Before each fantasy sports draft season I like to do an exercise: a mock draft wherein I handicap myself by losing my draft picks in the first two rounds, and/or draft from the 12 players following the draft round we’re currently in (so, if we were in round two of a 12 person draft, I’d only draft from players available after pick #24). I do this to survey how deep the player pool is, and to give myself a bit of a map in real drafts by identifying the players I’m pretty sure will be around later whom I like.
This year, because baseball is going through a transition, we’ve been told that steals and starting pitching are what we should concentrate on, because they’re the rarest birds of all. Stolen bases, especially, are trending ever downward, so grabbing players you KNOW will provide SBs early in the draft may behoove you more so than in prior years.
Having said that, I’m going to absolutely ignore the conventional wisdom, and just draft best available (or, most liked by me) since we’re going to take away my first two picks, and we’re going to only pick once per 24 picks (so, in effect, I’ll lose every other pick).
To wit, I cannot draft from any of the top 24 players on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship’s Average Draft Position board (as of 2/17/2020). We’re using the NFBC ADP because it’s early in draft season, and this should help cut through the differing ADPs from the fantasy sites. My first pick will be from the third round, players whose ADP is #25 through 36. However, since I’m also losing every other pick, I can actually choose from any of the players listed in the third or fourth rounds (players #25 through 48). My second pick can only be from the 49th to the 72nd, my third from the 73rd through 96th, and so on.
Here’s the roster I drafted:
- C - Jason Castro (#14 draft pick, 346th NFBC ADP)
- 1B - Renato Nunez (#11, 274th)
- 2B - Mike Moustakas (#4, 102nd)
- 3B - Kyle Seager (#12, 308th)
- SS - Andrelton Simmons (#13, 328th)
- MI - Brandon Lowe (#8, 195th)
- CI - TRIPLE CROWN WINNER MIGUEL CABRERA (#16, 390th)
- OF1 - Bryce Harper (#1 draft pick, 25th overall NFBC ADP)
- OF2 - Giancarlo Stanton (#2, 52nd)
- OF3 - Kyle Schwarber (#6, 149th)
- OF4 - Jarrod Dyson (#22, 546th)
- OF5 - Cam Maybin (#25, 660th)
- UTIL - Joey Wendle, 2B/3B (#21, 514th)
- SP1 - Noah Syndergaard (#3, 73rd)
- SP2 - Lance Lynn (#5, 129th)
- SP3 - Sean Manaea (#7, 169th)
- SP4 - Jon Gray (#10, 241st)
- SP5 - Spencer Turnbull (#17, 426th)
- RP1 - Nick Anderson (#9, 238th)
- RP2 - Ryan Pressly (#15, 380th)
- RP3 - Drew Pomeranz (#18, 427th)
- P1 - Matt Barnes (#19, 475th)
- P2 - Trevor May (#20, 497th)
- Bench 1 - Myles Straw (#23, 553rd)
- Bench 2 - Luke Jackson (#24, 585th)
This is not the most impressive roster, I’ll admit, but remember: we missed the first two rounds, and we only picked once per 24 players in the following rounds. Imagine the team above with TWO top 25 players. Now does it seem like a pretty good team?
The point is that you can still craft a really good foundation for a fantasy team even if you’re in a worst case scenario. There are tradeable players on this roster that you can use for upgrades, and there are players with fairly high upside in value (Dyson, Maybin, Wendle, MIGGIE). So long as you don’t end up drafting someone that you DO NOT want to draft, you’ll probably be alright. Drafting someone you like a round early isn’t the worst thing in the world, and it’s much better than being forced into a corner and drafting a player you just don’t like. A lot changes through the season; giving yourself the best chance to succeed means drafting players you actually believe in. Trust yourself!
And, here’s the draft order and explanations for the picks:
1. Bryce Harper, OF, PHI, 25th overall NFBC ADP
Tied for 12th in HR last year (35), also grabbed 12 stolen bases, one of only six players to have 35 or more home runs and 10+ SBs, he was also top 50 in wRC+ (125), and he had the 6th best BB% of those players with at least 35 HR, and he nearly went 100-100 (98 Runs, 114 RBI), which only 12 players accomplished last year. At the 25th overall pick, we’ll take it.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY, 52nd overall pick NFBC
This is about hopefully accumulating 40+ HR. Which means health. I have to be realistic about my necessary optimism with these picks, but we all know that Stanton DOES have the ability to crush 50 homers. Let’s be hopeful in these unhopeful times.
3. Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM, 73rd NFBC ADP
Thor was top 30 in xFIP last year out of pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. He had 202 strikeouts (one of only 24 players with 200+ Ks). And, he’s 27 years old. Upside, please: thank you!
4. Mike Moustakas, 2B/3B, CIN, 102nd NFBC ADP
Yes, I agree, I will draft a player with 2B eligibility who hit 35+ HR last year, one of only five players with MI eligibility and at least 35 bombs. Power at second base is very helpful when drafting two rounds behind, especially since Moose is now in Cincinnati, batting in the middle of a dangerous lineup.
5. Lance Lynn, SP, TEX, 129th NFBC ADP
Did you know Lance Lynn had the 7th most Ks last year, 246, more than Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin? Did you know he had the 31st best xFIP (3.85), and that he was one of only 15 pitchers to throw 200+ innings? He had the 7th best K/9 rate of those 15 pitchers, too.
6. Kyle Schwarber, OF, CHC, 149th NFBC ADP
I don’t care, I love Schwarber. He’s turned into a steady OFer. He tied for 9th in HR last year with 38, and he’s only 26 years old! I predict multiple 40+ HR seasons for Schwarbs, and this is going to be one of them.
7. Sean Manaea, SP, OAK, 169th NFBC ADP
Manaea was injured for most of last year but he looked good enough when he did return to start a playoff game for the A’s. I’ve liked Manaea since he was a prospect on the Kansas City Royals, and I don’t see why a tall lefty entering his prime shouldn’t be considered an SP3 with serious upside. I love getting him at this pick.
8. Brandon Lowe, 2B, TB, 195th NFBC ADP
I’m hoping for two things from this pick: eventual positional flexibility, and 20+ HR and 10+ SB. Again, we have to be optimistic with our picks, but this is Tampa Bay we’re talking about: all their players play multiple positions, and they rarely give out contracts to players as young and untested as Brandon Lowe (6 years, $24 million). If the famously stingy and risk-averse Rays believe in BLowe, why shouldn’t I?
9. Nick Anderson, RP, TB, 238th NFBC ADP
This is a bit of a reach when so much of my roster is still unfilled, but Anderson is elite: out of everyone, EVERYONE, who pitched even a single pitch last year, Nick Anderson had the 10th best xFIP (2.44). Out of everyone who pitched 10 innings, he was fourth. He had the fourth best K/9 of the top 30 xFIP pitchers. And, now, since Tampa Bay traded Emilio Pagan away, Anderson may be in line for saves. He was one of only 15 pitchers to throw 100+ Ks in under 100 IP. (Anderson had 100+ in 65 IP.) Plus, because I didn’t get the chance to draft elite-elite SPs from the first two rounds, I need to protect my ratios and Ks with elite RPs. Few are more elite than Anderson, especially if he starts racking up saves.
10. Jon Gray, SP, COL, 241st NFBC ADP
I know, a Rockies pitcher. But Gray had the 34th best xFIP out of players who pitched 100+ innings, AND he had a sub-4.00 ERA on the season, AND he’s only 28 years old, AND he’s undervalued for two reasons: health concerns and the Colorado effect. Health is always a concern with starting pitchers, so whatever; and, he pitches well at home, so he’s less weighed down by Coors Field. I actually like him as my SP4, no matter what kind of draft I’m in. The upside still exists.
11. Renato Nunez, 1B, BAL, 274th NFBC ADP
This is about drafting someone who can hit 30ish HRs. Renato gets to play in Camden Yards, he gets to receive volume at-bats for a bad team, and he can hopefully get 80+ Runs and 80+ RBI. There are definitely better first basemen, but few come as cheap as Nunez. He had the same Barrels per Plate Appearance percentage as Ketel Marte, by the way, and he can hit the ball damn hard (top 30 in max exit velocity last season). He’s streaky, but we’re not being too judgy at this point in the draft. Again, he’s a dude who can get 30ish HR.
12. Kyle Seager, 3B, SEA, 308th NFBC ADP
Ditto, Kyle Seager! Seager hit 23 HR in fewer than 400 AB last year. If he’s healthy, then a .250 batting average and 30ish HR seems like a likely outcome. He, too, can be streaky, but we ride waves down here in Worst Case Scenario-land.
13. Andrelton Simmons, SS, LAA, 328th NFBC ADP
Simmons was injured last year, but he’s a SS with elite strikeout and contact rates, he’ll probably get you 10+ SB, and any power is gravy. 10 and 15 guys are much more valuable than they used to be. (Are they more valuable than 15-10 players?) Simmons will also be in a better lineup this year, with Anthony Rendon and a hopefully healthy Shohei Ohtani, along with the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.
14. Jason Castro, C, LAA, 346th NFBC ADP
Speaking of new Angels: Jason Castro is the main backstop in Anaheim after playing as the backup in Minnesota. Castro hit 13 HR in less than 250 AB last season, and he should see more this year as the starting catcher for the Angels. If he can approach 20 homers, then he’ll be elite: only 8 catchers hit 20+ HR last season.
15. Ryan Pressly, RP, HOU, 380th NFBC ADP
Pressly is a ratios god: he had THE best xFIP (2.21) of all pitchers, starters or relievers, who threw at least 10 innings. He had an 11+ K/9, and he’s probably next in line for Saves in Houston. Pressly protects your ratios, gives you Ks, and has Closer upside.
16. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET, 390th NFBC ADP
I love Miguel Cabrera, and if he’s healthy, then I still believe he’s a valuable fantasy player. I’m drafting him as my CI, but the pickings were slim round these parts. The only other player I seriously considered was Eric Thames at 403, but he’s battling for AB with Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmermann.
17. Spencer Turnbull, SP, DET, 426th NFBC ADP
Turnbull isn’t elite, but this will be only his second real season as a starter, so I’m going to focus more on Turnbull’s 3.99 FIP from last year (top 50 of pitchers who threw at least 100 innings) and a K/9 that improved as the season went along. He’s 27 years old, he has upside, he was a bit unlucky last year (third highest BABIP of players with a sub-4.00 FIP), he’s on a crappy team so he’ll get the innings, and he’s cheap: this is the very definition of a SP5! Go Tigers!
18. Drew Pomeranz, RP, SDP, 427th NFBC ADP
I cheated with this one a bit (5 picks early), please forgive me, but I just wanted to point out how dominant Pom was after he was traded to the Brewers and became an RP: 26.1 IP, 45 Ks, 8 BB, 2.14 xFIP, 15.38 K/9. And, now he’s in San Diego, setting up for Kirby Yates. Pomeranz could become an elite ratios RP with tremendous K/9 potential. Just like Nick Anderson and Ryan Pressly, Pomeranz is the type of high upside RP I need to protect my less-than-elite SP rotation (although, it isn’t that bad!).
19. Matt Barnes, RP, BOS, 475th NFBC ADP
Barnes had a sub-3.00 xFIP (top 20 out of all pitchers who threw at least 10 innings last year), a 15+ K/9, and he has saves upside as an elite setup RP.
20. Trevor May, RP, MIN, 497th NFBC ADP
From July 1st on, May pitched 35 innings, struck out 49 batters, had a 3.29 xFIP, and a 12.6 K/9. He had a rough patch earlier in the season, but I’ll take his second half numbers and hope that he’s another elite ratios, high strikeout, setup RP with saves upside. I now have 5 elite ratio + elite K/9 RPs to complement Thor, Lance Lynn, Sean Manaea, Jon Gray, and Spencer Turnbull. I feel pretty good about that.
21. Joey Wendle, 2B/3B, TB, 514th NFBC ADP
In 2018 Wendle hit .300 and had 16 steals in 545 AB. The thinking prior to 2019 drafts was that Wendle would be due for the same amount of AB, and a ton of positional flexibility, with 15-20 SB, and gravy-power. Then he got hurt a bunch. I still think that Wendle will get a lot of AB, and a lot of positional eligibility, and between 15 and 20 SB. That’s enough for me at this stage of the draft: SB upside and multiple positions, along with at least one season of above-average contact to make me believe in the bat.
22. Jarrod Dyson, OF, PIT, 546th NFBC ADP
This is about steals. If he has a full time job in Pittsburgh, then 25+ SB are on the menu.
23. Myles Straw, SS/OF, HOU, 553rd NFBC ADP
Straw isn’t a starter in the majors, but if anyone in Houston goes does with injury, then Myles should benefit, and he should accumulate steals. He’s one of the fastest players in baseball, and he doesn’t have much power, so his legs will propel his fantasy and real life value. This is more of a speculative draft pick, but if Straw gets the AB, then he could be a seriously valuable stolen base threat, especially with the dual eligibility.
24. Luke Jackson, RP, ATL, 585th NFBC ADP
I know, I know: not even the Braves believe in Luke Jackson, which is why they signed other RPs to handle late inning duties. But! Luke Jackson was very unlucky last year: he had the 6th best xFIP of all pitchers who threw at least 10 innings, but he also had a .386 BABIP, which was the worst BABIP of ANY pitcher who threw at least 70 innings last year. THE WORST! Now, you can counter and say: that just means he’s a bad pitcher. Tough but fair! However, I’d prefer to consider that Luke Jackson had a 25.6 HR/FB%, and that’s probably going to regress. The fact that he won’t be in high leverage situations could improve his ratios even more, so I’m betting on the UPSIDE with Luke.
25. Cam Maybin, OF, DET, 660th NFBC
Again: steals. If Maybin gets the AB, then he could provide a useful batting average (he changed his swing last season and did much better offensively than in the past), and stolen bases. He might even get volume if the Tigers are intent on using him as trade bait.
Again, imagine this roster with two more top 25 picks. I think this is a fairly solid foundation. Steals and elite SP are the going concern this fantasy baseball draft season, but always remember that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, especially during drafts. Trust yourself and draft the players that you want to play with. Even when things go haywire in the draft room, so long as you have a list of cheap players that you know will/should be around in the later rounds, you’ll probably be just fine.
It’s a long season, RP volatility will change yet again this season with the new rules, and who knows if the ball is juiced or dead or what. This will be a baseball season of discovering new unknowns, and a fantasy season with a helluva lot of questions. How valuable are stolen bases? Will teams continue to hold players on base, and will steals continue to dwindle? Will more players hit more home runs, or will a new ball dampen the league-wide power surge?
Don’t panic, always have a towel, and trust your judgment. Good luck!
All numbers courtesy of NFBC.com, Fangraphs.com, ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, and CBS.com. Thank you!