MLB Mock Draft: Building the best defense
By MARK SIMON
Let’s get aboard the Mock Draft train the best way we can by doing a defense-oriented MLB mock draft.
The intent here was to try to draft the best defensive group for the next three seasons.
I put together eight teams of nine players (one player at each position, exempting pitcher, along with a utility player who could play multiple different spots) using six different draft philosophies. Teams picked to those philosophies as much as possible, with each making 1-2 exceptions if needed.
Here are the results (pick numbers are in parenthesis).
|The Ozzie’s||The Kaline’s||The Mazeroski’s||The Robinson’s|
|C||Buster Posey (33)||Danny Jansen (63)||Roberto Perez (14)||Austin Hedges (29)|
|1B||Anthony Rizzo (32)||Matt Olson (18)||Freddie Freeman (35)||Yuli Gurriel (68)|
|2B||Ozzie Albies (17)||Ketel Marte (34)||Kiké Hernández (30)||Jonathan Schoop (52)|
|SS||Trevor Story (16)||Carlos Correa (50)||Andrelton Simmons (3)||Francisco Lindor (20)|
|3B||Matt Chapman (1)||Ke’Bryan Hayes (66)||Evan Longoria (51)||Nolan Arenado (4)|
|LF||Mike Tauchman (64)||Michael Brantley (47)||Chad Pinder (67)||David Peralta (45)|
|CF||Michael Taylor (48)||Byron Buxton (15)||Harrison Bader (19)||Lorenzo Cain (13)|
|RF||Josh Reddick (65)||Mookie Betts (2)||Yasiel Puig (46)||Jason Heyward (36)|
|Utility||Jarrod Dyson (49)||Ronald Acuna Jr. (31)||Alex Verdugo (62)||Jackie Bradley Jr. (61)|
|Approach||Great infield||Great outfield||Strong up middle||Best player available|
|The Griffey’s||The Mays’||The Vizquel’s||The Clemente’s|
|C||Tony Wolters (60)||Yasmani Grandal (38)||Christian Vazquez (55)||J.T. Realmuto (41)|
|1B||Evan White (53)||Christian Walker (59)||Paul Goldschmidt (26)||Joey Votto (40)|
|2B||Cavan Biggio (44)||Yolmer Sanchez (70)||Kolten Wong (10)||Brandon Lowe (72)|
|SS||Adalberto Mondesi (21)||Nick Ahmed (11)||Javier Baez (7)||Paul DeJong (25)|
|3B||Manny Machado (12)||Josh Donaldson (22))||Alex Bregman (23)||Anthony Rendon (57)|
|LF||Manuel Margot (69)||Brett Gardner (43)||Joc Pederson (71)||Hunter Renfroe (24)|
|CF||Cody Bellinger (5)||Kevin Kiermaier (6)||Adam Haseley (39)||Victor Robles (8)|
|RF||Cristian Pache (37)||George Springer (54)||Max Kepler (42)||Aaron Judge (9)|
|Utility||David Fletcher (28)||DJ LeMahieu (27)||Max Muncy (58)||Brian Anderson (56)|
|Approach||Potential (youth)||Runs Saved Reliability||Great infield||Great outfield|
Let’s look at how each team fared. Remember that we’re only considering defense here and that we’re trying to project the next three years of value.
Aprroach: Strong infield defense
First pick: Matt Chapman, 3B
Overall: Matt Chapman has been the best defensive player in baseball the last three seasons and he’s only 26 years old, which made the No. 1 overall pick an easy one. This team surrounded him with lots of talent at the three other infield spots. Ozzie Albies ranks second in Defensive Runs Saved at second base the last two seasons. Trevor Story has been a top-five shortstop in three of his four seasons. Anthony Rizzo has four seasons of double-digit Runs Saved at first base in his career.
The outfield will likely be a weak spot for this team as it lacks an elite center fielder and has an old right fielder in 33-year-old Josh Reddick, whose success in 2019 was largely from his homer-robbing results (five robbed home runs). Age may also be an issue at catcher with Buster Posey, and it’s likely he’ll shift positions soon.
Approach: Strong outfield defense
First pick: Mookie Betts, RF
Overall: Mookie Betts led right fielders in Runs Saved in three of the last four seasons and he’s only 27, so he’s both the best and safest pick at No. 2. The outfield has depth, with Ronald Acuna able to come off the bench should Byron Buxton or Michael Brantley get injured. On the infield, The Kaline’s secured Matt Olson early, but is a little weaker in the infield. It did get three infielders with upside, particularly Pirates third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes (son of ex-MLB player Charlie Hayes).
Approach: Strength up the middle
First pick: Andrelton Simmons, SS
Overall: The strong up the middle philosophy resulted in taking Andrelton Simmons, Roberto Perez, Harrison Bader, and Kike Hernandez with the first four picks. Bader may seem like a reach, but he finished third in Runs Saved in center field last season and played 200-plus innings fewer than the two players ahead of him. The key for this team will be in whether its corner infielders, Freddie Freeman and 34-year-old Evan Longoria, stay healthy and effective.
Approach: Best player available right now
First pick: Nolan Arenado, 3B
Overall: There are lots of recognizable names on this team, with Arenado being a safe No. 1 pick. We’ll see how the aging curve hits this outfield of David Peralta (age 32), Lorenzo Cain (34), and Jason Heyward (30). Whether robot umps come into play will also determine how valuable elite pitch-framer Austin Hedges is at catcher in the future.
Approach: Youth and upside
First pick: Cody Bellinger, CF
Overall: This is the upside team with no one on its roster older than 27. If Bellinger performs to the level he did in 2019 (albeit shifting to center field full-time) and Manny Machado returns to top-flight form, and prospects Cristian Pache (Braves) and Evan White (Mariners) live up to their potential, this could be the team to beat by the end of the competition.
Approach: Reliable veterans
First pick: Kevin Kiermaier, CF
Overall: This team took players from whom you feel like you know what you’re going to get from them right now. That did mean taking a couple of aging veterans, Josh Donaldson (age 34) and Brett Gardner (36), and banking on them for three more years. It also meant a little bit of risk on Kevin Kiermaier, whose excellence overrode his injury history. This might be the best team for the short term but one of the riskiest for the long term.
Approach: Strong infield defense
First pick: Javier Baez, SS
Overall: This team did well for itself all the way around, even in the outfield, where it didn’t pick anyone until it secured an infield that features three past Fielding Bible Award winners (Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong, Javier Baez). Joc Pederson saved six runs in each corner spot last season. Adam Haseley was outstanding in center field in a brief look for the Phillies. Max Kepler has shown in past seasons that he can handle right field well.
Approach: Strong outfield defense
First pick: Victor Robles, CF
Overall: Some will probably say that J.T. Realmuto and Anthony Rendon shouldn’t have fallen that far. But Realmuto’s track record suggests that 2019 may have been an aberrational success. And Rendon doesn’t compare as well to his peers in Runs Saved as you might think. The outfield here should be very good so long as Aaron Judge stays healthy and Hunter Renfroe’s improvements stand. Joey Votto should be good at first base for the short term. We’ll see if he hurts them three years down the road.