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12-Team Mock Draft: Punting Home Runs (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

May 3, 2020

Adalberto Mondesi is a no-doubt pick for a team that doesn’t want home runs.

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There are mock drafts for the purpose of practice, and there are mock drafts for the purpose of testing. This is the latter.

This is the extreme of the latter.

The task is to try to build a winning lineup with one metaphorical arm tied behind our backs. Here, it’s an important arm.

I will be conducting this mock draft by attempting to punt home runs. It’s nearly impossible because doing so will absolutely destroy at least one other category: RBI. There may be hope, however. “Punting” home runs might not actually be possible. There is so much power potential in today’s game that I might land on some by accident. Still, the limitation is that I can’t draft for power.

This leads to the obvious follow-up question: What is the best way to build a team without home runs?

In theory, pitchers might not be affected. The team still needs to have a full, valid lineup, so we’re essentially swapping one home run source for a source of something else. The hypothesis is that runs batted in will suffer, but stolen bases — the scarcest of categories for hitters — would have to be heavily targeted. The next most important category would be batting average, and this is actually easier to digest. Many good sources of batting average thrive on doubles and not home runs. They would be the perfect fit for my team.

Finally, moving back to the topic of pitchers, I have to assume that I will target them with an increased priority. This will be similar to my Pitchers Early article in which I actively avoided hitters, but could not afford to miss with arms. It won’t be as heavy, but I can’t imagine punting home runs and not still swinging for the fences anyway in the form of high-end pitching.

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The lineup of this 12-team draft is C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, UTIL, 2 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 5 BN, and was conducted using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.

1.6 Gerrit Cole (SP – NYY)
What a great decision to have to make immediately. The top four hitters went in the first four picks, but Juan Soto jumped ahead of me and left me with my favorite argument about draft strategy. By the numbers and by the strategy set forth in this mock draft, Mookie Betts is an absolutely perfect pick. He does give power but is easily behind the players already drafted ahead of him. The setup, however, is not in Betts’ value. It’s in the aforementioned “favorite argument” of not simply taking the next player in-line. Instead, if the best player at an important, unaddressed position is available, go there. Welcome to the team, Gerrit Cole.

Others Considered: Mookie Betts

2.7 Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
I groaned. Really. I had this played perfectly. One reason behind taking Cole in the first round was because of how likely it was for Fernando Tatis Jr. to be my second pick. He went one spot before my turn. Hence, the groan. The bigger problem is that Walker Buehler and Justin Verlander are both off the board, and they would have made for a great start to my team with Cole — or without him, had I made the decision to go with Betts. I’m in a bind. I can’t draft a hitter without adding roughly 30 home runs to my total, and the remainder of the top pitching tier is gone. I can’t believe I’m going to do this — out of necessity and not by design — but I’ll stack my starting pitching and work on my hitters shortly. Jack Flaherty it is.

Others Considered: Stephen Strasburg, Starling Marte

3.6 Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
Things are not going well. I’m still looking at 25-30 home runs with any hitter I select here and, while I have to accept that I will add power by default, the key is to make sure that I am stacked everywhere else. Punting only works if you can dominate in the other areas. Stolen bases, batting average, and elite starting pitching remain my best keys to success. One problem is that I’ve seen the team that can be built by taking pitchers through three rounds and, while I like it, it doesn’t serve the purpose of this experiment — it’s already covered in the other article. This makes me reluctantly pass on Shane Bieber. The other issue is that middle infield is my best source of speed, and I know that I can find one in the next three rounds. Still, I have to take the chance and fill one spot now. Ozzie Albies is not an elite stolen base option, but he should crack the top-20 and give value everywhere else.

Others Considered: Shane Bieber

4.7 Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC) 
The “speed in the middle infield” I mentioned in the last writeup was directly referring to Adalberto Mondesi, as I was confident he would be available in the fourth round. He’ll probably hurt my batting average, but he’s a no-doubt pick for a team that doesn’t want home runs.

Others Considered: Ketel Marte

5.6 Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – KC)
The third middle infielder I was targeting has now landed in my lap and, while I don’t love my team as a whole, I do like the moves I’ve made to lock up one category — and start with a big edge in starting pitching. In fact, I might have to bail on hitters now with three sources of stolen bases. Had Whit Merrifield been eligible only at second base, I would not have taken Albies when I did — I would have gone with Bieber and risked losing Merrifield in this round. Knowing that I could slot Merrifield into the outfield led to an easier path to starting all three players in my lineup.

Others Considered: Aaron Nola

6.7 Aroldis Chapman (RP – NYY)
There was a run on starting pitching that moved me too far down the list to be comfortable at this point, but I will make an aggressive move and jump to the next area I would like to secure: saves from a top-flight closer. I should have no problem getting a solid closer in the next round, but no available hitter serves my cause. DJ LeMahieu is the only one I might regret skipping. We’ll see what happens if I pass on him here. Aroldis Chapman becomes the newest member of my pitching staff.

Others Considered: DJ LeMahieu

7.6 DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B – NYY)
I did overlook my beloved Jose Berrios in the last round, and I felt a twinge of pain when he was selected after my pick. Still, my move was based on strategy, and it worked out well. DJ LeMahieu is still available and will help my team’s batting average from multiple positions — granted one is filled by Albies and Merrifield.

Others Considered: Victor Robles

8.7 Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF – NYM)
I didn’t set out for versatility to be such an important part of this particular team, but I’m feeling the pull toward solid hitters who are eligible at multiple positions. I believe the eligibility is consequential and not driving my decisions, but it’s an interesting footnote. It might also be that power hitters are frequently found in the corners and, with me actively avoiding them, I’m targeting a new crop of bats. Jeff McNeil is the latest, as I love his batting average and expect him to be one of the better all-around contributors for my lineup.

Others Considered: Luis Robert, Michael Brantley

9.6 Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
I don’t want to go too much longer without stacking my pitching. I’m torn between a starter or a closer, but I see a nice crop of relief pitchers on the horizon and I expect at least one to be available in the next round. I can’t say the same for the starting pitchers on the board. I don’t particularly love any of the arms in front of me, but I have no problem with Mike Soroka as the third starter on my team. He’ll get enough wins on the Atlanta Braves to help my team.

Others Considered: Kenley Jansen, Edwin Diaz

10.7 Edwin Diaz (RP – NYM)
I was hoping that Zac Gallen would fall one more round so I could squeal with excitement. It didn’t happen. No excitement. Certainly no squeal. If anything, it’s the complete opposite. I have to decide between another closer — which, if I’m following my plan from last round, is the ‘right’ pick — or adding some much-needed runs batted in without guaranteeing power. I’ll go with the closer to continue solidifying pitching as much as possible.

Others Considered: Brad Hand, Carlos Santana

11.6 David Dahl (OF – COL)
I continue to feel less comfortable with this team, and I believe it is because I will be accidentally adding power somewhere. I’m a big fan of David Dahl, and I see massive potential if he can stay on the field. He does bring some home runs that I don’t want, but I’m expecting a high batting average and enough runs batted in to help my powerless offense. I can also use a true outfielder for this roster.

Others Considered: Carlos Santana, Oscar Mercado

12.7 Max Fried (SP – ATL)
I have no problem turning back to starting pitcher at this point, as a few of my preferred targets are nearing the point where they will go rapidly. Here, I’m looking at Max Fried, Matthew Boyd, and Julio Urias. I am somewhat committed to taking two-of-the-three if at least one more is available in the next round. Although I actually prefer Boyd or Urias over Fried, my roster is most lacking the opportunity for wins. Urias’ team is an ideal setup to win games, but I can’t trust that he’ll give me a full season’s worth of starts. At least, not more than I should get from Fried. I’ll still aim for Urias or Boyd in the next round — based on how things play out after this pick — but I will add Fried here.

Others Considered: Matthew Boyd, Julio Urias

13.6 Julio Urias (SP/RP – LAD)
Both! Both were available with my next pick, and I now have to fight within myself to decide between the two. It looks like strikeouts and wins are both still lacking and, while I fully expect Matthew Boyd to be an excellent source of strikeouts and a prime candidate to get traded to a team that could win more games than the Detroit Tigers, I love what Julio Urias could provide in a shortened season. I’ll take the upside.

Others Considered: Matthew Boyd

14.7 Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)
I might be taking a hit in batting average — and possibly getting more home runs than I want — but Kyle Tucker is a solid high-ceiling player who could fall somewhere in the middle of disappointment and hype. He’s frequently coveted by the fantasy baseball community, and it likely inflates his home run totals. If I were drafting for a balanced team, I’d be wary of his projections. Therein lies the value for my roster. Tucker could be a year or two away from developing power, yet still contribute everywhere else — think of George Springer in his first two seasons, where he failed to break the 20-home run barrier.

Others Considered: Lorenzo Cain

15.6 Joe Jimenez (RP – DET)
I’ve spent important draft capital building my rotation and, while I have two solid closers on my roster, I don’t want to wait too long before I add depth. Joe Jimenez might have single-digit save opportunities with the pitiful Detroit Tigers, but I’m expecting him to close out the few chances he gets.

Others Considered: Sean Doolittle

16.7 Mitch Keller (SP – PIT)
Pitchers are going at a frightening pace in this mock, and it means that my obligatory draft selection has arrived. Mitch Keller must be on all of my teams — including mocks — and I’ll fulfill my requirement now. No, I didn’t lose a bet. I love his strikeout potential and how insanely decreased his price is because of a terrible ERA in 2019. All the makings are there for a significant increase in production and, like so many other arms I have targeted or drafted, a shortened season will work wonders on his future innings limit.

Others Considered: Lorenzo Cain

17.6 Lorenzo Cain (OF – MIL)
I am absolutely buying into Lorenzo Cain for 2020, and it’s not only because of his speed. Cain had five consecutive seasons in which he batted at least .287, and hit over .300 in four-of-the-five. A quick decline in 2019 is enough to scare people away, but that’s what makes the return-on-investment so great. The return might not be outstanding, but the investment is minuscule.

Others Considered: Corey Seager, Justin Upton

18.7 Adam Eaton (OF – WAS)
I’m essentially making back-to-back identical picks. Age and injury history will likely lead to a decrease in speed from Adam Eaton, but he should still deliver a high batting average and run total. I need those two statistics more than anything outside of the power department.

Others Considered: Byron Buxton

19.6 Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)
Fine. One more. Last one. I’m clearly targeting the same player type with my bench and, seeing as this is my final non-catcher that will bat for my team, I’ll go down swinging with the man who has burned me on every occasion possible. Byron Buxton has blazing speed and no ability to stay on the field. He’ll score runs, steal bases, visit the injured list twice, and eventually hit the waiver wire.

Others Considered: Didi Gregorius

20.7 Jose Quintana (SP – CHC)
One of the reasons why I take chances with high-upside, young starting pitching is because there is enough depth in the veteran pool to offset the risk. Granted, someone like Jose Quintana also carries risk, but he brings a pedigree that suggests we can rely on him to not implode. I can’t write that about most starting pitchers still available.

Others Considered: Dakota Hudson, A.J. Puk

21.6 Chris Archer (SP – PIT)
I always write the same argument for Chris Archer. He’ll get strikeouts, win some games, toss a few gems, and then have a handful of disastrous outings. I’ve purposely built up my ratio statistics to absorb some bad starts from my pitchers. If Archer can keep striking batters out, he has a place on my team.

Others Considered: Tony Watson

22.7 Willians Astudillo (C/1B/3B – MIN)
I’ve worked too hard to build up my team’s batting average and, seeing as I can’t relegate my catcher to the bench — at least, not during the draft — I needed the player least likely to sink one of the categories in which I should be competitive. I do actually like Willians Astudillo — not only for his versatility, but it helps — and simply need him to get more playing time. As my last pick of the draft, I would anticipate using him until he has no realistic chance at starting.

Others Considered: Tom Murphy


Second place! Seriously?

I purposely include my own commentary as I conduct these mock drafts so that, in addition to sharing my thinking for a certain pick, I’m giving my emotions, too. If you followed along, you know I don’t love this team by any stretch of the imagination, but apparently the system does. The end result of the FantasyPros Draft Simulator projected my team to be the second-best in the league. My opinion is not as kind.

To cite the same article, yet again, my Pitchers Early mock draft shares a lot of similarities with this one, and it’s not completely surprising that I used some of the same players. As I wrote in the introduction, if I were not looking for power, but I still want to make a splash, then spending a premium elsewhere was necessary. Speed became one of the top priorities, as did starting pitching.

The crazy irony is that, as much as I don’t believe this system is actually viable — I simply can’t imagine drafting and forcing myself away from home runs — it does give me pause before casting it aside so easily. Perhaps, if this were a real team, the depth of power found in the league could lead to free agents that would fill the voids of my lineup. It’s not entirely likely, but it is possible.

The reality is that the gap between my lineup and the rest of the league’s is probably wider than the numbers suggest. Unless my hitters universally deliver at or above their projections, I’m probably going to be left in the dust. Still, if I’m experimenting, then this was not a failure. Dare I say that it might have been a success.

I may not like the idea of completely punting home runs, but we probably should be open to stacking a team full of high-end pitchers, stolen base targets, and hitters with excellent batting averages.

Find more of our category-punting MLB mock draft articles:

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros, as well as the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.

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