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2021 Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: Focusing on Hitters Early

by Lucas Babits-Feinerman
Feb 15, 2021

 
So you’ve decided you love offense and only want to draft hitters. Or maybe you want to disrespect your league mates and dunk on them by waiting as long as possible to draft pitchers. Either way, this article is for you. 

Drafting only hitters early is a challenging strategy that will likely put you at a disadvantage this season, but it can be a lot of fun. If you’re the type of fantasy manager who loves streaming pitchers, this is a great option for you. If you’re planning on doing this in a league you consider important, I recommend drafting a pitcher in Round 1 before loading up on hitters.

I generated a random number between one and 15 to decide where I would draft. And I completed the mock draft using our free mock draft simulator. I assumed three starting OF, two starting UTIL, one of each infield position, and eight pitchers, including two starters and two relievers.

For each pick, I will include a short note, other players I considered, and players who ‘just missed’ consideration because they were drafted before my pick. 

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1.2: Mookie Betts (OF – LAD)
Mookie Betts ranks second among all hitters in WAR since 2018. He’s a five-category contributor with a higher floor than Fernando Tatis Jr. (ranked third). I would have taken him first overall.

Also considered: None

Just missed: None

2.14: Jose Abreu (1B – CHW)
Jose Abreu has been one of the major’s most consistent hitters since debuting in 2014. He averages 33 home runs, 113 RBIs, 89 runs, and a .294 batting average per 162 games played. The 34-year old is remarkably durable, missing only 65 games since 2014 (nine games per season), and he’s the reigning AL MVP. 

Also considered: Anthony Rendon, Kyle Tucker, Corey Seager

Just missed: Nolan Arenado

3.2: Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU)
Kyle Tucker broke out last season, finally living up to the hype that made him MLB’s 10th-ranked prospect in 2019. He offers five-category upside, but I question if he can hit for a high enough average. Still, neither Anthony Rendon nor Corey Seager will steal bases, so I chose Tucker. 

Also considered: Anthony Rendon, Corey Seager

Just missed: None

4.14: Randy Arozarena (OF – TB)
Randy Arozarena set the single-postseason record for most hits, home runs, and total bases in 2020. Like Tucker, he has five-category upside with a question mark next to batting average. He’s the No. 59 player by ADP, so I couldn’t wait any longer. Now I’ve drafted my starting outfield, but I still have two UTIL slots to work with.

Also considered: Trent Grisham, Brandon Lowe

Just missed: Luke Voit, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.., Pete Alonso, Aaron Judge

5.2: Yordan Alvarez (UTIL – HOU)
Yordan Alvarez is flying under the radar after a monster 2019 campaign where he hit 50 home runs in Triple-A and the majors. The 23-year old had surgery on each of his knees this offseason but can DH for the Astros, which should keep him healthy. I am not worried about Alvarez’s production like I am some of the other Astros’ because he was not on the infamous 2017 team. 

Also considered: Trent Grisham, Brandon Lowe, Teoscar Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez

Just missed: None

6:14: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B/OF – TOR)
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.. became an everyday player for the Blue Jays last season, slashing .308/.348/.534 in 208 at-bats. I expect him to provide value in four categories and contribute a handful of stolen bases. The 27-year-old’s Statcast profile and second-base eligibility were deciding factors for selecting him here. 

Also considered: Austin Meadows, Max Muncy, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff McNeil

Just missed: Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez

7.2: Matt Chapman (3B – OAK)
Matt Chapman missed the second half of last season with a hip injury, which required surgery to repair. Before that, he was slashing .232/.276/.535 with 10 home runs in 142 at-bats. He had back-to-back six WAR seasons in 2018 and 2019 while ranking fifth in average exit velocity (93.0 mph) among qualified hitters from 2018-2020. Expect him to hit for good power with a low batting average in 2021. I will target a bench third baseman who can hit for average when the time comes to supplement this pick. 

Also considered: Alec Bohm, Dominic Smith, Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant, Austin Meadows, Max Muncy, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff McNeil

Just missed: None

8.14: Tommy Pham (OF – SD)
Tommy Pham suffered a fractured right hand in the middle of August last year. He was expected to be sidelined until 2021 but made a quick recovery and played for the Padres in the postseason. From 2017-2019, Pham hit .284 and averaged 22 home runs and 22 stolen bases per year. His elite Statcast profile supports his success. I’m betting that a healthy Pham can return to his old form and be a key cog in a stellar Padres offense.  

Also considered: Byron Buxton, Mike Moustakas, Eddie Rosario, Alex Verdugo

Just missed: Alec Bohm, Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant

9.2: Travis d’Arnaud (C/1B – ATL)
Travis d’Arnaud had a career year in 2020, slashing .321/.386/.533 with nine home runs and one stolen base in 165 at-bats. Since signing with the Rays in 2019, he’s turned his career around and lived up to his former top prospect billing by hitting .283/.344/.484 in 549 plate appearances. In 2020, d’Arnaud’s Statcast profile featured a 100th-percentile rank in Hard Hit%, 95th-percentile xBA, and a 90th-percentile xwOBA.

Also considered: Wil Myers, Dylan Moore, Franmil Reyes, Michael Brantley, Eric Hosmer, Jorge Soler, Ke’Bryan Hayes

Just missed: Byron Buxton

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10.14: Ha-seong Kim (2B/SS – SD)
Ha-seong Kim was a star shortstop for the Kiwoom/Nexen Heroes in the Korean Baseball Organization before signing with the Padres this offseason. During his career in Korea, the 25-year-old slashed .294/.373/.493 with 133 home runs and 134 stolen bases in 3,195 at-bats. He’s flying under-the-radar right now because he doesn’t have a clear path to playing time, but he’s the best position player to ever make the jump from the KBO to MLB. With this pick, I’ve finished drafting hitters. Now I need to choose pitchers.

Also considered: Didi Gregorious, Jake Cronenworth

Just missed: Michael Brantley, Dylan Moore, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Eric Hosmer, Franmil Reyes, Jorge Soler 

11.2: David Price (SP – LAD)
After missing the second half of 2019 with a wrist injury, David Price opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about COVID-19. The 35-year old lefty will make his NL debut, and I believe he will be a solid, middle-of-the-rotation fantasy starter. 

Also considered: Frankie Montas, Alex Colome, German Marquez, Kirby Yates, Corey Kluber, Triston McKenzie

Just missed: Devin Williams, Kevin Gausman, Marco Gonzales

12.14: Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN)
Tyler Mahle broke out in 2020, recording a 3.59 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 4.59 xFIP with 60 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. The 26-year-old righty replaced his curveball with a slider and increased the spin rate on his fastball by 10% from 2019 to 2020. I’m not sure his 29.9% K% is sustainable, and his xFIP indicates some negative ERA regression, but I’m willing to take a chance here because there aren’t many other options.

Also considered: Cristian Javier, Rafael Montero

Just missed: Corey Kluber, Triston McKenzie, Kirby Yates

13.2: Eduardo Rodriguez (SP – BOS)
Eduardo Rodriguez missed 2020 because of a heart condition caused by COVID-19. In 2019, he posted a 3.81 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, and 213 strikeouts in 203.1 innings pitched. He’s on track to return as Boston’s Opening Day starter and is worth a late flier.

Also considered: Jameson Taillon, Zach Eflin, Drew Pomeranz, Cristian Javier, Rafael Montero

Just missed: None

14.14: Chris Sale (SP – BOS)
Chris Sale is a low-risk, high-reward pick to target when employing this hitter-centric strategy. You can stash him on the IL until he returns from Tommy John surgery. The former All-Star has league-winning upside. 

Also considered: Richard Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, John Means

Just missed: Jameson Taillon, Zach Eflin, Drew Pomeranz

15.2: Elieser Hernandez (SP – MIA)
Elieser Hernandez had a great, but injury-shortened 2020. His 32.1% K rate would have ranked ninth among qualified starters, and his 3.16 ERA was supported by a 3.89 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.23 xERA. He did a great job limiting hard contact with an 88th-percentile exit velocity and 85th- percentile hard-hit rate.

Also considered: Matt Barnes, John Means, Michael Pineda, Nate Pearson, Jordan Montgomery, James Paxton, Stefan Crichton, Nathan Eovaldi 

Just missed: Richard Rodriguez

16.14: Giovanny Gallegos (RP – STL)
Giovanny Gallegos is the early favorite for saves in the Cardinals’ bullpen. He will face a lot of competition now that Jordan Hicks is healthy, but Gallegos was lights-out last season and might never relinquish the role. If I draft Gallegos, I will probably try and get Hicks on the bench or at least closely monitor their usages. 

Also considered: Jordan Hicks, Drew Smyly, Noah Syndergaard, Dane Dunning, Greg Holland 

Just missed: Nathan Eovaldi, Stefan Crichton

17.2: Greg Holland (RP – KC)
Greg Holland had a resurgent 2020 campaign for the Kansas City Royals. I need a second closer, and there are few left at this point in the draft. I plan on being aggressive on the waiver wire and following bullpen usage closely until I get three or four solid closers.

Also considered: Jordan Hicks, Drew Smyly, Noah Syndergaard, Dane Dunning

Just missed: None

18:14: Chris Archer (SP – TB)
Chris Archer is returning to the Rays after missing the 2020 season with a neck injury. This is as much a bet on the Rays’ coaching staff and front office as it is on Archer.

Also considered: Luis Severino, Daniel Bard, Tanner Houck, Deivi Garcia, Domingo German

Just missed: Dane Dunning, Noah Syndergaard

Starting Roster

Final Thoughts 

I’m obviously lacking any top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers, but I think my team has a lot of potential.

In hindsight, I wish I had drafted a shortstop earlier. I was drafting by best player available, and all the shortstops were gone by the time I switched my strategy to positional. If I kept drafting, my next pick might have been Wander Franco. 

I could have waited a little longer to draft a third baseman. There are several sleepers I like this year — Gio Urshela, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Turner to name a few. I also don’t like drafting all my outfielders early because there is always good value picks later. 

There are plenty of worthy starting pitcher fliers late in drafts. If you grab one or two top starters early, you can focus on hitters until the late rounds.

The bottom-of-the-barrel closers are available late, so no need to reach for relievers in the middle rounds. Catcher is also deep enough to wait. I like Christian Vazquez and Sean Murphy (among others), whose ADP is after d’Arnaud.

This is a great exercise for anybody preparing for a competitive draft. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing. 

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Lucas Babits-Feinerman is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Lucas, check out his archive and follow him @WSonFirst.

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