12-Team Mock Draft: Late Pick (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
We all like to think we command complete control of any draft room we enter, but so much hinges entirely on the randomized order.
Last month, I began my offseason preparation by firing up FantasyPros’ Draft Simulator for a mock draft with the first pick. I jumped to the other end this time to see how my roster could look when picking last.
I only drafted one player on both teams, which was my 23rd-round selection in each simulation.
Picking last automatically eliminated any possibility of landing Trea Turner and 10 other superstars. While quite a few studs remain available at the opening turn, there’s a more noticeable value decline when shopping in the third or fourth. The decisions made in those selections will (or at least should) have a ripple effect on the rest of your draft.
The following is a 12-team mock draft using the standard five-by-five categories and Yahoo roster settings (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 2 UT, 2 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 5 BN). After loading up on power in the last draft, I ended up going the other way and stockpiling speed with my first few picks.
1.12: Mookie Betts (OF – LAD)
I knew I’d leave the opening turn with at least one outfielder, but I wasn’t sure which one. I didn’t have to decide how confident I am in Ronald Acuña Jr. returning early in the season, as he went ninth overall. Not that I planned on picking him because of his declining durability and speed, but Mike Trout went off the board earlier than usual at pick 10.
This left my first choice between Betts and Kyle Tucker. Just looking at last year’s numbers, Tucker would be the clear choice. Yet I opted for Betts’ fuller superstar resume over a rising star with one full season under his belt. Safety is key to start drafts, so there’s peace of mind attached to drafting a 29-year-old who tallied 23 home runs, 10 steals, 93 runs, and a 131 wRC+ in a significant down year for his standards. Betts provides a high floor with an MVP-caliber ceiling manifested multiple times.
After hitting a career-low .264 in 2017, Betts bounced back to win the AL batting title (.346) in 2018. Trust him to again repair last year’s .264 average closer to his .296 norm, which would likely lead to the Dodgers star reclaiming top-five consideration in 2023 drafts.
Others Considered: Kyle Tucker
2.1: Corbin Burnes (SP – MIL)
I might have paired Betts with Tucker if drafting a five-outfielder format. I was also tempted to pick the perennially under-appreciated Freddie Freeman, highly worthy of selection here despite a No. 16 overall consensus ADP. Burnes, however, was too tempting to pass up. He made his career-high 167 innings count, registering 234 strikeouts to just 34 walks with a 2.43 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Burnes also earned the lowest FIP (1.63) of any qualified starter since Pedro Martinez had arguably the best pitching season ever in 1999. Burnes doesn’t have the track record or durability I typically desire in the opening rounds, but he proved too dominant to forgo with Gerrit Cole unavailable.
3.12: Tim Anderson (SS – CHW)
There’s a noticeable talent dip in the third round. After Starling Marte, Manny Machado, and Yordan Alvarez, nobody truly feels like a worthy selection this early. Although I wasn’t doing cartwheels to take Anderson, he lasted seven picks after my No. 29 ranking, which matches his Expert Consensus Rank (ECR). How can we keep expecting contact regression when he leads all qualified hitters in batting average (.322) in 1,290 plate appearances over the last three seasons? Anderson is also a solid bet to go 20/20 in a full season while plating 100 runs atop a potent White Sox lineup.
4.1: Whit Merrifield (2B/OF – KC)
Despite drafting two five-category hitters, I passed on Matt Olson’s power for Merrifield’s speed. I thought there was a strong chance of getting a prominent slugger, preferably Pete Alonso, at the next turn. Merrifield, on the other hand, is a far more distinct producer. He may not swipe an MLB-high 40 bases again, but he should finish atop the leaderboard with a strong batting average, plenty of runs, and double-digit long balls. Durability is also a major plus for Merrifield, who hasn’t missed a single game since only playing 158 games in 2018.
5.12: Byron Buxton (OF – MIN)
Unfortunately, Alonso didn’t make it to this pick. Neither did Paul Goldschmidt or Eloy Jimenez. There’s typically always at least one leaguemate more smitten with Buxton than I am, but this seems like the perfect position to take a potential league-winning swing. Buxton finally displayed his MVP upside last season, batting .306/.358/.647 with 19 homers, nine steals, and a 169 wRC+ in 61 games. The problem, of course, is that injuries again halted his momentum. The quality of a typical replacement is far higher in a 12-team league with three starting outfielders, so more missed time won’t necessarily derail my title contentions. Yet a healthy Buxton could easily deliver first-round production, as last year’s brief dominance came with a .300 xBA and an absurd 17.9% barrel rate.
6.1: Lance Lynn (SP – CHW)
Only Jacob deGrom can match Burnes on a per-inning basis, but the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner isn’t the best bet to work 200 innings. Let’s pair him with a veteran workhorse. Despite missing time with a knee injury, Lynn still worked 157 innings last season. Only four starters (Cole, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and José Berríos) have pitched more frames in the past three years, a span in which Lynn has posted a 3.26 ERA and the 10th-best K-BB rate (20.5%).
7.12: Frankie Montas (SP – OAK)
The Draft Wizard recommended Yu Darvish as my Top Lift, but this pick was a coin toss between Montas and Joe Musgrove. Montas won the close call with a lower FIP (3.37) and stronger finish (2.17 ERA, 29.7% K rate after the All-Star break). Either one makes a terrific SP3 option with sneaky Cy Young Award upside.
Others Considered: Joe Musgrove
8.1: Edwin Díaz (RP – NYM)
No hitter was calling my name, especially since the best one on the board (Jorge Polanco) was another middle infielder in a draft with no MI spot. I instead decided this was my last chance at snagging an elite closer. While often maddening for Mets fans to watch, Díaz is a strikeout machine with a career 2.85 FIP and a steady handle on save opportunities.
9.12: Jared Walsh (1B – LAA)
I envisioned this as a time to snag the overlooked Jesse Winker or roll the dice on an Anthony Rendon or Cody Bellinger rebound. Franmil Reyes would also offer the pop I badly need. None of them made it back to me. I’m not too keen on targeting Walsh, mainly because C.J. Cron, Josh Bell, or Joey Votto are just as good at a lower cost. But I couldn’t risk all of those first basemen getting taken before my next two picks, and Walsh is narrowly my top-ranked option of that group. Most of his regression could strike in batting average, but I need power after loading up on speed and pitching.
10.1: DJ LeMahieu (1B/2B/3B – NYY)
Nelson Cruz made sense for this roster, and he was narrowly my highest-ranked player on the board. After years of profiting off the DH, I’m more willing than usual to play draft chicken on the 41-year-old free agent. For this LeMahieu pick to pan out, he needs to not only bounce back, but reclaim most of the power gains from his 2019-2020 Yankees breakout. The 33-year-old underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia that the team believes caused his down year.
11.12: C.J. Cron (1B – COL)
Cruz went two picks after I passed him up. Meanwhile, Votto and Bell got sniped right before I went back on the clock. At least Cron was still standing. The first baseman parlayed Coors Field into a .281/.375/.530 slash line with 28 homers and 92 RBIs. He improved his walk rate to 11.0% and, far more importantly, re-signed with the Rockies. The batting average may drop a tad, but there’s no reason Cron can’t repeat the power production.
Others Considered: Justin Turner
12.1: Pablo López (SP – MIA)
López has never accrued more than 111.2 innings in a major-league season, and he’s won just 18 of 62 career starts for the Marlins. Those factors are driving down his price despite posting a 3.07 ERA and 21.3 K-BB% last season. Wins are fluky, so this is just a matter of crossing my fingers in hopes of getting 150-160 innings of stellar production from my fourth starter.
13.12: Hunter Renfroe (OF – MIL)
I rank Michael Conforto and Avisaíl García higher than Renfroe, but I need power. While Renfroe is a career .237 hitter with a .297 OBP and 26.6% strikeout rate, he’s averaged 29 home runs across his four full seasons. Last year, he improved his strikeout rate to 22.7% with personal-highs in barrel (14.4%) and hard-hit rates (44.3%). Moving to Milwaukee should only stabilize Renfroe’s power profile.
14.1: Sean Manaea (SP – OAK)
Manaea’s season was looking far better before he unraveled with a 9.90 ERA in August. The southpaw nevertheless garnered a 3.91 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 179.1 innings. A career-high 12.3% swinging-strike rate supports the K uptick, and there’s hope of an improved encore sparked by a 3.66 FIP and 3.68 SIERA. Here’s to Oakland not trading Manaea after the lockout ends.
15.12: Michael Conforto (OF – FA)
Conforto kept hanging around, so I ended the fall. It’s strange how quickly everyone has abandoned someone who batted .265/.369/.495 over the past four seasons before slumping through an injury-riddled 2021. After struggling through a hamstring ailment, Conforto looked like his usual self when hitting .272/.372/.457 with eight home runs from August 1 onward. He still finished the season with a .350 xwOBA. Sounds like a nice batter to fill my second utility spot.
16.1: Taylor Rogers (RP – MIN)
All of my favorite mid-tier reliever targets were available, but I didn’t want to chance waiting another round and missing a closer run. While Rogers may again get subjected to a closer committee, he’s most likely to deliver some value either way with stellar ratios and a few saves. He was a top-level closer when given the job in 2019.
17.12: John Means (SP – BAL)
There was a huge closer run, so good thing I went with Rogers. However, I incorrectly assumed I could get Patrick Sandoval with this pick. Perhaps the draft tricked me into making a more prudent decision. Even if Means never rediscovers last year’s elite first-half form (2.28 ERA), he harnesses a career 1.08 WHIP because of a microscopic 5.0% walk rate. Last season, he had a 2.84 ERA away from Camden Yards, which will move back its left-field fence by as much as 30 feet this offseason.
18.1: Josh Donaldson (3B – MIN)
I regretted not taking a third baseman with more power, so I wanted a contingency plan for LeMahieu at the hot corner. Having offered 26 homers, a .353 wOBA, and .387 xwOBA in 135 games last season, Donaldson still delivers when healthy. Although the 36-year-old is likely to miss time, I don’t need to wait for his recovery with bated breath in such a shallow league.
19.12: Lucas Sims (RP – CIN)
I just wrote about why I love Sims as my favorite cheap closer target. There’s no such thing as a closer with job security this late in the draft, so it was a no-brainer to take an elite talent with saves potential over a middling closer (Lou Trivino) or clear setup man (Devin Williams).
Others Considered: Matt Barnes
20.1: Mike Zunino (C – TB)
Oops, I forgot about catcher. Some silly automated teams took more than one, depleting the talent pool beyond the top-12 options. I’m not typically a Zunino fan, but he fits my power-needy squad. In a single-catcher league, I can drop him early if the bad Zunino shows up to start the season. If anything close to the guy who slugged 33 dingers with a .342 ISO emerges, cool. I may have kept waiting until the end had the Pick Predictor had not projected a 94% probability of Zunino getting taken before my next turn.
21.12: Jorge Soler (OF – FA)
I started eying Soler six rounds ago. Plucking him for my bench feels a lot better than penciling him in as my third outfielder. Soler avenged an atrocious start to hit .269/.358/.524 with 14 long balls in 55 games with Atlanta. A career-low 23.6% strikeout rate didn’t help his .223 batting average because of a .250 BABIP below his career .297 norm. He notched a .249 xBA right in line with his career .249 average, and ATC, Steamer, and THE BAT X all project more than 30 home runs from Soler in his age-30 campaign.
22.1: Matt Barnes (RP – BOS)
I was going to take Huascar Ynoa or Triston McKenzie, but the Pick Predictor noted a less than 1% chance of them getting sniped before my final pick. However, this was likely my last opportunity to take Barnes. An All-Star season ended with him left off Boston’s ALCS roster, but I’m not convinced the Red Sox will give up on a pitcher who posted a 37.8% K rate and 2.74 xERA last year. Although most drafters think Garrett Whitlock will take the closer’s role, he’s more valuable as a multi-inning reliever.
23.12: Huascar Ynoa (SP – ATL)
True to the Pick Predictor’s word, Ynoa and McKenzie were still available. Health is Ynoa’s greater concern, but he’s easily replaceable in a 12-team mixed league as my final pick. He notched a 3.02 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 44.2 innings before breaking his hand by punching a wall.
Others Considered: Triston McKenzie
I was transformed back to middle school when nervously awaiting my post-draft grade. Like all of my school years, it turned out better than I realized. The DraftWizard gave me a 94 out of 100, projecting a first-place finish.
This draft confirmed the growing sentiment that it’s easier to find affordable power than speed late. However, this applies to everyone in the room, so loading up on potential 30-HR hitters in the back half didn’t vault me to mid-pack placement. Elite sluggers are still a major help, so I’m not shoving the Alonso’s of the world down my rankings and permanently altering my early-round draft strategy.
With that said, there’s more than one way to build a winning squad. I didn’t like the start of my draft as much as usual, but the final product turned out fine. The main lesson here is to take what the board gives you early, and then adjust accordingly to assemble a balanced roster. Don’t get tied down to your rankings in the later rounds.
After this mock, I’ll be far more prepared to draft at the end and respond when things deviate from the anticipated script.
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