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RotoBaller MLB Mock: Revising Draft Strategy for a Short Season

With rumors of a proposed plan to start the MLB season becoming more of a reality, it is time to start mock drafting again. I joined some writers from RotoBaller to take place in a 12-team mock draft (full draft results here) for a traditional 5x5 rotisserie league draft with a 24-player roster. It was a standard setup that used three outfielders and two infield swing slots, along with nine pitcher slots and four bench spots. 

The current MLB proposal on the table consists of a season of around 80 games with teams playing in their home ballparks. Well, perhaps only most teams, as I doubt teams in California, Toronto, or New York will be able to play at home and are more likely to play at their spring training facilities. The other proposed tweak is a geographically-aligned, three-division format where teams would play mostly within their division, with the East, Central, and West divisions from each league combining to form three 10-team divisions. 

Between different levels of competition, playing in different parks, and a shorter season, these proposed changes will definitely favor some players more than others. Considering this, I drafted with certain strategies in mind. Did everything go as planned? Of course not, in a sharp room like this. Mock drafts will become even more important once we get an MLB plan set in stone as certain teams will get boosts and ADP will be rapidly changing. For now, let’s go over some of the strategies I employed for pitching and hitting and how I attempted to execute those plans in this 12-team mock.

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RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball Mock

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Pitching Big Three

With a shortened season on the horizon, some will think quality innings will become even more important, while some may look to take more risk with their fantasy pitching staff. I will likely target more consistent pitchers with a stronger floor, allowing my team some potential gambles on offense. 

Walker Buehler, SP (Rd. 1, 8th Overall)
Yu Darvish, CHC (Rd. 4, 41st Overall)
Frankie Montas, OAK (Rd. 8, 89th Overall)

This “safer” strategy led me to grab an ace early because leaving the draft with a few top-end starters that can eat innings and help in all four categories was a focus of mine. With Gerritt Cole and Jacob deGrom going off the board with the fifth and seventh picks, I felt I executed this plan well, grabbing the Dodger ace to anchor my staff. I see him as potential Cy Young candidate this season and we know how much of a lockdown ace he should be for Los Angeles. 

After Buehler, I added more depth to the rotation. Yu Darvish and Frankie Montas bring two solid arms, can strike out a ton of batters, and provide some potential ace upside. With the “Big Three” of my pitching staff in place, it was all about getting more depth and stability.

 

Rounding Out the Staff

With the top of my staff filled out with a top ace and two potential ones, it was time to round out the rest of my starters with upside and innings, as well as start addressing my bullpen.

Rich Hill, MIN (Rd. 12, 137th Overall)
Kenta Maeda, MIN (Rd. 13, 152nd Overall)
Sandy Alcantara, MIA (Rd. 20, 233rd Overall)
Ryan Yarbrough, TB (Rd. 22, 257th Overall)

According to ADP I went early grabbing Rich Hill, but his ability on a shortened season brings major upside. Hill is good for really nice ratios with a strong strikeout ability on a good Twins team. The rotation rounds out with Kenta Maeda, innings-eater Sandy Alcantara, and a slight gamble on Ryan Yarbrough with one of my last picks. 

When it comes to saves, I currently have the opinion that the stability of a solid closer locking in saves might be even more important in a shortened season. With that thought in mind, I wanted to leave the draft with two or three established closers. Initially, I was going to grab one of the elite options early, but they were taken earlier than I preferred.

Kenley Jansen (Rd. 9, 104th Overall)
Joe Jimenez (Rd. 15, 176th Overall)
Ian Kennedy (Rd. 17, 200th Overall)

Waiting a little longer I was still able to grab Kenley Jansen who is extremely reliable and on a team that should run away with the NL West once again. Since the majority of my top options as my RP2 were flying off the board, I double-dipped on Joe Jimenez and Ian Kennedy. Neither are guaranteed studs but both should be able to keep their jobs all season. 

 

Heart of the Order

In 12-team leagues, there will be a ton of depth when it comes to hitting. There was even more depth than I expected in this mock draft due to the roster construction of only three outfielders required to start. Being a 12-team league with a lot of depth my early offensive picks were more well-rounded picks, like usual in drafts for me, but then I was ok taken risks from time to time. I also really like the ability of more multi-position players on a season with larger benches and more potential days off, leading to some players moving around more as utility players.

Starling Marte, OF (Rd. 2, 17th Overall)
Ozzie Albies, 2B (Rd. 3, 32nd Overall)
Yoan Moncada, 3B (Rd. 5, 56th Overall)
Tim Anderson, SS (Rd. 6, 65th Overall)

I started off by building my offense with five-category contributors in Marte, Albies, Moncada, and Anderson. All bring a solid average floor to the team with power and speed. Steals are always a point of interest in drafts but may become even more important in a shortened season. Players that are in the upper-echelon of steals may stand out more, providing a larger impact for your team.

 

Big Stick Potential

With a solid offensive base in play, I was ready to start taking some risks on some higher upside bats.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B (Rd. 7, 80th Overall)
Franmil Reyes, OF (Rd. 10, 113th Overall)
Miguel Sano, 3B (Rd. 11, 128th Overall)
Kyle Tucker, OF (Rd. 14, 161st Overall)

Rhys Hoskins was a fantasy stud just a season ago and someone who I am a firm believer has a bounce-back coming in 2020. Along with Hoskins, both Reyes and Sano have the potential to add major home run upside. All three players can be a batting average risk with little speed if they struggle, at the same time their upper-end production can be a great value to a fantasy team.

The three major power picks are players that we have a rough idea of what to expect when it comes to offensive production, but the next offensive player was the big gamble. Drafting Kyle Tucker could either be a league-winning pick or one that could prove to be disasterous. Tucker brings 20-20 upside to a fantasy team and at pick 161 could return tremendous value. Josh Reddick may still be in the way, but I feel Tucker will get the job early and run with it, making him worth the gamble in the 14th round.

Scott Kingery, 2B/3B/SS/OF (Rd. 16, 185th Overall)
Willie Calhoun, OF (Rd. 18, 209th Overall)
Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B (Rd. 19, 224th Overall)
Kolten Wong, 2B (Rd. 21, 248th Overall)
Jason Castro, C (Rd. 23, 272nd Overall)
Ryan Braun, OF (Rd. 24, 281st Overall)

The rest of the team consists of young players like Scott Kingery and Willie Calhoun (he will be drafted much higher as more positive health news comes out) who offer solid upside. Kolten Wong was drafted as a late-round stolen base pick, as grabbing 20+ steal upside in the late rounds is usually hard to find. Lastly, Ryan Braun was drafted with the universal DH in mind that would allow Braun to play nearly every day and contribute in all five categories.

 

Conclusion

Mock drafts are always a great way to learn the player pool while trying out different drafting strategies. With the shortened season on the horizon, universal DH, and potential three-division format, different strategies will be very interesting.

Will certain teams based in certain divisions get drafted even higher due to matchups? Will creating a Franken Ace like JB Branson recommends be an even better strategy with pitchers potentially needing more time to ramp up, resulting in more relievers used?

There are a lot of interesting strategies in play and hopefully, this article helps open the mind to a few as we get closer to some real baseball.

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