On February 17th, I joined eleven other Pitcher List staffers for my most anticipated mock draft of the year. No offense to the Yahoo or ESPN public mock drafts, but this was my first time drafting with so many great and smart people, and also the only one that wasn’t filled with auto picks after round five rounds. I was definitely nervous going in, but I had a great time drafting with my fellow Pitcher List-ers and I ended up quite satisfied with my team.
I didn’t have a specific strategy going in, other than just sticking to my usual philosophies. I ended up having to change strategy though when players I usually end up with a lot in mock drafts ended up going off the board earlier than I anticipated, which is a good thing, as I needed to practice altering my gameplan if things don’t end up the way I want them to, which is surely going to happen to me at some point in my drafts this year.
While I generally like to wait a few rounds before drafting a pitcher, I had a feeling that in this group, pitchers were going to be flying off the board, so I ended up with two pitchers in the first five rounds, which is generally rare for me, but I’m not going to complain about having Stephen Strasburg and Charlie Morton as my top two pitchers. Drafting those two pitchers within the first five rounds also allowed me to pick up some really nice hitters in the middle rounds to shore up my offensive core, when others were having to draft whatever starting pitchers were left at that point. My team’s biggest weakness is definitely stolen bases, which is always the category I punt. I don’t like to overdraft for steals and it wasn’t any different this time around, but I feel like my offense is good enough to make up for my lack of stolen bases.
Anyways, let’s get to it.
Full draft results can be found here
Round 1, Pick 7: Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians)
Barring some kind of magic, drafting out of the seven-spot means that you’ll miss the top tier of guys like Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, and Cody Bellinger. Instead, you’ll have to settle for the next tier of player, which are definitely still very good, and I am very happy to have Francisco Lindor as my first pick. Lindor is probably one of the safest players in that you know that he’s going to give you 30 or more homers, 100 runs, and close to 100 RBI and a healthy offering of stolen bases. Other than last season, when he played 143 games, Lindor doesn’t have much of an injury history, playing just a few games shy of every game that Cleveland played from 2016 to 2018, so he should be in the lineup essentially every day, which means I shouldn’t have to worry too much about shortstop at all. He’s also probably my only stolen base threat on my roster, I at least have something in this category! It’s hard to go wrong with a player like Lindor, and I am happy to have him as my first pick here.
I’ve been ending up with a lot of J.D. Martinez in the mocks I’ve done thus far, and I end up with him again as my second pick. I was debating between Martinez and his teammate Rafael Devers with this selection, who ended up going the very next pick. I still consider Martinez to be one of the best pure hitters in the sport, and in his “disappointing” 2019 season, he still had a 139 wRC+ that was 16th-best in baseball last season, and 36 home runs. This is close to first-round production, and if he repeats that production in 2020, I’ll have no complaints with this selection. Sure, there is always the risk that this is the year where he begins to regress, as he is 32, and will be 33 by the end of the season, and the Red Sox lineup looks completely different with the trade of Betts, but I think Martinez will still do his usual thing this season.
If I were following my usual formula of waiting on starting pitching, I would be targeting someone like Xander Bogaerts at this spot, but with Lindor holding down the fort at that position, and not being too crazy about any of the other position player options in this spot, I decided to select a starting pitcher, and a pretty good one in Stephen Strasburg. I was a bit surprised to see him still available in this spot, as I did not expect to see Shane Bieber and Luis Castillo go off the board before him. I was debating Strasburg, Chris Sale, and Blake Snell with this pick, and again the players that I was debating, end up going not much later after my pick. I don’t think there’s a wrong choice here, as all three should be among the best pitchers in the game this season. For whatever it’s worth, Sale is currently ranked seventh in Nick Pollack’s rankings, while Strasburg is ninth, and Snell eleventh, but all are in the same tier. There’s injury risk with all three, and Strasburg’s 2019 was the only season since 2015 where he topped over 180 innings and 30 starts. But, he was so, so good last season that I’ll sign up for that elite production, even if it only comes in 28 starts, and I’ll piece together a combination of streamers if he misses a week or two. I don’t consider the quality of competition often, but if you prefer National League starting pitchers because they’ll generally face weaker lineups, than that could be another point in favor of Strasburg over Sale and Snell. I’d be happy with either of the three as my top starting pitcher, I just happened to go with Strasburg today though.
Full disclosure, I was not expecting to pick Charlie Blackmon here. I was banking on somebody like Ketel Marte to still be available, but he was gone early in this round. I then moved on to my backup plan in Yordan Alvarez, but Ben Pernick sniped him right before my pick. I reluctantly picked Blackmon here, although I was considering Austin Meadows and Giancarlo Stanton. It’s hard to hate this pick though because even though he is getting up there in age (he’ll turn 34 this season), he is still a very productive hitter and he plays half of his games in Colorado. While I don’t think we’ll see his 2017 season ever again, you can essentially pencil Blackmon in for close-to-30 dingers and 100 runs scored. He puts the ball in play, so he should have a good batting average. He’s a boring, safe, and solid pick, but not one that’s likely to hurt you. I would have preferred Marte or Alvarez, but I’ll take it for sure. Moving on.
With my fifth pick, I go for another player named Charlie, and also my second starting pitcher through five rounds. I picked Morton now because I believed he wasn’t going to get back to me with my next pick, and I thought that my two preferred position player targets like Eloy Jimenez and Joey Gallo would make it back to me instead (they did not). With Yu Darvish still available, I probably could have gone with him as well, but I decided to get Morton instead. Like Strasburg, Morton is an injury risk, and I am not putting him down for another 194 inning season in 2020, but if he reverts back to what he did in 2018 with a 167 inning season with a low-three ERA, I’ll take it and run. I am expecting his 0.69 HR/9 rate to increase some this season, but it won’t be enough for me to turn my back on his production. Morton should give quality innings and get strikeouts at close to a 30% mark, and now I just hope that he and Strasburg stay healthy, as this is a pretty good one-two punch for my rotation.
Now in round six, we are getting into that spot in drafts that I personally love drafting. We’re past that part in the draft where the consensus top players are basically gone, and you start to see other players’ personal ranks start to take over. Max Muncy is a player that I maybe like more than others, as I picked him slightly higher than his mid-70’s ADP, but my preferred targets like Eloy and Gallo were already gone at this point, and I wasn’t going to pick another pitcher, and I wasn’t loving some of the other position player options like DJ LeMahieu, Jose Abreu, Victor Robles, and Whit Merrifield at this spot, so I pulled the trigger and snatched up Muncy. Muncy’s eligibility is an added bonus, as I didn’t have a first, second, or third baseman on the roster at this point, so I could slot Muncy in any of those spots, but I also didn’t have to limit myself to just those positions later in the draft. I didn’t just draft Muncy for his eligibility though, as you’re also getting an extremely solid player with Muncy. He’s projected for close to 30 homers, and he’s projected to hit second in what is the best lineup in baseball per Roster Resource, so he should have plenty of runs and runs driven in. While Muncy may get messed around a little bit within the Dodgers tremendous depth, and he’ll probably get an injury at some point, his production is just too much to pass on at this point. While his batting average isn’t going to be great, it’s not enough for me to pass on his power potential.
I was extremely thrilled to land Josh Donaldson here, and I was sweating the entire time waiting until my pick because I was expecting him to go at any time. I also essentially fill two positions here, as now I can slide Muncy to second base and not have to settle for a lesser option at the position, and I can continue to wait on a first baseman. By this point in the draft, hopefully you can see the type of hitter that I go for. I love power, and I’m not too concerned with batting average and steals, as I prefer homers, runs scored and runs driven in, and Donaldson should get plenty of those in his new home in Minnesota. With Donaldson hitting either directly before or after Nelson Cruz, the Twins are definitely going to be a run-scoring machine, with Donaldson right in the middle of it. Projected for 30 homers, and close to 100 runs scored and driven in, the only thing that should hold Donaldson back is health. While he did play 155 games in 2019, there’s always the possibility that the injury issues that plagued him in both 2017 and 2018 pop up again, which would put a dent in his potential 2020 value. Still, I am absolutely drooling over what Donaldson could do in that Twins lineup, and while I drafted him close to 20 picks before his ADP would suggest, I love this pick and this one should pay off tremendously.
Round 8, Pick 90: Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)
At this point in the draft, I was liking my team. I have two pitchers that I love, and I didn’t feel like I needed another one yet. I was liking my infield core, that was just missing a first-baseman, of which there are plenty of that I can wait a little bit on, the only thing I wasn’t thrilled about was my outfield. I only have Blackmon, as I was planning on using J.D. in one of my two utility spots, so I wanted another outfielder. I was planning on taking Jorge Soler with this pick, the American League home run leader from 2019 who should be a bargain at this spot, and would add yet another lethal power option to my team. My dreams were shattered though, as Ben Pernick once again sniped my top target right before my pick. I’m not going to lie, I was so enamored with getting Soler with this pick, that I didn’t really consider many backup options, which is a huge mistake. I was frazzled and wasn’t 100% sure who I wanted to go with here. I considered a reliever, with both Aroldis Chapman and Kirby Yates available, but I don’t like using a high-ish pick like this one on a reliever. I considered the next best outfield option in Nick Castellanos, and looking back, I maybe should have done that, but I ultimately ended up with Gary Sanchez. I usually wait until around pick 200 to get a catcher, and it’s not out of line for me to go for parts of a season playing without a catcher, instead opting to roster another pitcher, so this was the biggest surprise of the draft from me. Having an elite catcher on my roster is not something I’m used to, so this is an unexpected change for me. That doesn’t mean I’m not happy to have Sanchez on my roster, I absolutely love Sanchez, and having that 30 home run power from the catcher spot is a great thing to have, and I still get another great power option that I was expecting to, just not the one I wanted. The thing with Sanchez is that his career-high in games played is just 122, and I’m expecting more injuries for him in 2020. It happens to catchers, and there is only the ATC projection system projects him for 120 games played, which isn’t great. I would have loved to have ended up with Soler here, but I’m not complaining about this pick, it’s just that I know I’m not likely to get a full season out of him.
Round 9, Pick 103: Carlos Santana (1B, Cleveland Indians)
Finally, in round nine, I get a first baseman. I was deciding between Carlos Santana and Trey Mancini in this spot, but Nick made the decision for me by picking Mancini right before my pick. Mancini would have been nice with his dual outfield and first base eligibility, but I do like Santana a lot. I feel Santana is being underrated going into drafts, as his ADP around picks 130-140 in most formats, and I’m not quite sure why. Was last year with his 34 homers, .515 slugging, and 135 wRC+ his career season? Probably, but he still has plenty of value. He’s projected for around 28 homers by most projections, which is nothing to sneeze at. He’s also still an on-base machine, and he’s a threat to walk more than he strikes out, and I have a few strikeout-heavy hitters on this team, so it’s nice to get a nice complimentary piece. He also doesn’t have injury concerns, as he’s played at least 150 games every year since 2013, so it’s good to know that I shouldn’t have to worry about this spot on most days. I’m not expecting his power output from a year ago, but what I am expecting is a nice, well-rounded player with a solid floor that should pay off nicely.
After four straight hitter selections, I decided this round would be the time to go back to the well of starting pitchers, and I couldn’t believe that with all the hype he’s gotten this preseason that he was still available, but I was thrilled to grab Zac Gallen with this pick. Just checking through my records, it looks like I’ve ended up with Gallen in every single mock draft I’ve done to this point, which should show how much I like Gallen. I wrote about Gallen just shortly after his trade to the Diamondbacks, and I am absolutely buying into his potential. I love his fastball-changeup combination and his cutter has the potential to be elite. I want in now, and I’m not concerned about an innings limit, as he threw 175 combined last season. I also don’t buy into that he might not crack the D-Backs rotation. He could be the best pitcher in their rotation right now, and I don’t see them bumping Gallen for Merrill Kelly. There are safer options, if that’s your style, with pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Jose Berrios, Sonny Gray, and Lance Lynn going in this range, but I love Gallen’s upside, and I’m trying to draft him wherever I can.
I was planning on doubling up on starting pitchers with my 10th and 11th pick, but maybe as karma for picking the Gallen God, my next two preferred starting pitching options in Lance Lynn and Frankie Montas were gone before my next selection. I’m not completely sold on guys like Eduardo Rodriguez, Max Fried, or Hyun-Jin Ryu at this spot, so I wasn’t looking at any starters at this moment. There was a run of solid relievers as well, which I was considering, but I felt like I couldn’t leave a value like Eduardo Escobar sitting there anymore. With a full infield, Escobar will slide into my second utility spot. Looking back, I don’t love this pick, and I would have preferred going with someone like Justin Turner, Corey Seager, or even Franmil Reyes in this spot, so this is probably the pick I liked the least from this draft. I do like Escobar, but I’m not expecting another 35 home run season from him in 2020, and now looking at some of his Statcast measurements from 2019, I like this pick a lot less. His .468 xSLG significantly trailed his .511 actual one, and his .327 xwOBA isn’t anything to write home about, especially compared to Turner (a whopping .378 xwOBA, and .517 xSLG). I think this pick was more me reacting to the average draft position instead of just drafting the better player, as Escobar’s ADP is around 114, and Turner’s is around picks 150, but I would prefer to have Turner for sure, and both Turner and Seager were taken in the next round anyway. I’d like a do-over on this one, but oh well. This isn’t a terrible pick, and life goes on.
I haven’t forgotten that I still need to fill my outfield, so in round 12, I picked another player that I was pleasantly surprised to still have the option of taking in Kyle Schwarber. I am a big fan of Schwarber, and I feel like he is being a little bit forgotten about in drafts so far. He just casually put up 38 home runs and 92 RBI backed up by a 51.2% hard-hit rate, a 14.5% barrel per batted-ball rate and a .553 xSLG, which was 19th-best in baseball, but it’s being ignored as he is being drafted around pick 140. He does have issues in that there are concerns he may not play against every left-handed pitcher, he strikes out a lot, he won’t likely hit for a high batting average, and his walk rate dropped to a career-low 11.5%. But he’s also projected for close to the same numbers in 2020, with around 35 home runs, and around 90 runs scored and driven in. In my team where I am prioritizing primarily power, Schwarber will settle in nicely as my second outfielder.
Now with my primary offense nearly rounded out except for one last outfielder, I felt like I had a lot of options and could just focus on getting solid players rather than frantically trying to fill needs. This was also the range where the starting pitchers I like were likely to start going, so I nabbed Robbie Ray with this pick. Picking Ray directly right after Matthew Boyd is maybe appropriate, as they are both similar pitchers in that they both give you plenty of strikeouts, but other headaches elsewhere. With Ray, it’s the walks. At 11.2% in 2019, it was the second-highest among qualified pitchers only behind Dakota Hudson. But the strikeouts are too good for me to pass up on, which at 31.5% put him sixth-highest in the game last season. Not exactly the most stable pitcher, but as a person who loves lots of strikeouts, I obviously would want Ray on my staff, and with Strasburg, Morton, and Gallen already on my roster, I don’t need to rely on Ray to be a solid number 2, and instead I can afford to just enjoy the punch outs.
I finally decided to go to the well of relievers options, and I come back with a reliever who is not expected to be the closer. I passed on two exceptional relievers who went in the same round in Nick Anderson and Brandon Workman, which was maybe a mistake on my part. I usually try to put off drafting relievers for as long as possible, and when I do, I like to draft guys who have a long track record, and are consistently strong performers, which Will Smith is. Anderson pitches for the Rays where their roles are never locked down, so I’m not even sure I’m passing on many saves. Workman was exceptional in 2019, but I’m not entirely convinced that his 0.13 HR/9 will maintain itself into 2020. Smith, on the other hand, is as consistent as they come and is only behind Mark Melancon, the incumbent closer for Atlanta, who has had his fair of share of implosions over the years, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Smith eventually steps into the closer role for them at some point. My main strategy for relievers is to not go chasing saves, especially at this point in the draft, and instead just focus on getting better quality arms. Bullpen roles change all of the time, and I’m more concerned about getting the better player, not just the pitcher in a better role. It’ll be interesting to see how many saves Smith ends up getting in his first season in Atlanta, though.
With my fifteenth selection, I rounded out my outfield finally with a player I was very happy made it back to me in Willie Calhoun, as the outfield options were looking pretty slim at this point. I wrote about Calhoun earlier in the offseason, and while I don’t love him, I still do like him, and like this value at this point in the draft. He hits a lot of pulled fly balls, and he hits them hard, and should be a good bet to hit for over 25 home runs, as long as he gets the playing time that I hope he does. He won’t walk as much as I would like him to, but at this point in the draft, you’re not likely to get an extremely well-rounded player, so I’ll have to settle for his strong power instead.
With my starting offense now set, I could now focus on just getting bench options and a few more pitchers, of which there are plenty of good options left. While Odorizzi is a perfectly good option, I will admit that I completely forgot about Joe Musgrove at this point in the draft, which is definitely not a good look, but I’m still okay with Odorizzi. He got more strikeouts backed by an increase in fastball velocity. He only had 159 innings pitched, as the Twins didn’t really want him facing the opposing lineup for the third time, which is okay with me, as long as it doesn’t cost me wins. I do expect regression from his 3.51 ERA, but he should be in the same range as my previously drafted pitcher in Ray. Not a bad option at all, and he should be useful, but yes, I would rather have had the upside from Musgrove over the likely regression for Odorizzi.
Now that I have a fifth starter, I can go about drafting my reserve hitters, and I was happy to land Paul DeJong as my backup shortstop. I don’t exactly love DeJong, but I’m not expecting him to be an everyday option for me, but I do love having his expected production on my roster instead of someone else’s. He’s yet another hitter on my roster that projects to be around 30 home runs, and while he will likely not give you much else in terms of batting average or on-base ability, he should still score and drive-in plenty of runs, and you could do much worse with your backup shortstop than DeJong.
I was hoping that this pick would be Luke Voit, but he was selected just three picks after my DeJong pick. Instead, I get another first baseman with some serious pop in Christian Walker. Walker was a pleasant surprise in 2019, with a .259/.348/.476 line with 29 home runs, 86 runs, and 73 RBI, good enough for a 112 wRC+. He was one of the best hitters in the first month of the season, and then his performance tanked in the next two months, but he recovered nicely to put up a solid second half. Walker saw great improvements in his barrel rate, which at 13.1% was inside the top 10% in baseball, and his hard-hit rate was an extremely strong 48.4%, which placed him inside the top 6% in baseball. Statcast also seemed to believe in his performance, as his xSLG was a fantastic .516, and his xwOBA was .362, all great marks, and if he can do it again, I won’t worry too much about his potentially low batting average or high strikeout numbers. Walker should also be hitting in the middle of a sneaky-good Diamondbacks lineup and should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. While my preference in this spot was Voit, Walker is not a bad consolation prize, and he fits in well with the rest of my team that consists mainly of power hitters.
Round 19, Pick 223: Yandy Diaz (3B/1B, Tampa Bay Rays)
At this point in the draft, I was more focused on picking players that I am personally higher on than maybe most are, so some of these next picks may look a little high when compared to their ADP. While I don’t think this pick in Yandy Diaz is much of a reach, Diaz is a player that I am not giving up on quite yet, and this could prove to be a valuable pick over the course of the season. While Diaz didn’t make the launch angle improvements we all wanted to see in 2019, he still hit 14 home runs in 79 games and had a .208 ISO, which is not too shabby. He was also hampered by injuries last season, which I’m sure had an impact on his performance, as his splits make him look inconsistent without some additional context. He continues to hit the ball hard, with a hard-hit rate of 44.8% in 2019, and an average exit velocity of 91.7 miles-per-hour. He also began to pull the ball more, and was one of the best hitters in baseball when he pulled the ball, with a 171 wRC+ on pulled balls. Sure, he still needs to improve upon his 51.2% ground ball rate, but if this is the season that he does, Diaz could be one of the biggest surprises in 2020. I still think he’ll be a valuable option, especially late in drafts, but he definitely has room to improve, and I like that potential for upside, so I am happy to have selected him.
I recently wrote up Mike Yastrzemski, and the main theme of that post was that Yastrzemski is being undervalued and should be selected in drafts higher than his ADP being somewhere around pick 280 to 300 would suggest that he should be taken. While that post wasn’t up on the site at the time of this draft, I knew that it would be coming out before this post would be up, so it would be a good idea to select the guy that I’m advocating for at some point in this draft. While I don’t think I necessarily needed to draft him here, although this pick maybe cost me some of the pitchers I wanted, it’s okay. I really like Yastrzemski, and while you can read my full post to get all of the details, I’ll say here that I don’t believe his .518 slugging and 21 home runs in 2019 were a fluke. While he is already 29 years-old and hits in a pitcher’s park, Yastrzemski was still able to have a great season in 2019, and Statcast also seemed to believe in his power in 2019 with an xSLG of .510. Yastrzemski’s 18.5-degree launch angle is right where I like to see it, and he hits the ball hard, and the combination of his batted-ball profile compares extremely well to some of the best hitters in the game. He is projected to hit leadoff for the Giants as well, which bodes well for his run totals. There’s a lot that I love about Yastrzemski’s profile, and I’m definitely buying in and trying to draft him everywhere that I can. Overall, I am happily going to draft a hitter with 25 or more home run potential in the very late stages of a draft. That being said, welcome to the team, Mr. Yastrzemski.
With three picks to go, I still had a starting pitcher spot, a reliever spot, and another bench spot to fill. I planned on taking three pitchers with my final three picks, and I was specifically targeting Dylan Bundy or Jordan Montgomery with this pick, but alas, they were both picked before my turn, so I settled on Yonny Chirinos. Looking back at this pick, I would have preferred to pick someone like Chris Archer, or Tyler Beede, not because I don’t like Chirinos, because I do, but instead because I am worried over how Tampa Bay might manipulate his role all season. In 2019, he bounced around as the opener, the bulk pitcher, a reliever, and a traditional starter throughout his 133.1 innings, and while he should be penciled into a rotation spot to start the season, there is always a looming threat in Tampa Bay, and in this case, it happens to be Brendan McKay and Brent Honeywell. These two pitchers could bump Chirinos from the rotation early on the season, and send Chirinos’ stock plummeting. Another reason why I’d prefer to have someone like Archer instead of Chirinos, is because while both are projected for ERA marks around 4.00, I would prefer the way Archer gets there: with a heavy surplus of strikeouts. Chirinos has never been a strikeout pitcher, and his 21.5% strikeout rate from 2019 isn’t exactly the best, and with everything else being equal, I would prefer Archer’s 27.2% mark from last season. Also, Archer is expected to give more innings than Chirinos, which would make him more valuable over the course of a full season. I’m not going to get too upset over a 21st round pick, but I would like to have this one back. I could easily drop Chirinos at any point, so I’m not too worried, as I do love playing the waiver wire.
When drafting relievers at this point in the draft, this is usually when I pick high-impact arms that won’t necessarily give saves but should provide plenty of quality innings. I’m talking about guys like Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, and Zack Britton. I broke my own rule with this selection of Daniel Hudson. Hudson is currently projected to be the closer of the Nationals at the moment, so I decided to grab some cheap saves late in this draft, instead of someone like Brandon Kintzler or Matt Magill, who project to be the closers of two of the worst teams in baseball. The Nats should be one of the better teams in the National League, so I decided to try for some high-quantity saves at this point. I wouldn’t expect this one to work out, as even though Hudson’s 2.47 ERA from 2019 looks really good, his peripherals don’t support it, with a 3.97 FIP, and an even more concerning 5.08 xFIP. Again, I can always drop him if he doesn’t stick in the closer’s role and go with another unexpected pitcher in a closer’s role (Diego Castillo, perhaps?), or whatever new flavor-of-the-month happens to be tearing it up. I usually am constantly shuffling in and out relievers anyway, so I’m not too hung up over drafting Hudson here.
With my final pick, I decided to go with a pitcher that I really like in Ross Stripling. While he’s not likely to make more than the occasional spot-start, and this would have been a much better pick if he were actually going to the Angels, I do think that having a multi-inning reliever option in fantasy is something to consider, as you could end up getting quality multi-inning outings and a hold or even a save a couple times a week. Another consideration is that the Dodgers have a few oft-injured starting pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, David Price, and Alex Wood in their rotation, and another pitcher who will likely be on an innings count in Julio Urias, it’s possible that Stripling sees an extended stay in the rotation. I wouldn’t stay married to having Stripling on my roster all season though and would feel fine dropping him if I needed to address another area of my team. Again, I’m not too hung up on my last round pick, I could have gone a bunch of different ways with this pick, and there’s a possibility that this a floating roster spot all season anyway. I’m good with it.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)