’20 Fantasy Baseball Draft

There may not be any Major League Baseball in 2020. As the world recovers from a pandemic, we are left to wonder what could have been. Sports fans like myself are left to watch highlights of classic games or binge-watch all the Netflix programs we put off during the season. 

I miss baseball just like everyone else. I grew up a die-hard Yankees fan in the heart of Red Sox Nation, yet it took a move to Canada for me to really fall in love with the game. Since 2013 I have spent the majority of my summers watching baseball and stressing over fantasy baseball. 

If you have read other fantasy recaps, you’ll learn that I have never won a single championship in any of the fantasy leagues I’ve played in. For me, fantasy sports is like throwing my hard-earned money into the garbage disposal. Sure, I have spent more on lottery tickets in my life, but the memory of winning a fantasy sports championship would last me a lifetime. 

I consider baseball to be the most significant emotional investment in all the fantasy games I play. I love statistics and listening to the commentary as they reel off one useless fact after another. I live for those stats and want to think I know more than the average fan about the game. That knowledge has yet to win me anything, but I guess my biggest problem is I pick with my heart and not my brain. 

While we wait for an MLB season to start, fantasy leagues across the globe are left to figure out what their next move will be. The commissioner in our league changed our draft date three times so far (March 22, April 5, April 19) before resetting it again for May 10. 

That night came and went just like many Sundays before it. Not much happened in the real world, and no one was the wiser that Yahoo had gone forward with our live fantasy draft. Since no one was around to pick their own players, the computer went ahead and drafted all 230 players for us. 

I wanted to do a draft recap of the team that was selected for me because I doubt I would have chosen a bunch of these guys. Maybe fate had finally stepped in and gave me a contending team for the first time in forever. Like always, I may have redrafted with my heart and fail to win again. I can’t wait to analyze the computer team and the hand-picked team after the season…if there is one. 

Draft Preview & Selections

Last year our team finished in eighth place in a ten-team league. Over the offseason, I spent many sleepless nights thinking of ways to construct a team that will actually get me into the postseason and make a run for the championship. I even considered buying one of the RotoWorld.com programs to help optimize my draft and daily lineups all season long. I voted against buying into the system, but at this point, I am willing to do anything to win something in fantasy baseball. 

After selecting fourth overall in 2019, I dropped five spots down to ninth. There are many pros and cons to this position. First, I lose out on the top players in the league because rarely do the stars fall down to ninth. I am also the second to last pick in the opening round and every other round. The only real positive thing about this position is the opportunity to make two selections almost back to back. Making these picks in close succession means I can grab players before they become available to other guys down the line.

In this year’s snake draft we selected in the following slots: 9, 12, 29, 32, 49, 52, 69, 72, 89, 92, 109, 112, 129, 132, 149, 152, 169, 172, 189, 192, 209, 212, 229. When I found out that I would be drafting in the ninth spot, I participated in only one mock draft before the sports world came to a standstill. Sadly I scored a C+ in that practice run, but the grade or team didn’t matter to me. I was only interested in seeing where players fell, so I could come up with a better draft strategy. Personally, I hate the pre-determined draft rankings because no one can say for sure where players going to fall. Yes, Mike Trout (Los Angeles) and Ronald Acuna, Jr. (Atlanta) are going either one or two, but as the players come off the board, all bets are off when you start to dig deeper into the talent pool. 

Draft Results

The first round featured all the usual suspects, Acuna, Jr. went first overall, followed by Trout in second. After those two, Christian Yelich (Milwaukee) went third, and Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles) went fourth. Mookie Betts (Los Angeles) was selected in the fifth spot, while newly acquired New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole went sixth. His cross-town rival and two-time reigning NL Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom (New York Mets) went seventh. Trevor Story (Colorado) went with the seventh selection, just two spots ahead of third base teammate Nolan Arenado, who was the final selection of the opening round.

With our first auto pick, ninth overall, the computer drafted the second-highest-rated shortstop in the game, Francisco Lindor (Cleveland). Lindor was the second shortstop selected in the opening round, which featured four outfielders, two starting pitchers, a first baseman, and a third baseman.

As the snake moved along into the second round, we ended up with another elite shortstop, reigning World Series champion, Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals. He was the second pick in the second round, twelfth overall.

We didn’t make another pick until the end of the third round, where we grabbed our first starting pitcher, reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg (Washington). As the picks rolled into the fourth round, we doubled down on elite pitching again, snagging Los Angeles Dodger great Clayton Kershaw with our fourth pick. After the first four picks, the computer had built us a team of two shortstops and two starting pitchers.

Yankees Update: As we glance over the names called in the opening four rounds, we noticed that only two New York Yankee players were selected in the first 40 picks. Gerrit Cole (sixth overall) and Gleyber Torres (35th), were the only guys from the Bronx to make the cut so far. It may sound crazy, but with Lindor anchoring down our shortstop position, we may have taken a run for Torres in the second round because the utility infielder can play both shortstop and second base. Turner is only classified as a shortstop, which means if either of our first two selections is in the lineup, someone has to be in the utility spot.

In round five, we were fortunate enough to select the hit king, outfielder Whit Merrifield (Kansas City). For those of you who don’t know, Merrifield has led the American League in hits the last two seasons, while stealing more than 20 bases in each of the previous three seasons. As the draft progressed into the sixth round, we found our man to cover the hot corner at third, Yoan Moncada from the Chicago White Sox.

So far, I have been on board with the computer selections, except Moncada. As the seventh picked third baseman of the draft, I feel that he would have never been on my radar. Yes, I probably would have picked Gio Urshela from the Yankees or someone else with a big name, but Moncada’s 0.315 batting average is nothing to be ashamed of. He also collected 161 hits, 34 doubles, and 25 home runs. Not bad for a guy who wouldn’t be on my radar. Since he is only entering his fourth season, the biggest question would be, can he produce at the same rate again.

As the draft entered into the seventh round, we had the second to last pick. In a surprise selection, we secured the serves of Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader. This guy, with his long hair, was almost lights out last season, nearly tripling his save total from 2018. Another substantial selection, one we may have never made. We tried the whole elite pitcher lineup previous season, and it ended up a disaster by July.

After having two picks off, we were up to bat again and grabbed Eddie Rosario (Minnesota) with our pick in the eighth round. The 82nd overall pick was our first outfielder, one we knew nothing about. Thanks to Baseball-Referece.com, Rosario was pretty good in the Twin Cities last season, where he collected 155 hits to go along with 109 RBIs. What was impressive was his 32 home runs, a statistic sometimes overlooked in the big picture of a fantasy baseball season.

In the ninth round, we selected Marcell Ozuna (Atlanta) with the 99th overall pick. Ozuna would definitely never made our prospect list since he has as many strikeouts as hits (114-117). You can say what you want about a guy who only played in 130 games, but the Cardinals are always contenders in the NL Central, and he was supposed to be a vital cog in keeping the engine going.

Yankees Update: A handful of Yankee players went in the eighth and ninth rounds, starting with DJ LeMahieu (8th round, 1st pick, 81st overall) followed by Aaron Judge (8/5/85) and Giancarlo Stanton (8/8/88). They were eventually joined by teammates Gary Sanchez (9/8/98) and Aroldis Chapman (9/10/100). It is surprising, despite a lot of question marks surrounding these superstars, that they would fall this low in a fantasy baseball draft. Judge is a contender for AL MVP, while Stanton was an NL MVP. Sanchez may be the hardest hitting catcher in the league, while Chapman is one of the most dominant closers in the history of the game. 

The computer was rolling along with the draft when it committed the ultimate sin in the tenth round. We held the second pick in that round, and that’s when the AI selected a Boston Red Sox player. Never in the history of my fantasy teams has a Red Sox player been on our team. Andrew Benintendi (Boston) joined our outfield, which only consisted of Rosario and Ozuna to this point. As I joked with two friends about this mock draft, if the season happened today or tomorrow, he is the first person to go, whether it is by trade or free agency.

Our outfield crew grew by an extra player in the 11th round as the computer selected another Cleveland Indians player, Franmil Reyes. According to the Indians’ depth chart, he is going to be their starting right fielder this season, despite only 259 career games under his belt. One of the more odd selections for our team, since we would have probably had our sights set on a different position and/or player.

Lindor and Reyes got joined by another Indians teammate in the 12th round as we ended up with closer Brad Hand. This guy has bounced around his career but found a groove last season. Despite a 3.34 ERA, he collected 34 saves, good for third-best in the league while striking out 84 batters.

The draft entered into the 13th round, where we selected our third starting pitcher, Lance Lynn, from the Texas Rangers. For those keeping count at home, we now have three starters and two relievers. Lynn is a grizzled veteran who can be counted on to get more wins than losses (16-11 in 2019) and pile up a respectable strikeout total (246).

After a pair of Los Angeles Angels teammates, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton, went to close out the 13th and open of the 14th round, the computer did us another injustice with our next pick, Craig Kimbrel (Chicago). Fresh out of a contract holdout, Kimbrel joined the Chicago Cubs halfway through the 2019 season. Although he is a former Red Sox World Champion, I just never liked this guy, and he’s hilarious pitching stance. This guy thinks he’s the best in the world, but only collected 13 saves compared to 42 in 2019. His strikeout total also went down by 66, 96-30. I understand he only pitched in 23 games, but the guy was 0-4 and not worth the payday he got.

Time slowly clicked by until we selected another Minnesota Twin, infielder Miguel Sano in the 15th round. Sano will mostly play first base, even though he is coded to be the third baseman as well. Since we already have Mocanda over there, Sano ends up the only one qualified to play down the line.

In one of the smartest moves of the draft, the AI was kind enough to select one Yankees player for us, starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the 16th round, 162th overall. Tanaka has been a consistent professional throughout his entire career. He’ll get you wins and strikeouts while keeping his overall numbers relatively low.

Our infield became complete in the 17th round when the computer selected New York Mets backstop, Wilson Ramos, with the 179th overall selection. His numbers may not be off the charts, but he is a reliable and steady catcher who may have found his home in New York. He would have never been on our watch list since we would have had our sights set on Gary Sanchez or someone else. I don’t know what to make of Ramos’ selection since he was the seventh catcher taken in the draft. J.T. Realmuto (7th round), Sanchez (8th), Willson Contreras (12th), Mitch Garver (14th), Salvador Perez (15th), and Will Smith (16th) all went before him.

Yankees Update Starting pitcher James Paxton was the final selection in the 17th round, 180th overall.

In the 18th round, we grabbed our fifth starting pitcher, Jake Odorizzi from the Minnesota Twins. Jake went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 2019. Not a bad option for a fifth starter, especially since the Twins were a team to reckon with last year.

When the draft entered into the 19th round, the computer made one of the oddest decisions. Yasiel Puig (formerly of the Cleveland Indians) is an unsigned free agent who is looking for a new home in 2020. The computer noticed that he was in the rankings, and as fate would have it, he fell into our laps with the 199th overall pick. As of this writing, we are unsure of what to do with him, even if he finds a new team before the season starts.

With our 20th selection, we landed the Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux. In reality, we probably would have never grabbed Lux. We may have gone in a different direction when it came to our infield backups. We do want to point out that David Peralta (Arizona) went a pick before Lux in the same round. Had we been behind the screen making selections, we would have totally swapped out Peralta for Puig any day.

Yankees Update First baseman Luke Voit was the final selection in the 20th round, 205th overall.

The draft finally came down to the final three rounds. With our next pick in the 21st round, we selected Joe Musgrove of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The funny thing about this pick is Musgrove spent some time on our team last season before an injury really hampered his performance and playing time.

The computer clearly wanted to stock us up with pitchers, so in the 22nd round, they grabbed St. Louis Cardinal Miles Mikolas. To say that Miles is a wildcard is an understatement. The guy has limited MLB experience, posting an 18-4 record with 146 strikeouts in 2018 and flamed out with a 9-14 record with 144 strikeouts in 2019. Who knows what he’ll throw in 2020.

Yankees Update Veteran outfielder and Salvage in the Box Brett Gardner was the first selection in the 22nd round, 221th overall.

Our final pick, which was 229th overall, came second to last at the end of the draft. Instead of grabbing another infielder or utility player, the computer selected outfielder Willie Calhoun from the Texas Rangers. Calhoun also had a cup of coffee with us last season before a cold streak led him back to free agency.

Final Analysis

So there you have it, BD4’s computer picked 2020 lineup. There are a lot of question marks up and down the list. We are pleased with our top four pitchers, Strasburg, Kershaw, Hader, and Hand, while our three best positional players are Lindor, Story, and Merrifield.

If we were honest with everyone, the rest of the lineup would have gone entirely differently. Considering personal favourites like Torres, Judge, Sanchez, and LeMahieu all went much later than expected, we probably would have grabbed those guys and constructed the team around them. The New York Yankees are still one of the favourites to win the World Series.

People have teased me in the past about selecting too many players from the same team (usually the Yankees). When we look at what the computer selected, they followed a similar pattern, grabbing a handful of guys from the same team.

The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins each had three players, while the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, and St. Louis Cardinals had two. If you add that up, 11 of our 23 come from only six teams, which makes up 47% of the lineup.

There was no statistical projections or draft report card. We are totally in the blind regarding the projected success of this group of guys.

As much as it pains me not to have more guys in pinstripes on the team, I am left to wonder if fate is behind this team. The computer may have just followed the pre-determined rankings, but the question remains, would this group of guys actually us the championship? We will never know since the commissioner is going to vacate the auto-draft results and host a live draft close to Opening Day.

Keep an eye out on how those results turn out.

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