For the fourth consecutive year, my friends at RotoBaller invited me to participate in the RotoBaller Friends and Family mock draft. The draft room was, in a word, terrifying:
- Vlad Sedler, Guru Elite
- Nick Mariano, RotoBaller
- Pierre Camus, RotoBaller
- Todd Zola, Mastersball
- Tim Heaney, RotoWire
- Heath Cummings, CBS Sports
- Howard Bender, Fantasy Alarm
- Nando Di Fino, The Athletic
- Scott Engel, RotoExperts
- Alex Chamberlain, RotoGraphs
- Ray Flowers, Guru Elite
- Real Talk Raph, RotoBaller
I drew the #10 pick (as shown in the draft order above), immediately understanding I might have a difficult decision to make very early in the draft.
This doesn’t need much preamble, but I do want to say one thing: I maintain that a good way to improve as a drafter (for lack of a better word) is to try something you might not ordinarily try or force yourself into an uncomfortable position you might not normally get into. I embraced this discomfort with my first two picks, assembling a base from building blocks I might not normally use given the options available to me. As you’ll see in my concluding remarks, I think I did pretty well.
Also: we were all on a 30-second clock. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was stressed. My internal monologue was utter chaos.
1.10 Jacob deGrom NYM SP
When Max Scherzer hadn’t been drafted by the 7th pick, I foolishly thought he might slip to 10th. Alas, my crossroads, instead, became one of picking between deGrom and Trea Turner. The number of aces who could reasonably anchor a rotation after deGrom outstrip the number of high-volume speedsters should I pass on Turner. So, I took deGrom, knowing that I absolutely had to lock down Whit Merrifield or Starling Marte — or I might be awaiting a world of hurt.
2.15 Alex Bregman HOU SS/3B
Another crossroads, another instance of volunteering myself into an uncomfortable situation. Normally, I would’ve taken Corey Kluber or Trevor Story here. Instead, I let myself fall prey to Bregman’s absurdly beautiful peripherals. Say what you will about what constitutes a high-floor profile, but Bregman might have the highest floor in the game behind Trout. (A contentious claim, perhaps, but, hey, whatever.)
3.34 Whit Merrifield KC 2B
Nailed it. However, I hoped to have had two starters by now.
4.39 Luis Severino NYY SP
I was sad Carlos Carrasco was grabbed a couple of picks before this, but it made my decision much simpler. Severino as the 13th starter off the board is phenomenal value in relative terms, and I’m in the minority of folks who think his second-half swoon was simply the product of regression after an insane first half. Could pretty easily be among the top-5 arms in 2020 – lest we forget we were having that exact discussion last spring/summer before he regressed.
It was naive of me to think Marte might last until my next pick, but the run of Daniel Murphy (5.52), Justin Upton (5.53), and Lorenzo Cain (5.54) utterly destroyed me. I knew this would be a tough draft, but it was that exact moment I had to confront just how sharp the room really was.
5.58 James Paxton NYY SP
Real talk: I auto-drafted Paxton, and not from my queue, which was stupidly empty. I was so stressed by the 30-second clock, and when I couldn’t find the search bar, I panicked. I actually wanted Tommy Pham, who went with the very next pick. In actuality, getting Paxton here — who I love, don’t get me wrong — allowed me to pursue several undervalued bats in lieu of settling for a mid-round starter of which I may not have been particularly fond.
Wil Myers (6.61) stung, but I don’t think I would’ve pulled the trigger this early.
6.63 Nelson Cruz MIN DH
Had to get my guy. He’ll out-earn this slot, so no worries. Value picks are only valuable if you own them. Having seen many of my personal value picks vanished, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself letting him slip too far.
7.82 Eddie Rosario MIN LF
I made the mistake of not paying enough heed to Rosario’s breakout 2017 campaign. After a better 2018 derailed by injury, I knew I wanted to prioritize Rosario as an outfield option. His power-average combination works well with my effort to build a robust five-category base. I think I’ve done a good job so far.
8.87 Jesus Aguilar MIL 1B
This was an interesting moment. Not for a second during this offseason/preseason did I consider Aguilar an option for any of my teams. With Abreu, Matt Olson (7.84), and Joey Gallo (8.86) freshly scooped, Aguilar was suddenly the best clear-cut power option on the board — outside of Edwin Encarnacion, of course, for whom I made the foolish mistake of thinking he’d last 20 more picks. He didn’t. But I got at least one of them, and that’s what matters.
9.106 Justin Turner LAD 3B
I’m on the fence about this pick. Turner will generate robust value, but enough to pay off his draft price? His concern is always one of health, or lack thereof; a full season’s worth of playing time from him would make this pick an absolute steal, as he’s legitimately one of the game’s best hitters. But another 450-plate appearance season will generate just mid-round value, which is fine — not great, just fine.
10.111 Salvador Perez KC C
In a two-catcher league, I knew I had to have Perez here. It was one of the few picks I made with absolute clarity.
Off the board: Chris Archer (10.113), Matt Chapman (10.114), Charlie Morton (10.116), Rich Hill (11.125) (!!!), Rougned Odor (11.127)… sharp, sharp room. I couldnt have reasonably expected all of these guys to last this long, but these picks literally depleted my queue.
11.130 Kirby Yates SD RP
I hadn’t, for a second, thought about drafting a closer until after Odor was selected. With no semblance of a plan, and absolutely no idea how many closers had been drafted (answer: 10), I blindly grabbed Yates, one of my favorite closers by skills. To attest: among 111 relievers with at least 100 innings the last two years, he’s 5th in SIERA, 12th in xFIP, 7th in strikeout rate (K%), 5th in strikeouts minus walks (K-BB%), 5th in swinging strike rate (SwStr%)… you catch my drift.
12.135 Ender Inciarte ATL RF
Not sure if Inciarte was the optimal play here, but I’ve always loved his combination of speed and superb contact skills. This is a $9 pick who has averaged $11 the last four years and almost $15 the last two. He’s a Chamberlain mainstay and I’m glad to have him back.
Run on catchers: Yasmani Grandal (12.142), Willson Contreras (12.144), Yadier Molina (13.148), Wilson Ramos (13.149). For a hot second, I thought I might wind up with a share of Tim Anderson (12.138), but that dream was quickly dashed. Also surprised to see Billy Hamilton (13.152) go here, although this is right where I was considering taking him, so maybe not that surprising.
13.154 Eduardo Rodriguez BOS SP
This was my first true panic pick. Is he the 43rd-best starter off the board? Sure? Maybe? Derek Carty’s THE BAT projections peg him for the 22nd-best ERA and 20th-best FIP among full-time starters. Despite his 26% strikeout rate the last two years, my personal projection is a little lukewarm (23%)… but, intuitively, I know I like E-Rod, and I prefer him to about 20 other arms in this region.
14.159 Ryan Braun MIL LF
Sharp room. Not waiting for Braun to last another round or two. Might feel like an overdraft to some, but few remaining still provide his combination of power and speed. (He earned exactly this much — $7 — in just 447 PA last year and despite a sunken batting average.)
Although this particular segment of any draft would bore me to death, the following run really ruined me spiritually: Nick Pivetta (14.163), Mike Moustakas (14.164) (who I forgot about), Hyun-jin Ryu (15.169), Amed Rosario (15.170), Collin McHugh (15.172), Carlos Santana (15.174)… I mean, really, my mid-to-late-draft strategy went up in flames.
15.178 Kenta Maeda LAD SP
I love Ryu — had many a cheap share last year — but Maeda is the superior arm, in my opinion, with superior health. I like him more than E-Rod, so I was very relieved to find him still available at this point. The E-Rod pick would’ve been unforgivable had Maeda been stolen from me. Did you know Maeda is 14th in SIERA since his debut three years ago among 74 starters with 400-plus innings?
16.183 Danny Jansen TOR C
OK, another panic pick. With so much of my draft strategy in flux, and, again, with absolutely no concept of how many catchers had been drafted thus far (answer: eight), I took Jansen. Could I have waited and settled for someone like Robinson Chirinos or, much later, Kurt Suzuki? Yes. Would I have preferred to do so? Frankly, yes. This is my first pick with which I’m not especially thrilled (it was odd enough that RotoBaller called it out publicly!). On a 30-second clock, it was bound to happen. And at this juncture, where I wasn’t feeling especially inspired by anyone, I’ll settle for a potentially high-volume bat-first top catching prospect.
But, really, I should’ve gone double Dodger and grabbed Ross Stripling (16.190). Instead, I screamed at my computer seven picks later.
17.202 Jonathan Schoop MIN 2B
This is something like a $5 pick for a guy who earned maybe $2 in 2018 but $21 in 2017 (and an average of $11 the last three years). Like Aguilar, Schoop hadn’t consumed a single thought of mine all offseason until the exact moment I looked at my projections and saw a “27” in the home run column. For those keeping track at home, I didn’t have a second baseman yet. It was all quite auspicious, and suddenly I’m feeling optimistic about a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) rebound.
18.207 Justin Smoak TOR 1B
Sixty-three home runs and a .256/.353/.495 the last two years? Why, yes, I will gladly accept your free fantasy money.
19.226 Paul DeJong STL 2B/SS
Per Razzball’s player rater, DeJong’s end-of-season rank the last two years: 225th and 227th. I didn’t know this before I made this selection. I consider this his floor; he has yet to eclipse 500 PA in a season, so a full season from him could be pretty massive. Entering his age-25 season, he has hit 28(!) home runs per 600 PA. The more I think about it, the more I think we might be talking about DeJong as a 5th- or 6th-rounder next year.
20.231 Yusei Kikuchi SEA SP
So, I timed out here, my second such failing of the draft, but at least I was queued up. With the caveat I know almost nothing about Kikuchi, this will likely be a perfectly satisfactory spot for him; recall that Miles Mikolas went 289th on average in last year’s National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and finished the season a top-60 player. Kikuchi has to live up to only half his potential while staying healthy to pay off this pick, and it helps knowing MLB’s Japanese- and Korean-league imports in recent years have produced superb profits in their debuts.
Should’ve known this room wouldn’t let Anibal Sanchez (20.239) or Shin-soo Choo (21.246) slip too far.
21.250 Shane Greene DET RP
With a run of six relievers in the 10 picks prior to mine, and my brain moving a mile a minute, I embraced what was left of my incinerated cognition and picked the first closer I recognized by name on the draft board. Greene is just… not a good reliever, let alone closer. This is as much a punt play as any I’ve seen, knowing fully I will probably replace him by June. Then again, Greene saved 32 games for an awful Tigers squad that projects to be awful again. Maybe it will all work out!
22.255 Ramon Laureano OAK CF
Using the extra couple of moments I bought for myself by selecting Greene blindly, I collected my thoughts and decided to pull the trigger on an outfielder who, frankly, I was surprised was still on the board. I knew of Laureano for his defensive feats but was thoroughly unaware of his power-speed pace that resembled something like a 15-homer, 20-steal season. His 28.4% strikeout rate greatly undersells his contact-based proficiencies, but he’s not a true .388 BABIP guy, either. Anything can happen in 176 PA, basically. I have him pegged for 17/19/.248 in 551 PA, but his projection is as uncertain as anyone’s.
23.274 DJ LeMahieu NYY 2B
One of those “how the hell is he still on the board?” moments. LeMahieu has averaged $9 the last two years and $13 the last four — and I effectively paid $2 for him.
24.279 Michael Pineda MIN SP
Nothing more than playing the odds here. Even when he was getting shellacked in New York, Pineda was the lowest of low-end usable starters. Ideally, a change of scenery (although, less ideally, also recovery from Tommy John surgery) could help him break his incredibly hittable and homer-prone prolonged funk. With a healthy 4.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) and 48% ground ball rate (GB%) since the start of 2015, I’ll bank on peripheral skills and nothing more. If he busts, he busts — so be it.
NOOOOOOOOO JEFF MCNEIL (25.297). My one true snipe of the draft.
25.298 Trevor Cahill LAA SP
Can’t get enough of Trevor Cahill as a starter the last two years. In his 2017 season, he compiled a superb 3.14 ERA/3.24 FIP/3.09 xFIP in 57.1 innings with a 29.5% strikeout rate and a 56.8% ground ball rate. (He crumbled catastrophically afterward, dealing with myriad injuries and eventually being relegated to the bullpen.) Between the first half of 2017 and all of 2018 (167.1 innings): 3.54 ERA/3.44 FIP/3.55 xFIP, 25% K, 9% BB, 55% GB. The friendly confines of Angel Stadium should only be a boon to his value. His biggest impediment is health.
26.303 Brad Boxberger KC RP
Roughly a copy-paste of Greene’s caption, Boxberger is a volatile closer option, and that’s before considering he might share duties with Wily Peralta. Boxberger is the superior arm of the duo, but that does not guarantee him long-term stability. I could see Jake Diekman making a splash this year. Anyway, with two-and-a-half closers to start the season, my team would be at a slight competitive advantage (in 12-team leagues, some teams will have three closers, other two).
27.322 Max Kepler MIN CF
James McCool has been fooling around with an “adjusted ADP” calculator that finds, for any hitter, comparable players and their accompanying ADPs. It’s effectively a market inefficiency identifier. Conveniently, McCool posted this Tweet Wednesday highlighting Kepler’s relative affordability. I got him for even cheaper, and I have him projected for arguably more value (24 home runs, .244 average). Kepler’s name has made the rounds already as a quality sleeper, but his draft price has yet to reflect any indication of people waking up to him. He sported some of the best contact/plate discipline gains of any hitter last year but suffered bad luck in the BABIP and HR/FB departments. It could all synthesize quite nicely in 2019.
Jay Bruce (27.323) could readily resume hitting 30 home runs again, but he’s not guaranteed an outfield job, and plantar fasciitis is a killer (just ask Albert Pujols). Also, I know I was one of the few outspoken against Luke Weaver (28.325) last year, but being virtually free, it’s hard not to love the upside in this pick.
28.327 Maikel Franco PHI 3B
Roughly a $4-$5 player the last three years, Franco makes for solid-if-unspectacular-but-totally-bankable third base depth.
Projected for 96 points by FantasyPros, a full eight points ahead of 2nd place and 14 points ahead of 3rd, it’s hard to complain about the end result. I wasn’t thrilled with the draft in real time — I was stress-sweating like crazy and just absolutely flustered — but I ended up with a lot of players I like at prices I love. I challenged myself to adopt a draft strategy I might not normally use and made it work, letting my intuition take over in times of spiritual crisis (of which there were several).
In a room full of sharks, it’s worth noting not everyone was trying to maximize Opening Day value, as I apparently did (thus, the alleged margin of victory might be a bit misleading). Many top prospects were taken, including Peter Alonso, Kyle Tucker, Fernando Tatis Jr., and the like. All that these results mean is I might have the best likelihood to not depend so heavily on the waiver wire in-season. I may have maximized my draft value, but it would remain to be seen how effectively I optimize my Free Agent Auction Budget (FAAB). Ideally, with a solid draft under my belt, I could pick and choose my battles on the wire and overpay for waiver options I really like (or desperately need — in this case, closers). A good draft affords you that extra flexibility.
Ultimately, I’m happy with the team despite my self-imposed limitations. What do you think?