Skip to main content

MLB Expansion Draft (Portland and Carolina)

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
May 29, 2020

Clint Frazier is the 1st pick in the mock 2020 expansion draft

While we are all stuck in baseball peril, I figured it was time for an enjoyable distraction. When Major League Baseball finally gets things together again, expansion is inevitable within the next decade. The last time we saw it was 23 years ago when the Rays and Diamondbacks were both added. Before then the Marlins and Rockies popped up just five years prior. We also saw two teams added in the 70s and EIGHT in the 60s.

While expansion takes some time to develop rather than just happening overnight, I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to explain the process and how it would have looked if the expansion draft happened this offseason. I’ll explain the two cities I see landing teams, how divisions will change and even go through a full expansion draft to provide realistic-looking rosters. Ready? Let’s do this!

Mock in minutes (free) with our fantasy baseball draft software >>


The 1997 expansion draft featured 35 picks for each expansion team. Every other MLB team was allowed to protect just 15 players under contract from their entire organization (including minor league affiliates). There were three rounds with the first round featuring 14 picks for each expansion. Only one player from each MLB team was allowed to be selected in those 28 total picks.

After Round 1, MLB teams that had a player picked were allowed to protect three more players. Then Round 2 featured 28 more picks with only one from each team allowed to be selected again. At that point, MLB teams with a player picked in Round 2 could protect a final three before Round 3 where there were just 14 total picks. Although rules could change, we will presume the same format for today’s example draft.

Additionally, both teams will be able to sign five free agents in order to fill out their 40-man roster. Rather than just assuming each team can sign whoever they want, we will require them to pay an extra 15% on top of the deals they signed in real life this off-season. There will be a five-round draft where the two franchises select their favorite contracts. And finally, the average payroll of the two 1997 expansion teams was good for 23rd highest in baseball. In today’s money, that would put these expansion teams at about 90 million each to spend (more than the Indians and A’s but just a bit less than the Mariners and Tigers).

New Franchises

There are 18 cities that could legitimately make the case that they are the best fit for an impending expansion team. Being able to only select two feels like a disservice to those who didn’t quite make the cut. With that said, attendance in Miami, Tampa Bay and Oakland have been such a disaster that one or two of those franchises could potentially move within the next decade, granting a third and perhaps fourth city a new team. In fact, we’ve already seen the Rays testing the water in Montreal while the A’s have been rumored to be flirting with a move to either San Jose, Las Vegas or Portland. Let me tell you why I picked the two cities that I did, however.

I put together a similar article for the NFL, profiling four expansion teams and two relocations over the next decade>>

Portland Mavericks
If you have Netflix and haven’t seen the documentary ‘Battered Bastards of Baseball’, stop reading this article this very second and do yourself the service of seeing the greatest documentary I’ve ever seen. It tells the tale of the Portland Mavericks’ independent minor league team that blew away attendance records because of Portland’s reception to the sport. While population and wealth may not have Portland in your top five, this is a baseball city through and through.

Carolina Stampede
Most would presume that like the Carolina Panthers in football, this MLB team would be located in Charlotte. Rather, Raleigh/Durham seems to make more sense from a success standpoint. Charlotte is a bit larger in terms of metro population, sure, but the Raleigh/Durham area is extremely wealthy and has done an excellent job supporting the Durham Bulls minor league team. Carolina is not represented in Major League Baseball and while the Nationals, Orioles and Braves may have some fans in the Carolinas, all of those stadiums are at least four hours away. That leaves 15.7 million available fans between North and South Carolina alone. In fact, Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Newport News metropolitan area has 1.8 million by itself and is closer to Raleigh/Durham than they are any other MLB franchise.

Other Cities in Consideration

  • Charlotte (North Carolina)
  • Montreal (Canada)
  • Las Vegas (Nevada)
  • Nashville (Tennessee)
  • San Juan (Puerto Rico)
  • Monterrey (Mexico)
  • Orlando (Florida)
  • San Antonio/Austin (Texas)
  • Mexico City (Mexico)
  • Indianapolis (Indiana)
  • Virginia Beach (Virginia)
  • Louisville (Kentucky)
  • Vancouver (Canada)
  • New Orleans (Louisiana)
  • Sacramento (California)
  • Oklahoma City (Oklahoma)

New Divisions

With Major League Baseball expanding to 32 teams, we would almost certainly see a jump from 3 divisions per league to 4 per league just like the NFL. That would put 4 teams in each division and would require some minor realignment. With a priority of keeping historical rivals together, this is what I imagine it might look like:

*Team in a new division
~New Franchise

  • AL East (New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles)
  • AL South (Tampa Bay Rays*, Houston Astros*, Texas Rangers*, Kansas City Royals*)
  • AL Central (Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox)
  • AL West (Seattle Mariners, Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels, Portland Mavericks~)
  • NL East (New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates*)
  • NL South (Colorado Rockies*, Atlanta Braves*, Miami Marlins*, Carolina Stampede~)
  • NL Central (Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds)
  • NL West (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks)

This would all mean, of course, that the playoffs are also likely to expand. Like the NFL, we would probably see six teams from each league including the four division winners and two wild cards. The top two division winners from each league would get byes while the other four teams from each league battle it out in three-game series.


You will be shocked to see some of the players that are available in this mock expansion draft, but the same was true in 1997 when the Marlins couldn’t protect their stud prospect, Tony Saunders and the Astros had no room to protect their young fourth outfielder who was also their former minor league player of the year, Bobby Abreu. That player sounds extremely familiar to the 1.01 pick in the mock 2020 expansion draft, Clint Frazier.

Some of today’s top MLB franchises are just loaded with Ross Stripling (the Dodgers’ great #6 starting pitcher) not making their top 15 despite three years of cost-controlled arbitration remaining. The same is true of the Cardinals who may not have the star power of the Yankees, Astros or Dodgers, but have more depth than anyone and especially in the outfield. You’ll also find some high-priced quality veterans like Rougned Odor, Khris Davis, Kyle Seager and Evan Longoria all ripe for the picking. Likewise, there was relief pitching galore available and the expansion teams loaded up.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

  • 3.57 – CAR – Nate Lowe (1B – TB), 0.6 mil – Arb 5 yr
  • 3.58 – POR – Tyler Freeman (SS – CLE), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.59 – CAR – Jhoan Duran (SP – MIN), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.60 – POR – Kody Hoese (3B – LAD), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.61 – CAR – Corbin Martin (SP – ARI), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.62 – POR – Franchy Cordero (OF – SD), 0.6 mil – Arb 4 yr
  • 3.63 – CAR – Andrew Knizner (C – STL), 0.5 mil – 5 yr
  • 3.64 – POR – Mark Vientos (3B – NYM), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.65 – CAR – Johan Camargo (3B – ATL), 1.7 mil – Arb 4 yr
  • 3.66 – POR – Luis Gil (SP – NYY), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.67 – CAR – Lazaro Armenteros (OF – OAK), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.68 – POR – A.J. Reed (1B – CWS), 0.6 mil – Arb 4 yr
  • 3.69 – CAR – Griffin Conine (OF – TOR), Minor Leaguer
  • 3.70 – POR – Bryan Abreu (SP – HOU), Minor Leaguer

Free Agency

Often times, reliable veterans like Starlin Castro, upside pitchers returning from an injury like Taijuan Walker and Jimmy Nelson plus projects like Josh Lindblom and Maikel Franco will sign for cheaper than they are worth because playing time is so difficult to come by. You can bet your bottom dollar many of these names would jump at the chance to start right away for 125% the payday they received on the open market.

Portland Mavericks Final Roster

You might do a double-take when you see the lineup in just a moment. It is legitimately above average and the bullpen is even stronger than that. In fact, this would be one of the top five pens in all of baseball. But in securing these strengths, Portland passed up on defense, they have no speed, one of the league’s worst farm systems and without a question the worst rotation in baseball. Even with the lineup and bullpen, this squad would likely finish around 75-87 or around the 20th best team in baseball. Unsurprisingly, their 93 million dollar payroll puts them in that same 20th-highest range. This veteran-heavy approach is much closer to what the Arizona Diamondbacks attempted than the Florida Marlins in 1997. Let’s not forget that Arizona quickly won a world series when they managed to grab both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to head their rotation.






Carolina Stampede Final Roster

This is a much more traditional expansion build with an emphasis placed on young talent and the most reliable rotation attainable. That rotation may not have any big names but all five have the ability to potentially post a sub-4.00 ERA in front of this all-world defense featuring three of the major’s top five defensive outfielders and one of the best defensive shortstops. Carolina’s lineup is lacking and their bullpen is on the weak side. While the farm system may not have any top 50 prospects, there are 7 names in the top 150 and plenty of upside sprinkled throughout their 40-man roster, so their window to compete might be just a few years away.






SubscribeApple Podcasts | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | TuneIn

Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

What's your take? Leave a comment

Follow the Pros!

Follow us on Twitter @FantasyPros for exclusive advice and contests