This week, the MLB released their regular season schedule and it’s full of juicy matchups. With that being said, let’s see what our fantasy baseball crew thinks will be a good game to bet on this season.
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The spring training games have finally begun in March. Fantasy baseball managers all around the globe are preparing for the always-important drafts in order to fill their fantasy lineups with the talent that will help them win a championship.
They say practice makes perfect, and you can surely improve your drafting abilities in our Mock Draft Lobby, but that phrase begs the question: what does a “perfect” draft look like?
We asked the hosts of our ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast for their ideal choices from each of the 10 traditional first-round draft spots in each of our main fantasy baseball formats. They’ve also provided the ideal complements to these first-round picks, which may be snatched up in Round 2.
Number one pick in the draft
Tristan H. Cockcroft (points-based leagues): Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Tucker, Shohei Ohtani, Shohei Ohtani, Shohei Ohtani, Shohei Ohtani, Shohei Ohtani, Shohei Oh
I’ve already argued that Ohtani should be the first overall choice, and there’s no doubt in my opinion that he’s the consensus No. 1 pick for the points format. Because he has both hitting and pitching versatility, he opens up the Rounds 2-3 options, which might include Tucker, Manny Machado, or one of the ace/top-eight SP. It’s even possible to make a case for choosing breakout prospect Wander Franco here.
Round 1 Trea Turner, Round 2 Yordan Alvarez (roto/category-based leagues) Eric Karabell
Sure, you might argue that Juan Soto should be taken first, but then you’d be pursuing stolen bases later in the game. It’s a safe bet to get Turner first. Meanwhile, Alvarez merely mashes and is able to play in the outfield.
No. 2 pick in the draft
Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto, Juan Soto Shane Bieber is an American singer and songwriter.
If it weren’t for Ohtani’s presence, Soto would have been a no-brainer No. 1 overall choice, since he was the No. 2 hitter and No. 5 hitter in fantasy points in what some considered as a “down year” for him. Bieber has one of the highest points-per-start potentials of any player who should be eligible in a points league by Round 2.
Juan Soto in the first round, Starling Marte in the second. Eric Karabell: Juan Soto in the first round, Starling Marte in the second round.
You get those stolen bases with Marte in Round 2 that a fantasy manager doesn’t get with Soto’s choice. Turner and Marte are not a good match. Rather than indiscriminately taking the “best available talent” early in the draft, you should consider the entire composition of your club.
No. 3 in the draft
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Cockcroft: Gerrit Cole in the first round, Manny Machado in the second.
In points leagues, the No. 1 starting pitcher — Cole is basically that in that he is a far more volume-based pitcher than Ohtani, who has positional qualifying — is a perfectly feasible No. 1 overall choice, completing out the list of three natural possibilities for the position. Machado is a highly underestimated 2022 selection because to his consistency (apart from stolen bases).
Eric Karabell: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Vladimir Guerrer
Let’s put the juniors together, two dynamic young players with bright futures. Acuna might potentially miss a month or more due to his knee injury, but when he does play, he is a five-category great. Plus, due to the season’s late start, he might be back even sooner.
No. 4 in the draft
Jose Ramirez, Jose Ramirez, Aaron Nola, Jose Ramirez, Jose Ramirez, Jose Ramirez, Jose Ramirez, Jose Ramirez,
In 2021, Ramirez led the next three-man tier in points leagues, finishing third among batters and tied for ninth overall in scoring. Nola may be the most surprising inclusion of all of our options in this column, but with point-based scoring, volume is everything. He is the one who brings it.
Eric Karabell: Bo Bichette in the first round, Manny Machado in the second.
It feels fairly nice to lock down the left side of the infield in the first two rounds. Bichette might continue on his path to success, but Machado could be in for a period of decline. Nonetheless, both of these individuals are safe bets.
No. 5 in the draft
Cockcroft: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first round, Jacob deGrom in the second.
Guerrero finished three fantasy points behind the league leader in 2021, despite having the contact-quality stats to back up his numbers. Meanwhile, the Mets’ ace would give Ohtani a run for his money as the best pitcher in the league if we could guarantee he’d pitch 210 innings in 33 starts.
Round 1: Eric Karabell Round 2: Jose Ramirez Max Scherzer is a German football player.
Ramirez continues to be underappreciated in fantasy circles, and I’m not sure why. Scherzer isn’t young, so he could go overlooked in drafts, but the stats he’ll put up everytime he’s on the mound aren’t worth worrying about.
No. 6 in the draft
Cockcroft: Corbin Burnes in the first round, Mike Trout in the second.
Pitchers are in high demand in the points model, and Burnes, along with Cole, was one of just two pitchers to finish in the top-10 SP in each of the previous two seasons. Getting consistency there allows a club to take some risks with Trout, whose 3.6 points-per-game average from 2019 to 21 was the highest in the majors (by around 0.05 above Soto), while only appearing in 223 games.
Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, B
This hitter/ace combo would be difficult to defeat. When you’re in the midst of a draft round, not having to wait as long between choices provides a lot of benefits.
No. 7 in the draft
Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Trea Turner, Tre
Turner is a contentious option in points-based scoring, since players who receive a significant portion of their worth from speed are often undervalued, but I believe his game has more than enough offensive power. He also reaps the advantages of laying the groundwork for the game’s top lineup, cementing his status as a definite first-round pick. Despite likely slippage, Ray is a top-10 points league starter.
Mookie Betts, Mookie Karabell, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts
There’s nothing wrong with starting your draft with consecutive hitters, and Betts should be able to put up top-tier numbers once again. Because this is a roto-based scoring system, rather than a points system, one can afford to wait on pitchers.
No. 8 in the draft
Cockcroft: Max Scherzer in the first round, Bryce Harper in the second.
Despite throwing less innings than any of the four pitchers immediately behind him on the list, Scherzer finished second in fantasy points. That tells you all you need to know about his influence per start. If his age or previous history of minor ailments concerns you, remember that pairing him with a “consistency king” like Harper, or possibly a Freddie Freeman if he slips, would be a coup to start your draft.
Round 1: Eric Karabell Round 2: Gerrit Cole Kyle Tucker is a character in the film Kyle Tucker
Cole is my preferred starting pitcher, but depending on the league structure, I may choose to grab hitters with my first three or four choices before plunging into the SP pool. Tucker, on the other hand, is a rising star.
No. 9 in the draft
Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Bett
Betts has a chance to bounce back this season, in my opinion. Freeman is one of the highest-floor players in this format, thanks to a better chance of complete health and his arrival in Los Angeles. Buehler, on the other hand, is the defending No. 1 scorer.
Eric Karabell: Shohei Ohtani in the first round, Corbin Burnes in the second.
How about two pitchers? You said we should wait for pitchers, didn’t you? Relax. In a weekly transaction league, Ohtani is likely to fill your DH position without contributing to your pitching stats. Burnes, on the other hand, is the recipient of the Cy Young Award.
Number one pick in the draft0
Brandon Woodruff in the first round, Freddie Freeman in the second. Cockcroft: Brandon Woodruff in the first round, Freddie Freeman in the second round.
You won’t find a pair of choices that are more likely to stay within 10 points of their predicted totals than Woodruff and Freeman when it comes to consistency. I believe that your first-round (and typically second-round) choice should come the closest to reaching his forecast, particularly as the round progresses.
Eric Karabell: Freddie Freeman in the first round, Walker Buehler in the second.
For me, Freeman wraps up the first-round of batters, and Buehler is my No. 2 overall starter. If you’re stuck with the final choice in Round 1, this is a fantastic combination. Waiting doesn’t have to be so difficult!
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