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Mock Draft: 12-Team Late Pick (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Jul 17, 2020

Is there more merit to drafting a high-end closer like Roberto Osuna in the shortened season?

Now that drafters have begun to test the waters of an unconventional 2020 MLB season, some interesting trends are starting to emerge.

Rather than shying away from aces because of the small sample size, drafters are often embracing those top pitchers so they can fade the riskier mid-tier options. Since there’s less time to accumulate free saves on the waiver wire, closers with a firm grip on the ninth inning have skyrocketed up draft boards. The innings gap between a high-leverage reliever and ordinary starter could also lessen over a 60-game sprint.

Let’s put those strategies into action. Usually, I enter mock drafts with no specific plans. This time, however, I had these goals in mind prior to conducting a 12-team mock on FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.

  • Take an ace with my first two picks, as long as I wasn’t passing up a hitter I rank significantly higher. Picking 11th, this most likely meant choosing Max Scherzer with my second selection.
  • Draft one high-end closer, preferably Josh Hader, Kirby Yates, or Roberto Osuna.
  • Embrace a bit more risk, and don’t get bogged down by (often outdated) ADP.

This approach isn’t my norm, and I leaned into the unknown with another atypical high-variance pick in the early rounds. Eventually, I veered back into more familiar territory and loaded my roster with boring veterans.

Roster: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, 5 OF, 1 UTIL, 3 SP, 2 RP, 4 P
Settings: 12-Team Rotisserie, Standard 5×5 Categories

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1.11: Trevor Story (SS – COL)
I figured I’d likely grab Nolan Arenado with the 11th pick, but his teammate was also on the board. Although I’m not opposed to opening with a four-category star when he’s as reliable as Colorado’s third baseman, Story also brings speed to the table alongside plenty of pop. It didn’t require much deliberation to select my seventh-ranked player.

Others Considered: Nolan Arenado

2.2: Max Scherzer (SP – WAS)
Although I rank Alex Bregman (13), J.D. Martinez (14), and Jose Ramirez (15) a tad higher, I wanted to see how the draft would unfold with Scherzer (16) spearheading my rotation. There’s certainly risk in taking a hurler — set to turn 36 four days after an anticipated Opening Day start against the Yankees — who has worked 2,290 career regular-season innings. The back issues endured last year only intensify those worries, but he’s also authored an ERA under 3.00 and strikeout rate above 30% in each of the last five seasons. If healthy, Scherzer is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate who could reach 100 punchouts in just a dozen starts.

Others Considered: Alex Bregman, Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez 

3.11: Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
There’s a bit of a talent dip later in Round 3. My squad could be in trouble if I get the Altuve who slogged to a .262/.328/.453 slash line in last year’s first half. Given his stellar track record, I’ll expect something closer to the star who rebounded to bat .325/.372/.622 in 69 second-half contests. Unfortunately, the stolen bases probably aren’t coming back.

Others Considered: Xander Bogaerts, Javier Baez

4.2: Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC)
Well, speaking of stolen bases. I typically want no part of Mondesi, whose aggressive approach and shoulder injury create too much volatility in the early rounds. But this is just a mock, and I didn’t have to drastically overpay. Besides, the alternatives weren’t perfect either. Austin Meadows comes with his own injury history while Ketel Marte is a likely regression candidate. Although I might have chosen Clayton Kershaw if forgoing Scherzer in the second round, that’s a lot of premium draft capital to invest in aging pitchers with a high odometer reading.

Others Considered: Austin Meadows, Ketel Marte, Clayton Kershaw

5.11: Eloy Jimenez (OF – CHW)
Even if Altuve doesn’t run, I’ve got quite the head start in steals. My offensive cornerstones, however, don’t yet combine to muster major power. Enter Jimenez, who smashed 31 dingers in just 504 plate appearances as a rookie. Given his late contact gains and career .311 batting average in the minors, the 23-year-old should easily eclipse last year’s .267 clip. He could quickly blossom into a young Nelson Cruz, which would mend my broken heart from seeing Minnesota’s DH sniped right before this selection.

I was prepared to draft Hader here, but he went at pick 53 overall.

Others Considered: Paul Goldschmidt, Eugenio Suarez, Matt Olson

6.2: Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
The team at the turn doubled up on pitchers, so I had my choice of all the sluggers that drew consideration with the last pick. Goldschmidt was the boring choice, and that’s precisely what I craved following a riskier-than-usual start. This will be a great buy if he repairs his batting average back near his career .292 norm, but an unnecessary overpay if the former first-rounder instead replicates last year’s humdrum .260 mark.

Others Considered: Eugenio Suarez, Matt Olson, Chris Paddack

7.11: Josh Donaldson (3B – MIN)
All of my typical outfield targets (Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Nick Castellanos, and Marcell Ozuna) went earlier than I hoped. As a result, this pick boiled down to Donaldson or Matt Chapman. Donaldson’s softer AL Central schedule — combined with Chapman’s .178 average in September flaming fears of one untimely slump — led me once again into the arms of a former superstar. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these two picks began an unintentional trend of taking boring veterans.

Others Considered: Matt Chapman

8.2: Roberto Osuna (RP – HOU)
With Hader and Yates (pick 6.11) long gone, this presented my last chance to get a true top-tier closer. Aroldis Chapman is uncertain for Opening Day after testing positive for COVID-19, and Kenley Jansen is also returning from a positive diagnosis. Liam Hendriks and Taylor Rogers don’t have the track record to confidently invest such an early pick.

Osuna, meanwhile, has kept his WHIP below 1.00 in all five major league seasons. He’s locked into a ninth-inning role and repaired 2018 bizarre strikeout decline with a career-high 16.9% swinging-strike rate. This is typically earlier than I’d like to snag a closer, but the elite options could make an enhanced impact over 60 games. As noted by Baseball HQ’s Ryan Bloomfield, the eighth round is actually an immense discount compared to the position’s higher going rate in two high-stakes NFBC drafts.

Others Considered: Corey Kluber, Ramon Laureano

9.11: Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
It would have been nice if Corey Kluber, Sonny Gray or Brandon Woodruff fell, but the fantasy gods were not feeling generous. Although this is a break-even pick based on Lynn’s ECR and ADP, I’m buying last year’s breakout. Also, I thought he was more likely to go in the next two selections than my other target, Michael Conforto.

Others Considered: Michael Conforto, Frankie Montas 

10.2: Max Kepler (OF – MIN)
Whoops. The team at the turn poached Conforto. Oh well, other power outfielders remained ripe for the taking. Perhaps I might have plucked Kyle Schwarber if I felt better about my lineup’s projected batting average. Kepler won’t help much there either, but like Goldschmidt and Donaldson, he shouldn’t be too much of a liability.  The late-season tailspin mitigates his price following a 36-homer campaign, and there’s massive run potential if again leading off for a potent Twins lineup that gets a heavy helping of AL Central pitching.

Others Considered: Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins

11.11: Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE)
I over-corrected after taking Mondesi, paying attention only to power hitters with no sizzle on the basepaths. Mercado, attained 22 spots below his 109 ECR, brings more balance into the fold. Cleveland manager Terry Francona plans on batting Francisco Lindor third with the newly acquired Cesar Hernandez leading off, which means Mercado is likely to maintain the valuable No. 2 slot where he spent most of his rookie campaign. Like Kepler, he’ll play half of his season against the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers, who respectively ranked 22th, 27th, and 28th in team ERA last season.

Others Considered: Kyle Hendricks, Justin Turner, Kenta Maeda

12.2: Kyle Hendricks (SP – CHC)
Lynn and Scherzer (despite pitching 172.1 innings) respectively finished seventh and eighth on 2019’s strikeout leaderboard. That duo allowed me to welcome The Professor as my SP3. Despite owning a 3.14 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over his six-year career, Hendricks goes underappreciated because of his low velocity and middling strikeout rates. Yet a 20.9% K rate won’t kill you when supplemented by the right pitchers, and there’s little reason to believe the bottom will fall out. He only throws in the 80s, but he succeeds year after year even though that’s always been the case.

Others Considered: Kenta Maeda, Justin Turner

13.11: Hector Neris (RP – PHI)
Bloomfield’s board popped into my mind again when seeing Neris and Brandon Workman available in the 13th round. What would have represented a fair market price in the spring now felt like a great deal. Also, the closer player pool falls off in a hurry. Neris, who is back in camp after initially going on the COVID-19 injured list, represented the last high-impact option with a steady role following last season’s 2.93 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 32.4% K rate. Hindsight validates this selection, as a reliever run broke out in Rounds 14 and 15.

Others Considered: Brandon Workman, J.D. Davis

14.2: Edwin Encarnacion (1B – CHW)
Actually, I should have waited to take Neris here. This way, I would have J.D. Davis on my squad. With yet another Mets outfielder sniped by Team 12, I gave some serious thought to making Workman my third closer. Instead, I grabbed another big-time power bat. Encarnacion has popped at least 32 homers in each of the last eight seasons. A fortified White Sox should also solidify his status as a major RBI producer.

Others Considered: Lorenzo Cain, Khris Davis, Jake Odorizzi

15.11: Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN)
Another high-strikeout option to complement Hendricks, Odorizzi’s 5.3 innings per start won’t hurt too much behind three durable staff anchors. At 8-2 with a 1.96 ERA and 70 strikeouts, he was a legitimate AL Cy Young Award candidate 12 starts through 2019.

Others Considered: Andrew Heaney 

16.2: Adam Eaton (OF – WAS)
The projections still presented batting average as a problem, and it was harder to turn a blind eye after drafting Encarnacion. So even if Byron Buxton hadn’t just got carted off the field in practice, I would have pivoted to the stabler Eaton. The career .285 hitter hasn’t hit a floor much lower than last year’s .279, and he chips away at all the other categories (especially runs).

Others Considered: Byron Buxton

17.11: Luke Weaver (SP – ARI)
Before suffering a forearm strain in late May, Weaver ranked 15th among all starters in K-BB rate. His short-lived season (3.03 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 21.3 K-BB%) was in line with Kershaw’s full 2019 (3.05 ERA, 1,05 WHIP, 20.9 K-BB%). Weaver returned for one September start and has had extra time to recuperate; Arizona’s 26-year-old righty is a sneaky upside play as my SP5.

Others Considered: Joe Musgrove, Joe Jimenez

18.2: Ryan Braun (1B/OF – MIL)
The Draft Simulator pegged Braun as the top lift, and I agreed. Like most of my old-man offense, Braun’s best years are behind him, but he’s not washed up just yet. Coming off a season in which he slashed .285/.343/.505, the 36-year-old can now preserve his legs by spending time at DH. He could still dominate in a short sprint, as evidenced by last year’s .425 wOBA in May and .394 wOBA in 60-second half games.

With three former MVPs in tow (Altuve, Donaldson, and Braun … Goldschmidt finished second twice), this offense would annihilate the competition in 2016. I’m betting it still gets the job done now.

Others Considered: Shin-Shoo Choo, Joe Musgrove

19.11: Rich Hill (SP – MIN)
You’re darn right I took another Twins pitcher. Now that Hill should be ready to start the season, the hype will likely elevate his cost far above the 19th round. His NFBC ADP has shot up to 182 this month, so I probably would have needed to take him in lieu of Odorizzi or Weaver in an actual draft.

Before overpaying, remember that the 40-year-old is far from guaranteed to even last two months. He’s also endured some early control issues in recent years. As long as the price remains reasonable, however, Hill is nevertheless too tempting considering his 2.92 ERA and 29.3% K rate since resurfacing at the end of 2015.

Others Considered: Shin-Shoo Choo, Dylan Bundy

20.2: Shin-Soo Choo (OF – TEX)
Yeah, I know. My team is super old. Get all of the AARP jokes out of your system now. I just couldn’t keep passing on Choo, who consistently hits over .260 with 20-plus homers, a few steals, and a plethora of runs when healthy. Although not entirely by design, my outfield is full of unheralded options bound to pile up counting numbers atop their team’s respective lineups. Perhaps that’s a market inefficiency to exploit.

Others Considered: C.J. Cron, Daniel Murphy

21.11: Garrett Richards (SP – SD)
Richards feels like a young lad compared to these last picks, but he’s already 32. That’s a bit troubling, as he’s worked a combined 147.1 major league innings over the last four seasons. Chasing the revival in a full season was probably a fool’s errand, but I’ll hold out hope for one superb stretch.

Others Considered: C.J. Cron, Daniel Murphy

22.2: Carson Kelly (C – ARI)
Kelly’s vast platoon splits (.453 wOBA, .296 wOBA) and September swoon dampened any real breakout buzz Kelly might have otherwise earned by matching J.T. Realmuto in wRC+ (108) last season. In single-catcher leagues, he’s an end-of-draft option when punting the position. If he starts cold, don’t wait too long to swap him for a hotter hand.

Others Considered: Yadier Molina 

Summary

Full disclosure, it slipped my mind that I didn’t set any bench spots. I planned to load up on cheap relievers with early opportunities for saves (Ryan Helsley, Zach Britton, Nick Burdi) and stud setup men (Diego Castillo, Matt Barnes, James Karinchak) to fortify my ratios while potentially vulturing some wins and/or saves. My starting-heavy staff offset the ERA and WHIP gains from taking two established closers, who weren’t enough to yield a strong projected finish in saves either.

Despite this miscalculation, I’m projected to finish in second with an A- (90 out of 100) grade. While strong in runs, home runs, and steals, the Draft Analysis doesn’t like my squad’s chances to compete in RBIs and batting average. But the difference in jumping a few points in each category is relatively minuscule.

Ultimately, I’d like my team more if I swapped out Scherzer and Mondesi for Bregman and Kershaw. Perhaps I would have then taken Paddack in the sixth. With that said, I might have missed out on some great hitting values if obligated to play catch-up at pitching.

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Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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