Fantasy Baseball

2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategies: Last Pick

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Welcome to the first installment of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategies series! Our team of writers will be mapping out different draft strategies for the first, third, fifth, and seventh picks. This is the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategies: Last Pick.

The last pick in the draft is polarizing for Fantasy owners. On one hand, you’re left with the “worst” roster-building block in the first round. On the other hand, you get to choose any two players that fit your desired roster build. Of course, having to wait for nearly two full rounds is a true test in your patience and your stomach for reaching for the players you want.

These drafts were conducted based on FantasyPros consensus rankings. To see how F6P ranked the top 350 players check out our 2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings. The Fantasy Six Pack 2020 Draft Kit also includes position previews and more.

For this exercise, I experimented with three different draft strategies from the last pick in a standard 5X5, 12 team league:

  1. Hitter Heavy
  2. Pitcher Heavy
  3. Best player available (Balanced)
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I will give my rationale for each section of the draft and the mindset I employed for each strategy in the breakdown below.

Using the FantasyPros Mock Draft Simulator application, three mock drafts were done, one for each strategy. The complete outcome of each draft is in the Google Sheet embedded below. If you’re having trouble viewing the sheet, send me a message on Twitter @jchan_811 and I’ll try to fix it.

2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategies: Last Pick

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

Hitter Heavy

Rounds 1-6

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Ignoring pitching and putting a focus on hitting at the turn gives owners their pick of elite bats. The first two picks were used on Trea Turner and Jose Ramirez, getting an early jump on steals.

Other bats that consistently fell to the 12th and 13th picks included Fernando Tatis Jr., Alex Bregman, and Freddie Freeman. Picking Turner here gives this team a top-tier base stealer at a shallow position, which provides flexibility to fill deeper positions or take the best player available in the later rounds.

Yordan Alvarez and Ozzie Albies were the next two picks in this strategy, adding a big power bat and more steals without sacrificing average. Albies was consistently available at the turn and represents the last chance to take an upper-tier second baseman. Waiting on a second baseman past this point eliminates an entire tier of players like Keston Hiura, Whit Merrifield, and Jonathan Villar.

This team’s first pitcher was Chris Paddack, taken at pick No.60. This was the point where the available starters took a big dip and many of the arms don’t inspire enough confidence to anchor a Fantasy rotation.

Manny Machado rounded out the early rounds for this strategy, adding another 30 home run bat to the lineup. He also filled the MI position, as he qualifies at SS in some leagues. Paul Goldschmidt and Jose Abreu were consistently available at this turn for owners who are skittish of the lack depth at first base.

Rounds 7-16

Trevor Bauer is a solid workhorse who is a lock to strike out a batter per inning. Other pitchers available at pick No.72 were Brandon Woodruff, Corey Kluber, and Sonny Gray.

Eddie Rosario adds another 30 home run bat and Oscar Mercado provides 15-20 steals. The 9-10 turn is also the last chance to add a top-12 first baseman, making Rhys Hoskins the pick. Miguel Sano and Carlos Santana were other first basemen available at the turn.

Owners waiting on pitchers can take advantage of the shortened season in the middle rounds. Young pitchers on innings limits and those recovering from injury should be fully healthy when (if) the season begins. James Paxton, Carlos Carrasco, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are three mid-round veterans due for big boosts in the short season. Like Paddack, Julio Urias and Lance McCullers no longer need to worry about an innings limit, making them excellent picks in the mid-rounds.

Adding Elvis Andrus in the 14th ensures the team will be competitive in steals while not tanking its batting average a la Mallex Smith. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Justin Upton filled the team’s outfield spots.

Rounds 17-27

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With most of the hitting slots filled, the later rounds of this strategy are dedicated to finding upside pitching. Caleb Smith, Joe Musgrove, and Joey Lucchesi will likely provide a solid K-rate with potential for an ERA in the high threes. If Rich Hill can remain healthy during a short season, he will be a huge steal in the late rounds.

Alex Wood and Griffin Canning are other starters whose value is boosted because of the short season.

Conclusions

If waiting on pitching, owners need to keep track of what tier of pitchers they’re comfortable having as their ace. Having the last pick leaves owners at the mercy of the inevitable pitcher runs during a draft. However, grabbing solid mid-round values mentioned above can ease the sting of dropping a tier. Owners shouldn’t hesitate to grab “their guy” in the middle rounds at the turn, even if it’s a slight reach.

Going hitter heavy is a good way to keep all five batting categories competitive but owners could run into issues with dependable arms if they get caught at the end of a run without any way to make it up.

Pitcher Heavy

Rounds 1-6

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I really leaned into pitchers for this version, alternating pitcher/batter at each of the first five turns. Owners who want to go pitching early and have an elite arm almost need to take Max Scherzer. By the time the draft snakes back at pick 36, all other top-tier arms will have been taken.

Once again, Albies was available at the turn to fill the shallow 2B spot, while Mike Clevinger offers ace upside in the fourth round. The combination of Soto and Albies at the top of the draft opens the door for owners to stay competitive in steals.

Taking Paddack in the fifth is a no-brainer for pitching inclined owners, as he is one of the last pitchers available before a tier dropoff. Yu Darvish is also consistently available in this area, making them an attractive pair for owners who choose to go with three batters in the first four rounds.

Getting Matt Olson helps fill another shallow position while making up some of the power sacrificed to draft pitchers.

Coming away with Scherzer, Clevinger, and Paddack is an incredible haul for those looking to run away with pitching. The trio of Soto, Albies, and Olson provides a balanced foundation for the bats.

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Rounds 7-16

Joey Gallo was also taken make up for the power lost by drafting Clevinger instead of Aaron Judge in the fourth. The Yankees’ OF would make a great pick there with ample time for his rib to heal.

Brandon Woodruff in this spot is overkill considering the first three pitchers on the roster. However, with nine active pitcher slots, owners in this roster format may want to grab four or five trustworthy starters early to limit streaming. Owners who prefer a closer can choose established options like Roberto Osuna, Liam Hendriks, and Kenley Jansen.

Jesus Luzardo completes the murderer’s row of starting for this roster. Like other young pitchers, a shortened season removes the fear of an innings limit, significantly boosting his value. Carlos Correa is a high-risk, high-reward pick that makes sense for owners who held off on bats in the early rounds.

The next four picks were spent on bats, with Jorge Polanco and Justin Turner providing excellent ratios, RBI, and runs in good lineups. Danny Santana and Cavan Biggio were also available in this area for owners who want to shore up stolen bases.

At the end of round 15, Khris Davis made sense as another bounceback bat who could hit at a 40 home run pace. This area of the draft can also be used to grab more steals with Byron Buxton or Scott Kingery.

Injury concerns surrounding Sean Doolittle are mitigated in an abbreviated season. Making him the team’s first closer over unknowns like  Giovanny Gallegos makes sense.

Rounds 17-27

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The team only has four outfielders at this point, but there are plenty of upside options in the late rounds. I opted for veterans Andrew McCutchen and David Peralta in rounds 17-18. Younger players like Nick Senzel, Jo Adell, and Alex Verdugo are usually available in this part of the draft.

Josh James and Aaron Civale add young, high upside arms to the rotation that can be dropped without harm if they don’t pan out. However, James, in particular, has SP2 upside if he earns a rotation spot.

Conclusion

The rotation for this team should be nearly unstoppable. Top-heavy in established and potential aces alongside high upside youngsters, this team should have no problem with its arms.

This team doesn’t boast a ton of elite bats. However, the specialized skill sets of the power hitters taken in the middle rounds (Olson, Gallo, Davis, Upton) should be more than enough to keep the team competitive in HR, RBI, and runs.

Going heavy on pitching at the turn is a strategy that can work if owners can find specialized bats in the middle-late rounds to cover their hitting weaknesses. Punting either average or steals is a good way to make up for using higher picks on pitchers while being good-to-great in 4/5 hitting categories.

Best Player Available / Balanced

Rounds 1-6

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This was the final mock strategy I ran. The goal was to combine what was learned from the first two mocks and balance everything out.

Arenado is a great building block in the first round, providing elite production in 4-of-5 categories.

Alvarez gives the team another elite producer in four categories and helps fill one of the five outfield slots. Middle infielders like Albies, Adalberto Mondesi, and Ketel Marte were also available at the 3rd-4th round turn.

With nine pitcher slots to fill, I wanted to anchor the rotation early, taking Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers’ ace gets a value bump in a shortened season. He’s never been a slow starter and the lighter schedule will keep his back healthy.

Anthony Rizzo and Bo Bichette capped off the early rounds for this team. Through six rounds, each batter on this team will hit for a high average and provide plenty of counting stats. Steals could be a problem but can be addressed in the later rounds.

Rounds 7-16

Owners not punting steals (like I ended up doing) can choose any combination of Ramon Laureano, Luis Robert, Oscar Mercado, Tim Anderson, and Cavan Biggio depending on positional need.

After steals are addressed, rounds 11-14 are a great time to round out the rotation. All the pitchers with previous injury concerns and IP limits are great values here. Any combination of Paxton, Ryu, Carrasco, Urias, Luzardo, or Zac Gallen is a great haul.

Rounds 17-27

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This is the first draft I ended up taking a pair of closers before the last few rounds. Doolittle and Kela should have no problem holding onto their jobs and be solid saves contributors.

Owners looking for upside at the end of the draft should keep an eye on Nate Pearson and Mackenzie Gore. With players receiving a full year of service time, regardless of games played, the pair of top prospects could make a very big splash in a shortened season. The same also goes for top bats like Adell and Nick Madrigal.

BPA can be tricky at the end of the draft when owners need to balance between upside and older “boring” vets. Balancing “boring” picks like Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto can balance out riskier picks like Sean Murphy and Austin Riley.

Take home message

All three strategies can be pulled off with the last pick. The biggest takeaway from this exercise would be this:

Owners picking at the turn need to carefully map out their starting pitcher tiers. With a long time between picks, selecting the “best player” could mean a marginal difference in hitting production but a drop in one or two tiers of pitching production. Those willing to wait longer on pitchers have the opportunity to get a jump on all five batting categories very early.


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At the mercy of the turn, owners shouldn’t be afraid to reach a bit to fill a scarce position.


Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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4 Comments

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