Fantasy Baseball: Who Should You Draft First Overall?
Before we even get to the first pick, one of the biggest factors to success in your league is knowing the league rules. Familiarize yourself with whether your league is a points or categories league, the number of starting players at each position, the number of bench spots, the number of IL spots, how transactions can be made, whether there is a transaction limit, whether there is a transaction deadline, and position eligibility of the players in the player pool. This type of information can largely be found in the league settings tab of your league home page. If you cannot find any of this information, do not hesitate in reaching out to your commissioner.
Our posts will largely discuss the more popular category league format, which values batting average, unlike standard scoring points leagues. Categories league’s also present a level of strategy in building a balanced team with players that address each or most of the scored categories, unlike points leagues which boils every stat to an all-encompassing point total.
The most important tip I can give you for your first-round strategy, not just the first overall pick, is to walk away feeling like you drafted a sure thing and not a high-risk player. Leagues cannot be won in the first round, but they can be lost. For that reason, we would never take a player with a propensity for long-term injuries anywhere in the first round. Positional depth will matter in the later rounds, but it is not a factor for early first-round picks. Ultimately, your goal should be to draft a player that can substantially contribute in four or more categories, regardless of their position.
Although an argument can be made for taking a starting pitcher in the middle of the first round, I would never draft one with the first overall pick. Instead, I would target a hitter who will play every day who can contribute to 4+ of your league’s categories. In this post, we will discuss a few hitters who I consider viable first overall picks:
Juan Soto, Career: .301 BA, 98 HR, 312 RBI, 337 R, 32 SB
2021: .313 BA, 29 HR, 95 RBI, 111 R, 9 SB
At just 23-years old, Soto is arguably the best pure hitter in baseball. He possesses elite control of the strike zone and will likely be a top-5 fantasy pick for many years to come. If there was a knock on Soto’s approach at the plate, it would be his lack of discipline and unusually low launch angle. Nonetheless, the young outfielder has produced at a very solid rate and the potential for double-digit steals is a nice bonus. If someone in your league takes Soto first overall, I could not blame them.
Vlad Guerrero Jr., Career: .289 BA, 72 HR, 213 RBI, 209 R, 5 SB
2021: .311 BA, 48 HR, 111 RBI, 123 R, 4 SB
Before the 2020 season, Guerrero committed himself to a rigorous diet losing over 40 pounds in the process. The following season, his batting average soared as he led the league in homeruns and finished second in AL MVP voting in 2021. Vlad Jr. even stole a career high 4 SB, which I believe will go up in 2022. Guerrero, the son of a major league hall-of-famer, has the pedigree and the potential to be the best player in the league and is certainly worthy of the first overall pick.
Bryce Harper, Career: .279 BA, 267 HR, 752 RBI, 850 R, 111 SB
2021: .309 BA, 35 HR, 84 RBI, 101 R, 13 SB
It seems like most people are undervaluing the defending NL MVP as we head into the 2022 MLB season. When compared to the two hitters mentioned prior, Harper has the best launch angle of the group. The real issue with Harper, the 11-year veteran, is that we have seen him have down years and when he does, they are ugly. Still, at just 29-years old, Harper’s best years could still be ahead of him. Personally, as a Mets fan, I cannot say that I will be taking Harper first overall but even I could not blame someone if they did.
Trea Turner, Career: .303 BA, 103 HR, 334 RBI, 485 R, 203 SB
2021: .328 BA, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 107 R, 32 SB
If you like building around power, then the first three hitters are for you. If, like me, you want a 5-category hitter in the first round, look no further than Trea Turner. Last season, Turner was the only hitter with 25 homeruns, 25 stolen bases, and a batting average over .300. He also has multi-position eligibility across the middle of the infield. The only downside to drafting Turner, who plays in the NL, is that the amount of games he leads off in the lineup could limit his RBI (only 77 in 2022), but the new universal DH could help that number significantly in 2022. Trea Turner is my favorite first overall pick.
Bo Bichette, Career: .301 BA, 45 HR, 146 RBI, 171 R, 33 SB
2021: .298 BA, 29 HR, 102 RBI, 137 R, 25 SB
Truth be told, we wouldn’t actually pick Bichette over Turner, but his stats are so close that we wanted to mention him here anyway. Much like his teammate Vlad Jr., Bichette is a fourth-year pro and the son of a successful major leaguer, Dante Bichette. Bichette missed only 3 games in 2021 and exceeded everyone’s most lofty expectations. We mentioned Turner as the only hitter to exceed 25 HR, 25 SB, and maintain a .300 BA, but Bichette was just .002 away from joining him. Hitting in the heart of Toronto’s loaded lineup definitely helps and a case can be made to take Bichette, a 5-category hitter, over his high-profile teammate.
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