Updated: Apr 24
With the NFL draft underway and a fundamental shortage of baseball, I decided to have a little fun. That fun being entering all players into the draft pool and "mock" the first round of the rebuild draft (with the 2020 First Year player draft order).
Just one caveat- each player comes drafted with their existing contract and free agency!
1. Baltimore Orioles – OF Ronald Acuna Jr (Free agency – 2029)
Probably the easiest pick of the whole draft. Acuna Jr. gives the Orioles a top 10 hitter capable of playing all 3 outfield spots an elite level. Not only is there a strong case to suggest that Acuna may be the best player not named Mike Trout in baseball, there is absolutely no debate that Acuna boasts the most team friendly contract in the game. His AAV (Average annual value) of $12.5m until 2029 ($100m total) is below what his arbitration value would be in the years within it. The most team friendly contract in the game combined with 40:40 talent and a perennial MVP bid makes this pick seemingly a lock.
2. Detroit Tigers- OF Christian Yelich (Free Agency- 2030)
The Tigers have a never shied away from a high value contract (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton & Justin Verlander) and Christian Yelich becomes the latest. With his $215m contract seeing him through to his age 37 season (2029), the Tigers gain an All-Star and MVP calibre hitter into the middle of their order for the next decade. Yelich’s 20 fWaR ranks third amongst hitters between 2017 and 2020 with only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts above him.
3. Miami Marlins – 2B Ozzie Albies (Free Agency- 2027)
With the Marlins payroll having only exceeded $110m twice (2017 & 2018) since 2001, it seems wise to be frugal with the drafted salary. If Derek Jeter wasn’t at the helm, I’d expect this to be a different one, but as it is the Marlins get one of the most complete middle infielders on one of the best contracts in the game. Owed ‘just’ $35m between 2020 and 2027 with an AAV of $5m, Albies give the Marlins one of the best young players in the game on a brilliant contract. His 10.3 fWaR ranks 2nd amongst all players 23 or younger, trailing only Cody Bellinger.
4. Kansas City Royals – OF Eloy Jimenez (Free Agency- 2027)
Like the Marlins, it probably pays to be economical with the pick. The Royals are not likely to take on the contract the size of Trouts, Harpers or Coles, so where do we go? Eloy Jimenez fits the royals mould perfectly with his all-round talent. After immediately struggling in his transition to the Major Leagues following his top prospect stardom, Jimenez found his feet as the season progressed eventually hitting 31HRs with a WRC+ of 116. Assuming he continues his development, Jimenez gives the Royals perennial All-Star talent at just $7m a year until 2027 (43m/7yrs).
5. Toronto Blue Jays- 3B Alex Bregman (Free Agency- 2025)
Despite having a payroll over the $100m in each year since 2013, the Blue Jays largest contract still remains that of Vernon Wells ($126/7yrs) way back in 2006. With that contract carrying an AAV of around $18m, it doesn’t feel like the Blue Jays would shatter that completely. Consequently, Alex Bregman feels a nice fit here to man the hot corner. Gold glove defence and an MVP level bat, Bregman gives the Blue Jays an immediate All-Star presence into the heart of their line-up at just $20m a year until 2025. His 19.5 fWaR ranks only behind Trout, Yelich, Rendon and Betts- all of whom he is greatly cheaper or controllable than.
6. Seattle Mariners- 3B Anthony Rendon (Free Agency- 2027)
The Mariners have never been afraid of giving large contracts out, so why wouldn’t they take arguably the most complete 3rd baseman in the game at 6? Defensively and offensively faultless, Rendon provides the Mariners with a bat to build around and an immediate face of the franchise. With Chapman hitting free agency in 2024 and Arenado having the decision of an opt out, Rendon seems a sure fire success in the North West. His .310 batting average since 2017 ranks 5th amongst all hitters with his 19.9 fWaR ranking an even better 4th amongst batters.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates- OF- Luis Robert (Free Agency 2028)
With the largest contract in team history just $60m/6 years to Jason Kendall in 2000, there’s no way the Pirates break the back here. Talent wise, Luis Robert is the perfect long term replacement in the outfield for Andrew McCutchen and at just $8.3m a year until 2028, the face of the franchise is locked up for the best part of the next decade.
8. San Diego Padres - 3B Nolan Arenado (Free Agency – 2027)
Probably an honest tossup between Nolan Arenado and Fernando Tatis Jr, but with an extra 2 years of control on Arenado, I will have the Friars taking their new 3rd baseman. Manny Machado has demonstrated that the Padres are happy to commit big money to that position already; Arenado makes perfect sense for the Padres, particularly given his superior bat and glove to Manny. The only concern is that he opts out of his $260m/8 year deal at the end of 2021, but Anthony Rendon ($245m/7) and Christian Yelich ($215m/9) recently proving that Arenado’s contract is above the going rate for a late 20’s hitter, the chances of that seem relatively slim.
9. Colorado Rockies- SP Walker Buehler (Free agency 2025)
With the Coors affect, offense is the obvious and fun way to lean, but with the league full of power bats in a way that has never been seen before; I am going to have the Rockies taking a young elite and controllable arm. His ability to induce ground balls at a 42.7% rate (2019) and miss bats (10.6 K/9) would set him for great success at altitude. With his free agency lined up for 2025, the Rockies would get at a very minimum, 5 seasons from the games top young pitcher at a position they crave so desperately.
10. Los Angeles Angels – OF Mike Trout (Free Agency 2031)
This may be the easiest and simplest pick of them all. They can afford the best player in baseball. Therefore they take him. No financial concerns or constraints. Mike Trout, you and your gazillion dollars are staying in Southern California.
11. Chicago White Sox- 3B Yoan Moncada (Free Agency 2026)
Of all the picks, this was one I found the hardest. Yasmani Grandal has recently become their largest ever committed salary with an AAV of $18.25m between 2020 to 2023 ($73m), so despite picking at 11; the Southsider’s are not in a great position to splash the cash on the big fish still there. The one I came down on was their very own Yoan Moncada. Costing around $14m until 2025, Moncada having broken out in 2019 (.315/.367/.548) gives the White Sox an affordable middle of the order bat with monumental upside for the foreseeable future.
12. Cincinnati Reds- OF Juan Soto (Free Agency- 2025)
Removing the largest contracts from consideration, there seems no reason for the Reds to take anyone other than the best player available- that being either Juan Soto or Cody Bellinger. Essentially a coin flip decision, let’s go with Soto because of the extra year of control. Cincinnati, meet your new 56 HR and .900 + OPS outfielder.
13. San Francisco Giants – OF Cody Bellinger (Free Agency 2024)
Having been priced out of the Bryce Harper stakes and unwilling to commit to 13 years, it seems fair to rule the Giants out of taking on Cole or Machado’s contract also. With Posey’s $159m still sitting as the franchise record contract, let’s have the Giants taking the best player available. Even with only 4 years of control, Bellinger feels like a can’t miss pick here. How do you like those apples LA?
14. Texas Rangers- SS Fernando Tatis Jr (Free Agency 2025)
The Rangers could go in any number of ways here. But why not take the probably the best future SS in the league. A genuinely 5-tool player signed through 2025 seems like a relatively can’t miss pick. Add into the mix of moving from PETCO Park to the new Globe Life Stadium, which if anything like its predecessor, could see Tatis enter the illustrious 30:30 club.
15. Philadelphia Phillies- SP Jacob DeGrom (Free Agency 2025)
The obvious (and easiest) pick is Bryce Harper given they were the ones to commit $330m to him over the next 13 years. But I don’t think that would be the way they go. The Phillies haven’t been afraid to take a financial risk over the last 15 years, so the money is relatively off the table. With that, it’s relatively hard to pass up on a back-back CY Young Winner, even if he does come at $27.5m a year for the next 5 years ($137.5m). Despite his opt out option at after the 2022 season; I can’t see DeGrom taking it up after his age 33 seasons.
16. Chicago Cubs – SS Gleyber Torres (Free Agency 2025)
Think Javy Baez minus the defence with less strikeouts and a better OBP. Baez is set to hit the open market in 2022 with Torres hitting the market in 2025. At 4 years his junior, Torres’s upside is scary. In the middle of both the Cubs line-up and infield, Torres makes for the perfect bat for Chicago to build around. Only 5 hitters 24 or younger (Joey Gallo, Cody Bellinger, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr & Francisco Lindor) have a higher isolated power than Torres.
17. Boston Red Sox – 1B Peter Alonso (Free Agency 2025)
Being the first of the remaining big financial players still left with a pick, there is no one really off limits for the Red Sox here. With that said, let’s have them take a guy on his rookie contract and under team control through 2025. In his rookie year, Pete Alonso pulled 37 fly ball’s & line drives to LF which would have carried the Monster. How fun would seeing him hit in Fenway with those porches be?
18. Arizona Diamondbacks- 2B Keston Hiura (Free Agency 2026)
Young power hitting middle infielders are worth their weight in gold, just ask the Yankees about Gleyber, the Cubs about Javy or the Rockies about Story. Hiura slots into the 3 hole of the Diamondbacks line-up perfectly. Having taken baseball by storm in 2019, Hiura (.303/.368/.570) demonstrated his immense danger at the plate with a WRC+ of 139, 5th amongst all rookies in 2019. His natural combination of power and contact make for him being one of the elite youngsters in baseball. With 6 years of control, it’s a nice pick for the Diamondbacks.
19. New York Mets- OF Bryce Harper (Free Agency 2031)
I know this one won’t be a popular one. But it seems to tick many a box. The Mets get their coveted middle of the order bat; the fans get their blockbuster name to trash talk Yankees fans with and the guys in RF get regular souvenirs in the shape of HR balls. There’s an emerging idea amongst baseball fans that Harper is overrated and not nearly as valuable as the popular belief. 219 HRs, a lifetime fWaR of 35.1 and career WRC+ of 138, 38 runs better than the average player largely make the argument a redundant one. With the franchise being able to afford the $25m salary each year, the hardest thing of the move will be switching jeers for cheers for the Mets faithful.
20. Milwaukee Brewers – OF Max Kepler (Free Agency 2025)
Having recently inked face of the franchise, Christian Yelich to a monster extension, the idea that the Brewers operate frugally has been suppressed in recent months. However that’s not to say that the whole blueprint has been replaced with a more extravagant one. Max Kepler makes perfect sense for the Brewers at 20. Kepler's 36HRs with 98 runs, 90 RBI and an ISO (isolated power) of .267 makes him a comparable offensive output for Milwaukee in RF. And that’s without mentioning his defence, a metric he would rank as the best in the business for OF’s in 2019, 14 runs better than Mr. Yelich. With a hugely team favourable contract ($35m/7yrs) until 2025, Kepler looks a nice pick for the Brewers.
21. St Louis Cardinals- 3B Matt Chapman (Free Agency- 2024)
Amazingly, the Cardinals largest contract sits at $120m still to Matt Holiday, way back in 2010. Working from this base, it seems logical that the Red Birds wouldn’t completely blow this out of the water with a contract. Whilst the pick could go down the pitching route (Jack Flaherty, Blake Snell, Luis Castillo, Tyler Glasnow) there feels like there is enough young pitching still on the board to pass. Instead, let’s have the Cardinals taking the best player on the board by some way. The only reason he has slid this far is his not ideal 2024 free agency. Matt Chapman ranks as a top 3rd baseman in whatever metric you chose; contact, power, defence, and arm - you name it, he excels within it. It seems only a matter of time before Chapman’s name is a legitimate MVP one.
22. Washington Nationals- SP Patrick Corbin (Free Agency 2025)
Younger and cheaper than Strasburg, this is a pick known all too well in the Nation’s capital. With an AAV of $23m, Patrick Corbin stacks up favourably against his fellow pitchers; Cole ($36m) Strasburg ($35m) & Zach Wheeler ($23.6m). In a division with Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta, starting pitching remains an area of importance for the Nationals. His 10.6 K/9, 1.07 HR/9 and 3.49 FIP rank amongst the league’s best since 2017. A young, controllable and well-priced pitcher seems a relatively risk free pick here for the Nationals, particularly given his superb for summer in DC.
23. Cleveland Indians- SP Mackenzie Gore (Free Agency est. 2027)
Cleveland’s recent success has been built on the one constant of a young controllable core. Working under the same assumption and wanting a relatively immediate impact at the big league level, let’s have them take Mackenzie Gore at 23. This pick could have been any host of young arms; Shane Bieber, Mike Soroka or Jack Flaherty but Gore’s likely free agency in 2027 (assuming he debuts in 2020) rather than 2024 (Flaherty) or 2025 (Bieber & Soroka) fits the Cleveland mould more accurately. With an eye watering 135 strikeouts, allowing just 56 hits, in 101 innings during his time in AA- Gore remains the premier pitching prospect in baseball.
24. Tampa Bay Rays – SS Wander Franco (Free Agency est. 2028)
I don’t think the Rays would stray too far from their own at 24. With his big league debut likely to come during the summer of 2021, the Rays will be able to hold baseball’s number 1 prospects free agency year off until 2028. Seen in the same mould as Francisco Lindor with a lethal combination of contact and power with a seasoning of speed, the Rays will retain a player who seems destined for consistent All-Star selection
25. Atlanta Braves- 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Free Agency 2025)
Whilst not physically, Guerrero fits the Atlanta mould perfectly. A young, raw, immensely talented hitter who is a walking mantra for letting the kids play. He can man the hot corner for the next couple of years before the DH arrives in the national league and he can continue his assault on his dads HR career HR total without needing to play defence. Given the absolute show he put on during the 2019 HR Derby, the damage Guerrero Jr could do in a hitter friendly park such a Sun Trust, is a truly mouth-watering thought.
26. Oakland Athletics- SS Bo Bichette (Free Agency 2026)
Working off of the typical Oakland belief of maximising value and squeezing every last drop of value out of a player, it feel’s the logical move here at 26 is to go down the line of immense talent and maximum control. It would be easy to take the low hanging fruit in Matt Olson or Jack Flaherty, but a 2024 free agent doesn’t feel very ‘Oakland’. Instead, let’s have them take Bo Bichette to give us back-back father son picks. Scheduled to hit the open market in 2026, Bichette gives the Athletics a truly 5 tool talent in the heart of their line up for the next 6 years. In just 46 games in 2019, Bichette managed to finish 4th in WRC+ (142) trailing just Yordan Alvarez, Peter Alonso & Fernando Tatis Jr.
27. Minnesota Twins 2B- Ketel Marte (Free Agency 2025)
It’s hard to work out which way the Twins would go here. Unlikely to hand out huge money to someone and take on a large contract, a logical and rational pick would be Ketel Marte. Owed $24m over the next 5 years until 2025, Marte would fit into the new age Twins line-up like a glove. His fan graphs defence metrics ranks him in the top 5 over the past 2 seasons which give the perfect tonic to his 46 HRS, 16 stolen bases and 9.7 fWaR (2nd best amongst second baseman since 2018). A reliable, defensively sound, power hitting and well-priced 2B/CF feels a fine fit in the Twin City.
28. New York Yankees – SP Gerrit Cole (Free Agency 2029)
Let’s not over think this, there is probably only 1 team who can truly afford this $324m/9yrs contract, and that’s both the team who I have taking him and the same team who gave him the contract in real life. Arguably the games number one pitcher stays in the Bronx with the only question left to answer being- when will his first start in pinstripes be?
29. Los Angeles Dodgers- SP Jack Flaherty (Free Agency 2024)
With money often not that much of a problem for Los Angeles, taking the best player rather than the most controllable or well-priced available feels the right move to make here. Matt Olson, Trea Turner, Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor and Austin Meadows could all have cases to be the pick here. But let’s go with Jack Flaherty. What would the Dodgers be without an ace? Controllable through to the end of 2023, Flaherty gives the Dodgers a top 5 or 6 pitcher in baseball capable of shutting down any offense. Given his California upbringing, the Dodgers would quietly fancy their chances of extending their new ace beyond 2024.
30. Houston Astros – OF Austin Meadows (Free Agency 2025)
We will be kind and reinstate them the pick that they lost in the sign stealing scandal, but the deal is that they pick last.
I resisted the urge to take Mike Fiers here. As it is, I have them taking Austin Meadows. Built on a foundation of young controllable talent (Bregman, Correa, Altuve, Springer)- Meadows fits that mould well. With a contract taking him through the end of the 2024 season and hitting the market in 2025, the Astros would get 5 seasons from their new outfielder, more than they would from Gallo, Turner, Judge, Olson or Lindor.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents & Reasoning
· Giancarlo Stanton: Contract ($325m/13yrs until 2029)
· Manny Machado: Contract ($300m/10yrs until 2029)
· Stephen Strasburg: Age (31) and contract ($245m/7yrs until 2027)
· Jose Altuve: Contract ($163M/YRS until 2025)
· Aaron Judge FA 2023
· Trea Turner: FA 2023
· Javier Baez: FA 2022
· Trevor Story: FA 2022
· Francisco Lindor: FA 2022