Using a mix of Yahoo’s average draft position (ADP) and the staff rankings that create a composite score among three Yahoo analysts, we will present a road map through the first 100 picks to come off the board in a typical Fantasy Baseball draft.
By breaking things down into segments of 10 picks at a time (as part of a larger three-part series) to highlight the safest bet, plus an underrated and overrated player, you are sure to come away with a more streamlined and less overwhelming way to plot out a course for a successful draft. While unexpected twists and turns develop in any draft and league sizes vary, walking in prepared is the best way to come out with a competitive squad.
And in 2020, when nothing is assured and the season is unlike any other, preparation is the ultimate key to fantasy success!
All staff composite rankings are to date, and subject to change.
Picks 1-30 | Picks 31-60 (below) | Picks 61-100
Safest Bet: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers – ADP 35, Staff Composite Ranking: 30
It feels like Clayton Kershaw has been doing it forever, but he’s still just 32 years old. He’s dealt with his fair share of injuries the past few seasons, but when he’s on, Kershaw has shown the capability to deliver elite, ace-level production.
The key to seeing Kershaw as a safe pick in 2020 is two-fold; his diminishing skills as a workhorse innings-eater don’t hurt as much in a season that’s already being shortened. And perhaps more importantly, Kershaw won’t hurt you in any pitching ratio during the shortened season. He’s been able to keep his WHIP under 1.05 and his ERA under 3.05 each of the last four years — all years in which he’s pitched less than 180 innings.
You might talk yourself out of selecting Kershaw in this spot during a normal MLB season, citing a lack of upside, but in 2020, Kershaw’s safety is exactly what we want.
Underrated: Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs – ADP 39, Staff Composite Ranking: 36
Kris Bryant might not put up the gaudy numbers some of the other star hitters in his age range do, but he’s seemingly been dismissed in some circles as old news.
Bryant is what I like to call a foolproof hitter. He won’t hurt you in batting average. He’ll give you anywhere between 25-35 home runs. He’s pretty much a lock to score 100 runs. You’d love to see more RBI and more stolen bases, but he won’t hurt you in either category — and hey, this is why he’s in the fourth round.
Bryant has also become a terror for left-handed pitching; he owns an OPS of 1.092 (225 PA's) against LHP since the start of 2018, the third-best mark in MLB, according to Inside Edge.
Ultimately, Bryant’s skills (and untapped potential — he could be a four-category stud if you don’t classify him as one already) deserve more attention. And with his lifetime OBP mark of .385, we might catch a glimpse (since it’s a shortened season) of the best Bryant yet with him batting leadoff (a lineup slot that may induce him to go for more steals?) for the Cubs.
Overrated: Charlie Blackmon, OF, Colorado Rockies – ADP 34, Staff Composite Ranking: 32
Much of the same concerns I have about Trevor Story in 2020 which I outlined in Part 1 of this series ring true for Charlie Blackmon. In a regular year, I’d be completely fine with him at this point in a draft. In 2020, I’m not so sure.
Like Story, Blackmon suffers from some severe home/road splits that would come into play if, for safety issues, Coors Field becomes a site deemed unplayable at some point this season (CAREER HOME: .349/.407/.590 ; CAREER AWAY: .261/.313/.430). Unlike Story, Blackmon is 34 years old and, if the last two seasons are any indication, isn’t really a stolen-base threat anymore.
Basically, by selecting him at this point in the draft, you’re banking on Blackmon to deliver at the plate the same way he would in a regular year (which is elite production) — except this is very far from a regular year.
Safest Bet: Josh Hader, RP, Milwaukee Brewers – ADP 44, Staff Composite Ranking: 60
It’s always tough to be the one who takes the first closer off the board in a fantasy draft. I am not an advocate for it by any means — in fact, I almost always wait on a closer. With that said, if you line up the players available between picks 41-50 in current Yahoo ADP, it’s hard to argue with the safety Hader provides.
He’s earned the title of undisputed closer in Milwaukee, but not only that, he’s often used in multiple-inning, high-leverage situations which further boost his ceiling. That ridiculous K/9 isn’t going down anytime soon either — he’s owned a strikeout rate of 47.2 percent (281 Ks in 595 PAs) since the start of 2018, which is the best among qualified RPs in MLB, according to Inside Edge.
The league average strikeout rate during that span was 25.1%.
So, while you might not agree with taking a closer this early, it’s hard to argue with the stability and safety Hader provides at the fantasy RP position.
Underrated: Chris Paddack, SP, San Diego Padres – ADP 49, Staff Composite Ranking: 42
Remember how we were all worried about an innings limit holding Chris Paddack back in 2019? How the Padres would probably send him down to the minors for a couple of starts, to protect him?
Well, it happened in 2019 — but that fear is pretty much nonexistent in 2020.
The shortened season is enough to limit Paddack’s innings by itself — but this time, it works to our advantage. The Padres are free to unleash the 24-year-old during this short season without worry about an increased workload.
And they should unleash him. Paddack has elite stuff, and at times last year showcased an ace-like ability to completely shut down a lineup. Remember, this is a guy whose ERA never went over 2.50 during his minor league career. I’m 100% down to select a starter with Cy Young upside who won’t be held back by an innings limit in the fifth round of 2020 drafts.
Overrated: Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals — ADP 45, Staff Composite Ranking: 47
How much do you value speed?
That is the question surrounding a player like Mondesi, an exciting talent who can dominate the stolen base category by himself but who suffers from very poor plate discipline that negatively affects his hitting ratios (his K percentage of 29.8 was clearly at odds with his BB percentage of just 4.3, which no doubt contributed to his underwhelming average and OBP marks from 2019).
You probably don’t have to shoot for the stars in the stolen base category — Fred Zinkie discusses more steals strategy here — in a shortened season such as the one we’re about to be faced with.
He’s not gonna wow you with batting average, nor is there anything in his profile that says he’ll suddenly start mashing dingers. But again, if you value stolen bases, go for Mondesi at his current ADP. If not, Keston Hiura — a more well-rounded hitter at this stage in their careers who can get you a couple of bags — is available five picks later.
Safest Bet: Zack Greinke, SP, Houston Astros – ADP 52, Staff Composite Ranking: 46
What Zack Greinke has done the past few years of his career deserves applause. Working with diminished velocity and on three different teams, Greinke has been able to succeed at an elite level.
When a pitcher can adapt to their own declining physical skills and make it work, fantasy managers should always take notice.
Using extreme control to dominate hitters — he walked 30 of 810 batters (3.7%) last season, third-best among qualified SPs in MLB — as opposed to overpowering velocity, Greinke delivered a fifth-straight 1.0-or-less WHIP season in 2019.
Yeah, he’s kind of old and kind of boring, but a savvy veteran pitcher like Greinke will be a great foundational piece to any fantasy rotation this season.
Underrated: Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians – ADP 51, Staff Composite Ranking: 65
Mike Clevinger would be a third-round pick if it wasn’t for his injury history, the latest of which includes a knee injury. Instead, you have a guy who, take away the injuries, could probably be a fantasy ace falling to the fifth round.
Like Justin Verlander, however, the long layoff since the start of the original spring training has helped Clevinger recover, with news coming that he’ll be “good to go” for the season.
So what we have here is a healthy pitcher who has won over 10 games the last three seasons while also averaging a FIP of 3.28 and a career swinging strike percentage of 12.6% — in 2019, that number was an elite 15.2%.
Injury concerns are very real. But at this point in the draft, getting a pitcher of Clevinger’s caliber in the fifth round for a 60-game season is worth the risk.
Overrated: Kirby Yates, RP, San Diego Padres – ADP 59, Staff Composite Ranking: 40
Full disclosure: It is DIFFICULT to find a player who is overrated at this point in drafts. More often than not there are exceptional pitchers and hitters available in the fifth round. As such, placing Yates in the overrated category is more about his chances for regression than it is about him as a closer.
Yates put together a monstrous 2019, securing a whopping 41 saves and delivering a hilarious 1.19 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Those are video game numbers.
And because those are video game numbers, I fully expect some form of regression here, especially when you consider that his 2019 BABIP of .325 was 25 points higher than his career mark.
Again, Yates has the look of an elite closer, but I’d rather go for more safety at the closer position.