Dan Harris’s 12-Team Early Mock Draft: Late Pick (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
A late pick in fantasy baseball this year offers you plenty of opportunities. The pool of first-round talent is deep enough where you can walk away with two offensive studs with your first two picks, giving your team a strong offensive base. But because you have to wait so long for your next pick, the risk of losing out on the top tier of starting pitching is certainly high.
Earlier this week, I did an early mock draft from a middle pick. One of the lessons I learned is that power dries up a little faster than I expected, so I should be careful not to ignore it in the middle rounds. That’s the approach I took in this mock draft from the 11th spot. As you’ll see, I was much happier with how it turned out.
The lineup for this 12-team draft is C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, 5 OF, UTIL, 2 SP, 2 RP, 5 P, 4 BN, and conducted using FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator.
1.11: Christian Yelich (OF – MIL)
Yelich is ninth on my board, so nabbing him at the 11th pick is a great start as far as I’m concerned (Shane Bieber and Trevor Story, 10th and 11th in my rankings, went before him in this draft). I mean, just throw out 2020 entirely. Someone who averages a .327 batting average with 40 home runs and 26 stolen bases doesn’t suddenly morph into a .205 hitter who was on pace for 30 home runs and 10 steals like Yelich was last year. Yelich, who relies heavily on in-game video that he lacked last year, should bounce back heartily.
Others Considered: No one
2.2: Jose Ramirez (3B – CLE)
My hope at this spot was that either Ramirez or Freddie Freeman remained on the board with my second pick, and thankfully, Living Avila Loca (great name) took Francisco Lindor along with Freeman at the turn. Other than the first half of 2019, during which Ramirez was trying too hard to beat the shift, he’s been a dominant force for the last four seasons. Between Yelich and Ramirez, I now have two power/speed combinations who should help in batting average. It’s an ideal start from the 11th pick.
Others Considered: Cody Bellinger
3:11: Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
If you have followed me this year, then you know I’m hitting starting pitcher early and often. Flaherty is a low-end SP1 for me and a no-brainer pick after 11 other starters have gone. Flaherty had an excellent 2020 season, but it could have been even better, as an eight-run outing late in the year pushed his ERA up almost two full points! Everything continues to trend generally in the right direction for a young pitcher capable of leading a fantasy staff.
4:2: DJ LeMahieu (2B – NYY)
I almost always leave my first four rounds with two starting pitchers, but because taking another starter would feel like getting in on the beginning of a tier, I opted to pass and take LeMahieu. Truth be told, I would have been more than happy to take Albies, Rendon, or Bregman in the third or fourth round here. Because I already had Ramirez at third base, I figured I would take whichever was left over from LeMahieu and Albies. With LeMahieu, Ramirez, and Yelich, I have a strong batting average base, which I try to focus on early as a general rule, and some position flexibility.
Others Considered: Eloy Jimenez, Bregman
5:11: Carlos Carrasco (SP – NYM)
I would have taken Tyler Glasnow or Lance Lynn over Carrasco had they been available, but they went the two picks prior to my spot. Carrasco, however, is a fine consolation prize. He looked very much like the Carrasco of old last year, other than a minor uptick in walk rate which largely came in his first handful of starts. Another year removed from his battle with leukemia and now in the National League (which, at this moment, is not implementing the DH), Carrasco should provide solid SP2 numbers.
Others Considered: Sonny Gray
6:2: Luke Voit (1B – NYY)
I strongly considered taking Gray here. I have what I consider to be a lower-end SP1 and SP2, and Gray would have balanced it out a bit. But instead, I opted for Voit as my first baseman. Having done several mock drafts on our simulator, I found myself increasingly drafting teams that were light on power because of my early focus on batting average, steals, and starting pitching. Voit comes with injury concerns, but he’s a true power bat who should be neutral or a positive value in batting average. There’s a 40-homer season waiting to come out, and it should do so this year if he can remain healthy.
7:11: Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL)
Burnes is an excellent consolation prize after passing on Gray, and he’s the last of my “top 22” of which I try to walk away from a draft with at least three. Burnes’ potential was obvious even in his disastrous 2019 campaign. A tangible change in approach — he threw fewer four-seam fastballs and opted for more sinkers and cutters — along with natural movement on his pitches paid obvious dividends. This is a short-season output that I am absolutely buying into, and I have zero hesitation about him as an SP3.
Others Considered: Teoscar Hernandez
8:2: Matt Olson (1B – OAK)
I don’t usually draft Olson, preferring instead to wait several more rounds for similar production from Miguel Sano. And it was an especially tricky pick here, given that I had just filled my first base spot with Voit. But again, learning my lesson from previous drafts, I’m opting to lean into the idea that the more power, the better at this stage of the draft. I considered Giancarlo Stanton as well as pivoting to an ace closer like Aroldis Chapman, but ultimately settled on Olson as the safest option for my team.
Others Considered: Stanton, Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel
9:11: Zack Wheeler (SP – PHI)
This is where one of my favorite tools in our mock draft simulator, the pick predictor, came in handy. On your draft board, it tells you the likelihood (by a percentage) that a player will be taken before your next pick. At the 11th pick in a draft, there’s just one drafter with two picks between my selections. Yet the pick predictor gave it better than a 50% chance that Wheeler would be gone before my 10th selection. That was almost certainly true. After Wheeler, Living Avila Loca selected Jesus Luzardo, who is behind Wheeler on both our expert consensus ranking and in my personal rankings. I don’t expect Wheeler to completely eliminate hard contact as he did last year, but I think he’ll offset that with an uptick in strikeouts back to his career mark. Wheeler is my 27th-ranked starting pitcher, so getting him as my SP4 is an ideal scenario.
Others Considered: Max Muncy
10:2: Carlos Correa (SS – HOU)
I was hoping for Muncy here, even though I had a second baseman already. Muncy’s power production, and his multi-position eligibility, give him strong value as a 10th-round selection. But because he was swiped, I pivoted to Correa. Correa’s season was mediocre, but when you combine it with his strong postseason (which you pretty much have to do given the small sample size), it looks much better. The stolen bases are likely gone, but he’s also essentially one of the last reliable shortstops. While most managers think the position is without limit in its depth, it actually dries up pretty quickly at the end. With Correa, my infield is almost entirely filled, and although I’ll need to hit on some outfielders (and eventually draft a closer), the offense is in strong shape.
11:11: Mike Moustakas (2B – CIN)
It’s not an outfielder, but I’m continuing the trend of focusing on power in the middle rounds. Both Moustakas’s walk and strikeout rates jumped a bit last year, and his batting average dropped some, but there wasn’t all that much different in his profile from past seasons. He continued to hit for power and make quality contact across the board. Pro tip: if you look at any counting numbers for any Reds player last year, make sure you largely discount them. The team was historically unlucky last season, and runs and RBI numbers for most should go up across the board.
Others Considered: Kyle Schwarber
12:2: Ryan Pressly (RP – HOU)
This is longer than I usually wait to draft my first closer, but Pressly still fits the bill as someone who can be an RP1 in fantasy leagues. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Astros add someone to compete for the closer’s role, but as of now, all indications out of camp are that Pressly will handle the ninth inning. Pressly converted 11 of 13 save chances after Roberto Osuna got injured last year, and he has a 2.58 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings over the last three seasons. He should have little trouble holding down the role.
Others Considered: Schwarber, Victor Robles
13:11: Yasmani Grandal (C – CHW)
I rarely take a catcher before one of the late rounds, but few other picks made sense for my team. The quality of outfielders who might go in this range is mediocre at best. Grandal is getting up there in age but will still play most days because of his pitch-framing skills and contract, and he has plenty of power left in his bat. This is a good two rounds after I expected him to be drafted, so I’ll take my fifth-ranked catcher in a pivot move.
Others Considered: Frankie Montas
14.2: Kirby Yates (RP – TOR)
I’m often content to wait until the late rounds and draft upside relievers for my second RP spot, but there’s too much value in Yates this year as he takes over the ninth-inning role in Toronto. Yates was one of the best pitchers in the game from 2018-2019 before succumbing to an elbow injury last year. Now fully healthy, there’s every reason to expect his split-fingered fastball to return to dominance. I’m buying him as a top-10 closer.
Others Considered: Montas, Austin Riley
15:11: Gio Urshela (3B – NYY)
Urshela gets little respect from fantasy managers, and it’s unclear why. He’s got outstanding plate discipline with a low strikeout rate and makes consistently good contact. He’s an incredibly safe bet for batting average, seems fully recovered from his elbow injury, and he’ll hit over 20 home runs during a full season. Again, the outfielders here aren’t great, and the pick predictor offered a near-certain chance that the only potential outfielder I was eyeing would be available after the turn.
Others Considered: David Price
16:2: Trey Mancini (OF – BAL)
I mentioned Mancini in my last mock draft, but the bottom line is that the only question mark I see with him is his health, and all signs look positive in that regard after his battle with cancer last year. His profile shows the evolution of a talented hitter, one who should hopefully continue to build on the breakout he showed in 2019. This is cheaper than he’ll go in a few weeks if he shows he is healthy in spring training, and he offers power potential without sacrificing batting average.
Others Considered: Andrew McCutchen
17:11: Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN)
After seven straight rounds of drafting offensive players, and with few outfielders looking like bargains at the moment, I opted to address my starting pitching with Mahle. The major gains we saw last year, including a big jump in swinging-strike rate and strikeout percentage, appear legitimate, as they resulted from him bringing his slider back into his pitch mix. His walks are still too high, but he’s got a lot of potential. As my fifth starter, there really isn’t much I need to get out of him.
Others Considered: Andrew Benintendi
18:2: Marcus Stroman (SP – NYM)
This is another double-up from my previous draft, and I’m going to continue to land Stroman wherever I can. In fact, I would have taken him two rounds earlier had the pick predictor not made it seem highly likely that he would last this long. Stroman is in a contract year, has worked on developing two new pitches, is pitching on a good team with an improved infield defense, and will work for a full year in the National League, which appears to be going ahead without the designated hitter. He should be at the back end of your fantasy rotation if you can swing it.
Others Considered: Benintendi
19:11: Lorenzo Cain (OF – MIL)
At this point, my team was pretty much set except for my outfield, where I still had three of my five spots unfilled. One of the many great features of the Draft Wizard is that it allows you to see where you stack up in each of the 10 rotisserie categories at all times. It showed that I was competitive in every category except one: steals. So, that’s where my focus was, and it began with Cain. He opted out after just five games last year but will play this season. Cain’s steals total dropped to just 18 in 2019, but he suggested that he had planned to run more last year. Although his sprint speed has been declining, FantasyPros Zeile Projections have him with 16 steals, double-digit home runs, and a batting average that won’t hurt you. At this stage of the draft, that’s exactly what my team needs.
Others Considered: Ryan Yarbrough
20:2: Leody Taveras (OF – TEX)
Taveras should lead off for the Rangers, and he has plenty of speed to burn, having stolen 32 bases across 131 minor league games in 2019 and eight last year in just 33 games. Taveras won’t hit for much average, but because I focused so heavily on that category early in my draft, it shouldn’t matter much to my team. With Taveras ranking in the top-96th percentile in sprint speed, this pick goes a long way toward addressing my need for speed.
Others Considered: Ryan Yarbrough, Elieser Hernandez
21:11 Raimel Tapia (OF – COL)
This is my third straight outfield selection and, more importantly, it’s my third straight selection of an outfielder who will hit at the top of the order and steal bases. Tapia isn’t a great player and doesn’t make strong contact, but he batted .321/.369/.402 last year and led off for the Rockies for the vast majority of the season. He’s an easy .275 hitter with 15 steals, and he’s essentially free in drafts. This run allowed me to address the one true weakness in my team at dirt cheap prices.
22:2: Jameson Taillon (SP – NYY)
I’m looking at my seventh starter at this stage and, frankly, I know there are going to be several starters I like more than others who won’t be drafted. So I’m willing to take what amounts to a risky upside play in Taillon. He’s totaled just 37.1 innings over the last two seasons because of Tommy John surgery and previously missed time with the same surgery. Taillon’s had only one truly notable year in 2018, when he began throwing his excellent slider that buoyed the performance of the rest of his pitches. If he can regain the form he showed with that pitch from 2018-2019, he has the chance to be an impact pitcher.
23:11: Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA)
With my starting lineup filled out entirely, it was time to start looking to my bench. Although I was hoping for Peralta here, Haniger is a fine consolation prize. He’s dealt with injuries for the vast majority of his career and hasn’t played since June of 2019. But he’s healthy now as spring training begins and has 25-homer pop if he can stay heathy. With outfield being my weak spot, I would focus my attention there for my offensive bench.
Others Considered: No one
24:2: Alex Kirilloff (MIN – OF)
Kirilloff hasn’t played above Double-A, and he will almost certainly begin the year in the minors, if for no other reason than to work on his fielding. But his bat is major-league ready, as he’s slashed .317/.365/.498 in his minor-league career. There’s a spot waiting for him once the Twins earn an extra year of control, so expect to see him up by May 1. With few others of note left for bench outfield spots, gambling on Kirilloff’s upside is the best play.
Others Considered: Kolten Wong
25:11: Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
I have confidence in my starting rotation overall, so I’m willing to gamble on upside here with Pearson. There is no doubting his arm. He comes with a dominant fastball and slider and an above-average curveball and changeup. He’s battled some elbow soreness, and the Blue Jays have depth in their rotation, so Pearson could begin the year in the minors. Given his potential, he’s still an ideal late-round selection.
Others Considered: No one
26:2: Kwang Hyun Kim (SP – STL)
Kim’s surface numbers were excellent in his 39-inning season last year (1.62 ERA, 1.07 WHIP). But his xFIP and SIERA were each roughly three runs higher than his ERA, and he struck out just 5.54 batters per nine innings. He never had much strikeout upside in the KBO (though his numbers were far better than last year’s), but he’s likely to be an ERA and WHIP stabilizer in his second year in the majors. I’ve got enough upside with Taillon and Pearson. Time for a boring, high-floor pick.
Others Considered: Jake Odorizzi
An A- grade again is much more well-earned than in my previous draft. The team may not be the best one in the league, but it has few weaknesses. A breakdown of the categories shows that I’ll be competitive in each one.
The biggest takeaway for me is that I learned from my mistake in my previous draft. Not only did I focus more on power earlier, but I recognized when I was weak in a certain category (thanks to the tool in Draft Wizard) and addressed it later in the draft.
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