Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 3: Michael Ajeto’s Picks

Michael Ajeto takes you through his 23 picks in Pitcher List's third mock draft.

As you know, Pitcher List has been engaged in three staff mock drafts many, many months before draft season arrives. The closest thing we have to accurate ADPs at this point are Smada’s #2EarlyMocks, and despite the fact that it hasn’t been very long, they’re already outdated. (And in any case, I wasn’t using those ADPs for reference. I was going off the top of my head for the nearly the entire draft.) Regardless, that’s what we’re here for! Along with the #PLExpertsMock, we’ll have you set for ADPs for you early drafters—and then we’ll do more mock drafts in February!

Overall, I didn’t have a set plan for my draft. If anything, my goal was to watch how my colleagues were drafting and play off that. I wanted to get speed-power blend hitters early, avoid starting pitching, and not overstock at any positions. I was mostly able to do that.

For further commentary on Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 3, check out my podcast with Nick where we go over all of my picks!

Lastly, here’s the draft board!

1.4 – Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)


Although Christian Yelich over Ronald Acuna Jr. at the second overall pick was a mild surprise, the top three picks went as expected. I went back and forth between Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts (and nearly decided on Bellinger) before finally deciding on Betts. While Bellinger had an insane first half, he tailed off toward the latter half of the year—which is funny to say, because he was still quite good. Betts, on the other hand, was a Steady Eddie throughout the year and finished on a high note. He ended the year with the MLB lead in runs, which is often a blind spot for me, and he’s generally good for 25 to 30 stolen bases. I love Bellinger, but Betts gets the edge because of his sustained track record, runs, and power-speed blend. He also ranks fifth in plate appearances, which correlates with fantasy team success.


2.21 – J.D. Martinez (OF – BOS)


A delicious pairing with Betts, J.D. Martinez has a blood-red Statcast and ranks fifth in home runs, sixth in runs batted in, and second in slugging percentage since 2014. Steamer has him projected for the fifth-highest OPS in the league in 2020, second-highest RBI total, and top 10 in home runs. He’ll be 32, so he’s not young, but he’s not old either.

Notably, Shelly and I picked in the same position, and both went Betts and Martinez with our first two picks.


3.28 – Bryce Harper (OF – WSH)


For how overrated and volatile Bryce Harper is said to be—at least, from what I have seen—he’s been awfully steady. I’m not in love with taking three outfielders in a row, but also, it frees me up to address other areas, and I’ve gotten both Martinez and Harper in really favorable spots if you ask me. Steamer has Harper projected for 40 home runs, over 100 runs and runs batted in each, and 11 steals. The home run total, in particular, is an eyebrow-raiser, but I’ll wet my pants if I get that production out of Harper.


4.45 – Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)


In a run of 16 players, my colleagues selected a total of nine starting pitchers, which kind of forced my hand here. As I said, I’m not huge on going starting pitching early, but you have to play the field. There’s a strong argument to be made that I should have taken Luis Castillo here, but there are a few things that stopped me from doing so. First, Castillo’s command terrifies me, and it worries me that he throws his changeup in the zone just 24.6% of the time. I like Castillo just fine, but I don’t think this is sustainable. Second, Nola struggled pretty mightily with fastball and curveball command early on. Given the discrepancy between his career 7.4 BB% and 9.4 BB% in 2019, I suspect that he struggled with the feel for his pitches because of the rabbit ball.

In any case, I love what Nola offers here: lots of innings, theoretically good command (and thus low walks), and the potential for a low-3s ERA.


5.52 – Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)


I had my heart set on picking Ketel Marte as my second baseman at some point. As he did several times, Dave Cherman sniped me right before I was set to take Marte. Although notoriously pessimistic, Steamer has the pair projected for very similar years. It has Marte with 22 home runs, about 80 runs and runs batted in apiece, and eight steals. For Albies, Steamer projects 24 home runs, a combined 170 runs and runs batted in, and 14 steals. I think you can make the case for either one being superior, but aside from having fewer stolen bases than you might expect, Marte is the superior player here. Regardless, Albies is just 22 and will give me a ton of plate appearances with a high batting average, and, once again, a great blend of power and speed. Second base is a wasteland after the top tier or two, so I was stoked to get him here.


6.69 – Trevor Bauer (SP – CLE)


Even though he blocked me on Twitter, I went with Bauer to bolster my pitching. I felt like I needed another arm here to bolster my pitching, and I would have been OK with Charlie MortonNoah Syndergaard, or Frankie Montas here. Ultimately, I think I made the right decision, but there’s a solid argument to be made for Syndergaard.

I don’t see Bauer being a tinkerer as a negative thing. In fact, it’s a plus. Add on the fact that he’s a Driveline devotee, and I think we’ll see a turnaround year for him. You’ll see me make this mistake for a lot of pitchers, but I wonder how much the rabbit ball had to do with his struggles. He still had a great K-BB%, and I see the home run woes as a blip more than an ongoing issue. His slider shape wasn’t what it was before, and his changeup and cutter both took steps back. Worst-case scenario, I think 2019 is his floor, while acedom is his ceiling. Either way, he should give me lots of innings again.


7.76 – Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)


Bo Bichette would be hard-pressed to keep up what he produced in 2019, and his Statcast profile hints at that. His .384 wOBA is significantly higher than his .335 xwOBA, and he started to decline to more mediocre levels of performance toward the latter half of his MLB stint. Pitchers started to adjust to him with more pitches in the zone and fewer fastballs. Despite all of this, Steamer has him going 20/20 in 2020, and as a 21-year-old, he’s likely to continue to develop game power—so even though he overperformed last year, there’s also a strong chance he progresses as a player.


8.93 – James Paxton (SP – NYY)


Durability will probably always be an issue for James Paxton, and he had a period in 2019 when he lost his cutter. This very likely dragged his performance down, but his .295 xwOBA in 2019 was nearly identical to his .292 xwOBA in 2018. By the end of the year, he was back where he needed to be. I feel pretty solid about a Nola/Bauer/Paxton 1-2-3, and while I think there is some uncertainty with all three, there’s also a ton of upside and a doable floor. For 2020, I’m expecting something like 2018 Paxton with more walks.


9.100 – Jose Abreu (1B – CWS)


I love Jose Abreu. He ranks 13th in plate appearances and second in runs batted in. He actually hit the ball harder in 2019 than he ever has before (by barrel percentage, average exit velocity, and xwoBACON). I can see an argument for Matt Olson here—and perhaps that’s who I should have taken, because he’s probably the better player—but Abreu is a lock for 30 home runs and a ton of runs batted in with a superior batting average. I was stoked nonetheless to get a first baseman here.


10.117 – Yasmani Grandal (C – FA)


This was a reach. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t do this, but I don’t hate getting some production out of the catching position. Grandal is a top-three catcher, but while the batting average isn’t great, he walks a lot. I think the best thing I could have done for myself here is draft Kirby Yates, who I drafted next, and then grabbed someone like Ken Giles, Emilio Pagan, or Giovanny Gallegos later on. Along with not drafting a quality third baseman earlier than I did, this probably had the biggest butterfly on my draft out of any of my picks.


11.124 – Kirby Yates (RP – SD)


After Aroldis Chapman went five picks earlier, Kirby Yates fell into my lap at pick 124. Generally, the top tier of closers are too much for me, but Yates went about a round or two later than his typical ADP here. He was the MLB leader in saves, which is huge for me and allows me to wait a little bit to grab another reliever. I think his 2019 is somewhat of a mirage—his HR/FB and xwoBACON are artificially low— but I can buy into something like his 2018 or somewhere in between his 2018 and 2019. He’s not Josh Hader, but he also doesn’t have potential home run issues to deal with. I love this pick.


12.141 – Matthew Boyd (SP – DET)


There are so many positives with Matthew Boyd: his K-BB% is amazing, his fastball velocity seems to be back for good, and he’s got a bevy of pitches (including an incredible slider) to work with. The bad news? We’ve seen his changeup progressively fade from his repertoire since 2017, which is a shame, because it can almost be as much of a weapon as his slider is. (Plus it can help mitigate damage from righties!) Home runs are always going to be something of an issue for Boyd, but his HR/FB seems far too high, and I think we’re going to see a slightly deadened ball in 2020. With his K-BB%, the sky is the limit, but this is pretty much what Boyd’s absolute floor should look like. Since he’s a Driveline guy, I’m biased to think that we should seen improvement, but I’m higher on Boyd than most.


13.148 – Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA)


Even though Mitch Haniger had a pretty underwhelming 63 games in 2019 (shortened due to injury), I don’t see any reason to not be confident in him in 2020. He’s far removed from his 2018 when he hit 26 home runs with eight stolen bases, and his 12.0 barrel percentage in 2019 is actually better than his 10.6% in 2018. Really, I just think he didn’t have enough time to make adjustments and get comfortable at the plate. He lowered his ground-ball percentage, which is good, but his line-drive percentage also dropped with a significant increase in pop-up percentage (which is already high relative to the league). To my knowledge, he’s one of the more progressive, cerebral hitters in the league, and so I’m bullish on him being productive again in 2020.


14.165 – Miguel Sano (3B – MIN)


Nick wasn’t a huge fan of this pick, but I think it’s a nice value, especially given the dearth of good third basemen available at this point. Miguel Sano had a 21.2 barrel percentage in 2019, which is one of the most predictive numbers for next-season ISO. Steamer is much more optimistic about his durability than I am—it projects that he’ll play 138 games—and it also thinks he’ll hit 38 home runs with nearly 190 combined runs and runs batted in. The batting average is low, and he’s peaked at 116 games played in five seasons, but when he’s on the field, Sano will help in the power department and counting stats.


15.172 – Hunter Dozier (3B/OF – KC)


In April, I (somewhat) bought into Hunter Dozier as a hitter with a refined approach as a result of a few Alex Chamberlain tweets. I picked him up in dynasty, and half a year later, here I am taking him in a mock draft—this is all despite a disparate .360 wOBA and .337 xwOBA and miserable final month. Chamberlain decided to let me know, after I’d drafted Dozier, that he is less bullish on Dozier than before. I still think that there’s a solid player in here, and the versatility is lovely, but Dozier might not have exactly had the breakout that everyone talked about.


16.189 – Marcus Stroman (SP – NYM)


While Marcus Stroman’s year was propped up by an artificially deflated xwoBACON, I really like what Stroman provides for me. The strikeouts are low, but he’s pitched at least 180 innings in three of his last four seasons with (mostly) great success. I missed out on Griffin Canning one pick before me, but in my eyes, Stroman was the best pick in this spot, especially because of the volume. I remain optimistic that he’ll develop a changeup, which he claimed to have done in May, but without it, he’ll probably remain mostly in his current form.


17.196 – Mallex Smith (OF – SEA)


Say what you will about Mallex Smith—there is absolutely zero reason he should be available in the 17th round. He’ll never be a great hitter, but I think he can be somewhere around league average, or a little below average, and that’s just fine—especially if he’s going to keep leading the league in stolen bases. He didn’t have a spring training, so I think it’s fair to attribute some of his early struggles to that, but it doesn’t explain his hitting woes in the last two months. I’m as much of a Smith apologist as it gets—perhaps I’m too focused on his 2018—but at this value, I’d be a fool to not take him here.


18.213 – Blake Treinen (RP – OAK)


This is as much of a dart throw as there is, and I wanted to get another relief pitcher. This was one of the biggest flaws in my draft: waiting too long between relievers. As my punishment, my No. 2 reliever is Blake Treinen, who had a 4.91 ERA.

The shape of his four-seam fastball caused him to completely lose command of it, which certainly doesn’t explain all of his problems, but it’s a problem. He suffered from a lack of command overall, and his velocity declined throughout the year. Liam Hendriks probably has that job locked away, but there’s always a chance. If I had this pick again I’d pick Gallegos.


19.220 – Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)


This is one of my favorite picks from my draft. On the podcast, I mentioned to Nick that I see shades of Lance Lynn here, but there are enough differences that it’s not a great comp. Nonetheless, Joe Musgrove has good fastball spin, his slider is a Money Pitch, and his changeup and curveball are within striking distance of being Money Pitches as well. The front office turnover and the dismissal of pitching coach of Ray Searage are likely to be positives for Musgrove. I’d like to see him move away from his cutter and elevate his four-seam fastball more, but Musgrove offers a very nice package—the ability to induce swings and misses, low walks, and a home run rate that is pretty typical. As is, he’s already plenty solid, and it won’t take much for him to take a step forward (and he could take a leap, too).


20.237 – Brian Anderson (3B/OF – MIA)


For two years now, Brian Anderson has put up steady production for the Miami Marlins. Certainly nothing earth shattering—from 2018 to 2019, he had 31 home runs with a .268/.350/.430 triple slash. Paired with his defensive versatility, that makes him a nice backup, but he’s starting to make some really nice changes. As we talked about on the podcast, Anderson made some huge changes at the end of the year that included a drastic increase in fly-ball percentage, pull percentage, and swing percentage. That led to more home runs and thus more production. He hit too many balls on the ground before, but as a player with above-average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage numbers (and a barrel percentage essentially equal to those of Bo BichetteJose AltuveNolan Arenado, and Xander Bogaerts), this should all be conducive to success. He still plays for the Marlins, which will limit his runs and runs batted in, but at pick 237, that’s fine.


21.244 – Mychal Givens (RP – BAL)


Mychal Givens wasn’t great last year, but I wasn’t swimming in relief options here. It’s unclear if he’ll have the closer gig, but he’ll get some opportunities at the very least. The Baltimore Orioles are decidedly awful, so that doesn’t bode well for Givens (or me!), but his SIERA and xFIP say he’s more of a low to mid-3s ERA pitcher, while FIP and Statcast suggest he’s just not that good. All we can do is cross our fingers that the home runs go away. This isn’t ideal, but I did this to myself.


22.261 – Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU)


This was a wasted pick. In all honesty, I did it for fun, but I do love Whitley as a pitching prospect—we all should. If I were to do it all over again, I would snag Dustin May (who has no business being picked this late, in my opinion). Whitley has had quite a few struggles on and off the field recently, but I’m still in on him. Just not until later on in the year.


23.268 – Travis Shaw (3B – MIL)


Travis Shaw has been underappreciated since…forever. He hit over 30 home runs in 2017 and 2018, good for a .361 and .351 wOBA, respectively, with 10 and five stolen bases. I don’t know what happened to him in 2019, but he clearly wasn’t right. Hopefully, he’ll have the chance to earn his previous role back, but I just find it hard to believe that, from the age of 28 to 29, Shaw regressed from an 18.4 K% guy to a 33.0 K% guy. With Sano, Dozier, and Shaw, someone should be able to man third base for me. With a full season, he probably would have had third and second base versatility, but his short season saps some of his value. Long story short: I think Shaw has plenty left in the tank.




I like the setup of my team. I didn’t make any egregious mistakes, but there are many selections that I wish I had back—namely, my Grandal, Treinen, and Whitley picks. Despite these errors in judgment, I don’t think I have any huge holes. My relief pitching isn’t ideal, and third base is a little murky, but I have three options in Sano, Dozier, and Anderson at third, and I think relief pitching would sort itself out since I have a top relief pitcher in Yates. I’m glad that I was able to get solid options at first base and second base, but I should have waited on catcher.

Overall, I managed to draft quite a few steals without sinking my power numbers. I made sure to key in on batting average, runs, and runs batted in, because these have historically been numbers that have been sunk on previous fantasy teams of mine (along with wins). I mentioned on the podcast that I sometimes fall into the trap of analyzing players more in the context of real life than the context of my fantasy leagues. And so, in my opinion, I’m set to be one of the more competitive teams in my league. You can’t win it during draft season, but you can sure lose it. I didn’t do that here.

(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Michael Ajeto

Michael writes about the Mariners at Lookout Landing, as well as here at Pitcher List. You can follow Michael on Twitter @dysthymikey, or you can not.

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