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Expert Mock Draft Reactions - RotoBaller Friends & Family

On February 13, 2019, we assembled a group of industry experts to take part in the second annual RotoBaller Friends and Family Expert Mock Draft.

Our participants represented multiple sites, including:

After the dust settled, we asked these fantasy baseball experts some tough questions about how it all shook out. Check out the full draft board at RealTime Fantasy Sports: rtsports.com/rotoballer

 

The Big Board

 

My strategy for this mock was to _____

"Find a couple of aces early while building a base of high-average hitters with another plus tool (power and/or speed). However, I also wanted to venture outside my comfort zone, so I made my first two picks ones I might not normally select." -Alex Chamberlain

"Take the best fallen-value hitter and an ace starting pitcher at the 2/3 turn as my base and build a well-balanced squad. Grabbing three closers was a no-brainer, particularly in this landscape of closer committees." -Vlad Sedler

"Load up on HR and SB but address BA more urgently than usual while being flexible with pitching. I wanted one ace, though." -Tim Heaney

"Have a deep queue and order that queue in the order I wanted players. This is a smart group, and I knew I was going to get sniped often, so being prepared and having a plan mapped out was key." -Nando Di Fino

"Crush the souls of my opponents by disregarding ADP (standard practice), and drafting "my guys" where I felt it was fair and right based on personal projections." -Real Talk Raph

 

Call it a reach, but I'm glad I got _____ on my team.

"Yoan Moncada. Because he is going to hammer homers and steal 30 bases, while putting up a very good average, and nobody seems to be as in love with him as I am." -Nando Di Fino

"Kyle Hendricks, he solidifies my ratios with top-25 numbers on top of Verlander after stacking offense so that I can aggressively target K’s without caring as much about absorbing those prone to the longball." -Nick Mariano

"Archie Bradley... I believe he's got the stuff to close, and should be able to reach at least 20 saves." -Ray Flowers

"Gregory Polanco because he's being sorely undervalued now that his recovery timetable has improved. Think he still has 30-30 potential if his skills click." -Tim Heaney

"Nelson Cruz because he's the GOAT." -Alex Chamberlain

 

If I could hit the "Undo" button, I would not have taken ______

"Buxton in the 14th. I'd wait a couple rounds, but with the way the team was shaping up, I'm fine with it." -Ray Flowers

"Luke Voit. I kept thinking a decent first baseman would fall to me the next round but I quickly realized what a wasteland that position is shaping up to be in 2019 and I panicked. I should have just taken another pitcher at that point and settled for my 20th round pick of Yuli Gurriel at first base." -Pierre Camus

"Jon Lester. Because I really don't like him, but the value was too good to pass up, and I usually won't do that. I could've skipped him, gotten a bench bat, and taken Skaggs or Bundy instead later." -Nando Di Fino

"Kevin Pillar. I could’ve taken someone with more upside with so many OF available to round out that group with." -Nick Mariano

"Joey Votto. I didn't want him but he was auto-picked as my fat fingers couldn't search fast enough after my queue was exhausted leading up to the pick." -Todd Zola

 

I was shocked that _____ lasted so long!

"In a room full of sharks, I'm surprised Jesse Winker fell as far as he did." -Alex Chamberlain

"Brandon Nimmo - he's slated to lead off for the Mets this year, can contribute to four standard categories and may exceed 100 runs scored this season." -Vlad Sedler

"Peter Alonso ... the Mets' newfound urgency to win makes me think he'll be with the club from mid-April on." -Tim Heaney

"Jake Arrieta. Sure, he's in decline, but still deserves the benefit of the doubt in a relatively shallow league." -Todd Zola

"Anibal Sanchez, he’s a machine if healthy and could be a top-30 SP in the NL East with the Nats backing him." -Nick Mariano

"Jay Bruce because he's just a year removed from a 6-year run 30-100-85 average." -Ray Flowers

"Luke Weaver, considering last year's hype train!" -Real Talk Raph

 

The late-round pick that will have the biggest impact is _____

"I think my own Max Kepler will put it all together in 2019, but as for others, Luke Weaver in the final round makes for exceptional value." -Alex Chamberlain

"It’s either Chamberlain’s Ramon Laureano pick or his Trevor Cahill one. Great upside there!" -Nick Mariano

"Tyler White. He's going to be one of those batting average/power combos and he can actually play a bunch of positions, so he should be able to keep his bat in the lineup through his defensive flexibility." -Nando Di Fino

"Eric Thames in the 28th round. Nando got a guy who is one injury from a 30-HR season." -Ray Flowers

"Jake Arrieta, now that we know that he hid an injury in 2018, or my Pedro Strop, whose elite skills could keep Brandon Morrow away from closing all year." -Tim Heaney

"Keon Broxton is bound to go 30/30 in New York this year, am I right?" -Pierre Camus

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note Featured Baseball #2 MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

RotoBaller's Industry Experts Mock Draft - The King's Perspective

At RotoBaller, we recently assembled a group of fantasy baseball experts to take part in the RotoBaller Friends and Family Expert Mock Draft.

Our participants came from all over the industry, representing a host of various sites such as:

Here is my take on how things went. Check out the full draft board at RealTime Fantasy Sports: rtsports.com/rotoballer

 

Expert Mock Recap

As a new RotoBaller, I was very excited to jump into my first mock draft as a member of the team. It was a 12-team 5x5 Roto style against some formidable industry names.

First of all, there was Nando Di Fino of the Athletic. Not only is he maybe the nicest guy on the planet, but he is the master of identifying the deep sleeper. I think he scouts kids on little league fields on the weekends. Then you have Ray Flowers, who I believe invented sabermetrics. Todd Zola is known as “The Lord” in fantasy baseball inner circles. Tim Heaney smiles a lot and is really friendly, then slits your throat at the draft table. Howard Bender sounds like Henry Hill of GoodFellas when you listen to him on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Take one of his guys and I might get whacked. Plus, there were my new RotoBaller teammates. Great, Real Talk Raph can make fun of my picks in front of a national radio audience now...

But I was ready and confident. Like Jacob deGrom does so well, as I have often observed while I have covered him throughout his career, I shut out the distractions and focus on doing what I always do. I always tell readers I let the draft “come to me.” I am always poised, going with the flow and not getting emotional. I treat a mock just as I would a real draft. It’s the way I have always operated and I owe it to the RotoBaller community to invest the picks the same as I would if I was playing for a lot of money. If we were competing for a lot of cash, though, I would not want to be up against Vlad Sedler.

Strategically, I just wanted to take the best offensive player available at No. 9 overall and then focus mainly on building out the core of my offensive group in the first few rounds. I did want to sprinkle in some top-level starting pitchers, but closers could wait, as I have often been successful in acquiring them later on or during the season. Grabbing speed at key spots throughout the draft would also be a primary focus.

 

The Breakdown

You can see the full board right here. I do not have Jose Altuve in my first nine and he went three spots ahead of me. I was hoping Christian Yelich would slip to me at nine. I know much has been made of his elevated BABIP and HR/FB rate last year, but he is one of the best pure hitters in the game and he never seemed to be content in Miami. Yelich was always seemingly “bearing it” in his Marlins days from my past observations on the MLB beat, and he almost seemed happy-go-lucky in comparison in Milwaukee. Even with an expected dip in production, the across-the-board totals are still worthy of a top-10 pick.

But Nando took Yelich one spot ahead of me, and may send me a note when he reads this, he is that kinda guy. So I went with Ronald Acuna Jr., who produced amazing numbers in just 433 at-bats in 2018. It will be his first season in the majors this year, so opponents will find some holes in his game. But Acuna will adjust back and I am definitely expecting 30/25 production with some impressive RBI totals.

Once Chris Sale went off the board at the beginning of the second round, the “Big Three” of Max Scherzer, deGrom and Sale were gone, and I needed simply to take the best starter available when it was my turn in round two. Thankfully, that was Corey Kluber. So I had my anchor hitter and pitcher and knew it would be a long wait until my next pick. I was very happy to land Andrew Benintendi for a safe 20-20 floor, and he is still improving. I love the combination of peace of mind and some possible upside he gave me at that point in the draft.

I was considering a starting pitcher in the next round with very strong consideration for Noah Syndergaard to pair with Kluber. I get the sense from him that Syndergaard believes he has not delivered his best seasons yet, and he wants to prove that. But I just could not pass on Anthony Rizzo in the fourth round. His current ADP is 34.49.

Once I had three prime hitters, I knew I had to bulk up on starters, and Zack Greinke was an ultra-safe pick to me in the fifth. Mike Clevinger was my sixth rounder and I really believe in him. Once he cut down on the walks and adjusted his arsenal last year I was very impressed, and I almost see Clevinger as a luxury as my SP3.

I may have been a little earlier than some on Miguel Andujar in the seventh. His batting average may fall a bit this year, but he has a natural and dangerous swing that should keep his counting numbers in line with last season. I picked Mallex Smith before his recent injury, but I don’t see him missing much regular season time; if you can get him beyond the eighth round right now, go for it. I believe Smith really matured as a player last season, and now he may have found a real home in Seattle. The ardent fans in the Pacific Northwest may take to him as a fan favorite when he displays his all-out style.

I always want one standout closer or the best I can get in the ninth or 10th round, then a middle round guy and some late fliers. I grabbed Aroldis Chapman to lead my relief crew in the ninth, but then stayed away from the bullpen until the 17th, when I selected Arodys Vizcaino. Will Smith was a late pick, and Wily Peralta was my final pick overall, but I really feel good about Hunter Strickland to re-emerge with my Round 24 selection. With three late choices at closer, one or two are bound to get the job done.

I was nearly stunned to get Nicholas Castellanos in Round 12, when you consider he has an ADP of 80.24 and is a top-20 fantasy outfielder. I was not comfortable with my Cesar Hernandez pick in Round 16, as maybe I got too antsy for some more speed at that point. Kyle Freeland as my fourth starting pitcher in Round 11 made me shake my head in awe. A quality pitcher from Colorado? I still cannot believe it.

Joey Wendle was one of my favorite late-round picks for some speed and maybe even a little pop. And also proved I should have waited on Hernandez. I threw the Avisail Garcia dart in Round 26. If he can stay healthy I can get decent production from him. He’s been noted to me in the past as a guy who does not take the best mental approach to the game. But the MLB insider who tipped me off to that did note Garcia’s natural skills can still lead to quality production. If Garcia stays healthy he might provide respectable output in Tampa Bay.

Overall, I felt I adjusted well to the flow of the draft and gave RotoBaller readers a solid map of my outlooks and valuations so far. But there is a lot more mocking and rolling to be done, so I will be reporting back from the draft rooms in the near future.

 

Scott Engel has joined RotoBaller as a featured contributor as he builds on 20-plus years in the fantasy sports industry. “The King” is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s (FSWA) Hall of Fame.

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RotoBaller Industry Expert Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft

On Thursday, February 15th, we brought together an illustrious group of industry experts to take part in the RotoBaller Friends and Family mock draft. We'll be playing this out as a best ball league.

Our participants represented sites like:

After the dust settled, we asked these fantasy baseball experts some tough questions about how it all shook out. The full draft board is available at RealTime Fantasy Sports: rtsports.com/rotoballer

 

The Big Board

 

It may have been a reach, but I'm glad I got _____ on my team.

"Christian Yelich. He's going to be a top-seven OF and return second round value." -Vlad Sedler

"Greg Bird. He's got a fantastic hitting tool and he'll be batting third in one of the most insane lineups in the game." -Howard Bender

"Xander Bogaerts. He's entering his age-25 season and I believe that his thumb injury played a huge role in his lower power and average. I see him flirting with .300, hitting 15-plus homers and swiping 15 bags." -Nick Mariano

"Michael Conforto as my 17th pick because once he returns he will prove to be an outstanding value at that level." -Scott Engel

"Khris Davis...it caused controversy." -Lawr Michaels

"Aaron Nola. He's so dreamy..." -Kyle Bishop

 

If I could hit the "Undo" button, I would not have taken ______

"Zack Cozart -- I would have been just as happy with Marcus Semien a couple rounds later and still have reservations as to how his power is affected by the move to LA." -Howard Bender

"Ronald Acuna - I could have used a better lock-down third OF, but the draft still played out well in the outfield so it ended up being fine." -Ray Flowers

"Mike Zunino - most catchers just aren't worth taking before round 12. I might have taken Salvador Perez in the 10th, but of course he was taken two picks before my turn." -Pierre Camus

"Michael Fulmer, because Ohtani went the very next pick. (crazy to think that it's become a 'where were you when Ohtani was drafted' kinda feel." -Andy Singleton

 

Not that I'm jealous, but I really like ____'s team because _____

"Alex Chamberlain. He grabbed several guys I like a lot - Pham, Osuna, Jose Martinez - and nailed the early rounds." -Kyle Bishop

"Howard Bender has a good early balance of power and pitching." -Scott Engel

"I like how Kyle and Ray filled out their teams. Kyle had a great first four rounds, and his mid-round run (from rounds 10-15, roughly) is delightful. Most of Ray's first 11 picks are excellent in aggregate." -Alex Chamberlain

"Tim Heaney....he swiped six of the guys I was planning on taking. RotoWire on RotoWire crime, indeed!" -Vlad Sedler

 

I greatly respect _____ as a colleague, but I'm not sure what he was thinking when he _____

"Lawr, took Alex Colome ahead of guys like Roberto Osuna and Aroldis Chapman. Colome's swinging-strike rate fell from 15.1% to 11.6% last season, prompting a drop in strikeout rate from 31.4% to 20.6%. His SIERA rose from 2.56 in '16 to 4.05 last year. I'm not seeing it." -Nick Mariano

"Pierre Camus, took Jose Berrios in the 7th. It's the first egregiously early pick, in my opinion. Glancing at the grid, I see probably 10 other starters I would've taken sooner." -Alex Chamberlain

"Ray Flowers - he took Willson Contreras in the sixth round. If this were a dynasty league, that would be reasonable, but I don't know if Contreras is an elite hitter just yet." -Pierre Camus

"Scott Engel -- drafted AJ Pollock in the third round. We continue to overrate the need for speed at the front end of a draft, but if you do, then at least overdraft someone with a better health track record." -Howard Bender

 

I was shocked that _____ lasted so long!

"Ryan Zimmerman ... Where I got him, there's little risk in hoping he has another season of 25-plus homers with run production befitting the Nationals' stacked lineup." -Tim Heaney

"Jake Lamb. Humidor or not, Lamb falling outside the top 250 (!!!) is crazytown. I had 3B well covered and thought he was already off the board anyway, so this is clearly everyone's fault but mine." -Kyle Bishop

"Evan Longoria - not that I expect from huge turnaround in SF, but he's stable in so many ways." -Ray Flowers

"Eric Hosmer" -Nick Mariano

"Kyle Hendricks" -Lawr Michaels

 

The late-round pick that will have the biggest impact is _____

"Jose Martinez and Derek Fisher." -Vlad Sedler

"Sean Manaea, Alex Reyes, and Joe Musgrove are all guys I'm betting the farm on." -Andy Singleton

"Aside from Lamb, probably Willie Calhoun. I might even prefer Calhoun to Lamb. Super-boring honorable mentions: Todd Frazier, Kendrys Morales, Evan Longoria. Wild cards: Tyler Glasnow, Nick Senzel, Derek Fisher." -Alex Chamberlain

"Maikel Franco. I believe a rebound is coming. His power is undeniable, and the issues he had last year don't fit with the stellar plate discipline he's had most of his professional career." -Tim Heaney

"Ryan McMahon - he's being given the chance to become the regular first baseman. He's the type of player you take at that point in the draft, with tremendous upside." -Pierre Camus

"Yoshihisa Hirano -- Will easily lead the DBacks in saves this year and could potentially finish top 5 in all of MLB." -Howard Bender

"Fernando Rodney's gonna somehow save 40 games again." -Kyle Bishop

"David Dahl. Hey, one can dream, can't he?" -Ray Flowers

 

In best-ball format, _____ is going to be a league-winner for me

"Nick Senzel." -Howard Bender

"Alex Reyes." -Vlad Sedler

"Chad Green 100%" -Kyle Bishop

"Brad Hand. The Saves will add up, and the elite ratios will matter." -Andy Singleton

"Nick Castellanos. Qualifies at two spots, plays daily, and could improve on last year's numbers" -Ray Flowers

"Dinelson Lamet - he may have the occasional wild start, but when he's on, he can be electric and rack up strikeouts. I was happy with where I got him even if this were a standard roto league, but in BB format, it's even better." -Pierre Camus

"Ian Desmond. 1B/OF eligibility for roster versatility, 20-20 potential, Coors Field for (hopefully) a full season to make up for his groundball tendencies. He could become my MVP." -Tim Heaney

 

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January Expert Mock Draft Analysis - Best of the Rest

Here at RotoBaller, 12 of our expert writers recently took part in an early mock draft for the 2018 fantasy baseball season. We've already shared those draft results, including our big board from RT Sports, accompanied by a series of articles analyzing each round. Here's the complete list of recaps, in case you missed it:

Round 1
Rounds 2-4
Rounds 5-9
Rounds 10-15
Rounds 16-23

To finish things up, let's take a look at some of the biggest potential sleepers, busts, and players who did not get selected in our 23-round mock draft, as some may prove to be important waiver wire selections during the course of the season.

 

RotoBaller Mock Draft Results

Values

Jose Berrios in round 11 doesn't seem like a steal, but it very well could be. He didn't have the breakout season many envisioned, but he did maintain a sub-4.00 ERA and struck out nearly a batter per inning. He's got a nice mix of pitches and could parlay another year of experience into SP2 value.

Jon Gray in the 14th round and Dinelson Lamet in the 19th round are prime examples of power arms with high strikeout upside that should reward fantasy owners this season. Both had their ratios inflated by a couple of disastrous starts last season, but were solid in the majority of their starts. While Gray pitches in the worst homepark possible, it hasn't bothered him so far (3.13 home ERA vs. 4.06 road ERA). Lamet, on the other hand, must learn to pitch better away from Petco, but definitely has the stuff to do so.

Jonathan Villar was a huge bust in 2017, but he may have been a victim of his own success. Pressing to maintain 2016 power numbers that he had never experienced before, he struck out 30% of the time and dropped from 19 home runs to 11, while falling off a cliff in the speed category, from 62 steals to 23. Villar did have some injury problems during the season and the Brewers are upgrading their lineup all around him, so this is a perfect rebound candidate to buy in the later rounds. Anybody who is almost guaranteed for 25 steals and has multiple position eligibility should be taken in the first 15 rounds at least.

Reaches

There weren't too many reaches in general, but a couple of picks may prove to be costly if this were a money league. David Dahl was a trendy sleeper last season, but it wasn't meant to be. Injuries prevented him from taking a single at-bat for the Rockies last year, which means there is plenty of rust to shake off. Even in his enticing rookie debut, his plate discipline wasn't too impressive. Dahl is not someone worth grabbing in the top 120 picks.

Ozzie Albies should turn out to be a fine player for the Braves, maybe even this year. The question you should be asking is: what will he do in fantasy leagues? Albies should bring a high average and score a fair amount of runs, but that's about it. Considered a speed threat, he stole 30 bases just once in the minors, where those come in far greater abundance with more aggressive managers and inexperienced pitchers. If he replicates last year's .286 average and steals 20 bases with 80 runs scored and forgettable power numbers, he's really no different from Andrelton Simmons or Orlando Arcia, who were both available several rounds later.

I hate to call Miguel Cabrera a reach, simply because he's one of my favorite players and I really want to believe in a bounce-back year. Even if it was a matter of injuries to blame and he's somehow over it, there's no need to grab him in the fifth round like Nick did. Miggy's current ADP sits in the 90s in early expert drafts (he was taken 94th in FSTA), so that bet could have been hedged a little more.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Let's look now at the players who did not have the privilege of being selected by our expert staff. The first thing to keep in mind when looking at the list below is that these are the default rankings from the host site, not custom rankings by RotoBaller or its writers. You can find our very own up-to-date rankings right here.

The first thing you might notice is that this would make a mighty fine All-Star team... three years ago. Pujols could very well drive in 100 or more runs again, but his .241 average is no help and his on-base skills are just getting worse with age. His completely lethargic speed and worsening walk rate (5.8% in 2017) contributed to an ever-declining OBP that dropped to .286 last season. If he isn't even close to 30 homers, he's helping you in one category only. Matt Kemp also has a power stroke that remains his only valuable tool. He might beat Pujols in a foot race, but would probably get lapped 10 times over by the Freeze.

Add Victor Martinez and Jose Bautista to the list of aging veterans that will draw little interest on draft day from anyone who isn't a full-fledged homer hoping for a rebound from their childhood idol.

On the younger side, a couple of shortstops stand out as surprise free agents. Top overall pick Dansby Swanson has a lower ADP entering this season than he did as a rookie, thanks to a sad .232/.312/.324 slash line. He did show improvement in his contact rate and plate discipline over the second half, but the power disappeared with it. He may still be a work in progress, but if it suddenly clicks, you could have a gem on the waiver wire.

Addison Russell had troubles on and off the diamond, but remains an important part of the Cubs infield. At just 24 years of age, this former top 10 prospect is too talented to be left in limbo. He too will need to make more advances at the plate in order to improve a .240 career average over three MLB seasons, but there's enough power potential to make him worth a bench stash at least.

Finally, my two pet sleepers from a year ago that didn't pan out, Keon Broxton and Jose Peraza, were not even considered by our drafters. Given the dearth of players who can give you 20+ steals, it's a bit surprising that nobody even took a chance on either one. For my part, I'd rather get ridiculed for a new set of sleepers that didn't pan out than the same ones over and over.

It's safe to say we can ignore those players with an ERA above 5.00 without remorse, even if one is nicknamed "The Dark Knight." Julio Urias and Vince Velasquez are both pitchers that get great movement on their fastballs, but must develop their other pitchers to become less hittable. Each comes with injury concerns entering the preseason as well, which is why they are best ignored in re-draft leagues.

Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn were definitely serviceable as lower-end rotation arms for fantasy teams, but the fact that they don't have homes yet just leaves too much uncertainty. Landing in a place like Milwaukee would make for rougher home starts in either case. Meanwhile, J.A. Happ has been rock solid, if not exciting, for the Jays two years running and is entering the last year of his contract.

It's usually a surprise to see a reliever who could enter the season as his team's closer go completely undrafted, but it would appear that Alex Claudio will be free to own in 2018. When you have a fastball that doesn't touch 90 MPH and about three better arms behind you in the bullpen breathing down your neck, that tends to happen though. Just ask Jeanmar Gomez, if you can find him these days.

 

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January Expert Mock Analysis - Rounds 16-23

From the middle rounds, we segue into the tail-end of our early bird mock draft. The 12-team draft was done by RotoBaller’s MLB writers with order as follows: Chris Zolli, Harris Yudin, Troy Klauder, Kevin Luchansky, Pierre Camus, Max Petrie, Nick Mariano, Max Brill, Connor McEleney, Kyle Bishop, Mario Hernandez, and Andrew Le.

As mentioned in commentary for Rounds 10-15, Rounds 16-23 could disproportionately impact teams’ early-season performances. Early rounds are for high-floor studs, with pick variation dependent on manager preferences and biases. Middle-to-later rounds require extra TLC. The player pool gets incrementally diluted with each selection and managers must weigh volatile upside picks with commoditized players that may contribute towards only one or two categories. Both options might bust entirely, but the choice matters. Managers that passed over Aaron Judge for Carlos Gomez last year know the swing factor of these later rounds.

The format for this draft consisted of a 23-player team with nine pitchers, two catchers and no bench spots. Unlike most drafts, players picked need to provide immediate returns and that likely prevented excessively hoarding of unproven youngsters or potential May or June call-ups.

 

RotoBaller Mock Results

Round 16

Leading off, Zack Cozart and Scooter Gennett were two surprising sources of MI slugging last season. The anomaly in Cozart’s numbers last year was his 0.79 BB:K compared to a career mark of 0.40. His newfound patience led to career highs in ISO, BABIP and wOBA by a wide margin. One risk was his high 15.6% HR:FB but if he can retain his grasp of the strikezone another shot at 20 HRs seems realistic. Gennett went pull-happy last season (42.4% vs. 35.7% career). Great American Ballpark is a friendly confine for lefty power hitters, putting Gennett in position to follow-up his breakout year. Pull the trigger on Archie Bradley if you buy the bearded closer philosophy, the guy looks the part. 2017 was by far his best season (1.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) helped by major improvements in fastball and curveball effectiveness.

Round 17

Despite being Top-13 NL starters last year with over 140 IP, there’s skepticism surrounding Gio Gonzalez and Chase Anderson. Gonzalez has started over 30 games in every season but one since 2010, averaging almost a strikeout per inning. He also plays on a team that puts him in position for wins. Haters can point to the lucky BABIP and LOB% last season but Gonzalez has been a winning pitcher his whole career, supplying Ks and staying around the plate. Anderson is a tougher sell considering his irrelevance until the 12-4, 2.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.47 K:9 line last season. Doubters may believe the 8.6% HR:FB is low but Anderson appears a low-risk backend fantasy starter on a competitive Brewers squad. Andrelton Simmons is baseball’s best defensive shortstop by a mile and last year turned in his first strong offensive campaign (.278 AVG, 14 HR, 77 R, 69 RBI, 19 SB). Simmons pulled the ball more last year resulting in a jump in Hard% from 23.4% to 29.2%. Playing daily, he is a relatively cheap option as a set-and-forget SS.

Round 18

Kyle Schwarber loses catcher eligibility in 2018 and his resulting fantasy value plummeted. He may not start daily and strikes out a ton, but crushes the ball when he makes contact (36.4% Hard%). Schwarber is a near lock for over 25 HRs if he surpasses 400 PAs. Sean Manaea and Blake Snell look like younger iterations of Julio Teheran. All three are satisfactory streaming options but their K:BBs are unflattering and solid-contact rates too high to be regular fantasy starters. Mike Zunino is a whiff-machine (36.8% K%) and didn’t play enough (124 games) but went yard 25 times last year. Basically, he’s a prototypical catcher whose value should be buoyed by slugging ability. Zunino could return Schwarber-esque power numbers without requiring a precious OF slot.

Round 19

No one drank the Yonder Alonso koolaid and he fell to Round 19. Compared to a 9.2% career HR:FB, the ridiculous 19.4% rate is a red flag but notably his plate approach was more swing-happy in 2017. Owners burned by Jonathan Villar last year may bury him too deep in the doghouse. The unsustainable .373 BABIP masked a 25.6% K-rate in 2016. Heading into 2018, owners should reset expectations of Villar as a source for SBs and occasional pop. If he moves up the order, upside in runs is also a reasonable forecast. Dinelson Lamet debuted with a 10.94 K:9 last season and could be a popular sleeper. He struggled with consistency but should have a long leash in San Diego. Jake Faria is less flashy (8.72 K:9) but allowed four or more runs only twice in 14 starts last season. Compared to Lamet’s power style, Faria is a solid three-breaking pitch guy. It’s a tossup and both kids could make a run at double-digit wins while offering strikeout potential.

Round 20

In 5x5 leagues, it makes sense to anchor your pitching with rock steady ratios and Dellin Betances achieves exactly that (career 2.29 ERA, 2.42 xFIP, 1.04 WHIP), logging over 15 K:9 and 22 bonus saves the past two seasons. Luis Gohara is a prodigal power pitcher; the RotoBaller team recently discussed his promise. Mark Trumbo remains a perennial power hitter and still managed 23 HRs in 2017 despite a collapse in Hard% and ISO. Aaron Hicks was on the verge of a breakout until an oblique injury steamrolled his season. Hicks was on pace for a 20 HR, 20 SB year but managed just an .715 OPS after the All-Star break. He will try to get back on track if he finds playing time in the crowded Bronx outfield.

Rounds 21-23

The final rounds of the long draft mostly consisted of filling mandatory slots with players like Brandon Phillips and Chris Owings or making homer picks like Tyson Ross (courtesy of yours truly). Blurred vision had firmly set in at this stage so we did our best to finish strong by layering our teams with depth or young lottery picks.

Cole Hamels may be a bargain if you believe the bulls (unlucky 70.2% LOB% in 2017) or value trap if you buy the bears (career-worst 1.98 K:BB). Zach Davies struggled early last season with an ugly 5.03 ERA and 1.50 WHIP by July, but bounced back to end the year with 17 Wins and a 3.90 ERA. Davies won’t miss a ton of bats (6.55 K:9, 7.9% SwStr%) but should be a serviceable backend starter. David Peralta is an underappreciated player in a good offense. He hits for average (career .293 AVG, .340 BABIP) and could threaten double-digit HRs and SBs if he plays regularly. Gleyber Torres is the No. 5 MLB prospect whose debut last year was stalled by injury. He hopes to crack a roster spot but the starting Yankees SS position currently belongs to Didi Gregorius. Pressed into service last season, Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro hit 5 HRs with a .874 OPS in 29 games, but a BABIP of .420 screams negative regression unless the 24-year-old cuts down on the 28.9% K-rate. Russell Martin will end up on half the teams in your league this year, again.

The lack of bench spots in the mock supported the idea that player turnover is a common occurrence in fantasy. Holding and hoping usually doesn’t pay off in fake baseball and this format encourages a higher degree of scrutiny on a regular basis. Most players outside of the first three rounds will probably face a degree of cut risk throughout the season and that’s normal! Baseball is a marathon in both real and fantasy versions and will take steady doses of patience and swift decision-making to achieve victory.

 

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January Expert Mock Analysis - Rounds 10-15

Spring training is getting closer and the RotoBaller MLB team opened up our first bags of peanuts and cracker jacks with a 12-team mock draft last week. For consideration, this 23-round mock draft was a traditional 5x5 league consisting of nine pitcher spots and the rest starting offensive slots (including two catchers). The lack of a bench certainly affected choices throughout the draft. The order went as followed: Chris Zolli, Harris Yudin, Troy Klauder, Kevin Luchansky, Pierre Camus, Max Petrie, Nick Mariano, Max Brill, Connor McEleney, Kyle Bishop, Mario Hernandez, and Andrew Le.

The double-digit rounds are the heart of a fantasy baseball draft. You’ve established where your studs are locked in and the majority of name brand players are long gone. By Round 10, you’re weighing the categories you have an advantage and where you’re deficient. You might also be considering which offensive positions to start adding depth and when to pull the trigger on upside and mid-tier pitching. This is the most fun portion of the draft and when owners need to dig in and trust their research.

Therefore, it’s almost impossible to judge individual picks in the middle rounds without context. We’re not mind readers, but can observe and attempt to decipher why decisions were made. Let’s take a look at each round and highlight some picks that stood out, ones that generated buzz, or if any might’ve been a straight up “Vicente Padilla” moment.

 

RotoBaller Mock Results

Round 10

Kyle took Gerrit Cole as his third starting pitcher, which seems reasonable. Surprisingly, there’s not much value erosion for pitchers between PNC Park and Minute Maid Park. However, Cole does transfer to a more hitter-friendly league coming off a season where he struggled with consistency and set a career high 1.37 HR:9. The Rougned Odor pick was a possible reach (ADP 13.9) but the HR and bounce back potential certainly merits the risk, especially in standard leagues. The Michael Conforto pick is classic high risk-reward for a player with an uncertain rehabilitation timeline. No arguments on the starters and tier-2 closers taken this round, unless your philosophy is to wait for saves late or on the wire.

Round 11

Round 11 was bookended with two quality SPs. Jose Berrios (SP29) could slowly creep up draft boards after making meaningful strides in his second season. He was a shade under a strikeout per inning and his middling K:BB of 2.90 could improve if he develops a third pitch to complement his above-average fastball and curve. Jameson Taillon (SP44) could’ve been in the Top-25 discussion had he not endured a cancer scare that interrupted his season. Taillon will look to build on two or fewer runs in seven of his last 10 starts in 2017 and is worth a look especially in QS leagues. Didi Gregorius is a Top-10 SS (6.6 WAR since 2016) but rarely merits as much discussion as his counterparts, his ADP could slip in drafts providing good value for owners waiting on the position.

Round 12

Adam Duvall should provide excellent three-category contributions as an OF2 or OF3, averaging 32 HRs, 82 R, 101 RBI over the last two seasons. His primary and peripheral numbers are eerily similar across the two seasons. Joey Gallo is a polarizing player and will probably provoke divergent opinions and rankings throughout spring training. Nick’s pick of Gallo was five rounds ahead of his ADP, but it seems he was going after homers after setting a fairly balanced team to that point. The HR argument applies for Kevin’s selection of Chris Davis, but that pick was a bit more puzzling since his team was already loaded with sluggers. Ronald Acuna (ADP 17.3) generated significant buzz when picked, so readers should prepare their sleeper or hype vision goggles accordingly.

Round 13

Yoan Moncada arguably headlined this round. The 22-year-old pubescent certainly has underwhelmed in 619 career PAs but 2018 will be his first full season in the bigs. He’s your typical high-potential pick in the middle rounds. Ozzie Albies was taken immediately after Moncada and signals are also bullish despite the minuscule 57-game sample. It appears the RotoBaller staff is also on the bandwagon: see here and here. Moving on, Steven Souza will look to parlay his improved BB:K ratio from last season into another serviceable three-category season (30 HRs, 78 R, 78 RBI, 16 SBs). Perhaps the designation of Souza as the third wheel in the Wil Myers and Trea Turner deal was premature.

Round 14

Round 14 was mostly comprised of vanilla vets (Dexter Fowler, Shin-Soo Choo) and promising youngsters (Javier Baez, Manuel Margot). Since we all know sexy points are worthless in fantasy, it’s notable that while the speed and average have dropped off, Choo has hit over 20 HRs and scored over 90 Runs in three of the last four seasons (excluding 2016 when he played only 48 games). This includes a tasty 22-HR, 96-R, 78-RBI, 12-SB line last season. Margot is a lock for playing time in San Diego and will make a realistic run at double-digit homers, over 25 SB and over 80 runs. Former top-tier ace Johnny Cueto (ADP 14.8) fell from grace in 2017 when he struggled with walks and gopher balls that were way above career marks. Cueto is a year removed from 18 wins and could provide solid value in the mid-rounds if the revamped Giants play up to expectations this year.

Round 15

Finally, let’s focus on two Indians. Jason Kipnis (ADP 19.8) could be and has been a Top-10 2B but he’s been a volatile performer with injury risk throughout his career. Bradley Zimmer stole 18 bases last season in 332 PAs and provides Run upside but his nearly 30% strikeout rate makes him borderline unwatchable. Miguel Sano will be a steal if he fully rehabs from shin surgery and avoids a lengthy suspension for disciplinary actions. Greg Bird hasn’t put it all together yet, missing all of 2016 and playing only 48 games last year but his stats exude a Joey Gallo-lite aura. Whether that is a good or bad thing remains the readers’ discretion.

The thing to remember is drafts are initial outlooks and subject to revision. Don’t hesitate to reassess when results are unfavorable after a couple months. Fall victim to conservatism bias, and you might end up like managers that held onto Stephen Piscotty or Jerad Eickhoff last season. Happy drafting!

 

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January Expert Mock Draft Analysis - Rounds 5-9

The 2018 MLB season is approaching ever faster and draft season is already here! RotoBaller recently gathered 12 of our baseball writers to conduct a 23-round mock draft in order to evaluate current ADP values. We will break down those draft results in detail throughout the week.

This article will take a look at rounds 5-9 of our early mock draft. The mock draft was for a traditional 5X5 league, but rules did call for a two-catcher format, much to the chagrin of our staff. These were the owners, in draft order: Chris Zolli, Harris Yudin, Troy Klauder, Kevin Luchansky, Pierre Camus, Max Petrie, Nick Mariano, Max Brill, Connor McEleney, Kyle Bishop, Mario Hernandez, and Andrew Le.

To start with Harris' breakdown of Round 1, click here and then follow up with Chris' recap of rounds 2-4. You can also see the full draft results here, which took place on RT Sports.

 

RotoBaller Mock Results

 
Round 5

The round started with a slew of power bats flying off the board. Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes, Jonathan Schoop, and Robinson Cano are known commodities that should provide a high floor for their owners. Things got interesting when Nick Mariano took a chance on Miguel Cabrera at the 55th overall pick, far exceeding his current NFBC ADP of 90. If 2017 proves to be a fluke and vintage Miggy returns, this could actually be a steal, but it's a big question mark for an aging slugger so early in the draft. His OPS has dropped in two straight seasons, down to a lowly .728 last year.

Alex Bregman was taken later here than in most drafts, but it's where he should be. Bregman's ADP will benefit from recency bias, as anyone who watched the World Series will remember his two homers and five RBI. He didn't exactly have a breakout regular season, however, as he failed to deliver either 20 HR or SB and hit a good-not-great .284. He's an exciting young player for sure, but our writers were wise not to overpay for potential.

Yu Darvish is still without a home, but no matter where he winds up he should be an elite SP. He had kept a strikeout rate about 30% for three straight seasons and finished at a 30.2% K% with the Dodgers. If he lands in the NL, it can only help.

Round 6

The first real reach of this draft goes to Mario Hernandez with his selection of Jake Lamb with the second pick of the sixth round. He hit 30 bombs and drove in 105 runs, proving 2016's power surge was no fluke, but that comes with a .249 average and 152 strikeouts, which hurts him a bit in points leagues. Lamb is a solid 3B for sure, but the increasing prevalence of power bats available in the middle rounds somewhat minimizes Lamb's value.

What up, Pham? Kyle Bishop was the one to pull the trigger on Tommy Pham, one pick after Lamb. It's hard to call him a reach because the thought of getting a .300 hitter with 25-25 potential is hard to pass up. We have to remember that this season looks like a complete outlier on Pham's otherwise lackluster resume and he'll start this year on the wrong side of 30. This pick will turn out to be either brilliant or terrible.

At the tail end of the round, Chris Zolli saved me from myself in the next round by acquiring Byron Buxton. The enigmatic prospect also has tantalizing talent, but hasn't proven he can produce on a regular basis. This is about as boom-bust as you can get, but if you want to take a chance on Buxton, you can't wait much later than this.

Round 7

It's quite a juxtaposition to see Billy Hamilton last until the seventh round in our draft, whereas he was taken in the third round in this month's FSTA draft. His ADP will be all over the place depending on how conservative your leaguemates are on draft day. This group decided he wasn't worth burning an early pick on, until Max Petrie decided to corner the market by adding BHam to his earlier picks of Paul Goldschmidt and Justin Upton, before sealing the deal with Whit Merrifield a round later.

At the time of this draft, Lorenzo Cain was not yet a Brewer. His selection by Andrew Le could prove to be a bargain relative to an ADP that's sure to climb. The Brewers ranked second in stolen base attempts last season, down a tick from 2016 when they easily led the league in that area. With Wil Myers getting selected earlier in the round, it appears that speed will become a rare commodity around the 90th pick or so.

Witnessing Aaron Nola selected before Jose Quintana might be a surprise, but Kyle was just not going to be denied his home team pick. He's sure to provide a strong K rate... for the 10 games he's healthy.

Round 8

The question of how long Shohei Ohtani would last was finally answered with the 86th pick. His selection immediately drew some disdain from other owners who had him queued up in the eighth round as well. The starting pitching at this level of the draft is less than desirable, as some players with good numbers from a year ago also come with major warts, or in the case of Rich Hill, blisters. Zack Godley was a waiver wire savior last season, but must prove that he can keep it up.

Matt Carpenter's 2017 was a huge disappointment, but it's obvious injuries were to blame for his sudden decline. He should bring great value and multi-position eligibility to round out any infield. Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, is still a question mark due to his sketchy track record and unknown landing spot for this season.

Round 9

And then the closers started to come off the board. Aroldis Chapman is the first pick of the ninth round and Roberto Osuna was the 10th pick of the round. We also saw some of the injury-plagued hitters of last year find a home. Adam Eaton and David Dahl sandwiched the 100th overall pick, with Eaton taken by yours truly. He's a player that inherits the leadoff spot and starting CF job for a legitimate contender; he can contribute across all categories and should bring great value compared to a player like Gregory Polanco who went a round earlier.

The ninth round ended with a Pirate I'm much more bullish on - Josh Bell. In any normal year, Bell would have garnered real consideration for NL Rookie of the Year, but any hope of that award was squashed the moment Cody Bellinger was called up to the majors. He became the 10th first baseman to be drafted by our RotoBaller staff, which indicates how much risk there is in being the last to draft the position in a league of 12 or more teams.

 

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January Expert Mock Draft Analysis - Round 1

We at RotoBaller love to draft. In fact, we love it so much we couldn't wait until March or even February to start drafting! So we decided to share the results of our latest fantasy baseball mock draft, taking place on RT Sports, accompanied by a series of articles analyzing each round. Here's the complete rundown:

Round 1 
Rounds 2-4 (coming Sunday, Jan. 28)
Rounds 5-9 (coming Monday, Jan. 29)
Rounds 10-15 (coming Tuesday, Jan. 30)
Rounds 16-23 (coming Wednesday, Jan. 31)
Sleepers/Busts/Values (coming Thursday, Feb. 1)
Snake Bitten (coming Friday, Feb. 2)

It’s hard to nitpick too much in the first round, as everyone will have different views of the top 12-15 players, but here’s a pick-by-pick breakdown of how things started:

 

RotoBaller Mock Draft Results - Round 1

Pick 1

Chris Zolli picked first and grabbed Mike Trout, who, BREAKING NEWS, should be the No. 1 overall pick in every league. EVERY. SINGLE. LEAGUE. He paced all hitters in wOBA (.437) and wRC+ (181) last season, slashing a modest .306/.442/.629 with 33 homers, 92 runs scored, 72 RBI and 22 stolen bases despite missing 48 games. Of course, Trout is not a lock to finish as the top fantasy contributor in 2018, but a healthy Trout has both the highest fantasy ceiling and the highest fantasy floor. Don’t get cute, just take Trout and grab a drink as you wait 15 minutes for your next selection.

Pick 2

Next, I went with Jose Altuve, who is not only the No. 2 player on my board, but also the player with the widest gap above the next best player at his position (not including catcher). Among middle infielders (at least 50 percent of plate appearances), he finished tied for sixth in home runs, second in runs, ninth in RBI, fourth in stolen bases and first in both batting average and on-base percentage (both by a pretty wide margin). Altuve was a top-10 fantasy player in all formats last year (top-five in most), and is one of the safer bets to repeat his 2017 success.

Pick 3

Troy Klauder made what was probably the surprise choice of the draft, yanking Nationals shortstop Trea Turner off the board with the third pick. The 24-year-old speedster appeared in only 98 games, but still managed to finish third in baseball in steals, behind only Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. Prorated over a full, 162-game slate, Turner’s 11-75-45-46 stat line would give him 18 HR, 124 R, 74 RBI and 76 SB. Although his .284/.338/.451 slash line was simply pedestrian, he did hit .342 with a .937 OPS in his first real taste of the bigs in 2016. However, while his fantasy potential is through the roof, spending a pick this early on a guy with just 815 plate appearances under his belt is a sizable risk.

Pick 4

Nolan Arenado went fourth overall to Kevin Luchansky. The degree to which Coors Field inflates Arenado’s number are irrelevant in fantasy-- the man flat-out produces. Over the last three years, he sits second in home runs, sixth in runs scored, first in RBI and in the top 20 in batting average. He is among the leaders in fly ball rate, and boasts well-above-average marks in home run to fly ball rate and hard hit rate. Arenado has only missed 10 games over that three-year span, and is a near-lock to be an elite fantasy contributor in 2018.

Pick 5

Pierre Camus swooped into the draft room at the last minute and plucked out Bryce Harper with the fifth pick. At the time of his injury in mid-August, Harper was fourth in baseball in wOBA and fifth in wRC+, and was one of just four players with 25 homers and a .400 OBP. His rate stats at season’s end were still incredibly impressive, and while he doesn’t seem to run as much as he did when he first came up, he did swipe 21 bags in 2016, so a five-category contribution is not out of the question. He is just now entering his age-25 season, and a healthy Harper should easily return first round value.

Pick 6

At sixth overall, reigning Rotoballer Experts League champion (I announce, begrudgingly) Max Petrie selected first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Entering September, Goldy owned a massive .319/.428/.607 line with 33 HR, 100 R, 109 RBI and 17 SB, and had a real shot at the top spot for 2017. However, an uncharacteristically cold final month -- .171/.250/.305 with three homers and 11 RBI -- plagued fantasy owners down the stretch and ruined his MVP chances. Despite the late-season disappearance, Goldschmidt remains one of the top five-category contributors, and deserves a spot in the front-half of the first round for 2018.

Pick 7

It’s pretty difficult to hit 50 points lower than your previous career average, not reach 30 homers or 30 steals, and still end up as a top-10 fantasy hitter. That was the case last year for Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who was drafted seventh by Nick Mariano. Betts nearly doubled his walk rate (10.8 percent) while maintaining his already stellar strikeout rate (11.1 percent) as he put up a modest .264/.344/.459 slash line with 24 HR and 26 SB. He also scored 101 runs and knocked in 102 more. Betts’ abnormally low BABIP (.268) and improved hard hit rate (35.7 percent) indicate some bad ball-in-play luck last year, and I expect a full bounce-back in 2018.

Pick 8

Max Brill ended the run of hitters by taking Clayton Kershaw next. Kershaw was a top-four pitcher last season despite throwing just 175 innings, and should once again be viewed as the top arm on the board in 2018. While I have him 13th and will almost never draft a pitcher in the first round, eighth overall is perfectly reasonable -- and actually a steal in others’ eyes -- for the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Pick 9

Charlie Blackmon went ninth, taken by Connor McEleney. Blackmon’s 2017 ADP sat well outside the first round, yet somehow he finished as the top overall fantasy player. By “somehow,” I mean with massive career highs in home runs (37), runs scored (137), RBI (104), batting average (.331), on-base percentage (.399) and slugging percentage (.601). He sat in the top 15 in each of those categories, tacking on 14 stolen bases for good measure. A .371 BABIP and 19.6 percent home run to fly ball rate scream regression, but Blackmon is a five-cat dynamo who should once again post a staggeringly robust stat line in 2018.

Pick 10

With the 10th pick, Kyle Bishop chose Manny Machado. Machado endured a down season overall, posting just a .259/.310/.471 slash line, but still managed to crush more than 30 dingers for a third consecutive year. His 39.5 percent hard hit rate and .265 BABIP were the highest and lowest, respectively, of his career, so it’s reasonable to expect a significant improvement in his rate stats going forward-- especially if he can get his line drive rate back around his career average. Machado’s ADP currently sits in the second round, but at just 25 years old, he still possesses the upside to become a top-five fantasy player.

Pick 11

Mario Hernandez followed with Max Scherzer, the second pitcher off the board in the first round. The National League’s Cy Young Award winner each of the past two years, Scherzer boasts baseball’s best strikeout rate, fourth-best ERA and second-best WHIP over that span. Despite approaching his 34th birthday, Scherzer continues to display remarkable consistency, both with his process and his performance. As mentioned previously, I will almost never take a pitcher in the first round, but with 200 innings in each of the last five seasons, Scherzer is an ideal workhorse around whom to build your staff.

Pick 12

Andrew Le capped off the first round with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Last year, the then-22-year-old slashed .325/.402/.577 with 20 long balls, 62 runs scored and 65 RBI in the first half before missing six weeks with a thumb injury. With only two steals on the year, it appears he has stopped running, but even as a four-category guy, Correa has a chance to make a real impact from a relatively weak shortstop position.

I’ll let Chris Zolli take it here from here with the next few rounds, but just know that Andrew’s 12/13 turn has made me want the last pick in every draft.

 

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