October 28, 2020

Baseballpods

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2020 Short Season Mock Draft Recap

The folks over at Rotofanatic were gracious enough to invite me to participate in a mock draft assuming approximately half a season of games in 2020. If you haven’t checked out their new site, you need to rectify that error. It’s an impressive new collection of some of the brightest fantasy minds in the community. Very analytical, but also very accessible. That is not an easy feat to pull off.

There is one caveat. If you play in any leagues with me, definitely do not read Cory Ott’s new article on Daniel Ponce de Leon. It’s not worth your time. Definitely skip it. Also, skip to the next paragraph now … (if you don’t play in my leagues, it’s a phenomenal deep dive about one of my favorite deep sleepers that defines the quality of the analysis over there).

The Rotofanatic team did a great general recap of the entire draft. But in this article, I thought it would be helpful to look in depth at one team as I go pick-by-pick to recap my draft strategy and execution. I picked from the 11 spot, and this a traditional 5×5 roto 12-team league with a 28-round draft. We drafted active rosters with 13 hitters (1 catcher) and 9 pitchers.

My strategy going in:

Stack bats early that contribute in every category – I want to pick well-balanced offensive pieces that have a high floor in the first few rounds. Everyone talks about avoiding the one-category speedsters late. But it also allows me to avoid relying on too many low-average power bats.

Skip over the top tier of starting pitchers – My theory here with the short season is that pitchers have the most performance variance in general, and with the shorter season, the variance will be even greater. It also takes pitchers longer to get ready for the season, and with the long layoff and rush to get back into games, we are going to see many more injuries this season. In a 12-team league, there will be plenty of talent on the waiver wire.

Push up and prioritize “named” closers – Closers in general have been very affordable in drafts this season. The market seems to have corrected based on the high-profile busts last year. In a short season, there are fewer opportunities to lose the job. And therefore fewer opportunities for closers-in-waiting to get the job. I want to grab at least 3 “named” closers.

Take some high-risk high-reward players late – I’ve been reading a number of analysts talk about targeting the high-risk high-reward hitters in a short season in the hopes they catch a heater. I understand the concept, but have no interest in doing that with my early round picks. But I do like the idea of trying to catch some lightning late.

Ignore position scarcity – This is a 12-team mixed league with one catcher and a short bench. There’s plenty of talent to go around.

So let’s see how I did …

Trevor Story, SS, COL (Round 1. Pick 11) – I’m not the biggest Story supporter out there, but I’m very happy with a five-category contributor near the end of the first round. As long as he’s playing half his games in Coors, it’s hard to imagine this pick busting.

Fernando Tatís, Jr., SS, SD (2.14) – If I’m being honest, I wanted José Ramírez here. But he went the pick before mine. That being said, Tatís is a pretty darn good consolation prize. People point to the .410 BABIP as unsustainable. Well, yeah. But with his barrels, hard hits, and sprint speed, that BABIP should remain well above average. I’m penciling him in for numbers right around those of … Trevor Story.

Austin Meadows, OF, TB (3.35) – What exactly is Austin Meadows bad at? Where is the hole in his game? He hits in the middle of an underrated offense where his power and average play up. He even runs. He’s 25, with room for growth. Oh, you like the new fancy advanced metrics? Well, his Baseball Savant page gives me flashbacks to the elevator doors opening up in The Shining.

Keston Hiura, 2B, MIL (4.38) – 2B is widely considered a super-thin position in fantasy this season. While I don’t completely subscribe to that (I like some of the late picks at the position) and am largely ignoring position scarcity, I was very happy to land another player who I believe will help me in five categories. I expect a full season pace of .270-25-80-80-10 with room for more.

Charlie Morton, SP, TB (5.59) – He has been one of the most valuable starters in the game since he reinvented himself, and this might be his swan song season. Concerns about his inability to rack up 200 IP in a full season have been rendered all but irrelevant by current circumstances. I drafted him as the 20th starter off the board, and I’d take him ahead of half of the arms picked before him in this half season.

Tyler Glasnow, SP, TB (6.62) – The Tampa Bay Rays are the smartest team in baseball. Full stop. No team has done a better job of getting the most out of their arms. They know how to set their pitchers up for success, and I am betting that they will handle whatever version of a short season we get better than any other team. We know Glasnow has elite electric stuff. Sign me up for a Cy Young run.

Josh Donaldson, 3B, ATL (7.83) – Big bat in a sweet spot in a dreamy lineup. What’s not to like? Was targeting Donaldson or Eugenio Suarez here to provide me with a strong four-category floor. I think there’s a bit of an unspoken drop-off at 3B after Donaldson. And the next two 3B picked were Miguel Sano (35 picks later) and Justin Turner (43 picks later). I like both of those guys just fine, but they have much higher risk profiles.

Brandon Woodruff, SP, MIL (8.86) – Keeps the ball in the yard, and doesn’t walk a lot of guys. People are not fully appreciating the gains he made last season. Love him as my #3 starter, and if he gets a disproportionate number of games against the AL and NL Central, that’s gravy.

Carlos Santana, 1B, CLE (9.107) – First base is a tricky position this year. There are a handful of elite power producers at the top, but I’m targeting five category contributors at other positions and starting pitchers where they are being drafted. There are also a slew of late power options, but their floors could be team wreckers. I like to wait and grab a more reliable option in the middle like Santana. Peep that 15.7 K% and 15.7% BB% last season.

Lance Lynn, SP, TEX (10.110) – I know, I know. He’s an accumulator. Ewww. He still has all the skills that made him a target of mine everywhere this season.

Ken Giles, RP, TOR (11.131) – Some periodic bad ERA luck combined with the way the Astros used him muddled the fact that he’s always had the skills of a strong reliever. Settled down in Toronto last year for a great season. He’s one of my primary closer targets this year.

Liam Hendriks, RP, OAK (12.134) – Everyone’s favorite 2020 closer fade. Not a target of mine either, but he’s a fine 2nd closer. I’m not as worried about a trade in a half-season where Oakland has the talent to contend.

Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX (13.155.) – Reports are that he is thankfully completely recovered from his scary spring injury. But for my fantasy team, in retrospect, this was a bit of a reach. I like Calhoun, but he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. A breakout is certainly within the range of outcomes at his age with his talent. But I’d likely have gone in a different direction if I did this again.

Yasiel Puig, OF, FA (14.158) – I think he’ll sign, and even if it’s to hit in the cavernous dimensions and empty lineup in San Francisco, I think he’ll produce. We know the tools are there. And he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove to the other 29 teams in the league that they were stupid not to sign him.

Raisel Iglesias, RP, CIN (15.179) – Another closer with what seems like good job security (my favorite asset at this position) on a contending team. Stacking the saves early. When drafting for a full season, I don’t think I ever took this many closers in this format, certainly not in the first half of the draft.

Mark Canha, OF, OAK (16.172) – I don’t understand his 240 ADP, and judging by the fact that it has gone up by about 20 spots in the last two months, it seems like more people are catching on to his value.

Dylan Carlson, OF, STL (17.203) – The bat is major-league ready. The Cardinals could decide to bury him for a year, but they should be a contender in the NL Central, and could easily plug him into the lineup right away. At this point in the draft, he’s worth the risk. Jo Adell was drafted a few spots before him, and I have Carlson well above him in 2020.

Sean Doolittle, RP, WAS (18.206) – Drafting my fourth closer to go along with my four starting pitchers. What the heck am I doing? Well, I have four starters I believe in, I love the late arms in a 12-teamer, and I think there will be even more starters to FAAB/stream than normal this season. I have no problem racking up saves early, getting a better read on the starting pitcher usage in this weird season, and then trading for a good starter once there is a better understanding of which pitchers are being used in which roles.

Avisaíl García, OF, MIL (19.227) – He is one of my prime targets in 2020, and his situation is even rosier with the universal DH. García is an underrated hitter in a good lineup. Should hit for a solid average with good power and even a little speed.

Mike Foltynewicz, SP, ATL (20.230) – The overall 2019 numbers hide the fact that he started off 2019 terribly (early injury and performance), was sent down to the minors to work on his stuff, and finished the year strong. Great late upside play here.

Yuli Gurriel, 1B/3B, HOU (21.251) – This may be the first time I’ve ever drafted Gurriel, because I have never been a big fan of the talent or the player. But he had a heckuva year in 2019, was by far the best player left on the board, and he filled my need for a CI. You can bake in regression for age, cheating, and the bouncy ball, and this is still a bargain. His ADP is 117 – 117! – spots higher than this.

Alex Wood, SP, LAD (22.254) – Alex Wood is a very good pitcher. Last year was the first season of his career when he had an ERA over 3.85. And that “season” consisted of 35.1 IP. He does get hurt, but he has pitched over 150 IP in four of the last six seasons. How many pitchers can say that? He’s in the Dodgers rotation, pitching for a contract, and – as I love to point out – he is younger than Mike Clevinger.

Brendan McKay, SP, TB (23.275) – Full disclosure, I was targeting Rich Hill here, and was very displeased when Chris Clegg and his fancy bowtie (shakes fist) stole him from me a few picks earlier. McKay is a pitcher with promise, but not someone I was targeting in Spring drafts. This is a continuation of the “I believe the Rays will handle pitching better than anyone in a short season” theme. A high-upside bench arm that could find a new level this year, or could just be a streamer.

Rougned Odor, 2B, TEX (24.278) – This is the point of the draft where I like to take a couple shots at lottery tickets. When everything is clicking with Odor, his fantasy managers get fat on Combo Meals.

Cole Hamels, SP, ATL (25.299) – Hamels seems like a solid bet to stay in the rotation in a shortened season on a good team. If he can get healthy, he’s worth the dart.

Wade Davis, RP, COL (26.302) – He was terrible in 2019, and Scott Oberg is a much better real life pitcher. But Davis has the role, he pitched well in a few Spring innings, and the best real life relief pitchers are not always closers. Wasn’t targeting a closer here, but I’ll take the value, and can ditch him quickly if I need to.

Teoscar Hernández, OF, TOR (27.323) – That strikeout rate is trash. But his Exit Velocity, Hard Hit%, and Barrel% are legit. His BB% isn’t bad, and if he can improve on that and decrease the strikeouts just a bit, maybe there’s a next level. Not too old to make an adjustment. He also chips in on steals, and his sprint speed indicates there could be room for more.

Jorge Alfaro, C, MIA (28.326) – In single-catcher leagues, I’m waiting on catchers this year. I like the late pool, and Alfaro is my favorite target late because his toolbox is heavy and he should get plenty of AB. Remember, catchers tend to take a longer time developing their offensive game than other positions. It seems like Alfaro has been around forever, but he’s just turning 27. A repeat of last year is fine. But a breakout would not surprise me. If you want a deeper dive, check out Chris Towers discussing him on the Turn Two Podcast.

So how’d I do? I definitely executed my strategy. I think it’s good team, but it certainly is a weird one. Then again, any team with 5 closers out of 28 roster spots is not going to look normal.

On offense, my approach honestly hasn’t changed much since the beginning of draft season. My top four hitters should help in all five categories, and I built around them nicely with power hitters and a bunch of guys who should chip in 5-10 SBs. Those add up. I’m most vulnerable in the outfield where I love the talent, but there are certainly risks in Calhoun (how will he perform after being hit in the face with a baseball?), Carlson (will he make the team?), and Puig (will he sign?).

I have no idea what will happen with starting pitching in baseball this season. But I liked the starters that fell to me (Wood is probably my favorite overall pick), and while I don’t have much depth there, that was by design. If we play this league out, I likely trade a closer or two after the first month for starting pitching depth.

It certainly was interesting to go through this process. If we get a half-season in 2020 (please!), I strongly suggest you do a couple of mocks as well, because you need to really challenge your assumptions and build some “fantasy muscle memory” based on the new perimeters in MLB. There has never been a season like this before, and the teams that win fantasy leagues will likely look different than the ones we are used to.

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