AL-Only Mock Draft (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
After exploring the shallower side of the spectrum with a 10-team mock, let’s swim to the deep end with an AL-only draft.
Single leagues aren’t for everyone, and they’re increasingly difficult when free agents take forever to sign and copious players get dealt to the other league during the summer. I’m admittedly more familiar with mixed leagues, but a condensed draft class presented an interesting challenge.
Last week, I partook in another AL-only mock draft hosted by Rotoworld. To avoid giving away those draft results intended for their premium subscribers, I conducted another one using FantasyPros’ Draft Wizard. Drafting against the ECR and consensus ADP, I used Yahoo’s default roster sizes (23 rounds, 3 OFs, no CI or MI). Both practice runs helped me draw some conclusions on how to approach the platform.
2.14: Gerrit Cole (SP – HOU)
3.27: Justin Upton (OF – LAA)
4.34: Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN)
5.47: David Price (SP – BOS)
6.54: Mallex Smith (OF – SEA)
7.67: Ken Giles (RP – TOR)
9.87: Austin Meadows (OF – TB)
10.94: Andrelton Simmons (SS – LAA)
11.107: Trevor May (RP – MIN)
12.114: Marco Gonzales (SP – SEA)
13.127: Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
14.134: Jake Bauers (1B/OF – TB)
15.147: Jeimer Candelario (3B – DET)
16.154: Matthew Boyd (SP – DET)
17.167 Omar Narvaez (C – SEA)
18.174: Justin Bour (1B – LAA)
19.187: Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN)
20.194: Cedric Mullins (OF – BAL)
21.207: Matt Harvey (SP – LAA)
21.214: Delino DeShields (OF – TEX)
22.227: Martin Perez (SP/RP – MIN)
Beware a Steep SP Dip
Even factoring in Luis Severino’s shoulder injury, seven of my top-10 starting pitchers reside in the Junior Circuit. Given how quickly the player pool depletes, it’s wise to grab one of those aces.
After Chris Sale went fifth overall in the simulated mock — I grabbed him with the sixth pick of the Rotoworld mock — the six other studs all went in the second round. Not that Whit Merrifield or Khris Davis tempted me too much over Cole, but James Paxton would have been my best alternative if I waited one more turn for a starter. That’s hardly ideal in an AL-only format, where the diminished value of a replacement player makes innings far more valuable.
That’s something I tried to keep in mind throughout this mock. While I didn’t plan on pairing Cole with Price, getting the Red Sox southpaw after a closer run felt like a good deal. Those two reliable anchors allowed me to snag two higher-end relievers (Giles and May) and take a chance on Luzardo. Further enabling my ability to stash the Oakland prospect early in the season, Gonzales, Boyd, and Odorizzi each exceeded 160 innings in 2018. Although a boring mixed-league choice, Gonzales’ stellar control (4.7 BB% in 2018) makes him an appealing AL-only asset. Odorizzi is at least a durable veteran with job security.
Catcher is Grim
Think catcher is shallow in a mixed league? Try an AL-only format, where six of the clear top-seven options get yanked off the board. Once someone pays a premium for Gary Sanchez on the heels of hitting .186, there’s little choice but to wait.
While I kept an eye on Danny Jansen, the clear second-best option, I ultimately decided I’d rather invest in Meadows’ power-speed potential in the ninth. The remaining options are slim, and I should have given more consideration to Welington Castillo in the Rounds 10-12 range. Since I always seem to select him in two-catcher mixed leagues (and the Rotoworld mock), it felt right to once again call on Narvaez. Even if he doesn’t sustain last season’s modest power gains, the beholder of a career .276 average and .366 OBP is a solid floor selection who should secure plenty of playing time on the rebuilding Mariners.
Although typically more willing to pony up for a second-tier NL backstop, I don’t trust Sanchez enough to avoid the headache. At least take solace in the fact that just about everyone else is simultaneously suffering the same pain behind the plate. And best of luck to any unfortunate souls subjected to a two-catcher AL-only draft.
Learn to Love Mediocre Teams
A bad team is often a single-league manager’s best friend. Use a desolate roster to find overlooked players with full-time roles.
Nicholas Castellanos represents the only Detroit Tiger with a mixed-league consensus ADP inside the top 150. In an AL-only draft, however, plenty of his teammates demand a look. With Jose Abreu topping a drained crop of AL first basemen, Cabrera is chief among them. Digging deeper, Candelario should play every day across the diamond. The third baseman started strong before a wrist injury derailed his progress in early May, but he should still get a golden opportunity to drive in Castellanos and Cabrera.
Boyd doesn’t possess the ceiling to target as anything more than a bottom-rotation depth piece in standard mixed leagues. In AL-only leagues, drafters can pay more attention to his 3.88 ERA and 24.3% K-BB rate in 13 second-half starts. After enduring a velocity lull early last season, it’s encouraging to see the southpaw throw 94 mph in spring.
I would have loaded up on even more Tigers if not for just missing Joe Jimenez and Josh Harrison. Fortunately, several AL teams aren’t too good. While the Angels are likely to tread water near the .500 mark, Upton fortifies my offense with bankable 30-homer power. Simmons, who submitted an MLB-low 7.3% strikeout rate, should again hit for a high average with a handful of homers and steals. Bour will at least have a regular role against righties while Shohei Ohtani rehabs from Tommy John surgery. While I would have much preferred Tyler Skaggs in the middle of the draft, a man can dream of a world where Harvey returns to 60% of his former self.
Even the Orioles offer some interesting late selections. Mullins makes a decent mixed-league choice in five-outfielder formats, so he’s an excellent bench find here. I could have also grabbed Mark Trumbo if not for already taking the DH-only Cruz, and Austin Hays should parlay an exceptional spring into an eventual big league promotion.
Although graded a 93, the Draft Wizard projects heartbreak in the form of a second-place finish with one point behind the victor.
I meant to draft one or two skilled middle relievers such as Ryan Pressly, but I kept missing my targets and noticing someone else I liked more. The neglect hurt my 3.93 projected ERA, a sore spot I’d have to address by dumping Perez and/or Harvey for a setup man if they don’t shine out of the gate. At least my staff is expected to tally the third-most strikeouts while tying for third in wins.
Altuve, Smith, and Simmons give me a strong upper hand in batting average and speed. This came at the expense of power, as the algorithm credits me with the league’s second-fewest home runs. I’m not in such dire straits if Cabrera stays healthy while Bauers and/or Candelario booms, but in hindsight, I should have taken Teoscar Hernandez, Daniel Palka, or Christin Stewart with a bench pick to strengthen my offense.
There were more viable late-round fliers than I anticipated. That would change, however, in a deeper AL-only league with five outfielders and corner/middle infielders. Although a fun challenge, splitting up the player pool isn’t as daunting as one may imagine. Those tired of shallow mixed leagues should give it a try.