12-Team Mock Draft: Late Pick (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Although drawing a top-three selection gives gamers an advantage from the get-go, some drafters prefer picking from the end to fully exploit the top tier’s depth. Without a firm pecking order, everyone can get creative with their opening pairings.
In order to see what like is life from the bottom, I conducted a 12-team mock draft (five-by-five roto) from the 12th spot using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator. Drafting against the ECR and consensus ADP created a sharp room of automated competitors. While I quickly abandoned my original plan, the alternative road allowed me to embrace atypical values. It’s not the team I expected, but that’s the whole fun of mock drafts.
1.12: Juan Soto (OF – WAS)
I entered the draft thinking I would start by snagging one hitter and one ace. However, I decided not to press the issue when Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander were all taken. Soto has eclipsed a .400 OBP and 140 wRC+ twice before turning 21 years old. He quelled my fears heading into 2020 by slashing his ground-ball rate by 12.1 points in favor of more hard-hit fly balls, which yielded 34 homers in 150 games. Soto cemented his status as a worthy first-rounder by swiping 12 steals in 13 tries. There’s a remarkably high floor for a young phenom who can still get better.
2.1: Nolan Arenado (3B – COL)
Fears of a trade are the only reason Arenado should last beyond the opening round. Precisely the type of money-in-the-bank cornerstone I want here, the third baseman has hit over .285 with at least 37 homers and 110 RBIs in each of the last five seasons. As long as he stays in Coors Field, Arenado will deliver. I couldn’t forgo such dependability for the injured, 35-year-old Max Scherzer.
3.12: Starling Marte (OF – ARI)
I’d take Marte at the second/third-round turn, so he’s an incredible find at pick No. 36. The career .287 hitter has produced back-to-back 20/20 campaigns while improving his strikeout rate each time. Without the opportunity to begin the draft with a five-category star like Trevor Story or Trea Turner, I was ecstatic to land a reliable source of 25-30 steals who also helps everywhere else.
Others Considered: Ozzie Albies
4.1: Stephen Strasburg (SP – WAS)
I may have taken Chris Sale if not for troubling reports of the Red Sox not wanting to rush him back for Opening Day. Even if it is overly precautionary, it’s not what you want to hear following two injury-shortened seasons. Strasburg, of course, also carries plenty of health risk despite finally cracking the 200-inning plateau last year for the first time since 2014. At least he’s a stable bet when on the mound, and I’m not paying a premium for his playoff heroics.
5.12: Patrick Corbin (SP – WAS)
I was hoping to leave this turn with Charlie Morton or Lucas Giolito as a co-ace to Strasburg. To my pleasant surprise, his Nationals teammate was waiting a full round past his ADP. Corbin regressed from a spectacular 2018 breakout, following his 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts with a measly 3.25 ERA and 238 strikeouts. His walk rate (8.4%) and WHIP (1.18) legitimately worsened, but the 30-year-old is nevertheless a high-end SP2 after two highly successful seasons.
6.1: Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
Goldschmidt’s stolen bases continued to trend downward; his days of double-digit capability are over after swiping just three in 2019. The .260 batting average, however, should improve. He had never batted below .286 since 2011’s abbreviated rookie campaign. While he swung at more pitches and whiffed more off the plate, the contact and hard-hit rates stayed steady enough to at least anticipate a jump back into the .270s. This is another case of paying for the floor early, as Goldschmidt has averaged 32 homers, 103 runs, and 101 RBIs over the last five seasons while missing just 19 total games. I sacrificed some power upside by shunning Eloy Jimenez and Matt Olson.
7.12: Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)
Bichette has a 69 ECR and 70 ADP, so I didn’t expect him to be hanging around at pick 84. Building a reliable hitting nucleus gives me the comfort to take the young shortstop over Marcus Semien in hopes of landing another 20/20 contributor. Steamer is aggressively projecting him to stockpile 22 homers and 24 steals with a .275 batting average. The estimated 93 runs are feasible since he’s expected to keep leading off for Toronto. Sign me up for that to end the seventh round.
8.1: Noah Syndergaard (SP – NYM)
Syndergaard also lasted longer than anticipated. I’m a bit skittish at his 69 ADP, and I’m not sure he ever reaches the Cy Young Award ceiling envisioned years ago. As my third starter, I’m comfortable taking the chance on a flame-throwing 27-year-old with a career 3.31 ERA and 2.91 FIP. A down 2019 wasn’t all bad news. Although he posted a 4.20 ERA, Thor sported a 3.60 FIP and .280 expected wOBA in a career-high 197.2 innings. I don’t usually take a third starter so soon, but I adapted to the options presented.
9.12: Shohei Ohtani (DH/SP – LAA)
Are we all overreacting to the news that Ohtani is not slated to pitch until mid-May? Sure, those counting on a two-way superstar will be disappointed. But this could be a steal if he only hits in 2020. Serving exclusively as a DH last year, Ohtani batted .286/.343/.505 with 18 homers and 12 steals despite missing all of April. Give him 500 plate appearances, and he could deliver 25 long balls and 15 steals. For this team, I might actually prefer if he only focuses on hitting.
Note: The platform listed Ohtani as DH and SP eligible, but it wouldn’t let me put him into the utility spot. He was oddly drafted again as a DH-only option at pick No. 185, a bargain for those in leagues that divide him as such.
10.1: Corey Kluber (SP – TEX)
I’ve done dozens of mock drafts using the Draft Simulator, and I’ve never seen so many pitchers fall this much. A former top-tier ace is now my squad’s fourth starter, which seems like a great deal after one tumultuous season. He won’t rebound into a dominant ace, but if his body cooperates, Kluber has the precision and command to enjoy a fruitful third act a la Zack Greinke. For what it’s worth, I would have picked Roberto Osuna if not for his domestic violence charge.
11.12: Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
I was at a bit of a loss here, as none of my usual targets (Max Kepler, Carlos Santana, Oscar Mercado) in this range made it back. Eduardo Escobar was my highest-ranked hitter available, but my gut led me to Rosario instead. Marte and Bichette still needed some assistance on the basepaths, and I too often ignore speed for a large chunk of the draft in lieu of affordable sluggers. While Rosario hasn’t run efficiently enough to bank on 30-plus steals, he can poach another 20-25 while continuing to blossom at the plate. For the second straight year, he caught fire in the second half and made overall leaps to his contact profile. I’ll project a near 2019 repeat while greedily hoping the 24-year-old climbs another ring up the ladder.
Others Considered: Eduardo Escobar
12.1: Liam Hendriks (RP – OAK)
Hendriks’ NFBC has spiked to 102 in February. If that’s the price on a 31-year-old reliever coming off a breakout season, I’m out. In this case, however, he was hanging around 31 picks later. Osuna, Brad Hand, Kenley Jansen, and Edwin Diaz were long gone. No position players were calling my name, and I didn’t want a fifth starter so early. Everything aligned to take the chance on Hendriks, who wielded a superb 1.80 ERA with 124 strikeouts last season.
13.12: J.D. Davis (3B/OF – NYM)
The pitcher run was bound to happen eventually. Eight in a row went before this pick, including a handful of guys (Eduardo Rodriguez, Max Fried, Dinelson Lamet) I usually eye in this range. Without any pitching values to tempt me, it was past time to focus on power. This is where I’d usually aim for Kyle Schwarber or Franmil Reyes, but they went in the ninth and 12th round, respectively. So I decided to “get my guy” and draft Davis, who will easily exceed value on this aggressive draft slot as long as the Mets play him.
Others Considered: Cavan Biggio
14.1: David Price (SP – LAD)
I usually love some of the hitting bargains available here. Not in this draft. Elvis Andrus didn’t fit my team after taking Rosario. Although Cavan Biggio made sense, I got cold feet over taking a second baseman unlikely to hit much higher than .240. This is just a test run, so let’s get weird and take more starting pitching. Moving to the Dodgers may eliminate the discount, but Price had been going way too low. Health woes abound for any pitcher this late, so give me a former Cy Young Award winner who just submitted a 3.62 FIP with his highest K-BB rate (21.0%) since 2014. It’s a victory for this squad if he pitches 140-150 strong frames.
15.12: Luke Voit (1B – NYY)
I gave Voit a glance at the last turn, but past draft experience told me I could likely wait another 22 picks. He’s clearly manifesting into my preferred corner-infield target.
16.1: Andrew McCutchen (OF- PHI)
Only three outfielders graced my roster this late in the draft. Once again, I’m betting on a former superstar defying his brittle bones for some semblance of a bounce-back. Before tearing his ACL on June 3, McCutchen had manufactured a .378 OBP and 45 runs in 59 games. If healthy, the 33-year-old — who had never previously missed significant time — should return to 20 homers and 90 runs atop Philadelphia’s lineup.
17.12: Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
How much will the price rise in light of his trade to Boston? Perhaps not as much since he likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. As a fifth outfielder, I’ll take the chance on strong bat-to-ball skills (.294 BA, 13.0 K%, 85.0 contact%) elevating him to a prominent role batting before or after Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. There’s no inflation at this cost, but drafters may now need to invest much more.
18.1: Andrew Heaney (SP- LAA)
This was a tough call between Heaney and Luke Weaver. While Weaver undoubtedly enjoyed more success in limited 2019 work, Heaney notched 118 strikeouts in 95.1 frames behind a superb 14.1% swinging-strike rate. That would tie Matthew Boyd for eighth among all qualified starters if he had worked the necessary innings. I can’t seem to quit him just yet despite durability issues and a 4.44 career ERA. My top-heavy starting staff can stomach the gamble.
19.12: Kolten Wong (2B – STL)
In drafts where I don’t land an upper-card option (preferably Ozzie Albies), I often end up sidelining the position until acquiring Wong much later. While I don’t expect the career .260 hitter to bat .280 again, he finally has a chance to operate near the top of a depleted St. Louis lineup. That should lead to far more than last year’s 61 runs while once again swiping 20 bags. In hindsight, however, I should have pounced on the other neglected position and taken Wilson Ramos or Will Smith well past their ADPs.
20.1: Ian Kennedy (RP – KC)
Another boring pick, Kennedy gives me a second closer out of the gate. The 9.9% swinging-strike rate certainly doesn’t support last year’s 27.4% strikeout rate, but regression fears are overly factored into this clearance price.
Others Considered: Joe Jimenez
21.12: Luke Weaver (SP – ARI)
I assumed I gave up my shot at Weaver when taking Heaney instead. Then I figured I was missing out again when opting for Kennedy. Alas, the Arizona righty was still waiting for a home at the next turn. It’s a low-risk gamble on him returning to the ace form exhibited early last year.
22.1: Sean Murphy (C – OAK)
As I learned from my last mock draft, the automated teams will occasionally draft two catchers in a one-catcher format. Thirteen were already gone by the time I scooped up Murphy, who made a shining first impression by brandishing a 135 wRC+ in 60 major league plate appearances. While it’s a small sample size, my team needed another power jolt. That gave him the nod over Francisco Mejia.
23.12: Ryan Braun (OF – MIL)
Braun isn’t going to stay healthy all season. Even if he does, he won’t play every day. If he’s going this late, it doesn’t matter. Despite limited playing time, he’s stolen double-digit bases in each of the last six seasons with no fewer than 17 dingers. This isn’t a case of hoping a former MVP returns to form; he’s a huge bargain if procuring another 20 homers and 10 steals.
24.1: Joey Lucchesi (SP – SD)
Marcus Stroman checks higher in my rankings, but he’s better in deeper leagues when needing a steady hand. A popular 2019 breakout pick, Lucchesi fell considerably short of the hype. His 4.18 ERA and 23.0% K rate doesn’t inspire much confidence. On the bright side, the 26-year-old induced weaker contact in terms of average exit velocity, hard hits, and barrels. Perhaps Lucchesi is now more prepared to handle the rigors of a full season after slouching to the finish line with a 5.49 September ERA and relinquishing a 7.26 ERA and 1.74 WHIP when working a third time through the order. A secret new pitch could also prove to a helpful companion to his filthy changeup.
25.12: Tommy La Stella (2B/3B – LAA)
Since I waited so long to take a starting second baseman with limited upside, I ended the draft with a low-risk, high-reward Plan B. Perhaps the most unlikely slugger to materialize from last year’s power boom, La Stella smacked 16 home runs in half a season after previously pelting 10 in 947 career plate appearances. I’m more intrigued, however, by the elite 89.8% contact and 8.7% strikeout rates that fully supported his .295 batting average. Flashing those skills could feasibly earn him leadoff reps ahead of Trout and Anthony Rendon.
Others Considered: Nick Madrigal
My team consists of two MVPs and two Cy Young Award winners each, and that was all from the 10th round or later. Maybe that’s a sign I leaned too much on brand-name veterans. That’d be a bigger problem if I didn’t attain them all below market value.
This didn’t play out like my typical draft. I usually only have one ace through five rounds. If I double up, I’d often wait much longer before penciling in a third and fourth starter. As a result, this offense isn’t entirely up to my standards. But hey, the Draft Wizard still graded me an A-minus (90 out of 100) despite some power deficiency. Sometimes everything falls perfectly in your lap. Other times, you’ll feel frustrated when your targets are sniped virtually every round. Exposing yourself to such adversity is one of the many benefits of practicing before your drafts that actually count.