Ranking the safest first-round picks in fantasy baseball drafts

·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Few players in fantasy drafts have delivered an investment return the way Nolan Arenado has. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Admit it: You love safety. As much as a wild weekend in Vegas sews a few oats once a year, your life is built around routines, stability, and boatloads of insurance. And in reality, your fantasy baseball life is not much different than your actual one.

While we are all enticed by the roller-coaster ride that will come with owning a 21-year-old Ronald Acuna, most of our spidey-senses tell us that a safe player in the first round allows us to survive six months of injuries and ineffectiveness from some of our subsequent picks.

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For those who have rejected ripped jeans and accepted their fate of wearing pleated khakis, here are the initial 12 players in Yahoo ADP, ranked according to risk aversion.

Nolan Arenado (ADP-3)

With offense-enhancing Coors Field as his backdrop for 81 games, Arenado has become the metronome for fantasy power production. The durable slugger has appeared in at least 156 games for four consecutive seasons, batting over .285 in each year and averaging 40 homers, 126 RBIs and 104 runs scored. Arenado gets the ultimate safety grade.

Mookie Betts (ADP-2)

Sure, Betts missed some time last season, but durability doesn’t seem like an issue for a 26-year-old who has averaged 148 games across the past four years. With a broad skill set that can result in 30 homers or steals and a .300 average, Betts has room to fluctuate in any single category and still rank among the studs.

Mike Trout (ADP-1)

Trout deserves his No. 1 overall draft ranking, but he can’t be called the safest first-round pick when he has missed chunks of time in each of the past two seasons. Still, the Millville Meteor is so talented that he can produce at a Rd. 1 level without enjoying a full compliment of games.

Jose Ramirez (ADP-6)

With premium durability and two straight years as a fantasy stud, the 26-year-old Ramirez is among the safest Rd. 1 options. The multi-position asset was baseball’s only player to post a 30-30-100-100 campaign in 2018, and he has also hit over .310 in two of the past three years.

Christian Yelich (ADP-7)

The reigning NL MVP, Yelich is likely coming off his career year (36 HR, 22 SB, 110 RBI, 118 R, .326 BA). But with previous career highs of 21 homers, 98 RBIs, 100 runs scored, 21 steals and a .300 average, the five-category stud who has played in more than 140 games in four of the past five seasons should be somewhere between very good and great this year.

J.D. Martinez (ADP-4)

Martinez has been arguably baseball’s best power hitter in the past two seasons, tallying 88 homers, 234 RBIs and 196 runs scored. He is also a super-safe batting average source who has batted at least .300 in four of the past five years. Still, being on the wrong side of 30 and having played in more than 123 games just twice in his career keeps the veteran from climbing any higher on the safety list.

Max Scherzer (ADP-5)

If players achieved their safety ranking solely via past production, Scherzer might top this list. After all, the righty has posted a sub-3.00 ERA, a WHIP below 1.00 and more than 265 whiffs in each of his four seasons with the Nats. But the reality is that starters have higher bust potential once they get on the wrong side of 30, and Scherzer will turn 35 in late July.

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

Trea Turner (ADP-9)

Turner is an excellent option in the middle of Rd. 1, as he could lead the Majors in steals while also producing a lofty batting mark (career .289 average) and his share of pop (19 homers in 2018). But with just one season of more than 100 games under his belt, the 25-year-old can’t be considered a safe first rounder. Additionally, experienced owners know that the smallest of leg injuries can quickly deflate the value of speedsters.

Chris Sale (ADP-10)

Although Sale can match any hurler in terms of his per-start production, he owns some newfound durability concerns after snapping a three-year stretch of 200 innings when he tossed just 158 frames last season. His shoulder woes from 2018 will keep him low on the safety list, and he will also cross the age-30 threshold shortly after he makes an expected start on Opening Day.

Ronald Acuna (ADP-8)

As a 21 year old who hit .293 with 26 homers and 16 steals in just 111 games during his rookie season, Acuna oozes the kind of potential that gets fantasy owners’ blood boiling in Rd. 1. But there are obvious safety risks with using a first rounder on a youngster who has yet to play a full season in the Majors.

Aaron Judge (ADP-12)

Judge is built like a superhero, but he could become a villain for those who tab him over safer options such as Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve or Manny Machado. After all, the imposing slugger has just one healthy season on his current resume and has already dealt with shoulder woes in 2017 and a fractured wrist last season.

Francisco Lindor (ADP-11)

After producing 71 homers, 40 steals, 181 RBIs and 228 runs scored across the past two seasons, the 25-year-old Lindor was poised to be a top-5 option on the safety list. But the shortstop is suddenly a risky first-round pick, as a calf strain should sideline him through Opening Day and may impact his plate skills and base-running aggressiveness when he returns.

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