Here’s the good news for your 2022 fantasy baseball drafts: The first two rounds are just so talent-laden, it’s hard to question any decision you make. I have found that I don’t hesitate with my draft picks this year until at least Round 3. As long as you have a plan going in, you are going to be fine early on.
However, deciding which great player to pick can still cause some heartburn. In this article, we’ll discuss some strategies for how to navigate the first round of your draft, no matter where your team is slotted.
No. 1 pick
There are two general lines of thought here: You could go for the player with the most upside or the elite player with the highest floor.
If you want to shoot for the moon, Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. is the pick. A 50-homer, 30-steal year with a batting average around .290 is not out of the question. Nobody else offers that kind of ceiling, not to mention that Tatis is eligible in the infield and outfield. He’s not the safest player, of course, because his shoulder problems could continue to be an issue. But if you’re willing to accept that risk, take Tatis and enjoy.
Conversely, if you are wary of Tatis’ left shoulder subluxing three more times this season and want to be a little more cautious at No. 1, the best option is Nationals outfielder Juan Soto. Really high average, fine power numbers, no huge injury concerns, and let’s not overlook that he could add double-digit stolen bases on top of all his gaudy hitting stats. You just hope the Nationals’ offense gives its opponents a reason to pitch to the 23-year-old stud.
Top 5 pick
You are going to be sitting pretty if you have a pick anywhere in the top five. Beyond Tatis and Soto, there’s Trea Turner, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jose Ramirez, to name a few. You could put more names in that group depending on your league’s settings, but let’s just consider that quintet. No matter which player you draft, you’re going to have an edge on the rest of your league in some area; Turner is eligible at both middle infield positions and is elite when it comes to batting average and steals. It’s hard to match Vlad’s combination of power and pure hitting. Ramirez is a possible five-category threat who plays third base, a rather thin position.
If you are stuck with the No. 5 pick, the plan is simple: Let the chips fall where they may and just be happy with whoever is left on the board.
Middle of the first round
Let’s say you end up picking in the 6-10 range of your draft. Don’t fret at all. Again, there are a wealth of great choices here, even if they don’t quite match up to that top tier. This is the area where, in most standard leagues, I think you could start to think about drafting a pitcher; Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes have separated themselves from the pack. In my opinion, it’s a little too early for that, especially because someone such as Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, Zack Wheeler or Brandon Woodruff should be available to you in the second round.
This second tier of offensive players is pretty large. You’ll probably have Bo Bichette, Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Tucker, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr. all available to you. You could throw in Rafael Devers and/or Freddie Freeman as well. Yes, there are negatives to account for here. Some of these players have obvious injury concerns. Some of these players offer solid but not top-shelf production. Some of these players (well, namely Harper and Ohtani) are coming off seasons that they are frankly unlikely to repeat. Gauge your own risk-reward threshold. All of these guys could be league-winners if things break right.
End of the first round
Do you want to double up on hitters or do you want to create a foundation for your team at the plate and on the mound? That’s what you have to ask yourself if you are picking at the very back of the first round. I was in a draft recently where someone took Shohei Ohtani at 12 and followed up with Mike Trout on the turn. It’s pretty easy to see how that could go horribly wrong, but if health prevails for both, good lord.
Taking a pitcher here — Cole, Burnes, maybe even Buehler — is more reasonable at this point because when the draft comes back to you for the final pick of the third round, the best starter available may be ... Aaron Nola or Shane Bieber? Fine players both, but flawed aces.
To that end, don’t be afraid to take a player who might be perceived as a reach. If you grab a big bopper at the end of Round 1, maybe you consider Ozzie Albies or Starling Marte at the start of Round 2 in order to be viable in stolen bases. Those two probably won’t be considered the best players available, but they may not be on the board when you are on the clock next, so feel free to take one with the aim of constructing a well-rounded offense.