Twins)
I might have been able to get Sano in the next round, but I really wanted to make sure I was able to write about him, so I grabbed him maybe one round earlier than I could have to be safe. Even so, I think he’s got massive profit potential. Sano led the league in Barrels/BBE last year (that’s what we normally refer to as barrel rate), and was fourth in barrels/PA despite a 36.2% strikeout rate. A healthy Sano rivals the cream of the crop in the AL in power output, and considering that his injury history has been flukey, I’m absolutely buying in. Considering his chase rate dropped from 30% to 25% last year, his batting average could well creep up past 0.240 and out of the Joey Gallo range. His NFBC min pick is in the 80s, but even 135 games of production at his current rates should place him well ahead of that in output. Draft this man or else I will.
I didn’t expect Semien to be available here at the beginning of the draft, and I gambled on him being available when I picked Sano after peeking at my competitors’ rosters. He nearly doubled his barrel rate last year, slashed his strikeout rate by five points for the second time in two years, and finished third in AL MVP voting last year. If we think those skills increases are real, he’s a great bet to play 150 games, top 200 combined runs and RBI, bat above my target of 0.275, and hit nearly 30 home runs. He probably runs less next year, but 5 wouldn’t be bad. That’s a top-75 overall player.
I gambled quite a bit by taking four hitters in a row, but that gamble paid off. Nick puts Gallen at SP24, and that feels about right to me — he did everything right in his first year, and his WHIP should be better than what he showed. I’m more than happy to have him as my third starting pitcher as the 31st pitcher off the board, especially if I see Ohtani as more of my fifth starter. The NFBC ADP since the beginning of February is 128, but that’s almost certain to rise to at least where I got him.
Max Fried and Frankie Montas, two pitchers who I like more than Gray, went between this pick and snagging Gallen. I’m still more than happy to get him. This is 25 picks after NFBC is taking him and slightly later than Nick places him — good value either way. In particular, I think Gray should be a cautionary tale about how being “out” on a guy should only mean being out relative to ADP. Our staff might think that Gray won’t repeat what he did in the second half of 2019. But does that mean that you can’t draft him? Absolutely not. I think he could return value if I’d taken him at 116.
Schwarber has seen improvements in strikeout rate, hard-hit rate, batting average and xBA for two years running. Plus, his defense and performance against lefties have improved enough that’s not likely to be platooned anymore. And with Joe Maddon gone, he is likely to finally stop leading off. If he can slot into the third or fourth spot in the order, we’re still likely to see great run production, and we’re also looking at both RBI and run totals above 180 for the first time in this career. We’re looking at a season from him roughly in line with what Castellanos can bring, but with a lower average and power somewhat suppressed by Wrigley. It wouldn’t take much for him to return top-75 value without projecting any measurable change to what he does.
Round 13, Pick 149: Giovanni Gallegos (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
I finally took a closer in the 13th round. Gallegos is my preferred first closer to take unless Taylor Rogers falls, and he didn’t in this draft. I predicted that he’d have the job when I drafted, and news that Carlos Martinez will likely take Miles Mikolas‘ spot in the rotation to start the year shore that up. He’s as likely to get 30 saves as anyone you can draft after pick 100, and he doesn’t have control issues. That’s all I ask for.
If you’ve noticed me double-tapping pitching, that’s because I tend to notice I need it and then I draft it until I think I don’t need it. I planned on drafting two closers in around this range, and Workman was another target, though I preferred Nick Anderson. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Boston does next year, but Workman certainly struck out enough batters to hold down the job. I’m scared of his walk rate and could see it all coming apart, but that’s the risk you take at pick 164. If that happens, I’ll spend the FAAB to buy the next guy, but I’ll ride the named closer until then.
I am more than happy to punt second base this year if I can guarantee I get Brandon Lowe. He offers an almost identical package of skills to Keston Hiura, though maybe less security — but considering that Tampa Bay already plans on platooning at four other positions, their 26-man roster simply can’t handle them platooning at second base as well. He’s yet another batting average scare — and yes, I’m okay with that — but he brings above-average power and speed to a premium lineup spot in a good AL offense. That’s a formula for value.
I’m not sold that Yarbrough was the best pitcher available, but I think he fits my staff rather well. He’s going to provide help with WHIP and wins, and I could see him being less of an ERA drag considering his ability to suppress hard contact. But I also like several of the pitchers who were drafted immediately after this, especially Griffin Canning. But all things considered, he’s my sixth starting-ish pitcher, and I definitely feel like I have the floor to take risks on more rookies with my last two.
Sorry, Nick. We’ve heard nothing but hype about Keller’s stuff all offseason, and all the signs point toward his luck regressing significantly next year. As long as the Pirates try to play defense, PNC Park should suppress home runs for him, especially against righties. As my seventh starting pitcher, he’s one of my favorite darts to throw. And even though this is 30 picks ahead of NFBC ADP, it’s well before his min pick of 177 — and more importantly, the difference in opportunity cost at this range is very low. Almost everyone drafted after round 15 is projected to be no better than a $4 player, so reaching in late rounds isn’t leaving much on the board.
Canha showed considerable growth last year, but some of the signs were already there. His barrel rate and strikeout rate remained steady, and while his home runs increased in a very similar number of games, he saw far more at-bats in the games he played. His only real change was swapping contact to center field for pull power, which suggests that his success may be sustainable if he has a full-time job. Canha did hit righties significantly better last year, but considering Robbie Grossman was far worse than Canha and had the same platoon splits, it feels like Canha could be in line for 140 starts. That would make him a great value at my second utility spot or as a fill for Sano, Ohtani or Schwarber if they sit.
Round 19, Pick 221: Jose Urquidy (SP, Houston Astros)
Another pick, another guy in the top 55 of The List. To be clear, I did not know who would fall in Nick’s top 60 when we drafted, but Urquidy showed everything that we could ask for out of a prospect. He showed a 26% K-BB% in the minors last year before earning a 24% strikeout rate, 1.10 WHIP and 3.98 ERA in the majors. His four-pitch mix, above-average command, and rotation spot on a contender all set him up for sustained success. The lights-out performance in the World Series doesn’t hurt, either.
At this point, I just wanted to get someone with the stuff to close if a chance arrived. Picking Treinen was more a declaration that I don’t believe in Kenley Jansen’s long-term success than anything else. I’d happily drop Treinen to pick up someone else if I owned this team — but given how many games they might win, Treinen could still notch double-digit saves next year without Jansen fully losing his job.
Round 21, Pick 245: Adom Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals)
Eaton is yet another player whom I picked because I felt I wanted to write about him. I also legitimately think he was the best hitter available. Whereas a lot of teams are loading up on darts at the end of the draft, I like to throw mine earlier and buy insurance at the end. If Eaton had to take over a permanent starting spot for me, he would be more than capable of doing so. Plus, he makes a great foil to several of my other outfielders when he would play in that he brings steals, average and runs production at the cost of power. I would happily drop him to speculate elsewhere once the real information we need for dart throws — changes in approach and strikeout rates — start to show up.
Most late-round darts are thrown with us hoping they become Amed Rosario. I hate him at his February NFBC ADP of 138, but would happily take him more than 100 picks later. Semien is a rock as SS and likely won’t rest much, so Rosario is more of an option to spell my utility options, so I’m really taking him t diversify my options, but I also believe that improvements are on the horizon from the 24-year old. His average jumped significantly last year as both his contact rates and chase rate improved, and his hard-hit rate spiked to 39.1%. Rosario has the ability to be a 20-20 guy with a high average, but probably needs to walk a bit more to earn a spot in the lineup that would make him worth starting. If he does, we’re looking at a player that could do most of what Tim Anderson did last year. I’m probably not buying unless he’s a bench or utility player for me, but I do think he’s worth monitoring — the real value isn’t coming from the sexy categories, so he might be the sort of target to either trade away or trade for depending on how things break.
Here’s yet another late-round pick with a locked-in starting job. I know what I like. Cron stopped pulling the ball as much last year, and saw fewer of his barrels turn into home runs than we expected. He’s likely to essentially replace what Castellanos did in Detroit but with lower average, but that should be far better than the 269th player in fantasy next year. If he can go back to pulling the ball more, he will find more success in Comerica, which actually has a positive home run park factor for right-handed pull hitters, per Dan Richards’ research. If he does that, he’s potentially a whole lot more than bust insurance for Miguel Sano — he did finish sixth in the MLB in barrels/PA last year, after all.
Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire