Fantasy Baseball Draft: Overrated, underrated and safest picks in Rounds 1-3

FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2018, file photo, Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Washington. If three-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer has his way, Major League Baseball's pitch clock will die in the South Florida humidity. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Where are you drafting Mad Max this season? (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

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 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.

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All staff composite rankings are to date, and subject to change.

Part I (Rounds 1-3) | Part II (Rounds 4-6) | Part III (Rounds 7-10)

Picks 1-10

[Positional Rankings: Top 300 Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | P ]

Safest Bet: Mike Trout – ADP 1, Staff Composite Ranking: 1

Is this a surprise for anyone? Let's talk about Mr. Trout for a moment. He’s been in the top-10 list for positional player WAR the last seven years (he’s been in the majors since 2011). He’s been an All-Star every year since 2012. Since 2012, he’s only finished under a .300 BA twice (.287 in 2014 and in 2015 ... when he finished at .299). He hasn’t hit under 25 home runs since 2011. His OPS+ hasn’t been under 150 since 2011. His OPS hasn’t been under .900 since 2011. He’s stolen double digit bases every year except 2011.

Basically, Mike Trout has been a fantasy gift every year since his rookie season, when he only played 40 games. At age 27, he’s a “don’t question it — just do it” pick.

Underrated: Max Scherzer – ADP 6, Staff Composite Ranking: 6

Drafting Max Scherzer in Round 1 isn't rare in most leagues; it's expected. With that said, let’s take it a step further, shall we? The argument can be made that Scherzer deserves to be higher up draft boards. Yes, Scherzer deserves a top-five ADP.

Hear me out. Mad Max finished 2018 as a top-five fantasy asset in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, and WHIP (for pitchers with over 150 IP). He finished as the No.1 value-based ranked pitcher, via FantasyPros. And sure, maybe he won’t repeat his beastly 300 strikeouts in 220 and 2/3 innings. Maybe he’ll have a higher WHIP than his hilariously low 0.91 in 2018. And maybe he won’t get as many wins as he did on a Nats team sans Bryce Harper. Fine. But if his last four seasons are any indication, Scherzer ain’t slowing down.

Overrated: Ronald Acuna Jr – ADP 10, Staff Composite Ranking: 8

Maybe it was his excellent rookie year; maybe it was the injury to Francisco Lindor; or maybe it’s his pedigree (Acuna was the MLB’s No. 2 rated prospect going into the 2018 season). Whatever the reason, the youngster going into his second year is slated to come off the board before the end of the first round.

Acuna is a truly gifted player who dominated the minor leagues and brought that success with him to the majors (.293 BA, 26 HR, .917 OPS in 2018). I fully expect him to bring his fantasy owners much success in 2019. All that said, I just wouldn’t have him ahead of someone like Jose Altuve or Aaron Judge at the very end of a 12-team draft. Don’t underestimate teams’ ability to figure a young player out; as much as I expect Acuna to continue his ascent, I also expect some growing pains, and maybe even a sophomore slump sometime in 2019 (we saw it with teammate, Ozzie Albies, in the second half of last season). That’s why I’ll look elsewhere if I have a pick between 9th and 12th in the first round.

Picks 11-20

Safest bet: Freddie Freeman – ADP 16, Staff Composite Ranking: 16

How can you not love Freddie Freeman? The 29-year-old is a career .293 hitter and is usually either the first or second first baseman off fantasy boards. He fills four categories with above-average numbers, and in 2018, he stole a career-high 10 bags. Sure, speed has never been his strong suit, but the willingness to run is another caveat that comes with Freeman.

Oh, and he’s already hit two bombs in Spring Training this year. He’s as solid as they come, especially at a position lacking category-stuffing options.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit
Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Underrated: Alex Bregman – ADP 17, Staff Composite Ranking: 14

I really like Alex Bregman. I’d take him in the first round of a 15-team league draft. Sure, he’s probably not gonna put up a gaudy batting average like his tiny infield teammate, but if last season is any indication, the best is yet to come with Bregman. He put up MVP-caliber numbers last season, hitting 31 home runs (up from 19 in 2017). He’s also shown good speed and is obviously one of the more passionate players in the league. He finds himself surrounded by the Judges and Stantons and Harpers and Machados — not to mention the deGroms — of the world at his current ADP, but at just 24 years old, Bregman has the potential to stand toe-to-toe with those giants.

Overrated: Giancarlo Stanton – ADP 17, Staff Composite Ranking: 19

Speaking of giants, the former NL MVP didn’t have the ideal 2018 in pinstripes. Sure, he hit 38 bombs, but he also struck out 211 times in 617 at-bats. Stanton is just one of those guys who you’re unfortunately going to have to suffer with in some categories, and at his current ADP, I think you can find better multi-category guys (like a Javier Baez or a Manny Machado) to build your team around. The current price for Stanton is just too steep for me. Oh, and the indomitable Dalton Del Don had a great point about how his launch angle has changed.

Picks 21-30

Safest bet: Charlie Blackmon – ADP 24, Staff Composite Ranking: 26

Gotta love a power hitter playing in Coors Field. I’ve seen Blackmon fall past the second round and I’ve seen him go at the top of the second in mocks. Seems like the jury is out on opinions of him. One thing that isn’t an opinion is that he’s scored over 100 runs in three consecutive seasons, and he’s a legitimate 20-20 threat (he stole 17 bags in 2016, and how can we forget when he stole 43 in 2015). He’s 32, but if he returns to his running ways, he’ll be an even bigger category-stuffer worthy of a higher draft pick.

Underrated: Javier Baez – ADP 21, Staff Composite Ranking: 18

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to Baez. One side argues that last season — .290 BA, 34 HR, 111 RBI — was a fluke; a blip on the radar. Others believe it’s a sign of a player reaching his prime. I tend to err on the side of the latter.

Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez throws to first base for an out during the third inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Regression could be in the cards for Javy Baez — or another career-year. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A lot of Baez’s attraction stems from his multi-position eligibility, but consider this. Other than a short 2015 season stunted by early struggles, a broken finger, and a death in the family, Baez’s career numbers have been steadily growing year by year. He played a whopping 160 games last season. At age 26, Baez is in prime position to blow his career highs out of the water in 2019. Sure, his plate discipline — he has a walk rate of under 5% and a strikeout rate of over 25% — raises red flags, but the upside is still too great when you can play him at three different positions. He’s a steal for me at his current ADP.

Overrated: Juan Soto – ADP 30, Staff Composite Ranking: 27

Full disclosure: Juan Soto helped one of my fantasy teams immensely in 2018, and I picked him up off waivers. His “overrated” designation is more about his ADP than anything else. Soto dominated the minor league system and had a historic rookie season. But would I take him ahead of Blake Snell, Gerrit Cole, or even Whit Merrifield? I would not. There’s plenty of outfield power available at much cheaper prices going forward in most drafts. Soto will have to shoulder more of a load now that Bryce Harper is gone, and I don’t think he’s quite ready to be “the guy” yet — Soto slugged just .236 and batted .181 with runners in scoring position after the 2018 All-Star break.

Opposing teams will also have no doubt taken notice of Soto’s struggles with off-speed pitches in 2018 (he was in the bottom-10 of every major off-speed and low pitch tracker after the All-Star Break), going into Year 2. He also hasn’t shown a tendency to run (just 14 total stolen bases in both the minor and major leagues).

Sure, pointing out his negatives under a sea of positives is probably nitpicking, but at his current price, the 20 year old is just too expensive for me. With all that said, I’m bracing myself for the moment this whole paragraph comes back to haunt me after Soto goes .350/.450/.600 in 2019 ...

Stay tuned for ADP Analysis Part 2 (Picks 31-60) …

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