2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Outline – Who To Target And When

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

It’s draft season, which means you better get prepped before you’re on the clock without an idea of who you should pick. Lucky for you – and everyone who I’m in a league with – I’m going to outline my entire draft plan for 2018, from who I’m targeting in each round to which positions I’m focusing on getting early in the draft and those to wait on. All my favorite players are here in one place for each position, with a round-by-round outline at the end.

Before we begin, there are a few things to note:

  • This outline is meant for a redraft, 12-teamer 5×5 league. It still applies to most variants, but obviously, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.
  • I have purposefully left some holes since drafts are fluid creatures that need affection and constant-attention to nail down just right.
  • Don’t follow this so rigidly that when Chris Archer falls to the 8th round you ignore him.
  • Round targets are created based around Fantasy Pros’ ADP, which merges NFBC, Yahoo, and CBS data. They are a rough estimation and should give you a general idea of when you should be looking to grab them.
  • There are certain players that have round labels well before or after their ADP. Either I want to reach or I’ve seen them fall constantly and will watch their stock mid-draft.
  • These aren’t the only players  I’m looking to draft, but they are the ones that I’m hoping fall to the right place.

Catchers

I am completely on board the Gary Sanchez train, and would be fine taking him inside the Top 20 if the draft goes that way – though I’ve seen him available around the turn a good amount. If I’m not getting Sanchez, I’m hoping to steal Evan Gattis around the 14th, but I won’t reach if I don’t feel confident in my rotation yet. After Gattis, I’ll wait until the later rounds to grab one of Wilson Ramos, Welington Castillo, Yadier Molina, or even Yasmani Grandal.

  • Gary Sanchez – End 2nd/Start 3rd Round
  • Evan Gattis – 14th Round
  • Wilson Ramos/Welington Castillo/Yadier Molina – 17th+ Round

First Basemen

My philosophy with first basemen comes with a little fluctuation. If I have an early pick, hope to get Anthony Rizzo at the end of the second or target Edwin in the 5th. If that fails, reach a little to go after Justin Smoak or settle for Matt Olson or Greg Bird near pick #120 – Keep in mind, you can slot Rizzo at 2B this season, meaning even if you snag him, don’t pass up other targets if they fall to you. If I have a late pick, I’m all for leaving the first two rounds with one of Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman or Joey Votto. Additionally, your UTIL will most likely be filled by a 1B, making me happy to take a chance on Ryan Zimmermann or Josh Bell, or even consider Trey Mancini to have a productive season much later in the draft. Justin Bour, Jose Martinez, and Hanley Ramirez make for solid value picks as well deep in your draft.

  • Paul Goldschmidt – Late 1st Round
  • Freddie Freeman – Early 2nd Round
  • Joey Votto – Mid 2nd Round
  • Anthony Rizzo – Late 2nd Round
  • Cody Bellinger – 3rd Round
  • Edwin Encarnacion – 5th Round
  • Justin Smoak – 9th/10th/11th Round
  • Matt Olson – 11th Round
  • Greg Bird – 12th Round
  • Ryan Zimmermann/Josh Bell – 14th Round
  • Trey Mancini – 18th/19th Round
  • Justin Bour/Jose Martinez/Hanley Ramirez – 20th+ Round

Second Basemen

If you have the second pick, I’m all for getting Altuve, but not the first. Otherwise, Anthony Rizzo is a steal given his 2B eligibility (only in non-ESPN leagues) as I’m not a huge fan of the later 2B options. Jonathan Schoop should give you excellent production from 2B in the sixth round, though unless I get Trea Turner or a pair of speedy outfielders, I may elect to chase Ozzie Albies or Whit Merrifield instead. Chris Taylor makes for a sturdy 2B without the same speed but solid production, while Javier Baez can be that speed replacement if needed. Scooter Gennett and Jason Kipnis make for fun upside grabs given the situation where you’re waiver wire hunting to start the season.

  • Jose Altuve – #2 pick or later
  • Anthony Rizzo – Mid/Late 2nd Round (Only in non-ESPN leagues)
  • Jonathan Schoop – 6th Round
  • Ozzie Albies/Whit Merrifield/Chris Taylor – 8th/9th/10th Round
  • Javier Baez – 12th Round
  • Scooter Gennett/Jason Kipnis – 20th+ Round

Third Basemen

The hot corner is plenty deep as many have detailed this spring, though I wouldn’t be turning down the high floor of Nolan Arenado early in the draft. Manny Machado should be drafted for his shortstop eligibility, and Kris Bryant makes for an easy second-round pick given his strong foundation. Josh Donaldson could easily return first round value and he’s going near the start of the third round, making him another no-brainer. After that is where it gets interesting. Justin Turner is always productive when playing and in the seventh round, you could get plenty of bang for your buck. My most popular move has been targetting Nick Castellanos or Adrian Beltre in the 10th or 11th rounds, marking the end of a tier for third basemen – often owners already have their slot filled in their lineup, allowing these two to fall farther than they should. Eugenio Suarez is a decent backup if you miss out on a third baseman, while Matt Chapman could be a surprising play if you’re desperate for a fill in.

  • Nolan Arenado – #4 pick or later
  • Manny Machado – Late 1st Round
  • Kris Bryant – Early 2nd Round
  • Josh Donaldson – 3rd Round
  • Justin Turner – 7th Round He’s hurt 🙁
  • Nick Castellanos/Adrian Beltre – 10th/11th Round
  • Eugenio Suarez – 17th Round
  • Matt Chapman – 20th+ Round

Shortstops

I’m fully on the Trea Turner train as his ability to swipe bags frees up plenty of your draft if you can snag him. Manny Machado’s production at SS shouldn’t be ignored late in the first round, while I’m buying the power boost in Francisco Lindor last season. I’m not as high on Elvis Andrus, but he’s still worth your pick given how his falling draft stock, while Jean Segura may be my favorite of the lot in the 6th round to return possible Top 3 SS value. Didi Gregorius will still be effective even if he bats 6th in a monstrous New York lineup, and Javier Baez can help with stolen bases if needed. Your backup plan should be rolling the dice on Jorge Polanco who can build upon an excellent second half to well outperform his ADP.

  • Trea Turner – #3 Pick or later
  • Manny Machado – Late 1st Round
  • Francisco Lindor – Late 2nd Round
  • Jean Segura/Elvis Andrus – 5th/6th/7th Round
  • Didi Gregorius – 10th Round
  • Javier Baez – 12th Round
  • Jorge Polanco – 20th Round Update: Suspended for 80 games. Womp womp.

Outfielders

Get Mike Trout. The middle of the first round is a tougher call and while I rank them as Mookie Betts, Charlies Blackmon, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper, you should feel comfortable with any if you have a middle pick. JD Martinez is getting a discount based on health history, but he could see some time at DH in Boston and is as elite as they come when on the field, while I’ve seen Aaron Judge get pushed into the start of the third round as well. George Springer and Cody Bellinger round out a tier of stud “first three round hitters” and I’m hoping to see one still available if I’m in the middle of the round. Marcell Ozuna should continue to produce in St. Louis, but if I need speed, I may favor Christian Yellich or Starling Marte in the fifth instead. Khris Davis is an excellent value pick if focusing on average/speed early, while the concerns of Domingo Santana’s playing time have brought his price down to a profitable level. I’d love to take a chance on Ronald Acuna in the 11th round, and if I need speed I’m considering Adam Eaton, Ender Inciarte, or Manuel Margot around the 12-14th rounds. There are plenty of upside picks as well in the latter part of the draft, with Brett Gardner and Nomar Mazara not getting enough love, and Michael Conforto acting as your prime DL stash. Lewis Brinson, Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Martinez, and Aaron Hicks should be considered as late fliers, with Willie Calhoun bounced due to his option to Triple-A.

  • Mike Trout – Yes
  • Mookie Betts/Charlie Blackmon/Giancarlo Stanton/Bryce Harper – Mid-to-Late 1st Round
  • JD Martinez/Aaron Judge – Late 2nd Round/Early 3rd Round
  • George Springer/Cody Bellinger – 3rd Round
  • Marcell Ozuna – 4th Round
  • Christian Yelich/Starling Marte – 5th Round
  • Khris Davis – 7th Round
  • Domingo Santana – 9th Round
  • Ronald Acuna – 11th Round
  • Adam Eaton/Ender Inciarte/Manuel Margot – 12th/13th/14th Round
  • Brett Gardner/Michael Conforto/Nomar Mazara – 18th/19th Round
  • Lewis Brinson/Carlos Gonzalez/Jose Martinez/Aaron Hicks – 20th+ Round

Starting Pitchers

You’ll notice that I don’t like to go after the Top 4 studs as I believe the biggest value is to be gained going after hitters predominately for the first three rounds. The one exception is if Luis Severino or Jacob deGrom are around after guys like George Springer and Cody Bellinger get drafted, or I’d consider any Top 10 starter at the end of the third round if I’m not liking my hitter options. In the fourth, I’m still buying Zack Greinke even with his recent “injury” that should at most only cost him one start – a small price to pay for a season’s worth of production. I’m hoping to have a starter exiting the 4th round, but if not, I’d consider going for Aaron Nola in the fifth, preferably waiting until the sixth. David Price, Luis Castilloand Zack Godley will be the focus of rounds 7-9. aiming to snag two of them and leaving the first ten rounds with 2-3 starters. Then it gets a little messy. I’m hoping to get up to about three or four more starters across the next ten rounds, targeting Michael Fulmer, Sonny Gray, Chase Anderson, Garrett Richards, Mike Clevinger, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, Jake Faria, Lucas Giolito, Sean Manaea, and Patrick CorbinThis is by far the toughest part to gauge, and shift around appropriately based on the names coming off the board and when. I normally aim for eight starters entering the year, with the final one or two acting as upside plays that can be swapped on the wire through the year. My favorites out of the gate are Reynaldo Lopez, Luiz Goharaand Jack Flahertybut don’t reach for them.

Relief Pitchers

The goal here is to grab a pair of closers I can rely on, but not overspend to go for three out of the gate, or not panic if I don’t get a top 10 reliever. It’s alright, you’ll find saves elsewhere and crafting your foundations in hitters/starters is plenty more important. Given that I’m going to most likely be targeting a start or two in the early mid rounds, I’ll grab my first closer around the ninth or tenth round in one of Felipe Rivero, Ken Giles, or Roberto Osuna, in that order. Each has a secure job and come with excellent strikeout upside without a dramatic walk rate. I rarely will get two unless one falls an extra round, and I’ll turn one of Brad Hand, Hector Neris, or Sean Doolittle around the 12th or 13th to get my second reliever. I’ve had mocks where I’m able to snag one of Blake Treinen, Kelvin Herrera, Fernando Rodney, or Brad Brach in the later rounds of the draft, but be cautious. It’s more important to make sure there are no holes in your rotation and lineup before snagging that third closer.

  • Felipe Rivero/Ken Giles/Roberto Osuna – 9th/10th Round
  • Brad Hand/Hector Neris/Sean Doolittle – 11th/12th/13th Round
  • Blake Treinen/Kelvin Herrera – 15th/16th Round
  • Fernando Rodney/Brad Brach – 20th+ Round

Round by Round

For many, I’m sure it would be helpful to have all targets listed out here for each round as a way to keep track of these targets as your draft chugs along. Players are grouped and ordered per round based on position (not preference) save for when there are specific early round choices.

Remember, don’t stick to this religiously, but use them as an aid.

Round 1

  • Mike Trout – #1 Pick
  • Jose Altuve – #2 Pick
  • Trea Turner – #3 Pick
  • Nolan Arenado – #4 Pick
  • Mookie Betts/Charlie Blackmon/Giancarlo Stanton/Bryce Harper
  • Manny Machado – Late
  • Paul Goldschmidt – Late

Round 2

  • Freddie Freeman – Early
  • Kris Bryant – Early
  • Joey Votto – Middle
  • Anthony Rizzo – Late
  • Francisco Lindor – Middle
  • Gary Sanchez
  • JD Martinez/Aaron Judge – Late

Round 3: 

  • JD Martinez/Aaron Judge – Early
  • Josh Donaldson – Early
  • Cody Bellinger
  • George Springer
  • Luis SeverinoLate

Round 4: 

Round 5: 

  • Christian Yelich/Starling Marte
  • Edwin Encarnacion
  • Jean Segura/Elvis Andrus
  • Aaron Nola

Round 6: 

  • Jonathan Schoop
  • Jean Segura/Elvis Andrus
  • Aaron Nola

Round 7: 

Round 8: 

Round 9:

  • Justin Smoak
  • Ozzie Albies/Whit Merrifield/Chris Taylor
  • Domingo Santana
  • Felipe Rivero/Ken Giles/Roberto Osuna

Round 10:

  • Justin Smoak
  • Ozzie Albies/Whit Merrifield/Chris Taylor
  • Nick Castellanos/Adrian Beltre
  • Didi Gregorius
  • Felipe Rivero/Ken Giles/Roberto Osuna

Round 11:

  • Justin Smoak
  • Matt Olson/Ronald Acuna
  • Nick Castellanos/Adrian Beltre
  • Brad Hand/Hector Neris/Sean Doolittle

Round 12:

  • Greg Bird
  • Javier Baez
  • Adam Eaton/Ender Inciarte/Manuel Margot
  • Brad Hand/Hector Neris/Sean Doolittle

Round 13:

Round 14: 

Round 15:

Round 16:

Round 17: 

Round 18:

Round 19: 

Round 20+ :

  • Wilson Ramos/Welington Castillo/Yadier Molina
  • Justin Bour/Jose Martinez/Hanley Ramirez
  • Scooter Gennett/Jason Kipnis
  • Matt Chapman
  • Jorge Polanco
  • Lewis Brinson/Carlos Gonzalez/Jose Martinez/Aaron Hicks
  • Reynaldo Lopez/Luiz Gohara/Jack Flaherty
  • Fernando Rodney/Brad Brach
Nick Pollack

Founder of PitcherList.com. Rotographs and Washington Post contributor and has worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

sdf

Comments


bbboston

Sorry. Off-topic, but would love to hear your thoughts on my keeper list, where I have several tough choices.

bbboston

I have followed your AL SP commentary closely and traded for Fulmer and Giolito, but already had Berrios and Clevinger. My in-league experience tells me Aces and quality pitchers generally get valued by our league slightly higher than by experts who don’t live in AL-Only world, but in two league formats. We’ve all learned (because of minimum inning requirements (1,000)) you’ve got to have at least 5 starters at all time, so poor ERA/Whip performance is hard to avoid without investing in quality SPs.

So….I’ve got to choose my 9 player list. Love to hear your perspective on this.

12 team AL-Only 5×5 league with: a $260 budget;9 keepers allowed; and, 2 catcher 10 pitcher format, resulting in pretty high price inflation/oddities.

Which 9 should I keep?

THANK YOU!

Fullmer $13
Berrios $8
Clevinger $8
Giolito $8
B. Parker $8
Betts $25
Merrifield $5
Hicks $2
Polanco $10
Abreu $32
Kiermaier $18
Moustakas $19
Ryon Healy $15

PS:

The argument for keeping Abreu is that in this league: 1) his average stats and consistency will make it so he owns the position, with E5 a somewhat distant second; 2) all better 1b, except E5 will be kept due to attractive pricing.

The argument for the pitchers is that all the “aces (or arguable aces)” will be kept along with many 2&3s kept also, Quality pitchers who don’t inflate era/whip are at a premium.

Nick Pollack

Hey there!

I’d be keeping:

Clev
Berrios
Abreu
Betts
Fulmer
Merrifield
Giolito

Those seven for sure.

I think Hicks and Polanco round out the rest. I’d say Parker but I don’t think he has the closer job.

bbboston

Minor follow-up question/comment: Giolito reportedly has recaptured some of his lost velocity, and in general has pitched well this off-season. Do you feel like he has recaptured his top prospect luster, etc. Perhaps I’m just gushing about a prospect, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he ends the season with 175 IP; 165 K; 1.25 WHIP; 3.65 ERA.

Am I smoking whacky tobaccy?

Alex

I know you’re personally not in favour of grabbing a stud pitcher earlier, but given my draft position I feel like I have to consider it. Context is 12 team 6×6 categories (QS instead of W, K/BB and OPS added). First year of a keeper league (Keep in round drafted minus 1).

I have the 2nd overall pick, so 2nd, 23rd, 26th, 47th, 50th, etc.

My question is – do I take Thor or Severino with the 26th pick (early 3rd)? I would be fine not taking Thor if I can grab Greinke/Severino as my ace with the 47th pick, but there’s a chance they will both be gone and I really want to have a solid ace on my team. For me, an “ace” is one of your top 10. Less confident in Verlander/Carrasco.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Turp

I would take a hitter there, and take Nola if Greinke/Sev do not make it to 47. However, there’s a very good chance Greinke will last there. His non-injury injury has depressed his stock (even Yahoo dropped his prerank 22 spots which is ridiculous) so I’d be surprised if he didn’t fall. Much better hitters available around 26 than 47 of course.

Nick Pollack

There are keeper league implications as well, making Greinke a sizeable worse asset than Severino.

I’m 100% fine with you taking Sevey at the 26th pick. I think I might roll the dice and try to secure 3 excellent keeper hitters instead – especially with OPS! – but I’m okay with it.

I wouldn’t be targetting Greinke when the time comes, though.

FollowerOfTheList

Hey Nick, Big fan. Great that you’ve been getting more press this year but sad that my league mates are going to find out and Ill lose my competitive advantage.

Im in a deep auction draft 10 team 40 man rosters 9×9 scoring daily rosters head to head, minimum 60IP per week. I know that you usually don’t like to pay for stud pitchers but this year I think Im going to give it a a go. The thought process behind it is Im a lot better at building great offenses then pitching staffs and I think I can still build a above average offense with less than my normal dollar value. Ive already got Nola, Castillo, Bauer, Weaver, and Anderson locked in as keepers for my rotation, and I think Im going to roster 10 SP to start the year. My questions are:

1) Is this a crazy strat considering SP injury risk is greater and the fall off from losing a top guy is so big in a league this deep?

2)Which would be better? A) Grabbing 2 of the top 4 guys and 3 $1-$10 gambles, or B) Grabbing 3 tier 2-3 guys (carrasco, bumgarner, tanaka, etc) and then doing 2 $1-$10 fliers.

erik

hey Nick GREAT article. need your feedback. In a league that added loses and innings as cats to make it 7. Would you be ok with a pitching staff of castillo, quintana, tanaka,richards, anderson, fulmer, clevenger at RP with a closer? Or should i add 2 pitchers on the bench like manaea lynn or maybe a montgomery? thanks

Ed Struble

Nick:
Love the approach and the info–BUT–not all of us play in a mixed league (believe it or not). My league is NL only, for instance.

So, any chance you can publish a draft outline for both NL-only and AL-only leagues? It sure would help.

Thanks.

VORP Speed

Hey Nick,

I’m in an 8 team weekly H2H keeper league and need to decide on my keepers by tonight. I can keep up to 3 players. Your 3 keepers are plugged in as your 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks…so if I keep none, or only 1 or 2, that means that I get a draft pick in the beginning rounds before anyone who kept 3 players. Who would you keep? Right now I’ve narrowed it down to Blackmon, Correa, Rizzo, JoRam, and Sale…

Batter categories: R, H, HR, RBI, SB, BB, E, AVG, XBH
Pitcher categories: W, SV, K, ERA, WHIP

Batters (posted in order of Yahoo Pre-Season rankings):
C. Blackmon
C. Correa
A. Rizzo
J. Ramirez
C. Bellinger
B. Dozier
C. Yelich
N. Cruz
R. Hoskins
B. Posey
M. Olsen
C. Taylor

Pitchers (posted in order of Yahoo Pre-Season rankings):
C. Sale
L. Severino
A. Nola
M. Tanaka
C. Knebel
E. Diaz
F. Rivero
D. Duffy
C. Anderson
C. Morton

Nick Pollack

Man that’s tough…

I’d go Blackmon and Correa definitely. Totally your call on JoRam and Rizzo, I think I’m going Rizzo with the BBs included.

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