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2020 Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft (Categories)

by Max Freeze | @FreezeStats | Featured Writer
Jan 16, 2020

Blake Snell remains a worthy fantasy ace despite 2019’s setbacks.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The calendar flipped over to a new year, and that means fantasy baseball is in the air. FantasyPros already has the Mock Draft Simulator up, and running and I highly recommend it. You can complete a draft in less than 15 minutes! You’re able to customize the league settings, categories, and draft order to cater to your preferences. It will even summarize your picks, provide projected standings, and slap you with a grade. For this article, I’ll focus on standard 5×5 rotisserie categories, and I chose to draft out of the seventh spot. I’ll cover each player pick by pick so you can get an idea of my thought process throughout the draft. You’ll see my final grade wasn’t quite elite, but I prefer to draft based on need and skill rather than pure projections. You can view the draft summary below, so I’ll let you be the judge. Let’s dive in!

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1.7: Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)
With the seventh pick, I’d gladly take Bellinger here. Gerrit Cole is being pushed up because well, he has the ceiling to become the top fantasy performer in 2020. With Francisco Lindor already taken, I really wanted to lock down speed early. But, in reality, the difference between Bellinger and a player like Trevor Story is probably five to 10 swipes. Bellinger is sneaky fast with 14 and 15 steals in the last two seasons, respectively. I’m not fully buying him as a .300 hitter, but his improvements in strikeout rate are real based on his plate discipline metrics. A .290 average seems about right. He clearly has 40-plus homer power to go along with double-digit steals and 220 runs+RBIs thanks to a deep lineup. It’s as much about the floor as it is about the ceiling with this pick. 

2.18: Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE)
Sticking with multi-position eligibility, I selected Ramirez. Despite an awful start to 2019 and an injury in the second half, he still provided 23 home runs and 24 steals across 543 plate appearances. Let’s not forget, he’s still just 27 years old, right in the middle of his prime. Despite his slight underperformance last season, his hard-hit rate and average exit velocity were actually slightly higher than in the previous two seasons. In those last three seasons from 2017 to 2019, his average season line (AVG-Runs-HR-RBI-SB) looks like this: .283-95-30-90-25. That looks like a first-rounder to me.

3.31: Blake Snell (SP – TB)
I wanted to snag an ace with one of my top-three picks. With eight already off the board, I elected to go with Snell. Despite a down year, I have him ranked as my sixth starting pitcher. His innings were limited thanks to an injury to his elbow that required arthroscopic surgery midseason. The good news is he came back healthy before the conclusion of the 2019 season, and his skills remained intact. In fact, his expected weighted on-base on contact (xwOBAc) and swinging-strike rates (SwStr%) on his fastball and changeup actually improved from his 2018 Cy Young season. His curveball and slider remained very strong pitches as well. Snell is one of five pitchers that could lead the league in strikeouts, evidenced by a 12.39 K/9 which ranked fourth among pitchers with at least 100 innings in 2019. 

4.42: Austin Meadows (OF – TB)
This is one of my favorite picks. In late September, I was able to snag Meadows even later in the #2EarlyMocks run by Justin Mason back at pick 6.76! His stock, however, is quickly rising, and we all need to take notice. Meadows broke out in a big way with the Rays, smashing 33 homers with 12 steals and a .291 average in 138 games. Nothing looks fluky about those numbers, and there’s room for growth. He only turns 25 in May. Meadows will likely be the Rays’ everyday leadoff hitter, so he could be a four-category stud next year. I’d expect something close to 35 home runs, 15 steals, and over 100 runs in 2020.

5.55: Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW)
With one ace in tow, I felt like grabbing Giolito in the middle of the fifth round as my ace-1B. I don’t think anyone saw this type of breakout coming in 2019 from Giolito, who was coming off a 6.13 ERA! He’s a completely different pitcher now, and I’m buying. He increased his fastball velocity by almost two mph, ditched his sinker, and threw his devastating changeup 11% more frequently. His top-three pitches (fastball, changeup, and slider) earned swinging-strike rates (SwStr%) in the double-digits at well-above-average clips. He finished 2019 sixth among qualified starters in SwStr%, better than Jack Flaherty, Shane Bieber, and Stephen Strasburg to name a few. Do I believe he can repeat at age 25? Absolutely.  

6.66: Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)
Believe it or not, there had already been 10 shortstops taken by my sixth-round pick. Shortstop is an extremely deep position, but Bichette rounds out the end of the second tier. Just 21 years old in 2019, he showed impressive quality of contact skills and good speed. Roster Resource has him slatted to hit leadoff — where he basically hit from day one upon his call-up — for an improving Blue Jays club. He’s a four-category stud with RBIs lagging only due to batting first.

7.79: DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B – NYY)
After grabbing a few young upside plays, I went with a safe option to fill second base. LeMahieu’s numbers last season were not a fluke. Let me remind you of his final line: .327-109-26-102-5. Everyone is calling for regression, but I’m not so sure. His opposite-field approach is perfect for Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field, and he hits the ball very hard. 

Given his high contact approach, he’s cemented in the leadoff spot for one of the best lineups in baseball. The only regression I see is in his RBI total. He was a top-20 player last season, and I think he finishes just inside the top 50 in 2020.

8.90: Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)
No closer over the last five years has been more consistent than Chapman. Only Kenley Jansen has more saves since 2015, and Chapman’s 2.16 ERA is tops among the elite closers. Yes, he’s lost a couple of ticks on his fastball, but he’s utilizing his slider more frequently and has managed a SwStr rate of over 20% on it in each of the last two seasons. His slider might actually be his best pitch given an impressive 1.29 xFIP against it in 2019. The fastball is still a weapon, but it’s nice to know he has two plus pitches. He was the third closer off the board after Josh Hader and Kirby Yates. I felt that getting Chapman two rounds after Hader was a solid value.  This pick is more about a safe closer who should easily reach 30-35 saves with elite ratios than anything else.

9.103: Nick Castellanos (OF – FA)
As long as Castellanos doesn’t sign back with the Tigers (highly unlikely), he’ll receive a park upgrade. Just check out how much Comerica Park in Detroit suppresses home runs to center field, where Castellanos hits nearly 42% of his fly balls. Even after playing two-thirds of the season in Detroit, he still managed to be the 61st-most valuable fantasy player in 2019. I expect Castellanos to reach the 30-home run mark for the first time in 2020 and return at least as much value as he did last season. That makes him a steal at pick 103.

10.114: Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE)
I was a little light on speed at this point of the draft and didn’t want to be stuck with rabbits to make up for my deficiency. Other than Ramirez, I had a bunch of 10-15 steal guys or zero stolen base threats. Mercado showed an impressive power-speed combination in his rookie campaign, and I believe he can provide more stolen bases than he did in 2019. Along with succeeding on 79% of his attempts, his sprint speed ranked inside the top three percent of the league. Additionally, he regularly stole 30+ bases on the minors, topping out at 50 in 2015. He’s cut from a similar cloth to Victor Robles and is going 50 picks later. He can hit 15 home runs and steal 25-30 bases in 2020.

11.127: Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
After grabbing two ace-level starters, I sat back to bolster my offense. Gallen as a number three SP might seem a bit steep, but I believe in his talent. He compiled 206 strikeouts across 171.1 innings pitched between Triple-A and the majors last season. His strikeout rate remained well-above-average even after the jump to the big leagues. He’s clearly capable of handling a full season of starts, and he’s due some positive regression in his walk rate. Gallen’s got a four-pitch repertoire with three plus pitches. His 67.4% first-pitch strike rate would have tied him with Clayton Kershaw at sixth among qualified starters. Of those six pitchers, only Kershaw and Max Scherzer had higher SwStr rates, and only Scherzer had a better K%.

12.138: Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM)
Given Diaz’s contract, he should receive every opportunity to hold the closer role even with the Mets signing Dellin Betances. Ignore his 5.59 ERA from a year ago; it was inflated by a .377 BABIP and a 26.8% HR/FB rate. Both will regress, a lot. His xFIP was 3.09, which indicates his true talent. While his strikeout rate dropped a little from 2018, it was still an impressive 39% backed by a 17.8% SwStr rate. There is a little risk in this pick, but Diaz could also be the top-earning closer in 2020.

13.151: Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
I’ve continued adding speed because it dries up quickly and players become very one-dimensional later on. I can fill my bench with power later. Besides, Rosario is just 24 years old and showed gains in average exit velocity, hard-hit%, and overall contact rate in 2019. That allowed him to cut his strikeouts while improving his quality of contact. I still believe he has 20-homer, 25 stolen base ceiling. Also, his .288 expected batting average (xBA) was inside the top 10% of all hitters in 2019, so Rosario has the makings of a potential five-category contributor at his peak.

14.162: Matt Boyd (SP – DET)
Picking a starter at this point in the draft, I expect some warts. Boyd’s issue is with the home run ball. He gave up an ugly 1.89 HR/9 in 2919. He also struck out 238 strikeouts batters last year thanks to a slider that accounted for 113 of them. He added over one mph on his fastball, which helped boost his strikeout rate even further. Boyd is probably going to finish with a 4.00 ERA, but a sub-1.20 WHIP and 200+ strikeouts help quite a bit.

15.175: Franmil Reyes (OF – CLE)
Here’s that power I was talking about. Reyes should be the everyday designated hitter for the Indians in 2020, and has 40+ homer upside. Yes, there’s quite a bit of swing and miss in his game, but he’s not just a one-trick pony. He’s slated to bat fifth right behind OBP studs Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez, which should lead to a ton of RBI opportunities. His profile is cut from a similar cloth to Pete Alonso, and yet he’s going 140 picks later.

16.186: Brandon Lowe (1B/2B/OF – TB)
Speaking of swing and miss, Lowe finished with a 34.6% strikeout rate in 2019. Normally, I shy away from these types of players, but his batted-ball profile is at least pretty when he makes contact. He blends a combination of hard-hit line drives and fly balls while minimizing popups. That means I’m a believer in his elevated BABIP and his 21.8% HR/FB rate. He’s still just 25 years old and is eligible at three positions under Yahoo settings (five games at first, seven in outfield), so he’s my Swiss Army knife. With all my starting spots already filled, these are the types of players that provide value late in drafts.

17.199: Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
I love getting Musgrove around pick 200 as my SP5. He added a curveball in 2019, and boy was it impressive. He threw it just nine percent of the time, but it generated a 17.4% SwStr rate and contact rate just over 60%! For reference, the league average curveball generated a 12.1% SwStr rate and nearly 75% contact rate. I’m focusing on his curve because, in his final seven starts, Musgrove threw it 16% of the time. In those seven starts, he had a 2.69 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, and 9.37 K/9. Pairing his new curveball with his elite slider could prove to be a deadly combination in 2020.

18.210: Mitch Keller (SP – PIT)
This is the Pirates portion of my draft. I thought about getting my catcher here, but 11 were already taken in a single-catcher format. At this point, I’ll wait unless Carson Kelly is still on the board. I have a nice foundation offensively and want to add depth to my rotation. Keller is a popular sleeper, and I can get on board after pick 200. In limited action last season, he had an impressive 12.19 K/9 with a below-average walk rate (3.00 BB/9). He averages 95-96 mph on his fastball and has two solid breaking pitches. That’s enough for me to take a chance on Keller at this spot.

19.223: Andrew McCutchen (OF – PHI)
Speaking of Pirates, I went ahead and grabbed the franchise’s former cornerstone here. There’s just too much upside to pass up McCutchen. Although the 33-year-old is unlikely to steal 12-15 bases following his knee injury, he should lead off for a very good Phillies lineup. Before his injury, McCutchen was pacing for 27 home runs and 121 runs! The power could still be there, and his on-base skills should net him 90-100 runs this season.

20.234: Mychal Givens (RP – BAL)
With two closers in tow that I feel good about, I was able to wait before grabbing a third. Givens isn’t all that sexy, and he plays for one of the worst teams in the league. That said, his strikeout rate soared last season, as he struck out a career-best 12.29 K/9 thanks to a four percent bump in SwStr rate on his fastball. The Orioles may not receive many save opportunities, but Givens should be the man when they do. 

21.247: Dylan Bundy (SP – LAA)
This is the point in the draft where I am just getting my guys. The projections may not like some of these players, but I’m looking for upside. It’s easy to churn and burn the last several picks in your draft if they don’t work out. If you hit, it’s almost like free money. Bundy has a first-round pedigree. While he no longer throws high-90s heat, he still has a great slider and a good changeup. Getting out of Baltimore might just be the spark he needs to turn his career around. Camden Yards is one of the worst parks for home runs, and Bundy felt that more than anyone in the last two seasons. If he curbs his home run rate, his ERA will certainly drop enough for his 9+ K/9 to play.

22.258: Danny Jansen (C – TOR)
As it turns out, my intuition in this mock draft simulator was wrong. I guess several robots wanted a backup catcher? Sooo … here we are. Jansen is technically the 19th catcher off the board. This is unlikely to happen in a real 12-team, one-catcher league, but I have Jansen ranked as my 16th catcher. So I guess there’s a sliver of a silver lining. I expect him to improve in 2020. If he doesn’t, I’ll work the waiver wire to grab the next Kelly or Mitch Garver.

23.271: Daniel Hudson (RP – WSH)
The Nationals didn’t bring Hudson back to just be the setup man. I think he’ll split closing duties with Sean Doolittle. It makes sense. Hudson was trusted a little more than Doolittle during the 2019 postseason and pitches from the right side (Doolittle is a lefty). He’s an insurance policy if Diaz or Givens struggle and lose their gigs. I still love so many starting pitchers that were not drafted, so I’m confident in my ability to find value and stream throughout the season if I need to.

Draft Summary

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Max Freeze is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Max, check out his archive and follow him @FreezeStats.

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