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Toolshed Dynasty Mock Draft Recap

Thanks to Chris Clegg and Eric Cross for inviting me to participate in a dynasty mock draft with a number of outstanding dynasty writers and analysts. While mock drafts are often the subject of derision, they can serve a purpose and be very useful, especially in dynasty leagues where player valuation is much more variant than in redraft. They’re excellent places to test out new strategies, and that is precisely what I did here.

On their Toolshed Podcast, Eric and Chris talk about three general approaches to dynasty draft strategies: Win Now, Win Soon, and Win Later. I am generally a Win Soon drafter, with a lean towards the Win Now crowd.

As I state in my Dynasty 505 articles, “My general dynasty approach is to play for the next three years when you draft. Going for broke and drafting as if you’re in a redraft league in the first year of a dynasty league is dangerous. On the flipside, drafting all prospects and ignoring proven MLB players in their prime is a recipe for disaster.”

Also, “I probably don’t like pitchers – especially pitching prospects – as much as you do. Early on in dynasty drafts, I tend to stack young bats. I’ll get pitching later. Established aces are among the most valuable commodities in redraft fantasy leagues, but how many top fantasy arms in 2023 do you have confidence in for the next three years?”

In this draft, I decided to try out a new strategy and draft starting pitching earlier than I normally do. In most dynasty start-ups, I generally won’t draft more than 2 SPs in my first 10 picks, or 3 in my top 15. I prefer loading up on bats and trading for arms. But like I said, mock drafts are the perfect opportunity to try out new strategies, get out of your comfort zone, challenge your assumptions, and see how things turn out. So I am looking to double the number of SPs I take early, and draft 4 SPs in my first 10 picks and 6 in my top 15.

In this article, I’m going pick-by-pick through my draft to give you my rationale for each decision, along with how I felt the strategy unfolded throughout the draft. This is a 14-team 5×5 roto dynasty league with 1 catcher (therefore a 22-man starting roster). We drafted 25 rounds, so a full starting roster plus three reserves. And I drew the first pick (of course I did … in a mock draft).

Round 1, Pick 1: Ronald Acuña, Jr., OF, ATL (Age: 25)

Rationale: He’s the GOATiest.

Round 2, Pick 28: Michael Harris II, OF, ATL (Age: 22)

Rationale: Two seasons in MLB. Two seasons of ~ 20/20 .290. In the best lineup in baseball, and he is only 22 years old. I was skeptical of his redraft ADP last season, and I was wrong. If he adds some strength – which seems inevitable given his age – and puts in a full season of PA, 30/30 .300 is well within his reach. His upside is a top 10 dynasty asset as early as next year.

Round 3, Pick 29: Eury Pérez, SP, MIA (Age: 20)

Rationale: Okay, this is where the new pitching strategy first comes into play. This is NOT the pick I’d usually make. Normally, I’d be drafting Bo Bichette here, and laughing maniacally at my incredible monster hitting core. But if I’m bumping up young pitching in this draft, it’s hard to argue with Eury’s 20% K-BB% in 90 IP as a 20 year-old. Since I’m intentionally building a young roster, I valued him over other older elite arms like Luis Castillo, Corbin Burnes, or Zac Gallen.

Round 4, Pick 56: Josh Jung, 3B, TEX (Age: 25)

Rationale: Big power, solid average, in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball. And not even in his prime yet.

Round 5, Pick 57: Bobby Miller, SP, LAD (Age: 24)

Rationale: A second SP in my first five picks feels extremely weird to me. I am way out of my comfort zone here. Utilizing my typical strategy, this would be my 5th hitter. Instead, I’m already drafting my second arm. That being said, I love Bobby Miller. And the pitching gurus seem to love him even more than I do. The team context here is excellent, and while wins are not something I pay TOO much attention to in dynasty, getting my 2nd arm on a team like the Dodgers after my first arm is from the Marlins is a nice bonus.

Round 6, Pick 84: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B, CIN (Age: 24)

Rationale: I was absolutely elated to land this young slugger here. All he has ever done is hit for average and for power. Every year of his career. At every level. Some people continue to underrate him. But I think he could be a 3rd round redraft fantasy pick next offseason. Great ballpark. Great lineup. He’s my 7th ranked dynasty 1B, and he was the 11th 1B off the board in this draft.

Round 7, Pick 85: William Contreras, C, MIL (Age: 25)

Rationale: In a one-catcher league – especially with the influx of catching talent in MLB – it was no surprise that catchers fell in the draft. Adley Rutschman went off the board with the 2nd pick in the 4th round. I waited three rounds and then decided to get Contreras, who I view as the 2nd-best catcher in dynasty (slight edge over Will Smith). Independent of position, his offensive projections warrant a pick in this range .

Round 8, Pick 112: Bryce Miller, SP, SEA (Age: 25)

Rationale: Once again, not my normal style to get another arm here. But the point of doing mock drafts is to try new things. Miller has great team context. His fastball + slider combo, along with his ability to limit walks, lay a strong foundation for success. He seemed to tire down the stretch last season, which dulled his final numbers.

Round 9, Pick 113: Spencer Steer, 1B/3B/OF, CIN (Age: 25)

Rationale: Solid power, average, and a guy who can chip in with steals with multi-positional eligibility. Great lineup + ballpark, and only 25 years old. My only concern with Steer is the glut of offensive talent in the Reds organization that could force a playing time squeeze, but those things tend to work themselves out. In terms of overall draft strategy, I feel great about establishing a foundation of nine players with established MLB success all under the age of 25. And I haven’t felt like I reached on any pick to build this strong young core.

Round 10, Pick 140: Jake Burger, 3B, MIA (Age: 27)

Rationale: Big Beefy Burger Boy in his prime with a clear pathway to full-time plate appearances. Hit much better after trade to Miami. Not sure people appreciate how legit the power is here.

Round 11, Pick 141: Justin Steele, SP, CHC (Age: 28)

Rationale: After a breakout in 2022, Steele was the 9th best SP of 2023 according to Razzball’s Player Rater. He’s 28 years old and in his prime on a team that seems to be building to contend. Given his groundball tendencies, having Nico and Dansby up the middle is a nice treat. I expect some HR regression, but I think the dynasty community has been a little slow to appreciate what he’s doing. Using my normal approach to dynasty drafting, he’d be my SP2. To have him as my SP4 feels luxurious. I didn’t quite get 4 SPs in my first 10 picks, but round 11 is close enough.

Round 12, Pick 168: Eduoard Julien, 2B, MIN (Age: 24)

Rationale: And now I have to pay the piper for picking arms early. Don’t get me wrong, I like Julien more than the crowd. But he needs to show he can hit lefties and he doesn’t run. This is the first place where I felt like I’ve sacrificed to get pitching early (NOTE: Julien gets a massive boost in OBP dynasty leagues).

Round 13, Pick 169: Jackson Jobe, SP, DET (Age: 21)

Rationale: Pretty much a consensus top 3 pitching prospect at this point, and with a 2024 ETA. He might not have a great lineup behind him when he does make it to Detroit, but the defense, park context, and division all play in his favor.

Round 14, Pick 196: Bailey Ober, SP, MIN (Age: 28)

Rationale: I feel like he gets no respect. In 57 career MLB starts over nearly 300 IP, Ober sports a 3.63 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a 20% K-BB% (I’m rounding up) while averaging a strikeout per inning. If he can figure out how to limit the homers, he has another level to unlock. As is, he’s a good fantasy SP3. On this team, he’s my SP6.

Round 15, Pick 197: Jeremy Peña, SS, HOU (Age: 26)

Rationale: The kid from Providence had a disappointing sophomore season, right? Well … if you play in a HR-only league, yes. Otherwise, he increased his BB%, decreased his K%, and produced similar stats. Looking a little more closely, he had a 17.9% HR/FB in 2022 and a 8.5% in 2023 (which screams unlucky). My bet is 2024 will be closer to 2022 than 2023. Steamer agrees and pegs him for 18/72/72/13 .264. He also brings a very nice floor at this point in the draft.

Round 16, Pick 224: Brady House, SS, WAS (Age: 20)

Rationale: Even though most of the players I’ve drafted are young and pre-prime, I think all will contribute to my team in 2024. House is the first player who doesn’t necessarily fit that bill. That being said, I always like having waves of talent on a dynasty squad, and House is the first player I’ve taken with a nod towards the future. Getting a guy I think is a top 20 prospect this late felt like excellent value.

Round 17, Pick 225: Christopher Morel, OF, CHC (Age: 24)

Rationale: One of my favorite picks in the draft, his price is currently devalued due to a lack to clear playing time. But this kid can flat out mash, and Craig Counsell is a smart manager. A .250/30/80/80/10 line in 2024 is well within reach with regular playing time. That’s a low-end OF2. Not a guy who should be going at pick 225.

Round 18, Pick 252: Braxton Garrett, SP, MIA (Age: 26)

Rationale: Feels like he has been around forever to me, but he’s only 26. If all he does is continue to produce at this level, I’ll be perfectly happy with him here. But he really cut the walk rate last year, and showed flashes of dominance that makes me think there’s opportunity for more Ks.

Round 19, Pick 253: Tim Anderson, SS, FA (Age: 30)

Rationale: Buying the rebound. Everything went wrong last season in Chicago. It can only go up from here. And he’s only 30. I think Anderson is competitive, smart, and proud enough to make sure he signs in a place where he can reestablish his value.

Round 20, Pick 280: Vaughn Grissom, SS, ATL (Age: 22)

Rationale: If he had never come up to the bigs, I think we’d be valuing him as a top prospect. But because he came up and was sent back down (for defense), his star has been diminished. Projects as a batting average contributor with decent power and speed in the best lineup in baseball.

Round 21, Pick 281: Victor Scott II, OF, STL (Age: 22)

Rationale: My 2nd futures bet in the draft. If he truly is “Esteury Ruiz with a hit tool and some pop”, that means he’ll be an early round draft pick sooner than later.

Round 22, Pick 308: Clay Holmes, RP, NYY (Age: 30)

Rationale: James Anderson of Rotowire recently sharply pointed out that good closers are underrated in dynasty. And I think he’s correct when it comes to the elite guys, especially when you’re drafting to Win Now. Since I’m in Win Soon mode, I’m not willing to draft most of the studs where they go, so I’m skipping the messy middle, and looking for cheap value late. If this team I’m drafting contends immediately, I can trade prospects for a closer. If it takes a year or two, the closer landscape will have changed.

Round 23, Pick 309: Jordan Hicks, RP, FA (Age: 27)

Rationale: Speculating that he signs somewhere where he can close. The skills are here for bigtime value.

Round 24, Pick 336: Tyler Mahle, SP, FA (Age: 29)

Rationale: Drafting Mahle here is the fantasy equivalent of an MLB team giving him a two-year deal where they’re not counting on any contributions in 2024, but believe he will be a nice asset in 2025.

Round 25, Pick 337: Everson Pereira, OF, NYY (Age: 22)

Rationale: Best prospect on my board. This was before the Yankees traded for Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, and Juan Soto. Will be interesting to see if they decide to move him in a package for pitching.

REVIEW: So how do I think I did? Generally speaking, I’d love to go to war with this team and play it out. Even in this league of sharks. Not so much because of the pitching strategy, but because I was able to build such a deep talented young core of players I am confident will contribute for years. The team projects to be solid, maybe cash in 2024, and then should be poised to contend for years.

In terms of the pitching early strategy, I think it worked out fairly well. I absolutely love my rotation. The tradeoff is that I feel like the team is light in the middle infield. What I’m taking away from this draft is that I can still build a strong offense while grabbing more SPs early than I traditionally do. I don’t know if I’d repeat this exact strategy of doubling the number of early pitching I draft. But I can certainly sprinkle in a couple of more early arms than I have done traditionally.