Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 3: Ryan Amore’s Picks

Ryan Amore goes over his strategy for Pitcher List's third mock draft.

It’s November. It’s cold outside. Sadly, baseball is long gone. And I’ve seen enough Jets and Giants football to last me several lifetimes. Thank goodness for mock drafts. Standard head-to-head, five-by-five, 12-teamer. Yours truly had the seventh pick in Pitcher List Mock Draft No. 3. You can check out the draft board here. Let’s take a look!


1.7 –Trea Turner (SS, Washington Nationals)


It’s no secret stolen bases have been on a general decline the last few years, but that trajectory was even more precipitous this past season. Total steals across the league for 2018 were 2,474. This past year? 2,280. Is this a trend that we can expect to continue? It’s a tough question to answer, though you’d have to guess that last year’s steeper stolen base drop-off was most likely a reflection of the leaguewide upswing in power. Trea Turner was one of just six other players to reach the 30-steal plateau last season. Steamer has him projected for a .290 batting average, 22 home runs, and 174 runs and RBI.


2.18 – Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)


The more conventional pick here may have been J.D. Martinez. I get it, and I can’t argue against it. But I’ll almost always fall for Aaron Judge. He’s such an incredibly unique player in that he’ll K about 30% of the time and yet still manage a batting average into the .270s thanks to incredible batted-ball data. When he makes contact, it’s of the amazing variety. His average exit velocity was a staggering 95.9 mph (Miguel Sano was second at 94.9, minimum 200 BBE), to go along with a 20.2% barrel rate. Combine that with an elite career OBP of .394 in a loaded Yankee lineup and you have the recipe for a staggering number of counting stats.


3.31 – Chris Sale (SP, Boston Red Sox)


Chris Sale was the seventh starter off the board. Walker Buehler and Mike Clevinger were the fifth and sixth arms taken, respectively. So what do we do with Sale? Last year’s 29.6% K-BB rate was still fantastic, but it was the lowest mark of his tenure in Boston—not by a lot but worth noting (31.1% in 2017). There were a few warning signs besides the obvious 4.40 ERA and 24 home runs allowed in just 147.1 innings pitched. His fastball velocity dropped from 95.3 mph in 2018 to 93.4 last year. And his whiff rates were down across the board. His slider, in particular, dropped from 44.4% to a 36.0% whiff rate last year. He was, of course, later shut down with elbow inflammation. I’m inclined to think he just wasn’t right physically last year, and the poor results may have been a consequence. In which case this is an interesting buyback spot for a pitcher who last year was going as a consensus Top Three/Four arm. Sale’s health is one of the offseason’s biggest mysteries, but I’ll take on the risk here.


4.42 – Luis Severino (SP, New York Yankees)


Uh-oh. Back-to-back pitchers coming off injuries. Luis Severino was the 14th pitcher off the board here. Jack Flaherty and Stephen Strasburg were the two picks prior to this one. Severino missed just about the entirety of the past season with a shoulder issue. But he at least came back to pitch 12 innings during the season in addition to a couple of appearances in the postseason so we can at least feel better about him health-wise than Sale. He barely pitched, so there’s not much we can glean from what we saw, I don’t think his secondary stuff looked as crisp, but considering the amount of time he missed, that’s what you’d expect. Before 2019, though, Severino logged back-to-back 190-inning seasons with a K-BB% hovering just over 22%, so we know what he’s capable of. Blessed with one of the most explosive fastballs in the league, sitting around 97.5 mph, Severino has a potential ceiling that is pretty alarming should we see some growth in his secondary pitches, which I don’t think is out of the realm of possibility considering he’ll have just turned 26 by the time Opening Day rolls around. It’s also worth noting that the Yankees hired a new pitching coach this offseason in Matt Blake. He’ll be replacing Larry Rothschild, who had been the pitching coach for the Yankees since 2011. So perhaps we could be seeing a new look next year.


5.55 – Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees)


The procession of players who spent the majority of 2019 entrenched on the IL continues with Giancarlo StantonAs someone who drafted Stanton this past year in TGFBI, I can say with relative certainty that the experience was neither fun nor enjoyable. In the fifth round, though, I’ll bite because I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment. In all seriousness, this is a very fine buy-low opportunity for Stanton, who after missing virtually all of 2019 with a knee sprain and most of the postseason with a quad injury appears to find his stock at an all-time low. Steamer has him pegged at 52 home runs and 122 RBI, both being top marks in their projections.


6.66 – Yu Darvish (SP, Chicago Cubs)


This might seem like a bit of a reach as the 22nd starter off the board ahead of both Trevor Bauer and Charlie Morton, but it really comes down to just how incredible of a second half Yu Darvish had. Quite simply he pitched like a man possessed. A 35.6% K-BB rate, 2.2% BB rate, 2.76 ERA, and a 0.81 WHIP across his last 81.2 IP. That 35.6% K-BB rate in the second half trailed only Justin Verlander (36.6%) and some guy named Gerrit Cole (39.6%). Of course, you can’t expect those numbers over a whole season, but they illustrate the sort of upside that Darvish possesses.


7.79 – Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)


Josh Bell was one of the more interesting bats heading into the 2019 season. After his impressive rookie campaign, a pedestrian 2018 that saw him slash .261/.357/.411 good for just 12 home runs really killed his stock. I wrote about him in depth this past March and how the Pirates, who had just brought in new hitting coach Rick Eckstein were making his development a point of emphasis. Bell seemed like a solid buy-low option considering the skill set consists of excellent raw power, great plate skills, and the ability to hit the ball to all fields with authority, so the upside was still there heading into 2019, and he didn’t disappoint. He had an unbelievable first half, tallying 27 home runs and 84 RBI—good for a 1.024 OPS. Granted, he cratered in the second half, hitting just .233 with a .780 OPS, but taking stock of his entire 2019, this had all the makings of a legitimate breakout. Last year saw marked improvements in both exit velocity and contact quality as his .381 xwOBA was good for a top 9% mark in baseball. Bell’s fantasy profile is a really appealing one that brings 30-home run-type power along with a very respectable average that should sit somewhere in the .270s.


8.90 – Andrew Benintendi (OF, Boston Red Sox)


Another buy low on a young player who I believe has a really high ceiling considering that he already has two near-20/20 seasons under his belt and won’t turn 26 until next July. In terms of fantasy output, I think he offers a similar skill set to Austin Meadows‘ with a little less power. Meadows was taken three rounds earlier. The Boston outfielder is coming off a dud of a year that saw him post just 72 runs to go along with a .266 average and .343 OBP, all career lows but I still believe in the talent with Andrew Benintendi and think he’s well worth the investment here as a potential bounce-back.


9.103 – Josh Donaldson (3B, Free Agent)


After an injury-riddled 2018 the veteran Josh Donaldson acquitted himself beautifully in 2019 after signing a one-year prove-it deal with the Braves. Last year he posted a .377 wOBA and 132 wRC+, a huge improvement from 2018’s marks of .345 and 117, respectively. His batted-ball data last year also backed up the improvement as we saw his xwOBA jump from .342 in 2018 to .387 (top 6%) last year. And his average exit velocity on FB/LD was an outstanding 98.1 mph, good for fifth in baseball (200 Minimum BBE). He’s a free agent, so that may have played a part into why he fell a little. The Braves seem like a very reasonable landing spot for him again in 2020. He’s not quite the force he was in his prime MVP days with the Jays, but he proved he’s still very much a great middle-of-the-order type bat.


10.114 – Eddie Rosario (OF, Minnesota Twins)


I have to confess I’m not the biggest fan of Eddie Rosario, largely because I tend to look for hitters with good plate discipline. Rosario is one of the most aggressive hitters in the league (46.3% O-swing). But he also makes a lot of contact (14.6% K rate), which when combined tends to make his batted-ball data poor at face value and was one of the reasons why I was a little down on him this time last year relative to his ADP. Here at pick 114, though, there is definitely value to be had. With Rosario, we should be able to bank on around a .270 + average to go along with excellent counting stats as the Twins cleanup hitter.


11.127 – Lance Lynn (SP, Texas Rangers)


Lance Lynn and Sonny Gray are two of the more interesting arms heading into draft season. Gray was already off the board here (he was the 32nd SP taken), but the reason I bring them both up is that they are both older, veteran pitchers who are coming off monster seasons. So there may be some trepidation in selecting them as a kind of hot-potato syndrome where you don’t want to be that guy who buys high on either of them. Lynn was one of 2019’s surprises, rewarding those who invested with 208 innings of a 21.1 K-BB% rate to go along with a 3.67 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He also won 16 games for a brutal Rangers team. With Lynn, we at least have a sort of mechanism for his success. We saw him cut his sinker usage in half and his fastball jump a tick from 93.7 to 94.6 mph. Generally speaking, it’s awfully hard to “fake” having a good fastball like Lynn’s, which netted an excellent 25.7 pVAL and 30.7% whiff rate—especially when you throw it so often (52.3%). Going back to his Cardinals days, Lynn had always leaned heavily on his fastball. The past couple of years, though, he’s added a cutter that last year limited hitters to a .254 xwOBA. Lynn was also one of just 15 pitchers to log over 200 innings. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find arms you can project for that many innings with how the game has transformed. Steamer projects Lynn for a 9.79 K/9 and a 4.04 ERA. That’ll certainly play as an SP4. Writing this in hindsight, it’s also worth noting that Steamer’s projection of Severino is pretty darn close to Lynn’s. Steamer has Severino’s ERA at 3.98 to go along with a 9.78 K/9. There’s more growth potential with Severino, but it’s interesting to point out how closely these two arms project as we sit here early in the offseason. For more on Lynn be sure to check out Michael Ajeto’s fantastic article from back in June if you missed it.


12.138 – Max Fried (SP, Atlanta Braves)


Now here I may have jumped the gun a little bit as there were some really good arms still on the board in Andrew Heaney, Matt Boyd, Robbie Ray, and Madison BumgarnerBut I’ve become enamored with Max Fried’s potential. He’s basically been a fastball/curveball guy but he added a slider in 2019. That third pitch adds to the appeal. His curveball was excellent last year with a 35.6% chase rate and 37.6% zone rate to go along with a 15.4% swinging-K rate so it was very close to being a Money Pitch. So what about the new slider? It was a Money Pitch, featuring a zone rate of 42%, a chase rate of 40.9%, and a 15.3% swinging-K rate. Fried’s fastball is a good one, sitting at 93.8 mph, which considering he’s a lefty, is very impressive. And then when you consider that he can dial it up to an eye-popping 98 mph, whoa. Overall it’s just a really impressive arsenal. With another year under his belt to fine-tune those two breakers, it’s not hard to imagine a really appealing ceiling. His WHIP was a bit high at 1.33, but considering that it came on the back of a .336 BABIP, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see it come down a bit next year. Though as a pitcher who’s batted-ball profile skews very heavily in favor of grounders (2.33 GB/FB ratio), he maybe someone whose WHIP ends up a little on the high side as grounders generally portend to higher BABIPs. Still, he was legitimately one of the harder pitchers to square up last year evinced by a minuscule 3.6-degree average launch angle and a 4.4% barrel rate that was among the league’s top 7%. Fried could end up being a vintage Dallas Keuchel type considering the heavy ground-ball profile but with legitimate strikeout upside.


13.153 – Madison Bumgarner (SP, Free Agent)


I passed on Bumgarner last round because I thought he might just be available this round considering how the draft was skewed in favor of young guys. After 2018’s motorbike-accident-shortened season that saw his K rate dip to just 19.8%, Bumgarner rebounded nicely in 2019 as he managed to get it back up to 24.1%. He’s someone who you can more or less pencil in for just under 9 K/9 and more importantly, 200 innings, which helps mitigate the risks I took earlier on with Severino and Sale.


14.162 – Khris Davis (OF, Oakland A’s)


For what it’s worth, the other player I was considering here was Miguel Sano, who was taken three picks later. Last year Khris Davis was a massive bust as he managed a dreadful .289 wOBA and 81 wRC+. I’m inclined to give him a pass considering that he dealt with lingering hand and oblique injuries, which may have played a big role in his struggles. In Round 14 I’ll gladly assume the risk on a guy who prior to last year had eclipsed the 40-home run and 100-RBI plateau three years in a row.


15.175 – Franmil Reyes (OF, Cleveland Indians)


In his first full season, Franmil Reyes cranked out 37 home runs. His RBI total was comparatively underwhelming at just 81, which can be attributed to an underwhelming .205 batting average with runners in scoring position. That’s probably not something you’d expect to continue, though. Reyes has massive power with an average exit velocity of 93.3 mph, good for the top 6% of the league. Now set to begin the year in Cleveland where he’ll have the DH spot all to himself and entering just his second full season, Reyes offers a great home run/RBI ceiling.


16.186 – Jose Leclerc (RP, Texas Rangers)


With reliever performances tending to be fairly volatile year to year I generally try my best to avoid them until later in drafts when the opportunity cost becomes less prohibitive. Disclaimer, I broke that rule last year with Edwin Diaz, and I still have whiplash from it. Jose Leclerc was the 15th RP taken here. He lost his role as the Texas Rangers‘ closer in early May but rebounded to a degree, eventually regaining the role late in the year. He’s got great strikeout stuff evidenced by a K rate of 30% or greater in each of the past three seasons. But that comes with a walk rate of 20%, 11.2%, and 13% in each of the past three seasons. That’s, of course, not what you want as a closer, but these are the sorts of plunges you’re going to have to take when you wait on drafting the position.


17.199 – Nate Lowe (1B, Tampa Bay Rays)


Pick No. 198? Brandon LoweI swear this was unintentional. Nate Lowe was called up by the Rays in late April last year, but for whatever reason, they weren’t quite ready to give him the keys to the castle so to speak as he only received 169 plate appearances. He looks like one of the most major league-ready hitters you’ll find. In Triple-A last year (406 plate appearances) he managed a sterling 17.7% walk rate and 20.2% K rate so he commands the zone exceedingly well in addition to having plus power (.219 ISO in Triple-A). Ji-Man Choi is still under team control, so there’s a degree of uncertainty here with regard to playing time, but push comes to shove, you’d expect Lowe to get the job sometime soon considering his dominance in the minors. Lowe is someone whose ADP will most likely rise once the uncertainty of his role dissipates and the hype machine is allowed to gather some steam.


18.210 – A.J. Pollock (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)


Unfortunately, A.J. Pollock’s tenure with the Dodgers got off to an awful start this past year as elbow inflammation limited him to 86 games. Injuries have been a thing for Pollock most of his career as he hasn’t exceeded 500 plate appearances since what seems like a few, short lifetimes ago during his breakout season of 2015. So our expectations have to be tempered. Regardless he’s a guy who if everything bounces right could be a 20-home run, 15-stolen base bat, and as a piece of a great Dodgers lineup, there’s some potential value to be had here.


19.223 – Garrett Hampson (2B/SS/OF, Colorado Rockies)


Garret Hampson was a popular pick in last year’s drafts as a potential breakout candidate with an intriguing speed/average skill set who had the added bonus of having Coors Field as his home. It wasn’t meant to be in 2019 for Hampson, though, as he struggled to the tune of a .292 wOBA and 63 wRC+ while being relegated to part-time play. He did, however, finish the season with a flourish, hitting .318 to go along with nine steals in September, hinting at the upside. Keep in mind he did start 10 games at shortstop so he could have the added bonus of having 2B/SS/OF eligibility, depending on your platform. The defensive versatility offers him multiple avenues to regular playing time.


20.234 – Jose Urquidy (SP, Houston Astros)


With Wade  Miley and probably Gerrit Cole both gone via free agency, there’s some open space in the Astros rotation. Jose Urquidy was solid in his 41 innings pitched this past year, tallying a 19.8 K-BB%, and an excellent 32.1% K rate in Triple-A (70 IP). He’s got a solid arsenal featuring two breakers that showed whiff rates over 40%. He’s someone whose ADP figures to rise quite a bit once we get closer to spring training.


21.247 – Josh Rojas (Arizona Diamondbacks, OF)


Part of the return for Zack GreinkeJosh Rojas broke out in the minors last year with a .240 ISO in 195 plate appearances with Double-A Corpus Christi before besting that with a career-high 12 home runs and .276 ISO in 244 plate appearances with Triple-A Round Rock to go along with 19 stolen bases. Combine that with superlative plate skills (12.3% BB rate, 14.8% K rate in Triple-A) and you have a potentially intriguing player. I’m not sure if the power sticks or if it proves to be a blip, but at this price, I’d absolutely love to find out. He’ll start the season with just outfield eligibility, but keep in mind, he started games across all infield positions in the minors last year. There are certainly some at-bats available at second base for the Diamondbacks, so that potential 2B/OF eligibility adds to the appeal here.


22.258 – Danny Jansen (Toronto Blue Jays, C)


There were a couple of well-established crusty veterans still on the board in Sal Perez and Yadier Molina; either guy would have been a perfectly fine choice, but this late we’ll roll with the potential upside pick in Danny JansenHe was a popular upside choice at catcher last year, but he struggled, slashing an ugly .207/ .279/ .360. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time we saw a rookie catcher hit the skids. His bat-to-ball skills are still exceptional. Don’t forget he posted a very impressive .275/ .390/ .479 slash line in Triple-A Buffalo in 2018, so we know there is excellent ability here.


23.271 – Carter Kieboom (Washington Nationals, 2B)


Strictly speaking, this team could have used another closer. But where’s the fun in speculating on the Mariners bullpen in mid-late October? The Nationals finished out 2019 by rolling with a platoon of Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera at second base. But with both set to be free agents this fall, there’s an opening at the keystone. Carter Kieboom, the World Series champion Nationals’ No. 1 prospect, has primarily played shortstop, but he did log 41 starts at second base in Triple-A last year. So it stands to reason we should see Kieboom get a chance to run away with the job next year. He slashed .303/.409/.493 to go along with a .388 wOBA in Triple-A last year and is one of the higher-upside rookie bats to consider for next year.


Final Thoughts


We started this draft right around the second week of October, so I didn’t have a set of rankings and tried my best to completely avoid looking at any of the other early mock ADPs that were available. I wanted to go through this draft with having this past season still fresh while basically trying to find the best value. There were a few solid potential values here in Stanton, Rosario, Donaldson, and Benintendi. A clear strength of this team should be home runs and RBI.

The weaknesses are clear. Closers. I have one. In a league this shallow (276 players drafted), closers will likely show up on the waiver wire and I’ll just have to be a bit more aggressive when speculating on them. And at second base I’m basically stuck with Hampson and a speculative pick in Kieboom. Rojas should gain eligibility at second base in short order, but he’ll just be an outfielder to start out so I’ll have to be a little creative there at least in the early going. There’s risk with both Sale and Severino, but I like the rotation depth with Lynn, Fried, and Bumgarner as fourth-sixth starters. If neither Rojas or Hampson pan out, I’m gonna be light on speed with basically just Turner and Benintendi. Overall, though, the starting lineup is potentially very strong, so I’m all right with having fewer steals if it means having a clear edge in the other counting stats.

I’ll leave with a few picks from other teams that I thought, sitting here in the early offseason, stood out as values.  J.D. Martinez (21), Manny Machado (49), Ketel Marte (51), Anthony Rizzo (53), Adalberto Mondesi (75), Michael Brantley (94), Jorge Polanco (118), Matthew Boyd (141), Eduardo Escobar (147), Mike Foltynewicz (211), Andrew McCutchen (233), Elvis Andrus (249), Nomar Mazara (259), and Robinson Cano (274).

(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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