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2020 Fantasy baseball mock draft: A review

Heath recaps his Pitcher List mock draft.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Yours truly participated in a 2020 fantasy baseball mock draft at Pitcher List last week. Check out the shark-infested waters in which I was swimming...

There were sharps in all of these mocks, obviously. I mean, we are all degenerate enough to be doing this in November, after all. Anyway, you can follow this link to see my league’s draft board. Here is the format we were drafting for:

12-team, standard 5x5, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, 9 P, 4 bench spots, H2H, 23 rounds.

My goal is to say nice things about each one of my picks, because who doesn’t love their team immediately following a draft? I’ll also weave in some Steamer projections. I’ll discuss my thought process along the way...I’d love to hear any feedback!

Round 1 (10): Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

If you stop fretting over wins, deGrom is justifiable as the No. 1 pitcher in the fake game. But sure, go ahead and take Gerrit Cole ahead of him (I won’t argue). But if Cole consistently gets taken first, that will just let me consider doing the double-tap with starting pitching with my first two picks when I have a later pick in the first round. This is the strategy I wanted to test out in a room full of sharps. I’d like to see how my hitting stacks up after spending two picks on pitchers early. And for what it’s worth, Steamer projects 15 wins apiece for Cole and deGrom in 2020. Cole is a free agent and we don’t yet know where he’s going and how that move will affect him. I like the stability that deGrom gives me.

Steamer: 15 W, 3.13 ERA, 259 SO, 1.06 WHIP

Round 2 (15): Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Verlander or Max Scherzer was my choice, and I chose Verlander over the uncertainty that is Scherzer’s litany of injuries, most notably his back and neck issues. Yikes. Sure, Verlander is 36 years old, but Scherzer’s no spring chicken at 35 years of age. Besides, with this one-two punch I have 2019’s NL and AL Cy Young winners. No way that’s a bad start, right?

Steamer: 16 W, 3.48 ERA, 265 SO, 1.04 WHIP

Round 3 (34): Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros

Okay, at this juncture it was officially time to ignore pitching for a while. I wanted some WOOD, and my debate here was Alvarez versus Pete Alonso. I know, I know. Editor Pete is going to fire me for skipping over his boy. However, I happen to LOVE my first base pick (that obviously comes later on) and I figured I would draft said first basemen before any of my fellow mock drafters. So Alvarez it was.

Steamer: 37 HR, 91 R, 98 RBI, 3 SB, .275 AVG

Round 4 (39): Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees

I’d have drafted the fire out of Alonso here, but he went to Eric Cross directly after I drafted Alvarez. I’d have also considered the well-rounded skill set of Austin Meadows here, but he went to Matt Modica in the 12-spot. Anyway, opting for a theoretically well-rounded bat like George Springer was a consideration, but in the end I chose to chase the power wave with Stanton’s massive ceiling. And thus, my big bopping strategy begins. Just gaze at this projection, why don’t you...

Steamer: 52 HR, 108 R, 122 RBI, 3 SB, .267 AVG

Round 5 (58): Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

Projections don’t love Gallo, as the average is likely to be a negative in 2020. His .368 BABIP of 2019 is destined to come down, so last year’s .253 average may not be repeatable. Still, Gallo’s floor is 40 dingers if he’s healthy...and if he can meet the batting average projection of .230 I think I’ll take it. Gallo’s 11.4% rate of barrels per plate appearance ranked third in the MLB, behind only Nelson Cruz (12.5%) and Gary Sanchez (11.7%). When the dude hits the ball, there’s a good chance he’s leaving the yard. Gallo beefed his walk rate up to 17.5% in 2019 and increased his line drive rate five percentage points to a healthy 25.6%. He fits the mold of what I’m doing, but I knew when I drafted him I’d either be punting average or trying to find a way to make up some ground afterwards.

Steamer: 40 HR, 84 R, 92 RBI, 7 SB, .230 AVG

Round 6 (63) Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

And here’s part of why I was okay passing on Pete Alonso. Alonso is projected for four more homers, two fewer runs, a dead heat in RBIs, and three points less on batting average compared to Olson. And yet, I snagged the 25-year-old Olson in the sixth round, two picks before the 32-year-old enigma that is Paul Goldschmidt was drafted. I think my pick here was aggressive, and it may be possible to snag him a bit later in your draft. For the visual learners out there, here’s Mike Kurland of The Double Switch Podcast doing the holy work on Twitter:

Point is, these guys are much closer than you think with regard to talent. I’ll take the draft day discount.

Steamer: 37 HR, 89 R, 98 RBI, 1 SB, .254 AVG

Round 7 (82): Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

Mr. Barrels himself, as mentioned previously. I told you, I want dingers. Sanchez cranked 34 homers in 106 games last year. The man can smack a homer. Here are his ranks with regard to barrels per plate appearance since his Sanchez burst onto the scene in 2016: 6th (10.0%), 26th (8.0%), 24th (8.6%), and 2nd (11.7%). So his floor is Top 25, and he’s a flipping catcher. On a per-game basis, there’s no backstop I’d rather have if I’m chasing power. And for the times that Sanchez may be injured, I’ll just add the hottest backstop off of waivers. This is just a 12-team league, after all.

Steamer: 31 HR, 68 R, 78 RBI, 2 SB, .242 AVG

Round 8 (87): Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers

Muncy is one of my favorite picks of the draft. Sure, the batting average isn’t elite, but give me all those dingers...and at second base, too.

Steamer: 29 HR, 80 R, 79 RBI, 4 SB, .240 AVG

Round 9 (106): Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox

E-Rod has a lot of nice things going on under the proverbial hood. Beefed up his ground ball rate to 48.5% last year, generated more soft contact, got hitters to chase more, increased his swinging strike rate a tad, and allowed less contact. He also started a whopping 34 games and amassed 203 13 innings pitched. He was a 19-game winner with 213 strikeouts and a 3.81 ERA in 2019.

Steamer: 13 W, 4.18 ERA, 202 SO, 1.31 WHIP

Round 10 (111): Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians

One of my favorite picks. I can’t help but think that Mercado’s ADP will be higher than this come draft season. He should contribute in batting average and is a 15/20 threat. He managed a 15/15 season in only 482 plate appearances in 2019 (115 games). He should have everyday playing time as a defensive standout in center field, where his elite speed (97th percentile) and former time as a shortstop seem to have translated well. Power isn’t his primary tool, but I’ll take double digit pop along with his speed.

Steamer: 14 HR, 67 R, 64 RBI, 21 SB, .255 AVG

Round 11 (130): Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels

I won’t overstep and attempt to surmise how the passing of teammate Tyler Skaggs may have affected Heaney in 2019. But it’s probably safe to assume that 2020 might be a more positive year for Heaney and all of the Halos. Heaney’s floor with innings pitched is pretty low, as evidenced by last year’s 95 13 innings. When he’s pitching, however, he’s got the filth. Check out the gargantuan 14.1% swinging strike rate, and you’ll believe in last year’s 28.9% strikeout rate—what amounted to 118 strikeouts in 95 13 innings. Among starters with 90 or more innings pitched in 2019, Heaney’s swinging strike rate ranked 11th in the MLB...and only 11 pitchers allowed less contact to opposing hitters. The issues last year were not enough ground balls and too much loud contact, especially to left-handed hitters. However, Heaney was much better against lefties two years ago, and odds are whatever sort of ball we see in 2020 may help Heaney’s bloated 1.89 HR/9 come down. My thinking was that I had a solid enough floor with starters to take a risk here, but this pick does feel a bit early and aggressive.

Steamer: 12 W, 4.05 ERA, 199 SO, 1.19 WHIP

Round 12 (135): Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins

One of the gems of my draft, in my humble opinion. He offers batting average help and some theoretical speed upside—though he only swiped four bags last year despite a 79th percentile speed ranking. I suppose you don’t really need to run much when the rest of your lineup is so potent. Anyway, Polanco’s 107 runs scored ranked 18th in the MLB and 6th among shortstops a year ago. He’s young and in an awesome team context. He’s got 20-homer pop and the ability to swipe 10+ bags...but I’m fine only banking on the average and runs here, with hope for more. In hindsight, I’d have drafted Marcus Semien where I took Heaney, then hopefully drafted Heaney in this spot...but that’s why we do mock drafts in November, right?

Steamer: 18 HR, 84 R, 81 RBI, 7 SB, .280 AVG

Round 13 (154): Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals

We’ll see what happens with ADP, but I’m probably a tad early on Dozier here. That said, I needed to address the hot corner after ignoring it all draft, and Dozier’s OF eligibility helps, too. His .339 BABIP and corresponding .279 batting average are probably destined to come down...but with an xBA of .261 and the ability to hit the ball hard, I’m not overly concerned. Dozier was 85th percentile in exit velocity and 73rd in hard hit rate in 2019. He’s also sneaky fast, with an 80th percentile ranking in sprint speed. I’m not saying he’s all of a sudden a threat to steal bases in the bigs after not doing so in the minors, but I do like the fleet feet and the hard hit rate to not totally upend his I’ll probably like Dozier more than the field in 2020. Full disclosure: I was hoping Eduardo Escobar would make it back to me, but he went four picks ahead of my turn.

Steamer: 21 HR, 71 R, 76 RBI, 4 SB, .251 AVG

Round 14 (159): Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers

Maeda feels like he’s been around for forever, but he’s still just 31 years old and is fresh off of 153 23 innings with a 4.04 ERA. That may not sound great, but Maeda has an above-average strikeout rate and gives me some cover in the WHIP category after drafting E-Rod and Heaney. Maeda has WHIP marks of 1.14, 1.15, 1.26, and 1.07 during his big league career. So call this pick a boring return to ratios, if you will.

Steamer: 10 W, 4.05 ERA, 163 SO, 1.23 WHIP

Round 15 (178): Mallex Smith, Seattle Mariners

A one-trick pony, but he should push for the MLB lead in steals and I’m at a deficit. He also hung around the board longer than he will in typical drafts, as these sharps weren’t going to overpay for one stat. That might make me the dummy, but he fits what I need. For what it’s worth, Steamer is projecting Smith to lead all outfielders in swipes—third in the MLB behind only Adalberto Mondesi (45) and Trea Turner (38). Kind of a “meh” pick, but sometimes it pays off.

Steamer: 7 HR, 61 R, 47 RBI, 36 SB, .249 AVG

Round 16 (183): Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

Check out his Statcast page and tell me I didn’t get a bargain. Or a guy worth taking a shot on, at the very least. Closers are so volatile. You’ll never see me pay a premium. Sometimes it pays off, like it did for me in TGFBI two years ago (Blake Treinen). Sometimes it doesn’t, like it did for me in TGFBI last year (Matt Barnes, Seranthony Dominguez). I should probably employ more of an “anchor” strategy at this position, but it’s really tough for me to justify doing so when I still like bats or arms on the board. This can be my biggest strength when I “hit” on a closer, and my biggest weakness when I don’t. But I’m okay playing that way.

Steamer: 28 SV, 3.72 ERA, 93 SO, 1.28 WHIP

Round 17 (202): Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners

Haniger outside No. 200 seems like a fair deal. If we can get over the obvious yikes at last year’s ruptured testicle—and some back issues—we can throw 2019’s stats out the window. A healthy Haniger is a massive part of what the rebuilding Mariners want to do. He’ll have a prime spot in the batting order, and he’s only 28 years old. He should be fully healthy entering 2020. And despite all the issues in 2019, he still cranked 15 homers in only 63 games. Prior to last year’s weird injury, Haniger had two straight years with a .280/.350/.490 slash line. He’s also swiped 12 bags in the last two seasons, despite missing half the year in 2019. I dig this pick.

Steamer: 25 HR, 80 R, 78 RBI, 7 SB, .249 AVG

Round 18 (207): German Marquez, Colorado Rockies

Last year’s darling came pretty cheap in this one. In this head-to-head format, I can manage his home/away splits and come away smelling like roses. I’d rather pay for this skill set and manage his starts on the road and against poor opponents at home. Here are the splits for Marquez in 2019:

  • Home: .317/.354/.495
  • Away: .212/.254/.397

Let’s keep it simple, okay? Coors always wins, in the end. Only take Marquez in formats where you can easily manage his starts.

Steamer: 12 W, 4.17 ERA, 195 SO, 1.25 WHIP

Round 19 (226): J.D. Davis, New York Mets

A bit of a sleeper, and another guy who can potentially hold down third base for me along with Dozier. Getting him this late is awesome, as there was a decent bit of FOMO in the league chat and on at least one ensuing podcast.

Steamer: 20 HR, 57 R, 64 RBI, 3 SB, .263 AVG

Round 20 (231): Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels

He was too good to be on the board still, simple as that.

Steamer: 30 HR, 80 R, 80 RBI, 5 SB, .240 AVG

Round 21 (250): Seth Lugo, New York Mets

Almost immediately after picking Lugo, I was regretting not snagging Kela. If I had it to do over, I’d grab Kela first, as he’s a better bet for saves to start the year (unless something changes). Lugo isn’t bad—in fact, he’s very good, which is why I considered him in the first place. I really like having a high strikeout reliever around to give me a couple of innings every now and again (in lieu of streaming a terrible pitcher). Lugo is more enticing since he’s a not-so-dark horse candidate for saves in the event that Edwin Diaz stumbles again. And for the record, I’d bank on a Diaz rebound. But that doesn’t mean I can’t also like taking a shot on Lugo late...

Steamer: 8 SV, 3.54 ERA, 75 SO, 1.15 WHIP

Round 22 (255): Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates

Unless I’m missing something, he’s the frontrunner for saves in Pittsburgh. Even if they sell him off before the trade deadline and he loses the role, that’s still a 20-25 save guy that we can safely project. I’ll take that role this late, for sure.

Steamer: 7 SV, 3.69 ERA, 79 SO, 1.24 WHIP

Round 23 (274): Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

I’m unsure why Swanson lasted this long. Because people like losing? Here’s a comparison:

  • Player A: 20 HR, 69 R, 52 RBI, 4 SB, .254 AVG, 7.9% BB%, 26.2% K%, 8.4% Barrel %
  • Player B: 17 HR, 77 R, 65 RBI, 10 SB, .251 AVG, 9.4% BB%, 22.8% K%, 10.1% Barrel %

Player B’s Statcast page is all RED (insert Rounders voice) while Player A is blue (read: bad) everywhere except for sprint speed. That’s Willy Adames for Player A, and my disrespected Atlanta Brave Mr. Dansby Swanson as Player B. This is not a slight against Adames. I think he’s a solid middle infield option in 2020. I just think Swanson is more solid. And if you’re worried, Adames is 24 years old, while Swanson is still only 25. It feels like Lt. Dans has been around forever, but he hasn’t. Finally, Swanson wasn’t the same when he returned from a heel injury last year. Check the first and second half splits, and know that Swanson injured his heel in late July:

  • 1st half: .270/.330/.493, 17 HR
  • 2nd half: .204/.315/.254, 0 HR

I’m not saying the injury is totally to blame for Swanson’s horrendous Sept/Oct. But the injury certainly messed with all the goodness that Dansby had going on in the first half, a time when he was primarily batting second in the order. In a perfect world, the Braves would trot Ozzie Albies and his lefty-obliterating tendencies up into the No. 2 slot against southpaws...but barring any weirdness, a healthy Swanson should occupy that No. 2 spot against right-handers in 2020. That’s a juicy spot, behind Ronald Acuña Jr. and in front of Freddie Freeman. In the final round, I’ll bite on last year’s first half not being a fluke.

Steamer: 17 HR, 65 R, 67 RBI, 10 SB, .252 AVG

One last’s pretty weird that Steamer has Swanson at 17/10 with a .252 average, when in reality he was 17/10 with a .251 average in 2019. But Steamer has him for 12 fewer runs and 2 fewer RBIs, despite projecting 48 more plate appearances in 2020. And while we’re talking weirdness, Lugo’s eight saves seems high, while Kela’s mere seven saves seems low—what am I missing in Pittsburgh?

In summary, my hitters:

  • C Gary Sanchez
  • 1B Matt Olson
  • 2B Max Muncy
  • 3B Hunter Dozier
  • SS Jorge Polanco
  • OF Joey Gallo
  • OF Oscar Mercado
  • OF Mallex Smith
  • UT Giancarlo Stanton
  • UT Yordan Alvarez
  • B Mitch Haniger
  • B J.D. Davis
  • B Justin Upton

And my pitchers:

  • P Jacob deGrom
  • P Justin Verlander
  • P Eduardo Rodriguez
  • P Andrew Heaney
  • P Kenta Maeda
  • P German Marquez
  • P Jose Leclerc
  • P Keone Kela
  • P Seth Lugo

Tell me where I went wrong, ladies and gents. I suppose it all depends on your bent. Do you dig the long ball? Or do you feel the need...the need...for speed?



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