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Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: 15-Team, LABR Style (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft: 15-Team, LABR Style (2024)

As we approach the beginning of the 2024 MLB season, many of the industry’s most popular drafts are taking place. Among them is LABR (League of Alternative Baseball Reality), formed 30 years ago by the legendary John Hunt. It is largely regarded as the first expert fantasy baseball league of its kind. Since then, many similar outfits have thrived as well. While I have not competed in LABR, I have taken part in similar drafts among many industry leaders. And, if I do say so myself, I have fared quite well in most of them. So, I wanted to take part in a fantasy baseball mock draft using LABR-style rules and share my thought process for each pick. My goal is to assist those who are diving into the “deep waters” for the first time this season or anyone else who finds these leagues intimidating.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

There are several iterations of LABR drafts. Using the trusty FantasyPros Draft Wizard, I went with a 15-team, 29-round snake draft, using classic 5 x 5 Rotisserie scoring. The offensive categories are batting average, home runs, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases. The pitching categories are wins, saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. Each team is required to start two catchers and one other player at each infield position. Teams are also required to start a corner infielder (CI) and a middle infielder (MI). Each team starts five outfielders along with one utility hitter (UT). On the pitching side, each team starts nine pitchers weekly. There is no designation between starters and relievers, though there is a minimum inning requirement to keep in mind.

I chose my draft position at random and was given the fifth selection. While that takes Ronald Acuna off the table, I am confident I can make this work. Here are the results of the draft along with my notes throughout.

15-Team LABR Style Mock Draft

Round 1: Spencer Strider (SP – ATL)

In my opinion, the worst thing you can do in a 15-team draft is to be short on starting pitching. Workhorses are largely a thing of the past and quality pitching thins out quickly. This is even more the case now, as Gerrit Cole is out for a significant period. In a format where 15 teams are starting nine pitchers, each fantasy manager will use a minimum of five starters every week. That is a total of at least 75 starting pitchers. This does not account for pitchers who become injured. It also does not account for pitchers who fantasy managers bench based on unfavorable matchups. Most managers start at least one or two ugly starts each week. Many of these pitchers do more harm than good. This is especially true in an era where they may not even pitch five innings to qualify for a win. The handful of strikeouts they may gain often does not make up for the ratio damage that comes along with it. I want to try to minimize my exposure to bad starts. Enter Spencer Strider.

I would argue Strider currently provides the biggest positional edge in fantasy baseball. The other premier candidate would be his Atlanta Braves teammate, Ronald Acuna, Jr. When you account for the fact most teams are starting more starting pitchers than outfielders in a given week, I give the edge to Strider. Would I take Strider with the first overall pick? Probably not. However, once Acuna is off the board, I have no issue taking Strider in a deeper league with so many starting pitching spots to fill. The only other player I would want in that spot is Mookie Betts. Betts is eligible at two relatively thin positions (second base and outfield) and should become eligible at shortstop sometime in April.

P.S. Corbin Burnes and Zack Wheeler were both off the board by the time my second-round pick came around, so I am even more happy I got Strider when I did.

Round 2: Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL) 

Ozzie Albies is a prominent fixture in Atlanta’s lineup, which is one of the most potent in recent memory. They scored 947 runs as a team last year, the most by any team in baseball since 2007. Albies is a major contributor and a consistent player. He has recorded at least 96 runs scored, 24 home runs and 13 stolen bases in four of the last five full MLB seasons. Albies also plays a position that is a bit thin when it comes to fantasy production. Betts, Marcus Semien and Jose Altuve are the only other second-sackers I have in my top 50 overall. While Albies is not the sexiest pick, I am quite happy to grab him here.

Round 3: Adolis Garcia (OF – TEX) 

One of the trickiest parts of deeper leagues is trying to anticipate positional runs. This is the 35th overall pick. My next pick is 56th overall. Recent average draft position (ADP) data suggests that this is when many of the next tier of starting pitchers come off the board. If I did not secure Strider in the first round, I would almost be forced to grab a starter here. I am confident enough in Strider I can forego a starter here and possibly grab another in round four or five. Bo Bichette is still on the board and he is my highest-ranked overall player. However, shortstop is rather deep. As good as Bichette is, I can grab another quality shortstop later in the draft.

For me, this pick came down to Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena, as Luis Robert and Michael Harris II were the two picks right before me. I ultimately went with Garcia. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 91 runs scored, 32 home runs, 99 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. I do not expect 16 steals and his batting average is less than ideal. But in Albies and Garcia, I have consistency and coverage at two premium positions.

Round 4: Nico Hoerner (2B , SS – CHC) 

Welp. The pitching run happened. Twelve of the next 20 picks after my Garcia selection were starting pitchers. That includes Gerrit Cole, who should not be going in round 4 after this week’s news. At this point, my top two overall hitters available are Nico Hoerner and Matt McLain. This is an interesting position to be in for a couple of reasons. Both players are eligible at second base and shortstop. Mutli-positional eligibility can be a bonus in deeper leagues, so these players are highly coveted. However, I already drafted Albies, who plays second base. That reduces the attractiveness of Hoerner and McLain’s dual eligibility. But when looking at how Hoerner can balance out Albies and Garcia with his high batting average and speed, I decided to pull the trigger.

Many fantasy managers are iffy about taking low-power guys early in drafts but Hoerner is a good fit with my early build. He puts the bat on the ball like few in the sport can. Hoerner is a career .279 hitter, with his only sub-.280 season coming in the shortened 2020 campaign. Hoerner should score a lot of runs and steal plenty of bases hitting atop the Cubs lineup. His dual eligibility may not help me as much as it would have if I had not drafted Albies but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And while there are several shortstops and a few second basemen I will like later on, there is an MI spot and a UT spot to fill. Therefore, I do not mind going back to that well when the time is right.

Round 5: Jhoan Duran (RP – MIN) 

Something to consider when drafting is what is happening around you concerning certain positions. As I mentioned, 12 of the 20 picks between my third- and fourth-round picks were starting pitchers. No relievers were selected up until that point. This is not always the case in these types of drafts, particularly among those in the industry. If a couple of relievers were off the board, I would have possibly grabbed one in round four. While I want an elite reliever in 15-team leagues, there are several I would be happy to take in the next couple of rounds. By the time my round five pick was up, however, that was no longer the case. Three closers had been selected by the time my turn came around in round five. That helped facilitate my selection of Jhoan Duran here.

I have Duran as my overall RP3 this season. Last year, he had a 96th-percentile strikeout rate and a 99th-percentile ground ball rate. It does not get much better than that. His curveball is unhittable (.127 career xBA) and his fastball routinely exceeds 100 miles per hour (MPH). Though the unbalanced schedule is a thing of the past, Minnesota is the only team projected to have a winning record in the American League Central. That means Duran should have plenty of chances to close out ball games this season. If he can harness his control a bit better, he can finish the year as the top fantasy reliever in baseball.

Round 6: Justin Steele (SP – CHC)

I like to target an elite catcher in two-catcher leagues, especially 15-teamers. That is because the position can get pretty ugly when you are trying to fill your C2 spot. However, in this case, the “big four” were gone, as three of them were taken since my last pick. I think there is enough of a drop-off between those four and my C5 (Yainer Diaz) that reaching for the Astros’ new starting catcher in round six would be a mistake. There are only so many holes you can plug. In leagues this deep, you will start some non-flashy players. Some of them may not even be particularly good. The trick is to mitigate the damage, especially at certain positions.

The top player on my overall board at this moment is Christian Walker. But there are a couple of other first basemen I like later. Meanwhile, the top 23 starting pitchers (including Cole) are gone. Furthermore, Team 2, Team 3 and Team 4 have taken no starting pitchers yet. They are all likely to take at least one starter as we approach the 6-7 turn. That means I cannot afford to wait on my SP2 here. I have Justin Steele ranked ever so slightly ahead of Joe Ryan, with a few others not far behind. I took Steele because his perceived lack of strikeouts (he still struck out 176 hitters last year) is less worrisome with Strider in tow. Steele avoids hard contact and free passes. I am quite comfortable with him as my second starting pitcher.

Round 7: Christian Walker (1B – ARI) 

Only three starters were drafted after I took Steele. But those included Ryan and Cole Ragans, my top two options. So even though there are some first basemen I am comfortable with later, I decided to go with Christian Walker. I find him to be a very interesting player. His 2023 Statcast metrics pale in comparison to those he posted in 2022. Yet, his surface stats were a touch better in 2023. While he may have gotten a bit lucky last season, it is hard to argue against a player who has posted back-to-back seasons of 30+ home runs and a sub-20% strikeout rate. Making a list of players who fit both criteria won’t take you long. Just 11 hitters accomplished that feat last season, including Walker.

Round 8: Teoscar Hernandez (OF – LAD) 

There was a bit of pain here, as I was hoping to grab Lane Thomas, who I like a lot this season. He was selected with the 8.07 pick. Yandy Diaz is another favorite of mine, who went in the eighth round, though that sting was reduced by my Walker pick. Yainer Diaz was also selected. I do not like any other catchers to justify an eighth-round pick. Evan Carter is another popular pick who was taken in this round. Teams 2-4 are still light on starting pitchers, with a combined two selections through seven rounds. However, I do not see a “must-have” pitcher on the board and I have quite a few clustered together in my rankings. It is better to take a second outfielder here and decide on the catcher/pitcher conundrum in the next round.

There are a couple of reasons to like Teoscar Hernandez since his move to the Los Angeles Dodgers. First and foremost is the lineup itself. Los Angeles has three of the best hitters in all of baseball — Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. Hernandez may not hit directly behind that triumvirate but he should still see plenty of RBI opportunities — “see” may be the operative word in that sentence because Hernandez has stated he never felt comfortable hitting in Seattle during his tenure as a Mariner. He hit just .217 with a 19.4% soft-contact at T-Mobile Park last year compared to a .295 mark with a 12.4% soft-contact rate on the road. A .295 average is a bit lofty considering Hernandez still strikes out at a high rate. But even a .250 batting average should result in a boatload of RBIs for Hernandez.

Round 9: Bailey Ober (SP – MIN) 

I need a starting pitcher here for a couple of reasons. I only have two and the top 30 starters are off the board. As much as having Strider should give me a leg up on the competition, that does not mean I can ignore starting pitching throughout the draft. My issue is I have quite a few pitchers clustered together in my rankings. Among them are Chris Bassitt, Hunter Greene and Bailey Ober, so it is a matter of personal preference. I decided on Ober primarily because he is another pitcher with elite control. Again, we are starting nine pitchers every week. That often includes up to six or seven starters each week. Start a bunch of pitchers every week who are constantly allowing eight baserunners and three earned runs and watch what happens to your ratios.

Ober has a career 1.11 WHIP, including a 1.07 mark in 2023. He does not have overpowering stuff or post huge strikeout totals. But because of the extension he gets off the mound, as well as his 6-foot-9 frame, he gets hitters to chase. Ober has ranked in the top nine percent each of the last two seasons in chase rate. He interestingly had reverse splits, as right-handed hitters slugged 16 home runs off him, compared to just six lefties in roughly the same number of plate appearances. If Ober can better navigate the landscape against righties, he should be in for a huge season. Like Duran, he should also benefit from facing teams in the American League Central, which could lead to more victories.

Round 10: Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT) 

A humorous situation almost arose here for me because not 72 hours before I took part in this draft I was having a conversation about drafts and rankings. The person I spoke with asked how much I liked Riley Greene, specifically in comparison to Marcell Ozuna. I have ranked Greene slightly higher but Ozuna is listed as an outfielder in his league. I suggested under those conditions, he should take Ozuna. Fast forward to this draft and Greene and Ozuna are two of the top three overall-ranked hitters on my board. However, Ke’Bryan Hayes was the top hitter on my board.

I try not to go overboard with paying attention to how players perform in spring training. Players are often trying out new things and the level of competition is all over the place. However, I do pay attention when a hot spring follows a solid second half of the season, which seems to be going under the radar. Ke’Bryan Hayes batted .307 with a 129 wRC+ from June 1 through the end of the season. That timeframe included an injury stint but we are still talking about 71 games here. In that span, Hayes hit 13 homers, scored 39 runs and drove in 42. That is a sustained period of success. If he can perform at that level over a full season, Hayes will be a huge value in fantasy baseball drafts.

Round 11: Marcell Ozuna (UTIL – ATL) 

Three more catchers are off the board, making eight total. They include Salvador Perez, Cal Raleigh and Willson Contreras. Team 4 double-tapped Raleigh and Contreras, which I like in theory. That team will have a huge advantage in its C2 spot over the rest of the competition. But as with all things draft-related, everything is relative and everything has a price. That team also has Sonny Gray as its only starter through 11 rounds. They will need to hit on several late pitchers for this strategy to make sense. As for me, I can take a catcher now, or I can try my luck in Rounds 12-13. If Ozuna was off the board, I might have done that. But there are five catchers who I have clustered together. So as long as all five don’t get drafted (fingers crossed), I should be ok.

Marcell Ozuna was a top-30 fantasy hitter last season without stealing a base. That speaks to how much opportunity arises when hitting behind some of the best hitters in the game. To his credit, Ozuna took advantage by driving in 100 runs, 40 via the home run. If Ozuna had outfield eligibility, he would be long gone by round 11. Tying up my UT spot isn’t ideal but I cannot pass up the value here.

Round 12: Nick Pivetta (SP – BOS) 

I am a firm believer in getting your guys. And Nick Pivetta is one of my guys for 2024. Pivetta was one of 12 pitchers who threw at least 120 innings, had a K/9 of over 10.0, and an xFIP and xERA below 4.00. Two of the pitchers on that list are Shohei Ohtani and Kodai Senga. One won’t pitch this year and the other is likely out until June at the very least. Pivetta is one of six hurlers with a strikeout rate of 30% or better after last year’s All-Star break. Only one of the other five is readily available after round five in 15-team leagues. He is one of only three pitchers with a SIERA below 3.00 in the second half last year. Neither of the other two are available after round five.

Pivetta developed a sweeper after a brief demotion last year and the results were outstanding. Hitters went 5-for-44 with 26 strikeouts in at-bats ending in Pivetta’s sweeper. That gives him another weapon to put away right-handed hitters with. His curveball was much improved and is designed to keep lefties off-balance. With this retooled repertoire, the sky is the limit for Pivetta from a fantasy perspective. His ADP has risen recently, as sharps have begun to catch on. He should be going higher. And with several teams in front of me (particularly Team 4) twiddling their thumbs instead of grabbing pitching, I won’t let Pivetta fall into any of their grubby little hands.

Round 13: Keibert Ruiz (C – WAS) 

With nine catchers off the board, now is the time to address that position. I tend to hit it earlier but it did not pan out that way. I want to be cognizant of grabbing a second catcher earlier than I might normally, so I do not get crushed at that position. As for this pick, I have Keibert Ruiz, Logan O’Hoppe and Francisco Alvarez ranked in that order. But they are all very close together. This is when I look at how my offense is currently constructed.

Of the six hitters I have drafted, only two (Hoerner and Hayes) have what I consider a realistic shot of hitting close to .300. As much as I am intrigued by Alvarez’s power potential, I cannot stop staring at his .209 batting average, which was fully supported by a .209 xBA. Similarly, O’Hoppe’s 10 homers after his return from injury are a bit muffled by his .217 batting average. His .257 xBA provides hope (or perhaps o’hope in his case), but I would like to see him do it for more than six weeks. Ruiz, in the meantime, put together a solid season and only got stronger in the second half. He hit .300 with nine home runs in just 63 games following the break. So I am taking Ruiz and will monitor which catchers my leaguemates draft over the next few rounds.

Round 14: Jeimer Candelario (1B, 3B – CIN) 

Welp. O’Hoppe and Alvarez were gone by the end of round 13. Bo Naylor and Luis Campusano went in round 14. At this point, Mitch Garver and Tyler Stephenson are the only backstops I have ranked in my overall top 300. Considering we are at Pick 216, that feels a bit steep for either option. I might have to live with my catchers being average or slightly below. Meanwhile, I have a few players at different positions ranked similarly, including Eduardo Julien, Lourdes Gurriel and Jeimer Candelario. There are some starting pitchers I like and grabbing a second closer is not the worst idea in the world.

This is when it helps to have tiered rankings at each position while also keeping in mind where you are in each category as the draft progresses. That way you can determine which players represent the best value. As for this round, I went with Candelario. I like him for a couple of reasons. First, the dual eligibility helps. The Cincinnati Reds are chock full of multi-eligible players. And with the recent suspension of Noelvi Marte, they should find their way into the lineup regularly. Candelario is a switch hitter who should hit in the middle of a potent lineup. He should also get a large bump playing in Cincinnati. Per Statcast, Candelario would have hit 30 homers last year if all his games were played at Great American Ballpark. He would not have hit more than 25 in any other park.

Round 15: Aaron Civale (SP – TB) 

Aaron Civale is another player I love targeting in this range. He had some bad surface stats after being traded to Tampa Bay but those were largely the result of bad luck. His 23.7 K-BB rate as a member of the Rays is elite. Only Spencer Strider and Kevin Gausman had a higher number in that metric throughout the 2023 season. Even if Civale regresses in that metric, the Rays are notorious for getting the most out of their pitchers. We saw it just last season with Zach Eflin, who is now a consensus top-20 pitcher. Fellow Ray, Ryan Pepiot, was selected earlier in round 15. The fact they targeted Civale via trade tells me they see tremendous upside in the former Guardian. I’m buying what Civale is selling.

Note: At this point, I am roughly halfway through the draft. As mentioned earlier, your roster is going to have holes. Do not draft a spot simply to fill a “starting” spot. The players you start in Week 1 are not necessarily going to be the same ones you start in Week 10, let alone Week 20. If you have a surplus at a position, so be it. At the same time, be smart about it. This league only has six reserve spots, so drafting injured players and part-time players is rarely worth it.

Round 16: Jung Hoo Lee (OF – SF) 

I only have two outfielders halfway through the draft. Ideally, I want at least seven OF-eligible players, so the need is there. I also see some value in Hoo Lee. He is probably the only hitter you can get this late projected to be his team’s everyday leadoff hitter. Lee will not hit many home runs but his elite contact skills should provide a safe floor for batting average and runs scored. I think some are underselling his potential to score runs. For reference, J.P. Crawford reached base 241 times last season and scored 94 runs. If Hoo Lee does wind up as San Francisco’s primary leadoff hitter and if his contact skills translate the way I think they will, he can easily score 80 runs this season with an average approaching the .300 mark.

Round 17: Ryan McMahon (2B, 3B – COL) 

Luis Rengifo is one of my favorite chess pieces because he is the most relevant player (Zach McKinstry is the other) eligible at four different positions. Rengifo is also one of five who are eligible at CI, MI and OF. If you can get him at a reasonable price, I highly recommend it in leagues like this. He’s like the roto embodiment of flex tape. I mention this because Team 1 drafted Rengifo at 17.01, which was a bummer. But Ryan McMahon is an interesting piece in his own right. The hate has gone too far. The plan on how to deploy McMahon is pretty cut and dried. Start him at home and bench him on the road. Here are his career per-600 PA numbers in each split:

  • Home: .268-87-22-92
    Road: .216-58-16-58

If you’re telling me I can cherry-pick when I start him and get those Coors numbers at either 2B, 3B, MI or CI, I am 100% in at this price.

Note: I have solid flexibility now with Hoerner, Candelario and McMahon in the fold. Through Round 17, I have two players eligible at 1B, three at 2B, one at SS and three at 3B. Ozuna should be my primary UT hitter most weeks but it’s good to have options. With 12 rounds left, I don’t need more than one or two more infielders, with at least one carrying shortstop eligibility. I only have three outfielders and five starting pitchers, though, so those positions will need to be addressed, as well as a serviceable C2.

Round 18: Kenta Maeda (SP – DET) 

I mentioned earlier Nick Pivetta was one of 12 pitchers with an xERA and xFIP below 4.00 and a K/9 rate above 10.0 while throwing at least 120 innings. Maeda hit those same thresholds, albeit in 104.1 innings. In eight MLB seasons, Maeda has never had an xERA above 3.74, an xFIP above 4.04 or a K/9 below 9.17. Yet, here he sits at Pick 266. Sure, durability is a concern, but he also pitches in a weak division and a pitcher-friendly park. In Statcast’s expected home runs by park metric, Maeda would have allowed 93 career longballs pitching exclusively at Comerica Park. He has allowed 119 homers in his MLB career.

Round 19: Tyler Stephenson (C – CIN) 

I thought hard about taking Kris Bryant here, considering I still only have three outfielders. I do have him ranked higher than Stephenson overall but Stephenson is my favorite catcher still on the board. I like him a fair amount more than the Kirk-Diaz-Jeffers-Wells tier. If I don’t take a catcher here, I might miss a run and get stuck with someone I like even less than that foursome. Stephenson is a bit underrated this year. His batting average plummeted from .319 in 2022 to .243 in 2023. The .319 was the bigger outlier. Stephenson’s xSLG improved slightly last year, from .391 to .394. Stephenson is a career .272 hitter with 20 HR potential. We’ll see if I live to regret taking him over Bryant, not to mention any of the other catchers in this range.

Round 20: Jose Siri (OF – TB) 

I have done a decent job protecting my batting average to this point. But I am probably a bit light on power and definitely light on speed. Enter Jose Siri, who hit 25 home runs and stole 12 bases last season. What intrigues me about Siri is he made a concerted effort to increase his home run output in 2023 and went from seven homers to 25. He has said he wants to focus on stealing more bases this season. Siri has 98th percentile sprint speed. If he says he is going to steal more bases, he is going to steal more bases.

I think there are a couple of ways to look at this. Siri will never be a .300 hitter but if his focus is on stealing more bases does that mean he sells out less often for power and tries to make more consistent contact? If so, we could be looking at a final stat line in the range of .250-15-30. Or, if he continues to swing for the downs and intends to run more when he accidentally happens to wind up at first base, his line could look something like .225-20-20. I can make either one of those work, especially in the 20th round.

Round 21: Tim Anderson (SS – MIA) 

By the way, teams have not yet drafted most of those catchers I have in the tier below Tyler Stephenson. Maybe I should have gone Bryant over Stephenson. Oh well, what’s done is done. As for this pick, Tim Anderson had probably the biggest drop-off in all of baseball last season. He went from a hitter who batted .300 or better in four straight seasons while averaging nearly 20 home runs per 600 plate appearances to a man who hit .245 with a single home run in 123 games. I believe some of that decline was due to Anderson’s MCL injury suffered in April. At this spot in the draft, I do not need him to be the 2019-2022 version of himself, but if he is, I am sitting pretty. Even with drafting Anderson, It would not kill me to grab one more SS-eligible player in the final eight rounds.

There are only eight rounds left. I have drafted my two catchers and will not carry a third. As of now, I have two players eligible at 1B and SS, with three each at 2B and 3B. I have four outfielders and want to carry seven. I have seven pitchers (six SP and one RP) and want to carry 12 (ideally an 8/4 or 9/3 split). Simple math tells me I can draft five pitchers and three outfielders with my remaining eight picks. It would be nice if I could incorporate another 1B-eligible and SS-eligible player. Before my last two picks, I felt very light on speed and semi-light on power. That may be flipped a little now with my last two selections of Siri and Anderson.

Round 22: Austin Hays (OF – BAL) 

As we get to the portion of the draft where platoon players make up most of the remaining player pool of outfielders, I feel most confident about Austin Hays as someone who can get 500 at-bats. And while he does not do anything particularly well, he is a solid compiler. Since 2021, he has averaged 18 home runs, 72 runs scored and 66 RBIs while maintaining a solid .261 batting average. Hays is pretty consistent from a split standpoint. As a fifth outfielder, he has some value. I will still look to supplement my outfield with a player or two with a favorable split to exploit or someone who can boost my power potential.

Round 23: Jason Adam (RP – TB) 

It hurts my heart a little that Josh Bell is still available. He is easily the top hitter left on my board. I just don’t see a need for him. Christian Walker should be my starting 1B and Marcell Ozuna should be my starting UT most weeks. If Ke’Bryan Hayes is my starting 3B, my CI spot will usually be filled by either home Jeimer Candelario or home Ryan McMahon. Meanwhile, I want to take 4-5 pitchers with my last seven picks. Even though Jason Adam is not Tampa’s closer, I am grabbing him here. (P.S. Bell went with the very next selection after my Adam pick.)

As you are probably sick of hearing by now, I want to try to protect ratios at all costs. So, yes, I would rather have Adam than a below-average starting pitcher. In two seasons in Tampa, Adam has a 0.88 WHIP and a 31.4% strikeout rate. While Pete Fairbanks is the Rays’ primary closer, Adam has 20 total saves over the past two years. If he continues to post stellar ratios while grabbing a handful of wins and twice as many saves, he will be a solid play in deeper leagues this year.

Round 24: Joel Payamps (RP – MIL)
Round 25: Trevor Megill (RP MIL) 

With the recent injury to Devin Williams, Milwaukee’s closer role is up for grabs. There are three top candidates: Joel Payamps, Trevor Megill and Abner Uribe. All three are talented and any of them can grab the gig and run with it. I figured that by grabbing two, I would give myself a pretty good chance of locking down Milwaukee’s closer for the foreseeable future. Combine that with Jhoan Duran and Jason Adam, I should be highly competitive in saves while keeping my ratios intact.

I chose Payamps and Megill over Uribe for a couple of reasons. Uribe may be the most talented pitcher of the three but he has yet to harness it. He had a 15.7% walk rate in his first taste of MLB action last season. And that was not a case of Uribe losing control when facing major league hitters. That’s just who he is. In six minor league seasons, Uribe walked 17.1% of hitters. That sort of high-wire act gets old quickly when it happens in the ninth inning of a one-run game. Uribe also has the least MLB experience among the three in general. I believe Payamps or Megill will emerge as the frontrunner for saves, so I grabbed both.

Round 26: Trevor Rogers (SP – MIA) 

With the Miami Marlins decimated by injuries to seemingly their entire starting rotation, Trevor Rogers should be an early-season fixture in the team’s rotation. He has shown promise, posting a career 4.12 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Rogers is right around league average in hard-hit rate and walk rate while having an above-average strikeout rate. As my seventh starter, he will be a fringe player on my roster. If something clicks with him early in the season, I can get great value out of Rogers. If not, cut and move on.

Round 27: Mitch Haniger (OF – SEA) 

Mitch Haniger is only three years removed from a season in which he hit 39 homers, scored 110 runs and had 100 RBIs. A lot has happened since then (like, a lot) but Haniger can still hit 20-25 home runs given a full complement of plate appearances. He should be Seattle’s left fielder for as long as he can remain healthy.

Round 28: Gavin Stone (SP – LAD) 

Fourteen pitchers and three catchers were selected with the 20 picks between my Haniger pick and this one. I was bummed because one of the pitchers chosen was Zack Littell. I planned to grab him with this pick. I do love those Rays pitchers. But the Dodgers’ pitching factory is never a bad fallback option. Stone believes he has fixed a mechanical issue that developed following a blister on his foot last season. He is projected to be in the team’s rotation to start the season. Stone has a high pedigree as a prospect and is backed by one of the best offenses in the league. I am happy to take the gamble here that Stone has solved his issues and sticks in the rotation for a while.

Round 29: Garrett Mitchell (OF – MIL) 

My favorite late-late round flex tape piece (Ezequiel Duran) was selected in Round 27. It would have been nice to grab a player eligible at SS and OF because before I made this pick, I knew I would be a little light in hitting flexibility. I only had two players eligible at 1B, two at SS and six at OF. I could have taken Duran instead of Rogers and gone with two extra pitchers. But having grabbed Ozuna, my UT spot is more or less spoken for, so it is what it is.

Garrett Mitchell is penciled in as Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching. I am not completely sold he sticks there, as Mitchell has proven allergic to contact during his brief MLB stints. However, he does make solid contact when he does put the bat on the ball. Mitchell has a 28.4% line drive rate and 10.8% barrel rate in 74 batted ball events. He has also shown flashes of his elite speed, with nine steals in 10 career attempts. If Mitchell can reduce his strikeout rate even a little, he could be a cheap source of runs and steals.

Recap

Here is the link to the draft and FantasyPros’ analysis.

Final Roster and Projected Weekly Lineup (Draft Round in Parentheses)

  • Catcher: Keibert Ruiz (13), Tyler Stephenson (19)
  • First Base: Christian Walker (7), Jeimer Candelario (14)
  • Second Base: Ozzie Albies (2), Nico Hoerner (4), Ryan McMahon (17)
  • Third Base: Ke’Bryan Hayes (10), Jeimer Candelario (14), Ryan McMahon (17)
  • Shortstop: Nico Hoerner (4), Tim Anderson (21)
  • Outfield: Adolis Garcia (3), Teoscar Hernandez (8), Jung Hoo Lee (16), Jose Siri (20), Austin Hays (22), Mitch Haniger (27), Garrett Mitchell (29)
  • Starting Pitcher: Spencer Strider (1), Justin Steele (6), Bailey Ober (9), Nick Pivetta (12), Aaron Civale (15), Kenta Maeda (18), Trevor Rogers (26), Gavin Stone (28)
  • Relief Pitcher: Jhoan Duran (4), Jason Adam (22), Joel Payamps (23), Trevor Megill (24)

The FantasyPros Draft Wizard gave me an A+, crediting me with a 98 out of 100 score. The funniest part is that under the “Expert Opinions” tab, I am not listed as one of the experts who likes my draft the most. On the bright side, at least I am not listed as one of those who like my draft the least. That feels like it would be a problem.

As for my real-time opinion, I am very satisfied with how this draft played out. Sure, there were some picks I may have made differently after seeing how the board fell. But we do not have that luxury at the moment. You cannot harp on a perceived mistake during the draft. You only do yourself a disservice when you try to “correct” it with subsequent picks.

Hoerner will be my primary shortstop with this build since I have Albies to man second base. That leaves my MI spot for either Anderson or McMahon in Coors. Similarly, with Walker at first base and Hayes at third, my CI spot will likely come down to McMahon at home or Candelario at home. My outfield feels a bit boring but not every position will be an area of strength. I have four players who can hit 25 home runs and one or two who can steal 20 bases, so it is not as if I am dead in the water at outfield. Besides, there will always be players I can grab during the season.

I absolutely love my pitching staff. I will happily take my chances with Strider, Steele, Ober, Pivetta, Civale, Maeda, Duran, Adam and either Payamps or Megill in any given week. I wouldn’t hate that staff in a 12-team league, to be honest, much less in a 15-teamer.

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