If you only do one Fantasy baseball draft every year, you've gotta make sure you get your guys. We do dozens of drafts every spring, which allows us to test out different team builds and target players we may not love just to see how a team looks with different names. But, every year, when we get to the last week or so before the season, even "expert" league drafts start to look like your home leagues -- people start throwing away ADP and start reaching for their guys.
But you've gotta figure out who your guys are. Do your research, listen to the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, read our articles to get familiar, but the best way to really know who you want is to actually get out there and draft.
I've done 13 so far, not counting Dynasty or prospect-focused leagues, and I've probably got another five or so left. I'll be playing out around 12 of them, so I've got a lot to keep track of, and I've been putting all of my drafts together in a spreadsheet since the beginning to keep track of everything. Including who I've drafted the most throughout the process.
These are my guys, then. Some of them really are my favorite players to draft this season, but then there are guys like Jose Urquidy, who I've picked in five of 13 drafts so far. I didn't go into draft season thinking I was a big Urquidy fan, but I've picked him five times with an average of around 187 overall -- about a round higher than his ADP.
And the thing is, I do like Urquidy. He has a true four-pitch arsenal with swing-and-miss stuff, and I'm willing to give him something of a pass for 2020 -- Urquidy tested positive for COVID before the season and had to isolate for a month, ultimately making his debut about 10 days later than the rest of his teammates. Home runs will be an issue, but he should have better-than-average strikeout and walk rates, and the Astros obviously know how to get the most out of their pitchers.
And the thing is, the lower you get in the draft, the easier it is to get your guys, because ADP stops really mattering around the 150th pick. Keep that in mind, and go get your guys. Urquidy is one of mine, and here are all the players I've drafted in at least four of my 13 leagues so far:
Drafted in 6/13 leagues
- If you listen to the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, you know all about my love for Anderson. My bold prediction for the Braves was that Anderson would finish top five in Cy Young voting, and I truly believe he has the talent to do so. Obviously, the fact that he came up to the majors in the middle of a playoff race and struck out 65 with a 1.59 ERA in 51 innings 10 starts last season is part of why I'm high on him, but it's as much about how he got those results as the results themselves. As a top prospect, Anderson's curveball and fastball were his bread and butter, and both pitchers were excellent as a rookie -- he had a huge 40.5% whiff rate with his curveball and a miniscule .220 xwOBA. Batters had trouble hitting the pitch, and when they did, they couldn't square it up. That's what you want. But what moves Anderson up a level in my eyes is the fact that he was also armed with a new and improved changeup that he threw 30.8% of the time. This pitch that was usually mentioned as an afterthought in scouting reports was all of a sudden his No. 2 pitch, and he got very similar results to his curveball -- a 39.8% whiff rate and .250 xwOBA. He threw it to both lefties and righties consistently, and he ranked 17th among 113 qualified pitchers in changeup whiff rate, with the fifth-highest put-away percentage while ranking in the top 80 percent in xwOBA and hard-hit rate on the pitch. It was a real weapon, one he didn't really have when he was a consensus top-50 prospect a year ago. Workload is the only concern here, but I think he could get to 150 innings -- he had 135.2 in 2019.
- Buxton is another player for whom my love is well known, and it's one where I'm kind of on an island on the FBT pod. Funny enough, while I'm the Byron Buxton guy, I've never drafted him above his ADP -- the highest I've taken him is 114, while his ADP is 113.38. On average, I've taken him a round later than that. Buxton has realistic 30-20 upside -- he has 23 homers and 16 steals in just 126 games over the last two seasons -- and he has the speed to be a 30-steal guy if he wants. He'll bat low in the lineup and will never have a high on-base percentage, so runs could be a problem. But in a world where we're pushing fringy power/speed guys like Cavan Biggio and Trent Grisham into the top 70, Buxton in the 10th round range is an obvious value.
- And Mercado is definitely where I go off the deep end. I threw him out for $1 in our salary cap draft Tuesday and was met with derision by the room. That's OK by me. Mercado had a disastrous 2020, but he was a top-150 pick before last season after he had 15 homers and 15 steals in 115 games in 2019. The reasons we liked him so much last year are still there, and if all he does is what he's done in his 151 career games so far -- 76 runs, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 18 steals, and a .246 average -- he'll be a welcome addition to any team as a fifth outfielder. His chances of playing everyday were helped by Amed Rosario's three-error debut in center the other day.
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Drafted in 5/13 leagues
- Mondesi is still a pretty controversial player, but I really don't have many issues with him. Sure, there's bottom-out potential given his terrible plate discipline, but his defense should keep him in the lineup when healthy, and as long as he's in the lineup, he's the odds-on-favorite to lead the league in steals. And he's even been batting closer to the top of the lineup than expected in spring so far, a potential good sign after we thought the addition of Andrew Benintendi might push him down. That 164 pick was in a H2H points league, and while he's not an amazing player in that format, he's probably better than he gets credit for -- mostly because everyone assumes he's a scrub. But he was actually 10th in that format in scoring in 2020, and his 3.22 points per game average in 2019 was comparable to what Gleyber Torres produced in his 38-homer season. I'm fine taking him in the second round in a Roto league, and I'm thrilled if he somehow falls to the third, and in a points league, I'm OK waiting for him as a starter if I want to focus on other positions.
- Marte is a player I wish I had more of, because I think he's going to go back to being one of the best hitters in baseball like he was in 2019. He dealt with a wrist injury in 2020 and saw his power evaporate, but he still had the fifth-highest max exit velocity in the league, ahead of sluggers like Teoscar Hernandez, Manny Machado, Marcell Ozuna, and Ronald Acuña to name just four. There's more than enough raw power here, he has excellent plate discipline and he might steal 10 bases. I compared Marte favorably to DJ LeMahieu in my look at cheap alternatives to the big names in drafts, and it would not surprise me even a little bit if Marte was better.
- Here's what Happ has done as a starter over the past two seasons: 46 runs, 20 homers, 52 RBI and two steals while hitting .262/.357/.534 in 81 games. That 81 games makes it pretty easy to extrapolate to a full season, but I'm not going to say Happ will hit 40 homers. Still, that's how well he's played since returning from the minors in 2019, and most importantly, his strikeout rate has been a manageable 26.6% in those 81 starts. This Cubs lineup should bounce back in a big way this season, and Happ is slated to bat in the leadoff spot to start the season. He's a great third outfielder and a cheat code as a fourth or fifth.
- The pitchers are an interesting crew, and I'll focus on Alcantara first. He might not be the Marlins best pitcher -- I'd go with Sixto Sanchez for that one, but Pablo Lopez has his supporters too -- but he's the rock of that rotation. He nearly made it to 200 innings with a 3.88 ERA in 2019 and then averaged better than six innings per start in 2020 despite missing nearly a month after testing positive for COVID. Alcantara's peripherals have never quite matched his ERA, but I believe in his ability to suppress hard contact, because he's so hard to square up. The question is whether he can up his strikeout rate or continue to decrease his walk rate, and there was progress in both regards last season. If Alcantara can remain around 2020's 8.7% walk rate and improve on his 22.7% strikeout rate, he could be an incredibly valuable pitcher thanks to his ability to rack up innings. His slider and changeup took a step forward as swing-and-miss offerings last season, and he's making his four-seam fastball more of a priority this spring -- and he has 19 strikeouts in 12.2 innings so far, including nine in five brilliant innings Wednesday against the Mets. There's still room for improvement here.
- Marquez is actually in a sort of similar spot as Alcantara for me. We know his home park will always hold him back, but it seems like the fact that he led the NL in innings pitched with a 3.75 ERA last season is kind of being overlooked. Marquez's flaws are obvious, and they mostly relate to his home park, where he has a 5.10 ERA for his career. That's tough to swallow, but with the Rockies in a clear rebuild after trading Nolan Arenado, Marquez very well could be next, and he'd probably be a top-20 pitcher on a different team. Snag him with a pick in the 150-200 range, ride him during his road starts, and dream about the upside if he finds a new home. He could be one of the best values in any draft if that happens. While others may ignore him because of the Coors Field of it all, just remind yourself that when you're taking a pitcher at this point in the draft, your chances of getting a must-start guy are extremely slim. At least you'll know when to use Marquez.
Drafted in 4/13 leagues
Here's 50 words or less about why I like each player here:
- Jose Ramirez: His weird dip in the first half of 2019 was the result of tinkering with his swing to try to beat the shift. With the exception of that stretch, he's been a top five Fantasy player for most of the last four seasons.
- Max Scherzer: I'm not so worried about Scherzer's health, frankly. He didn't have a recurrence of his back/neck issues in 2020, and has a spotless bill of health otherwise. His stuff still looks as good as ever, and a top-three season is completely possible.
- Rafael Devers: Devers had a .916 OPS in 2019 and he had a .907 OPS in his final 35 games in 2020. In between, he had 22 games with a .603 OPS. If the season had been longer, his numbers would've ended up where we wanted them, I'm sure of it.
- Marcell Ozuna: Ozuna has been a Statcast darling for years, and he lived up to the potential in 2020, as he did in 2017. In between, he hit .262/.327/.451 with a per-162 pace of 87 R, 31 HR, 104 RBI, and 9 SB. High floor, high ceiling.
- Aaron Judge: I'm especially excited to draft Judge in OBP and points leagues, where his walk rate boosts his value. But he's an excellent foundational power piece in any league, and more often than not, he doesn't hurt you in batting average.
- Zack Greinke: Alright, I've been reaching for Greinke. Pairing him with Scherzer and Alcantara is one of my favorite moves, because it gives me three guys I'm comfortable with who should rack up big innings totals. Greinke's peripherals suggest his apparent decline in 2020 was no such thing.
- Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton is still peerless when it comes to hitting the ball hard, and I have no questions about his ability to produce when healthy -- he had 10 homers in 30 games including the playoffs last season. Health is the question here, but the risk is so limited at this price.
- Taylor Rogers: Most of these shares came when we thought Rogers was going to be the closer, but I'm still happy to have a guy who had a 2.75 ERA and 1.073 WHIP from 2017 through 2019 on my roster.
- Jameson Taillon: I could see Taillon's price rising if he keeps pitching well in spring, especially since his velocity was back in his last outing. At this price, it's hard to pass up a guy who had a 3.20 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, and 179 K in his last healthy season.
- Luis Severino: Severino's next step will be incorporating sliders into his next bullpen session, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery has been without any missteps so far. If he's back by June, I might have a must-start pitcher for free.
- Tommy La Stella: So far in spring training at least, La Stella is leading off against both lefties and righties, and this is a better-than-you-think Giants lineup. He's hit .289 with 21 HR in 135 games the past two seasons and could be a must-start option.
- Justus Sheffield: Sheffield is another pitcher like Urquidy, where I may not love him as much as his inclusion here makes it seem, but I like him a lot at his price. The former top prospect made real changes en route to his 3.58 ERA in 2020.
- Mitch Keller: If I got Keller with my last pick in every draft, I'd be happy, so this means I've been unhappy nine times! Keller's velocity is back after a rough 2019, and there's still a ton of talent worth betting on here. A great bench dice roll.