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One Last Mock! ADP Values and Reaches

As the sun prepares to rise on the 2020 MLB season (I'm all about hopeful metaphors these days), it also marks the end of draft season for fantasy baseball. This weekend will see a flurry of activity from fantasy league owners trying to figure out how to properly value players amid a global pandemic. Good luck with that.

We at RotoBaller have been doing our part to help during the entire, painfully long offseason. This includes constantly updated rankings, specifically detailed analysis on how to approach the shortened season, and key sleepers to target. Of course, there are all the other goodies included in our Draft Kit too.

All of this went into practice as the RotoBaller staff conducted one final mock draft for the 2020 fantasy baseball season. The idea wasn't to focus on roster construction but to look for ADP outliers. Many players have seen their value shift dramatically in recent days. Let's see who climbed or fell the most in our analysts' eyes.

 

Final 2020 Mock Draft Board


 

The New IL

This exercise would be futile if we didn't address the obvious situation. Many Major League players have tested positive for coronavirus and have either been placed on the Injured List or not reported to camp. Since MLB clubs inexplicably don't have to identify whether a player has COVID or not, we are left to guess in many cases. Thankfully, some key names are already known. Here are the main players relevant to 12-team leagues or smaller that have been confirmed to have COVID.

Player Team Position Pick NFBC ADP
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B 34 26
Charlie Blackmon Colorado Rockies OF 47 63
Tommy Pham San Diego Padres OF 72 96
Tyler Glasnow Tampa Bay Rays SP/RP 74 69
Kenley Jansen Los Angeles Dodgers RP 85 84
Yoan Moncada Chicago White Sox 3B 87 70
Joey Gallo Texas Rangers OF 96 100
Aroldis Chapman New York Yankees RP 98 78
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 1B/2B 108 72
Jesus Luzardo Oakland A's SP 118 105
Eduardo Rodriguez Boston Red Sox SP 125 167
Miguel Sano Minnesota Twins 1B/3B 154 126
Will Smith Atlanta Braves RP 160 185
Scott Kingery Philadelphia Phillies 2B/3B/SS/OF 173 168
Salvador Perez Kansas City Royals C 216 162

In some cases, our analysts' views of a player reflected that of high-stakes players. A player who was diagnosed early on and is expected to return in time for the season with little setback, such as Scott Kingery, will see a negligible effect. Players who tested positive more recently, such as Aroldis Chapman, may see a bigger drop on draft day.

 

Early-Round Positional Breakdown

Unsurprisingly, there were few surprises in the first couple of rounds. Mike Trout going fourth actually feels early to me based on playing time concerns. Fernando Tatis Jr. as a first-rounder probably doesn't happen in most 12-team leagues, but Scott "The King" Engel wanted his guy at the turn since he knew he'd be long gone by the end of round three.

I stuck by my rankings and grabbed Gerrit Cole at sixth overall before following up with Jack Flaherty in round three and Patrick Corbin in round six. Starting pitchers went at a rate equivalent to NFBC ADP over the past two weeks, with nine SP selected within the first 30 picks and 15 SP selected within the first 50 picks.

Relievers were not an emphasis, as only Josh Hader and Kirby Yates were targeted by our participants. The fact that this league used SV+HLD (as all season-long leagues playing in 2020 should) didn't particularly skew the results other than later on when setup men like Emilio Pagan, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Barnes, and Dellin Betances were picked.

Here is the positional breakdown after the first 50 picks:

Position # Selected
SP 15
OF 11
SS 6
3B 6
2B 6
1B 3
RP 2
DH 1
C 0

 

Draft Reaches Relative to ADP

Pete Alonso was taken at 22 overall, which is 11 spots higher than his NFBC ADP and 12 spots higher than our RotoBaller consensus rankings. Around this range, the focus is typically on grabbing the few remaining aces. Case in point - in this round, five pitchers were taken. Perhaps Alonso would have been available in another round, but the fact that Freddie Freeman is on IL makes an already-thin first base position even thinner, which could explain this pick. Any hitter who relies primarily on the long ball is at risk of being a bust, especially in this 60-game season where the separation in categories won't be as pronounced.

Charlie Blackmon is usually a rock-solid source of average, power, runs, and RBI. The speed is gone, so we can't call him an all-category contributor anymore, unfortunately. ATC projects him to steal exactly one base this year. The real issue with Blackmon is that he was one of the first MLB stars to be officially diagnosed with COVID. That has left him out of summer camp and landed him on the IL. The good news is that he has been cleared to resume playing and has been training on his own, which has brought optimism that he will be ready for Opening Day. That could make Blackmon a sneaky bargain, but that is only if he is taken around or after his ADP of 63. Before the season was suspended, Blackmon was being selected around pick 42 on average, so maybe we should view Blackmon in a different light.

Jorge Soler has lived just outside the top 100 in terms of ADP all offseason. Scott claimed him at pick 71, reaching about 30 spots to grab the Cuban slugger. While Soler broke out in his age-27 season with 48 HR, 117 RBI, and a .922 OPS, he is the type of hitter that should draw red flags in a shortened season. He still has high swing-and-miss tendencies, posting a 13.2% Swinging Strike rate in 2019. He won't post a high-enough average to carry him through a slump or prolonged power surge, if one should occur. Soler did increase his xSLG as the year went on, not slumping or trailing off in the second half with his power numbers except for a slight dip versus offspeed pitches.

It's possible that pitchers feed him fewer fastballs but that alone isn't reason to fade him. The concern that a short season makes him less valuable based on a pronounced advantage in one category is the concern. Coming off a career year, Soler still has the talent to be among the HR leaders but the risk of a fall-off is too real to reach for him this soon.

Our man Kev made a point of grabbing the pitcher version of Shohei Ohtani with the 113th pick. I know this because during the draft he accidentally made a different pick and wanted to roll it back to get Ohtani instead. He probably could have waited a round or two, as his current ADP sits at 130. Ohtani did benefit from the delay in order to fully recover from UCL surgery, which means we could see him taken closer to his March ADP of 115. Truth be told, he might have been better off forsaking the pick altogether.

Ohtani is always going to be on an innings/start limit based on his usage. He joins a six-man rotation and will not be stretched out in order to preserve his health and bat. As far as performance, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter but just won't put up the counting stats to do so in fantasy. Nicklaus Gaut shows Ohtani to be one of the most overpriced pitchers when comparing ADP to ATC Projections. In particular, the fact that this mock was set for QS instead of wins might hurt Ohtani's stock, unless you are optimistic that he will be left in for six innings or more each time out.

 

Draft Bargains Relative to ADP

Lucas Giolito made an incredible turnaround from 2018 to 2019, cutting his ERA by more than two and a half runs while doubling his strikeout rate to 32.3%, good for fourth among qualified starters. Everything in his profile suggests he is now a frontline starting pitcher and second-tier fantasy SP, but there is still skepticism. Ariel Cohen recently told me that he does not view Giolito as the type of player he would target early on based on his ADP, nor will he take a step forward to full-fledged ace status. He may have been pleased to see Giolito taken with the 60th pick instead then, a full 15 spots lower than he's going in NFBC. Giolito also feels safer than Trevor Bauer or Mike Soroka, who were taken immediately after him.

If Pete Alonso went so early, why did Matt Olson go so late? He's seen his ADP climb to 49 as the fourth first baseman in NFBC. In our mock, he was there at 69 as the eighth 1B-eligible player off the board. This is probably truer to his actual value. Olson has tremendous power and could still be growing as a hitter, but he only hit .267 last year and scored 73 runs despite hitting in the heart of the A's lineup. Fantasy owners have been reaching for him as a top-50 player but our analysts did well to let him slide. He's a safe asset to secure before the talent level really drops off at the position, although I still don't understand why Josh Bell is being taken even later. I mean, the Pirates can't be that bad can they?

The optimism around Aaron Judge keeps growing. There is no doubt that the long delay has allowed him to rest and recover. Yankee fans can't be more stoked to see him taking BP these days. Can't say I blame them.

Of course, just as we get word that he might be ready for Opening Day, Judge woke up with neck stiffness and was held out of the most recent intrasquad game. Judge says he will keep playing the game hard, which is what you want to hear as a fan but also not what you want to hear as a fantasy owner. Judge, like his brittle teammate Giancarlo Stanton, will always be at risk for injury. If he falls outside the top 75 like he did in this draft, pull the trigger and hope for the best.

Tim Anderson at 121 seems criminal. The reigning AL batting champ is usually a slam-dunk top-100 pick, going at 89 overall in NFBC these days. Sure, he's not a fan of the walk and may see regression in his .399 BABIP, but he also brings power and speed to the table and is a legit five-cat contributor who could see a sharp drop from last year and still bat over .300. In fact, his profile compares favorably to Fernando Tatis Jr., who is a top-20 pick everywhere.

Name PA HR R RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG OPS ADP
Fernando Tatis Jr. 227 11 35 29 19 64 9 0.275 0.342 0.504 0.846 17.5
Tim Anderson 226 7 31 26 8 51 8 0.278 0.307 0.445 0.752 95.7

Tatis has more power, but aside from a couple of HR, their roto profile is eerily similar. In points leagues, obviously Anderson takes a big step back due to his lesser plate discipline. In 5x5 leagues, the discount for Anderson seems worth waiting on. Plus, he looks to be in midseason form already, launching three homers in intrasquad games this past week. Let people keep doubting him and take advantage.



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Mock Draft Review: ADP Risers and Fallers

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means it's time to pick some flowers, fire up the BBQ, and do fantasy baseball mock drafts. Well, one of those things doesn't quite belong, but in these uncertain times, it's never a bad idea to do another draft and see how things stand.

With MLB owners and the Player's Association discussing how baseball will be played in 2020, there is cautious optimism we will see Major League Baseball in some form early in July. And while specifics for the season are still being debated, the latest reports suggest the season will be roughly 80 games in length, played in home ballparks. Other proposed changes will have an impact on fantasy drafts as well. We are all-but-certain to see a universal DH, and the schedules will be based on geography rather than AL and NL.

We at RotoBaller set up a 12-team, 5x5 roto mock draft to re-evaluate how we see players performing in what will be a very strange season. The draft was 24-rounds with starting lineups of three outfielders, corner and middle infield slots, and nine pitchers with no distinction between starters and relievers. While most of the picks felt similar to pre-pandemic average draft position (ADP), there were certainly players who have seen their value change based on the season being delayed. Below we'll examine some players who have seen their stock change and what we can expect from them in 2020.

 

Mock Draft Board

All ADP data is based on NFBC drafts from February 1 through March 15, and April 1 through May 15. See full draft results here.

Click on each image for a full-size view.

 

ADP Risers

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels

Bundy was one of my favorite sleepers coming into the season and not much has changed as evidenced by reaching for him at 183rd overall. Bundy has seen his stock climb with an ADP of 213 in drafts after April 1, compared to 246th overall during the traditional draft season. Unlike the other players on this list, however, there isn't one specific reason that can justify the steep climb up draft boards other than drafters realizing how good he can be with a few minor improvements and some better luck.

Bundy has been an enigma to start his career as his results haven't matched his talent. His 5.45 ERA in 2018 was among the worst in the game and he didn't improve much last season sporting a 4.79 mark which was backed up by a 4.73 FIP. Some of those struggles can be chalked up to pitching on a poor defensive team in a very hitter-friendly ballpark, so there is optimism a move to the west coast could help. He averaged over a strikeout per inning each of the past two seasons and was off to a hot start in Spring Training, as evidenced by his sparkling 16:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 1/3 innings.

Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics

Perhaps no player has gained as much value for the 2020 season than the A's prized pitching prospect. Luzardo is one of the most exciting young players in the game, but was not expected to pitch a full season due to the A's limiting his innings and saving him for a possible playoff run. With the season shortened, those concerns go out the window leaving fantasy drafters salivating at the thought of drafting the flamethrowing 22-year-old lefty.

Luzardo showed his MLB readiness last season when he struck out 16 batters in just 12 innings and has averaged better than a strikeout per inning at every stop in the minors thanks to a power fastball that touches 99 MPH. He was having a great Spring Training as well allowing just two runs through 12 innings with 16 strikeouts. Given the fact he'll be available for the full season, his ADP of 90th overall may still be too low for a pitcher of his caliber.

Shogo Akiyama, Cincinnati Reds

Agiyama isn't someone who has risen up the ADP boards, but if this mock draft is any indication, he will soon. Akiyama went with the sixth pick in the 15th round (174th overall) which is well above his current ADP of 261. This is because Akiyama is one of the biggest benefactors of the proposed MLB schedule. Had the season started as scheduled, Akiyama would have likely been the fourth outfielder on the Reds or wound up in a platoon situation. Now, with the universal DH, Akiyama should have a clear path to regular playing time.

Akiyama is an unknown to the Major Leagues, but based on his career in Japan he should hit for average, a very valuable skill late in rotisserie drafts. Akiyama was fifth in the league with a .303 batting average and has hit over .300 in four of the past five years, including .359 in 2015. He has also shown some speed with double-digit steals every season since 2015. The Reds still have a logjam of outfielders, but Akiyama should be in the lineup more often than if the season started as normal which makes him a nice sleeper late in drafts.

 

ADP Fallers

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Verlander was one of the most valuable players in fantasy last season, but injury concerns have him sliding down draft boards. Verlander is currently recovering from groin surgery and a lat strain, but should be ready for the start of the season according to reports. Fantasy drafters have been less optimistic for the Cy Young winner. His ADP (20th) is seven spots lower than his pre-pandemic ADP (13th), but this early in the draft those draft spots have a bigger impact.

In this draft, Verlander slid into the third round which would be great value for a pitcher of his caliber. Verlander's strikeout rate has been above 30-percent each of the last two seasons and last year he punched out 300 batters, one of just two pitchers to hit the 300 mark. His 2.58 ERA was slightly better than his 3.18 xFIP, but both numbers were top-five among all qualified pitchers. The injuries are a concern for the 37-year old veteran, but the upside is too tantalizing to pass up if he is available at his ADP.

Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lux is one of the most promising young players in the game but is also someone that has seen his fantasy stock take a hit due to the season being delayed. The Dodgers platoon players as much as any team in the Majors and expanded rosters will give baseball's deepest roster more options to hide Lux from southpaws. Lux has just nine career at-bats vs lefties and likely won't accrue many this season given the expanded rosters, which would put a dent in his fantasy value for this season. ADP has reflected this fear thus far with his post-pandemic ADP falling 10 spots behind his ADP from March. He fell even further in this mock, lasting until pick 188 overall, two full rounds below his ADP.

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

Adell, like Lux, is someone that will see significantly less playing time than if the season had started in March. Before the season was suspended, the Angels had said Adell would need more time in the minors. GM Billy Epler confirmed that plans for Adell have not changed given the delayed season saying, "If the players still had more seasoning needed, then we can't achieve that until they get those tests. The best way to get those tests is to be playing baseball. It doesn't change the potential plan." Adell was being drafted 222nd overall on average before the season was suspended, despite being a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. With minor league baseball unlikely to happen this season, Adell won't get that seasoning in Triple-A, but the Angels don't sound like they are in a rush to hand the 21-year old outfielder an everyday job.

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WPC+ Videocast: New Draft Strategies for a Shortened Season

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut review the draft board for RotoBaller's recent expert mock fantasy baseball draft and explain how their strategies have changed with the likelihood of a shortened MLB season in 2020.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday nights from 9-11 PM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Things Done Changed...

Pierre and Nick review the latest mock draft conducted by the RotoBaller MLB staff to explain how draft strategies have shifted since March.

Players discussed include:

Trevor Story
Walker Buehler
Nolan Arenado
Jack Flaherty
Blake Snell
Chris Paddack
Aaron Judge
Andrew Heaney
Kolten Wong
Aristides Aquino
Seth Lugo
Spencer Howard
MacKenzie Gore



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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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.

 

RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball Mock

click for full-screen view

 

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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RotoBaller Friends & Family Industry Mock Draft: What the Experts Were Thinking

The RotoBaller Friends & Family Mock Draft has become an annual tradition where we gather some of the biggest names from the fantasy baseball world and put together a mock draft just as spring training has commenced. Thanks to RT Sports for once again hosting and providing a custom draft site where readers could follow along live at RTSports.com/RotoBaller!

This year's participants are a who's who of expert analysts, representing sites such as The Athletic, CBS Sports, USA Today, RotoWire, RotoGrinders, Fantasy Alarm, Fantasy Guru, Fantrax, Fangraphs, Baseball HQ, and, of course, RotoBaller.

After the draft wrapped up, we asked each of the participants to give some detailed feedback on their most interesting draft choices. Their answers may provide insight as to what they were thinking both before and during the draft itself. The 30-second clock in this mock left no time to question strategy or hesitate, so our drafters had to be on their toes! The format was 5x5 mixed roto league, snake draft, and the order randomized an hour before the mock. Here are the full results, along with their reflections.

 

Mock Draft Results

Click on image for full-screen view

 

Clay Link - RotoWire

You took several pitchers in the later rounds that are unproven but could break out, such as Jose Urquidy, A.J. Puk, and Dustin May. Do you feel this position is best to take draft-day risks on because of the volatility of starting pitching these days?

I do like to dabble with some potential breakout arms. Blake Snell was a league winner a couple of years back, and while that kind of Cy Young breakout is rare, I see profit potential with Urquidy, Puk and even Sandy Alcantara. I want more proven options at hitter -- with the rare mega-prospect exception -- but there are far fewer sure things on the pitching side and you have to be able to see slivers of upside.

Luke Voit in round 16 was identified as one of the best value picks by many of our participants. Do you expect him to produce enough counting stats to be a starting 1B even though he might be hitting at the bottom of the lineup?

While the Yankees have plenty of options for first base, I expect Voit to secure the primary job this spring. He was doing essentially what I thought he would do last summer before the core-muscle issues popped up. I heard him say he did less powerlifting this offseason, which is probably good because he was a little too big and bulky. Perhaps with a better range of motion with his core, he will be able to go start to finish as a top-10 fantasy first baseman.

 

Steve Gardner - USA Today

It almost looked like Alex Bregman would fall to the third round before you grabbed him at 2.11. You then took George Springer in the fourth round, Greinke in the sixth, and Brantley in the 11th so clearly you aren't worried about fallout from the Astros scandal. Are fantasy owners overreacting, making some of these players great values?

I didn’t go into the draft with an Astros-centric strategy, but you could draw that conclusion based on my selections of Alex Bregman in the second round, George Springer in the fourth and Michael Brantley in the 11th.  They were just good values at the time.

I think that may be the case more often than not in drafts this year. People generally tend to think they know more than they really do about how things are going to play out. Since we know the Astros were doing something illegal in 2017 (and part of 2018), we want to incorporate that into what we should expect this season. In reality, there’s very little correlation between what happened in 2017 and what will happen in 2020. Whether the Astros’ illegal activities continued into last season and therefore invalidate what they accomplished on offense is something we can never really know. So why factor that into their players’ projected values?

If people are going to discount a four-category, multi-position star like Bregman because they don’t think he’ll hit 41 homers again, fine. But to discount him or Springer or Jose Altuve because they’re going to get booed a lot on the road seems just silly to me. And to discount a batting average lock like Brantley (who just joined the Astros last year) is even sillier. If others are giving me a discount on Astros (and doing so on *pitchers* as well), then I’ll have no problem taking it.

What are your expectations for Miguel Sano this year?

We’ve all seen the downside of Miguel Sano from his .199-hitting 2018 season. But there’s also elite power potential in his bat. Even after missing the first seven weeks of last season, he still hit 34 homers in 105 games. Among players with a minimum of 400 plate appearances, Sano’s 11.2 at-bats per home run ranked fourth in the majors – behind only Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz and Christian Yelich. In terms of hard-hit rate, Sano (52.7%) trailed only Aaron Judge. But if you’re looking at overall season leaderboards, you’re not going to see Sano’s name among the qualifiers because of his late start.

Add in Josh Donaldson to this year’s Twins lineup and there’s no easy out in the bunch. Plus, Sano is going to be even more valuable because he’ll gain in-season fantasy eligibility at first base.  To get him in Round 10 with the 119th overall pick seems like a pretty good value to me. In fact, I think I may need to move him up in my rankings.

 

Ray Murphy - Baseball HQ

You took a trio of starters early on (Sale, Kershaw, Clevinger) that could make your rotation the best by far of this group, but each comes with serious injury concerns. You didn't take your next SP until the 15th round. Is this all-or-nothing approach something you would attempt if this weren't a mock?

Well, I was comfortable with the Sale/Kershaw combo, but ended up getting Clevinger because I timed out. (That 30-second clock was rough!). So I didn't really want three SP in my top-five picks. But once I had them, I decided to steer into that and work on my offense (and closers) for a while before getting back to SP. I can't vouch for how this would have worked out if we played it out... but honestly, it would have been pretty interesting.

Landing Mike Trout at the third spot is a luxury a lot of owners might have in 2020. Given the choice, do you prefer a top-three pick?

I was a big fan of a top-three pick until a couple of weeks ago. Now, with the injuries to the likes of Clevinger, Severino, etc, the SP options coming back at the 2-3 turn are going to be pretty thin. That's fine with me, as I'm generally comfortable waiting a little longer to get my first SP. But if you have a top-three pick, there are going to be some team-construction issues that come with those slots now.

 

Derek Carty - RotoGrinders

With the fourth pick, you struck first at the pitcher spot with Gerrit Cole. THE BAT projects some regression for him at a 3.07 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and just under 300 K. Why does this make him more valuable than players like Betts or Bellinger.

It's less about Cole himself than about top-tier pitchers in general.  For years, the math has supported the ace pitchers being more valuable than they get drafted as. If you run THE BAT, Steamer, ZiPS, and ATC through the FanGraphs Auction Calculator, every single system has the top pitcher as either the most valuable (ahead of all hitters) or the second-most valuable player on the board. Conventional wisdom has it that pitching is "too risky" and so you can't spend an early pick on, but that's faulty logic. The top pitchers are much safer than people assume (especially relative to whatever hitters are being taken early because they had one great year, which is dumb and carries plenty of risk too), even if you care about safety (which I don't). The old logic is that it's better to wait until the later rounds and find the diamonds in the rough. This is great in theory, but it's not as if we know those late-round steals ahead of time, and people tend to have too much confidence in their ability to do so. Middle-round pitchers, especially that second and third tier, tend to be terrible investments. From a value standpoint, the elite pitchers each year are worth extremely early picks, and they get underdrafted as a result. Cole at 4 is strong value.

 

Howard Bender - Fantasy Alarm

You were the last one to take a starting pitcher, waiting until round 6 to make Aaron Nola your SP1. Was this an intentional strategy or did you simply feel the value wasn't there to take a pitcher earlier?

Waiting on starting pitching was part of my plan/strategy heading in. With a strategy that focuses more on saves and steals, it was more important for me to attack the offense first. I would grab my steals early and splash in some power while waiting to see what was left for me at pitching. I thought about making a move in Round 5, but after seeing names like Paddack, Syndergaard, Nola, Greinke and Giolito on the board, I knew I could wait one more round. The strategy allows me to discount ERA, as my closers will help fix that, so my focus for starters was on strikeouts. Nola is a 200+ K guy who should improve on last year's numbers and Trevor Bauer (Round 8) was the same, in my opinion. I don't feel like I sacrificed pitching by waiting and, in fact, allowed me to augment my power with the Matt Olson pick, so according to my strategy, it all went very well for me.

It seems you made a point of securing steals and saves early. How important is it to get an advantage in these categories on draft day?

It's like the late-90s all over again. Power is all the rage because "chicks dig the long ball" and stolen bases are down. The closer position, while still volatile, saw fewer guys lose their job in 2019 than we had seen in the previous three seasons. If power is abundant and can be found everywhere, then why not make that early move for speed? And while everyone is freaking out about all the starters coming off the board, you can stay focused on steals/more offense. Then while everyone is then scrambling for the next tier of hitters, I can grab the top closers and high-strikeout starters. The key is to bulk up on the two categories to the point where you know you will be able to trade later in the year while still maintaining your position in the standings. They are, traditionally, the two categories you can move up the most in for roto leagues and everyone will be looking for both in the second half. Fantasy championships are not won on draft day. In-season management is paramount and having a strategy that carries you through the full six months and not just the first half is key.

 

Vlad Sedler - Fantasy Guru

A couple of big-name players, Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado, fell to you in rounds 5 & 6 respectively. Do you feel they are being discounted too much by fantasy owners or is this a fair range for them to fall?

It's amazing what a difference a year makes. Both were easy second-round selections this time last year. The fall of Stanton and the concern with him is warranted given his injury history. But it is worth noting that he had consecutive seasons in 2017 and 2018 with no health concerns, a minimal one in 2016 and appears fully recovered from last year's ailments. Machado's drop in ADP is a bit more surprising, especially since he's been the modicum of health and leads the majors in plate appearances over the past five years. As I did in the RotoBaller mock, I'm willing to take a shot at these two guys at current price in all my drafts this spring in hopes of a return to glory.

You took a pair of young Rockies in Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon in the middle rounds. What do you realistically expect from them this year?

When in doubt in the middle or late rounds, draft a Rockies hitter. At least that is what happened with my selection of McMahon. Not someone I am going out of my way to target, although he did have a nice rookie season and can certainly build on last year's success. With Hampson, it's simply a case of 'I can't quit him'. At least, not yet. The Rockies are known to stall and ruin the progress of their good prospects and we just have to hope that won't be the case with Hampson this year. He is one of the league's fastest players and could easily swipe 30-plus with at least 500 PA and half his games at Coors Field.

 

Pierre Camus - RotoBaller

You took Marcell Ozuna at 79 overall, 20 spots higher than his current NFBC ADP, opting for him over outfielders like Tommy Pham and Luis Robert who also bring speed to the table. Explain that pick.

A couple of minor injuries hampered Ozuna the last two years in St. Louis, but moreover he just never seemed to fully fit in. Despite this, he still posted elite Statcast numbers with a .548 xSLG, .382 xwOBA, and 49.2% hard-hit rate in 2019. A move to Atlanta gives him slight upgrades in ballpark and lineup support. Busch Stadium was third-worst in HR factor for right-handed batters at 91, whereas Atlanta's Truist Park was right around league average at 99 last year. Atlanta ranked ninth in team average and seventh in runs scored, while St. Louis was 23rd and 19th in those categories respectively. A healthy Ozuna should easily exceed 30 HR, 90 RBI, and finish with an average closer to his .288 xBA. Pham and especially Robert don't have the same floor at multiple categories. Plus, I wasn't too worried about speed because I had just taken Victor Robles I knew I could make up for that category later on at a discount with guys like Tim Anderson and Mallex Smith.

The last 10 rounds of your draft are mostly filled with young players, many of whom are considered sleepers in 2020. Do you shoot purely for upside at this point rather than filling your bench with high-floor veterans?

I consider it upside with a safety net. I take young players who are set to have a big role on their team and are fairly certain to start, but haven't yet completely proven themselves. Mitch Keller, Griffin Canning, and Tyler Beede should have rotation spots secured and each is a top pitching prospect for his team. Mike Yastrzemski and Trent Grisham are also set to start in the outfield and can contribute across multiple categories. The one player I am most skeptical of is Aristides Aquino because he could be in a logjam with the Reds' situation and might find himself optioned back to the minors. He also has 30-HR upside and has already tasted success in the majors, so it's worth a shot at that juncture.

 

Nando Di Fino - The Athletic

A couple of years ago, we expected Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton to be perennial fantasy studs. You secured them both in rounds 10-11. How do you weigh risk vs reward when picking players like these?
I think by that part of the draft, you have to take a shot. Correa is going to have depressed value because we're all human and hate the Astros, but he's somehow avoided the scorn that Altuve and a few others have. Although in pure baseball terms, I'm banking on him not being hurt this year. Hopefully, he gets 150 healthy games in and returns to form.

Buxton is still only 26 and still doesn't have that 475 at-bat season. Once we hit these double-digit rounds, you have to weigh the risk of injury against the potential. And if this is the year he comes in, stays healthy, and gets 40 steals.. awesome. I'm in for that. If he doesn't, I think the downside here is greater than Correa's, as Correa has at least shown some BA skill in the past and I can maybe get .280 out of him, even in a bad season. Buxton seems capped, to me, at around .265 (although a new hitting coach might change that).

Were you surprised Shohei Ohtani fell to round 8 and are you worried about an innings limit on the pitching side?

I really was, especially in this format where there's only one Ohtani. And I'm not worried... I guess I'm "cognizant" of it. I read that there might be a loophole where he can bat, then get optioned for a rehab pitching start, then come back up and hit again. So as long as I have the bat side in the lineup for a while, I'm content. Once he starts pitching, it'll be like trading for a starter, but giving up nobody, as I can keep the bat whenever I want it in there, too. I like the flexibility, basically. And to be totally honest, it makes things a little more fun.

 

Ariel Cohen - Fangraphs / RotoBaller

Why are you confident that Juan Soto is worth the ninth overall pick in favor of guys who provide more speed like Turner/Story or taking an ace like Scherzer/Verlander.

I don’t think about Soto as the “9th overall pick.” My selection of him had to do more with the options available to me at the time. As per my recent article on Finding Combo Value Players Using Z-Score, Juan Soto has four projected categories with a Z-Score of over +1.00, and the fifth category (SB) is still above the pool average. That’s a great skills composition.

I don’t feel that you NEED to take a speedster in the first round. I think that it is more important to bank reliable stats. Soto will get that bank, PLUS he will get double-digit swipes. Shortstop is a very deep position this year. I’d rather take an OF early on if similarly priced. In 12-team leagues, I don’t feel the need to take a starter in the first round, as the waiver wire will be tapped quite a bit. I would have taken Cole/deGrom if they fell to me, but for Verlander/Scherzer -  I have a small fear of injury/age issues and it bumped them below Soto.

Since you are the man behind ATC projections, I'm curious which of your mid-to-late-round picks were data-driven decisions based on potential earnings and which were "gut feel" picks?

Franmil Reyes to me was pushed up via “gut feel.” Projections see him as a mid-30 HR player, but I would be the over on projected totals, and 40-45 HR are in play. Same with Rougned Odor. I think he’s a 30/10 player who’s BA projection is far too light. Eric Hosmer was a data-driven decision. His value was immense for the round selection. He actually came up as the most valuable player to take about 1-2 rounds prior. Renato Nunez was also data-driven. ATC projections are high on him – and I went with the numbers for his selection!

 

Chris Towers - CBS Sports

You went the discount closer route with Giovanny Gallegos and Wade Davis and only one expert waited longer to take a reliever. Do you make it a point to de-prioritize saves on draft day?

My strategy this year is to either target bounce-back candidates — Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrel, primarily, but also Sean Doolittle — or to wait as long as I can. In Davis and Gallegos, I managed to acquire relievers with two very different concerns: Davis has the job for now, but may be washed up; Gallegos certainly seems to have the skill, but may not have the job. However, given that you can expect roughly half or more of all Opening Day closers to lose their job at some point in any given season, it just doesn't make much sense to invest much in the position, especially in a year when many of the "safer" options have limited track records of viability.

Do you worry that players who broke out last year like Ketel Marte, Josh Bell, Lucas Giolito, and Jorge Soler could face serious regression this year?

Of course, I'm always concerned about that — "Don't pay face values for career years" was one of my guiding principles when looking for bust candidates for 2020. However, in the case of each of those players, I got them at enough of a value that I'm not so worried about it. Marte was the No. 13 hitter in Roto last season; Bell was No. 38; Soler was 23. At those costs, you've baked in a lot of the regression, it seems to me. I could quibble with some of the picks — Bogaerts instead of Marte might be the one I'd consider re-doing if I could — but overall, I think those players are probably being penalized too much coming off seasons where they each appear to have made significant changes to their underlying skill sets.

 

Eric Cross - Fantrax

The early part of your draft was highlighted by three straight young White Sox hitters in Moncada, Jimenez, and Robert. Are your expectations sky-high for this offense in 2020?

They are. The plan going in wasn't to necessarily load up on White Sox hitters, but the values all seemed about right. Moncada seemed to turn a corner in 2020 and Eloy absolutely dominated to end the season. I'm really expecting big things from them in 2020 to go along with a potential 20/25 season from Luis Robert as well. As long as he can keep the AVG respectable, the value should be there due to the power/speed.

J.D. Davis is a player whose ADP keeps rising, as he is increasingly being viewed as a sleeper to target. Can last year's Statcast numbers be duplicated and is playing time a concern at all for you?

Davis seems to be everyone's darling this year. But we're now at the point where it's fair to ask if his ADP has risen to the point where it will be difficult for him to return a ton of value. When I look at the underlying metrics and Statcast data, nothing screams big regression coming in 2020. But then again, is there more room to improve and really turn a profit? As for the playing time, I'm not too concerned. I think the ABs will be there between the outfield and third base to keep his bat in the lineup daily. To sum it up, he's legit, but the ADP is rising a little too high for my liking now.

 

Nick Mariano - RotoBaller

You passed up a chance to take Scherzer or Verlander at the turn, opting for offense instead. Explain your thought process early on.

The bulk of my drafts usually yield one starting pitcher in the first two rounds, so I wanted to explore hitter-hitter given my lowly 12 draft slot. In my mind, the top 11 are fairly set. Come 12, and this goes for 15-teamers and so on, I can go many directions and not feel a loss of value. I don't love Scherzer or Verlander enough to forgo building offense in this power-happy era. I do love my ability to piece together a formidable pitching corps in a 12-teamer with mid/late relievers, where I don't need a Scherzer/Verlander as much as I need the offense.

With elite first basemen who won't hurt the BA thinning quickly, I opted for Freeman. Then Ramirez could be a top-five pick next year if he proves the average can return and irons out some streakiness. Either way, the speed is there without sacrificing power or overall offensive ceiling. I can't cobble that together late in the draft without opportunity cost drowning me, as opposed to making it work with the pitching categories.

Many of your hitters fall into the HR+SB or BA+HR+SB cohort of our Expected Draft Value system (Ramirez, Meadows, Hiura, Laureano, Danny Santana). Are "combo" players the best way to attack a draft rather than focusing on category specialists?

I do love me some combo meals. In general, I would rather spread my production across as many players as possible. If I'm banking on 50 steals from Adalberto Mondesi and then that shoulder injury destroys his 2020, I'm in a deep hole. Whereas, if one pillar out of six falls, the other five can hold the roof up. I wouldn't say this is the best way to attack a draft, but I believe it's a strong strategy if you didn't get a top-10 pick. There's no replicating a Mike Trout, scientists have tried and failed, so I need to be sure I make up for not having a peak five-tool guy with skills across the board. No freeloaders here, you have to earn your roster spot!

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Industry Expert Mock: ADP Surprises

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut break down the recent RotoBaller Friends & Family industry mock draft to see how the experts fared and look at some of the most surprising picks, for better or worse.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

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ADP Surprises

Pierre and Nick discuss the recent RotoBaller expert mock and highlight key picks that may be a great reach or value during draft season.

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis. We are your secret weapon...

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Mock Draft Review: Best Late-Round Targets

Last week, some members of the RotoBaller staff completed a 12-team mock draft for standard 5x5 format. After the draft, we each broke down our strategy and some of our favorite picks, which can be found here. However, I want to take a closer look at one portion of the draft in particular.

Since we know that the difference between a good year and a great year can often be determined by the value found in the late rounds, I went through the draft board and identified my favorite players taken in the last 10 rounds of our mock draft. These are all guys who I think have tremendous potential to recoup value in redraft leagues and should be on your shortlist when you come to those final rounds.

(ADP was calculated using NFBC ADP from 1/1/2020 to 2/12/2020 and selecting only Draft Champions leagues)

 

RotoBaller Early Staff Mock

 

Carson Kelly (C, ARI) - ADP: 213

Carson Kelly is one of my favorite catchers if I find myself waiting on the position. He was a clear launch angle gainer, increasing from 5.4 degrees in 2018 to 14.3 last year. His barrel% jumped over two percent and his Hard Hit % improved nearly 15%, all while increasing his BB% into the top 8% of the league. For a 25-year-old entering his athletic prime, much of this is indicative of clear signs of growth that could signal a 20+ home run season with a .250 average in a good lineup.

The only bit of cold water I'll throw on this is that Kelly is a right-handed batter who hit .203/.303/.405 versus RHP and .356/.462/.667 versus LHP. The Diamondbacks signed Stephen Vogt in the offseason, and once the LHH Vogt returned from offseason injury, he put up a barrel% of 10.4 and a Hard hit% of 41.1 while also hitting .271/.330/.505 against right-handed pitchers. If Vogt gets hot, the Diamondbacks could rotate him in for a few games per week against right-handed starters, which would cap Kelly's at-bats around 400 and make him slightly less attractive than some of the other late catchers (more on that later).

 

Rougned Odor (2B, TEX) - ADP: 219

I wrote about Odor already in my piece on Brls/BBE% breakouts, so I'll just offer some snippets of analysis from that piece to highlight why I like him as a late-round value:

"He has also improved his BB% from 4.9% to 8% to 9% over the last three seasons. It's not a game-changing shift, but it's real progress, especially when paired with an O-Swing% that has dropped from 38.3% to 35.4% to 33.1% over the same span...When he does make contact, he is doing so with more power, increasing his barrels each of the last three seasons before this outburst last year. Pair that with an 86-percentile Hard-Hit% and a nearly five-degree increase in launch angle, and you have a bat that looks like it can provide consistent power.

In fact, Odor has hit 30 home runs and stolen at least 10 bases in three of the last four seasons. You're not going to get that from very many players, and certainly not any going this late in the draft. With more contact, and more powerful contact, Odor could put together another 30-10 season with a batting average around .230, which, if you remove his batting average from the equation, is enough to give him a rbEDV around pick 110 (23 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 77 runs and 74 RBIs)."

 

Mitch Keller (SP, PIT) - ADP: 221

On the surface, Mitch Keller was not great in his MLB audition for the Pirates last year, pitching to a 7.13 ERA, a 1.83 WHIP, and a .343 BAA. Not all of that was a fluke, as the right-hander features a fastball that induced only a 17.6 Whiff%, a .324 xBA, and .476 xSLG.

However, many of Keller's underlying metrics suggest that he was actually pitching much closer to his 3.47 xFIP. His BABIP was .475 for starters, which is certainly not sustainable. He had a 21.6% K-BB% and an 11.8% SwStr% while flashing two plus secondary offerings: A slider that had a 2.3 pVAL, a 47.8 Whiff%, and a 29.5 PutAway%, and a curve that had a 2.7 pVAL, a 34 Whiff% and a 25.5 PutAway%.

If he can limit damage on his fastball and use it to set up his plus off-speed, Keller should be in for 150+ innings of an ERA around 3.80, WHIP around 1.27, and just under 10 K/9. He won't get a lot of wins on the Pirates, but that stat line equates to a rbEDV in the low 200s.

 

Jose Urquidy (SP, HOU) - ADP: 222

Urquidy seems to be flying under the radar despite the fact that he's a prospect with a solid track record and a locked-in spot in the Astros starting rotation. He arrived to little fanfare but put up a 3.95 ERA in seven starts with a 24 K% and only a 4.2 BB%. He doesn't have elite velocity, but his command and plus off-speed offerings allow him to limit hard contact and pick up a fair number of whiffs, as both his curve and slider had a Whiff% over 40 during his big league stint last year.

Even with Forrest Whitley banging on the door, I'd expect Urquidy to keep his roster spot given Lance McCullers' innings limit and the question marks around the team's fifth starter spot. With 160+ innings, Urquidy could conceivably pitch to an ERA around 4.00 with a sub 1.2 WHIP and a 160+ strikeouts on a good team that's likely to up his win totals. According to rbEDV that would be good for pick 160 if he could pitch to a 3.70 ERA, so even with an ERA hit, Urquidy is well worth taking as you approach pick 200.

 

Adrian Houser (SP, MIL) - ADP: 253

Houser got 18 starts for the Brewers in 2019 and acquitted himself quite well. He threw 111.1 innings with a 3.72 ERA and 3.60 xFIP while notching a 25.3 K% and giving up 91st-percentile exit velocity and 86th-percentile xSLG.

He doesn't miss a lot of bats, with a 9.6 SwStr% and a 27.5% O-Swing, but he has good command of four offerings and started using his sinker as a primary pitch in 2019, which was smart as it had an 11.9 pVAL and allowed his 94-95 mph fastball to become more of a strikeout pitch with a 23.4 PutAway% in 2019 as opposed to 13.3% in 2018.

What's interesting about his success with his sinker is that Houser also experienced the 13th-worst defense behind him, according to Statcast's OAA metric. If he gets even league-average defense, Houser could be even more effective than he was last year, and he seems locked into a starting job with very little competition elsewhere on the Brewers' roster. That makes him closer to a low 200s value based on rbEDV and worth taking a late-round flier on in almost any format at his current price.

 

Starlin Castro (2B/SS, WAS) - ADP: 263

Castro was quietly effective in Miami last year, hitting .270 with 22 home runs, 68 runs and 86 RBIs. Now he moves to a much stronger Washington lineup and a better offensive park. People should be all over him, but his ADP is falling because many projection systems seem to have him playing 120 games or fewer. I'm not sure I understand that.

Even with Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick back, Castro should see close to full playing time. Carter Kieboom is not a lock to take the 3B job, and Castro could slide to 3B if the Nationals decide to get innings at 2B for Cabrera or Kendrick, who can also get his at-bats in the outfield. Castro saw legit growth last year, cutting his K% and improve his hard contact for the third year in a row. In the middle of a strong offense, there's no reason he can't push for 20+ home runs and another 80+ RBI season with a strong batting average.

 

Brendan McKay (SP, TB) - ADP: 270

McKay is a prime example of how quickly we experience prospect fatigue. When the Rays called him up, fantasy managers unloaded their FAAB budgets to land him on their team. Despite showing flashes, he struggled, for the most part, compiling a 5.14 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, while registering a negative pVAL on all of his offerings. He was in the fourth-percentile in curve spin and the third-percentile in exit velocity allowed, which is indicative of the hard contact that he was giving up. However, his minor league track record didn't simply go away.

Despite his poor performance, he had a K-BB% of 18.5 and a .261 xBA. Even when he was not on top of his game and giving up frequent hard contact, he was still striking players at a good clip and suppressing inflated average totals. As he begins to get comfortable in the majors and perhaps relies more on a changeup that had a 36.4 Whiff% and less on the curve that gave up a .299 xBA and .455 xSLG, McKay could provide immense value at his current price. I'd buy now simply based on upside, but if there are any spring training reports about a new pitch mix or improvements to the curve, I'd be even more aggressive in my pursuit.

 

Garrett Richards (SP, SD) - ADP: 287

Garrett Richards has a lengthy injury history. Everybody playing fantasy baseball knows that, which is why he's being drafted near pick 300. He hasn't pitched more than 100 innings since 2015 but has tantalized with upside in his brief periods of health. He had an average SwStr% of 11.7 from 2016-18 and a 25 K% during the same span. His best pitch has always been his slider, which he didn't throw much in his three starts last year, but it's more than likely that he was just beginning to get comfortable after coming back from injury.

The Padres signed him to a two-year deal and only got three starts from him in 2019. There's a very good chance they see just how much they can throw Richards in his final year under contract. Richards' risk isn't talent-based but volume-based, so if he were to get hurt, you could always pick up a streaming starter and continue to accrue stats at the position you had pegged for Richards on your roster. With a pick this late in the draft, even if you get just 100 innings of above-average K-rate and a high-threes ERA, you're getting more than enough value.

 

Dylan Bundy (SP, LAA) - ADP: 288

Dylan Bundy has been a favorite of Baseball Twitter this offseason. At first, it seemed to start as a joke, taking a renewed interest in him due to his move out of Baltimore, but then the stats started coming and the humor turned to genuine intrigue. Despite his K-BB% decreasing by 2.5% and his ERA still at a bloated 4.79, there were some interesting developments for the 27-year-old. Bundy limited hard contact, gave up fewer barrels, and pitched to career-lows in all the x-Stats (xBA, xSLG, XOBA, etc.). Then, Alex Chamberlain sent the Bundy debate into a new stratosphere but showing his remarkable similarity to rising star and Twitter-favorite Shane Bieber.

Now that Bundy has moved to a better pitcher's park, with a better defense, and a team more likely to give him an increase in wins, it's fair to wonder if the former top prospect could become a useful fantasy option. At the price he's going, it's certainly worth taking a chance.

 

Seth Lugo (RP, NYM) - ADP: 305 /
Drew Pomeranz (RP, SD) - ADP: 404

At the back end of your draft, there are few picks more productive and unsexy than a multi-inning reliever. Even though it became all the rage when Chris Devenski burst onto the scene three years ago, there are still many owners that chase saves exclusively, instead of pairing volatile closers up with solid ratio relievers.

Lugo and Pomeranz are two of the best late-round ones you can find. Lugo is a bit trendier since he was able to accrue six saves last year. While I think that's unlikely this year with Edwin Diaz hopefully returning to form and Dellin Betances in town, Lugo should still throw 70+ innings of sub-3.00 ERA baseball with a high 20s K%. He'll also be in line for cheap wins to add some additional value.

Pomeranz is in a similar situation but is less popular because he only transitioned into the bullpen full-time towards the end of the year. However, in his 28.1 innings out of the pen, Pomeranz had 50 strikeouts and a 1.88 ERA on a .165 BAA. His fastball was able to sit around 93 and played up even faster because of his big curveball. As the primary lefty in the pen, Pomeranz could snag some cheap wins and even get the occasional save against lefty-heavy lineups due to the new three-batter minimum.

 

Ian Happ (2B/OF, CHC) - ADP: 330

Ian Happ is only 25-years-old. I feel that warrants mentioning. As I discussed with Brendan McKay above, the fantasy community can turn its back on former prospects all too quickly. Happ burst onto the scene in 2017, hitting 24 home runs in 115 games and many people were ready to anoint him as a legitimate fantasy asset. Then his swing-and-miss tendencies got the better of him in 2018 and he wound up in the minors in 2019, and people had already forgotten about him. However, Happ still knows how to hit.

He played 57 games over the second half of 2019 after being recalled from the minors and showed improved patience and plate discipline, cutting his K% from 36.8% in 2018 to 25%. During the 26 games he played last September and October, Happ hit .311/.348/..672 with six home runs, nine runs, and 17 RBI. He seems likely to be the Cubs' centerfielder in 2020, but could also see time at 2B since the Cubs are currently set to start Jason Kipnis there.

If he gets 500+ at-bats, it's easy to see a 20-home run, 10-stolen base season for Happ with a good chance for 80+ RBI in a solid lineup. That's well worth taking outside of the top 300, especially if he winds up with that dual-position eligibility.

 

Travis Shaw (3B, TOR) - ADP: 345

Shaw is the ultimate bounce-back candidate. After hitting 30+ home runs in back-to-back campaigns, Shaw decided to change his swing and admitted to being thrown off all last season. He claims to be back to old his old mechanics, which means it's not out of the question to assume he returns to his previous numbers.

After all, he's only 29 years old and many of his alarming numbers from last year - 33 K%, .113 ISO, .175 AVG, 76.7 Z-Contact%, 60.5 O-Contact% - deviate so much from his career profile that it's easy to view them as products of a lost season. According to Statcast, his Hard Hit% was nearly identical to 2018 and his barrel% was identical to 2017, while his BB% kept the same gains he experienced in 2018. The biggest change is that his launch angle jumped from 16.6 degrees to 24.4 degrees.

So, Shaw has the same improved plate discipline and similar hard contact metrics as he did during the two separate years that he hit 30 home runs, he's still in a hitter's park and in the middle of a strong lineup that should give him ample opportunity for counting stats? Yeah, that helps me believe in the return to form, and if I get any indication that his swing is back to normal during the spring, I'll buy almost everywhere, as it's possible we see another season with a .250 average, 25+ home runs, 70 runs and 80 RBIs, all from outside the top-300 picks.

 

Josh James (RP, HOU) - ADP: 367

Josh James seemed primed to win a spot in the Astros rotation in Spring Training last year before a quad injury delayed the start of his season. When he came back, the Astros used him primarily out of the bullpen, where his elite fastball was able to play up.

However, people are writing James off as simple bullpen depth a little too quickly. He's worked primarily as a starter for his entire minor league career, amassing a K% over 30 the last two years. He has two solid off-speed offerings, with a slider that gets a 56.3 Whiff% and a changeup that registered a 50.7 Whiff%. Both pitches also show elite vertical movement, while the slider has proven to be a true wipe-out pitch for him.

Without any truly high BB% before moving to the bullpen, there's no reason why James should be viewed as a "former starter." With Brad Peacock, current favorite to land the fifth spot in the Astros rotation, experiencing neck issues, the path towards starting is looking better. For a pitcher of James' quality, that makes him worth taking this late in drafts.

 

Nathan Eovaldi (SP/RP, BOS) - ADP: 374

Speaking of taking a shot, Eovaldi is the ideal late-round flier. He threw 67.2 unsuccessful innings for the Red Sox last year while battling injury, but he showed the same dynamic stuff which led him to a K% jump between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, Eovaldi used his cutter to get ahead and then set up his 97-98 MPH fastball up as a put-away pitch. For some reason, while battling injury in 2019, Eovaldi massively cut back on his cutter usage and in favor of his curve, which had a 41.1 Whiff% but has only been a marginally successful pitch for him throughout his career.

If he can get back to using the cutter more and then pair that with the high fastball and his improved curve, there's no reason he can't repeat 2018 with an ERA under 4.00 and a K/9 north of eight while pitching for a team that should put him in a good position for wins. Plus, if new Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom brings his old Tampa Bay philosophy of the opener to Boston, Eovaldi would be the perfect pitcher to use as a "Follower," throwing five innings to limit his overall wear-and-tear and still be in line for victories. That's a chance I'm willing to take this late in drafts where I'm essentially investing nothing and can move on easily if he falters.

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2020 RotoBaller Fantasy Baseball Mock Draft Reactions

Over the last couple weeks, RotoBaller's roster has grown with several new faces to join our esteemed veteran corps. We figured it would be nice to roll out the welcome wagon with a February fantasy baseball mock draft, putting six "RotoNewbs" with six RotoVets.

It was a snake draft hosted on Fantrax, a traditional 5x5 format with C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, 5 OF, UTIL, 9 P and 4 Bench slots. We'll post the draft board here, alongside rapid reactions from each participant.

In draft order, they are: KC Bubba, Bill Dubiel, JB Branson, Ariel Cohen (2019 FSGA Baseball Writer of the Year, woo!), Eric Samulski, Riley Mrack, Anthony Aniano, myself aka Nick Mariano, Mike Kurland, SP Streamer, Pierre Camus and Jorge Montanez. Without further ado...

 

The Draft Board

click image to see full-size draft board

 

Draft Reactions

What was your strategy, and was it executed well?

KC Bubba: With the first overall pick, I was looking to load up on some of the top bats. Grab one early arm and then fill in the rotation in the middle rounds. After that fill the rest of my team needs. I feel I executed it very well. I should have a strong hold on four offensive categories, and still not to bad in the fifth, steals. I was most proud of the way my pitching staff came together. Grabbing Snell gave me an ace caliber arm in Round 3, but was able to really build a strong rotation with picks in Round 7 on.

Bill: I went very power and strikeout-heavy in this one. I tried to find the sluggers that would help in multiple categories vs. the one-dimensional homer guys for hitters. For pitchers I targeted high-strikeout guys that I thought would also help in multiple categories. Essentially punted on saves, and tacked on some cheap steals late. I executed the strategy just as I envisioned it, and I'm happy with almost all of my picks at the values I got them at.

JB: It's always the same. Get as many speed-power studs as I can early while building a solid IP and K base for my five-man rotation. Then as the 20/20 skills dry out, I make sure to balance out the rest of the lineup with alternating power or speed guys. Balance is the key to life. After my five-man rotation is done, I go for the RPs until I can't RP no more. The JBullpen Method, folks..

Ariel: My strategy was "Replacement Level Drafting" (RLD). I looked to see which position had the biggest drop to the following players - and pounced at the top player at that position. I thought that allowed it me to acquire a lot of value in the aggregate. Mission accomplished. I also figured I'd get Jacob deGrom to start, which I did.

Eric: I came into the draft intrigued by a lot of mid-round SP options, so I decided to load up on hitters early and add high-upside arms in the middle rounds. Also, in this league with nine P spots, I decided that elite ratio relievers were more valuable to me than run-of-the-mill starters. They can help me in ERA, WHIP, SV and K if they get enough appearances and balance out some bad starts from my few SP. Overall, I'm happy with how I did, but I pushed my luck with a few arms that went right after I thought I could slip them through one more round and a few arms that I got sniped on. In the future, I might add one true ace to lead the rotation and then wait until Round 9 or so to start adding more arms.

Riley: My strategy was to pass on the elite pitching and take several of the middle-tier hurlers instead. For the first handful of rounds, I was selecting the best hitter available, but I felt I was too far behind on the pitching side after it was all said and done. This was a good spot to try this method versus several savvy players, and it made me realize the importance of taking an ace in the first two rounds..

Anthony: I wanted as much balance as power. Drafting a five-tool offensive player and a number one starter in the second round created that foundation. Mixing power like Pete Alonso with speed from Victor Robles adds to that balance.

Nick: There were a few things I wanted to test drive: How does it feel to go SP in Round 1 of 2020 drafts? How do I like drafting with two SPs within the first three rounds? Can I make it work with both Adalberto Mondesi and Jonathan Villar on the squad? How long can I wait to flesh out my rotation with two early, strong SPs in a 12-team format? I loved how this team turned out, and I'm a huge fan of all the veteran values that slipped down to me. Batting average is the likely liability, but the HR+SB upside still gives me a strong offense.

Mike: My goal was to target two or three of my top 25 starting pitchers and grab all the power and speed combinations guys I could. I definitely liked the outcome but I maybe have left myself a little light on power.

SP Streamer: I wanted to go hitting early and chase upside. It definitely happened as I grabbed Keston Hiura and Fernando Tatis Jr. early. I have to say I normally don't draft like that and wanted to see how it turned out. Hate the team.

Pierre: I tried out an early SP stack to see if I could come away happy with my lineup in a 12-team league. Generally, I was happy with the results but four pitchers in the first eight rounds might have been unnecessary.

Jorge: Picking at the end of the first round, I missed out on some of the big combo bats like Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story. So, I grabbed two aces in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer to lock down pitching early then looked for value bats later on. The way the draft fell for me, I think i went too pitching heavy. In hindsight, I probably would have taken someone like Jose Ramirez at the first round turn with one of the aces.

Your favorite pick?

KC Bubba: This was between Zac Gallen in round 10 and Robbie Ray in Round 14. I will go with Ray. Being able to lock down an upper-echelon arm like Ray, at pick 168, was great. Ray was my 5th starting pitcher and has the upside to be an SP2 on your fantasy rosters. Ray brings major strikeout upside and if he can hone in the walks his ratios would be amazing.

Bill: Carlos Correa in the 11th seemed like too good a value to pass up. The main knock against him is that he's been hurt for a decent chunk of each of the last three seasons, and while that's a valid concern I'm willing to take a chance on a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy once we're in double-digit rounds. I honestly believe there has been some bias in mock drafts against the Astros given the cheating scandal and concerns over production moving forward.

JB: Carlos Santana in the 11th was exactly what I needed after waiting out 1B. I was also a little light on power so ill take a 30 HR, 90+ R/RBI veteran in the 11th every time. I think Santana will be my 1B target in every draft with the other Santana (Danny) as Plan B or acting as the trigger to take Carlos like what happened here with KC Bubba taking Danny 2 picks before me.

Ariel: Austin Meadows - I felt like I committed a robbery getting Meadows all the way at pick 55. He is a 5 category stud who may return 1st round value.

Eric: Jason Castro. OK, not really, but I think people are sleeping on Castro this year. It was Khris Davis in the 14th round at pick 164 overall. His production last year was impacted by his hip injury, which he never fully recovered from. I expect him to push 40 HRs again the middle of a strong offense with good RBI and R totals.

Riley: Nick Castellanos at 9.7 was a terrific value since I have him ranked higher than several outfielders that were taken before him. Comerica Park really suffocated his power, and it showed when he clubbed 16 long balls in his two months playing for the Cubs. The move to Cincinnati is monumental, and he'll slide nicely into that lineup with other potent bats around him.

Anthony: Charlie Blackmon in Round 5. I was shocked he fell to that point.

Nick: Edwin Encarnacion in Round 13 feels goofy. I know the playoff slump soured us Yankee fans and durability concerns loom at age-37, but he still hit 34 homers with 167 R+RBI in merely 109 games! Yes, that's nearly two-thirds of a season, with simple math highlighting the 50-homer pace in a full year. Now on a suddenly-stacked White Sox team, E5 is here to provide profits in 2020. Shouts to Justin Upton in Round 17 as well.

Mike: Cavan Biggio at pick 153 felt like a steal. He has legitimate 20 home run and 20 steal upside. Yes, the batting average is a concern but at this point the upside couldn’t be ignored in this format.

SP Streamer: I have to say two picks here, the back-to-back picks of Charlie Morton and Luis Castillo I loved. Combining both of them could be a lethal combo in 2020.

Pierre: Waiting on 1B seems like a bad idea but if I can get Christian Walker in the 15th round, I may take that tactic more often.

Jorge: Bo Bichette in the sixth round. After taking two pitchers early, I had some making up to do in the hitting categories. Bichette could be a 20/20 player with a good average and end up being a huge value here.

Your least favorite pick?

KC Bubba: Salvador Perez in round 15. I do love Perez, have written and talked about him often, but he wasn't a good pick in this draft. For this mock, it is a one catcher league and I broke my golden rule of waiting till late on catchers. If this were a two catcher league I would be pumped, but it is not. With players like Carson Kelly going in round 25, I should have waited.

Bill: I think I probably could and should have waited on catcher given the way this mock unfolded. Gary Sanchez fit my strategy well, but I think I could have waited and got a comparable power threat a few rounds later.

JB: Omar Narvaez in the 18th. I could've waited a little longer and still gotten Wilson Ramos or Carson Kelly. I didn't feel like I would be upset if I missed out on any of the remaining guys on the board, so I went ahead and got my guy. He's being undervalued this year and people are looking for reasons to bump him down despite a move to Miller Park from Seattle. Three straight seasons of .275 BA and showed he's got 20+ HR power. I will certainly hold off a round or two before I grab him next time, though.

Ariel: Brian Anderson. I might have grabbed him some 2+ rounds earlier than he would have gone and should have taken Eric Hosmer or Aristides Aquino instead.

Eric: Jake Odorizzi in the 15th round. I panicked and felt like I needed another SP right then, instead of trusting the plan for upside arms and snagging Andrew Heaney or adding more offense and waiting a couple of rounds for a guy like Luke Weaver, AJ Puk, or Mitch Keller. Shoot, even David Price a few rounds later would have been better.

Riley: I regret taking Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at 5.6, not because of his lack of ability, but seeing how far other third basemen like Josh Donaldson, Matt Chapman and Mike Moustakas fell. I would have been better off taking a pitcher with this pick and waiting at the hot corner for another few rounds. The drop off at pitcher is much more substantial through Rounds 5-10 than it is at third base.

Anthony: Gavin Lux in round 11 as my second basemen. The Dodgers have so much depth he can be on the bench if he struggles.

Nick: I don't dislike Brandon Lowe as an overall buy this season, but I had no clear lean construction-wise so I just let my board do the talking. Seeing Ryan McMahon in Round 20, Luis Arraez in Round 22 and Dansby Swanson in Round 23 doesn't feel great compared to the higher price tag paid for Lowe.

Mike: Not that I hated the pick by any means, but Kris Bryant in the 6th round is my least favorite pick due to how my team turned out. I should’ve taken more power there. Bryant is not a bad power bat but I needed someone with 40 plus home run potential and I don’t believe Bryant to be that guy.

SP Streamer: By far it was Hiura, I hated that pick and questioned it the second I picked him. Again I was trying for high upside while going for steals so it made sense. But I think it really put a hole in my team.

Pierre: I won't be taking Chris Sale in Round 3, if at all this year. Too much risk and it left me feeling compelled to take more arms early.

Jorge: Max Scherzer in the second round. Not that Scherzer is a bad pick there, but I had already taken Verlander the pick before. What I found in a 12 team draft is that it's easier to get pitchers I like late such as Matthew Boyd and Madison Bumgarner. I would have been better served taking a top hitter there like Jose Ramirez or Fernando Tatis Jr.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy & Tips Editor Note MLB Analysis Radio RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles Video

Early Mock Draft Analysis and Reaction: Fantasy Baseball

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut review the draft board from an early 2020 mock draft for fantasy baseball mixed leagues.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, every weekday afternoon from 1-2 PM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET and Sunday mornings from 8-10 AM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Mocking It Up

Pierre and Nick discuss results from a recent RotoBaller analyst mock draft to see how player ADP has already started to shift and to pick out the biggest values and reaches.

Players discussed include:

Fernando Tatis Jr.
Jacob deGrom
Justin Verlander
Manny Machado
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Brandon Woodruff
Danny Santana
Nate Pearson
Travis Shaw
J.D. Davis



Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis. We are your secret weapon...

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Early Mock Draft Analysis: MLB Mixed Leagues

Don't tell us it's not draft season yet! Truth be told, the RotoBaller crew was already planning a mock draft days after the World Series ended. As it turns out, we decided to wait until some free agent moves were made and settled for a slow draft that began shortly after the Winter Meetings.

We gathered some of our finest fantasy baseball writers in order to conduct a 10-team, 24-round, mixed-league redraft mock. Once the draft wrapped up, I sat down (figuratively) with each participant to get their takes on some of the more interesting picks or strategies they employed.

Once you finish deciphering the color-coded graph below (it's a beaut, ain't it?), you can read about the thought processes behind the final result.

 

Early Mock Draft Results

Click on image above for full-size view

 

Riley Mrack

Ronald Acuna is becoming more popular as the #1 overall pick over Mike Trout. How confident are you that he will live up to expectations and did you have any pause before that selection?

I had no hesitation when selecting Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pick for a few reasons. He was three steals away from being the fifth player ever to join the illustrious 40/40 club at age-21 and is the only player capable of reaching these marks again in 2020. Trout is undoubtedly a superior overall hitter, but after three straight injury-shortened seasons and an 11-steal 2019 campaign, his double-digit SB streak is in jeopardy. Acuna Jr.'s speed is the difference-maker for me since they are comparable in all five roto categories except for thefts.

You were the first to take a reliever (Hader) and secured three closers in the first 12 rounds. Is this something you typically do and why?

I generally don't reach for relievers, but I felt this was a good opportunity to try this strategy. 30-save closers are becoming a rare commodity, so I locked up three players who should put up sterling ratios and maintain the ninth-inning job all season. Drafting at the turn also affected my mentality because I would rather start a reliever run than miss the boat on it completely. Judging by how my team turned out, I'd implement this strategy in some leagues so I won't have to rely on volatile arms or scavenge the waiver wire all season looking for saves.

 

Michael Grennell

You were the first one to draft two SP, in rounds 2 & 3. How important do you think it is to grab at least one ace early this year?

Starting pitchers and outfielders will always have the most shallow free agent pool after the draft, since most owners will be drafting five or more at those positions as opposed to drafting one or two at the infield positions. That means that after the first round most owners should prioritize either a top tier starter or outfielder in order to maximize your team's potential. It's far better to grab a Scherzer/Buehler/Flaherty/Clevinger early on, than wait until around the 10th round and have Madison Bumgarner as your best pitcher.

Aristides Aquino is a polarizing player this draft season. What are reasonable expectations for him and can we consider him an OF3 in most mixed leagues?

If there was one pick I would do over it would be Aquino; I think I would've tried waiting another round to grab him. Obviously, he had that amazing stretch in August, but that production fell off drastically in the final month of the season. But that performance in August intrigues me, and he has averaged 22 homers over his last four seasons in the minors. I think owners should look at him as a fringe OF3 in most formats but a definite OF4.

 

Ellis Canady

Aside from Yelich and a handful of steals from Harper, your team might be devoid of speed as you don't seem to have a true speedster on your team. Do you intentionally forego SB in order to bolster other stats or was this a matter of best player available in each round?

Speed is an important category as there are few players that sell the product you need. There are really only three ways to tackle it: speedster-heavy, spread the responsibility, and punt the category. The last one is not an option for me. Since I didn’t draft a speedster in the first round (Trea Turner), I chose to spread the responsibility, which is usually my preferred method. I expect Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, Keston Hiura, Bo Bichette, Adam Eaton, and Amed Rosario to pitch in double-digit steals. Add a dash of stolen bases from a few of the others (George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, Rafael Devers, Andrew McCutchen) and I should be comfortably competitive in the category.

With the wealth of quality shortstops around, waiting to grab Bo Bichette as your starter seems like a calculated risk. Are you expecting a full-blown breakout season?

As stated, the shortstop position is rich with talent. I’m pleased to get Bo Bichette in the 12th round with the potential. His hand was broke in April of 2019, but he still returned and provided 11 homers and four stolen bases with a .384 wOBA after a promotion to the big leagues. I’m not naïve to think 2020 will be filled with funnel cakes and lemonade. However, I’d set the floor at a 20/20 guy with a very good batting average. Just in case, I backed him up with a 15/15 guy in Amed Rosario.

 

Scott Engel

Was grabbing Pete Alonso in round three a case of prioritizing an upper-tier first baseman because of the lack of depth there or are you just a believer that he'll repeat last year's numbers?

At that point, I could not pass on Alonso for the power and RBI production. The combination of his average Launch Angle and Barrel rate should translate into another big power year. If his Average Exit Velocity climbs, the results could be massive.

Between Adalberto Mondesi, Tim Anderson, Oscar Mercado and Mallex Smith, you'd be a sure bet to lead the league in steals. Do you make it a point to go after potential category-winners in SB?

I am always gunning for speed. Power is easier to come by. I like to space it throughout the draft to build a good final product in that regard.

 

Kev Mahserejian

You were the last analyst to select a relief pitcher and all three of your RP combined for 31 saves last year. Do you believe chasing closers early is a mistake?

Unless a closer sees an egregious fall in price, I typically stray away from drafting them early on. It's a strategy I've maintained throughout the years that has won me my fair share of leagues. I do not necessarily think it is a mistake to chase closers early if you hit on them. However, the position of closer is so volatile year-to-year in enough cases that I will choose to play my cards elsewhere. Several closers always pop up on the waiver wire throughout the season and I would prefer to bank on those and the ones I draft late than any early in drafts.

Are you surprised that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fell to you at the 85th overall pick?

Vlad Jr. dropping that far is crazy. I get it, he underwhelmed in his first taste of the show but he was the number one overall prospect for a reason; he can hit and he will this year. I probably should have taken him even earlier to be quite honest.

 

Mike Schwarzenbach

You took a very slugger-heavy approach by selecting Yordan Alvarez, Khris Davis, Joey Gallo, and Franmil Reyes. Are you concerned about your average and steals taking a hit?

In the most power-happy era in baseball history, I definitely wanted to prioritize players that could set the pace in power stats. Starting my team with Bregman and Story set up batting average nicely while adding more power to the sluggers drafted later. Steals, on the other hand, are definitely a concern for this squad. By the time I realized the hole I was in, it was too late to find a player capable of making a real difference in steals without dragging down every other category meaning I will certainly make steals a priority much earlier in future roto drafts this season.

Your Alex Bregman pick at #6 overall occurred before the Astros sign-stealing scandal completely unfolded and A.J. Hinch was fired. Would you reconsider that pick or do you feel it will have no effect on him?

Not at all, Bregman is one of the brightest young stars in the game and I don't believe you blast 41 homers with 122 runs and 112 RBI just by stealing signs. Furthermore, MLB's investigation noted Astros players abandoned the sign-stealing in 2018 as they believed it was losing effectiveness bringing into question if he was even cheating during last year's second-place MVP finish. We may never know for sure what occurred behind the scenes in Houston, but Bregman is a former top prospect with the batted ball data to back up his monster numbers from 2019. Bregman is still sixth in my rankings and I'll take him there in every draft if given the opportunity.

 

Nicklaus Gaut

You didn't take a single closer and your only two RP are setup men (Nick Anderson and Giovanny Gallegos). Is punting saves something you recommend?

While I don't totally recommend punting saves, I'm more comfortable drafting that way in a 10-person league, as there should be plenty of opportunities if I stay diligent on the waiver wire. With Gallegos and Anderson, I have two elite setup men who, if they had the closer's job currently, would see their draft stock skyrocket. Best-case scenario, Gallegos takes over as Cardinals closer with Carlos Martinez set to return to starting and Anderson collects around 10 saves as a key member of the Rays yearly closer-carousel. Worst-case, I only get a handful of saves but still get elite ratios and strikeouts, with the pair combining for 203 K in 139 innings last season, with a 2.78 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. The average winner in NFBC leagues last year drafted, on average, 1.5 closers; I think I'm over halfway there.

You chose Chris Paddack ahead of veterans like Madison Bumgarner, Trevor Bauer, and Yu Darvish. Do rumors of an innings cap or past injury worry you at all?

Even with a supposed limit on his innings, I was happy to get Paddack at #87, which was about a round after I had him valued. Especially because the pitchers that went in the next two rounds were a lot of guys I happen to be down on, like Bumgarner, Bauer, and Eduardo Rodriguez. I did consider Yu Darvish here - someone I'm really high on - but he comes packaged with even more risk than the average pitcher with his long and storied injury history. I'm seeing Paddack being projected for between 165-170 inning, which seems reasonable to me, though I do think 175 IP is on the table. Given the type of production I anticipate, I think Paddack will return more than a chunk of fantasy profit.

 

Pierre Camus

Nolan Arenado has already fallen out of the first round in many early drafts, including this one. How much should the ongoing feud between he and the Rockies, along with a potential trade, concern fantasy owners?

While he certainly doesn't seem happy, it's not as if we have to fear a holdout or a loss of playing time. If Arenado does stay in Colorado, that's actually the best-case scenario because he'll remain in the heart of the lineup for a strong offense in the best ballpark there is. A move to the Cardinals or Rangers still wouldn't put him below Anthony Rendon or Rafael Devers in my estimation, so at this point he could be a bargain if you can get him outside the top-15.

At starting pitcher, you took on a mix of injury risk (Luis Severino, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Minor, Jameson Taillon) and inexperience (Tyler Glasnow, Griffin Canning, Sandy Alcantara, Josh James). What was your strategy?

Ultimately, every pitcher comes with risk. Even a "safe" player like Corey Kluber, who had thrown 200+ innings in five straight years, succumbed to serious injury last year, while a first-round pick like Chris Sale tanked many teams with uneven play before going on the shelf. I shoot for strikeouts early and then try to hedge the ratios later with guys like Taillon and Alcantara. We've seen guys like Folty and Glasnow look dominant in flashes, so if I can hit on one for a full season, it was worth it even if the other doesn't pan out.

 

Marc Hulet

What do you expect out of Shohei Ohtani this year and do you think he'll be worth a rotation spot in all fantasy leagues?

I felt pretty good about taking a little bit of a risk on Ohtani because I already had Cole and Syndergaard locked up. The Angels club is always going to do everything it can to win and, while it lacks pitching depth, Ohtani is the best pitcher on the staff so a healthy number of the club's wins those should end up under his name. He was likely only scratching the surface of his potential on the mound in 2018. I believe we have a pitcher here that will miss bats and generate a lot of strikeouts — but I do have some minor reservations about how well he (as a fly-ball pitcher) will fare with the home run totals if the juiced ball is still hanging around. I have a potential ace here.

You nabbed rookie starters Jesus Luzardo, Brendan McKay, and Nate Pearson. Which one do you believe represents the best draft value in redraft leagues?

Outside of MacKenzie Gore, Luzardo and Pearson probably have the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect in baseball and they’re almost MLB ready so I don’t expect a huge learning curve from them but I do have concerns about how many innings they’ll be allowed to throw in 2020 with Luzardo coming back from a serious shoulder injury and Pearson also having his innings suppressed in recent seasons due to (less concerning) injury. So that leaves me with McKay as the best pick for 2020 because we can probably hope for around 160 innings from a guy who is still in his infancy as a full-time pitcher but has shown he’s not far off from having three or four plus offerings with above-average control. He’s also on a team, the Rays, that should be pretty good in 2020. If I was confident Luzardo was going to throw more than 120 innings in the Majors then I’d switch my vote, though, because he just might have the better overall fantasy results.

 

Bill Dubiel

You stacked your rotation early, taking Jacob deGrom in the first round, followed by Aaron Nola, Luis Castillo, and Jose Berrios within the first six rounds. Was this a matter of getting value where it fell or are you making a point of loading up on elite pitching this year?

In my pre-season analysis, I found that there were quite a few bats I knew I could get later in the draft that I would be extremely comfortable with over the course of a season. I didn't feel as strongly about starting pitching, and therefore I decided to load up on high-end starters. I was able to snag four guys who have fairly reliable floors but still enough upside where I can gain an advantage throughout the season there. Likely expect some regression with Castillo, but still that's four guys who will eat innings, approach or surpass 200 K, and likely keep their ERA under 3.75.

Now that he's signed with Atlanta, does Marcell Ozuna at 91 feel like a bargain or are there concerns about how he might fit with a new team in a crowded outfield?

Marcell Ozuna at 91 feels like a pretty good bargain to me, as he's going to occupy a prime position in what will be, in my estimation, one of the National League's best offenses. He's been a healthy everyday mainstay in whatever lineup he's been in, tallying 549 at-bats or more in each of the last four years. The depth in Atlanta's outfield doesn't concern me, as Ozuna should be prioritized as the second-best option behind Acuna. It'll be Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis who need to battle for at-bats throughout the season.

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