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Guess who went No. 1 overall.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Let’s do a fantasy baseball draft, but with a twist.
In this case, three of B/R’s Major League Baseball writers—Joel Reuter, Jacob Shafer and myself, Zachary D. Rymer—wanted to see who could build the best 30-player roster with a draft that allowed us to pick only one player each from all 30 teams’ rosters. In other words, each team had to have exactly three representatives.
Our draft was conducted in May and utilized a snake order in which the person who made the last pick in one round subsequently made the first pick in the next round. We also had to fill the following positional requirements:
- Two each of catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops and third basemen
- Five outfielders
- One designated hitter
- 10 starting pitchers
- Four relief pitchers
We’ll run through how it went before going over the best undrafted players and then, with the help of FanGraphs WAR projections, size up which team is the best.
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No. 1 (Reuter): OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
I had my pick of any player. I went with the best player on the planet. Analysis complete.
No. 2 (Rymer): OF Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Christian Yelich is no Mike Trout. Unless, of course, you’re only looking at what the two have done since the 2018 All-Star break. In that case, Yelich has the edge by way of a .342/.436/.705 slash line and 13.2 fWAR.
No. 3 (Shafer): OF Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Trout is the only player I would have unquestionably drafted ahead of Cody Bellinger. Sure, there could be a come-down from his MVP season considering he’s still just 25. But with Mookie Betts joining him as protection in the Dodgers’ stacked lineup, he should be a force.
No. 4 (Shafer): SP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
I have some reservations with this one. Moving to a new team and a new division with the upped expectations that come with a massive contract could be a recipe for regression for a guy who posted a 4.26 ERA as recently as 2017. That said, Cole led baseball with 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings and posted an American League-pacing 2.50 ERA in a career-best 212.1 innings in 2019. He’s an ace. Period.
No. 5 (Rymer): 3B Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Look, nobody can prove Alex Bregman was getting help from buzzers in 2019. And if he wasn’t, that makes his 1.015 OPS, 41 home runs and absurd 119-to-83 walk-to-strikeout ratio that much more impressive.
No. 6 (Reuter): OF Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
After a 41-homer, 37-steal performance in his age-21 season, Acuna is still just scratching the surface of his limitless potential. Trimming his strikeout rate (26.3 percent) is the next step, and shifting to right field defensively should mean improved metrics.
No. 7 (Reuter): SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Following a little run on outfielders to start the draft, I’ll gladly take the best all-around shortstop in baseball. The 26-year-old has averaged 42 doubles, 34 home runs, 21 steals and 6.2 WAR over the past three seasons.
No. 8 (Rymer): SP Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
It’s somewhat alarming that Jacob deGrom is already 32 years old. But then again, he’s also a back-to-back Cy Young Award winner with a 2.05 ERA and a 5.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio since the start of 2018. He’s the best pitcher in at least the National League.
No. 9 (Shafer): 3B Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
There were a lot of quality third basemen on the board. I might have jumped the gun a little taking Nolan Arenado this high. But Coors Field offensive bump aside, the man is an absolute artist with the glove and a middle-of-the-lineup bat at any altitude.
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No. 10 (Shafer): SP Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer is aging like a fine wine with the Nationals and coming off another great season in which he averaged 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings and led all of baseball with a 2.45 FIP. There’s no reason not to expect more of the same from Mad Max.
No. 11 (Rymer): OF Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
No. 12 (Reuter): SP Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
Jack Flaherty as the third pitcher off the board? There’s additional value HERE given that he’s far and away the best choice for the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a 0.93 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 130 strikeouts and a .139 opponents’ batting average in 106.1 innings over his final 16 starts last year.
No. 13 (Reuter): 3B Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
With back-to-back 8.3-rWAR seasons under his belt, Chapman is a bona fide superstar with the potential to make a run at American League MVP honors. He’s arguably the best defensive player in baseball, and he made some subtle strides in his strikeout rate (1.8 percent down) and walk rate (1.5 percent up) last year while launching a career-high 36 home runs.
No. 14 (Rymer): OF Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
Since 1901, HERE’s a complete list of players who’ve taken at least 1,000 plate appearances and posted an on-base percentage over .400 through their age-20 season: Mel Ott and Juan Soto. Oh, and Soto has also hit 56 dingers.
No. 15 (Shafer): 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman’s COVID-19 diagnosis obviously makes things uncertain. But when he’s on the field, he’s every bit the guy who hit 38 home runs with a .938 OPS in 2019.
No. 16 (Shafer): SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Before a back injury cut his 2019 season short, Fernando Tatis Jr. was on a National League Rookie of the Year trajectory with 22 home runs, 16 stolen bases and a .969 OPS in 84 games. Oh, and he’s still only 21 years old.
No. 17 (Rymer): SS Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies
Yeah, yeah. “Coors,” and all that. Even still, thin air only has so much to do with the 72 long balls and 11.7 rWAR Trevor Story has compiled over the last two seasons.
No. 18 (Reuter): C J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball, and the fact the next two catchers didn’t go off the board until the eighth and 18th rounds, respectively, speaks volumes to his value. He has his sights set on being the highest-paid catcher in MLB history when he hits the open market this offseason, and another stellar season could make that a reality.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
No. 19 (Reuter): 2B Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
Even if he regresses from his 32-homer, 7.2-rWAR breakout season, Marte should still be one of the game’s most productive second basemen. The Diamondbacks are also somewhat lacking in slam-dunk choices for this exercise, so he checks off a team with limited options.
No. 20 (Rymer): SP Mike Minor, Texas Rangers
Was Mike Minor a reach at No. 20? Maybe. But I was going to need a Texas Ranger eventually, and this particular Ranger led all pitchers with 7.8 rWAR in 2019.
No. 21 (Shafer): SP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
I couldn’t resist the defending AL Cy Young Award winner despite the March groin surgery that put his health in question.
No. 22 (Shafer): OF Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
He might never replicate his otherworldly 2015 NL MVP output, but Bryce Harper remains one of the most gifted hitters in the game. And it’s easy to forget he’s somehow just 27.
No. 23 (Rymer): C Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox
Yasmani Grandal has averaged an .814 OPS and 25 home runs per season since 2016, and he’s well-known as one of the league’s best framers. In other words, he may be the best catcher in baseball.
No. 24 (Reuter): SP Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have several quality starting pitching options, evidenced by the fact Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer were the other two players selected from a talented roster. Luis Castillo, 27, announced himself as the ace of the staff last year when he posted a 3.40 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 226 strikeouts in 190.2 innings.
No. 25 (Reuter): SP Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
After posting the worst ERA (6.13) among qualified starters in 2018, Lucas Giolito took a huge step forward last year, delivering on his former top prospect pedigree. The 26-year-old posted a 3.41 ERA and piled up 228 strikeouts in 176.2 innings while tossing a pair of shutouts. He’s the real deal.
No. 26 (Rymer): 3B Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels
I definitely could have waited to draft my second third baseman. But at a certain point, a guy can only let a player who put up a 1.010 OPS, 34 homers and 6.4 rWAR in 2019 stay on the board for so long.
No. 27 (Shafer): 3B Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Another third baseman? Yeah, in reality, it might be hard to find adequate playing time for Arenado and Ramirez on the same team, but if we’re simply talking about talent, Jose Ramirez is a guy who finished third in AL MVP voting in 2017 and 2018.
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Adam Hunger/Associated Press
No. 28 (Shafer): 1B Pete Alonso, New York Mets
A guy who paced baseball with 53 home runs as a rookie while posting a .941 OPS was simply too enticing to pass up in the 10th round. He could suffer a sophomore “slump” and still vault past 35 dingers.
No. 29 (Rymer): SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts isn’t a very good defensive shortstop. It’s a good thing, then, that he’s been the best hitter at the position by way of a 138 OPS+ over the last two seasons.
No. 30 (Reuter): 2B Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
How early was too early to draft the clear-cut best option for the Royals? After almost pulling the trigger the previous two rounds, I couldn’t wait any longer. The 31-year-old has paced the AL in hits in back-to-back seasons while batting .303, swiping 65 bases and tallying 8.8 rWAR.
No. 31 (Reuter): SP Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
The Twins are loaded with attractive options for this exercise, and they were all somehow still on the board HERE in the 11th round. I think Jose Berrios still has another gear. His stuff is nasty enough for him to improve on his 8.8 K/9 rate, and that could be the key to improving on a good-not-great 3.68 ERA.
No. 32 (Rymer): DH Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Granted, pretty much everyone hits home runs these days. But if you’re going to pick a DH, it might as well be the guy who’s averaged 41 long balls per year since 2014.
No. 33 (Shafer): DH J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Martinez has hit 36 or more homers every year since 2017, posted a .939 OPS in 2019 and is pretty much the platonic ideal of a designated hitter.
No. 34 (Shafer): SS Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Baez made his second straight All-Star team in 2019 with 29 homers and an .847 OPS and is a dynamic defensive player who qualified for our purposes as a shortstop but can also capably slot elsewhere in the infield.
No. 35 (Rymer): SP Shane Bieber, Cleveland
The best player on the Cleveland club came off the board when Reuter drafted Francisco Lindor at No. 7 overall. But since he’s coming off an underrated All-Star season, Shane Bieber gets my vote as Cleveland’s second-best player.
No. 36 (Reuter): RP Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Josh Hader has an eye-popping 281 strikeouts in 157 innings over the past two seasons, whiffing 47.2 percent of the batters he’s faced during that span. The 26-year-old is the most dominant reliever in baseball, and I had no qualms being the guy who broke the reliever seal.
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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
No. 37 (Reuter): RP Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
I fully intended to go back-to-back relievers when I took Hader in the 12th round. It was just a question of which other bullpen ace I wanted. I considered Ken Giles since I wasn’t sure who to target from the Blue Jays, but I settled on Kirby Yates. He saved 41 games with a 1.19 ERA and 15.0 K/9 last year for a Padres team on the rise.
No. 38 (Rymer): 2B DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees
Some said DJ LeMahieu wouldn’t be able to survive away from Coors Field. But then he hit .327 with 26 home runs in 2019, and he did it with the league’s second-highest total of hard-hit balls.
No. 39 (Shafer): SP Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018 with a 1.89 ERA. He underwent elbow surgery last year, but he returned in September and averaged 12.4 K/9 in 23 starts overall. As a No. 4 starter behind Cole, Scherzer and Verlander, he looks pretty good.
No. 40 (Shafer): 2B Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers
Keston Hiura swatted 19 homers with a .938 OPS in 84 games as a rookie last season. He could emerge as the best power-hitting second baseman in baseball during the 2020 campaign.
No. 41 (Rymer): SP Sonny Gray, Cincinnati Reds
Talk about an all-time reclamation project. After bombing with the New York Yankees, Sonny Gray hooked up with the Cincinnati Reds last year and spin-rated his way to a 2.87 ERA.
No. 42 (Reuter): 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
It’s about this point where things started to get tricky. Freddie Freeman and Pete Alonso were already off the board, and Matt Olson, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu, Carlos Santana, Rhys Hoskins, Joey Votto and Miguel Sano were all off-limits since I had already drafted from their team. That said, Anthony Rizzo has been a model of consistency, averaging 30 home runs and 99 RBI with a 138 OPS+ over the past six seasons.
No. 43 (Reuter): OF Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Joey Gallo was more than just an all-or-nothing slugger last season, improving his walk rate by 4.7 percent while posting a 145 OPS+ and 3.1 WAR in just 70 games. He was a legitimate MVP candidate before he missed time with an oblique strain and broken hamate bone. A clean bill of health could mean a full-blown breakout.
No. 44 (Rymer): 1B Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
Though people outside Oakland scarcely seem aware of his existence, Matt Olson is arguably the best first baseman in baseball. To wit, he’s won back-to-back Gold Gloves while also swatting 65 home runs.
No. 45 (Shafer): SP Trevor Bauer, Cincinnati Reds
The 6.39 ERA Trevor Bauer posted in 10 starts after a trade from the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds gives one pause. But he managed a robust 10.7 K/9 overall and is the fifth starter on this squad, so, you know…not too shabby.
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No. 46 (Shafer): OF Starling Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
He may not have the defensive skills of a legitimate center fielder, but Starling Marte stuffed the stat sheet in 2019 with a .295 average, 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases.
No. 47 (Rymer): RP Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays
After Nick Anderson joined the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, he faced 78 batters and struck out 41 while walking only two. Any more of that and he’s by far baseball’s best relief pitcher.
No. 48 (Reuter): SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays
With only four of my 10 starting pitcher slots filled, it was time to get moving in that department. The Blue Jays have a lot of exciting young talent on the roster, but it could still be a few more years before we see guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette reach their peak. The 2019 NL Cy Young runner-up should provide some good value HERE in the 16th round.
No. 49 (Reuter): SP Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers
The gap between Matthew Boyd and the rest of the Detroit roster might have been the widest of any team, making him an extremely valuable player in this format. His 5.59 ERA over his final 15 starts last season raises some eyebrows, but he was still a 3.6-WAR player with 238 strikeouts in 185.1 innings.
No. 50 (Rymer): 1B Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
I didn’t want to sleep on choosing a Pittsburgh Pirate, so I went for Josh Bell as my No. 2 first baseman. Despite a second-half slump, he still set career highs with a .936 OPS and 37 homers in 2019.
No. 51 (Shafer): OF Jonathan Villar, Miami Marlins
Jonathan Villar hit .274 with 24 homers and 40 stolen bases in 2019, and he’s 29 years old. It seems like he falls squarely in the “underrated” category.
No. 52 (Shafer): C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
This was something of a nostalgia pick as Buster Posey’s offensive numbers have been trending steeply downward. Now that he’s opted out for the 2020 season, it’s a non-starter.
No. 53 (Rymer): RP Austin Adams, Seattle Mariners
I’ll admit this is a weird pick. But somebody from the Seattle Mariners had to go on my roster, and Austin Adams stood out because he whiffed 51 of the 124 batters he faced as a Mariner last year.
No. 54 (Reuter): SP Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh Pirates
I really wanted Josh Bell HERE as my other first baseman, but Rymer took him immediately following my selection of Boyd in the 17th round. So instead, I pivoted to Joe Musgrove to fill my Pirates void. The 27-year-old had a a 3.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 40.1 innings over his final seven starts last year, and he looks like a potential breakout candidate in 2020.
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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
No. 55 (Reuter): SP Marco Gonzales, Seattle Mariners
At this point, I had a full plan in place for my final 12 picks. But in order for things to work out the way I wanted, I had to properly navigate my selections for the Mariners, Marlins and Giants. After that, I was free to pick who I wanted from the final nine teams since Rymer and Shafer had already made their picks. He’s not a star, but Marco Gonzales is a reliable workhorse who posted a 109 ERA+ in 203 innings last year.
No. 56 (Rymer): SP John Means, Baltimore Orioles
I didn’t want to be forced to pick from the dregs of the Baltimore Orioles’ roster, so I jumped on John Means. Courtesy of a 3.60 ERA in 31 outings, he was an All-Star and the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2019.
No. 57 (Shafer): RP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays
Ken Giles posted a 1.87 ERA and 14.1 K/9 in 2019. He’s an elite closer who could either guide the Blue Jays on an unexpected playoff run or be a huge trade piece at the deadline. Either way, he’s an elite late-inning arm.
No. 58 (Shafer): RP Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
A required pick from the moribund Orioles, Mychal Givens averaged 12.3 K/9 in 2019 and is a solid setup man.
No. 59 (Rymer): SP Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
Sensing a trend HERE? You should be. Plucking All-Star right-hander Sandy Alcantara from the Miami Marlins was my way of avoiding having to choose a lesser Marlin in later rounds.
No. 60 (Reuter): C Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins
With Gonzales and the Mariners checked off my list, I needed to fill my second catcher and first baseman spots in order for my late-draft plan to work out. Posey was already off the board, so I settled for filling my second catcher slot with Jorge Alfaro, who posted a 95 OPS+ with 18 home runs and 57 RBI last year.
No. 61 (Reuter): 1B Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
No. 62 (Rymer): RP Jordan Hicks, St. Louis Cardinals
I needed a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, and at the time I liked the idea of a fully healthy Jordan Hicks getting back to throwing 105 mph with movement when he’s healthy. Now that he’s opted out of playing this year, all I can do is wish him well.
No. 63 (Shafer): 2B Jonathan Schoop, Detroit Tigers
Like the O’s, the Tigers were something of a graveyard when it came to MLB talent. Jonathan Schoop, though, managed 23 home runs last season and is a serviceable backup infield piece.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
No. 64 (Shafer): OF Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals
On an uninspiring Kansas City Royals team, Hunter Dozier hit .279 with 26 home runs and an MLB-leading 10 triples in 2019. As a fifth outfielder? Sure.
No. 65 (Rymer): SP Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
At this point, I needed a Chicago Cub, and I also needed to round out my starting staff. Hence Kyle Hendricks, whose career 3.14 ERA qualifies him as one of the best pitchers working today.
No. 66 (Reuter): SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Now things get fun again. With Juan Soto (fifth round) and Max Scherzer (fourth round) drafted early, I knew I could wait to grab my Nationals player. I penciled Stephen Strasburg into one of my starting pitcher spots early on, knowing I could grab him after more pressing issues were addressed.
No. 67 (Reuter): SS Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees
After Gerrit Cole (second round) and DJ LeMahieu (13th round) were both selected, I immediately decided Gleyber Torres would fill my second shortstop spot. How much higher can he climb after his 38-homer, 90-RBI performance in his age-22 season?
No. 68 (Rymer): SP Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Nola led all pitchers with 10.2 rWAR in 2018, and he still managed a 3.87 ERA and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in a “down” 2019 season. I was glad to have him as my Philadelphia Phillies selection.
No. 69 (Shafer): SP Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins
Jake Odorizzi posted a 3.36 FIP and a career-best 10.1 K/9 in 2019. Those are numbers befitting a No. 2 starter, and he might not crack the starting five on this hypothetical squad.
No. 70 (Shafer): SP Dallas Keuchel, Chicago White Sox
He’s entering his age-32 season and posted a 3.75 ERA in 112.2 innings last season with the Braves. Dallas Keuchel’s days as a guy who won AL Cy Young Award honors in 2015 are almost assuredly over. As a lefty arm out of the pen on this team, though, he could be highly effective.
No. 71 (Rymer): OF Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants
Have you taken a look at the San Francisco Giants roster lately? It’s bad. Very bad. But at least there’s Mike Yastrzemski, who’s coming off an .852 OPS and 21 long balls.
No. 72 (Reuter): SP Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Another example of a pick I made in my head very early on but didn’t have to officially make until this point in the draft. Cody Bellinger (first round) and Mookie Betts (fourth round) both went quickly, leaving me with my pick of what was left of the Dodgers roster. I truly believe Walker Buehler could develop into the best pitcher in baseball over the next few years.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
No. 73 (Reuter): DH Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros
This time around, the early selections of Alex Bregman (second round) and Justin Verlander (seventh round) allowed me to sit on a pick. In hindsight, I could also have gone with Jose Altuve instead of Whit Merrifield in the 10th round and then selected Jorge Soler as my Royals representative, but I’m happy with how things played out.
No. 74 (Rymer): C Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
At this point, I needed a second catcher and an Arizona Diamondback. Those needs led me to Carson Kelly, who quietly posted an .826 OPS and 18 homers last year.
No. 75 (Shafer): SP Lance Lynn, Texas Rangers
Lance Lynn posted a 3.13 FIP in 2019, threw 208.1 innings with 246 strikeouts and finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award balloting. This is a steal.
No. 76 (Shafer): SP Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels
Andrew Heaney’s 4.91 ERA raises eyebrows, but his 11.1 K/9 is indicative of a pitcher with bat-missing stuff who would thrive as a middle reliever on this staff.
No. 77 (Rymer): 2B Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays
Cavan Biggio made a big fan of yours truly by putting up a .364 OBP with 16 homers and 14 stolen bases as a rookie in 2019. So when I saw he was still on the board, I jumped at the chance to nab him as my Toronto Blue Jay and No. 2 second baseman.
No. 78 (Reuter): 3B Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
By the end of the ninth round, five of the six third base spots in our draft had been filled, and by the 11th round, both Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez had been drafted from the Red Sox. In other words, there was no rush for me to snag Rafael Devers. He hit .311/.361/.555 for a 133 OPS+ with 90 extra-base hits last season. How is he still only 23?
No. 79 (Reuter): OF Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays
This was the final piece of my grand late-round plan. Blake Snell (13th round) and Nick Anderson (16th round) had already been plucked from the Tampa Bay roster, and Austin Meadows looks awfully nice penciled in alongside Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Joey Gallo in one of my outfield spots. The 25-year-old enjoyed a coming-out party with a 143 OPS+ and 33 home runs in his first full MLB season.
No. 80 (Rymer): SP Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres
He didn’t quite earn Fernando Tatis Jr. levels of acclaim, but Chris Paddack nonetheless dominated with a 3.33 ERA as a rookie for the San Diego Padres in 2019. Getting him HERE was a nice steal.
No. 81 (Shafer): SP Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals
With a 3.35 ERA in 174.2 frames last season, Dakota Hudson checked in at No. 5 in NL Rookie of the Year voting. All this club needs from the 25-year-old righty are some mop-up innings.
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No. 82 (Shafer): C Tom Murphy, Seattle Mariners
Tom Murphy takes center stage with Posey’s opt-out decision, which isn’t ideal. Yet the 29-year-old backstop hit .273 with 18 home runs for Seattle and rated as the game’s 15th-best pitch framer, per Baseball Savant.
No. 83 (Rymer): SP Mike Soroka, Atlanta
Mike Soroka only struck out 142 batters in 174.2 innings last year, yet he still mustered a 2.68 ERA. That’s weird, but it’s good enough for me to nab him as my Atlanta representative.
No. 84 (Reuter): RP Seth Lugo, New York Mets
I regret not pouncing on Pete Alonso. With Jacob deGrom already selected in the third round, it left me with a decision on how to fill my Mets slot. After taking Hader and Yates early, I was content waiting on my final two bullpen spots. Seth Lugo was quietly excellent last season with a 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 80 innings over 61 appearances.
No. 85 (Reuter): RP Scott Oberg, Colorado Rockies
I toyed with the idea of selecting Jon Gray or German Marquez earlier to fill one of my starting pitcher slots but ended up zeroing in on Scott Oberg for my final bullpen spot. The 30-year-old has put together consecutive strong seasons, including a 2.25 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 in 49 appearances last year.
No. 86 (Rymer): OF Cameron Maybin, Detroit Tigers
I would have picked a Detroit Tiger earlier, but there weren’t many good options after Matthew Boyd came off the board. So I went with Cameron Maybin, who posted an .858 OPS in part-time duty with the Yankees in 2019.
No. 87 (Shafer): RP Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics
Getting a reliever who posted a 1.80 ERA and averaged 13.1 K/9 in 2019 with my 29th pick felt like robbery. Whether the 31-year-old journeyman can repeat the trick is another question.
No. 88 (Shafer): RP Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates
Keone Kela posted a 2.12 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 29.2 innings in 2019 and figures to be the Pirates’ primary closer in 2020. As a tertiary setup man, he’s overqualified.
No. 89 (Rymer): RP Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals
I was dreading having to pick a Kansas City Royal, yet I was pleased when Ian Kennedy, who saved 30 games with a 3.41 ERA in 2019, was still available for my last pick.
No. 90 (Reuter): OF Austin Hays, Baltimore Orioles
John Means (19th round) and Mychal Givens (20th round) were the two most obvious candidates from the Orioles, and I missed out on both of them. Once I began formulating a bigger plan, Austin Hays became my target to round out a loaded outfield. The 25-year-old hit .309/.373/.574 with 10 extra-base hits in 75 plate appearances during a September call-up, and he looks like a potential long-term part of Baltimore’s rebuild.
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Joel Reuter’s Squad
- C: J.T. Realmuto and Jorge Alfaro
- 1B: Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt
- 2B: Ketel Marte and Whit Merrifield
- 3B: Matt Chapman and Rafael Devers
- SS: Francisco Lindor and Gleyber Torres
- OF: Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., Joey Gallo, Austin Meadows and Austin Hays
- DH: Yordan Alvarez
- SP: Jack Flaherty, Luis Castillo, Lucas Giolito, Jose Berrios, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Matthew Boyd, Joe Musgrove, Marco Gonzales, Stephen Strasburg and Walker Buehler
- RP: Josh Hader, Kirby Yates, Seth Lugo and Scott Oberg
Zach Rymer’s Squad
- C: Yasmani Grandal and Carson Kelly
- 1B: Matt Olson and Josh Bell
- 2B: DJ LeMahieu and Cavan Biggio
- 3B: Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon
- SS: Trevor Story and Xander Bogaerts
- OF: Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, Juan Soto, Mike Yastrzemski and Cameron Maybin
- DH: Nelson Cruz
- SP: Jacob deGrom, Mike Minor, Shane Bieber, Sonny Gray, John Means, Sandy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, Aaron Nola, Chris Paddack and Mike Soroka
- RP: Nick Anderson, Austin Adams, Jordan Hicks and Ian Kennedy
Jacob Shafer’s Squad
- C: Buster Posey and Tom Murphy
- 1B: Freddie Freeman and Pete Alonso
- 2B: Keston Hiura and Jonathan Schoop
- 3B: Nolan Arenado and Jose Ramirez
- SS: Fernando Tatis Jr. and Javier Baez
- OF: Cody Bellinger, Bryce Harper, Starling Marte, Jonathan Villar and Hunter Dozier
- DH: J.D. Martinez
- SP: Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Blake Snell, Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Andrew Heaney and Dakota Hudson
- RP: Ken Giles, Mychal Givens, Liam Hendriks and Keone Kela
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3B Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant easily could have been somebody’s primary third baseman, but he slipped through the cracks as the three of us nabbed other third basemen and members of the Cubs.
3B Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins
Josh Donaldson also could have been one of the third basemen taken in the draft. It is indeed a deep position, however, and other Twins filled more specific needs.
OF Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
If we had done this draft after the 2017 season, Aaron Judge surely would have been one of the first players selected. But his stock has taken some hits since then, allowing other Yankees to take priority.
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, so him being left on the board in a draft like this might seem like blasphemy. But as Reuter demonstrated, Kershaw isn’t even the best pitcher on the Dodgers right now.
SP Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays
After dominating with a 3.05 ERA in 2019, Charlie Morton surely deserved to be taken. But the Rays offered many players to choose from, and he ultimately fell by the wayside.
SS Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
Marcus Semien was an MVP finalist last year, so he probably should have ended up on one of our rosters. Like Bryant, Donaldson and Morton, he was a victim of the tricky nature of this exercise.
Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Zack Greinke, Houston Astros
Here’s a list that might make you cringe. But in our defense, we did pick Houston’s best position player (Bregman), pitcher (Verlander) and hitter (Alvarez) from last season.
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John Bazemore/Associated Press
With the help of FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections, we tallied the projected 2020 WAR outputs for all our players so we could declare who “won” the draft.
Here are the results as of Thursday, July 9, along with some commentary from our general managers.
1. Joel Reuter’s Squad: 39.1 WAR
If nothing else, this absurd hypothetical was a fun way to kill an afternoon.
My only strategy was to keep close tabs on which teams were already off the board for both my competitors, lock in who I wanted to pick from that team and then push them to the bottom of my draft board since I knew they weren’t going anywhere.
That allowed me to pounce on top guys from thinner teams (Merrifield, Gallo, Boyd, Gonzales). It also made my draft board look pretty weird with Alfaro going before Strasburg, Torres, Buehler and other stars, but I think that allowed me to get the most bang for my buck.
I’m looking forward to crowning a real winner at the season’s end when we tally up the actual WAR totals.
2. Jacob Shafer’s Squad: 36.5 WAR
As expected, we all picked teams stacked with superstars augmented by the best available dudes from teams such as Baltimore, Seattle and Miami that lack impact players.
If we’re talking a short series, I like my starting rotation, which is fronted by the experienced arms of Cole, Scherzer and Verlander and backed by an array of ancillary starters.
Rymer’s outfield of Yelich, Soto and Betts is ludicrous. In the end, though, Reuter might lag a little in starting pitching, but he has arguably the deepest roster and made some great late-round steals (Strasburg at No. 66).
3. Zach Rymer’s Squad: 36.2 WAR
Even though I was the one who tallied the WAR, I believe I’m within my rights to demand a recount.
In all seriousness, I underestimated how quickly this exercise would transform from fun to nerve-wracking. I like how I started, but in the later rounds, I reached for some picks and generally failed to maintain a coherent strategy.
Still, the thought of Betts, Yelich, Bregman and Soto in the same lineup makes me drool uncontrollably. So my team has that going for it, which is nice.