Al Melchior’s Early Mock Favorites

Soon enough, we will be mocking liked we’ve never mocked before, practicing for our real drafts that are now a mere three months away. Like many in the industry, I embarked on my mock drafting almost immediately after the season. I was fortunate to have taken part in Justin Mason’s 2 Early Mocks, and since then I have participated in a mock draft for Lindy’s and the ongoing Pitcher List Experts slow mock (I have made 18 picks out of 23 as of this writing).

Already, it is becoming apparent that I have a few favorites who I am targeting. There are 10 players who I have picked in at least two of the three drafts, and five in particular strike me as good values if their early mock draft positions hold steady into the real drafts come March.

Note: Rounds in which I drafted a player are presented parenthetically in the following order: Pitcher List, Lindy’s, 2 Early Mock.

Wilson Ramos (Rounds 11, 15, 14)

Yes, catcher is a brutal position offensively, and there is no obvious strategy for dealing with it. J.T. Realmuto is the closest we have to a sure-fire elite producer, yet it is hard to commit to paying up for him when there are so many needs to be filled. If you wait too long, you will likely be stuck with someone who will be a drag in several categories. (Take it from someone who waited so long to fill catcher in Tout Wars this season that he wound up with Alex Avila and Christian Vazquez.)

With Ramos, I may have found the sweet spot. He is the only player I have drafted in all three mocks, even though I would have been content to wait a little longer to take a catcher in each draft. I drafted him at least six rounds later than Realmuto in all three mocks. To be sure, Realmuto is more likely to stay healthy and accumulate more counting stats, but if he can stay in the lineup, Ramos is about as likely to bat .270 with 20 homers. That would be the case, even with the almost-certain boost in power that Realmuto will get once the Marlins trade him.

Shohei Ohtani (Rounds N/A, 8, 11)

There is clear downside to owning Ohtani in 2019. Of course, he won’t pitch, having had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, and there is currently no timetable for his return as a hitter. Even if he were ready to hit in games seven months after his surgery, as Gleyber Torres was last spring training, you will still be saddled with a player who will only be eligible as a DH in fantasy.

The power potential, however, is tantalizing. In his AL Rookie of the Year campaign, Ohtani batted .285 with 22 home runs in only 367 plate appearances, and he ranked third in exit velocity on flyballs and line drives and sixth in barrels per batted ball (per Baseball Savant, min. 200 batted balls). He did strike out at an ample 27.8 percent rate but more than made up for it by hitting .350 on balls in play. Thanks to making gobs of hard contact and rarely hitting popups or dribblers, his xBABIP was incredibly 22 points higher than his actual BABIP. Ohtani will be hard-pressed to repeat that feat, but in terms of overall batting average, his regression could be mild.

Luis Castillo (Rounds 10, 12, N/A)

Both times I drafted Castillo, I was surprised to find him available when I took him. In both drafts, an owner took Miles Mikolas before him. In the Lindy’s mock, an owner favored Nathan Eovaldi over him, and in the Pitcher List mock, Eduardo Rodriguez came off the board before him. Castillo, like any starting pitcher available after the early rounds, carries some risk, and there is the chance he will come closer to his 4.30 ERA from 2018 than his 3.12 ERA from his rookie season. Then again, we can make the same arguments about the inconsistent track records of Eovaldi and Rodriguez or be cautious about buying into Mikolas’ 2018 breakout, which featured suspiciously-low BABIP and HR/FB rates.

Castillo does have two things going for him. He has been durable, if not efficient, since reaching the major leagues, so he is less of a risk to spend time on the DL than, say, Eovaldi or Rodriguez. He also has immense upside. Castillo owns the 13th-highest SwStr% of any pitcher with at least 200 innings over the last two seasons, ranking ahead of Luis Severino, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg. He has good control, and because he started getting chases at an above-average rate in 2018, it finally showed up in his walk rate (6.9 percent).

His biggest problem is allowing too many homers, especially at Great American Ball Park, where he has compiled a 20.2 percent HR/FB. Castillo’s proclivity for allowing home runs — and hard contact in general — is a real problem, It’s also one shared by Zack Greinke and Carlos Carrasco, though they have more pitcher-friendly home parks. If home runs are the price I have to pay to get a pitcher who could finish in the top 20 strikeouts in the double-digit rounds, I will gladly pay it.

Jose Peraza (Rounds N/A, 9, 10)

It has surprised me that I have drafted Peraza in two of the three mocks, because I had been considering myself as a Peraza skeptic. I had even written about how his 2018 power breakout was very likely a mirage. Still, players whom we can reasonable expect to steal 20 bases are a rarity. (The Depth Charts projections list 25 players slated for 20-plus steals, and several are early-rounders.) Also, Peraza’s contact skills are legit, so despite a lack of raw power, a projection of a .270 Avg would be conservative.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be excited about drafting Peraza, but given what your stolen base and shortstop options are likely to be when you reach the ninth or 10th round, he is a perfectly viable choice. Unless you need power more than batting average (in which case, Tim Anderson is the best target, if available), Peraza will probably be your best choice.

Roman Quinn (Rounds 18, 18, N/A)

Perhaps if the 2 Early Mocks had been held a little less early, I might have made it a trifecta with Quinn. When the Phillies traded Carlos Santana to the Mariners in the Jean Segura deal, that opened up first base for Rhys Hoskins, which in turn made it more likely that Quinn will land a regular role in the outfield. Opportunity is just one hurdle for Quinn to clear, as he has been notoriously injury-prone, but even the possibility of 400 plate appearances could mean he will be a substantial source of steals. In just 212 career plate appearances in the majors, Quinn has stolen 15 bases in 20 attempts.

Once drafts roll into the late teen rounds, there is a strong incentive to start making speculative picks. Be sure to include Quinn among your list of late-round sleepers as long as he projects to be a starting outfielder. He could be a far cheaper source of steals than whomever you might wind up bidding on in FAAB during the season.



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Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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6 Comments on "Al Melchior’s Early Mock Favorites"

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John W.
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John W.

Love these posts!