12-Team Mock Draft (Early Pick) (Fantasy Baseball 2020)
There’s no denying that selecting in the early portion of a snake draft has one clear advantage: having a shortlist of players from which you are guaranteed to choose. In 2020, the top-three picks are not only clear, but all play the same position. Therefore, drafting first, second, or third will allow for either Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna, or Christian Yelich — my preferred order — and secure the first outfield position. Obviously, other players could slide into this shortlist, but current ADP suggests otherwise.
Selecting an outfielder in the first round will lead to a lesser chance to land a top pitcher. Much of the preseason talk has surrounded the “Big Four Plus Buehler,” but even Buehler might be out of reach in the second round. This is the one sacrifice if we’ll call it that.
Otherwise, the decision is made for us. Take the best available hitter with one of the first three picks — if picking early — and build afterward.
Drafting third, the pre-draft strategy I would like to utilize is as follows:
- If I can’t get Gary Sanchez or J.T. Realmuto, do not draft a catcher until the last round.
- Try to grab the top closer — Aroldis Chapman — and then fill in with depth afterward. Reach, if necessary.
- Do not fill third base for as long as possible, but look for value at first base.
- There are a lot of starting pitching options usually available in the fifth through seventh rounds. Remember this and, if possible, target mostly bats earlier.
- Prioritize stolen bases where possible, but don’t lose sight of drafting the better hitter — if choosing between two.
- Don’t go overboard with sleepers. I have many that I like, but that doesn’t mean my team has to be filled with them.
The lineup of this 12-team draft is C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, UTIL, 5 SP, 3 RP, 5 BN, and was conducted using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.
1.3: Christian Yelich (OF – MIL)
I wrote in the introduction that Mike Trout was still was my preferred top pick. Drafting third, I didn’t have a say in the matter. Trout and Acuna went first and second, respectively, and I will gladly take Christian Yelich as the centerpiece of my team. He even brings stolen base potential with him, which is a positive.
2.10: Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
Not surprisingly, all five of the pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler — went before my second pick. This leads to a bit of strategy via predictions. With two people making the next four picks, combined, it’s likely that two more pitchers will be taken. That would push me farther down the starting pitcher list than I would like, but it will also lead to two more hitters falling back to me. I’d rather take control of my pitching situation early than be forced to settle. Jack Flaherty is my ace.
3.3: George Springer (OF – HOU)
Only one pitcher was selected after me, so my gamble didn’t exactly work as expected. But, I’m now able to move back to hitters for the foreseeable future. In my 10-team mock draft, I filled my power need with Yordan Alvarez in this round, but I also had a lower starting point for power than I do with Yelich. Here, I want a little more balance, and George Springer — for one reason or another — is the perfect value for my team. He arguably would have been in the MVP conversation if not for his injury in 2019 and still put up monstrous numbers.
4.10: Keston Hiura (2B – MIL)
I gave a long pause before passing on Adalberto Mondesi, but my love for Keston Hiura has blossomed into dangerous territory with each passing mock draft. He’s going to be overvalued, and I’m still willing to pay the price. I haven’t had a problem filling my shortstop position in any mock draft I’ve done, but I can’t stay the same about second base. Hiura has a chance to finish the season as the league’s best fantasy second baseman. More realistically, he’ll be in the top-five. Which is exactly where I’m drafting him.
5.3: Noah Syndergaard (SP – NYM)
I’m glad I wrote the pre-draft strategy — and notes to myself — because it’s time for me to exhibit restraint. I had planned to target pitching again around this time and, even though I don’t love my options, I know that missing another starting pitcher here will hurt me — and, in a real draft, humans start to panic about pitching. I’ll slide down my list a little more than I would like and secure a player that could vault into the top-five by season’s end. Noah Syndergaard may not be consistently healthy to trust, but he’s worth the risk in the fifth round.
Others Considered: Anthony Rizzo and Chris Paddock
6.10: Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)
This worked out well. Pitchers did start to go off the board quickly in the eighteen picks between my two — five starting pitchers, to be exact — but the top closer in the game was available. Not for long, as Aroldis Chapman became the one relief pitcher worthy of high investment. It also helped that both Gary Sanchez and J.T. Realmuto were taken, which moves me out of the catcher search until the end of the draft.
7.3: Jose Berrios (SP – MIN)
I did miss out on Yoan Moncada — a moment of silence for my sadness, please — but I quickly recovered when looking at the pitchers available to me. This was what I expected when I started my draft, and the decision is now in my hands. I’ve continued to buy into Jose Berrios heavily, and there’s no reason to stop now. Win potential is there, the strikeouts remain high, and he’s consistently kept his ERA under 4.00. He’ll be my third starting pitcher and fourth arm in my staff. I don’t mind it at all.
8.10: Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)
Out of necessity, I have to move away from starting pitching and fill my lineup. Unfortunately, the bat I most need is in my deepest position. So be it. I’m as much a believer in Nick Castellanos as the Cincinnati Reds, and the hitter-friendly ballpark and solid lineup can only be viewed as positives for my third outfielder.
9.3: Tim Anderson (SS – CWS)
I didn’t prepare for it, but it looks like my team will be solid in batting average. This will allow me to make some riskier moves later for high home run totals, and Tim Anderson fits the need at both shortstop and mitigating future risk. I am also buying into a stronger offense for the Chicago White Sox, where Anderson can reap the rewards.
10.10: Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
While I don’t love the first half of my draft, I am pleased with the value I’m now finding that fits best with my roster. My hitting is strong — and will be stronger by the end of the draft — but my pitching needs depth. Volume. I’m anticipating selecting at least one pitcher with each of my next few pairs of picks. It starts with Zac Gallen, one of my favorite pitching sleepers for 2020.
11.3: Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
Did I say one pitcher with every pair of picks? I lied. Seeing Jesus Luzardo last four more picks was too much of a gift to pass up. I wanted depth, and I now have it. It’s currently at the risk of filling first base, but I’ll see how long that hurts me. For now, I’m offsetting all of the concerns I’d have with Jack Flaherty leading my rotation.
12.10: Carlos Santana (1B – CLE)
It did not hurt me! Santana was the player I most regretted ignoring, but it worked to my advantage to grab two of my favorite pitchers when I could. The eighteen picks between Luzardo and Santana included 13 pitchers! This allowed hitters to fall too far where I was waiting for one with open arms. My lineup continues to remain balanced, and I’m starting to grow sadder by realizing this is a mock draft.
Others Considered: Hansel Robles
13.3: Hansel Robles (RP – LAA)
No need to overthink this pick. I wanted to wait until grabbing another closer, and the 13th round — with many other needs already met — was an easy decision for me. I have eighteen more picks between now and the next, and closers will start to become a priority for others. I can’t let myself fall too far behind in any one area.
14.10: Justin Turner (3B – LAD)
I make it a point to not specifically target value in every single round. Not only is it impossible, but it’s impractical. Always digging for value will occasionally prevent a fantasy owner from overspending when it’s worth it to overspend. Conversely, some players are simply too low in ADP. Justin Turner is one of these players. Even if I had not been seeking value, Turner would have jumped out at me. He’s incredibly inexpensive because of how deep third base is in 2020, and this is precisely the reason why I waited to fill the position.
15.3: Sean Manaea (SP – OAK)
While I am aware that my team is lacking in power, I remain committed to finding home runs later. For now, the goal is to balance out other statistics that need a boost. Sean Manaea gives me this opportunity. Manaea is another pitcher I’m targeting at a diminished value, and it’s largely because he is returning from injury. Isn’t it possible that he’s finally ready to emerge into a star now that he’s healthy and has experience? If so, this is the ideal pick in the second half of a draft.
Others Considered: David Dahl
16.10: David Dahl (OF – COL)
I’ve let David Dahl last too long for my liking. He’s an injury risk, but a high upside target that could contribute in many categories. The Colorado Rockies’ offense is never lacking runs, and Dahl fits in anywhere. It was ultimately a decision between him and Khris Davis and, while I openly admitted to needing the power, I can’t avoid the overall package Dahl brings to the table.
Others Considered: Khris Davis
17.3: Khris Davis (DH – OAK)
Again, the goal was to take chances that were already offset by steadier picks. Khris Davis was a consideration with my last selection but is an obvious choice now that he lasted one more round — albeit, a short one. Davis will hurt the batting average I so carefully coveted, but I can stomach the dip if he provides 40 home runs. If not, he’ll wilt away on my bench.
Others Considered: Mychal Givens
18.10: Mitch Keller (SP – PIT)
Time to be aggressive! In full disclosure, not only did I have to restrain myself from selecting Mitch Keller earlier, but I had to refrain from writing about selecting Mitch Keller earlier. Now that it’s happened, I can freely proclaim my love for the former top prospect. And why not? I’ve already done it in every other article. I’m still relying on Keller’s gaudy ERA pushing down his stock because his underlying metrics remain excellent. Most notably, his strikeout rate is frighteningly good.
Others Considered: Kyle Gibson
19.3: Ryan Pressly (RP – HOU)
I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and drafting a relief pitcher not tied to saves. This is largely due to the value that Ryan Pressly brings to any fantasy team, even if he’s lacking the key statistic for which most relievers are selected. I touched upon his major increase in value in my Saves Plus Holds Leagues Primer, but the reality is that he can help keep the ratio statistics of WHIP and ERA in line for the rest of a fantasy roster. That he could always step in for a save or steal a win is an added bonus.
Others Considered: Mychal Givens
20.10: Christian Walker (1B – ARI)
I had prioritized Miguel Sano in other drafts, but the opportunity to select never really presented itself here. Instead, I waited not only to fill my first base slot, but also the required backup. Christian Walker achieves the goal of adding to my power profile and representing some possible upside. He only drove in 73 runs in 2019 but could see a boost as he hits in the middle of the Arizona Diamondback’s batting order.
21.3: Brandon Kintzler (RP – MIA)
With only one bench slot left — and my last pick forcing me to look for a catcher — I’ll turn back to the volume I wanted at the back of the bullpen. Brandon Kintzler is expected to get the save opportunities for the Miami Marlins and, while there might not be many, they should be his. That’s enough for me.
Others Considered: Francisco Mejia
22.10: Danny Jansen (C – TOR)
My options were obviously limited at the catcher position, but Danny Jansen was a nice sleeper target in 2019. He failed many of us miserably, but it now creates a discount for the encore. I did commit to moving catcher to the bottom of my priorities, so I can’t split hairs about which would be best for my team. Still, what if the Toronto Blue Jays are strong offensively? And what if Jansen is as good as last year’s hype suggested?
Others Considered: Robinson Chirinos
With the number of young arms I selected — most of whom will not reach anywhere near 200 innings — I expect my overall pitching projections to be low. This type of team would require adding at least one solid starting pitcher before the end of the season. But, if the arms I targeted perform as expected, their per-inning value will be outstanding.
Elsewhere, the lack of power is also a concern, but a decision I actively made throughout the draft. The only possible swap would have been selecting Yordan Alvarez over George Springer, but Springer has enough power to keep this gap closed. Otherwise, I’m banking on the quality of hitter to outweigh specialization of one category — i.e. Keston Hiura and Nick Castellanos delivering in multiple areas on a regular basis.
This team has the usual amount of risk-reward that I like in a roster, where it won’t rank well against other lineups, but has the growth potential to make some noise in a fantasy league.