12-Team Mock Draft: Early Pick (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
It’s draft season… or #DraftSZN, for all you cool kids out there. This year offers one of the juiciest trios of talent atop the draft that I can remember. In my opinion, this is the best year in a really long time to have one of the first three picks. For this exercise, I’ll recap a 12-team, five-by-five roto league mock draft using FantasyPros Draft Simulator. This draft was conducted against ECR and consensus ADP on February 23, just after real Spring Training games have begun. Baseball is officially back, baby!
It’s absolutely loaded up top with three guys that contribute in a major way in home runs and stolen bases. I’m referring to Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Christian Yelich, of course. If I had my choice of which draft slot I’d want this year, it’s without a doubt the third pick. You are not only guaranteed one of these three studs but also (barring injury) having that nice floor of power and speed they provide. Lest we forget the incredible upside of one of these three players exceeding their statistical expectations and their ability to carry you to a title.
The other reason I love the three spot is the ability to keep tabs on the other two teams at the turn. I find that snake drafting a roster with two teams between your picks allows you to control what they do just as much. I’ll refer to this as “turn logic” below when it comes into play for factoring which player I’m taking before (and after) the turn. The only downside is waiting for 18 picks when it swings the long way, but that’s a lot of time to stock your queue and get yourself re-focused and stay organized. I’m focused… let’s go!
1.3: Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF – ATL)
Well, well, isn’t this convenient? The young Atlanta slugger is first on my board in roto leagues, so this mock draft is starting off as a best-case scenario for me. After Trout and then Yelich were selected, all I had to do was click the DRAFT button next to Acuna’s name. The fact that he said he wants to become the first 50/50 player in history only makes me salivate more. I loved seeing this so much that I wish this was a real draft. Acuna is on the cover of almost every fantasy baseball industry magazine for a reason, he’s a fantasy monster.
Others Considered: None.
2.10: Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA)
I was hoping one of Walker Buehler or J.D. Martinez would fall to me here. Unfortunately, they both went ahead of this pick and I no longer felt comfortable taking a starting pitcher here. I like the idea of not starting this draft by going back-to-back outfielders and taking care of the hot corner with Rendon. However, if this were a keeper or dynasty league, my choice would have been Rafael Devers. Ultimately, the ECR 18 overall player at pick 22 is a nice little discount I’m willing to invest in before the turn. In using my turn logic, I figured there was no way Devers or Rendon would be there with my next pick.
Others Considered: Devers, Fernando Tatis Jr.
3.3: Stephen Strasburg (SP – WAS)
I’m much more comfortable taking Strasburg here instead of round two. His ADP of 24 and ECR of 26 makes this a pretty even value at pick 27. There is more consistency and less risk with him as compared to Sale. It’s weird to call Stras safe after early years filled with injuries, but he’s been reliable of late and I fully expect 200 innings and 250 Ks. Yes, Sale could be a league winner, but knowing he’s going to miss Opening Day and maybe more is enough for me to bump him down. It’s also my opinion that shortstop is a little deeper than third base, therefore, I passed on yet another Red Sox player. I’m not getting good vibes from Boston as they appear to be in early-onset tank mode.
4.10: Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF – ARI)
Marte offers multi-eligibility here and that’s the main reason that I chose him over Javier Baez. Both players offer 30+ homers and double-digits steals from the SS spot, but the roster flexibility that Marte provides is what puts him ahead in my rankings. This was tough as there is a cloud of doubt that Marte can replicate his 2019 numbers where Baez has a more proven track record. The underlying metrics for Marte would suggest that last season was legit and not an outlier. In the end, I felt like his ability to produce at the keystone as an everyday player in addition to three other roster slots (including middle infield) was more useful than the starting pitchers available here.
Others Considered: Baez, Luis Castillo
5.3: Luis Castillo (SP – CIN)
Waiting on Castillo paid off as he was still there after the turn. Again, following my turn logic, both teams had yet to fill the SS position in my draft room so I figured I’d wait on Castillo. Baez was taken by the team at the turn and my highest-ranked SP fell right in my lap. I love everything about Castillo’s game other than the fact he pitches half his games at the smallest ballpark in the league. Nevertheless, there is too much upside to ignore here as he could put up similar numbers to Strasburg and could finish the season as my SP1. I have him projected for 196 IP and 230 K, but even if he falls a little short, I took him about eight picks after his mid-40s ECR and ADP.
6.10: Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN)
What? I have no clue how Cruz made it all the way back around to me at pick 70, but I jumped at the chance to take his 40 HR, 100 RBI and .280 AVG here. Cruz is someone the experts in the industry love (ECR 45) and value way above his ADP of 86. This is probably going to be where he goes in most drafts as people get wise to the ridiculously consistent production he provides. Some don’t like to lock up a UTIL spot this early…those must be the same fantasy owners that don’t appreciate the massive power boost he provides. I love D.J. LeMahieu as he won a couple of leagues for me last season, but I didn’t want to let The Boom Stick get away.
Others Considered: LeMahieu, Marcus Semien
7.3: Marcus Semien (SS – OAK)
It’s not often you get to take “whatever MVP candidate is left” at pick 75, but that’s the case here as my mind was made up for me. By taking Cruz last round, I left the other two teams at the turn to take LeMahieu or Semien. For the second consecutive round that I was surprised by who was there. Looking at turn logic, it led me to think the team that didn’t take Baez last time around would take Semien to fill their SS, but that wasn’t the case. The other team at the turn instead snagged LeMahieu and Semien was still available for me. In Semien, I’m investing for what I hope is a repeat season of a guy I’ve always believed in and finally put it all together in 2019.
8.10: Yasmani Grandal (C/1B – MIL)
The Brewers got a heck of a player in Grandal. Not only is he one of the better framing catchers in the league, but he can also play some first base as well. While he’s not taking over the Eric Thames role versus RHP, I’m sure he’ll still get some run there which helps. In fact, that’s the main reason I reached slightly as both teams picking twice after me in round eight and before me in round nine were also without a backstop or a first baseman. By taking Grandal here, I get a little roster flexibility by using turn logic and it gives me what I consider a bit of an edge over those two teams. They both double-tapped pitcher, leaving my next pick as an obvious one.
9.3: Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL)
Ozuna was really who I wanted last round. Considering both teams I’m closely monitoring already had two outfielders, I thought I’d take a chance and wait just a bit longer. I honestly think I got lucky here, but the turn logic paid off as Ozuna was still there for me. I love the idea of having a mini-stack from that potent Braves lineup and it applies a bit of my DFS strategy to this team. I also wrote about Ozuna in my draft arbitrage article from February 19 where I mentioned him being able to supply similar stats to George Springer – only 70 picks later. Since then, he’s moved up a half round in ADP to 99 overall. Coincidentally, that’s where he goes in this mock.
Others Considered: Madison Bumgardner, Roberto Osuna
10.10: Miguel Sano (1B/3B – MIN)
It was so hard to pass on Madison Bumgarner, AKA Mason Saunders, the day his alias and rodeo shenanigans were discovered. Instead, responsible me took the big bat instead. I’m doing the same thing here with Sano. He set career highs in R, HR, and RBI in just over 100 games last year. You may remember he was slacking off back in 2017-18 and the Twins put him on notice. He showed up ready to work and ready to play in 2019 and it showed. Can you imagine a full season of healthy, dedicated Sano? 45-50 dingers could be a real possibility and he gives me another mini-stack in the most powerful lineup in baseball, the Bomba Squad. You’ll see I also considered a closer again, but passed.
Others Considered: Zac Gallen, Brad Hand
11.3: Brad Hand (RP – CLE)
This is where I finally decided to take a closer in Hand. Currently, at ECR 146 and ADP 105, I’m splitting the difference in value right down the middle at pick 123. I also felt like this is prime territory for a closer run to begin. Again, when you are waiting for 18 picks on the long side of the draft, you have to be prepared for something like that. After passing on Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna, and even Hand last round… I felt the time was right. The Indians are not serious about contending and I love owning closer from middling teams. Spoiler Alert: I was right… five closers went off the board in the next twelve picks. I’d be really happy landing Hand where I did in a real roto league.
12.10: Max Fried (SP – ATL)
This is where I start to look for some value. Fried’s ECR of 117 and ADP of 130 tell me this is exactly what I’m getting at pick 141. With Fried also the top SP on my board, there wasn’t a lot to think about here. I took him over a known commodity in Kyle Hendricks who is going close to Fried in most drafts. Ultimately, this decision was about upside and there is a substantial difference between his and that of Hendricks. Not saying Hendricks isn’t good, just not good enough for this pick. I like Fried to take the next step and develop into the Braves ace in 2020, besting the likes of fellow young Atlanta stud, Mike Soroka and keeping me much more competitive in the K department.
13.3: Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
I’m tempting fate by subjecting myself to another possible closer run, but I just can’t pass up a potential 40 HR season from Calhoun. After finally getting some semblance of regular playing time, he logged a half-season of plate appearances and went deep 21 times. Doing some back of the napkin math would suggest that 40 bombs is entirely possible. Unlike some other sluggers going this late, Calhoun won’t be a drain on your batting average couldn’t pull the trigger on Edwin Encarnacion yet. Even though I’m high on both Encarnacion and Giles, I felt like I’d hate myself less if I reached for Calhoun over Encarnacion here. Spitting in the face of consistency usually isn’t my bag, this could blow back in my face.
14.10: Hansel Robles (RP – LAA)
Recency bias got in the way a here as Robles kept me competitive in a few roto leagues last season. Joe Maddon has already acknowledged the closer job is his to lose and I like his stuff and composure a lot. Robles rarely got into trouble last season, and even when he had traffic on the base paths, he effectively pitched his way out of jams. There was no second closer run after my last pick, but I did miss out on Giles so this made sense. I used turn logic to identify that the team picking next to me (and twice before my next pick) was yet to select a closer. I only felt comfortable with two closers in this spot and I went Robles over Rasiel Iglesias. My gut feeling was the team after me was about to double-tap closers.
15.3: Sean Manaea (SP – OAK)
Manaea was incredibly good when available in 2019, shutting out the Yankees in his season debut, winning four of five starts and only allowing four runs in the process. I’ve always liked his stuff, but health concerns make me nervous. However, at pick 171, the price is too good to ignore with his ECR of 143 and 158 ADP. Manaea’s secondary numbers suggest he could’ve been lucky, but I’m anticipating an All-Star campaign. I just hope he stays healthy long enough to prove himself. I should also mention the Draft Simulator had Manaea as my Top Lift player, which means he provided the largest boost, based on my roster’s current categorical strengths and weaknesses at this point in the draft.
16.10: Nick Anderson (RP – TB)
This may just be a case of the ADP and ECR not quite catching up to the Padres trading for Emelio Pagan earlier this month. Prior to that trade and his subsequent elevation in the Rays bullpen, Anderson already made a shortlist of relievers that I would target without getting a save chance. His strikeout upside alone is enough of a reason to roster him. The fact that he could now bank a couple dozen saves is all the more appealing. I’ve been on the Anderson bandwagon since last year and having him be that third reliever to accumulate saves and notch a ton of Ks in limited innings is even better. This is really shaping up to be a nice, deep team. I’m starting to wish this was a real league.
17.3: Luke Voit (1B – NYY)
I can’t believe it’s round 17 and I’m taking my first Yankee! This is a slight value based on ECR and right about where Voit is being taken on average. I like the power upside and his reverse splits for Yankee Stadium in my CI spot. His oblique injury sidetracked him last season but he showed at the end of 2018 what he can do when he heats up. The Bronx Beefcake (I made that up) should get every chance to play more this season if he can keep his beefy self healthy. I was debating which starting pitcher to take here as Folty and Stroman are still on the board. I chose to not think so hard and possibly let one of the two teams after/before me potentially make my decision for me.
18.10: Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
Musgrove is someone that is on my sleeper list for 2020. I know, he’s on a ton of sleeper lists already. But seriously, the dude doesn’t walk batters and had excellent swing and miss stuff as evidenced by his effective swinging strike rate on three different pitches. His ECR is telling me this is a four-round value and his ADP of 214 fits perfectly here at that exact pick. If you’re drafting in any kind of industry league, forget about getting him this late, it’s not happening. But in more casual leagues, grabbing him anywhere after pick 200 is theft. I expect a breakout season and for him to become the ace in Pittsburgh. Once again, the Draft Simulator reassures me as it tags another arm I like as the Top Lift player for my team.
19.3: Kolten Wong (2B – STL)
Wong is projected to hit second in the Cards lineup. I know there has been talk of them not making any splashy signings this Winter, but the lineup is still pretty good. Wong had 24 steals last season while mostly hitting near the bottom of the lineup. I can’t help but think that number is not only repeatable, but beatable with the new lineup spot and hitting in front of Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. I’m projecting his batting average to regress some, but also forecasting a career-high in R, HR, RBI, and SB. Getting this kind of speed in my MI spot is a nice pull this late considering all the playing time concerns with the other speedy middle infield types available.
20.10: Justin Upton (OF – LAA)
This wasn’t much of a decision after thinking about pulling the trigger on B.J.’s brother two rounds earlier. We already have a “best shape of his life” narrative going here and the power and speed combo are still legit. There is no reason to doubt Upton’s ability after an injury-plagued 2019. Sure, he may only contribute a half dozen bags, but he’s giving you those as a speed floor with an almost certain 30 jacks. The lineup around him is improved as well, making this another nice value at pick 238 compared to his ECR of 177 and 219 ADP. He’s one of the streakiest players in all of baseball, but you roll with those punches and ride those highs and lows from any round 20 pick.
Others Considered: Jose Urquidy
21.3: Jose Urquidy (SP – HOU)
With the departure of Gerrit Cole and the slow progression of Forrest Whitley, the Astros have a guy in Urquidy they can depend on. His 41 innings last season were very useful, so much so, he was relied on to start in the World Series. I don’t see any way the Stros go from trotting him out on the biggest of baseball’s stages to not leaning on him for the bulk of this season. I’m leaning on him as well, but as my SP6 on this mock draft team. Almost every projection system has him in line for 28 starts and with RP eligibility, you can even squeeze him in on those rate occurrences when almost all your starters are going on the same day. Urquidy would have to be a total disaster to not pay off his value here.
22.10: Dee Gordon (2B – SEA)
I could sense that I was lacking in speed, even after the Kolten Wong pick. I turned to a player in Dee Gordon who I knew was good for at least 25 stolen bases in limited playing time with an upside for 40 steals if his playing time panned out. I don’t fully know what version of Dee Gordon to expect but I could use the depth of having more depth at second base. Second base isn’t a deep position at all, so having a couple of options behind Marte made me feel more comfortable from a roster construction standpoint. Speaking of Marte, I can’t believe his teammate, David Peralta is still out there. I’m passing on him
23.3: Didi Gregorius (SS – PHI)
From Dee to Didi, one for the steals, one for the pop. Gregorius only played half the 2019 season but still raked when he had the chance. I thought about going Peralta here, but then I started to think back to when Didi was playing for Joe Girardi in his pinstripes and mashing baseballs. Remember that, those were good times. Then I thought about them being reunited in Philly and it made me all warm inside. I like where this year is headed in another nice hitters park. I took another quick look at Peralta, but broke his heart once again and left him in the player pool to swim in the uncertainty. Outfield still has some decent options available, so I’ll wait on it and hopefully get one more good arm.
24:10: Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL)
Peralta went two picks after my last selection but this is the point in the draft where you go and get your guys anyway. Peralta has never been one of my guys, but Garcia is. If you actually went and read my draft arbitrage piece, thank you. Next, you can ignore the part where I still have him playing in Tampa. Wow! Every year, I completely miss one notable signing. This would be that signing that flew under my free-agent radar. Oh well, that just means I like him even more now in Miller Park. And yes, I do think he can put up similar numbers to David Dahl, just much cheaper.
Others Considered: Amir Garrett
25:3: Amir Garrett (RP – CIN)
Garrett’s innings have gone down by seven each of the last three seasons while his K/9 has gone up by two punchouts each year. Give me a guy that can strike out the side on any given day and also has the testicular fortitude to fight an entire team of Pirates. He’s the obvious candidate to get save opportunities in Cincy as well. He’s a bit of a WHIP risk, but let’s face it, what reliever isn’t this late in the draft? There’s too much for me to like with my last pick, sign me up for a share of Garrett.
Others Considered: Ty Buttrey was my backup plan to Garrett to close the draft
This felt like an A- kind of draft in my head and I was one point away, earning a B+ (89/100) on the official scorecard. The overall construction is solid and there are no glaring weaknesses. I feel like my cheap speed additions aren’t being factored in much. I found it interesting that the projected league winner did not bother to draft a single catcher. That’s a bold strategy, Cotton!
I also think this team would’ve earned a solo second-place projected finish instead of a projected runner-up tie by going with someone like Howie Kendrick over Garcia. That could’ve possibly given me that little boost in my eighth-ranked AVG as well. This team wreaks of value as I only got dinged for two small reaches with Grandal and Sano and that’s perfectly fine. With good health and some solid transactions, this team is a contender for sure. I’d be interested to see what you think about this squad. Comment below or hit me up on Twitter.