Mock Draft: 12-Team Middle Pick (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
If all goes according to plan, MLB will commence its 60-game season on July 23. Since much will continue not according to plan, fantasy baseball players should hold off as long as possible before drafting.
Don’t believe me? Consider the last mock draft I wrote up at the end of June. Freddie Freeman looked like a surefire second-round pick at the time. He since tested positive for COVID-19 and, according to his wife Chelsea, experienced “body aches, headaches, chills, and a high fever.” Of course, any inconvenience ignored by a fake baseball squad means nothing compared to Freeman getting better before then later deciding when, or if, he’s able to work.
Rather than learning my lesson, I conducted another mock draft via FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator a few days earlier than scheduled on July 10. One of my top picks went on the IL, another has not yet reported to camp, and another got injured in practice. It’s going to be that kind of season for everyone.
I decided to mix things up and use Yahoo’s default roster sizes, which eliminates corner and middle infielders while starting just three (rather than five) outfielders. This adjustment didn’t change my preference to load up on offense early, but it led to less emphasis on hitters after corralling my main corps. As we wait to obtain as much clarity as possible before drafting for real, Let’s dive into this latest practice run.
Roster: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 2 UTIL, 2 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 5 BN
Settings: 12-Team Rotisserie, Standard 5×5 Categories
1.7: Francisco Lindor (SS – CLE)
Those conducting live drafts from this spot may have to decide if they should take Mike Trout, but everything went according to the original script before my pick. With the top-five outfielders and Gerrit Cole off the board, I had my choice of the elite shortstops or Jacob deGrom. Given the added volatility of pitchers in a shorter sample size, I went with Lindor’s five-category liability. Playing one-third of his games against the Tigers and Royals certainly helps his cause.
2.6: J.D. Martinez (OF – BOS)
This pick probably would have been Freeman if healthy. Martinez is another four-category stud well worth the second-round investment. Boston’s DH leads MLB in home runs over the last three seasons while batting over .300 each time. His 158 wRC+ during that stretch ranks second only to Trout.
Others Considered: Walker Buehler
3.7. Mike Clevinger (SP – CLE)
There’s risk attached to taking any pitcher early, especially one recovering from an injury that would have cost him time had the season started in March. Yet now that he’s healthy and set to play, Clevinger is once again a worthy staff anchor. To give an idea of his potential in a 60-game season, the righty posted a 2.35 ERA and 97 strikeouts in last season’s final dozen turns. Cleveland plays 43 of its games against teams that finished in the bottom 10 of wOBA last season.
4.6: Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
Albies loses his durability edge (and some reliability) in the truncated campaign, but he’ll still pile up plate appearances with the ability to make his mark anywhere. Picking the 23-year-old also erases the burden of choosing from an uninspiring bunch of mid-tier second basemen later.
5.7: Charlie Morton (SP – TB)
For the second straight mock, I’m again calling Morton’s name as an ace well suited to conquer the short season. The Draft Wizard actually recommended him over Clevinger, as our Auction Calculator appraises him as the eighth-most valuable starting pitcher. Although I didn’t plan to double down on mound maestros, taking the best value on the board now allows me to wait a while before addressing pitching again.
6.6: Nelson Cruz (DH – MIN)
There are times where I often play a game of chicken and take a player unlikely to last another round over Cruz. But Cruz was the best player available, and I wanted him. Even the sixth is at least a round or two later than where the ageless slugger deserves to go.
7.7: Yoan Moncada (3B – CHW)
Folks, learn from my mistake and wait as long as you possibly can before drafting. Like some kind of nerd, I jumped the gun and started my assignment three days before the deadline. Later that night, the White Sox placed Moncada on the IL for undisclosed reasons. Perhaps the simulation somehow knew before news broke, as he suspiciously fell below his No. 56 ECR and 67 ADP. While his .315 batting average is sure to regress, the 25-year-old is still a former blue-chip prospect who produced 25 homers and steals — with excellent quality of contact — in 132 games.
8.6: Victor Robles (OF – WAS)
Aside from Moncada, who shouldn’t backslide far enough to become a liability, all of my hitters so far should deliver positive returns in batting average. That led me to forgo Nick Castellanos and Jeff McNeil in favor of Robles. All the talk of his dreadful Statcast numbers seems to overlook the fact that he’s a premium source of speed who is far from a finished product after just one full season. At this spot, I won’t mind a .255 average if he combines it with double-digit steals and a handful of homers. Note that Robles, as well as Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick, have yet to report to Washington’s camp.
9.7: Rhys Hoskins (1B – PHI)
So, about that strong batting average. That’s no longer a strength after going all out for Hoskins’ superb pop. The hope here is that last year’s dreadful second half (.180/.318/.361) was the result of playing through a hand injury suffered after getting hit by a pitch in mid-August. Given the condensed season and shallower starting rosters, I felt embolden to gamble on somehow more than capable of blasting 15-plus taters.
10.6: Lance Lynn (SP – TEX)
Lynn, recently named the Rangers’ Opening Day starter, looked awfully sharp in a six-inning intrasquad outing. With innings at such a premium, the 33-year-old looks like a better bet than most to handle a full workload. Having worked at least five full frames in all but one of last year’s 33 starts, he’s also in a stronger position than most to record some wins. Lynn earned most of his 16 victories last year, riding a velocity uptick to career bests in strikeouts (246), swinging-strike rate (12.5%), and contact rate (74.4%). The new Globe Life Field could prove more favorable to pitchers, so he’s an ideal SP3 available outside the top-100 picks.
11.7: Ken Giles (RP – TOR)
I told myself I wasn’t overly concerned about new Mets manager Luis Rojas suggesting a possible closer committee. But then it came time to select Edwin Diaz, and I got cold feet. While I ultimately still believe it’s his job to lose, this at least confirms he’ll open 2020 with a narrow leash. Besides, Giles brings an elite 1.87 ERA and 39.9% K rate to the table with more job security, if he can stay healthy.
Others Considered: Edwin Diaz
12.6: Zac Gallen (SP – ARI)
Gallen is one of those guys I always target, but never seem to get. Someone in the room always likes him a bit more than I do, and I won’t reach with so many intriguing options in his tier. This time, however, he finally fell to a spot I couldn’t resist. He certainly doesn’t need to fully replicate last year’s 2.81 ERA and 28.7% K rate to return value as my SP4. He should remain a stellar strikeout source with three pitches (curveball, slider, changeup) that each elicited a swinging-strike rate above 14% last season. Considering his minor league track record and a healthy 67.4% first-pitch strike rate in Arizona, the walks should also go down.
13.7: Julio Urias (SP/RP – LAD)
It might have been time to pivot back to offense, but Urias was calling my name. He’s securely fastened into the rotation after David Price opted out, and the Dodgers will no longer need to shut him down in September. While he spent most of 2019 in the bullpen, the young southpaw submitted a 3.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 37 strikeouts in eight starts spanning 30.1 innings. The only concern is the Dodgers stymieing his wins potential with early exits.
14.6: Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)
The three-outfield setup encouraged me to roll the dice on Buxton’s health. Last season, he slugged .514 with personal-highs in exit velocity (89.3 mph) and barrel rate (8.3%) while lowering his strikeout rate to a workable 23.1%. He also placed third in sprint speed, so there’s immense power-speed upside if Buxton stays on the field. Unfortunately, a full season of health is already looking unlikely after he got carted off the field during Monday’s practice.
15.7: Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN)
For the second time, I gravitated to Odorizzi because of Minnesota’s soft schedule. With closers jumping up NFBC’s ADP, my roster might have been better served by grabbing Jose Leclerc. Perhaps I’m over-estimating my ability to throw some late darts and find in-season options–which will be tougher than ever in a nine-week season — on the waiver wire.
16.6: Joe Jimenez (RP – DET)
Leclerc didn’t last another round. Since I don’t have to worry about filling CI and MI slots, I reached a little earlier than usual for Jimenez. Before assuming the Tigers won’t afford him any save opportunities, remember that Shane Greene led the AL in saves (18) through last May. I’m paying (arguably too much) for strikeouts (career 11.3 K/9) and a defined ninth-inning role.
17.7: Luke Voit (1B – NYY)
After passing on him last round, I was pleased to see Voit make it back to me. In addition to needing another utility bat, Hoskins remains risky enough to want an insurance policy. Far too many drafters are sleeping on a first baseman who has batted .280/.384/.517 with 35 homers, 100 runs, and 95 RBIs in 157 games with the Yankees. He was slashing .278/.392/.493 before a sports hernia caused him to miss nearly all of August. The 29-year-old showed up to camp 13 pounds lighter, so let’s hope a more nimble Voit is better equipped to stay on the field.
Others Considered: Christian Walker
18.6: Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
Rosario had been the best player available in terms of ECR for a few rounds. I might have snagged him in the 13th or 14th if playing with a MI slot or still needing a starting shortstop. My biggest concern is that the 24-year-old gets shoved to the bottom of a stacked Mets lineup due to his microscopic walk rate. That was also my primary fear last year, and he spent 54 games batting first or second. He also swiped 12 of his 19 steals when slotted seventh or lower. He was simply too good of a value to not take here.
19.7: Ross Stripling (SP/RP – LAD)
Remember last time when I said Stripling could benefit from beginning the season in a long-relief role? Turns out I’m still more excited by the possibility of a starting assignment. Price has since opted out, and Dave Roberts hinted at his replacement by saying he believes Stripling (along with Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood) will be ready to handle seven innings or 100 pitches by Opening Day. Over the last two seasons, Stripling has authored a 3.47 ERA and 22.2 K-BB% (better than Kershaw’s 20.2%) in 36 starts.
20.6: Danny Jansen (C – TOR)
The computers continue to take backup catchers, so I had to dive deeper than my top 12 behind the plate. Buoyed by a change to his swing and routine, Jansen was a spring standout before MLB shut down. Last year’s biggest backstop sleeper could surprise as an above-average power source. If not, I’ll have to move on relatively early.
Others Considered: Francisco Mejia
21.7: Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
Starting only three outfielders transforms a plethora of quality options into bench fodder. Verdugo, now recovered from a back injury, has a 196 ADP in July NFBC drafts. Even though I acquired him much later, his current cost remains a stellar bargain. Boston’s new outfielder is one of only six hitters Steamer projects to bat .300 or higher.
22.6: Corey Knebel (RP – MIL)
From 2017 to 2018, only three relievers (Craig Kimbrel, Dellin Betances, and Josh Hader) recorded a higher strikeout rate (40.2%) than Knebel. Milwaukee’s former closer could return from Tommy John surgery on Opening Day. If Knebel quickly regains his dominant form with decent command, the Brewers may prefer to deploy Hader in longer, higher-leverage stints before the ninth inning.
23.7: Ryan Helsley (RP – STL)
As managers ease their starters back into full workloads, it’ll be imperative to open the season with multiple relievers. Giovanny Gallegos is still not in the United States, and Jordan Hicks has opted out. As a result, team president John Mozeliak brought up Helsley as a leading candidate to close. The peripherals (4.22 FIP, 4.52 SIERA, 5.11 xFIP) behind his 2.95 ERA aren’t pretty, but the righty should enhance last year’s 32 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. He tallied a 9.7 K/9 through his minor league career and has a heater that can reach triple digits on the radar gun.
As someone who leveraged the complete absence of a social life to get mostly A’s in school, I initially scoffed at my B+ grade. Then again, drafting for this season kind of feels like that time I foolishly took honors physics during my social year of high school. I would have gladly taken an 88 in that class.
Despite filling most of my offense early, the Draft Analyzer actually likes my pitching staff more. I’m projected for 45 pitching points, but a lowly 35 in hitting. Home runs and RBIs are my biggest projected weaknesses. This surprised me for a lineup featuring Martinez, Cruz, and Hoskins, but last year’s environment made an abundance of power mandatory just to keep up. I would have been better off swapping Robles, Buxton, or Rosario for a slugger.
If anything, I invested too much capital on the mound despite entering Round 10 with just two hurlers. I do, however, like the overall plan of taking one or two anchors and waiting before attacking once again in the mid-to-late rounds. That’s specially the case with fewer starting offensive spots to fill.
The projected winner, Sirius Blackmons, went a more extreme route by making Yu Darvish (Round 6) its only pitcher selected through the first 10 picks. It then punted saves, instead bolstering its ratios with Seth Lugo and Diego Castillo. Perhaps that approach, almost a modified version of Bobby Sylvester’s Marmol Strategy, has more legs in a short season.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy baseball, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our Cheat Sheet Creator – which allows you to combine rankings from 100+ experts into one cheat sheet – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.