ALTERNATIVE: 2020 Simulation Draft Guide

Simulation draft season began in earnest a week ago. Managers in Strat-O-Matic, APBA, Diamond Mind, and other games supplement their teams by drafting the previous year’s rookies to populate their rosters. The game engines utilize stats from the previous year, so simulation managers know the probabilities for the season, but must also project future performance for the long-term success of their franchise.

The 2019 group of rookies results in a draft pool featuring an immensely talented top nine, but the talent drops off quickly, resulting in one of the thinnest drafts in years. To take advantage of this, you must pay the premium to trade up to the top nine or take advantage of the dreams and overconfidence placed every year on younger players and deal for veterans to satisfy your needs.

The draft, and the overall talent pool, especially lacks in quality starting pitching options. Far fewer excellent pitchers exist in the entire set. Knowing this should focus you on making trades appropriately. Give up the draft picks and other talent necessary to garner those coveted veteran top starting pitchers.

Some fantastic bullpen options exist in the draft pool, but far fewer than in past years. So again, acquire your needs outside the draft or pay close attention to the Average Draft Position (ADP) of several of our named targets. Do not wait, grab them a round early if you can. If you consider a lefty reliever, grab him because so few exist.

Take Me to the Top

Fernando Tatis, Jr. (SS, SD) tops the ADP of early drafts. He offers power and speed with a suspect glove, but the best mix of help in the current season with an incredibly high ceiling. Just have a defensive replacement behind him for the late innings.

Right behind Tatis, with tons of publicity after becoming last year’s consensus top prospect and an epic performance in the Home Run Derby, comes Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (3B, TOR). Some managers have been taking him first and others have let him slide as low as fifth. Long-term as a hitter, Guerrero may end up the best, but his poor glove work and mediocre 2019 performance lowers his value with simulation managers. Most simulation formats include defense compared to Rotisserie, which only counts offense. Therefore, Guerrero’s value varies the most of the top five picks.

Peter Alonso (1B, NYM) ranks third in ADP after slugging 53 home runs in 2019. He offers maximum current value and a solid future. His glove ranks below average, but at first base with that kind of power production, it hurts less.

Those three consistently land in the top three picks. The next three vary among themselves between four and six. Chris Paddack (RHP, SD) tops the pitchers after an outstanding year in 2019. He cannot pitch the entire season and does give up more homers than the average pitcher, especially if your game utilizes ballpark effects, but limits the baserunners to minimize the long ball damage.

Yordan Alvarez (DH, HOU) presents the best offensive card in the entire set. As a mid-season call up with so little time in the field, though, his value gets reduced by his at-bat limitations and relegation to designated hitter.

Bo Bichette (SS, TOR) provides solid across-the-board tools at the key position on the diamond. For rebuilding franchises, he typically goes off the board third. To contenders, his limited at-bats reduce his attractiveness, which slides him down a few spots.

Rounding Out the Prime Nine

Eloy Jimenez (OF, CWS) represents the consensus seventh pick. In other years, he might have topped the chart. But with this talented high end of the draft, a 23-year-old with a 130 PX gets bypassed several times over because his park adjusted stats give him average ratings with mediocre defense at a less important position. Of the first round picks, he may yield the best value for the pick.

With all the trade rumors potentially creating an opening for more playing time. Gavin Lux (2B, LAD) shot up the draft board from the early drafts to the eighth spot. Having less service time than others in the draft, Lux benefits from his prospect status to garner extra publicity on the prospect lists. He sits at #4 on the BaseballHQ Top 100. Lux should eventually star in this league, but his lack of at-bats detracts from his value for teams chasing a playoff spot this year.

Keston Hiura (2B, MIL) has the bat skills to rocket up Rotisserie draft charts. His 66% ct% reveals some holes in his swing, but a 140 xPX shows when he hits the ball, it goes. Watch out for his inverse splits and a horrible debut with the glove in the current season. As a second baseman, the horrid defense rears it ugly head far too often, so be sure to draft a fielding replacement or utilize Hiura at designated hitter.

Best of the Rest

Rounding out the top ten, Will Smith (C, LAD) provides a nice left-handed catching bat for a limited number of plate appearances. Again, note his superior performance against right-handers and more limited effectiveness against southpaws. So deploy his at-bats accordingly to maximize his production. He's an excellent prospect at a thin position, but expect Smith’s 175 PX to regress a bit with full-time major league exposure.

Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT) came out of nowhere to post an excellent season. While no tool sticks out as excellent, he has the ability to garner plenty of hits with average power. A nice long-term piece to fill a hole, but never a superstar.

Zac Gallen (RHP, ARI) posted a sterling 2.70 ERA in the second half of 2019. But an 83% Strand rate resulted in a 4.13 xERA. He has a nice card for eighty innings and a lofty 10.8 Dom, but expect some regression over a full season with the Diamondbacks. Gallen arguably represents the best starting pitching card in the draft with his ability to keep the ball in the park, but you don’t even get a half season out of him.

For those looking for future value, Dustin May (RHP, LAD) ranks thirteenth in this draft. It’s all speculation, but the high velocity and ground-ball-inducing stuff make him a top pitching prospect. He needs to translate that arsenal into strikeouts to truly become an ace. At age 22, just give him time.

Nick Senzel (OF, CIN) has seen his draft value shoot up and down that chart as his role waffles from second baseman to an increasingly crowded outfield. With his health concerns, maybe the Reds look at him as a talented multi-faceted player instead of being stuck in one position. Senzel has solid skills across the board, but lacks a standout skill to make him a superstar. His potential still entices many, while the Reds take advantage of Senzel's versatility.

The talk of 2019 spring training, Jesus Luzardo (LHP, OAK) suffered a lat strain and missed most of the regular season. Luzardo should top all rookies when he pitches. In simulation leagues, however, managers can more easily stack a lineup full of lefty killers to limit a southpaw’s effectiveness.

Contenders needing help at the hot corner tab Gio Urshela (3B, NYY). Urshela is a difference-maker in the current card set, providing average, power, and defense while hitting all types of pitching. For the future, who knows if he can maintain his sudden offensive prowess or a reversion looms in his future. At this point of a thin draft, let him carry you to the playoffs and worry about the future later.

Oscar Mercado (OF, CLE) emerged as a pleasant surprise in 2019. He has a low ceiling but could be an average center fielder for a long time. He provides the defense simulation teams need. Increasing his 6% BB rate seems more likely than developing more power. Either would work for this format.

Uncharacteristically, Tampa Bay seemed to rush Brendan McKay (LHP, TAM) through the minors. His Dom of about twelve through the minors justified this approach. With a below average SwK%, it may take time for him to succeed at the major league level. McKay should excel someday; it just may take a year or two.

After the public statement giving him the opportunity to win a starting job at third base, Carter Kieboom (3B, WAS) shot up the draft board into the top twenty. Kieboom has yet to display superior power, but his 122 PX in the second half reveals his potential in this area.

An old fashioned “ball player,” Tommy Edman (3B, STL) offers more to a real life team than a simulation team with his versatility and 81% ct%. His limited power and 5% bb% limit his long-term viability in the simulation format. For now, a great guy to plug a contender’s hole.

With the dearth of starting pitching in the draft, John Means (LHP, BAL) usually cracks the top twenty with solid statistics against both right and left handers. He may have already peaked, as his 5.56 xERA in the second half suggests, but his overall performance in a hitter’s park with poor defense behind him yields an excellent pitcher for 2019.

Luis Arraez (2B, MIN) pummels right-handed pitchers as hard as you can without homers. His elite 91% ct% shows he will stay in the bigs and pile up the hits. The 10% bb% adds additional value for simulation leagues, where on-base percentage remains king. He needs to improve his fielding to make up for his lack of power or speed to remain a top option in this format. 

If you prefer a different skill set in your young second baseman, Cavan Biggio (2B, HOU) offers solid power with a 151 xPX and he gets on base with an incredible 17% bb%, but struggles putting the ball in play (65% ct%). Like Arraez, Biggio’s defense needs some refinement.

Griffin Canning (RHP, LAA) possesses a wipeout slider which led to a 14% SwK%. He needs to raise his 58% FpK% to get ahead in the count to maximize its effectiveness. Lowering his 44% FB% would also help propel him towards success.

Values in Later Rounds

Now that we have thoroughly outlined the Top 25, here are some values in later rounds. I will group them by position or need with their ADP’s next to them.

The draft is the cheapest way to build a bullpen. Their future is uncertain, but if you need cards you can find values throughout the draft. In the playoffs, bullpen cards become incredibly important and the best ones often outpace Cy Young winners. Beware, however, very few lefties exist in the draft pool. So if you need Aaron Bummer (LHP, CWS), pounce on him before his ADP arrives.

Liam Hendriks – 33
Giovanny Gallegos - 35
Tony Gonsolin – 46
Alex Young - 53
Marcus Walden – 57
Anthony Bass – 72
Aaron Bummer – 83
Austin Allen - 107
Rowan Wick – 126
Brandon Brennan - 145
Jimmy Cordero – 149

Anthony Bass (RHP, SEA) also has an incredible card that can anchor any bullpen for just a third or fourth-round pick.

A few outfielders can add value with excellent balanced cards for their somewhat limited at-bats and reasonable prices:

Mike Yastrzemski - 39
Mike Tauchman – 52
Myles Straw – 109

Prospects with top-tier talent but bargain prices at their ADP:

Nate Lowe – 68
Isan Diaz – 85
Abraham Toro – 94
Logan Webb – 98
Christian Stewart – 98
Lane Thomas - 99

If you enjoyed this column, look for our breakdown of the new Strat-O-Matic ratings later this week!


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.