With the regular season on the horizon, this is the time to start drafting your fantasy baseball teams for 2023. Whether you have started your draft preparation or if you are looking for last-minute tips, we have you covered. In this article, we will give an overview of the first round and some tidbits on when to address certain positions.
For the purpose of this mock draft, we are going with a 12-team 4x4 rotisserie league. The default hitting categories are batting average, home runs, RBI and stolen bases, with wins, saves, ERA and WHIP as the pitching categories. If you are in a 5x5 rotisserie league, the first round of your draft will likely not change all that much, as it typically just adds runs scored for hitters and strikeouts for pitchers.
Also, the perceived roster construction will follow the default at ESPN.com, so C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, UTIl, 7 pitchers and 3 bench spots.
First round pick
1.01 — Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
1.02 — Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
1.03 — Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners
1.04 — Trea Turner, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
1.05 — Ronald Acuna Jr, OF, Atlanta Braves,
1.06 — Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Guardians
1.07 — Juan Soto, OF, San Diego Padres
1.08 — Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
1.09 — Mookie Betts, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
1.10 — Freddie Freeman, 1B, Dodgers
1.11 — Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
1.12 — Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
One thing to notice about the first round, other than Ohtani’s secondary position, is that no pitchers go in the first round. If you want to go pitcher-heavy and select someone other than Ohtani in the first, I would say that your league would need to be heavy on pitcher stats to make it worth it.
The beauty of fantasy baseball is that no team leaves the first round in a bad position. Judge and Rodriguez are two premiere outfielders. Turner is coming off a huge World Baseball Classic and could be the steal of drafts if he maintains the power that he is displaying. Acuna, Ramirez and Soto are all perennial MVP candidates.
Tucker at the 1.08 could be considered a reach, but he is consistently ranked in the top 10 heading into this season. He continues to improve and will be called on to take a step forward this year, especially as long as Jose Altuve is sidelined with his broken thumb. From the top of the round to the bottom, each team has a solid foundation to work with.
When to draft your first pitcher?
The first pitchers, outside of Ohtani, should start falling in the second round. Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara and Gerrit Cole should be among the first arms off the board. If you wanted to mix in Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander at the backend of the second round, that isn’t too much of a reach. Your should try and roster your first ace in the second or third round so that you have a reliable hitter and pitcher as you progress.
When to draft a relief pitcher?
You need to have a strategy for how you are going to approach relievers. Let’s say that you are going to roster eight total pitchers. Are you going to draft six starters and two relievers? Fvie starters and three relievers? All starters and just pass on potentially earning saves? Any of these strategies can work, but you want to think about it so you know how much of each type of pitcher you need to draft.
Emmanuel Clase has the ADP as the top reliever for fantasy baseball. He is being drafted at the end of the fifth round. If you want to draft him there you can, but you may be better off waiting and drafting Jordan Romano, Ryan Pressly and Kenley Jansen as your main reliever in the seventh and eighth rounds.
Luis Arraez is one of my favorite sleepers this season. You’d think the player with the fourth-best batting average a year ago wouldn't be a sleeper, but he is being drafted in the 17th round. Yes, he is on the Miami Marlins this season, but don’t let that deter you from picking up Arraez especially with his positional versatility between 1B and 2B.
New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga is a tough one to judge with this being his first year in the major leagues. He is expected to be the No. 3 starter for the Mets and is being drafted in the 15th round. Senga has an infamous fastball and the power of the New York lineup behind him and could be an absolute steal in fantasy baseball this year.
Players to fade
Dansby Swanson is heading into the first year of his seven-year deal that he signed with the Chicago Cubs in free agency. The shortstop is coming off a career year hitting .277 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI in 162 games last season. While the projections for the Cubs look better, they aren’t expected to have the same performance that the Atlanta Braves are. Yes, his individual stats are important, but be surrounding by talented players with upside can help you increase your production. Swanson is being drafted at the start of the seventh round, in front of Jeremy Pena, O’Neill Cruz and Wander Franco.
Other players to fade include Chris Bassitt of the Toronto Blue Jays, J.D. Martinez on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jordan Walker of the St. Louis Cardinals. Walker could be in for a big year, but he is blocked in several positions by the strength of the Cards lineup.
The thing to remember in drafts is to go in with a strategy and breathe. The ticking timer and the alarm like sounds when your time is winding down can throw you off. If someone unexpected falls to you, check your roster construction and see if it makes sense to pounce. Otherwise, stick to your gameplan and draft players you want to root for as you go through the lengthy season.