NL-Only Mock Draft (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
Fear not, NL-only drafters — I didn’t forget about you. After taking the AL-only player pool out for a test drive, let’s apply the same practice to the other guys.
I once again conducted a 10-team draft on FantasyPros’ Draft Wizard against the consensus ADP. To spare me from too much pain, I used Yahoo’s shallower standard roster sizes, which feature one catcher and three outfielders without the hassle of corner and middle infielders. While those requirements often feel too slim for a mixed league, they’re just right in a single league.
Having drawn a late pick in seemingly all of my drafts (real and mocks), it was initially refreshing to snag the No. 3 selection. That was before remembering that my top-four overall players don’t need to watch pitchers make fools of themselves at the plate.
4.38: Corey Seager (SS – LAD)
8.78: Corey Knebel (RP – MIL)
9.83: Wilson Ramos (C – NYM)
10.98: Adam Eaton (OF – WAS)
11.103: Jon Gray (SP – COL)
12.118: Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
13.123: Jordan Hicks (RP – STL)
14.138: Ryan Zimmerman (1B – WAS)
15.143: Manuel Margot (OF – SD)
16.158: Matt Strahm (SP/RP – SD)
17.163: Wilmer Flores (1B/2B/3B – ARI)
18.178: Greg Holland (RP – ARI)
19.183: Adam Frazier (2B/OF – PIT)
20.198: Trevor Richards (SP – MIA)
21.203: Sergio Romo (SP/RP – MIA)
22.218: Ian Kinsler (2B – SD)
23.223: Tanner Roark (SP – CIN)
No Top-Pick Advantage
In a mixed-league draft, cross your fingers and hope for the privilege of selecting Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. There’s no such discernable edge in NL-only formats, where Jose Ramirez and J.D. Martinez are also ousted from consideration.
I recently snagged Max Scherzer with the 11th overall pick in a Pitcher List league. He went first in this simulation before Nolan Arenado, whom I was hoping to snag as a reliable cornerstone. Instead, I picked Turner in hopes of cornering a finite steals market. I’m fine with the shortstop leading the charge, but there isn’t a huge gap between him and Manny Machado, who went eighth. Along those same lines, I’d much prefer the Jacob deGrom and Paul Goldschmidt duo attained from the ninth slot over my Turner and Syndergaard.
Nevertheless, I was relieved to see the Mets’ second ace still on the board. As mentioned in my AL-only mock review, seven of my top-10 aces play away from the Senior Circuit. While Walker Buehler, Stephen Strasburg, and Jack Flaherty are too volatile to trust as a staff leader, Zack Greinke and Jameson Taillon don’t possess a top-flight ceiling.
Even in an NL-only format, Taillon still looks far better as a SP2. I thought I’d be a high man on the Pirates starter this year, but the industry adores him. He went between Eugenio Suarez and Tommy Pham with a 55.9 ADP in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, right in line with his 53 NFBC ADP in March. That’s likely giving too much credit to his new slider, as a 2.33 second-half ERA was accompanied by a 3.22 FIP and 3.76 SIERA. Yet I gladly took my No. 8 NL SP in this fifth round in hopes of garnering a 3.40 ERA with 180 strikeouts. Taking him around the same spot in a mixed format, on the other hand, looks like a case of pricing out any profit.
Two rounds after commencing with Turner, I paired him with a familiar face in Rendon. He’s one of my favorite targets whom I previously profiled as a legitimate MVP candidate capable of pairing a .300 average with 30 homers if healthy for the long haul.
Apparently, I really like Washington’s lineup. Fast-forward to Round 10, where I plucked Eaton since I had mostly neglected speed after Turner. Health is obviously the huge question mark driving down his price tag, but nobody should doubt his talent when on the field. The career .287/.363/.415 hitter has batted above .280 with an OBP over .360 in each of the last five seasons, and he’d offer double-digit steals with a gaudy run tally if his body cooperates.
Another favorite 2019 target, Zimmerman batted .295/.374/.538 with a 141 wRC+ after returning from an oblique injury on July 20. Yes, he’s also highly unlikely to last a full season without any bruises. He’s also going for pennies — I probably reached for him here based on other drafts I’ve done — despite combining a .303 average with 36 long balls in 2017.
This isn’t the first time I unintentionally stacked Washington’s offense; I happened to draft Turner, Rendon, Juan Soto, and Zimmerman in an early NFBC draft. Perhaps there’s merit to my optimism, as FanGraphs projects Washington to plate the NL’s second-most runs per game (4.68) behind the Rockies without Bryce Harper.
Keep Mining Middling Teams for Late Value
The Nations should contend for the NL East crown, but the bottom of my roster is once again full of players on teams without realistic postseason aspirations.
It wouldn’t shock me if Musgrove leapfrogs Taillon as Pittsburgh’s top starter. Despite settling for a 20.6% strikeout rate, he recorded a higher swinging-strike rate (11.5%) with help from a superior slider. He also tossed a higher-rate of first-pitch strikes (68.3%), and his 3.59 FIP wasn’t far off from Taillon’s 3.46 despite a vast ERA discrepancy. A 26-year-old with upside and a steady role, Musgrove makes a strong NL-only SP4 behind the highly volatile Jon Gray.
Both Pirates pitchers may not receive much run support, but Frazier should still pocket plenty of runs atop the lineup. The scrappy second baseman socked 20 doubles with a 138 wRC+ during the second half while bolstering his hard-hit percentage from 21.4 to 45.3. I might have taken him a couple of rounds earlier if he wasn’t buried down the rankings.
Strahm is getting lots of love this spring, and plenty of drafters are chasing Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes for explosive pop. Don’t forget about their position players up the middle. Still just 24, Margot is one year removed from drawing immense hype. He’s still an elite speedster who should maintain playing time as San Diego’s best (and probably only) center fielder.
Don’t assume Kinsler is just keeping second base warm for Fernando Tatis Jr. After all, he has registered an fWAR above 2.0 in each of the past 12 seasons. The Gold Glover could offer power and speed before getting shipped to a contender — not necessarily in a lesser role — for the final two months.
Even the Marlins matter in NL-only leagues. An elite changeup makes Richards an appealing late-round flier, and hey, maybe Romo saves some of the few games they win.
Despite receiving a lower grade (91) than in my AL-only draft from Professor Draft Wizard, my overall score is good enough for first place this time. Take that, If You Like Pineda Coladas and Oscar Meyers Wieters! My team is far from perfect. While Turner leads me to the second-most projected steals (100), taking him also caused me to lag behind in the power department. Without the ability to hide at DH, few big boppers available late are promised playing time. Perhaps I should have gambled on Pete Alonso or Tyler O’Neill anyway.
My pitching is projected to finish fifth or sixth across the board. Call me biased, but I’m not buying it. Syndergaard, Taillon, Gray, Musgrove, and Strahm wouldn’t be a terrible mixed-league foundation, particularly if one of the latter three blossoms. Knebel showed he’s still an elite reliever when stockpiling 33 strikeouts over 16.1 scoreless September frames. The simulator penciled me in for just 46 saves, but Steamer projects my four relievers to combine for 70. That, however, was before Brewers manager Craig Counsell expressed “reason for concern” regarding the closer’s elbow. Losing him would especially be a tough blow with such a limited field of ninth-inning men.
In any draft regardless of the size and settings, balancing upside with stability is paramount. A healthy Seager could turn an otherwise reliable lineup into a force, and the ceiling is the roof for my pitching. Then again, that’s a lot easier to say knowing I’m not playing out the season.