The Arizona Fall League moved up the Fall Stars game to mid-October this year which in turn moved up Baseball HQ’s First Pitch Forum conference. As you may know if you’ve been following me for a while, we conduct some early NFBC Draft and Hold leagues out there where we select our first 23 players live and then finish the remaining 27 rounds online in January. This is always fun because of how fresh we are off the regular season and it’s interesting to see how much recency bias owns the draft. Plus, there’s the bonus of being at the AFL meaning some of the prospects on the cusp get pushed up as well.
Here’s a quick rundown of my first 23 picks conducted out of the 13 spot. I’ve long aimed for a late pick in order to be early in the first round (actually the 24th) when we resume in January as news and moves often create some big-time values to be garnered that late in the draft.
1.13 – Justin Verlander | SP, HOU
I figured picking late would leave looking at a starter in the first round and I have no problem with that. There is some trepidation with taking a 37-year old pitcher for some, but I don’t share those reservations because there is literally nothing in Verlander’s profile that makes him look like a risk outside of his age.
2.18 – Anthony Rendon | 3B, FA
The MVP candidate could be in a new home come 2020, but he may have a World Series ring in tow. He has become one of the steadiest bats out there over the last few years and while he’s usually more in the 600 PA range than 650+, he still does a full season’s worth of numbers in that time averaging .310/.397/.556 with 28 HR, 106 RBI, 95 R, and 5 SB over the last three years. He’s also led the NL in doubles the last two seasons with 44.
3.43 – José Altuve | 2B, HOU
Sure, he cut another chunk off his SB total, this time down to just 6 (in 11 tries), but he also smacked 31 HR in 548 PA. The ball may go back to “normal” next year and thus I wouldn’t expect a similar pace, but I think he’ll remain a quality power source on an elite team with a big batting average and some SB potential. While he has come down from 32 to 6 SBs in the last two years, he’ll still be just 30 years old next year and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushed back up into the upper-teens, low-20s. Houston doesn’t run a lot, but I think they’ll let him go if he’s healthy.
4.48 – Victor Robles | OF, WAS
That said, I still need a true SB threat and that’s where Robles comes in! His 28 SBs on the year were 9th in the league and that was with just a .326 OBP. If he continues to develop as expected, he could push his OBP up around .340 (mostly via AVG) and put himself in line for 35+ SBs. His speed also comes with some pop as he hit 17 HR. An easy pick here to be sure.
5.73 – Chris Sale | SP, BOS
This wasn’t as easy of a pick given the uncertainty hanging over Sale, but I felt it was just too late to pass on him. Usually the only way to get two guys with the upside of Verlander and Sale is to take them back-to-back in the first two rounds so to have three hitters before getting that second potential ace felt great. The latest news was that Sale was undergoing PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections after visiting Dr. James Andrews.
6.78 – Max Muncy | 1B/2B/3B, LAD
Muncy followed up his breakout season with another gem, finishing as a top 60 player and carrying over triple eligibility into 2020. His AVG is a bit of a liability, but I think my foundation has that covered with Rendon and Altuve (maybe Robles, too!).
7.103 – Corey Kluber | SP, CLE
A 37-year old, a wonky elbow, and a broken arm… those are my three starters! Kluber never made it back from his broken arm because he suffered a strained oblique and of course there’s the fact that he was terrible in his seven starts before the injuries. I definitely have some concerns related to Kluber, but I felt this was the right price to take on those concerns given the potential upside.
8.108 – Josh Hader | RP, MIL
Closers have been pushed down in all the early 2020 drafts whether it was the #TooEarlyMocks or this draft and I had no problem buying one of the absolute best after pick-100. Hader took the role and logged 37 saves. If the ball goes back to normal next year, he becomes even more exciting as his 1.8 HR/9 will likely come back to earth.
9.133 – Corey Seager | SS, LAD
Justin and I had a long conversation about Seager on our SS pod so I know he doesn’t like this pick, but for all the talk about shortstop’s depth, I looked up around the 8th round and realized it was heading toward a cliff. There were still viable guys beyond Seager, but it was a clear drop off after him. While I’m far from his biggest fan, this price for this upside really works for me.
10.138 – Frankie Montas | SP, OAK
It was just a 96-inning sample of success, but Montas was a beast last year and I don’t think that all came via his PEDs. He returned after the suspension for six strong innings against the Angels and I think he picks up right where he left off next year.
11.163 – Mitch Garver | C, MIN
Garver will almost certainly lose some juice if the ball is changed, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t remain a powerful backstop capable of being a C1. The ball wasn’t the only reason he had a 16% barrel rate, 50% hard-hit rate, and .410 wOBA. Even with the same ball next year, he won’t have a 29% HR/FB rate so his home runs are coming down regardless, but I still like him here.
12.168 – Mitch Haniger | OF, SEA
This is when I enacted an All-Mitch policy for the team so Moreland and Keller could be my next picks (the final 11 rounds will be reviewed tomorrow). I felt like Haniger was a bit of a steal he as he’s somewhat forgotten having played just 63 games in 2019. He will likely move up the board once Spring Training starts, but until then he’ll likely remain around here or cheaper. His full season average since ’17 is .271 AVG, 30 HR, 89 RBI, 100 R, and 9 SB. The actual average accounting for the fact that he’s played 96, 157, and 63 games is .271, 19, 57, 65, and 6. That’s pretty Mitchin’!