In the last week I’ve participated in three early drafts – the RotoWire Magazine Mock Draft, a Draft Champions NFBC league, and an annual Scoresheet Mock Draft that I’ve participated in the last eight years. All three drafts are reasonably deep, the shallowest of which is a 15-team, 30-round draft. The Draft Champions league is a shark-tank league – there are so many NFBC vets in there that have started doing drafts in November, avoiding football almost altogether. It’s 15 teams, and 50 rounds – with no free agent transactions. And the Scoresheet draft obviously is a different format, but it’s 24 teams, and 16 rounds.
These two mocks and the one live draft are fantastic. Great competition, taken seriously, and provide me a good framework about where guys are slotting, and whether my projections are in the ballpark. I don’t want to match ADP, and I don’t even mind having outliers, but at the very least I want to know who my outliers are. Once I see those outliers, I try to take a deeper dive on the players in question.
Two such players have stood out to me so far, one pitcher, one hitter.
Tyler Glasnow posted tremendous numbers in the minors in the Pirates’ system, but they never could make it work with him in the big leagues. In particular, his walk rate with the Pirates was through the roof, and he always had trouble holding runners. Then after he was dealt to the Rays in the Chris Archer deal, his performance improved considerably. With the Pirates last season, Glasnow posted a 4.34 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 14.0 BB%. After joining the Rays, that improved to 4.20/1.10/8.4. As our outlook for him suggests, the big difference was how the two organizations wanted him to use his fastball. The Pirates wanted him to pitch to contact and generate more ground balls, whereas the Rays wanted him to work higher in the strike zone and generate more swings and misses. They also committed to using him more as a starter, whereas the Pirates gave that part up, at least for now, having him pitch exclusively in relief.
And yet … I still brushed him off a little bit in the projections process. Perhaps because of his previous control problems, or his inability to hold runners, or because of how the Rays have gone with the opener rather than use a traditional starting rotation. Yes, I know that shouldn’t have applied with Glasnow, who only appeared as a starter, but it’s a hard bias to shake. What forced me to take a second look was where he went in my respective drafts:
RotoWire Mag Mock: 12.2 (167 overall)
NFBC Draft Champions: 9.3 (123 overall)
Scoresheet Mock: 5.6 (102 overall)
The Scoresheet Draft simulates an initial draft in a keeper league, whereas the Mag Mock and the Draft Champions drafts are for 2019 only. Still, there was quite a bit of discussion after that pick in the Scoresheet draft, where there’s been a good running commentary after most picks. Looking at this pick forced me to dive a little deeper on Glasnow.
The first thing that jumps out is his ability to miss bats. His 29.1 K% would have ranked ninth among starting pitchers had he thrown more innings to qualify. If you measure only when he was a starter (and thus unable to go max effort), he still had a 28.4 K%, which would have put him 10th among starters. As a starter with the Rays, his Swinging Strike Rate (SwStr%) was 12.0%, the same as Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Nick Pivetta, which (again if he had more innings) would have put him tied for 16th among starting pitchers.
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Glasgow’s pitch-mix also changed with the Rays. He started throwing his secondary pitches more frequently, at the expense of his four-seamer. That said, he had less success with the four-seamer (and overall) in September than he did earlier, so there seems to be a correlation there.
The preponderance of the evidence though suggests that I wasn’t bullish enough about his 2019 season. I initially projected a 4.18 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and only 114 IP for him. That projection (in conjunction with the wins and strikeouts that go with it) would have put him outside the top 400 players projected. With him going around pick 180 in early NFBC leagues, obviously you’d never get him at that projection, and I’m not really comfortable with that notion. Thus, I’ve amended his projection, both in terms of quantity and quality of innings pitched, making him a full-time starter in the process. His new projection will put him at a 4.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, at 155 innings. That should put him closer in the ballpark to drafting him in many leagues, as I suspect these early drafts might have the effect of inflating his ADP, given that there are more sharks drafting now as a percentage than later.
Our outlook on Danny Jansen says it best – catchers that provide positive root value are hard to find. As a prospect, Jansen has sort of slipped under my radar. He was drafted out of high school in 2013 in the 16th round, but didn’t really start to make his mark as a prospect with the bat until 2017, when he hit well at three levels, beginning at High-A Dunedin. I sometimes worry about “late-bloomer” prospects, but given that (a) he’s a catcher and (b) he was drafted out of high school, I’m less concerned here.
Anyhow, I was also caught off-guard at Jansen’s draft price in my three drafts:
RotoWire Mag Mock: 17.8 (248 overall), 10th catcher.
NFBC Draft Champions: 19.5 (275 overall), 17th catcher.
Scoresheet Mock: 4.14 (86 overall), 3rd catcher.
NFBC ADP: 258 overall, 14th catcher.
Obviously the Scoresheet Mock pick leaps off the page, but my buddy Clay Link’s pick in the Magazine Mock is what got me started thinking about Jansen. It’s with great shame here that I admit that I didn’t put in a projection for Jansen in our first run, but Clay’s pick got me thinking about it. Then the Scoresheet draft (which, again, has the long-term in mind, and this crowd in particular is more forward-thinking than most draft pools) really got my head spinning. I found it to be early, only to see the vocal majority praise the pick as something the commentariat wished they had done.
Jansen gets high marks for his plate discipline, and displayed more power last season than he had at previous levels, including a .185 ISO in his initial big league trial. His defense is considered to be at least average, if not slightly better than average. Working against him is the continued presence of veteran Russell Martin, and another prospect type catcher in Reese McGuire. Still, he’s expected to end up as the Jays’ starting catcher, perhaps at the get go for 2019.
I’ve updated Jansen’s projection, to give him a .275/9HR/40RBI/38R projection over 316 ABs. It’s still a modest projection, and will place him below his ADP. That’s because I’m still a little skeptical about his playing time. Of course, if the Jays rid themselves of Martin, he’ll get an upgraded projection. Go back to our outlook on Jansen – the concern about his rising ADP comes into play here. You could get a top-10 catcher with full-time at-bats, but without those at-bats, it’s more likely he’ll end up in the 20-25 range. It’s all a matter of whether you believe that the Jays will invest that playing time in Jansen.